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

Celebrate summer with me….

summerclubbooks
My next library haul

When I was little I spent a large part of every summer reading.  My sister and I would ride our bikes to the nearest library and load up our baskets with enough books for a week of reading.  We’d bike home, fight over the porch lounge chair or the hammock, and read our afternoons away. My children, who each had a library card within weeks of being born, also participated in summer reading programs until they reached high school and their assigned summer reading assignments took over.

I continue to be a huge library user and supporter and generally utilize the online search and hold services to assemble a week or two worth of reading material.  Imagine my surprise when I stopped by to pick up my book holds and realized that the summer reading club had started, featuring a club for children AND adults!

The program runs from May 14th through August 3rd and the goal is read 600 minutes. Not to brag, but I read 600 minutes in the first week, and am currently up to 4000 minutes and counting.  There are also incentives for posting on social media (check), reading to someone (check) and making a recipe from a cookbook (check, check and check).  I’ve already earned a mug and a $10 gift card and hope to have enough minutes to ‘win’ a book donation in my name when the program ends.  Here’s what I’ve read so far…

Feel Free – Zadie Smith  |  Sing Unburied Sing – Jesamyn Ward  |  God Bless You Mr. Kervorkian – Kurt Vonnegut  |  Miller’s Valley – Anna Quindlen  |  The Wife Between Us – Greer Hendricks  |  While Mortals Sleep – Kurt Vonnegut   |   Eternal Life: A Novel – Dora Horn  |  Green: A Novel – Sam Graham-Felsen   |  Lullaby Road: A Novel – James Anderson  |  The Nothing – Hanif Kureshi  |  The Queen’s Embroiderer: A True Story of Paris, Lovers, Swindlers, and the First Stock Market Crisis – Joan E. DeJoan  |  King Zero – Nathaniel Rich  |  Surprise Me: A Novel – Sophie Kinsella  |  The Interestings – Med Wolitzer  |  The Monk of Mokha – Dave Eggers

*Celebrate Summer  – Marc Bolan

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

When the bear would come to town…

beartown
It’s a bear’s life

I spent the last two weeks helping my mom recover from some surgery complications.  If you’ve ever spent time sitting bedside, wishing someone you love back to good health, you can empathize with my need to periodically escape with a good book.  Beartown: A Novel, by Fredrik Backman, provided exactly the diversion I needed.

The book has been on my 2 B or Not 2 B Reads list for quite some time, so when I saw it on the library shelf I felt like I had just won the book lottery.  I got home only to find I needed to get to my mom’s side as quickly as possible. I threw some clothes and Beartown into my luggage, hoped a plane, and two nights later finally found time to start the first chapter, which consisted of two succinct sentences.  “Late one evening toward the end of March, a teenager picked up a double-barreled shotgun, walked into the forest, put the gun to someone else’s forehead, and pulled the trigger. This is the story of how we got there.” I was instantly transported, and hooked.

This is the second book by Mr. Backman that I have read and thoroughly enjoyed (read my thoughts on the first, A Man Called Ove, here).  He has a talent for creating fully realized, believable, and relatable characters.  In Beartown, Backman has fashioned an entire town of characters whose intermingling backstories and current relationships play out against the pursuit of a national hockey championship and a tragic crime that impacts every character along the way.

This book is sure to make my ‘Best Books of 2017’ list, and I am guessing it will make many other ‘best of’ lists too. Have you read Bear Town? Did you like it? Will it make your best of list?  I’d love to know… .

*Three Great Alabama Icons – Drive-By Truckers 

As the world falls down…

bannerless

I have not been a fan of post-apocalyptic fiction since reading The Road (which still gives me occasional nightmares) so I was surprised to find myself engrossed in ‘Bannerless (Bannerless Saga #1)’, by Carrie Vaughn, from the very first page.

After finishing Bannerless I decided if I survive some world-altering event I hope to end up in a Coast Road-like society, where conservation is king, tolerance rules, and government is low-key and localized. Individuals must earn the right to breed and crimes are primarily crop surplus or ‘bannerless’ pregnancy related.  That is until a murder occurs, and Enid of Haven (our protagonist) is charged with figuring out what happened and by whose hand. Bannerless alternates between a coming of age love story and whodunit tale while exploring the meaning of family, responsibility, and shared history.

Ms. Vaughn is categorized as a YA fiction writer.  Is it wrong that this Grey Goddess still enjoyed her tale?  I hope not, because there are more Bannerless books to come and I want to read them all.

How about you?  Do you like post-apocalyptic fiction?  What are you reading now?  I just began The Driver (by Hart Hanson, which I am also enjoying) and would love to know what books are keeping you up and reading late into the night…

*As the World Falls Down – David Bowie (Labyrinth)

720 in the books…

July 2017 Books
Summer time and the reading is fine

It’s been some time since I made a ‘9 at a time’ book purchase.  I’ve been relying on my local library to satisfy my reading needs, often with limited success.  If you use your library then you can relate – the shelves don’t always offer the books you’d like to read, so you make ‘will do’ choices which aren’t always as engaging as the cover art and book flap accolades led you to believe.

Thanks to a very thoughtful – and completely unexpected- thank you Amazon gift card I just placed an order for nine books that I hope will take me through the dog days of summer and keep me from playing library ‘book roulette’ until the fall.

How about you?  Do you prefer buying or borrowing books?  What are you reading now? What are you looking forward to reading in the next few months.  I’d love to know…

*720 in the Books – Ella Fitzgerald

Twelve eyes of evil…

12lives

Do you ever have high hopes before starting a book but after beginning realize you’re already familiar with the plot, even if the cosmetic details like name, location, and time differ?  I often find this is the case, especially since I tend toward books with themes of love and family in their many iterations. I count myself fortunate to have recently read a number of books with plots that are markedly different and excellently written (including Moonglow and The Book of American Martyrs).  Now I can add another unique read to that list – The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti.

‘Twelve Lives’ central theme of family and love is told in alternating chapters voiced by Samuel (a very successful career criminal) and his teenage daughter Loo (a bit of a criminal herself).  Watches, whales, and wounds all feature into the plot, along with Samuel’s brother-from-another-mother Jove and Loo’s boy/friend Marshall Hicks, and each propels the story forward until it culminates in Samuel’s 12th, and Loo’s 1st, life tale.

Have you read this book? I liked the story so much I am going to read Ms. Tinti’s The Good Thief next.  If it is half as good as ‘Twelve Lives’ I will have yet another book to add to my 2017 favorites list!  Keep reading….

*Twelve Eyes of Evil – The Broken Family Band