My 2020 Year of Reading

Happy New Year to you all. Unlike 2019, yet like so many others, my year of reading in 2020 was fractured and fraught. The year started with several issues both personal and environmental. Bushfire smoke having enveloped Sydney for many months in 2019 continued to pollute our air with many people wearing masks in Sydney months before the pandemic. For a variety of reasons, with the main one being the immediate need to complete my thesis, I resigned from my librarian position. Unexpectedly, this left me out of paid employment for the first time since I was 22 which was unnerving. My year was spent hiding in my bedroom, writing up my thesis and panicking about the pandemic emerged. Instead of taking 5 months to finish, it took me 11 excruciating months where I found it difficult to do anything other than eat, breathe, sleep my thesis. Reading for pleasure was near impossible though I read 44 books but even those were primarily university text books. Between global dread and thesis dread, I barely managed to read. Here are my rather sad statistics:

Books: 44

Fiction: 2

Books DNFd but counted: I borrowed over 40 books and returned as many unread and unopened. It wasn’t them, it was me.

Audiobooks:  2

Picture Books: 0

Graphic Novel memoir: 8

Non-fiction including Memoir/Narrative: 6; Design and Travel: 16;  Thesis theory texts: 12

Essays and articles: lots and lots and lots

Romance

Both the novels I read this year were (kinda) romance. One was Young Adult fiction that agitated me, and the other a tepid category romance.

Graphic Novel Memoir

One of the most striking books I read this year was Vannak Anan Prum’s The Dead Eye and the Deep Blue Sea, a deeply upsetting story of the author’s years trafficked as a slave. He spent 3 years at sea on a Thai fishing trawler as indentured labour where he witnessed murders and torture on his “floating prison”. He managed to escape just to find himself sold as a plantation slave in Malaysia before finally getting home many months later. Vannak writes that “my physical injuries hurt less, but my memory is a wound that will never heal”. His graphic novel style is strikingly unlike other graphic novel memoirs I’ve read. Vannak has an image per page with rich narrative though sparse on dialogue. His artistry depicting the torture on the boats is startling and it now makes me deeply consider the source of my fish. With 40 million people in slavery today, this memoir was a sombre reminder of the difficult lives that people lead and our personal responsibility to not support this industry and to demand our retailers have ethical supply chains. 😕

Non-fiction essays and articles

My year has been full of reading essays and news articles. My oldest son gifted me a New Yorker subscription which has been quite interesting. However, my two favourite essays this year were published elsewhere. Briallen Hopper’s Sirenland moved me to my core as did Hannah Davis writing about her long haul Covid experience. Both essays have hovered in my mind, with an ambulance siren, the sound of coughing, or the notification from family of their suffering and loss, bringing back to my mind the strength of Hopper and Davis’s unique pieces of writing.

I continue to adore Humans of New York stories whose human element is so touching that it is a reminder that kindness amongst people continues to exist even in the most violent of days. My eldest bought me the Humans book for Christmas and I look forward to reading it. I also derived a lot of happiness from watching Schitt’s Creek which filled me with joy and tears and warm, fuzzy feels which sent me to reading fanfiction for the first time in years.

I took deep comfort from my friend, Dr. Tilly Hinton’s sublime storytelling platform where I was fortunate to read at two of her thirteen Storytime for the Apocalypse events. I was even more fortunate to listen to some incredible selections from all the other readers, and to meet so many people in the informal chat after the readings – I feel as though Tilly has an innate ability to draw from her participants fluid and casual conversations in the digital sphere which felt natural and comfortable.

I felt relieved seeing people around the world unify in the Black Lives Matter marches, in celebrating Biden’s electoral win. But overall, I feel the weight of worries from all the overwhelming clusterfuck of political arsehole bigots in this world who kept me from deep, immersive reading. And yes, I do blame them all, every fucking single one of them.

Non-fiction books

Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu: Black Seeds – Agriculture or Accident reframed everything I thoughtI knew and have been trying to learn about our continent’s First Nation people. A rethinking of precolonial Australia challenging their perception as hunter-gatherers. Pascoe shows this continent’s people’s sophisticated agricultural and sustainable land & water practices which included tilling of the land, fire farming, fisheries and aquaculture – which in 2019 received a UNESCO heritage listing as Budj Bim is older than the Egyptian pyramids – as well as their architecture, landscaping and engineering knowledge. He does this through the use of the diaries & journals of early white settlers for his evidence.

The point that had never occurred to me and fills me with awe, is when Pascoe highlights that the over 200 nations that made up pre-colonial Australia, were the longest peaceful pan-Continental society in the history of the world and that finding a way to understand how this peace was maintained for so many milleniums is imperative for finding a way forward in a world that seems to be constantly at war. I listened intently to Pascoe’s self-narration of his book, often doing loops and loops around my neighbourhood so that I didn’t need to stop half way through a chapter. This book was beyond anything I have read before. It is an outstanding book that should be compulsory reading in Australia.

Swimming

As a swimming obsessive, not in a competitive way at all but in a human lilo floating over the gleaming blue, I am always seeking calm water to immerse myself in. I read several books on swimming pools this year, and I found myself enchanted by Caroline Clements and Dillon Seitchik-Reardon’s Places We Swim in Sydney. My youngest son bought me this gorgeous coffee table book for Christmas because he knows me well enough to not even attempt to give me fiction. Many of my favourite swimming spots appear in this book and I have decided to try to visit most of the pools – some natural and some purpose designed – throughout 2021. However, I will taking a pass on the 11km return trip to Tahmoor Canyon especially Mermaid Pool with its “no safe entry or exit” requiring a rock jump to get in and a rope climb to get out. Just no! I like my swims to be effortless and free from exertion.

This book is beautifully presented though the matt paper stock and muted colours don’t do justice to the brilliant blues of Sydney’s sky and water. The access information is very useful but some of the suggested food pitstops suggest the authors lack true local knowledge especially in Western Sydney with the ridiculous suggestion that a visit to Cabarita Swimming Centre can be combined with a lunch at Pyrmont fish markets 13 kilometres/ 8 miles away. This rankled when most of the pools in Sydney’s East had swim/food suggestions in the same suburb. Apart from these minor irritations, this book is wonderful and gave me a lot of happiness reading in the last week of the year.

Reading in 2021

I make no plans for reading this year. This past year has left me feeling exhausted. Though I submitted my thesis 4 weeks ago, I have yet to be able to pick up a novel. I don’t have any reading plans at this point. The horror that is the US coup, and the accelerated speed that Covid is spreading in Europe and the Americas has left me doomscrolling. I have listed my goal as 21 books only in reflection of the year. Hopefully, there will be moments of global peace allowing me some quiet to lose myself in a book. And if that fails, I will just go for a swim instead.

Another Storytime for the Apocalypse

It’s been a frantic year my friends. However, in a week’s time, I will officially be under examination for my doctorate as I will be submitting it in the coming days. To mark my submission, I am doing a reading about reaching a destination at the final 2020 Storytime for the Apocalypse. Dr Tilly Hinton, a “river enthusiast” whose scholarship is on the social history of the LA River, is a dear friend with whom I shared my doctoral space at university. So it is apt that I mark my last weeks of doctoral study in her virtual space of revelatory storytelling.

I know that my post here is very last minute, but I do hope that you are able to attend the reading. It is on Monday 30 November 7:30 -8:30 pm, LA time or Tuesday 1st December 2:30-3:30pm.

Here is the Zoom Link. us02web.zoom.us/j/85170824839

Thank you and hopefully I can start writing to my blog again very soon!

Vassiliki

(silhouette of Los Angeles)

Text: 
Storytime for the Apocalypse #13

Librarian Scholar Vassiliki Veros reads about setting out for your destination.
Actor, writer, director Toni Robison-May reads about the weather.
Art historian Meredith Lancaster reads about reaching further shores.
Ediotr and permaculturist Jessica Perini reads about what to do in dark times.

Storytime with the Storytime for the Apocalypse crowd

I’m popping in to let you all know that I will be doing a short reading at Storytime for the Apocalypse. Described by its wonderful host Dr Tilly Hinton as  “your monthly respite from all the complexities of life” and “that stories and community are the ballast we need when life gets rough”.

I have been grateful for her calm resolve in organising these readings since the pandemic began. I have been absent from my blog as I have found the world’s struggle with the outbreak of Covid-19 deeply upsetting. I spent the first two months completely unfocused and anxious about the situation at hand. This storytime has been a balm for me especially as it has Tilly’s thoughtful and kind touch in the way it is organised and presented. I feel honoured that I am on the guestlist for the next session where I am doing a reading alongside Dr Wade Kelly, Eames Demetrios, Richard Sanderson and Chris Schwartz.

The reading is on Monday 27 July at 7:30pm Pacific time/Tuesday 28 July at 12.30pm Australian Eastern Standard time. To attend you will need to join the mailing list to receive the link to log in: Go to  http://goodisbetter.net/storytime-for-the-apocalypse/#count-me-in to be added to the mailing list.

My teaser is that I will be doing a bilingual reading….

Image:Poppies in a field Text: Librarian scholar Vassiliki Veros reads about the earth's embrace; Actor and animal advocate Richard Sanderson reads about a parallel world; Community engagement proselytiser Wade Kelly reads about safe passage; Film aficionado Chris Schwartz reads about earth’s big reveal.

Reading Notes: 13-16 and Observation Note 53

I am going to combine SuperWendy’s TBR topic with my Reading Notes this month. Hopefully this works well enough that I can repeat it through the year. The topic is Short Shorts here are some are various books I have been reading including one romance novel.

Reading Note 13: Home inspiration. I read through two interior decorating books in succession that had been languishing in the library TBR for only a month. Both heavy, hard back books printed on substantial paper stock. The sort of design books that costs a lot and you are loathe to put in any discard pile for years to come.

The first I looked at was The Kinfolk Home – an offshoot from the magazine by the same name, it purports to support the “Slow” movement. It was definitely slow. So slow that I got bored of both the pictures and the stories of the families that lived in these homes. I am Marie Kondo’s nightmare, I am not a minimalist. I believe that design lovers are now referring to people like myself as being “maximalists”.  I love vibrant colour and a home filled with books and curios, art and bibelots reflecting the life adventures of the occupants. Which is the opposite of what this book contains. All beige, grey, linen and black. Perhaps the slow movement requires homes to be uncluttered so as to encourage contemplation. I found no joy in the sleek interiors but I certainly can understand that someone who has the opposite approach to my own desire for home aesthetics would love this book.

In contrast, Little Big Rooms: New Nurseries and Rooms to Play In was delightful and full of colour and deep understanding of how a home works when young children need to feel that they are completely in the home, and not an adjunct design that could at any time disrupt an adult space. Even though my own children are now (young – ahem) adults, there were elements of young children’s play design that reflected how I used our own home space when they were little, albeit with a much tinier budget. I loved this book.

Reading Note 14: Quasi rural romance. I praised Penelope Janu quite a lot last year. In December I read On The Right Track which has the hero from In at the Deep End’s hero’s twin brother.. I enjoyed this book espite my deep dislike of horse racing. The book isn’t as rural as the book cover lets on. I liked the movement between the Southern Highlands and the Eastern suburbs of Sydney. But I do like my story telling a bit tighter than most standard novels, and though it was well done, I found that the storyline on the 25 year old crime that may have been committed that the international-man-of-mystery-spy hero was investigating through the whole book dragged on just a tad. And there was just such overriding sadness in this book especially with the complex (and thankfully unresolved and unapologetic) mother who had rejected the heroine Golden at birth with her grandfather raising her. I also liked heroine Golden’s lovely relationship with her sister.

Observation 53: Sunday Librarian no more. I have resigned from my library job. This took months (and could I say years) of contemplation. 2019 had sickness find both my husband and me this year. Tiredness, illness and the need to complete studying have led my decision. Having worked 11 of the last 18 years as a regular (weekly with the exception of annual and sick leave) Sunday Librarian across 3 different employers, I am now looking for a Monday – Friday job. I have paid my dues in LibraryLand and no longer can bear sacrificing every weekend. I don’t mind if I am asked to do a rotation of one in four, or one in three but I cannot take on weekend work as my standard weekly contracted hours again. In light of the work that women do, I have willingly taken on these roles because it helped facilitate my family’s decision to do tag-team parenting as well as supporting my study regime. But it is now time for future thinking and my future involves weekends not working. Considering that the majority of public library work that is advertised these days have a Monday-Sunday clause, I am not sure if my future includes public libraries. Watch this space.

Reading Note 15: David Sedaris. Last night I saw David Sedaris do a reading of his essays and diary entries at the Enmore Theatre in Sydney. I am long a fangirl of both Sedaris, and the theatre which holds such special memories for me as it was one of Sydney’s two Greek cinemas back in the 1970s and 1980s. Sedaris was, as ever, funny and erudite – his observances so sharp, his loyalty to his family, his wry love of his boyfriend Hugh, his love of jokes – I just lapped it all up. I especially love that he does book signings where he sits for hours talking to people. Two hours of waiting in line, John and I were 4th from the end, when we finally got to speak with him. He signed our books, I gave him my Greek cinema trivia (to which he was surprised) and then he offered me the remnants of his T-bone steak for my dogs. I hesitated for a moment before turning him down. I may be a fangirl, but I draw the line at taking an author’s food remnants home with me.

Reading Note 16: Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu. I will do this book a disservice and just describe it as incredible and seminal writing that is necessary reading for all Australians and anyone who is interested in the colonial systems of displacing and misrepresenting the knowledge practices of first nations people. I am only half way through the audiobook for now, but I also mean to return to the print version which also has illustrations and photographs. Hopefully, I will write more about it next month.

I still have a way-high TBR. However, I don’t believe that the reading pile can every be completely read.

My 2019 Year of Reading

Happy New Year to you all. Unlike 2018 where my most memorable reads were the ones that annoyed me, 2019 was a wonderful reading year full of excellent books – 44 which I rated with five stars! 2019 gave me a number of new autobuy authors, new insights and several books that are now on my all-time favourite books list as well as being the first year to crack 100 books since 2012. A stellar year indeed! But first to my statistics:

Books: 119

Fiction: 40  including Romance fiction: 33

Books DNFd but counted: 3 (this means I threw in the towel after tolerating 100 pages of shite)

Audiobooks:  12

Picture Books: 8

Graphic Novels: 17

Non-fiction: 71  including Memoir/Narrative: 23; Design: 17;  Library/Reading Theory: 14

These are not a total with a fair amount of overlap, for instance 10 of my fiction books were audiobooks. I have listed below my favourites, I will link back to those of which I have discussed in previous posts. Continue reading

Reading: Notes 8-12

It has been a while since I have written about my reading, so here are some reading notes from this year’s reading selections with a particular bent towards settings. Just be warned, there are spoilers galore.

Reading Note 8: Tropes in cities. I really love a surprise baby trope as well as a one-night-stand-turn-up-to-your-new-job-to-discover-you-have-already-slept-with-your-new-boss trope. So icky in real life, so absurdly compelling in fiction. The Bachelor’s Baby Surprise is my first Teri Wilson book and I loved her writing style. The premise of the book is that heroine Evangeline Holly goes directly from a bad break up to a one-night stand with Ryan Wilde – a man who has just been voted the hottest bachelor in New York City. Though she gives him the brush off after their hook-up, six weeks later she finds herself employed as a sommelier at the hotel he jointly runs with his cousin. Continue reading

An addition to my research output

Occasionally, I forget myself and I write not-so-shallow articles. My latest one was published this week:

Vassiliki Veros (2019) Metatextual Conversations: The Exclusion/Inclusion of Genre Fiction in Public Libraries and Social Media Book Groups, Journal of the Australian Library and Information Association, DOI: 10.1080/24750158.2019.1654741 

Here is the link to the abstract. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/24750158.2019.1654741 

This is a paper was 3 years in the writing and many iterations including killing some of my favourite darlings. Though it went against the grain, and for many complex reasons, I ended up choosing a closed-access journal for submitting the paper. Drop me a line if you need help sourcing a copy of the full paper.

A wilful remembering

My paternal grandmother, Vassiliki Chrysikou Sveronis died 75 years ago on the 18th of August, 1944.  She died well before it was her time. She was 44 years old and 7 months pregnant with her 12th child when she was violently murdered. This was just as World War II was ending and the Greek Civil War was starting. She got caught up in left/right wing hate acts. I know the details of the politics of the time. But I don’t want to focus on them. The focus here is remembering my grandmother.

I was 16 when I found out how she had died. I had nightmares for weeks.

My grandmother’s body has never been found. She was never given a funeral. She has no resting place that is known to her family. Continue reading

Observations: Notes 31-52

These latest Observations have been written sporadically over the last five months. When I started blogging over 10 years ago, I had decided to place strict boundaries on my posts. I felt comfortable to express my feelings towards my work, my reading with the occasional discussion of family but those have mostly been of the happiness in my life. I decided I didn’t want to talk about my worries. But I’m putting it all out there with this post. I am aware of all my mixed tenses which I have chosen to not correct as each Note is an indication of how I felt at the time I was writing.

The TLDR is my asthma got bad, I cried, I stopped going to uni. My asthma got better. Continue reading