Top Book Titles for 2019

Like so many others in the book-blog sphere, I enjoy taking a look back at what I’ve read over the past twelve months of 2019 – some have been complete winners and some not, but overall, I’ve been happy with what I’ve read.

Big trends in choosing my titles have been mostly in choosing POC titles and topics and preferably the combo of both titles/authors of color. This has been eye-opening for me, and is a trend that will definitely continue over the future. I’d like to get to the point where I don’t really have to search out names and topics… Until then, I’m going to carry on this special effort to continue that focus until it’s a habit. It’s up to me to educate me, after all.

To the Top Ten Reads of 2019 (in no particular order):

The Rotter’s Club – Jonathan Coe (2001) (F). A novel written around the time that I grew up in England so brought back many happy memories. Plus written in a very creative structure and approach. I have the sequel on the TBR. <rubs hands with anticipatory delight>

Barracoon: The Story of the “Last Cargo” – Zora Neale Hurston (1931) (NF/African-American/History). Just an amazing piece of historical lit… Should be required reading.

There, There – Tommy Orange (2018) (F). An excellent fictional read written about Native Americans in the modern world by a young Native American writer.

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI – David Grann (2017) (NF/history/Native American). True tale of a series of early 20th century murders in a First Peoples tribe which happened to own large swathes of land with oil reserves on it…

Greengates – R.C. Sheriff (1936) (F). A lovely straightforward mid-century British novel.

Golden Handcuffs: The Secret History of Trump’s Women – Nina Burleigh (2018) (NF/biography). Very useful in trying to understand (if I can) our perplexing president. If this is how he treats his spouse(s)… <smh>.

The Emperor of All Maladies – Siddartha Muhkerjee (2010) (NF/Science/Medical). Fascinating history and biography of cancer.

Why are all the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? – Beverly Daniel Tatum (2003) (NF/sociology/African-American/race). (No blog post [only due to job busy] but you might check out this list of related AfAm NF titles I’ve read…) A timely NF that looks at race and how it plays out in the country today. Valuable on so many levels. We also saw the author speak – wonderful as well.

The October Country – Ray Bradbury (1955) (F/short stories/spec pic). A collection of different spec fiction stories written by a master writer.

The Jaguar’s Children – John Vaillant (2015) (F). I know the author for his amazing NF book about a Siberian tiger, but here, he’s writing fiction about the plight of Mexican immigrants…

The Parable of the Sower – Octavia E. Butler (1993) (F/spec fiction/sci fi). Really good sci fi novel by one of the first (and best) sci fi authors of color (also a woman). Try it even if you’re “not into sci fi”. It’s a good read, however you categorize it.

Other annual reading-related statistics:

  • Total pages read: 25,253 (average: 275 pp).
  • Total number of titles read: 94. (Compare with 2018: 77.)
  • DNFs for the year: 4.
  • Male: 42.
  • Female: 41.
  • Mixed gender (e.g. an anthology etc.): 11.
  • POC: 30 (for a total of 32%). Close to one in every three titles. Go me. 🙂
  • NF: 54 (57%)
  • F: 40.
  • TBR Titles: 60 off the TBR (of 64% of the total read).
  • Oldest title: 1836 (Charles Dickens/The Pickwick Papers).
  • Longest page number: The Thornbirds/McCullough: 692 pages.
  • Shortest page number: 32 pages (The Snowman/Raymond Briggs).

Happy new year (and happy reading ahead) to all!

The Emperor of All Maladies – Siddhartha Mukherjee (2010)

Subtitle: A Biography of Cancer. 

I’d noticed that my recent reads were rather slacking on the diversity side of things, so wanting to address that along with maintaining with my push to read more TBR, this nonfiction read was put into the sights. Wow. Mukherjee can write (as evidenced by the oodles of literary prizes and recognitions that have been piled onto this book). 

Like many others, I’ve had a brush or two up against cancer and when a recent visit to my dermatologist led to a diagnosis of melanoma for a recalcitrant mole, I wanted to learn a bit more about this disease. What better way to do that than learn from the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction winner? 

Now, I must admit that this wasn’t the easiest read in the whole world – not because the idea of cancer is scary, but because I am not that well versed in molecular chemistry and there are quite a few chapters that talk about cancer cells and how they work. 

So there were some patches in this book that were a little above my paygrade and science knowledge, but Mukherjee does an excellent (and patient) job of explaining this really complex topic in a way that a non-science person can follow without too much trouble, and I would argue that this is what won him all the awards. 

He makes the world of cancer approachable for a lot of people, and when a life-threatening subject such as cancer enters a patient’s world, the more you can understand something, the less scary it will be. 

As the subtitle reports, this is a “biography” of cancer and Mukherjee has organized this massive subject into a logical and well-organized read. It’s a solid mix of personal (Mukherjee is a practicing oncologist) and the professional, and sources range from patients dealing with the diagnosis to researchers in labs across the world furthering their understanding of cancer, but however (and wherever) the author travels, he makes sure to include you as the reader and allows you to follow his trails. It’s a really impressive achievement to be able to reach both the science reader and the lay reader at the same time without alienating one or the other. 

At the end of this, I have to say that I have only admiration for all the players involved in this world: the cancer itself is an amazing disease – even more amazing once you learn how it adapts and reacts to any attempts to control it.

I was going to say that cancer is almost a living entity, but then thought about it again, and of course, it is a living entity (thus this book has the perfect subtitle: a biography). It’s adaptable, it’s ever-evolving, it learns from its environment… Is it curable? I don’t know if it is, but if anything, this read brings a renewed spotlight on the importance of cancer prevention. That’s where the focus will need to be for future generations. 

So, not the easiest read in the entire world, technically speaking, but a fantastic journey. 

For Her Own Good: Two Centuries of the Experts’ Advice to Women – Barbara Ehrenreich and Deidre English (1978/2005)

Continuing with my ongoing goal of reading from my own TBR (ha!), I pulled down this title. I’ve read Ehrenreich NF before (such as Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America [pre-blog]) so I knew to expect a well-written and pretty thoroughly researched non-fiction read from her (and the co-author), but what I was really impressed about was the breadth (and depth) of this look of women’s health (and the accompanying [mostly male] advisers. 

So – what is this book about? It’s an almost academic survey of how the health of women (and thus women themselves) have been on the receiving end of very questionable “scientific” advice over the years, and since it was a large overview of a long period of time, it was interesting to see the general patterns of the authoritarian (mostly male) through the years. 

For example, it’s pretty well known that the Victorian woman was treated as though she was an infantile imbecile by the males (and some females) in her life, but it was amusing to see how the advice from the “scientific experts” evolved from this to the Edwardian woman (who was told that her whole life was to produce children but then hand them over to a nanny or similar) to the next generation of women who were advised to treat their children via the whole “children should be seen but not heard” paradigm, to another stage when the foci of the family was to please the child first and foremost… and so it continues.

I am hoping that the most recent trend of viewing children as “equal” in power to (or sometimes with more power than) the parents will end soon, as I am seeing the result of that in some of the college students in my classroom at times. 

(The Helicopter parent has now been replaced by the Lawnmower parent, it seems. Lawnmower parents do more than the hovering of the Helicopter parent: the Lawnmower group actually leap into their adult child’s life and mow down any obstacles for their kid. Thus, the analogy of the Lawnmower… Of course, I’m not asserting that every parent does this, but it is common enough to be a “thing” in higher ed.) 

The “expert advice” for women has also evolved in tandem with the evolution and maturation of science as a discipline, since according to Ehrenreich, almost every piece of advice has been painted with the color (and authority) of science, whether it was crud or not. People followed what these “experts” recommended, regardless of how wacky the advice was. (This also follows with the notion that women were also infantile and did not have the wherewithal to make their own health decisions.) 

(Thinking about it, it’s a horrifyingly interesting exercise to see how this is playing out right now in some of the states and their recent (anti-)abortion laws. Women are still being told how to control their bodies by large legislative bodies of ill-informed men. Plus ca change…)

So, anyway, I really enjoyed this provocative (in terms of “thought-creating”) read, and if you’re interested in medicine, in women’s issues, in medical history… you’d enjoy this title. 

(Note though that this book was originally written in 1978, but the text has been updated in pieces. The updating is a little patchy in places, but overall, it’s a really interesting read as both a piece of history and an overview of social issues.) 

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History – Vashti Harrison (2017)

I happened to catch this title in a display for Black History Month at the library, and curious, picked it up. My own knowledge of notable African-American women was limited, shamefully, but I knew that there were loads of inspiring and not-quite-so-famous women role models out there. Who would be included in this title? Let’s see…

Among the forty or so trailblazing women, there was Rebecca Lee Crumpler (1831-1895). In 1860, she applied to the all-white New England Female Medical College where she was accepted and graduated in 1864. Out of a total of approx. 500,000 physicians across the country, only 300 were female physicians, and out of that number, Crumpler was the only African-American woman. In. The. Whole. Country. (Can you imagine how hard she had to work in this world?)

Crumpler focused on women’s and children’s health, and published her own textbook, A Book of Medical Discourses, in 1883. (View the book here, and view my review of it here.) Wowee.

…There was Alma Woodsey Thomas (1891-1978) who was a junior high school teacher for 35 years, as well as an artist (at a time when African-American people did not have many rights). She was a leader in the Color Field Movement which created paintings using bright blocks of color and was an important influencer in art. (Rothko was influenced by Thomas.)

Apollo 12 – Splashdown – Alma Thomas (1970).

—There was Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000), whose poetry I had heard of but whose personal life I was unaware. She published her first poem when she was just 13. After publishing books of poetry, she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1950, the first African-American ever to earn that honor.

—There was Mamie Phipps Clark (1917-1983) who was a social psychologist and counselor. Educated at Howard University (where quite a few of these forward-thinking leaders were educated at different times), Phipps Clark is notable for designing some research on children and how they see the world.

Called the Doll Test, researchers would give children, both black and white, dolls from which to choose in answer to some questions. After being asked questions along the lines of “which doll would be nice?”, Phipps Clark’s research showed that African-American kids who attended segregated schools would choose the white dolls for the positive characteristics that the questions asked, and the African-American dolls for questions as “Which doll is mean?” 😦

Unsurprisingly, these kids had really poor self-esteem of themselves and of others of the same race. This research became the basis for the 1954 legal case that changed America: Brown vs. Board of Education, where the Supreme Court ruled that segregation was unconstitutional.

And the list goes on and on of notable and extraordinary African-American women who are just not talked about when they should be household names. Every page introduced me to someone who either I’ve never heard of or didn’t know much about, and one of the best things was the Harrison has drawn each of these figures with the same face, to allow young readers to imagine their own faces in a similar position.

This was such a lovely book, and I hope it’s widely available in school libraries across the US. I learned so many new names to learn more about. I bet you will as well.

Love Anthony – Lisa Genova (2012)

book415After having read a couple of rather heavy-duty fact-laden books lately, I wanted something that read a little smoother – a “hot-knife-through-butter” book. In perusing the TBR shelves (wooh me!), I pulled off Lisa Genova’s issues-based novel, Love Anthony, knowing from past experience of prior Genova books that it would probably be a good read.

Genova structures the novel around a chance intersection between two women who both happen to live in Nantucket, and who have both experienced a loss of some kind. What makes this book more interesting is that Genova, a Harvard-taught Ph.D. in neuroscience, includes a character on the autism spectrum as well, a depiction that, according to some superficial research on the net, seems to be pretty accurate for families who have been impacted by this.

Anthony is a non-verbal child with autism*, and although he doesn’t end up with a big talking role in this novel (obvs), he does play a sentinel role in the narrative and is the overlap between the two women with the accidental friendship.

So, lots of drama here along with the story: one marriage breaks up, another is struggling with a terrible loss, and the plot focuses upon how the two planes overlap. I have to admit that I kept getting lost in the first half of the book as there were so many characters, and I kept forgetting who was who and in which family. However, if you persevere with the book, there comes a point where the two narratives overlap and then coalesce, and then it’s all a lot less confusing. But sheesh. I was completely perplexed up until then.

It’s well written, it’s an involving plot (especially once it joins together), and the author seems to know of what she speaks, but it did cross over into schmaltzy sentimental chick-lit at times with the relationship of the two women, and the other-worldly aspect of the child with autism. However, kudos to Genova for at least trying to bring more of a focus on the world of autism, especially through the voice of one who is on the spectrum.

So, an ok read in the end for me. I appreciated the insight into life with autism (assuming it’s accurate), but thought the book couldn’t decide whether it was chick-lit or should be a more serious look at a complicated condition.

  • Is this the preferred term for referring to someone with autism? If not, pls let me know. I’m happy to rewrite it.

 

Thunder and Lightning – Laura Redniss (2016)

book414

Lauren Redniss has finally completed Thunder and Lightning: Weather Past, Present and Future (2017), another book in her own style that makes it so hard to categorize. It’s a combination of art and science, of fact and passion, of words and graphics, so that in the end, it’s tough to put under one label: Scientific manga, perhaps (except it’s much more than that).

After my read of Redniss’ earlier work (Radioactive, a slightly more straightforward and controlled graphic representation of the Curie family’s lives), I know somewhat to expect with her work, so I wasn’t too surprised to see her rendering of scientific phenomena linked with weather and climate. I just haven’t really seen atmospheric science presented in such an innovative way. And actually, the book covers more than straight atmo sci… It’s a huge ranging book, and is similar to how someone would fall down into related Wikipedia rabbit holes if they had some time to spare. The topics are related, and yet ramble widely across the hemisphere, but it’s all interesting both in content and how it’s presented.)

(Sidenote: Redniss defines Weather as state of the atmosphere. Climate: prevailing weather patterns on a larger scale. FYI.)

Chapters are titled with fairly self-explanatory headings, some of which cover huge topics leaving you, as the reader, to wonder where you’ll travel in the next chapter. “Profit”, “Pleasure” and others are presented, along with “Cold”, “Rain” and the more obvious categorization. (The “Pleasure” chapter, incidentally, was a lovely topic to read about as it included the BBC shipping forecast which I remember hazily from my youth. I am not sure what exactly the forecast is saying, but it’s sounds lovely to hear if you’ve ever searched it out.)

So, this is non-fiction ramble through both the hard science and random facts linked with weather. In fact, I was never quite certain what I was going to be reading about when I turned the next page, which was in equal amounts both exciting and frustrating.

I think most people would learn something from this book, whether you are an expert or not, and so much of the information was new to me. For example, Redniss designed a new font just for this book called Qaneq LR, Qaneq being an Inuit word for snow. (Interestingly, Redniss also addressed the legend that more northern First People groups have loads of words for the different kind of snow that they experience. True or not, you decide.)

This ended up being a good read.

An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth – Col. Chris Hadfield (2013)

book322If you happened to be on-line in recent years, the chances are that you may have seen chatter about a You-Tube video of Canadian astronaut Col. Chris Hadfield strumming his guitar and singing a cover of David Bowie’s “Space Odyssey”. (If you missed it, check it out. It’s pretty cool.) Not only is it a good cover, but it was also filmed when Hadfield was at the International Space Station (ISS) where he was finishing up his time as Commander. (Hadfield also gained fame by taking some superb photos and implementing loads of space-to-classroom educational outreach components. He’s seems to be pretty awesome, and an overall good guy.)

International_Space_Station_after_undocking_of_STS-132In his book, Hadfield takes the lessons that he’s learned on his journey training to be an astronaut and the first individual to go to space representing the Canada Space Agency. I love space exploration, but I haven’t really paid much attention to it since the most recent shuttle tragedy. I don’t know a lot about physics, some aspects of engineering, and other science-y details, but this lack of knowledge is entirely my fault for not paying better attention during my earlier school years. However, after reading Hadfield, I can’t say that I’m suddenly a well-informed expert in these matters, but I know a lot more than I did before this, and all the kudos should go to Hadfield for making his space experience fun and interesting via easy to understand and well written information.

Along with describing his long and arduous astronaut training, other ongoing themes throughout this read are to be a lifelong learner, to work well with others, and to pay attention to details as well as your bigger goals. (Other people will probably draw other conclusions, but these are what I pulled from this. To use a clichéd business expression: these are my take-aways.) So, perhaps not particularly new or unique thoughts, but when it’s wrapped in Hadfield’s life story and his career in space, it’s extremely palatable. Hadfield has a charming way about him – he’s seems to be brimming with enthusiasm, itching to keep on learning, whilst being extremely humble of his role in life. It’s a great combination, and one that kept me reading. (I’m usually not a big self-help book person, but this book is much more than that. Trust me.)

To wit, Hadfield wrote this about the importance of life-long learning:

It’s never either-or, never enjoyment versus advancement, so long as you conceive of advancement in terms of learning rather than climbing to the next rung of the professional ladder. You are getting ahead if you learn, even if you end up staying on the same rung.

I love this quotation as it’s exactly how I feel about life-long learning myself which is something that I frequently strive to do. I’m a big believer in the “beginner’s mind” approach to life, and really enjoy being exposed to new things and adding more details to the topics I already have familiarity with, so this advice really resonated with me and made me smile. Hooray for a fellow tribe member!

Here is his writing about the importance of preparation (vital if you’re an astronaut):

Preparation is not only about managing external risks, but about limiting the likelihood that you’ll unwittingly add to them [the risks themselves]. When you’re the author of your own fate, you don’t want to write a tragedy. Aside from anything else, the possibility of a sequel is nonexistent.

 

(Above) Chris Hadfield doing a space walk.

(Above) Chris Hadfield doing a space walk.

One of Hadfield’s big pushes in the book is to have a big plan ahead of what you want to happen, but pay attention to the pesky details that need to take place beforehand. His advice: “What’s going to be kill me next?” From an astronaut’s POV, that refers to thinking logically and chronologically about the immediate actions whilst keeping your eyes on the end goal. To me, he’s recommending a balanced “forest and the trees” approach, instead of an either/or dichotomy.

space_earthBut the book wasn’t all life advice – some of it were descriptions of everyday life on the International Space Station which were fascinating. For example, when you’re in space for a long time (months vs. days), your vertebra spread out as there is no gravity to weight down on it and so when people return from the ISS assignments, they will be taller than when they left. (Hadfield was an inch or so taller upon his return.) But the new height is only temporary as when you return to Earth and its gravity, you start to shrink back to your more typical height.

Another thing that’s very different was when Hadfield tried to shake hands solemnly with the outgoing Russian commander, a fellow astronaut who was leaving the ISS to return home. Shaking hands in space (without gravity, of course) means that when you actually do the action of shaking hands and you do the brief up-and-down movement with your hand, your whole body goes up and down whilst your hands actually stay still which, for some reason, just seems really funny to me.

After being an astronaut on the ISS, wouldn’t life seem rather mundane once you had returned to Earth and resumed your normal life? Hadfield addresses this too which I thought was rather cool. So many people seem to do One Big Thing in their lives (astronauts or not), and then rest on their laurels and do very little after it. Hadfield’s approach is to applaud the hundreds of little steps that were taken day by day to get you to that high point as well as acknowledging and recognizing the people who made that One Big Thing possible at the same time. Again, not particularly new or unique advice but I just loved the way that he wove his space experiences with normal everyday life. Most people are not going to be astronauts, but can probably relate to his sensible approach related above. The manner that Hadfield wrote in was notable: he seems to be very humble, down-to-earth, and witty whilst being very smart and capable at the same time. This came through again and again through the read, and it really impressed me.

Along the same lines, Hadfield reminds us that it’s not always all about us; sometimes we need to be the support staff for someone else’s dream (or for a team to reach a much bigger goal such as space exploration). It was just such an excellent read at a time when the general milieu is about new year resolutions, setting new goals, turning a new leaf…

So, in case you can’t tell, I loved this book. As I mentioned above, this is an autobiography of an astronaut more than a self-help book – his advice is just slipped in between the lines of describing emergency space walks and being the U.S. Navy’s top test pilot, so it’s so subtle that you don’t really notice the suggestions. Even if you do notice the recommendations, they are straight as an arrow and very sensible that it would be difficult to disagree with any of them.

To wrap this up, I loved this book and Chris Hadfield has been added to my list of “Interesting People to Come to my Dinner Party”. (Other invitees so far: Robert Lacey and Nick Hornby. Date and place TBA. Guest list is a work in progress.)

If your interest in space is tweaked after this review, another great read about every day life in space is Mary Roach’s “Packing for Mars”. (Anything by Roach is going to be good – this title just happens to be about what’s involved if you need to pack for a trip to Mars.) Hilarious and informative which is always a good thing.

hadfield_nasa

The Book Sale…

As happens in a lot of towns and cities in the U.S., our local Friends of the Library (FoL) held their big annual book sale last weekend, and as I am a bona fide addict with regards to books and general booky-ness, I went. (Got to support the team, you know.)

And – I might have gone. Twice. Maybe. Maybe once on Friday with a friend of mine, and then maybe again on Sunday afternoon. You know – just to see if I  missed a title that I couldn’t live without. I think I got a good pile both days – nothing too huge, but definitely some books that will be good reads at some point in the future.

Titles as follows:

  • Out in the Noonday Sun – Valerie Pakenham (Non-fiction about late Vic/early Edwardians who lived abroad in the colonies around the world)
  • Cost: A Novel – Roxana Robinson
  • Dickens’ Fur Coat and Charlotte’s Unanswered Letters – Daniel Pool (non-fiction about strange little details of famous Vic authors et al.)
  • Strength in What Remains – Tracy Kidder (non-fiction about African immigrant who arrives in U.S. with very little and becomes a medical doctor)
  • Sanctuary of Outcasts – Neil White (non-fiction about US’ last leper colony)
  • Native Son – Richard Wright (classic by Af-Am author)
  • Forever England – Beryl Bainbridge (non-fiction (?) which compares a few families from the North of UK with the families of the South)
  • Dead Cert – Dick Francis (good mystery about horse racing recommended by said friend)

And then, to balance out the annoyance that arose recently from reading that awful Moran book, I delved into the pile to find some non-fiction about women, women’s history and issues, and came up with the following:

And then – to try and be productive last weekend and because it was actually quite cool outside, I made the Executive Decision to make the first beef stew for this winter/fall season. So below is proof that I can cook without sugar (sometimes). (And yes, I do see the crumbs on the lids. Now…) :

And my favorite (really, only) apron which I found on top of a cabinet where it’s been hiding for a few years…

My Stroke of Insight – Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D. (2008)

A friend has passed this book on to me saying that it was a good read, and as I was searching for a book that covered a subject very far removed from Victorian history (just for a change), I picked this one up. It’s a non-fiction that documents (autobiographically) how the author had an unexpected stroke in her late thirties and how it has affected her life. It’s also an interesting twist in it in that the author is also a neuroscientist and so this has deeply colored how she relates this medical experience.

It’s a fascinating portrayal of the long journey to recovery (post-stroke) and the steps she had to take along with the different choices she made. Her stroke left her completely unable to access her left hemisphere of the brain (unusual type of stroke, fairly common location for one) and so she had to re-learn how to talk, walk, speak, eat etc. (The left hemisphere of the brain attends to linear decision-making, the details of life, and I think memory among other things), and so there was this astounding process of discovery for her.

Since she had been a noted scientist in the mental health field prior to this event, it was also a big shift for her self-identity and it was tough for her to remember ( as I think it would be for anyone else) that just because she had a stroke did not mean that she was now “less than” she had been – she was just different.

This topic was particularly interesting for me as my father had had a stroke in 2001 and I feel that I was spectacularly uninformed about strokes, how they affect people in their various manifestations, and the process of recovery so this was really helpful for me. I realize that each person will have his/her own experience of a stroke (should they have one), but this was a particularly well-written of this one woman’s experience. Somehow, the author managed to recall with striking recall all the details of how her stroke felt to her from the minute it started to the end of the process.

This would have been very helpful to know when my father was dealing with the brief aftermath of his when he was still alive, as we (as a family) had little to no idea how to help him or even what had really happened. I believe he had had a left hemisphere stroke, and so his language abilities were strongly affected. Losing language (left brain) would cause so many challenges and obstacles (as related in this narrative) that it would require enormous patience and skill for family members and the caregivers who surround that patient.

From reading this person’s experience, it seems that it would be very tough indeed for people on both sides of the recovery process, and so I would think that reading this fairly down-to-earth recount of how a stroke affected this one person could only be helpful.

Bolte Taylor was also very helpful in reminding me (as a reader) to live in the present moment more – this is not a new concept for me, but it certainly is a tough one for me to live by and remember. As Bolte Taylor wrote:

“I may not be in control of what happens to my life, but I certainly am in charge of how I choose to process my experience…”

I found this to be a riveting read that I gobbled down in one day and would highly recommend it to any interested peeps out there.