Archive for the 'Books' Category

Labor Day Weekend Book Bender, part deux

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

In my defense…oh, I’ll just shut up now. I do not have time to read these books, I cannot afford them, and I don’t have shelf space for them. Yet, I bought them anyway. Another possible epitaph for me.

Also, the blog is showing these pics in a fun-house format, and I have no idea how to fix it. I hope the books aren’t self-conscious because they look fatter than they are in real life.


The titles, and becauses:

Weight by Jeannette Winterson. A candidate for the book group I moderate. And: $2! Part of the Canongate Myth series, along with Buddha and A Short History of Myth by Karen Armstrong.
Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson. Because Stevenson was mentioned in Peace Like a River, and that’s all the excuse I need.
Saint Maybe by Anne Tyler. A candidate for the book group. (I’m auditioning them, doncha know? Also known as: nerdishly obsessing and compulsively buying.)
Oliver Twist by Dickens. The Penguin cloth-bound cover!
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. (Who was also mentioned in Peace Like a River, but this title wasn’t.) The Ruben Toledo Cover!

G. Grod to me: You aren’t actually going to read that again, are you?
Me: …
Him: You bought it for the cover, didn’t you?
Me: …

But oh, can you blame me for buying these books (at half price plus 20% off) for THESE covers?



Labor Day Weekend Book Bender, part 1

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

20% off at Half Price books over the long Labor Day weekend, and I had a very satisfying time combing through their Highland Park store in St. Paul:


The goods, and the becauses:

Semisonic Pleasure and All About Chemistry: we just saw Semisonic at the MN state fair, and decided to address these gaps in our local music collection
Buddha by Karen Armstrong. Because some members of the book group I moderate want us to read this. And I’d passed it up twice.
Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather. A candidate for the same book group.
True Grit by Charles Portis. $2!
Main Street. Oh, what, you remember me getting this already, recently. Alas, the print in the MMPB was too small. I chose to get this Modern Library edition for my aging eyes.
The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris. A candidate for the above book group.
Not pictured: The Deptford Trilogy by Robertson Davies. For my husband, because The Biblioracle recommended it. Also, $2!

2 Thoughts on 1 Book Stack

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012


(Note how artfully I included the receipt.)

Thought 1: This is actually restraint for me. There are at least 3 books I put back on the shelf and didn’t get today.

Thought 2: I am turning into my mother, buying books on religion and stacking them all over the house and not reading them.

Here’s why I got these particular lovelies today:

Elmer Gantry by Sinclair Lewis: candidate for my group that reads books on myth and religion. Recommended by author Marlon James.

The Great Divorce and The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. Candidates for the book group, and ones I used to own and couldn’t find when I went to look for recently. A scene in Peace Like a River reminded me of The Great Divorce, and I wanted to re-read it.

A Short History of Myth
by Karen Armstrong. Also for the book group. Passed over Armstrong’s Buddha for this, though one member has been lobbying hard for the latter. Think we’ll read this alongside Ragnarok by A.S. Byatt.

The Moviegoer
by Walker Percy. Also for the book group. (I’ve been nerdishly obsessing over what next year’s books are going to be. Alas, most were ones I didn’t already own.)

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
by Robert Louis Stevenson. On clearance for $2! Also, went to look for this after Stevenson’s books were mentioned in Peace Like a River, and found I didn’t own it.

Severe Book-Buying Problem, part deux

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012


Veronica Mars Season 1 DVD, because my husband and I both wanted to watch it again, and came to this decision independently
The Brothers Karamazov, because it was a brand new copy for $2!
Wuthering Heights, because it was the beautiful Ruben Toledo cover (details below)
This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff, because the Biblioracle said so
Miss Lonelyhearts and The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West, ditto
Nicholas by Sempe/Goscinny, because I wanted it, even if 9yo Drake didn’t
Dr. Who Time Traveller’s Almanac, because Drake wanted it
Star Wars Head to Head (who would win in imaginary battles between characters), because 6yo Guppy wanted it


I Have a Severe Book-Buying Problem

Thursday, August 16th, 2012


I can say with some confidence that the St. Paul Half Price Books on Ford Parkway, conveniently near Quixotic Coffee, has the best selection of used children’s and young-adult books around and a generous clearance section. I can also say I probably did not need to bring home FOURTEEN new (used) books.

But, but, I didn’t bring home even more, because I wanted even more, so that makes it better, right?

Um, yeah.

It is a problem because:

1. we don’t have unlimited funds (but this stack only cost $43!)
2. We ran out of bookshelf space a long time ago and now have teetering stacks…
3. …of unread books, because there’s no way I have time to read all I buy.

And yet, there is always a reason, which seems compelling at the time. I am a master of because reasoning. Herewith, the book stack and the becauses that are in addition to Drake being almost 9 and thus totally ready for many of these, right?

Main Street by Sinclair Lewis: for one of my book groups, only $1
Arm of the Starfish by Madeleine L’Engle: from Shelf Discovery, old-school MMPB
Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl: because nearly 9yo Drake just finished his dad’s old copy of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, unearthed from Grammy’s basement.
Matilda Bone by Karen Cushman: Trina Schart Hyman cover (my favorite children’s illustrator)
Ronia, the Robber’s Daughter by Astrid Lindgren: Ditto above
The Girl with Silver Eyes by Willo Davis Roberts: From Shelf Discovery, plus got a lotta love in the SD Readalong
Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh: Ditto above
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott: I love Oxford editions
The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder: one of my favorites as a girl; want to revisit after reading Shelf Discovery
Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank Gilbreth Jr and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey: from Shelf Discovery
My Sweet Audrina by V.C. Andrews: From Shelf Discovery, a teen edition(?!)
Pride and Prejudice: I am slowly collecting all the Austen novels in these lovely Penguin editions.
Here Comes Charlie Moon: by English author Shirley Hughes, whom I fell in love with after discovering her Alfie picture books
The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder: See The Egypt Game above.

Five YA Novels that Influenced Me When I was a Teen

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

A young-adult-lit friend sent me a link to author Rachel Carter’s post at Nerdy Book Club on the five young adult (YA) books that were important to her, and why, as a teen.

Since we’ve been discussing this all summer as part of the Summer of Shelf Discovery Readalong (discussing? We’ve been SOAKING in it, Madge.), I thought I’d post my five since my memory has been helpfully jogged by this summer’s YA reading bender.

1. Down a Dark Hall by Lois Duncan. It was creepy and compelling and taught me who Emily Bronte was. Kind of a tie here with Summer of Fear. Buyer beware: several of the Duncan books have been updated with clumsy references to modern tech, which is a shame, because I really like the new covers. Seek out previous editions.

2. Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson. It perfectly captured my older-sister angst.

3. The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare. Spoiled girl gets her comeuppance but finds love in the end. Yay!

4. A Wrinkle in Time by Margaret L’Engle. It was the first YA book I remember reading, loving, and re-reading. It helped make me a reader.

5. Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey. My cousin lent this to me when I was in seventh grade. A girl and her very own telepathic dragon—what could be better than that? Alas, when I re-read it, I found the suck fairy had gotten to it.

What would you pick as your five? You can post on this and link back, or leave in comments.

Vote for your Top YA Books

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

Over at NPR’s Monkey See blog, they’re having a poll for your top 10 YA books. I’m not nearly as well versed in the genre as I used to be, but still had a hard time narrowing it to 10. I felt they did still include many that I consider more kid than YA (Treasure Island) and had a LOT of more recent ones. (Whither art thou, Lois Duncan?) Nonetheless, an intriguing list of candidates:

Vote for your favorite YA books.

Speaking of Things I Didn’t Notice

Saturday, July 14th, 2012

As I’m revisiting the books of my childhood reading along with the selections of Shelf Discovery, I’ve noticed many instances where I remember a few random details and forget many more.

As I was re-reading Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. This little sentence gave me pause:

My mother and father didn’t plan for me to be an only child, but that’s the way it worked out.

I’m sure I skipped right over when I read it as a girl. Now though, having known so many friends who have gone through the blood, sweat, and tears of infertility, it had an entirely different resonance. Judy Blume was known for her empathy to children, but this sentence hinted to me at her empathy for parents, too.

“Telegraph Avenue” by Michael Chabon

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

My friend Amy at New Century Reading is part of a readalong for the upcoming Michael Chabon book, Telegraph Alley. The guy at Micawber’s kindly gave me an advance copy a few weeks ago, so I figured I’d throw my hat in the ring.

Well, after 60+ pages, I’m taking it out.

The writing feels overwrought, and the cast of characters unrealistically hyper-entwined. I love most of Chabon’s work, but not this. Sample sentence that burped me out of the story:

From the lowest limb of a Meyer lemon, a wind chime searched without urgency for a melody to play.

I understand that Chabon is trying to make the prose blues-y and such, but I’d rather return to Toni Morrison’s Jazz. This feels like Chabon is embodying his own character Moby–a trying-too-hard white guy.

Also, from the inside description:

a NorCal Middlemarch

Really? Really?!

Sir, I’ve read Middlemarch. And Telegraph Avenue is no Middlemarch.

So many books. So little time. I’m on, on, on to the next one. (That’s Foo Fighters.)

Summer Reading Project!

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

I’m posting this before I second guess myself. Lizzie Skurnick wrote a book called Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading based on a popular column, Fine Lines at Jezebel. It’s goes through the various books many of us read growing up, their themes, their strengths, their flaws, etc.

(It’s rather like a Teenage Girls’ Canon, a pop-cultural milieu many of us, especially those who came of age in the late 70’s/80’s/early 90’s shared.)

Examples: Chapter 1, “YA Heroines We’ll Never Return” includes A Wrinkle in Time (Meg!). Chapter 4: “Read ‘Em and Weep” includes Jacob Have I Loved and Bridge to Terabithia. Chapter 7 on Romance includes Forever, and Chapter 10, “I Can’t Believe They Let Us Read This”, includes Flowers in the Attic, My Sweet Audrina, Clan of the Cave Bear, Wifey and Domestic Arrangements. It’s one of the three chapters where I read all the books. Heh. The oevres of Judy Blume, Lois Duncan, Madeleine L’Engle are all well represented in it.

I don’t think there’s a way to do a reading challenge and ask that people read all the books she references even if they’re often super short–72! BUT there are ten chapters, and twelve weeks between June and August.

I propose a chapter a week starting the first or second week in June, and reading ONE book from the chapter a week, then coming here to discuss it. And I’d add an eleventh week (it’ll be so good it’ll go to 11!) for what book you loved that isn’t included. (Mistral’s Daughter. Ahem.)

SO, you’d be reading one chapter of Shelf Discovery, and one short YA book a week, perhaps one you already read as a child, and perhaps for you parents even one you could read WITH your kid. (Not Wifey, but maybe A Little Princess, right?)

Whaddya think?

If there’s interest, then a schedule and bibliography to come.

March Madness: Book Stack of Imminent Reproach

Thursday, March 1st, 2012


Also: A Bit of a Pickle; Painted Myself Into a Corner; Bit Off More Than I Could Chew; or It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time.

I am forever admonishing female friends who call themselves selfish, stupid, lazy, mean, bad mothers, etc. that this kind of self-denigration is hurtful because it’s not true. (Ironically, it’s the exceptional few who are selfish, mean, etc. who never make jokes at their own expense, and instead trumpet any good deed while never admitting a foible. Blergh, and get more therapy, are what I have to say to that.) How many men to you hear saying stuff like this?

So, I am not going to say any of the many self-criticizing things I might about my current biblio-conundrum., I actually think I go on book benders most often when my life feels least in my control. A book bender says I hope the future has more time for reading, and backs this up by piling up evidence of the priorities in my life.

Life’s been pretty life-y around here for some time. We’ve had multiple bouts of stomach flu, lice, an emergency family trip, and I was cajoled into a volunteer gig a whole lot more involved than the one I’d hoped for. As I said, life. In the face of the recent avalanche of mostly little things, my response has been to crave more reading time and to commit to more books. So my situation is not even as it often is when I buy more books than I can read. This time, it’s that I’ve committed to reading more books than I think is possible even when life isn’t bustling.

(An aside: WHY is life bustling in February? We’re supposed to be hibernating. This is a yin, not a yang season. February around here was like December. I blame global warming and the ridiculous non-wintry winter we’re having.)

Here, then, is my To-Read pile, which doesn’t even include everything I’ve said I’d read. I’d write more, but I have 4 chapters to go in Bleak House for tomorrow.

Please understand; not really complaining. Too much to read in too little time hardly qualifies as a problem.

Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes. for The Morning News Tournament of Books
Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson because it was recommended by a writing teach to me in the 90’s, and has been on my shelf since then, and a friend’s reading it now
Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It by Maile Meloy. I pressured a friend to read John Crow’s Devil. She pressured me back to read this.
The Last Brother by Natacha Appanah. For TMN ToB
Bleak House by Dickens for this readalong (darn you, Patricia)
Flannery O’Connor: The Complete Stories reading a story at a time to follow up on Wise Blood and Flannery from January.
The Best American Comics 2011, ed. Alison Bechdel. For one of my book groups. I love comics, yet I rarely even like many of the indie types usually represented in these compilations. I’m trepidatious about reading this one.

Not pictured: complete manuscript of colleague in writing group, partial manuscript of good friend, The Shipping News by Annie Proulx, the ten other books from The Tournament of Books that I haven’t read.

My Arm Was Twisted: “Bleak House” Readalong

Monday, February 20th, 2012

Oh, I thought I’d given up reading challenges, et al. But I’ve wanted to read Bleak House for a long time, and Patricia from O Canada Y’all linked to a readalong at The Unputdownables. Not sure this is smart, but I’m going to do it anyway. Story of my life.

Shelves as the Windows to the Soul?

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

From “Shelf Conscious,” by Francesca Mari at The Paris Review, not so much a review as a broad overview/appreciation/personal musing over Unpacking My Library: Writers and Their Books by Leah Price, via The Morning News:

My boyfriend was ruthless. He chucked a book if he thought it’d be easy enough to get again for a dollar. ….

I’ve always felt an obligation to keep any book with which I’ve had some sort of relationship, even if it was an insignificant one–an assignment for a short review, for instance.

My husband is a hoarder. I’m a purger, perhaps because I’m a binger with a well-developed sense of buyers’ remorse. We’ve reached a sort of equipoise where I can get rid of some books, and I’ll store others instead of getting rid of them. Thus far, we have enough room to do this.

I simply CANNOT imagine not having organized shelves. Bizarre. That being said, organizing books is crazy and involves weird personal decisions, such as: most of my graphic novels are organized by title (e.g., Sandman by Gaiman is under S), except when they’re organized by author (anything by James Kochalka is under K). Other books are in 2 main groups by size: MMPB get their own shelves as I have bookcases well suited for their short selves. And then TPB and HCs get bigger shelves, but both groups are separated into read/unread.

What I believe my shelves say about me: I believe in organization, and succeed to some degree at a macro level but fail at a micro level, then just start stacking books here and there. Which is pretty much how I manage life.

In Thrall

Friday, January 20th, 2012

I’m reading Lonesome Dove, the book that’s sat the longest on my shelves without me giving up on it, and I’m loathe to put it down. I should be working on an article. Cleaning the house. Writing my novel. Doing laundry. Shovelling snow. (Why is spell check rejecting ’shoveling’? I thought the rule of thumb was ‘get the ell out’?) Yet all I want to do is read this book, and get lost with these characters, even as I get a mite too attached to them. They keep dying, which is what I suppose happened, way back then in the west.

“Momofuku Milk Bar” by Christina Tosi

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

I waited a while on the reserve list at the library to get the Momofuku Milk Bar baking book by the chef at the famous NYC bakery. I was excited to try some of the recipes.

Till I read them. I paged through the entire book, and think I found two that didn’t include glucose, or other odd ingredients like corn powder. This is a book that doesn’t translate well for this home chef, who doesn’t want to go anywhere special or online for special ingredients, or use corn syrup or glucose rather than cane sugar.

Next time I’m in NYC, though, I’m totally visiting. The stories, photos, and baked goods are stunning.

Russell Hoban

Saturday, December 31st, 2011

Russell Hoban died earlier this month. I read his books about Frances the badger and the out-of-print Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas when I was a child. I read them now to my own children. I watched the Emmet Otter muppet adaptation with my family earlier this month. This lesser-known holiday special was written up both at NPR and the Onion AV Club this year.. I read Hoban’s The Mouse and His Child to my sons earlier this year. And I finally read his cult classic, Riddley Walker, which has now become one of the first books I think about when some book/movie/comic trots out an apocalyptic trope. Hoban’s books have been and are so important to me. I’m sad for his passing, but will continue to celebrate his weird, lovely and wide-spanning works. Via.

Teetering Pile of Guilty Pleasure #3

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

Last weekend was the Rain Taxi Twin Cities Book Fest, one of my favorite events of the year. I go, I listen to authors, meet authors, chat with friends, make some new ones. For this reader and writer, it’s just one more reason I love the Twin Cities.

Oh, and did I mention, there are books for sale?

Books from Rain Taxi Book Fest '11

Lord of Misrule
by Jaimy Gordon (because Festival Director gushed about her, and because it won the National Book Award and was a selection of the Morning News Tournament of Books, and because I liked the excerpt she read from it.)

Origin by Diana Abu-Jaber (because a woman in the audience said she led retreats on the book and it always provoked great responses, and because I liked what she read from her current book.)

Winters Bone
by Daniel Woodrell (because the Festival Director gushed, because I really liked the movie based on it, because I liked the excerpt he read from his current book. Unrelated but cool: he served on Guam in ‘70 to 71; I lived there ‘72 to ‘74.)

Whose Hand? by Judith Yates Borger (because she’s in my writing group and I saw this book from beginning to publication)

Get In If You Want to Live
by John Jodzio (because it’s a cool little book with illustrated flash fiction, and because he’s funny, and my neighbor)

White Truffles in Winter by N.M. Kelby (because I really liked her reading of it, and both she and Diana Abu-Jaber talked about food in fiction, which I’m working on, too.)

Thus ends of the recent book bender. I hope to spend a lot of time reading. Soon.

Links to come.

Teetering Pile of Guilty Pleasure #2

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

From the library:

Library books

The Year We Left Home
by Jean Thompson (because it was well reviewed and had a long wait at the library, I thought for sure whenever it came in I’d have time to read it. And have read her book of short stories that’s been on my shelves for years. YEARS. Sigh.)

Yoga Anatomy by Leslie Kaminoff (because in the last month I’ve strained my trapezius muscle, something in the middle back, and something in the leg area. I grow old, I grow old and I thought I’d try to figure out what’s going on where.)

Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce (because I want to try the chocolate chip cookie recipe again, and didn’t get enough time with it when I got it out of the library the last time.)

Perfect One-Dish Dinners by Pamela Anderson. (I’ve been a fan of Anderson’s since way back when she wrote for Cook’s Illustrated, and her chocolate chip cookie recipe is the one I turn to. I was hoping for inspiration for fall dinners, but this is more geared to a group and is very meat heavy, though it does have many good-looking recipes and alternatives.)

by Joyce Chang (because I didn’t get to spend enough time with it when I got it out last time. Both this and Good to the Grain were recommended by Jennifer Reese on Tipsy Baker.)

Links to come.

Teetering Piles of Guilty Pleasure #1

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

I’ve been buying books again. With all good intentions. Do you think I can have all these books be the very next one I read?

I suppose it could be worse. It’s not crack, heroin or meth, right? I may have to post these in a series, as everything online is either not working or working slowly. And Mercury’s not even in retrograde!

Bought Books--various

From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs Basil E Frankweiler
by E L Konigsburg (I got this for 8yo Drake, hopeful he’s old enough and up for it)
The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson (The last recommendation for me from The Biblioracle at The Morning News)
Make the Bread, Buy the Butter by Jennifer Reese, who blogs at Tipsy Baker
The Finder Library v. 2 by Carla Speed McNeil. (One of my favorite comic series, collected in a lovely new edition. Why, no, I still haven’t finished v. 1. Your point?)
Sweet Tooth: Out of the Deep Woods v. 1 by Jeff Lemire (An answer to my question of “what’s good that I’m not reading” from 2nd in command C at Big Brain Comics)

More to come…

Book Bender

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

I’ve bought a lot of books lately. Starting my own book group has meant I need to buy copies of things I want to audition, right? Plus there are my other two book groups. And thus, this tower.

Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer (because I want to read his second, and thus want to read his first, first.)
Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor (someone recommended it for my religion/mythic fiction book group)
Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri (ditto above)
Purple Hibiscus by Chimananda Ngozi Adichie (because a friend said she loved it)
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri (rec. for book group)
Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich (because my recent reads of Last Report of the Miracles at Little No Horse made me want to re-read this)
The Hours by Michael Cunningham (because I’m reading Mrs. Dalloway for the upcoming myth/religion book group)
Peace Like a River by Leif Enger (rec for book group, local author)
Half of a Yellow Sun by Adichie (next selection of my women’s book group)
The Master and Margarita Mikhail Bulgakov, ed. Burgin and O’Connor (likely the November myth book group book. This translation was the one that seemed to have the most love)
Lonely Polygamist by Bradley Udall (for Books and Bars)
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Foer (September pick for myth book group)
Jane Eyre by Bronte, Penguin edition with cover by Ruben Toledo. (I collect editions of this, and loved this one so much I couldn’t leave the store without it.) Details of this one below.

Toledo Jane Eyre cover

Toledo inside front gaatefold cover Jane Eyre

Toledo Jane Eyre back cover

Toledo Jane Eyre back cover and gatefold cover

(sorry no links; too tired. maybe later)