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.
Most of the 1600 additional minutes were spent reading Kurt Vonnegut Jr’s. The Sirens of Titan, Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere, Melanie Benjamin’s The Girls in the Picture, and John Connolly’s He. This is probably the 20th time I’ve read Sirens: I routinely read most of Vonnegut’s catalog on an annual basis. My only complaint with Little Fires Everywhere, which I thoroughly enjoyed, was that I wasn’t enjoying the story under an umbrella at the beach.
That leaves Girls and He, both of which deal with success, friendship, and love in the early days of Hollywood. The Girls in the Picture weaves the story of a lifelong friendship between ‘America’s Sweetheart’ Mary Pickford and screenwriter and film producer Frances Marion, both of whom were fascinating women way ahead of their time. He slowly builds up to the moment when an arbitrary pairing on a movie set leads to the legendary comedic pairing and deep private friendship between Stan Laurel and Oliver ‘Babe’ Hardy.
I would never have guessed that two books with such similar subject matter could impact me so differently. I was bored to tears by Girls and did not bother to even finish the book, while I stayed up way too long each night reading He. The one thing I did enjoy about both books was how each author included Hollywood stars in bit roles throughout their stories Unfortunately, because of this and a few paragraphs in He I may never be able to watch Curly and Mo in a Three Stooges short again. An odd side note – both books have Charlie Chaplin playing an integral role to the plot in each.
Maybe I disliked Girls because it felt like a variation on a story I’ve read hundreds of times before. And maybe I liked He because it was written in a voice that felt uniquely fresh and nuanced, and because so few books revolve around professional respect and platonic love between two individuals, and men at that. Or it could have been that Mary and Frances, who were so interesting in real life, came across as oddly one-dimensional while Stan and Babe were rendered in such detail I felt as if I had known each personally. I the meantime, I’m going to try and catch some old Laurel & Hardy films to see if the magic I felt while reading He comes through on the silver screen.
How about you? Have you ready either of these books? If so, what did you think of them? What are you reading now? I’d love to know…
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
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!
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…
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… .
Even though fall doesn’t ‘officially’ begin until September 21st Labor Day always marks the beginning of autumn for me. I am ready to put summer behind and embrace the fall – for me the season of football, oversized sweaters, hearty meals eaten fireside, and lots of reading. Here are a few of the books I am looking forward to reading before the arrival of winter…
- Future Home of The Living God – Louise Erdrich (available November 14th)
- Manhattan Beach – Jennifer Egan (available October 3rd)
- The Address: A Novel – Fiona Davis
- The Golden House – Salman Rushdie
- A Boy in Winter – Rachel Seiffert
- Here We Are Now – Jasmine Warga (available November 7th)
- See What I Have Done – Sara Schmidt
- The Indigo Girl – Natasha Boyd (available October 3rd)
- Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng (available September 12th)
How about you? have you read any good books this summer? Are you looking forward to reading anything special this fall? I’d love to know…
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…
Did you know that the last Saturday in April is Independent Bookstore Day?
Amazon may be able to deliver any book to your doorstep in two days or less but can it provide you with the opportunity to meet & greet your favorite author? Does Amazon host reading clubs where you can discuss and debate topical books with strangers turned friends? Can you spend hours on a rainy day browsing the aisles of Amazon, fresh coffee in hand, reading snippets from whatever books catch your attention? No, no and no. Can you do all of those things at your independent bookstore? Yes, yes and yes.
Find an indie bookstore near you and stop in to raise your favorite book in a toast to reading and to the amazing independent bookstores that make that possible! If you live in Nashville, Miami, Philadelphia or Denver check out my favorite independent bookstores, including Parnassus Books, her bookshop, Books & Books, Wooden Shoe Books, Joseph Fox Bookshop, and Tattered Cover Bookstore. If you live somewhere else I’d love to know what independent bookstores you recommend. Happy Independent Bookstore Day…and Happy Reading!