Back into bed started reading my books…

9 Gifts that will keep on giving

Do you have a gift you receive every year? Some item which if not received taints the occasion just a bit? For me, that gift is a book, or even better, books. Each Christmas my momma gifts me with a selection from my ‘2b or not 2b read’ list (past gift selections can be found here and here). My mom was a little under the weather over the holidays and so her 2018 gift was delayed, but no less appreciated when I finally opened my box of books this weekend. Thanks Mom.

*Off the Hook – The Rolling Stones

Happy new year darling…

Ma patronne – Louis Welden Hawkins ca. 1903

I love the time between Christmas and New Year’s since I can hang out with the family and live life at a slower than normal pace… 

One of my greatest gifts is the time to go to the movies or snuggle up on the couch to bingewatch whatever catches my fancy.  This week, I’ve seen The Favorite (highly recommended), The Death of Stalin (darkly funny), the win-at-all-costs sports doping documentary IcarusThe Marvelous Mrs. Meisel (season 2), The Wire (season 3), Maniac, lots of sports (Go Eagles! Go Notre Dame! Go Sixers!), and the newest seasons of The Great American Baking Show: Holiday Edition and Great British Baking Show. I am still planning on seeing The Mule, Mary Queen of Scots, and The Green Book before I head back to work later this week….

Speaking of the Great British Baking Show, here’s a fascinating article about the artist who creates the dessert drawings… 

I am not a big believer in New Year’s resolutions but last year I did decide to track how many books I read during 2018.  I am part of a Book Club at work (with our current pick – Tara Westover’s Educated – up for discussion in January) and took part in a summer reading challenge, achieving ‘Reading Rockstar’ status.  Turns out I’ve read over 130 books this past year…

My favorite reads of 2018 (in no particular order) include: James Frey’s Katerina, Christina Dalcher’s Vox, Sarah Bird’s Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen, Josh Malerman’s Unbury Carol, Jonathan Miles Anatomy of a Miracle: the True* Story of a Paralyzed Veteran, a Mississippi Convenience Store, a Vatican Investigation, and the Spectacular Perils of Grace, John Connelly’s He, and Dara Horn’s Eternal Life

I may not believe in resolutions but I am a big planner. I’ve got some personal art projects I am working on, a few art installations to oversee (including the January ArtLab and April ‘Autism Arts’ shows), and continued travel (Miami, Denver, Mobile, and Philly for sure with more day trips and weekend getaways to follow).  

How about you? Do you make resolutions? What kinds of dreams do you have for the new year? Here’s hoping you achieve success in whatever you set out to do next year. All the best for 2019!

*Happy New Year Darling – Lonnie Johnson

Power to the people…

thepower

I know I’ve been complaining about not having enough time to get it all done so it might surprise you to learn I have gone and joined a book club, because why not?  Even if I get nothing else done – and a LOT is not getting done at the moment – joining a book group which meets once every few months isn’t the time commitment it might seem, especially since I read a few chapters of a book every night anyway.

Our club is interested in exploring utopian/dystopian perspectives and chose The Power by Naomi Alderman as our first read. Set five thousand years in the future, The Power explores an alternative reality in which women become the dominant sex as the result of a latent genetic trait which suddenly becomes active.  Most of the book is presented as a manuscript which follows 7 character story arcs over the 10-year period from when the ‘power’ first emerged until the revolution occurred, ending in a matriarchal society. The rest of the story involves an exchange of letters between the manuscript’s male writer (Neil Adam Armon) and his female colleague (Naomi) in which they discuss the manuscript and their latent feelings for each other (because no matter who is in charge the love – and hate – shared between the sexes is timeless.

Ms. Alderman’s novel centers around the question of power: who has it, how do you get it, what does it do to you when you’ve got it? And when you wield the power, how long will it be before the power wields you?  She also writes that two of the illustrations in the book are the key to the entire story.  I haven’t researched those but hope to have done so in time for our discussion in two weeks.

How about you?  Have you read The Power?  What did you think?  Whose story line did you like the most? And the least?  I’d love to know your thoughts…

*Power to the People – John Lennon

Everywhere around the world…

worldbookday

Being a voracious reader with almost no topic boundaries I am an indiscriminate reader of books from any country in the world.  It started many years ago with Russian and Spanish authors, before I branched out to include middle Europe, African and Asian writers, and in the last ten years Middle Eastern autobiographies and fiction.

Amazingly, I am drawn to the same sorts of ‘foreign’ as ‘American’ stories regardless of the author’s nationality: anything about the quest for freedom, education, family, and/or love keeps me engaged and invested in the plot. Turns out, these universal themes have persisted and prevailed over thousands of years, in fable, fiction and fact.

Along with comedy and music I believe books to be our greatest unifiers.  We really aren’t that different although the details of our individual experiences can be staggeringly unique.  On this, 2018 World Book Day (#worldbookday), do yourself a favor and pick up a book about someone in China, Ecuador, Iraq, Botswana, or one of the other 191 countries that make up humanity – you may be surprised at how much you have in common with someone on the other side of the world!

*Dancing in the Streets – David Bowie & Mick Jagger

In the library garden…

books
Due by April 24th

How serendipitous that I scored ALL of these books from my local library yesterday, which coincidentally was also the first day of National Library Week!

I grew up in a house full of books and was reading before I entered first grade.  At age 7 I was given free rein to roam the reading rooms of Philadelphia’s Parkway Central Library while my dad explored the microfiche reels for his aviation research.  By 9 my sister and I were riding our bikes to the Ridley Park library to get our weekly reading stash, which we would devour during lazy summer afternoons after our chores were finished.

There were numerous trips to D.C. and the Smithsonian Institute’s National Air and Space Museum archives, where I helped my mom and dad research pre-WWII insignia (and once opened a drawer to find a logbook from Charles Lindbergh).  I worked as a help-desk clerk at the Baltimore County Public Library during my first year of college.  I even spent one year organizing bake sales, weekly Friday dances, and monthly Parent Night Out events to restock our local elementary school’s shelves with $12,000 of new books.  If all of that weren’t enough, my momma was a librarian for close to 30 years. So when I say my love for libraries runs deep I am truly speaking from the heart.

Think about it.  Anyone, of any age, color, sex, sexuality, income level, education level, or any other descriptor you care to identify with can access one of 119,487 US libraries and learn a new language, brush up on computer skills, watch a movie, take part in community activities, surf the web, vote, or even check out a book.  For free.  It’s really quite amazing!

Does your town have a library?  How often do you visit ?  If you haven’t been in awhile (or ever) take five minutes to check out what your library has to offer.  Get a card. Prowl around.  Discover all the great things just waiting for you to explore.  I guarantee – you will not be disappointed.

*Rubber Band – David Bowie

You can’t judge a book by the cover…

newyearnewnine
Decisions, decisions…which book to read first

A belated Happy New Year to one and all.  My 2018 began just like my 2017 ended, with me driving thousands of miles to see loved ones spread far and wide. I’ve been wondering why I haven’t been as creative as I had hoped and then calculated between Thanksgiving and January 6th I drove just a tad over 7,000 miles. I guess that’s a good reason for not getting much done, huh?  Thank god for rental cars with heated seats and satellite radio along with kids I adore who had hours of far-ranging playlists and podcasts which combined to make those miles a pleasure to drive.

On the downside, so much driving meant a lack of time for any substantive reading.  I spent most of December lost in Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan, a story I really enjoyed and was sorry to finish.  When I reached over for my next read I realized my bedside stash had dwindled to a crisis level.  That’s why I was so excited by the nine books that Santa (aka my Momma) gave me for Christmas.  I always say the only present I really want is to spend time with my family but I will never say no to the gift of a book.

After I finish the two library books I am currently reading I can begin to get lost in my newest set of 9 (past ‘nines’ can be found here).  Have you read any of these books?  Which would you recommend I read first?  I’d love to know…

*You Can’t Judge A Book By The Cover – Bo Diddley 

Simply the best…books of 2017

2017top5

While the exact number escapes me I have read a LOT of books this year.  I love our library system (believing it is one of the best ways our tax dollars are used) and typically check out 6-12 books each month, as well as buy or ‘inherit’ others, all of which total around 100 (give or take a few).  Going forward, I’ve decided to track my reading to determine an exact number, details of which I will share with you this time next year.

As for 2017, I can truly say that the five books pictured above were my absolute favorite reads of the year.  Each writer delivered a fresh perspective on love, loss, pain, yearning, and family.  I came to care about the main characters, hating some and loving others, always curious to see what was in store for each.  These books kept me reading late into the night in expectation of what would happen next and I was sorry when I finished the last page.  Even more astonishing, these books have stuck with me as I continue to reflect on issues as varied as as rape, slavery, abortion, crime, and religion – none of them light topics but all treated with respect and curiosity through the author’s engaging, dramatic, and unique story-telling.

How about you?  What were your favorite books of 2017?  Are you looking forward to reading anything special in 2018?  I’d love to know…

*Simply the Best – Tina Turner

I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus…

GiftsforMom

Last week was super busy for me.  Much of my work week was spent decorating, shopping, catering, and hosting a reception for 60, followed by a one-day 1000 mile drive to retrieve my son for the holidays.  Now that I’ve had a chance to relax and rest I’m ready to share my last guide with you – gift ideas for the real Santa (aka: Mom).  Most mom’s would rather spend time with their loved ones than receive a gift but it never hurts to have a present or two ready so you can stay on her nice list….

  1. Anthropolgie Tea Set for One
  2. Kew Crystal Collar Necklace
  3. Premiere Edition Scrabble
  4. Olive & Thistle Wreath
  5. Kate Spade Cameron Street Lottie Bag
  6. Kendra Scott Juniper Earrings
  7. Modern Sprout Garden Jar Herb Kit 
  8. Lincoln in the Bardo
  9. My Absolute Darling
  10. Dottie Honey Pot
  11. Ted Baker Issy Impressionist Cape Silk Scarf
  12. Floral: The Graphic Book of the Garden
  13. Coco Mademoiselle Eau de Parfum
  14. Sourdough
  15. Dylan’s Candy Bar Signature Chocolate Wheel
  16. SpaFinder
  17. Oscar’s Bouquet Embroidery Pillow Kit
(In case you missed my other gift guides check out kids, tweens, young adults, and dads here)
*I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus – Amy Winehouse

Give love on Christmas Day…

GiftsforDads

A few weeks ago I listed some gift ideas for kids, teens, and young adults.  Having worked many a Black Friday in my younger years I try not to shop over the Thanksgiving holiday if I can help it.  Fast forward through a week spent working on a Program in Music, Mind & Society event and I am ready to get back into holiday shopping mode.  Next up, some gift ideas for the fathers in your life….

  1. Olive & Sinclair 8 Bar Box Set of Chocolates
  2. Classic Rock-n-Roll Art
  3. The Taking of K-129
  4. Easy 123 Art Paint-by-Numbers Miami Nice
  5. UGG Ascot Slippers
  6. Sticky Fingers : The Life of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone
  7. Kentucky Bourbon of the Month Club
  8. Ravensberger Neuschwanstein Castle Puzzle
  9. American Fire: Love, Arson and Life in a Vanishing Land
  10. Meyer the Hatter Dobbs Dayton Felt Fedora
  11. Atari Flashback Portable Player
  12. The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo
  13. Pink Floyd 1972 Obfusc/ation
  14. DiBruno Brothers Beer & Bourbon Collection 
  15. SCTV Volume 1, 2, and 3,
*Give Love on Christmas Day – The Jackson 5

Christmas is coming…

GiftsforYoungAdults

I have a real love/hate relationship with technology and try to avoid giving gifts with plugs.  That is especially hard to do when buying for anyone young (say between 10 and 20).  I find money always works, but if you are looking for something a little more personal to give your favorite tween or teen the following 18 ideas score high on the ‘cool’ scale and ‘low’ on electricity usage…

  1. MOMA colorful Backgammon set
  2. Beats by Dr. Dre Powerbeats 2 Wireless Headphones
  3. Music, movies and concert gift cards
  4. 1000 Record Covers
  5. Polaroid Zip Wireless Mobile Photo Printer
  6. Lewo Wooden 48-piece Stacking Game 
  7. Half Baked Harvest Cookbook
  8. Tretorn Andre 3000 HYLITEHIXAB2 Sneakers
  9. 642 Things to Draw
  10. Rosie Lush Basket
  11. Super Spirograph
  12. Secret Marvels of the World: 360 extraordinary places you never knew existed and where to find them
  13. MOMA Paper Watches
  14. The Kwik-E-Mart
  15. Sneakers
  16. This Book is a Planetarium
  17. Multi-masking Mania
  18. Ravensburger Sneaker: American Style
*Christmas is Coming – Vince Guaraldi Trio