Read: [v] The act of interpreting and understanding language, symbols, and the written word.

Furiously: [adv] To do something with excitement and passion.

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Life in the Garden State

You can't keep New Jersey down! A follow-up to our popular anthology, The World Takes, come with us as we once again as we take a dive into all the things we love and hate (and love to hate) about the Garden State.

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Thursday, January 24, 2019

The New Reading Frontier

The cheesiest of this post's title notwithstanding, I still maintain that we are moving toward new reading territories. Maybe it's the new year or maybe it's inspired by the changes that we are making to Read Furiously, but I've noticed that, as a culture, we are changing the way we are reading - whether or not all of these changes are positive still remains to be seen.

Like all good bibliophiles, I read Book Riot regularly. The contributors are always thinking of new ways to discuss reading culture and habits. Back in December, Danika Ellis posed the question "When Did I Turn My Reading Into a Spectator Sport?" Of course, I encourage all of you to read this article, but even the rhetorical questions it poses is enough to get you thinking. In the age of technology, buzz words, different types of bookstores, self-publishing, and fan fiction, how do we define our reading? Once considered a solitary act, there are countless memes and Tumblr pages devoted to fandoms or just to the social act of reading. In the article, Ellis is discussing the many ways we reach out to others during the pursuit of reading, making this question worthy of discussion and evaluation. Why and how do we read? What conscious social scripts dictate our reading habits? Should we care?

The short answer is, yes, we should care. Reading can be both private and public and navigating these spaces have allowed us to expand our various literature canons, bestowing culturally normalized monikers such as "classic," "guilty pleasure," "must-reads," etc. Becoming a part of a larger reading community propels social groups such as book clubs or the new popular group, "books in bars" (usually offered by various public libraries). Sharing our reading joys and failures also fuels book-related hashtags, social media posts, and BookTube channels. We should care because our TBR piles are never full and we should care even more because this is how we are going to share ideas and stories. We begin with the books that we've read.

As for the longer answer, it's still in development. At least in the Read Furiously offices. Just this month, we've unveiled a new logo, our book schedule for the year, and our renewed commitment to sharing and encouraging the love of reading. Read Furiously began as an attempt to break into the online social circles of reading culture. In this new year, we are continuing our pursuit to contribute to it. 

So what's our master plan? For starters, we created a Furious Reader Challenge for 2019 that highlights active and mindful reading. We are also expanding our One 'n Done series - books that can be read in one sitting - so that Furious Readers can buy them wherever books are sold. We will continue to put out content that offers diverse perspectives and thoughtful conversation - mainly because we ourselves are Furious Readers and we know the importance of giving back to a community that has given us so much.

On that note: Read often, Read well, and (most importantly) Read Furiously. May your reading challenges offer surprising results in the new year!

Continue Reading...

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Reading as Performance

It's that time of year again: as the weather begins to change, we realize the year is coming to a close, and the panic begins to set in. It's a feeling we all know too well, the little voice that whispers the unthinkable, the words you knew were coming but didn't want to admit it to yourself:

You will not meet your reading challenge this year.

We begin our calendar year with the usual promises: read so many books, read certain books by certain authors, read particular books with particular themes...our reading challenges come in all shapes and sizes. We read, we share, we read some more, we commiserate, we lie about what we've read, we take reading shortcuts (it's fine to read three novellas in a row, right?), but most importantly, we read with an audience in mind. In my conversations with colleagues and friends, it's seeing friends read more books that tend to get under our skin and cause us to nitpick these unknown rules of reading. However, the real culprit isn't our own version of reading FOMO, but our need to perform the act of reading rather than simply enjoying it. 

When we think of the "performance of reading" we often think of the philosophical conversation between "silent" reading and reading that can be acted out for an audience. In the case of our social media-driven reading challenges, the struggle lies in the performative nature of reading: are we reading the most books? the most challenging? the most interesting? the most socially conscious? Basically we are asking whether or not we are the "best" readers, on paper at least.

Every year, I make the same GoodReads challenge: 75 books in one year. And every year I never make this number. The closest I got one year was 73 books and that was only because I spent the last two weeks of the year reading short graphic novels, novellas, and "classic" children's books (you know, the ones that you can argue are also for adults but short enough to be read in one sitting). In other words, I cut a lot of corners. I finished that year a little deflated because I couldn't get those last two books in before the deadline. As I look back on this now, I realize my error. I should have basked in the accomplishment of reading that many books. I should have looked back on my year of reading and revisited some of my favorite bookish moments. Instead, I chided myself on not being better with my reading time management. 

Embarrassingly enough, I didn't check my privilege that year. The average American reads about 12 books a year and I should have been grateful that I had the resources, the time, and the chance to read as many books as I did. Since then, I have been kinder to myself, but not necessarily smarter since I continue to set the same challenge of 75 books. This year, I will be nowhere close to my hefty goal; however, I think I am okay with that. I'm thinking back over my busy year and I am holding the books that I did read very close to my heart. I still had a full year, even if the numbers don't show it.

So what's the lesson here as we all make the scramble to finish our reading challenges? If the challenge serves as a motivator for you, that's wonderful. Read, read, read til your heart's content. But if the challenge serves as a source of anxiety or guilt, then maybe focus on the joy of reading rather than the performance as a reader. Just remember, being a Furious Reader means reading with passion and excitement and spreading that joy to others. We aren't keeping quantitative notes and neither should you. Enjoy the challenge but don't ever let it define you.
Continue Reading...

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Bookish Pauses and Quiet Musings

It's been a long time since I've included a regular blog post, Furious Readers. While this may read as a cause for alarm, the time away has been a blessing. We've had major changes within our personal lives, but we've also in the middle of major changes here at the Read Furiously office. Big things are happening and I couldn't be happier with how everything is playing out.

When I began this blog years ago, I had done so out of sheer inspiration. I had just finished a couple of books that left me with that full-on-Thanksgiving/cat-sleeping-in-a-sun-spot/perfect-London-foggy-weather/New-York-City-in-the-springtime feeling and I wanted to share my love of reading and my pure joy at finding these books with all of you. Then, as things happen, this idea began to gestate and transform into something bigger. Something that allowed me to continue to adore books - to read as furiously as I can - but still make a bigger impact.

And here we are today. Still reading furiously, but now we have a community of furious readers - some friends, some friend-of-friends, some complete strangers that are now friends - doing our best to ensure that reading can happen at any time to anyone. Over the years, we have published prose, graphic novels, a children's book, and poetry, making sure that every book finds its true reader. On a more personal level, I've learned what I am capable of, as a publisher, as a writer, and as a reader. And now we enter the final stages of the year with so many brilliant and wonderful plans on the horizon.

Forgive me if this all sounds very wordy and unclear - I am not intentionally keeping you all in the dark. I promise that as soon as we can share the news, we will via this blog and our social media. We are preparing to grow and to share more stories with the world. We are also expanding our creator roster and adding more submission calls (if you haven't seen the details for our first NJ anthology, check it out and be sure to tell a friend).

The next coming months will feature a lot of changes that we hope will create a stronger community of furious readers inside and outside of your friendly neighborhood bookstores. If you haven't already, be sure to subscribe to our emailing list so you can hear about our good news as they happen. Like us on social media, send us positive thoughts, read our books - any support and/or love is always appreciated and reciprocated. Starting today, we will have a new blog post, featuring all things book or bookishly related, every Thursday.

Until then, read often, read well, read furiously.
Continue Reading...

Monday, May 15, 2017

Bucks Poetry Extravaganza!

This past Wednesday, Read Furiously got to help celebrate Poetry Extravaganza at Bucks County Community College, and we'd like to thank everyone involved for the warm welcome, and congratulate all the amazing poets who shared their work, including our own Bernadette Karpa who read from her new book And She Does Shine. For those who couldn't make the event, here are some of the great pictures from the event, along with a special reading Bernadette did of her poem Beautiful Boys.

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Thursday, January 5, 2017

More than a Pretty Face

It is very difficult for writers, especially women, to move beyond the stereotype of "chick lit." As a reader, I don't approve of this term because I feel it devalues novels with female protagonists. Yes, there are the formulaic stories that bore us to tears about the "traditional" American housewife: the drama, the terrible husbands, the ungrateful children, the pies in the oven. If the novel has too much stereotypical intrigue, it becomes a Lifetime Original movie. Too little plot and it becomes a pretentious overview of American gender roles, so thinly sliced in its mockery that it is unclear whether or not it would make a decent sandwich (see what I did there?).

American Housewife: Stories by Helen Ellis subverts the expectations of women's literature and presents us with absurd, clever, and wholly suburban short stories that will terrify us in its familiarity and engross us in its complexity. The volume is slim, slightly under 200 pages, making it a fun afternoon read with a cup of tea (I have tested this theory for your convenience, furious readers).

I don't want to give away too many of the short stories, but I did pick out my favorites that deserve a mention:

"Dumpster Diving with the Stars" - After setting the tone of absurd suburban living, Ellis explores pathos in her third story. Most of the narrators in this collection are writers, or struggling writers, or - in the case of this story - one-time writers who are searching for their next inspiration. "The Writer" agrees to be on a reality TV competition where contestants choose old antiques with hidden value. Among the contestants are John Lithgow and Mario Batali (who are portrayed as the down-to-earth, kind celebrities that we hope they are), a tennis star (who in my head, I imagined as the glamorous Serena Williams), a Scientologist movie star couple trying to prove that the husband isn't gay, a made-up reality TV star (but the premise would easily work in our world), and Mitzy, a Playboy bunny who ends up being the heart of the story. Without going too much into the plot, Ellis explores the rules of reality TV and the monsters who manipulate them (and the audience), so the housewives at home can have a good show. I always love a story when the "pretty bimbo" (another damaging stereotype that devalues female protagonists) turns out to be legit. This is one of my favorites in the collection since the story itself is very plausible as I feel our culture would watch this, manipulative host and all, in a binge fest on TLC.

"Hello! Welcome to Book Club" - Told in the breathless tone of the nosy American housewife who doesn't let her guest (the reader, who gets to experience direct POV through stream of consciousness dialogue) get a word in, this dark, creepy story is one worthy of Margaret Atwood or Daphne du Maurier. As the reader, you continue to listen to this woman's prattle, knowing with each turn of the page, that we are heading for something very sinister. When you get to the end of this story, you won't be disappointed.

"The Fitter" - This story answers the age old question: what would your life be like if your husband was blessed with the gift of being able to fit women into their perfect bras? Part of the story reads as a scandalous, "don't steal my husband" housewife story, and the rest raises the quiet question of what our lives would be like if women leaned on each other more and acknowledged the complexities of the female body. It would be, to quote our narrator: "Good enough."

"My Novel is Brought to You by the Good People at Tampax" - Creativity and capitalism find themselves at odds as the terrifying people of Tampax hold a writer prisoner so she can complete a book that Miley Cyrus wants to be made into a film. Yes, you've read all that correctly, but feel free to read it again. Or aloud. You won't be able to look at those blue boxes again without hearing, "On behalf of Tampax..." This piece closes out the collection and it is a great horror story about the "joys" of writing.

Since the popularity of Mad Men, American housewives are still having a moment. Between the new HBO event based on Liane Moriarty's Big Little Lies (I read the book last year towards the end of my reading year and it was absolutely delicious - much like reading a friend's diary. The trailer looks just as scandalous) to ABC's new series American Housewife (starring the hilarious Katy Mixon; there has been controversy over the fat-shaming content of the show, which I found troubling as well, but the show hits its stride with episode 7's "Power Couple" so I am hoping for a comeback in sharp storytelling), we are seeing a character beyond the June Cleaver/Donna Reed/Stepford wife that both thrills and terrifies us.

Out of all the new TV/film versions of the housewife, I still recommend spending time with Helen Ellis and her version of the American housewife. It is the closest version we have of providing women with the agency they deserve in a culture that asks them to give up everything - their dignity, their dreams, their ability to see beyond their external self - for the sake of the home.

Continue Reading...