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The Book Blog

profile-icon Randi Gibson

Ever find yourself gazing longingly at your bookshelf, the lure of unread stories beckoning, yet unable to muster the enthusiasm to dive in? Like me, you may be experiencing the notorious reader's block—a seemingly insurmountable barrier between you and the captivating worlds within those pages. Sometimes it strikes even when you have the enthusiasm but are just overwhelmed with all the different options, you don't know where to start.  Like writer’s block, reader’s block can sometimes be about confidence. Reading is an intellectual exercise, and not always an easy one. I’ve certainly felt humbled by my failed forays into demanding books beyond my grasp. Even when it’s not about how smart you are, you can sometimes get the reading blues. Reading takes time, money, and effort, and when you feel it’s been unrewarding of late, you may become unmotivated.

But fear not, for in this blog post, we'll unravel the mystery of reader's block and discover the keys to unlocking your literary passion. So, grab your favorite blanket, settle into your reading nook, and let's embark on a journey to reignite your love for books! Let's dive into some strategies to overcome reader's block.

1. Change Your Reading Environment

Sometimes, a simple change of scenery can do wonders. If you usually read indoors, try taking your book to a park, coffee shop, or even a cozy corner of your home you haven't used for reading before. 

2. Create a Reading Ritual

Establishing a pre-reading routine can signal your brain that it's time to unwind. Whether it's brewing a cup of tea, lighting a scented candle, or playing soft background music, these rituals can set the stage for an immersive reading experience. 

3. Set Realistic Goals

Don't pressure yourself to finish an entire book in one sitting. Sometimes it's all about going back to the basics by setting achievable reading goals, like completing a chapter or even just a few pages. Celebrate these small victories - they add up!

4. Revisit an Old Favorite

Rereading a favorite is one of the best ways to cure the book blahs. In fact, it's one of the best feelings in the world. When you revist an old favorite, you remember why you love to read, how a fictional character could resonate so deeply with you, what ingenious wordplay exists in the world, and what diabolical drama a writer is capable of concocting. Oh, the literary possibilities!

5. Explore Different Genres

If you're stuck in a reading rut, try venturing into uncharted literary territories. Pick up a genre you haven't explored before; you might discover a hidden gem that reignites your passion for reading.

6. Join a Book Club (hint hint) or Reading Group

Sharing your reading experience with others can be incredibly motivating. Book clubs provide a sense of community and the opportunity to discuss and dissect a story, making the reading process more engaging.  

7. Mix Media

If traditional books aren't doing the trick, consider trying audiobooks or e-books. Sometimes, a change in format can rekindle your interest and make the reading experience feel fresh. 

8. Take Breaks

It's okay to take breaks from reading (even though it can feel like sacrilege just to suggest). Engage in other hobbies or activities, and when you return to your books, you might find a renewed sense of interest and focus. 

As you embark on this journey to conquer reader's block, remember that it's okay to experience ebbs and flows in your reading enthusiasm. The literary world is vast and diverse, filled with stories waiting to capture your imagination. By embracing change, setting realistic goals, and infusing joy into your reading routine, you're not just overcoming reader's block—you're rediscovering the magic of storytelling. So, dear reader, go forth with a heart full of curiosity, a book in hand, and let the pages transport you to worlds unknown. The adventure awaits, and you have the power to make it extraordinary. Happy reading!

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profile-icon Andrew Macfarlane---SJR State College

Good morning and welcome everyone to my edition of this week’s Book Blog. You know reader, one genre that I cannot get enough of is non-fiction. Now I know, this could possibly sound boring to you, and I understand. I just feel that real life, and the things that happen in it, is where we can learn most about who we are as humans being in this world.

This week I am reviewing Homegrown: Timothy McVeigh and The Rise of Right-Wing Extremism because the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995 was one real life catastrophe that was seared into my memory as a teenager growing up in the United States. An event that at the time was called one of the worst terror attacks in our country, and still remains one of the most awful attacks to come from the hands of an American-against other innocent American civilians.

The book tells the story of Timothy McVeigh, where you will learn he grew up outside of Buffalo NY and was a highly decorated gunner and marksman in a tank division in the United States Army. Excerpts are shared from fellow soldiers and officers that describe McVeigh as a model soldier, who, after a tour in the first Desert Storm Operation, came home and immediately began preparing a try out for Special Forces. He ultimately dropped out of the training and decided to leave the military altogether. Author Jeffery Toobin explains that McVeigh had begun to develop a distrust of the military and government, especially how he and fellow veterans were treated coming back from the first Gulf War.

Losing the purpose that he had found in the military, McVeigh turned to right wing publications and AM and low frequency radio programs hosted by right wing personalities. This was the 1990’s, and the rise of Rush Limbaugh, along with other popular hosts began to fuel this distrust and animosity towards the federal government. McVeigh feeds off of this and embeds himself further into that fury. He starts attending gun shows and selling and buying firearms. He isn’t successful at this, but he meets others in the circuit that share his views. He even goes to WACO and witnesses firsthand the standoff between the government and the Branch Davidians of David Koresh.

Unfortunately, the WACO tragedy becomes one of the many catalysts that drives Timothy McVeigh into action. This incident, coupled with his insatiable appetite for right wing literature and media, and the hate and fear of the United States Government motivates him to decide to take matters into his own hands. To strike back at the government that whom he believes has wronged him and his fellow “patriots” across the United States. He works with people he used to serve with and decides to plan an act of terror which claims hundreds of innocent American men, women, and children.

The title of this book, Homegrown: Timothy McVeigh and the Rise of Right-Wing Extremism, also highlights what the author, Jeffery Toobin attempts to do by explaining the McVeigh story. He ties it to the tragic events of January 6th. I believe he is successful in tracing the thread of what many of the people who stormed the Capitol had in their minds. They seemed to share that same feeling that somehow their government was not working for them anymore. That they had become the next wave in the unfortunate rise and proliferation of political extremism in our country today.


Cover ArtHomegrown by Jeffrey Toobin
ISBN: 9781668013571
Publication Date: 2023-05-02
The definitive account of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and the enduring legacy of Timothy McVeigh, leading to the January 6 insurrection--from acclaimed journalist Jeffrey Toobin. Timothy McVeigh wanted to start a movement. Speaking to his lawyers days after the Oklahoma City bombing, the Gulf War veteran expressed no regrets: killing 168 people was his patriotic duty. He cited the Declaration of Independence from memory: "Whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it." He had obsessively followed the siege of Waco and seethed at the imposition of President Bill Clinton's assault weapons ban. A self-proclaimed white separatist, he abhorred immigration and wanted women to return to traditional roles. As he watched the industrial decline of his native Buffalo, McVeigh longed for when America was great. New York Times bestselling author Jeffrey Toobin traces the dramatic history and profound legacy of Timothy McVeigh, who once declared, "I believe there is an army out there, ready to rise up, even though I never found it." But that doesn't mean his army wasn't there. With news-breaking reportage, Toobin details how McVeigh's principles and tactics have flourished in the decades since his death in 2001, reaching an apotheosis on January 6 when hundreds of rioters stormed the Capitol. Based on nearly a million previously unreleased tapes, photographs, and documents, including detailed communications between McVeigh and his lawyers, as well as interviews with such key figures as Bill Clinton, Homegrown reveals how the story of Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing is not only a powerful retelling of one of the great outrages of our time, but a warning for our future.
More by Jeffery Toobin:
Cover ArtThe Nine by Jeffrey Toobin
ISBN: 9780385516402
Publication Date: 2007-09-18
Bestselling author Jeffrey Toobin takes you into the chambers of the most important—and secret—legal body in our country, the Supreme Court, and reveals the complex dynamic among the nine people who decide the law of the land. Just in time for the 2008 presidential election—where the future of the Court will be at stake—Toobin reveals an institution at a moment of transition, when decades of conservative disgust with the Court have finally produced a conservative majority, with major changes in store on such issues as abortion, civil rights, presidential power, and church-state relations. Based on exclusive interviews with justices themselves, The Nine tells the story of the Court through personalities—from Anthony Kennedy's overwhelming sense of self-importance to Clarence Thomas's well-tended grievances against his critics to David Souter's odd nineteenth-century lifestyle. There is also, for the first time, the full behind-the-scenes story of Bush v. Gore—and Sandra Day O'Connor's fateful breach with George W. Bush, the president she helped place in office. The Nine is the book bestselling author Jeffrey Toobin was born to write. A CNN senior legal analyst and New Yorker staff writer, no one is more superbly qualified to profile the nine justices.
Cover ArtToo Close to Call by Jeffrey Toobin
ISBN: 9780375761072
Publication Date: 2002-10-08
From the best-selling author of A Vast Conspiracy and The Run of His Life comes Too Close to Call--the definitive story of the Bush-Gore presidential recount. A political and legal analyst of unparalleled journalistic skill, Jeffrey Toobin is the ideal writer to distill the events of the thirty-six anxiety-filled days that culminated in one of the most stunning Supreme Court decisions in history. Packed with news-making disclosures and written with the drive of a legal thriller, Too Close to Call takes us inside James Baker's private jet, through the locked gates to Al Gore's mansion, behind the covered-up windows of Katherine Harris's office, and even into the secret conference room of the United States Supreme Court. As the scene shifts from Washington to Austin and into the remote corners of the enduringly strange Sunshine State, Toobin's book will transform what you thought you knew about the most extraordinary political drama in American history. The Florida recount unfolded in a kaleidoscopic maze of bizarre concepts (chads, pregnant and otherwise), unfamiliar people in critically important positions (the Florida Supreme Court), and familiar people in surprising new places (the Miami relatives of Elián González, in a previously undisclosed role in this melodrama). With the rich characterization that is his trademark, Toobin portrays the prominent strategists who masterminded the campaigns--the Daleys and the Roves--and also the lesser-known but influential players who pulled the strings, as well as the judges and justices whose decisions determined the final outcome. Toobin gives both camps a treatment they have not yet received--remarkably evenhanded, nonpartisan, and entirely new. The post-election period posed a challenge to even the most zealous news junkie: how to keep up with what was happening and sort out the important from the trivial. Jeffrey Toobin has now done this--and then some. With clarity, insight, humor, and a deep understanding of the law, he deconstructs the events, the players, and the often Byzantine intricacies of our judicial system. A remarkable account of one of the most significant periods in our country's history, Too Close to Call is endlessly surprising, frequently poignant, and wholly addictive.
Cover ArtAmerican Heiress by Jeffrey Toobin
ISBN: 9780385536714
Publication Date: 2016-08-02
From New Yorker staff writer and bestselling author of The Nine and The Run of His Life: The People v. O. J. Simpson, the definitive account of the kidnapping and trial that defined an insane era in American history   On February 4, 1974, Patty Hearst, a sophomore in college and heiress to the Hearst family fortune, was kidnapped by a ragtag group of self-styled revolutionaries calling itself the Symbionese Liberation Army. The already sensational story took the first of many incredible twists on April 3, when the group released a tape of Patty saying she had joined the SLA and had adopted the nom de guerre "Tania."      The weird turns of the tale are truly astonishing--the Hearst family trying to secure Patty's release by feeding all the people of Oakland and San Francisco for free; the bank security cameras capturing "Tania" wielding a machine gun during a robbery; a cast of characters including everyone from Bill Walton to the Black Panthers to Ronald Reagan to F. Lee Bailey; the largest police shoot-out in American history; the first breaking news event to be broadcast live on television stations across the country; Patty's year on the lam, running from authorities; and her circuslike trial, filled with theatrical courtroom confrontations and a dramatic last-minute reversal, after which the term "Stockholm syndrome" entered the lexicon.        The saga of Patty Hearst highlighted a decade in which America seemed to be suffering a collective nervous breakdown. Based on more than a hundred interviews and thousands of previously secret documents, American Heiress thrillingly recounts the craziness of the times (there were an average of 1,500 terrorist bombings a year in the early 1970s). Toobin portrays the lunacy of the half-baked radicals of the SLA and the toxic mix of sex, politics, and violence that swept up Patty Hearst and re-creates her melodramatic trial. American Heiress examines the life of a young woman who suffered an unimaginable trauma and then made the stunning decision to join her captors' crusade.         Or did she?
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profile-icon Kayla Cook

December 8 of this year will mark the 43rd anniversary of the death of John Ono Lennon, who, at 40 years old, was killed outside his New York apartment. While I could use this as a chance to comment on gun violence in America, the relative lack of improvement in mental healthcare and mental health research since the 1980s, or the world’s deafening refusal to “Give Peace a Chance” (Everybody’s talking about Israel/Palestine, fentanyl and xylazine, left wing and right wing, and freight trucks and Starbucks...), I will instead use this time to talk about love and memory. 

Lennon’s widow Yoko Ono’s life story and career have long been overshadowed by the world’s preoccupation with who her husband was. An accomplished artist, musician, and activist in her own right, Ono has lived for decades with the reputation of being the woman who broke up the Beatles, a moniker which is both unfair to her and overstates the influence she had on Lennon’s career, and the Beatles as a group. Recently, fans and academics alike have begun to acknowledge that the response to Ono in the 1960s, which has persisted now for over fifty years, was largely based in racism and misogyny and her role in Beatles history needs to be thoroughly reconsidered (I highly recommend the chapters on Yoko Ono in Lily E. Hirsch’s Can’t Stop the Grrrls: Confronting Sexist Labels in Pop Music from Ariana Grande to Yoko Ono, linked below, as well as Christine Feldman-Barrett's A Women’s History of the Beatles). Nevertheless, since 1980, Ono has adapted to the shadow she now inevitably lives under and has accepted her role as the one to carry and hold up her husband’s legacy. Ono has dedicated much of the last 43 years of her life to telling not only her version of Lennon’s story, but other people’s as well. 

In 2005, 25 years after Lennon’s death, Ono released a book which she coordinated, compiled, and edited, titled Memories of John Lennon. This book features stories from 75 celebrities, writers, photographers, and artists who knew Lennon when he was alive about some of their favorite memories of him. One of the most poignant of these was submitted by the photographer Annie Leibovitz, who conducted Lennon’s last photoshoot just hours before he was killed. Leibovitz offers no words but instead allows her pictures to tell the viewer who John Lennon was to her.