How many times have you participated in CBR? Has it changed the way you read?
Hm, per Cannonball Read itself, this is my 4th time participating. But, per me, I’d say this is really only my second proper go of it. I don’t know if it was something akin to burnout after setting a record (at the time) for most books, which could’ve been higher had I not fallen so behind on the review part of the equation, or if it was just a more natural shift. For anything really, be it books, games, etc., I’m the most hot-or-cold person. I struggle to casually invest myself in something, and so if I don’t maintain that devotion it results in that thing falling way out of favor and becoming almost forgotten about. It’s why you see me either turning out spades of reviews or next to none. If I’m reading books back-to-back, it keeps the momentum going for me. If I’m not, it’s like my brain is resistant to it. Like I said, though, that’s how everything is for me. My fiancee and I played something like 600+ hours of Animal Crossing: Hew Norizons during the pandemic when her residency was keeping her mostly at home (with the occasional Zoom meeting) and when I was between jobs (having been put on “leave” because of the pandemic). We maintained this for quite a while until the updates slowed to a crawl. Since then, I’ve hopped on and gotten sort of back into it with certain updates, but it’s remained pretty on the backburner. I wish my attention wasn’t so all-or-nothing like that, yet I’ve yet to find a solution.
You have a magpie approach to picking up books from anywhere (Goodwill, book subscription services, letting your fiancée choose one randomly by the cover, etc.). What’s been your favorite surprising find?Sticking with my reviews from Cannonball Read 14, I’ll say Rupi Kaur’s poetry. Had my fiancee not decided she had to have The Sun and Her Flowers, on one of our (routine) Target trips, and had she not left it untouched for so long that its presence stuck out like a sore thumb, I probably would never have read her poetry. Having now read all of her available collections, I can say she’s one of my favorite authors.
Now, if I broaden the scope a little further, I could even list my favorite author, Rainbow Rowell as one of my favorite surprise finds. I saw Attachments as a featured book, if memory serves, at the library in Pittsburgh and gave it a shot. As soon as I finished that, it was onto Eleanor & Park. Then, from that point on, she’s been the only author whose releases I seek out immediately upon release. I recognize her work isn’t perfect, and understand where a lot of the criticism of Eleanor & Park in particular is coming from, but I don’t sense any real malice from her. If anything, I think Rowell is just your garden variety imperfect human being who has some unconscious bits of bias and racism that happened to filter out some into her work. Maybe I’m biased too in saying that, because I’ve read my fiancee all of Rowell’s books (minus the latest Simon Snow entry), and Eleanor & Park is by far her favorite, with her getting quite upset about the continuation of the Simon Snow series in lieu (in her eyes) of an Eleanor & Park sequel. Regardless, I can’t help but grimace at people listing Rowell alongside the likes of authors like Rowling on their lists of authors who are problematic or who should be cancelled. I don’t know what it would take for me to “quit” her work, but she’s definitely not reached that point yet.
For books, or for anything really, I think allowing yourself to be open to anything and everything is the only way to go. I watch sequels to movies I didn’t like sometimes because there are ones I’ve, believe it or not, liked (ex. Kung Fu Panda fell flat for me, but not Kung Fu Panda 2 or 3). I’ve found musical artists in nearly every genre that I like, no matter my stance on the genre as a whole. I don’t like to say “never” with anyone or anything, and that approach has helped me find so many of my favorites. Have I found plenty of duds too? Sure, but I can’t say I haven’t had similar luck with what I thought were sure things. Don’t pigeonhole yourself. Be open to new and different things. Who knows, one of them might become another kind of “new,” a new favorite.
What book character would you most like to have lunch with?
This probably is just because I have Rowell on the mind now, but I’ll say Lincoln from Attachments. Rowell’s first book landed so well for me because I saw a lot of myself in Lincoln. You know, minus looking like Harrison Ford crossed with the Brawny man. I would love to just share a break-room lunch with him. And if one of his friends from the book decided to drop in, all the better.
What was the last book you gave as a gift?
Sadly, not many of my acquaintances and friends are big into reading, so I can’t really think of any gifts at the moment. However, I did let one of my fiancee’s friends borrow Rowell’s first two books (AKA, I practically forced her to). Suffice it to say, she’s rather forgetful and took a long time to both read and return them. I was worried for a while that I wouldn’t ever get them back. After that, I’m a lot more wary of lending out books.
Pizza: thin crust or thick? Favorite toppings?
If I had to pick between thin or thick, I’d choose thick. That being said, I’m approaching this as a debate between what I would call a “greasy cracker” when my dad would eat one of his beloved thin crust pizzas or the sort of crust you get from MOD Pizza’s “mega-dough” or even Little Caesar’s deep dish. It all depends upon where you draw the line, in other words. The crust thickness I go for the most is what I would consider average or run-of-the-mill, such as Little Caesar’s regular crust, but some might call that “thin” too. No matter the crust, however, I appreciate all kinds of pizza, having even tried and loved Chicago-style somewhat recently.
When it comes to favorite toppings, it’s all down to my mood and the pizza place. We discovered a new favorite here in our new homebase, York, Pennsylvania, called Roma’s, which even has her mom’s seal of approval (she’s been a repeat visitor, despite generally favoring more healthy options), and their more basic pizzas are better. We get either a plain cheese or their “Grandma pizza,” which is essentially a white pizza with just cheese and lines of red sauce on top. Now if I’m getting Little Caesar’s, another favorite of mine, or ordering from most other pizza places, I’ll often stick to just pepperoni. However, just because I usually keep it simple, that doesn’t mean I’m not down for experimenting. I like a (good) Hawaiian pizza (I recommend trying Jolly Pumpkin in Detroit; theirs has candied pineapple) too, for example. And I’ve even tried (and loved) corn (along with plenty of other more unique toppings) on my pizza at MOD Pizza. In short, I love pizza to the point that my fiancee questions my sanity if I’m not 100% sold on getting pizza when she’s in the mood.
Now that you’ve learned all about Travis_J_Smith, head over and see what he’s been reading lately. Or meet other Cannonballers we’ve interviewed recently.