Pop Culture Care Package #15: Good Sports

AK & Sean are pure delights

Hello Dames Nation!

Alyssa here (@alyssakeiko on Twitter), it’s been a couple years since I last guest edited and a lot of things have been terrible since then, both personally and globally. However, one good thing that has happened is my good friend Sean Doolittle won a World Series with the Washington Nationals. Phillies fandom is what got me on Twitter in the first place over 10 years ago, but now a decade older and also more mature I am able to root for EVEN a division rival. 

Anyway, Sean is also a huge bookworm and nerd and you may have seen him previously in this newsletter for his thread on old-timey baseball names or on twitter for hison-going quest to support indie bookstores. In a historically (and currently tbh) conservative sport, he is an outspoken ally and thoughtful guy

Photo: celebrating with some Martinelli’s and a lightsaber

Sean very kindly answered a bunch of book questions for me this off-season (which has of course been indefinitely extended) leading me to go try to check out a bunch of Matt Christopher books from my local library. Away we go! 


Alyssa Keiko: How did you start to love reading?

Sean Doolittle: I read a lot when I was a kid. I started with The Great Illustrated Classics when I was in elementary school and I was also really into Goosebumps. I also read a lot of books by Matt Christopher because they were about sports. I used to love our class trips to the library in elementary school and the Scholastic Book Fair was always one of the highlights of the school year. When I was growing up, I always had to finish my homework before I could go to baseball practice. There was always an emphasis on education and I think my love of reading grew from there.

I didn’t read that much during high school and college. I couldn’t get into a lot of the books I was assigned for school and there’s something about assigned reading that took a lot of the fun out of it for me. And in college I was so busy balancing a full course load while playing a sport that I didn’t have much time for pleasure reading. 

A few years ago, I fell in love with reading again. It’s a healthy way for me to decompress during the grind of a long season and escape from the pressures of pitching in really big moments. I tried a lot of things over the years - video games, Netflix - but reading helps me stay balanced and it gives my brain something else to focus on to help me stay balanced.

AK: What do you remember as the first book you really LOVED?

SD: I think it was a book called The Kid Who Only Hit Homers by Matt Christopher. I read it so many times. When our class would go to the library, I would always go right to the shelf to see if it was there. I loved it because it was about baseball and I used to imagine myself as the main character, hitting home run after home run during my Little League games.

AK: What is on your off-season reading list?

SD: I’ve been spending a lot of time indoors, quarantining as much as possible and hiding from the coronavirus so I am making a dent in my reading list. I just finished American Prison by Shane Bauer and Dopesick by Beth Macy. Both of them were incredibly powerful books that I highly recommend for the way they humanize some really important subject matter and explain some extremely important, nuanced issues in really accessible ways. 

I’m currently reading The Golem And The Jinni by Helene Wecker. So far it’s awesome. I love the way it combines folklore and magic with historical fiction. I have a lot of fantasy fiction on my list — I need something to distract myself from all of *gestures* this. I’m looking forward to checking out the new book by Juliette Wade called Mazes Of Power. I also have The Name Of The Wind by Patrick Rothfuss on deck. I really want to check out The Sarantine Mosaic series by Guy Gavriel Kay — I’ve read a few of his books and he’s one of my favorite authors.

AK: You spend a lot of time traveling obviously, how do you decide on what books will come with you? 

SD: Travel with books can definitely present some challenges. There have been some road trips where I had to go to FedEx and ship a box of books home because they wouldn’t fit in my luggage! I’ll always bring 3 books on each road trip— the one I’m currently reading, another book that’s in a similar genre (or the next book in the series), and another that’s completely different, in case I need a change of pace. But inevitably I will buy a few books at a bookstore during the trip so I always end up bringing home more books than I left with. I keep my ‘Want to Read’ list on Goodreads well stocked, so I always have an idea of what I might want to read next or what I’m looking for when I go to a bookstore. 

AK: What's your favorite baseball movie? 

SD: This is another question that is hard to give just one answer to. But I think Rookie of the Year and Little Big League are two of my all time favorites. I just watched them so much when I was a kid that they have a special place in my baseball heart. I could hardly ever make it through them before I would run outside to play wiffle ball in my backyard and they have so much to do with why I fell in love with the game. I also really like For The Love of the Game and Major League

AK: Who would play you in "Baby Shark: the baseball movie" about your World Series run?

SD: Seth Rogen.

AK: What would your old timey baseball nickname be??

SD: I’ve never thought to come up with one for myself... I think The Left Hand Of Darkness (inspired by Ursula K LeGuin’s book, obviously) would be a really cool nickname, but I’m not sure if I’m good enough to pull that off. [Editor’s note: I am implementing this immediately, thank you Sean]

AK: What are three books you want more people to read? 

SD: The Shades Of Magic series by V.E, Schwab. For starters, they are maybe my favorite books so I want to be able to talk about them with people. But also because they’re making the books into movies and I want people to read them before the movies come out. And the author is working on a sequel series right now that I’m really excited about. The series was some of the first fantasy fiction I read and it helped open up a whole new world of books for me. (For further reading be sure to check out The Broken Earth trilogy by N.K. Jemisin.)

A Place For Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza. It’s a really powerful story about an Indian Muslim family who emigrate to California. It really humanizes the immigrant experience as they grapple with honoring their culture and their heritage while learning about their new country and the American experience. It’s definitely one of the most powerful books I’ve read and it feels very important, especially right now. (I would also like to recommend The Other Americans by Laila Lalami and The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri.)

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. I learned so much from this book. Just read it. (I think American Prison by Shane Bauer complements this book really well.)

AK: I know we are both VERY excited at the idea of a movie adaptation of A Darker Shade of Magic. What are some other books you'd like to see adapted? 

SD: I am so excited about a Shades of Magic movie. I hope they do it justice because I loved the books so much. But apparently they have the writer who did John Wick on board so it sounds like it’s in good hands. 

I am anxiously awaiting the adaptation of NK Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy. TNT bought the rights to it, with plans to turn it into a TV series. It could be so amazing. I can’t wait. 

I think Leigh Bardugo’s book Ninth House would be fun. Or Sarah Gailey’s Upright Women Wanted — I’m anticipating a wave of dystopian movies following the coronavirus pandemic and I think it should be considered!

AK: What are a couple of your favorite local/indie bookstore experiences?

SD: I have tried to visit an indie bookstore in every city we visit during the season so it’s tough to narrow it down.

I really liked my trip to The Last Bookstore LA in downtown Los Angeles. First of all, it’s huge and it has an incredible selection of new and used books. They also have a great selection of rare books and first editions that is fun to check out. They have a tunnel made of books and lots of rooms dedicated to different genres. It was definitely one of the highlights of my adventures.

Staying in California, Mysterious Galaxy Books in San Diego was another one of my favorite indie bookstore visits. They have a huge selection of sci-fi and fantasy books, which can be hard to find, so I was in heaven. 

Mutiny Information Cafe in Denver is a must visit place if you’re ever in the Mile High City. It’s a really cool space with a huge selection of comics and used books and they have a great section of rare books as well. They have pinball machines and a cafe up front and so you can spend the whole day in there if you’re not careful.

And finally, I have to give a shout out to Capitol Hill Books in DC. It’s a used bookstore near Eastern Market that is a never ending 3-story maze of bookshelves. You never know what you’re going to find. Their sci-fi/fantasy section is in the basement and I had so much fun hiding out down there looking for books to add to my collection. I love used bookstores and this is one of my favorite spots in my adopted hometown.

AK: Can you talk about the Bookstore day you’re involved in a bit?

SD: I’m so psyched to be the Indie Bookstore Ambassador for ABA’s Indie Bookstore Day this year (which has just been postponed from its usual date in April until Saturday, August 29th). I love indie bookstores because of what they bring to their communities. In addition to selling books, they are also community spaces. They promote authors and host writing workshops for aspiring authors. They host community meetings and support local nonprofits. They’re safe and inclusive spaces where people can come in and feel welcome. They provide good wage jobs to people in their community. 

Most of them, if not all, have had to close their doors to abide by social distancing restrictions in response to the pandemic so this is a really important vulnerable time for a lot of them. There are still ways to support them though. Some are still offering curbside pick up. Many are still filling online orders. Most offer gift cards, so you can buy a gift card now and visit them once it is safe to shop in-store again. 

My wife and I use libro.fm a lot. You can buy audiobooks through their app and 100% of your purchase will go to an indie bookstore of your choice. I like to listen along to the audiobook when I read nonfiction. We also use their new Bookstore Link site where you can shop indie booksellers online and get your purchase delivered to your door. IndieBound is another great site that lets you place orders with an indie bookstore.

It looks like a lot of us are about to be spending a lot of time indoors so please check them out to support them during the quarantine!

Photo: E (goth wife to Sean, an icon and an angel), Sean, and me, celebrating winning the NLCS. Shortly after this, I told Jayson Werth I was actually a Phillies fan and then ran away. 

AK: [extremely Philly voice] VERY IMPORTANT: what's your favorite kind of Tastykake?

SD: PEANUT BUTTER KANDY KAKES! They were my go-to after school snack when I was a kid and I still can’t go into Wawa without getting some.

Photo: I’ve been asked to explain why my shirt says “Jawn” and the answer is because Sean is from the Philly area and “Sean” and “Jawn” rhyme to me, thus Jawn Doolittle.

Thank you to my pal Sean “The Left Hand of Darkness” Doolittle. Follow him on Twitter @whatwouldDOOdo in hopes that we WILL have baseball this year and the tour of indies may continue .

A Classic AK Mess-Around 

As a person pursuing my Master’s in Public Health I would be REMISS to not mention the current COVID19 pandemic and again emphasize that staying home, if possible, is the best thing you can do. I however urge you to not over-consume the news. Sign-up for local alerts and maybe one or two national reporters you trust (I like Ed Yong at The Atlantic) and do not feel obligated to read or watch more than that if it is stressing you out.  

That being said, I highly recommend knitting as a pandemic activity and also lifetime hobby. A) knitting pairs GREAT with watching all of the incredible recommendations from Margaret and Sophie B) if you make a knitting mistake you can just unknit the yarn! As long as you haven’t cut the yarn it’s easy to just redo it. Very resource friendly. C) it helps keep your hands busy, less temptation to scroll social media in a panic.

Alyssa’s Three Pieces of Knitting Advice:

  1. Pick a project you actually WANT to do. A lot of people think they are “supposed” to start with a scarf or a washcloth or something. No!! Start with something you are interested in. I like to recommend hats or ear warmers because they both work up quickly but if your heart is SET on a bulky cowl then make that cowl!! (honestly avoid a long straight scarf though, it will take forever and be extremely boring. No one should knit scarves)

  2. Pick a YARN you LOVE. My advice is usually go touch every yarn in your local shop, something that is both impossible and ill-advised at this time. Do not pick a yarn just because it is cheap and you don’t want to commit because you will also then not commit to the project. Pick a color you love! Pick something beautifully soft if it’s going to be near your face, washable if you’re giving it to a baby (or anyone who doesn’t want to handwash their knits). Merino superwash is great because it is both soft and washable but alpaca and bamboo can also be good options depending on your plans.

  3. Don’t worry about it. It’s supposed to be FUN, don’t make it something you hate. It’s very easy to undo and redo. If you get frustrated put it away! Try again in an hour or a day. You got plenty of time. 

Good resources:

  • Ravelry.com is an incredible resource and inspiration. The most usable and robust database filtering I’ve ever found (yes, even better than AO3 in my opinion). You can make a free account. They banned support of a certain terrible man which, in a space that can be often racist, was a big deal. Some patterns are free, some are paid, but it’s really great for looking at a lot of beautiful knits in one place. You can add me to see a disorganized collection of knits through the years including a bralette!

  • Instagram: I mean, obviously right? One of my favorite hashtags to look through on there is #findyourfadeshawl because they’re all massive colorful shawls. I love Neighborhood Fiber Co yarn for its rich colors and commitment to inclusiveness. 

  • Yarn.com has almost TOO much yarn but it is great to be able to see many kinds of yarn on one website. 

  • Pom Pom Magazine is BEAUTIFUL and such an inspiration.

Picture: the cover of Pom Pom’s Autumn 2019 issue. Look at that! How could you not want to knit some sea inspired sweaters immediately!

I could talk about knitting all day long so please feel free to ping me on Twitter or email me (alyssakeiko@gmail.com) for knitting stuff whether it’s questions or if you just want to show off what you’re working on!

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