Sunday, January 29, 2017

Intro to Reading Challenge

Last December I came upon a blog post suggesting a list of NYPL books for the 2017 "Read Harder Challenge". Interesting enough, the original list of categories were sourced from Book Riot, the NYPL blog simply provided some book ideas to fit those categories. If you finish the challenge, you will have 24 very interesting books from different categories / perspectives to talk about.

While I set reading goals in general (something simple like at least 1 book a month of maybe total of 10-15 books a year) and use goodreads (website and mobile app) to track book recommendations and progress, I don't recall ever consciously trying to vary the types of books I read in any given year. So why not start with this challenge? I've also sent around the challenge to friends who suggested some books they've read. I've included them later in the post.

For 2017, I will work through this list and aim for a monthly or every-2-months update on what's going on. I've also been reviewing my local bookstore's book club suggestions for ideas.

What are some of your reading goals (if any?) Feel free to add more books to the comments.

2017 Reading Challenge

2017 Reading Challenge

  1. Read a book about sports.
  2. Read a debut novel.
  3. Read a book about books.
  4. Read a book set in Central or South America, written by a Central or South American author.
  5. Read a book by an immigrant or with a central immigration narrative.
    Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbne. This was a tough book to read at times because it was set in the same time period as the financial crisis/fall of Lehman. The main characters are from Camaroon trying to make themselves a new life and family in the USA. The end of the book made me wonder whether it was supposed to be hopeful (the family was able to cash in on their money/earnings and start at a higher income level in Camaroon) or bleak (they were not able to make it in the US due to immigration policies)
  6. Read an all-ages comic.
  7. Read a book published between 1900 and 1950.
  8. Read a travel memoir.
  9. Read a book you’ve read before.
  10. Read a book that is set within 100 miles of your location.
  11. Read a book that is set more than 5000 miles from your location.
    No Longer Human by Osamu Dazai (Japan >6000 miles away from NY). I actually read this book because I'm currently watching an anime series called Bungo Stray Dogs that features Japanese literary personalities re-imagined as young men/women in a detective agency. One of the main characters is based on Osamu and his special ability (nullify other people's special abilities) is called "No Longer Human". Some of his crazy antics in the anime actually fit the main character from this book to a T.
  12. Read a fantasy novel.
    Golden Son (Red Rising book 2 of 3) by Pierce Brown. I also intend to finish the trilogy this year but wanted to take a quick break for some other books.
  13. Read a nonfiction book about technology.
  14. Read a book about war.
  15. Read a YA or middle grade novel by an author who identifies as LGBTQ+.
  16. Read a book that has been banned or frequently challenged in your country.
  17. Read a classic by an author of color.
  18. Read a superhero comic with a female lead.
  19. Read a book in which a character of color goes on a spiritual journey
  20. Read an LGBTQ+ romance novel
    I started Guapa by Saleem Haddad but didn't get a chance to finish. Will try to pick it up again since it had a strong start.
  21. Read a book published by a micropress.
  22. Read a collection of stories by a woman.
  23. Read a collection of poetry in translation on a theme other than love.
  24. Read a book wherein all point-of-view characters are people of color. (From Jacqueline Koyanagi, author of sci-fi novel Ascension)
    Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. This book has such poetry, love, and anger that I do highly recommend it to everyone. It is written from the perspective of a father to his teenage son and chronicles various injustices around the US.

    Some other categories I'd like to explore are
  25. Read a book about music (can be a musician/composer/rock star/instrumentalist/music period, etc)
  26. Read a book in Chinese (can be fiction or nonfic)
  27. Read a book related to mindfulness

This list will be updated throughout the year and may or may not be finished by end of 2017. For more background / context, please read my post on the intro

Sunday, January 08, 2017

New York Winter Jazzfest 2017

2017 Map
Despite the heavy snow fall, I explored several new venues and bands this year on Jan 7 with my friend Iona and her husband Peter. Great way to start out the new year!

Venues highlighted in yellow were the places I visited. 


Last year I did not check out performances in the New School venues because I stayed in the village area. It was great to check out 3 of the 4 venues in the New School area this year. Both the 12th St Auditorium and Tishman Auditorium offer plenty of space and seating. Tishman has stadium seats while 12th St has a more gradual slope. The festival also increased the number of ticket/wristband pick up locations so I had no trouble getting my wristband. Iona and Peter joined me around 7:40pm for my first concert of the night: Ralph Peterson and Aggregate Prime (instruments featured: flute, drum, guitar, upright bass, piano). I enjoyed the lyrical phrases from some of the pieces (at times almost wondering if some of the pieces would nicely paired with a vocalist?) Or better to just let the instruments do their own singing/talking.

Iona and I then made our way to Ravi Coltrane and David Virelles duo performance at Tishman (this show was written up in many 'must see lists' for festival previews) where Peter graciously saved seats for us before the venue quickly filled up. The ECM rep during her intro mentioned this was the first time the two took stage (in this combo, usually more musicians in the group) and that they hope to work on a future recording of the two! Ravi played several different saxophones during the performance. David played the piano and at times added percussion on or under the piano bench. The beautiful sound flowing from both instruments and the balance of the music dialogue between the musicians easily mesmerized the entire audience. I liked some of the lighter pieces where you can really enjoy the sound of the featured instrument with very light accompaniment from the other instrument. 

While the performance by Ravi/David was a difficult one to follow, we walked to New School 5th Fl theater to hear Edmar Castaneda World Ensemble. While researching the festival, I came upon this group and the harp jazz so had to check it out. Harp is certainly not a typical jazz ensemble instrument, But then again, this was not a typical jazz ensemble. Edmar welcomed his ensemble of musicians all hailing from different parts of the world, as one would introduce members of his family to a large crowd of guests at a house party. The warmth and hospitality was infectious. I also enjoyed the piece featuring his wife on vocals (they got married 20 days after first meeting at a Queens jam session!). The solo harp piece that Edmar dedicated to God was also awe-inspiring. I thought the New School 5th Fl theater was a bit on the small side (maybe around 100 seats seated) but it was also filled with a great audience that soaked up all the positive energy from the group.   

I ended the evening with a very high energy rock/disco/funk/jazz performance from Marc Ribot and the Young Philadelphians. Unlike the previous auditorium/stage/seated concerts, this was in the very crowded restaurant/bar called SOBs. Peter highly recommended this group so Iona and I took a quick cab ride from New School to Varick St to join him. What a crowd! Possibly the first time in the evening that I saw people moving and dancing (then again, I think Zinc Bar, Bitter End, and Django probably also had a lot of dancing from the more dancing friendly venues). The entire concert was basically a really fun jam session featuring fantastic guitars, bass, and strings. All attitude and all funk and probably the right way to end another year of a great winter jazzfest for me. Just keeps getting better every year!


listing of venues and their calendars so you can check a future concert.
  • New School Events Calendar (will need to filter by Music School or other type). Would love to see a future show at the Tishman. 
  • SOBs (Sound of Brazil)  (204 Varick St, near W. Houston)

Bands I saw

listing of bands that you can check out their music or in person at their future concerts!

Bands for next time

Particular bands I want to see at future shows

More Reading/ Listening