Tag Archives: Adult

Falling in love with books: my journey into the world of romance

As an avid lover of genre fiction – especially science fiction and horror, but also YA (that’s young adult novels, to the extent that can be called a ‘genre’) – I set myself a self-improvement project of sorts last year. You see, I had never really read romance novels. I, like many others, had long written them off as so much trash, unworthy of my attention.

But when I started working in libraries, and really seeing the devotion many people have to the genre, I began to realize that I was almost certainly missing out on something. This was also when I had first started getting into YA, and I had really gotten into the romance elements of some of them (notably, Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park, and Kiera Cass’ Selection series).

I couldn’t help but admit what I had always sort of known; the general attitude toward romance novels, the one I had unthinkingly allowed myself to fall into, is really pretty misogynist. It is one of many examples of the ways in which media made by and for women is denigrated and seen as lesser than the real stuff.

And I decided to find out what I was missing, and if there was romance that I could love.

And so, I began reading about romance, learning its sub-genres, and trying to figure out where to even start. Because I’ve always had a soft spot for the likes of Jane Austen (though I must admit I’ve never had romantical feelings about her protagonists), and I had recently come off a major Downton Abbey spree at the time, Regency/historical romance seemed like the place to start. I’ll spare you the whole journey, but the short version is I have, in fact, wound up finding some really enjoyable reads! Continue reading

Escape the Ordinary – Wanderlust


As a girl, Gloria Steinem’s life was filled with cross-country travel, a search for adventure, and exposure to the lives of all types of people across the United States. Now, as an adult and a world-renowned activist, Steinem recounts how her life of travel, conversations with strangers, and desire for change led to a life of activism and leadership. Along with her own growth, Steinem details the growth of a movement for equality that’s still being fought today.

 photoI admit I didn’t know much about Gloria Steinem before picking up My Life on the Road. I knew her name was synonymous with the 70s feminist movement and women’s rights advocacy, but that was pretty much where my knowledge ended. After finishing her latest novel, my impression is: Gloria Steinem was—and, at the age of 82, still is—a force to be reckoned with.

My Life on the Road is a retelling of Steinem’s life of activism, a story that she weaves using the motif of travel. In this book she acknowledges the influence that her nomadic childhood had on the rest of her life; her father was a larger-than-life character who refused to put down roots anywhere, packing his family up often and moving across the United States. Steinem found herself mimicking this restless wandering, despite yearning for a solid home as a child. But she credits her father for instilling the love of travel in her, which allowed her to lead the proactive life she has led.

Steinem’s life of travel is so extensive that it seems almost unbelievable at times. Never settling in one place allowed Steinem to organize the National Women’s Conference in 1977, ride in a cab with (and be insulted by) Saul Bellows, witness Martin Luther King Jr’s famous speech first-hand, and wave goodbye to John F. Kennedy the day before he was shot.

Steinem did not fight solely for feminism, as I had previously thought, but for equality across genders, races, sexualities, etc. Her writing is insightful and challenging. She offers alternate ways of looking at well-worn social issues, making them still topical in 2016 despite being cultivated in the 1970s. For example, her meditations on the lack of diverse representation in women’s rights are what we call “intersectional feminism” today. Steinem encourages everyone—male and female—to travel as much as they can, to experience the world for what it is and not for how it’s presented in the media. After all, being in new places and meeting new people breaks the “supposedly enlightened idea that there are two sides to every question. In fact, many questions have three or seven or a dozen sides.”


Share your thoughts in the comments! Some questions to consider are:

1. Steinem writes “[The road] leads us out of denial and into reality, out of theory and into practice, out of caution and into action, out of statistics and into stories…” Have you ever been on a trip that changed the way you saw something? Has an experience with travel ever opened your eyes to something new?

2. “Perhaps our need to escape into media is a misplaced desire for the journey.” Do you think this is true? Have you ever used a book, movie, television show, etc. to satisfy a craving for travel and experience?

3. Steinem is of the opinion that meeting in person always trumps gatherings on the Internet. In an increasingly digital world, is her dismissal of the Internet’s power fair? Or do you think it should be given more credit for its ability to bring people together?

Escape the Ordinary – Brilliant Debut Authors: Modern Romance, by Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg

ETO Adult Summer Reading Club_For Your LeisureSMALLER

modern romanceFive minutes after opening Aziz Ansari’s debut book I felt compelled to tweet:

“I started @azizansari’s book expecting to be thoroughly charmed. Then he started talking research methods & data and now I am in love, ok?”

This book didn’t just meet every expectation I had going in, it went so far beyond anything I had imagined that I was blown away.

And that rarely happens.

If you hadn’t already gathered, I am a fan of Aziz Ansari. I was endlessly fascinated by his performance as Tom Haverford in Parks and Recreation, a character who doesn’t have a lot of redeeming qualities, but whose charm Ansari nevertheless managed to bring through.

Tom, you slimy charmer, you.

Tom, you slimy charmer, you.

His stand-up is sharp, smart, and truly contemporary in a way that I have not seen anyone else pull off – Ansari speaks for the social media generation, those of us for whom the internet has simply been a fact of life. He has a distinct voice, one that I really appreciate and find pretty consistently funny. So of course I wanted to read his book.

The good news part one: my expectations were met! Ansari’s authorial voice is clear and present throughout Modern Romance. Although he admits in the introduction that he had been reluctant to write a book, because stand-up is really his medium, his personality and especially his humour have translated seamlessly into the written form – I honestly found myself reading the book in his voice, knowing just the tone he would have delivered many of the lines in. And if the book had only been that, I would have been more than satisfied.

But it was so much more than that.

Modern Romance is a book about the contemporary dating scene, where more and more people are meeting online, and even when we do meet in person, we do most of our communicating through the internet or our phones, by writing instead on talking. This is a major topic of Ansari’s stand-up, also, and so I thought I had a pretty good idea of what I was in for.

But the book is not just an extension or a translation of Ansari’s stand-up material. It is actually the culmination of a multi-year sociological study that Ansari undertook with Eric Klinenberg, examining modern dating behaviours, comparing them to the way dating worked for older generations, and taking in quantitative and qualitative data, all coming together into some very real perspectives and advice on navigating the world of modern romance.

Ansari takes you with him through the research process and findings, speaking always in layperson terms, and injecting his personal brand of humour into the discussions in natural and relatable ways.

It’s a great book, an engaging and enjoyable read, and one that just might make you learn something!

If you’ve read the book, I’d like to know:

  • What did you find most surprising about the study’s findings and advice?
  • What are your thoughts on Ansari’s combination of humour and social science? Did the comedy add to or take away from the book’s overall content? Were you annoyed by all that data getting in the way of Ansari’s wit? Or did work for you?
  • Do you have experience with online dating? Do you feel like the book reflected your experiences?