Introducing the No Name Book Club

One of the most exciting things to do as an avid reader is to become a member of a book club. Finally, you’re able to rave about the books you read with other readers without encountering uninterested stares. However, I’ve never been in a book club before, so you can imagine how I felt when my friend approached me with the idea to start one. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always dreamt of starting a small reading club, but since I’m somewhat of an introvert and am super awkward, I sort of gave up on that goal. Nonetheless, my friend— who has a passion for reading, but could never manage to actually finish a book— was eager to awaken the bookworm spirit inside her. How awesome is that? So, after spending a few hours perusing the book section at our local Target, we eventually agreed on our first book for our teeny-weeny club. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.

Here’s the interesting part. Given that we both have never participated in or hosted a book club, we didn’t know exactly how to proceed after purchasing our books. We’re total newbies at this. We weren’t sure what type of discussion questions to ask or if we should even ask any to begin with. We were completely lost with when or where we should meet, and clueless as to what the title or theme of our club should be. I know what you’re thinking— a simple search on Google would solve everything. I’m sure there is a myriad of articles on how to start a book club, but the one thing we both agreed on is that we didn’t want to follow any set of rules on how our club should be. This is why it’s been almost two weeks since our club has started, and we still haven’t come up with a cool name. No pressure.

Now, because our club is a bit more unique than others, my friend and I decided to start our first meeting with a day full of activities. We stopped by a garden shop in Wynwood and bought some pretty flowers, visited a cute juice bar and enjoyed some tasty refreshments, and picked up a bottle of wine along with some of our favorite snacks at our local grocery store. Our first meeting was quite brief but super funny. We couldn’t stop laughing at how nervous we were but we eventually were able to share our thoughts and have fun. We learned a lot from each other on how we interpret things and the way we connect with a particular paragraph or character. On top of that, since alcohol will be consumed at our little gathering, we agreed that it would be best to host our meeting on Fridays instead of Mondays.  

Basically, the old cliché holds true: there is nothing more comforting and relaxing than curling up with a good book. The purpose of our club is simply to enjoy each other’s company while encouraging each other to read more. Although our club is a bit small, I think we both wouldn’t have it any other way.

Do you think it’s important to have discussion questions or for all members to express their thoughts freely? Let’s start a conversation in the section below.

As always, happy reading!

The Honest Truth About My Relationship with Reading

OK, I think our friendship has reached the point where I can now tell you the truth about how my love for reading got started. As with a first kiss, I will remember my first experience with reading forever… and it wasn’t all that great. Unlike most of my fellow readers in the book community, I definitely didn’t start reading at a very young age. In fact, reading and I weren’t always the best of friends growing up. We had a complicated relationship. When I would attempt to read, letters would magically switch positions, I would stumble over words or say them incorrectly, and what’s most annoying part is that I would normally have to read a sentence several times just to get its meaning. I can’t say for sure if I was dyslexic, as I was never diagnosed, but I wouldn’t be surprised by it. It comes as no surprise that at a young age, I had low self-esteem and would inaccurately consider myself stupid. At school, I would become quiet and withdrawn, hoping that people wouldn’t notice me. Sadly, people did notice me and as a result, I was bullied throughout my elementary school years. However, as I got older something inside me started to change. I found myself visiting both my local bookstore and library quite often. A small stack of books began to pile on my nightstands, and composition notebooks were slowly being filled with interesting new words. Just like that, a beautiful romance was beginning to brew.

My earliest memory of reading is spending a few minutes after school with my fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Alvarez, reading books way below my grade level. I wholeheartedly believe that kids could tell the difference between teachers that cared and those that didn’t. Mrs. Alvarez immediately picked up on my reading ability and was determined to help me. She never called on me to read out loud during class, she gave me extra reading homework assignments to help with my overall grade, and she moved my desk next to hers so that I could easily ask for help instead of staying silent. Not only was she patient with me when I struggled with reading, but she also went out of her way to purchase a few books for me to keep at home so I could practice. I remember crying to her one afternoon when a group of girls from my class repeatedly called me stupid during lunch. I was ready to give up. Mrs. Alvarez pulled me aside before PE and encouraged me to be strong and ignore those girls. She even went as far as contacting the girls’ parents and creating the “Good Behavior Game” in which good classroom behaviors were rewarded during the instructional time of day. I instantly felt better and was reminded that there was someone that cared. She remains my favorite teacher to this day. Knowing there was someone invested in my success gave me a reason to do better, and to challenge myself in reading.

With the help of my favorite teacher, reading was slowly becoming a new outlet for my imagination and a constant companion. Although Mrs. Alvarez did her best to prevent me from getting bullied by my classmates, I was already a target for being weirdly skinny, ridiculously shy, and embarrassingly awkward. Yet, none of that bothered me too much. Since I had no friends, I turned to books even more. If someone was being mean to me, I’d pulled out my Sweet Valley High novel and escape to another world. At lunch, no one would sit next to me, but I was too nose deep in reading the Boxcar Children to care. Genres like romance, mystery, and historical-fiction let my mind stray from reality. They kept my imagination alive while I was being forced to learn multiplication and the names of countries. I went from loathing reading to losing myself in a book for hours. To encourage me to continue reading, my mother used to ask me questions about my latest reads since I didn’t have anyone to share my thoughts with. I remember telling her how I wish I could keep my books instead of returning them back to the library. Despite the fact that my parents didn’t have money to always buy me new books, my dad built me a small bookshelf and my mom would take me to our local bookstore on special occasions. I was slowly falling in love with reading.

Of course, as I got older, the bookworm inside me slowly died. I blame many things for my literary dry spell: college burnout, new jobs, guys, and watching more T.V. I was an adult, flushed with new freedoms. But it didn’t feel right—this life without books. I knew I had to do something, but I didn’t know where to start. But what happened next was nothing short of magical. One evening, as I was browsing through YouTube, I came across a video where this girl was gushing about the books she was planning on reading. Her name was Zoe, and her enthusiasm sparked something deep inside me. Zoe resurrected my bookworm spirit and I was instantly curious to know more about her reading journey, and also to get back to mine. I learned so much about the BookTube community and quickly became fans of other BookTubers like NayaReadsandSmile, Books with Chole, and PeruseProject. Since then, I’ve been reading nonstop and I feel so alive!

In a nutshell, reading and I had a rocky beginning, but I wouldn’t change my experience at all. Because I struggled with reading at an early age, I appreciate it much more now, knowing how far I’ve come. Reading gives me purpose, helps me persevere through difficulty, and unlocks parts of myself that I didn’t even know existed.

What is your earliest reading memory? Let me know below! 

Happy reading!

Dear Daughter

This poem was written by me after the senseless killing of both Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. And now, given the public execution of George Floyd, I decided to share my poem here.

See that your eyes aren’t marked to be seen, but they are dark umber-brown wisdom left behind from ancestors who are still whispering.

Don’t be too amused by their caramel lies that tickle the ears. Yet faces are turning claret and eyes are swirling madly knowing very well what foul fallacy the tongue is holding.

Remember that block you grew up in Brooklyn? Walking that one-way eternal street with that old smell of grandfather’s menthol grease and sweet purple haze weed?

Or the corner where Kenny’s blood still cries and how grandma said they left when we started to arrive?

However, you kept exchanging handshakes with hard eyes and ashes in your mouth.

But sit up! This world won’t do it for you with gentle ease,

Especially, not for midnight skin,

Black afro coarse hair,

Or 12inch weave.

Happy Reading!

Conquer Slow Reading with Five Simple Tips

I’ll just come right out and say it: I am a slow reader. I guess you can say I finally accepted this hard truth when I noticed that all of my favorite BookTubers’—that’s what we call a YouTuber in the book community—monthly wrap up videos consisted of 10 or more novels. Nevermind that I have a stack of unread books at home that just keeps growing. I normally find myself rereading almost every page just to make sure I understand every detail since I am easily distracted. I often have to pause movies or TV shows so that I can read the subtitles before they disappear from the screen. You can imagine what I go through when I’m at the theater. Yet, none of this highlights my embarrassing plight more than my Goodreads account. I’ve managed to read only 13 of the 50 books I planned to read last year. I’m serious. This is insanely ridiculous. I have no idea how some people can easily knock out seven or more books within a month. It’s unnatural! One BookTuber recently gushed about the 17 books she read last month! Not only do I envy her, but I’ve also come to the conclusion that she’s obviously not human.  Although I don’t possess any supernatural power to shred through 17 books in a month, I’ve put together five weapon-like tips that have helped me to battle against my slow reading while holding on to a bit of dignity.

  • Size Does Matter — Let’s be real here. If you’re trying to find the quickest way to read It by Stephen King within a week, I genuinely wish you good luck. I am normally realistic when it comes to how long it’ll take me to finish reading a book with over five hundred pages. I’d give myself a reasonable deadline based on the length of a given read. Why does this work? Well, if you’re brave enough to read a thick book, then creating an appropriate deadline based on the size of that book will help you stay motivated to successfully complete your novel.  
  • Section it Off — I know this sounds confusing, but stay with me here. Sectioning off the chapters of your book simply means grouping a few chapters together so as to have a smooth and enjoyable reading experience that will in turn, help eliminate the common stress of slow reading. In my case, after I’ve selected my next read, I’ll count the number of chapters it contains, and then divide them into small reading sections using Post-It tabs. For example, if a book has 20 chapters, I’ll divide the book into sections of five chapters each. This method will help you focus your attention on one section at a time instead of the total number of pages overall. 
  • Plan it Out — I’m not going to lie here, I totally stole this tip from my college years. Reading Bible-like textbooks with absolutely boring topics was a real struggle back in the day. However, what kept me on top of my reading assignments was creating a schedule that I followed religiously. I put together a plan where I am completely honest with myself about both the time and amount of pages I can get through on a given day. By creating a reading schedule, which takes into consideration the number of pages you wish to complete, you not only get a sense of accomplishment when sticking to your schedule, but you also retain a level of comprehension while enjoying your novel. 
  • Readathon is a Must — This tip is literally self-explanatory but for those of you who have never heard of this term, a readathon is basically where you read all day long. Many BookTubers usually host readathons with a cool theme. My favorite readathon to participate in is the Harry Potter theme hosted by G from Book Roast. As if that’s not enough, there’s also fun reading challenges like selecting a book with a particular cover or reading with others from the same spot in a book selection to name a few. I’m always amazed at the number of publications I am able to get through when I join a readathon.  

Audiobooks Save Lives— I strongly believe that audiobooks are a godsend for slow readers like myself. I have an Audible subscription which I enjoy immensely because I can choose to follow along with my hard copy, or multitask if I’m pressed for time. Also, you can adjust the narrator’s speed if you’d like. I normally stick to the regular speed. If you want to avoid a monthly subscription, you can download apps like Libby or Chirp that also work in conjunction with your local library, to help you enjoy great audiobooks.

While I may not have reached my reading goal last year, I know I will this year. These simple tips have helped me to read with comprehension while simultaneously, enjoying some amazing reads. There are times where I am hit with a major reading slump, and the amount of books I wish to read just doesn’t happen, and that’s OK. The most important thing is having fun! What are some of your reading goals this year?

Again, thanks for reading!