Linkage Love: #SAReads Edition

by Kristen Abell

So, some of y’all may know by now that I’ve started an online book club on Twitter and GoodReads called #sareads. One of the goals of this little online venture is to help those in student affairs find books to read that provide professional development, spur creativity, or just are just plain awesome to read. I tend to have suggestions somewhat frequently when people ask (okay, I’m a one-woman book-recommending machine – I can’t help it, I lurv reading, people!), so I thought I’d share just a few of the sites I use to find new books to read.

Yeah, yeah, if you’re part of the #sareads book club, you might already be a part of GoodReads, but have you really used it? Take a look around that site, make some friends (a few of you have even friended me – feel free if you haven’t), join some groups. There is no better way to get book recommendations than to find some folks who have similar tastes to you, then follow them. Find out what they’ve been reading and steal those book recommendations – I promise they won’t mind! I find a good portion of my books this way – from a very well cultivated group of people whose taste I love. If you want to step outside your comfort zone, find someone who reads books that are totally different than your usual fare and find the ones they like the most. There’s even a “popular student affairs” shelf on GoodReads – surely you can find something on there?

By dint of being a long-time customer – oh, and by giving them my email – I’m on Barnes and Noble‘s email list, so I get new book recommendations pretty much weekly, but you can go on their site and receive the same recommendations. Amazon is also a good place to look, and if you look at enough books you like, they’ll start giving you recommendations – always helpful, that Amazon. Of course, if you also tend to look at, say, Wonder Woman merchandise, your “recommended” list may look less like a book list and more like you drive an invisible jet.

Check out the website for your local library – even if you’re not much of a library user yourself. Because KC straddles the state line of Missouri and Kansas, I’m fortunate enough to have two local libraries that have excellent websites (KCMO and JOCO). Whether it’s suggestions by the library staff, recommended books for different genres, or just an up-and-coming book club book, they always have great suggestions for books to read. And since I also follow both of them on Facebook, they often will make recommendations to me personally based on my recent favorites. Seriously, y’all, I love libraries so hard.

Finally, follow #sareads on Twitter – in addition to discussing a particular book, we also tend to throw out lots of suggestions and book review blog posts using that hashtag. Go check it out – or tweet me and ask for recommendations – you know I’ll come up with something for you!

What are you reading? Where do you go for new reads?

Linkage Love: #SAReads Edition

Linkage Love: Being Happier

by Lauren Creamer

These past few months I have been on a mission to cultivate more happiness in my life. Generally, I am a positive, upbeat individual and tend to find the silver lining in all situations. I follow the mantras of “people are doing the best they can” and “you can’t change another person, but you can change your attitude.” But, I know that I can do better, and the following two sites have been helping me on my way to a greater happiness.

The Happiness Project chronicles one writer’s quest for everyday happiness over the course of an entire year. Each month Gretchen Rubin, NYC writer, tackels a new topic and sets resolutions for each subject. (Topics include boosting your energy, improving romantic relationships, strengthening parenting skills, etc.). While her focus is on the important themes in life, she improves her happiness through modification of small details. For example, one of the easiest ways to boost your energy everyday is to get eight hours of sleep. Shocking, I know. When you’re well rested, you’re a happier person. Improving romantic relationships? Stop nagging! If you want something done, sometimes it really is easier to do it yourself.

Gretchen encourages readers to create Ten Commandments of their own happiness. (Be Gretchen – one of hers; Be an Optimist Prime – one of mine). The key to her success, she says, is her resolutions chart. While it is easy to set resolutions, it is harder to hold yourself accountable. Her resolutions chart kept her focused on self-improvement each day.

Want to start your own Happiness Project? Check out her tutorial.

My second site? Happier. A site/app devoted to promoting daily happiness and positivity.  Did you know that multiple studies have proven that writing down three happy things each day reduces anxiety, increases happiness, helps people make healthier choices, and gives one a better night’s sleep? Now you do!

Their mission is simple: to spread happiness. While the site explains the science behind their goal, the app puts it into action. Happier will prompt you in the morning, afternoon, and at night to write about something great that happened to you that day. Having a rough time at work? Wish you were doing something you loved? Easy fix. Write about it on the app. Share it with friends and family. Happier is basically a mobile social networking site that is all about positivity. No negative comments. No Debbie Downers. Just happiness.

The only downside at the moment at that it is not available for Android phone. For those of you with iPhones, I highly suggest you download this app! If nothing else, the confetti that rains down after you post will make you smile.

And now I leave you with this: start your own happiness project. It doesn’t have to be as elaborate as Gretchen’s or something you chronicle on your smart phone, it just needs to be an expression of the things that make you happy. Focus on the good and shake off the negative. Be happier!

Linkage Love: Being Happier

Robin Williams: The Designer for Non-Designers

by Valerie Heruska

I recently picked up some fabulous books on graphic design. They are:  The Non-Designer’s InDesign Book, The Non-Designer’s Photoshop Book, and  The Non-Designer’s Illustrator Book. What I like about them is that they explain the basics of each program and really act as a springboard for any person looking to get into graphic design.

These three books are written by Robin Williams. Born in California in the 50s, Robin was a free spirit: she traveled Europe and hitchhiked across the country. A friend introduced her to graphic design during her time at Santa Rosa Community College.

On her website she writes:

In 1984, of course, the Macintosh was invented. I was very resistant to computers. “I’m going to let computers pass me by. By the time they can do what I do in graphic design, I will be ninety years old and won’t care.” Well, was that stupid, of course. One of my students, Brad Mager insisted I could not be computer-illiterate. He brought over his Mac Plus and plopped it on my kitchen table, which was the only flat surface in the house clear enough to set anything on. We clicked. The Mac made perfect sense to me. Even the Font/DA Mover made sense. I was teaching 8 hours a week but running the entire graphic design program, which took about 30 hours a week. I got paid for 8. So I quit the design program and asked to teach a HyperCard class. Oh my that was fun. I asked if I could teach any other Macintosh classes. They said, “Can you teach spreadsheets and databases?” “Oh sure,” I said. I ran home and looked up “spreadsheet” and “database.” I discovered that I love spreadsheets and databases–such clear, logical, and oh so useful programs. Taught Microsoft Works, Intro to Macintosh, PageMaker. (

Robin’s books are very user-friendly, and I can tell that she really enjoys writing and teaching graphic design. If you are interested in wanting to know more about how to use these programs, I suggest that you pick up some of her books. I think that Robin’s passion for teaching us about graphic design really puts her at the forefront of the graphic design world.

You can pick up Robin’s books at  Peach Pit Press.

Robin Williams: The Designer for Non-Designers

Highlight An App: Kindle

by Kathryn Magura

I had a hard time trying to figure out what app to highlight for this post. We’ve already covered Instagram and I probably shouldn’t tell you how terrible I am at Draw Something, so I thought I’d go the more practical route: Kindle!

Kindle App

That’s right, there is a Kindle app! Why would you want a Kindle app? Well, if you’re like me, you have a Kindle (I have Kindle Fire) but don’t always have my Kindle with me. I also have an iPhone and iPad for work. In order to not become a complete tech cliche, I’m not going to keep all three of those devices on me all the time. What am I to do then?

Well, I’ve recently discovered that the Kindle application uses cloud technology to bookmark the location of where you left off the last time you were using a Kindle device or app. What does this mean? Well, it means I can read my book on my Kindle Fire by the pool on the weekend, on my iPhone while walking around campus (I don’t really recommend reading while walking, but you get the idea), and on my iPad during my lunch break. Perfect solution for someone who loves to read!

Highlight An App: Kindle

Katniss vs. Bella: Female Empowerment in YA Fiction

by Anitra Cottledge

So the intrawebz are all aflutter with chatter about the film version of The Hunger Games. I’ll be going to see it, because it’s my pop culture duty to keep my finger on the zeitgeist. Or at least that’s what I tell myself when I’m sitting in the movies behind tween girls (and their moms) who just can’t contain their oohs and aahs when Robert Pattinson enters the frame. I’ve read The Hunger Games trilogy, just like I read the Twilight Saga, and my feelings about both series are fairly similar: in a nutshell, they didn’t need to be series. Both authors could have wrapped up those stories much sooner, and with a much lower word count.


That aside, I’m particularly interested in the comparisons that have arisen between the two heroines, Bella Swan and Katniss Everdeen. I’m going to return to that in a second.

What I find fascinating about both of these series is the sheer amount of writing and cultural critique that’s been generated about them. You, dear reader, already know how I feel about Twilight by now (where is Buffy when you need her?), and maybe you’ve read about its abstinence porn narrative. I’m totally squicked out by the wistful conversations I hear after a Twilight movie, and I’ve had numerous conversations with colleagues about why folks are so swoony over a book about a stalker who looks like he just got home from a rave.

I’ve been equally fascinated by the writing about The Hunger Games: the casting debate, particularly in regards to race, and recent discussion about similarities between The Hunger Games and Japanese movie “Battle Royale.” In short, the books and the movies have become so much more than books and movies. They’ve become locations of cultural symbolism and messaging.

Back to the discussion about Bella vs. Katniss. There seems to be this need to pit the two heroines against one another and to ask people to decide who’s stronger and more empowered.

“Bella Swan is clumsy and largely helpless, a rescue object for Edward and Jacob, the werewolf who vies with the vampire for her affections; Katniss is a tough and competent woodswoman and sharpshooter. Bella is willing to give up everything — her family, friends, previous life, even her humanity — to dote on her beloved Edward for eternity; Katniss sacrifices herself for her mother and sister. Bella is one long, quivering bowstring of frustrated lust (at least until the fourth book in Meyer’s series); Katniss, about the same age, is unstirred by adolescent hormones, despite the two cute, sweet guys who proclaim their love for her.”

Yes, it’s really great that Katniss Everdeen can “incidentally shoot a man’s eye out through his windpipe” (which is indeed a handy skill), whereas Bella seems to pout a lot, but I don’t actually find either of them all that empowering in the end.

But (SPOILERS AHEAD) in the last book of the Hunger Games, we find Katniss taking up a more Bella-like existence with Peeta. (I think I was rooting for her to end up with neither Gale nor Peeta.) All that windpipe puncturing, and we’re left with a very traditional “let’s get married and settle down situation” (although not necessarily a HEA). In that respect, does it make a difference that Katniss spent most of the series running and fighting for her life? Maybe. Maybe not. It just would have been refreshing to have a different narrative: Katniss, as opposed to Gale, in a more prominent leadership role at the end of the book.

This, of course, is an oversimplification of each character, and of the conversations surrounding both books. If I consider the overall picture, both books and both characters are good food for thought, particularly in regards to what they may communicate in terms of female empowerment, gender roles, as well as class and sexual politics. In the meantime, I’ll just search for alternatives to both Katniss and Bella. They’ve got to exist, right?

Katniss vs. Bella: Female Empowerment in YA Fiction

Linkage Love

By Kristen Abell

As usual, my link round-up is gonna be more random than not, but I’ll try to throw in at least a couple of tech links since we’re all about tech here, right?

First things first, a little conference plug – if you haven’t signed up yet, the deadline for NASPATech is September 9th, so get on it already! I’m pretty excited to be presenting there, and more excited to meet some of the other presenters and participants. It looks to be an interesting and good time, so I hope to see you there!

Although I have not previously been terribly interested in the “30-day challenge” genre of Facebook posts, I have to admit that the 30-day book challenge (found courtesy of the lovely Stacy Oliver) is peaking my interest. I haven’t started it yet, but I’m definitely considering it. Anyone want to join me?

This little Mashable piece on social media crises is actually a pretty interesting primer on how to avoid them in the first place, as well as how to structure social media use within  your company. Also, it has some decent graphics that would help explain the article – always useful when trying to explain to non-social-media folks. I’m thinking this might be a good thing to share with administration folks who are maybe considering social media, but don’t see why we have to put some front-end work into a plan before just throwing ourselves on Facebook and Twitter. Maybe that’s just me, though.

Because I am a huge fan of to-do lists, I loved loved loved this little tidbit from LifeHacker on making your to-do list doable. There are some fantastic points in here, including breaking projects into smaller items and keeping projects that you’re not ready to do yet off the list – two things that are the bane of my current to-do list. However, I have to disagree with their whole, “don’t include things like eating breakfast, taking a shower, etc.” to keep your list short – sometimes you have to have things to cross off, right?

Now for a couple of randomly fun or odd links…

Recently our five-year-old found this video on YouTube, and it is his current favorite. What could be bad about Beastie Boys and squirrels? Oh wait… Warning: do not let your kids watch unless you want to hear over and over and over (and over and over) again for the next several days.

And finally, if you’re looking for some addicting things to do online (besides blogging, Facebook and Twitter, that is), I have a couple of sites for you. Check out Bubble Town on – it is ridiculously addictive. I’m still hooked after my sister sent it to me several months ago. Also, I hear (though I have not yet succumbed to the temptation) that has a pretty hefty #sachat following and can be quite the addiction. You know, in your spare time…


Linkage Love

A Few Good Books

By Kristen Abell

Today’s blog prompt asks what book you’re reading right now – I obviously knew this was going to be an easy one to answer when I assigned it to myself – especially since I assigned it to myself the week before move-in. I’m always reading something, and if you follo me on Twitter or Facebook, you’ll frequently see me give updates on whatever I’m reading from, or you can friend me on GoodReads – hey, when a girl reads this much, she needs some way to track it, right?

So what am I reading right now? Well, actually, I’m reading a book that’s been on my list for awhile now – The Help. If you haven’t heard of it, I suspect you’ve been under a rock somewhere, as it’s been all the rage, especially now that the movie just started showing. I’m about halfway through, and I’m liking it so far. Recently I found myself saying to my partner, “You know, there are a LOT of books written about slavery and civil rights.” His response? “No, babe, YOU just read a lot of those books.” He’s right – I am drawn to these books – well, these and about every other kind of book ever written.

So, The Help, if you have been under a rock, is about the life of black maids in Jackson, Mississippi during the Civil Rights Movement. And one white woman who decides she’s going to write about their lives. At least, that’s what it’s about so far. It’s fairly well-written, and rich in detail. I won’t give my full stamp of approval yet, since I haven’t finished it, but I’m sure you can get a stamp of approval on it from at least a half-dozen other people you know.

I’m also reading Empowering Women in Higher Education and Student Affairs, which I’ve found to be a fantastic read so far, and likely my next favorite student affairs book (although I’m not sure I have another “favorite,” now that I think of it). There is some incredibly interesting and relevant research in this book, and I’d highly recommend you consider reading it if you’re currently working in student affairs or thinking about it. Not only is this a good background book for women going into or currently working in student affairs/higher education, but I think many men would benefit from reading this to gain a better understanding of what women experience. Again, still reading, so no full stamp of approval, but I’d definitely give my stamp on the chapters I’ve read (roughly the first half of the book).

And finally, because, you know, two books just isn’t enough, I’m also reading The Arabian Nights – which is really, really LONG. But a classic, and one I’m determined to finish…at some point. Luckily, it’s easy to break at various points, as it’s a collection of tales.

As for my favorite tech book, I’m not sure I can choose one. About every one I read I find somewhat fascinating. I particularly liked The Perfect Thing: How the iPod Shuffles Commerce, Culture, and Coolness for its discussion of the evolution of MP3 players, and specifically the iPod. Oh, and of course, the second coming of Apple Fandom. I also loved loved loved Say Everything: How Blogging Began, What It’s Becoming, and Why It Matters. Even though I’d been blogging for a couple years by the time I picked up this book, it taught me so much about the evolution of blogging and also why it is such an important form of social media, writing, and technology. If you are at all interested in blogging, I can’t recommend this book enough.

So what are you reading? We’d love to hear what’s on your reading list – and feel free to friend me on GoodReads – I’m always looking for good new suggestions.

A Few Good Books