Zazen by Vanessa Vaselka. A short review, an even shorter apology, and a literary secret santa.

I think for the vast majority of the book blogging community, this hobby is not a paid one. It certainly isn’t for me. I wish it was. Of course, I did become a librarian so that I’d be paid to read*! However, book blogging is frequently rewarding. Yes, there are free books involved (and the stress of reviewing the books**). Perhaps the best part of book blogging is, of course, the community. It has its share of drama now and then, but I’ve mostly avoided that. Instead I get wonderful opportunities to interact and participate in things like the following…

Rick said it best “It was back in December (December…of 2013!) when I came up with the idea to ask some of my favorite book bloggers to participate in a literary Secret Santa with me. I wanted to do something that brought us all together, gave us each a welcome surprise, and would challenge us to read something we might not do so ourselves.

Those participating:

Each of us drew a name from an imaginary hat. We were then responsible for recommending a book to that person. The idea wasn’t to buy the book (most of us lived pretty far away from one another), so we simply made formal requests. We could choose something we really loved and wanted to share, or something we thought our giftee would (hopefully) like.”


Heather chose Zazen by Vanessa Veselka for me. And it was an excellent choice (it’s like she knows my reading habits…).

And I so massively dropped the ball that it is both hilarious and horrifying. And more than embarrassing. Why you ask? And I know at least one of you wondered. That’s mostly personal, but we’ll leave it at being an actual adult took over (pesky things like mortgage paying and parenting and mental health, this blog is not the place that it once was). It was as horrifying as you might imagine. However, in the 17(!!) months that have passed, I have not forgotten. One of the reasons behind my hesitation was that I loved the book, but didn’t have a lot to say – because, oddly enough, I was able to pinpoint exactly what made me fall in love with the book. Twice.

The first:

I looked around at the smoke and people. I couldn’t find any hate in me anywhere. The world is a violent child none of us will get to see grow up.

I decided to love it anyway.

And especially the second:

But I know what it means to crave what you’re not. To want to sew up that rift because it’s exhausting to hold it open. Sometimes you just need to be someone else, someone who doesn’t care about anything at all. I know I do. I want emptiness but I can’t have it.

Beautiful, right? Combine that with a twenty something paleontologist turned waitress, a Portlandia we don’t quite know (but do), and a captivating writing style – and you have a memorable book. Thank you very much Heather, for choosing such a great book. And thank you to Rick for having an amazing idea. If we ever do it again, I think we can safely say I set the bar very, very low.

*This is a joke, and one librarians generally hate. It’s pretty rare that we get to read. Ever.
**Some people don’t stress. I am not one of them.

13 thoughts on “Zazen by Vanessa Vaselka. A short review, an even shorter apology, and a literary secret santa.

  1. Here’s where I saw Zazen the other day, and it made me think of you. Do you agree that this is “loser lit?” I don’t know how I feel about this article.

    That first quote made me tear up. Perhaps because one of my children is quite violent these days.

    I dunno if this place is not what it used to be. I read every post and always get excited when I get the email telling me there’s a new one.

    PS I had my hand on a used copy of Shotgun Love Songs this evening. I should’ve got it, right?


    1. And thank you for saying that, that’s sweet. I think most of it is me. When I was in a better place in my life (I’m still in a good place, just different), my posts seemed more fun to me. I try not to view blogging as an obligation, because I really enjoy being able to look back on this and see what I’ve read and been interested in and was thinking…

      I don’t know how I feel about that article either. Though I reviewed of the titles for the blog (I liked both How to Build a Girl and Hope: A Tragedy)… I particularly don’t care for the idea that those who avoid action fall into the loser lit category. There has to be some wiggle room between a person’s natural reticence and a specific failure to act. And inner turmoil….that’ll never go out of style – and that’s a good thing.


  2. I think this is a great idea and that you should still do it. I think it’d be a lot of fun to have other bloggers participate. The book seems really interesting and I’ve added it to my ever growing list just simply by those quotes and the few lines you’ve mentioned about it.

    I agree with the librarian * haha. As a librarian also, it’s very true more often than not.


    1. It was a very different read, a bit depressing, but good and worthwhile. It’s a different take on the dystopian genre.

      And I almost never get to read at work. I host the book club at my library, and I still have to read the book in my off time (though I’m paid to host).


      1. I don’t get to read at work either. We always have to keep busy doing something. Sometimes I feel like if I did get to read, I’d better help promote books then just mentioning at times when I see a patron checking something out, haha. We give out book suggestions for book clubs, but we don’t actually host a book club. I might see about bringing it up though, for both teens and young adults.


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