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Guest: Chapters & Scenes

September 18, 2021 in Guest

Screen Shot 2021-08-25 at 1.47.31 PM (2)We’re a family of four: dad, mom, and two girls aged 12 and 9 doing the fiftyfifty.me challenge for the first time. Brigette thought she’d feel less guilty about taking time for herself to read if everyone else was participating, so it began. We figured if we each read one book and watched one film each week, we could finish with minimal problems.

Brigette also thought that documenting the whole thing on our blog Chapters & Scenes would be fun, motivating and start conversations with like-minded people. We all enjoyed a new-found joy in our shared love of reading. We would sit around and discuss them at every meal. We even decided to pick one author to share. We chose Lemony Snicket/Daniel Handler. Pete read Adverbs, Brigette read Why We Broke Up and the girls read The Series Of Unfortunate Events.

At first, the documenting of our progress through reviews was fun and a novel experiment. We regularly posted things on Facebook and Twitter, made a Pinterest board for everything we read and watched and made playlists for both books and films. But about halfway through the year, everyone started to feel like it was all too much work and not enough fun. Life started to get in the way of both Pete and Brigette’s reading progress and in order to catch up, we spent less and less time as a family and less and less time loving reading books and watching films.

Now, with a really big move on the horizon (read: lots of disruption and stress), we made the decision to reduce our blog posts so that we can spend more time enjoying the challenge. We still intend to meet our goal, but we’re taking the advice on this website and not spending a bunch of time documenting it on a blog.

We have started asking friends and family to guest post so that we can still put content on the blog, but it doesn’t all have to come from us. We’d love to offer our blog as a platform for fellow fiftyfifty.me participants to use when they have that one book or film they just have to shout out to the world about. So far we’ve read a combined 137 books and watched a combined 61 films. Pete’s already realized that he won’t be able to keep this up for another year, so we might just combine our efforts next year.

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Guest: A Challenge Newbie!

February 21, 2021 in Books, Guest, Movies

A guest post from Melissa, an artist, illustrator, and maker from Michigan! Visit her portfolio at www.melissadettloff.com (pssst don’t miss her blog) and say hello on Twitter @melissadettloff. Thanks Melissa!

Melissa's portolio

Melissa’s portolio

This is my first year participating in fiftyfifty.me! For the last four years I’ve kept track of what I read and want to read on my Goodreads, and when I got an email from Goodreads noting the pathetic number of books I read in 2013, I decided to commit to reading fifty books this year. And watching fifty movies, though admittedly I’m way more interested in the book part than the movie part.

My goal is to read at least four books a month. I’m not following a theme or a list, but reading whatever I’m in the mood for, whatever I’m interested in knowing more about, and books recommended by friends. My to-read list is usually pretty long, so I’m not too worried about running out of potential things to read.

It’s the second week of February and I’m on my eleventh book : Gulp by Mary Roach. A friend told me about this one and it sounded really interesting. This year I’ve also read a couple of career guidance books (including the famed What Color Is Your Parachute? one), McSweeney’s Quarterly Concerns #43 and #44, and some art/illustrated books (Cola Madnes by Gary Panter, My Dirty Dumb Eyes by Lisa Hanawalt, and Find & Keep by Beci Orpin). A friend recommended The Circle by Dave Eggers and I read that.

I’ve been keeping track of my books-read in a notebook, and writing down whatever comes to mind after finishing the book and reflecting on what stood out about it. I wrote 2.5 pages of notes about The Conquest of Happiness by Bertrand Russell.

Yesterday I watched my sixth movie of the year, Alfred Hitchcock’s silent comedy film Champagne, which was recently restored and was playing at the Detroit Film Theater with a live piano player. Lest you think I am a fancy film person, the night before that, I watched Predator 2 (and I know according to fiftyfifty.me rules I can’t count all of the Mystery Science Theater 3000s I watch for the hundredth time).

Though some of what I’ve read so far is on the lighter side, I am definitely reading (and watching) more than I normally would thanks to the fiftyfifty.me challenge. And I’m keeping track of it, digesting it, which feels important, too.

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Guest Post: There’s Glory For You!

January 30, 2021 in Books, Guest

Here’s a fantastic guest post from Stuart [ likhaavat.blogspot.co.nz | @maxqnz | fiftyfifty.me profile ]

One of the things I most enjoyed about last year’s fiftyfiftyme challenge was the opportunity to choose minors and majors. This year’s reduction in the numbers required gives us grizzled veterans of last year’s campaign the opportunity to reminisce about how much tougher we had it back in the good old days, when a major was a real major of ten, and a minor was a meaningful five, not an easy-peasy three. Clearly fiftyfiftyme, like the English language, is changing for the worse, dumbing down and catering to the lazy, unwashed masses.

That last sentence was total baloney, of course. Fiftyfiftyme is as fun and challenging as ever, and English has not changed for the worse, and is not devolving from a Golden Age of eloquence into a Neanderthal series of grunting text messages and inane tweets. Sadly, many people think otherwise, which is why I enthusiastically seized the chance to write about my books minor for last year’s challenge, in which I elected to read five books about linguistics.

I love languages and linguistics, and have done ever since reading Lord of the Rings for the first time as an impressionable seven-year old. Then, and each of the 18-20 or so other times I read that book, I spent more time devouring the linguistic appendixes than reading the story. Tolkien’s epic gave me the languages bug, and I’ve loved learning about them ever since. Last year’s fiftyfiftyme challenge provided the perfect motivation to indulge my passion by reading more widely on my favourite subject.

Books like Eats, Shoots and Leaves and Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style perpetuate the myth that fabricated personal peeves are actually ineradicable elements of English grammar. From rants against split infinitives to attempts to impose the rules of mathematics on language by insisting that “a double negative equals a positive”, through to assertions that non-standard spelling is “a grammatical error” and the promotion of the etymological fallacy by denying the simple reality of polysemy, English has plenty of peeves and peevers. It seems that some people will readily accept that everything in the Universe from galaxies to amoebas evolves, but cannot accept that language does too.

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Happily there are many excellent works written by real linguists for the general public that try to address that mind-set, and set out to show that as with everything, the only constant in language is change. No language is without rules, but those rules are not arbitrarily imposed by some peevish academic obsessed with imposing artificial order on the organic chaos of language. The beautiful reality is that language is the ultimate democracy – words mean what the majority of their users decide they mean, and every language user gets to be part of the never-ending process of making up the rules as we go along.

The endless fluidity and change in language should be celebrated, not mourned or railed against, and that’s why I urge anyone looking for a non-fiction minor for this year’s fiftyfiftyme challenge to consider linguistics as a candidate. Here are five of my favourites:

  • The Unfolding of Language
  • The Stories of English
  • Empires of the Word
  • Through The Language Glass
  • The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language
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Guest Blog: Five Reasons to Read Great Books

January 23, 2022 in Books, Guest, Movies

Screen Shot 2022-01-22 at 8.20.14 AM (2)This week we’re honored to be joined by Jennifer Lyn King, founder of Great New Books (www.greatnewbooks.org), a new site devoted to sharing their bloggers’ reviews - the catch? They only share the reads their reviewers love. During fiftyfifty.me it’s not uncommon to hit a wall and be unsure of what to read next - Great New Books is your solution to that, so bookmark it!  Jennifer and her co-authors at Great New Books have devoted themselves to encouraging others to read. So why do we read? She tells us. - Lilly 

My love for books started years ago under the giant shade tree where I read as a child. A certain magic happened the first time I read a book and could not put it down.

You know the feeling, right? You open a book with the intent of passing a bit of time, maybe in a waiting room, or while riding the subway, but somehow, word by word, you get lost inside a story and you don’t want to climb back out.

Those books are the ones where I’m living in the character’s shoes, living through their journey, learning what it is to struggle through their situations and come out on the other side a different person. They’re the ones in which I’m sad to turn the last page and read The End. They’re the books of the most dangerous kind. They stay with us.

Long after I’ve finished a book I can’t put down, the story and the character’s actions turn over in my mind. The meaning comes to find me, haunts me, and teases me until I can fully understand what the book was about.

A great book and its meaning do not let the reader go. I call those books unputdownable, if that can be a real word. To me, it is the mark of a great book, and of books I love.

A few books I read, or start and don’t finish, don’t have the great book magic. Somehow, they don’t pull me in and draw me into the world of story. You’ve surely read some. Those books are ones I’m not able to connect with, or find the deeper meanings.

The key to reading, and reading many books, is in finding the right book.

Though it takes some work to find a great book (or 50, for the year with FiftyFifty.Me), the results are worth it. Great books change us for the better.

The Top Five Reasons to Read (50) Great Books:
1: To connect with others: When we read a great book, we want to share the experience with others, to pass one on, join a book club, or share it in water cooler conversation.
“Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.” ― John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

2: To feel more: A great story opens our hearts to new things, and tugs at our minds to new understandings.
“For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.” ― Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

3: To experience: A great book transports us to places we have never been before.
“A good book should leave you… slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading it.” – William Styron

4: To live more fully: A great book inspires us to be a better version of ourselves.
“Story, as it turns out, was crucial to our evolution—more so than opposable thumbs. Opposable thumbs let us hang on; story told us what to hang on to.” –Lisa Cron, Wired for Story

5: To become a better communicator: We more fully understand ourselves and our thoughts.
“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” ― Stephen King

The trick to going deeper is in finding great books. At Great New Books, we believe words have the power to change us, and open doors to a better world. We hope you’ll check in with us on Wednesdays as our team of five shares a favorite great book each week.

Jennifer Lyn King is a writer and author who loves to read and share great books with others. She’s an American expat living in Prague with her husband and three sons, and enjoys photography, oil painting, tennis, and traveling. She is currently at work on a novel set in New Orleans and coastal Italy. Her 5 favorite books are (in no particular order) Jane Eyre, The Language of Flowers, State of Wonder, The Shell Seekers, and The House at Riverton. For more about Jennifer, visit her website and blog at http://jenniferlynking.com.