What We’re Reading: Rachel Kassman

Blog post by Development and Marketing Manager Rachel Kassman. To read more posts from Rachel, click here.

Y’all – it’s time to come clean: I’m a reader. I read a lot.

From daily blogs (like Ask a Manager, Captain Awkward, Wardrobe Oxygen, and The Financial Diet) to various museum blogs (like Leadership Matters and Collen Dilenschneider) to many random articles posted by friends, family, and colleagues on social media. Frankly, I have a problem when it comes to reading – but especially when it comes to books.

Once I pick up a book or turn on my e-reader, I find it almost impossible to stop until I’ve reached the end (or I’ve quit – sometimes you and a book are just not a match made in library heaven!). This means I have to be very careful about when I pick up a book (case in point: this week’s multiple 2-and-a-half hours-past-my-bedtime bedtimes because I just had to finish Terry Pratchett’s Guards! Guards! and Sarah Gailley’s Magic for Liars before turning off the light). I also have a tendency to stick to buying new books from favorite authors (Seanan Mcguire! Neil Gaiman! Lois McMaster Bujold! Tanya Huff!), often re-read the books on my home shelves, and sometimes steal the books my housemates are currently reading (like Tom Rademacher’s It Won’t Be Easy: An Exceedingly Honest (and Slightly Unprofessional) Love Letter to Teaching. Sorry Brent. At least I didn’t lose your bookmark?) The common factor is ease – tried & true authors who I know I will love, and books that are already at hand. But I’ve been trying to break out of this lazy book selection method and support new authors by acquiring new books.

Which is where the Fantastic Strangelings Book Club comes in.

Remember those blogs I mentioned? One big one is The Bloggess, written by Jenny Lawson (also one of my favorite authors – and be careful with that link, the language isn’t always safe for work!). This spring she was slated to open her very own bookstore in San Antonio, TX. In preparation, she decided to reach out to her online community and start an internet book club. Which was remarkably prescient, as once this pandemic hit, it was clear that the shop’s physical opening would be delayed. Thankfully, enough of us internet weirdos signed up to receive a book (selected by Jenny herself) each month to keep the bills paid – in fact, because so many people joined, a book that was about to have its publication date pushed back got printed in time instead, because it had been chosen for the book club (I think that’s pretty cool, and helps remind me how much of a difference one person can make, when they reach out to other people)!

I’ve honestly been surprised by how much I’ve enjoyed the books I’ve gotten so far!

It started with the darkly fantastic Follow Me To Ground by Sue Rainsford, followed by the non-fiction biography of Edward Oscar Heinrich, American Sherlock: Murder Forensics, and the Birth of American CSI (and after reading Paige’s bit about the Nutshell Studies, I’m popping this one in the mail to her!). March’s book was We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry, a fictional sports story unlike any I’ve read before (seriously – if you had asked me last year if I would ever read a fictional book about a Massachusetts’s high school girls’ lacrosse team? Seemed unlikely. Then again, once you add a deal with the devil, turns out I’m 100% on board with the story). The tone lightened up in April with Samantha Irby’s autobiographical essays in Wow, No Thank You and this month we were back to the dark and weird with Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas. The club has also started recommending additional books each month, which is how I bought a copy of the creepy, yellow-wallpaper-esque horror book The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix (which was quickly followed by borrowing an e-book copy of his newest book Horrorstör- a knock-off Ikea turned haunted house? Yep, I’m in).

What I’m trying to say, is if you like weird, quirky, unexpected books – and the idea of being in a giant, virtual book club where you don’t actually have to talk to anybody unless you want to? You might want to check out the Fantastic Strangelings Book Club. Also, find me on Goodreads! Let’s be book-friends.


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