Archive for the 'Books' Category

Things I’ve Learned about Books from KonMari

Thursday, May 14th, 2015

Perhaps you are as sick of hearing about Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up as my 9yo son Guppy is. He has been a less-than-enthusiastic participant in our recent attempts to clear stuff from our house. But even his resistance is a lesson, one to have less stuff to organize, and just enough that one can enjoy it but not be burdened by the having of it. Her method is called KonMari, and I’ve used it thus far to clear out clothing and books from our house. She recommends starting with clothes, then doing books, then “stuff”, then papers, then mementos, because this tends to be in order from least to most attachment issues.

Her books exhort the reader to keep the things that “spark joy” and give or move out those that don’t. What I found as I went through my books, though, were many books I didn’t want to give away for a variety of reasons: I knew the author, they’d been inscribed to me, I’d spent money on them, I’d received them as gifts. Many sparked guilt, or regret, rather than joy.

I noted that one bad habit of book buying I’d got into over the years was going to an author reading, buying books of theirs and having them inscribed to me, sometimes with a personal note. This is great if I loved the book and read it, but a burden if I never feel moved to read the book, or don’t like it. My solution was to either rip out the signed page, or black out my name and give away the book in the hope that someone else would be excited to find it.

With growing horror, I realized I’d been foisting this bad habit off on family and friends, too, buying personalized books as gifts that they might feel obligated to read, or reluctant to give away because of the inscription. I foolishly thought I was doing something cool by getting them signed; it didn’t occur to me I was sending something that could be a burden.

I make many book vows, as regular readers of this blog know. I’ve written before about the burden of books as gifts, but I didn’t take it to heart till I saw evidence of this on my own shelves, and witnessed my own guilt over gift and inscribed books.

I fervently hope I have finally learned the lesson to buy a gift with the recipient in mind, not an agenda or a ’should’ factor, and to make it as free of burdens as possible, with gift receipts, no inscriptions, and the assurance that it is freely given, for the person to do with it what they will.

Also, in future I hope I’ll attend author events simply to hear the author, and not feel compelled to buy the book, especially if it’s not one I plan to read next. And I don’t want to have it inscribed. I want to feel free to do with it what I will.

So please, if I’ve ever given you a book that doesn’t spark joy, I apologize, and do whatever you want with it. I’ll not be getting inscribed books for you again.

I did keep the small collection of books by people I know who might visit my house. Most of these do actually spark joy–the happiness I feel for friends who have published books.

What I found after I’d weeded out the non-joy-sparking books that had been inscribed or given to me, was that I had much lighter shelves, which allowed me to see better which books I really want to read soon. I’ve read, enjoyed, and returned one book a friend lent me last year. I read immediately one another friend lent me. And of the books I’ve bought in the past few months, I’ve read most immediately.

In fact, I think the only books I’ve bought since we’ve done the purge was one for 9yo Guppy, since he started it in the bookstore and wanted to finish, and my own copy of Emily Nagoski’s Come As You Are, which I wanted to have my own copy of to refer to and read again.

I’ll be interested to see if I gradually return to my old, book-acquisitive ways. But one of the benefits of the Kondo book and KonMari process are the changes in perception about buying and having stuff, and these changes feel like they’re takign place on a deeper, more permanent level than my many years of “book vows.”


Thursday, March 19th, 2015


Up front disclosure: Kristi is a friend so I would say lovely things about Blessed Are Those Who Weep no matter what. Fortunately, she creates engaging characters and is a spinner of ripping plots, so it is easy to say good things about the book.

I received a free advance review e-copy, but I think it evaporates in 30 days, which is fine because by then I’ll have my own copy that I pre-ordered from for my Nook reader. You can also pre-order it at Amazon for your Kindle or other reader. It will be available on April 7, 2015.

Blessed Are Those Who Weep: A Gabriella Giovanni Mystery is the third in the series, after Blessed Are the Dead, and Blessed Are The Meek. This book can stand alone, but I do recommend going back to read the first two in order to better get to know the characters, because they’re one of the many joys of this ongoing series. This book is set in 2003, several months after the previous one.

Gabriella is a crime reporter for a San Francisco newspaper, and has a hot Irish cop boyfriend named Sean Donovan. The two of them are having a rough patch, though, after some recent trouble I won’t divulge. We don’t get into that, though, until after the riveting opening scene, which I could describe but will quote instead because I think it’s terrific. When I heard Kristi read this aloud recently, the noisy bar became pin-drop quiet, and throughout there were gasps of horror.

At first I think she is a doll. Sitting there so still on the floor in her pink dress, chubby legs sticking out from her diaper, big black eyes unblinking, staring at something I can’t see. A ribbon hangs loose in her hair. Something that looks like chocolate is smeared around her mouth and one cheek.

The front door is only open wide enough to frame her small body in the dim light. I can’t see the rest of the room.

“Mrs. Martin?” The words echo in the silent apartment. At my voice, the baby turns her head toward me in what seems like slow motion. Even though the apartment door was ajar when I arrived, something stops me from pushing it open more. My hand hangs in the air, frozen. The rhythmic drip of a faucet is eerily loud. And something smells funny. Off. A smell I recognize but cannot place. A smell that increases my unease.

“Are you in there Mrs. Martin? It’s Gabriella Giovanni from the Bay Herald. We spoke yesterday.”


As if my voice has flicked a switch, the child moves and talks, babbling. “Mamamama, Maaamamama.” She picks something up. Something floppy and pale and long. Something with short red fingernails. An arm.

A wave of panic rises in me as I figure out what I smell. (p. 1-2)

That baby, crawling among the dead bodies of her family, becomes a lifeline for Gabriella, who was already having a tough time emotionally before she stumbled on that crime scene. The baby’s father is in the army and deployed abroad. As Gabriella works to piece together what happened, she begins to suspect the father isn’t as far away as he seems. Those around her think she’s crazy, and given what she’s gone and going through, she might be. It’s an uphill fight for her to keep searching for answers to keep that baby safe, and one that builds until the very end. She goes up the chain of command in the military, into a sex club, a dojo, and by the end of the book has figured out how these all intersect.

One of the pleasures of this book and the ones that precede it, is that Gabriella is both endearingly and sometimes frustratingly real. This is no picture-perfect top model cruising around in her convertible, solving mysteries without breaking a nail. Gabriella, or Ella to her loved ones, stumbles in her heels, wears the wrong outfit to a crime scene, and (usually) eats baguettes and pastries with gusto. She has a day job and has to work for a living. Here, she’s also depressed and making bad personal decisions, the kind that make me want to give her a shake and yell, “Snap out of it!” She’s being passive-aggressive with her boyfriend, ducking calls from her mom, and cancelling her therapy appointments. Gabriella is realistically flawed and human, and I truly enjoy spending time with her, even when she’s in a sorry state, as she is for much of the book. As with all the books, we get to see Gabriella’s Catholic faith and symbols throughout, and spend time and eat vicariously at the bountiful table of her Italian grandmother.

I enjoyed the story as well as the characters, and tore through this book in under 24 hours. It has a tremendous need-to-know-what-happens factor, both for the baby and for Gabriella. I’m very much looking forward to the next book in the series, and to seeing what Gabriella is up to in the future.

You can pre-order the book at Amazon here
At Barnes & Noble here
And find it on Goodreads here

You can find Kristi on her website, Facebook, or Twitter.

Tournament of Books Announced!

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015


It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Oh, except for dairy month. And the MN State Fair. And Christmas… Well, let’s just say it’s in the top ten, shall we?


Last year I ill-advisedly put together reading schedules for the Odyssey, Sandman, and Ulysses. On the one hand, WTF was I thinking, on the other, I know damn well what I was thinking: ALL THE BOOKS! I WANT TO READ ALL THE BOOKS! But I told myself, and I’m sure other people, oh, I’ll give a miss to the ToB this year.

NO. I will do no such thing. I’ve just finished Station Eleven (which I correctly guessed would be on the short list) and I’ve got Untamed State and Brief History of Seven Killings on deck. Who am I kidding, I am totally going to buy the David Mitchell book. And the rest I’ve now requested from the library, having had to jigger my request list so it didn’t exceed 50. (That’s not OCD, no, no it’s not.)

So, despite the fact that I’m in the middle of FOUR books already, little things like Homer’s Odyssey, Absolute Sandman v. III, The Sandman Companion, and Sandman Dustcovers, I’m going to blaze ahead, full speed. Woo hoo!

The Shortlist for The Morning News 2015 Tournament of Books

Silence Once Begun by Jesse Ball
A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall by Will Chancellor
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante
An Untamed State by Roxane Gay
Wittgenstein Jr by Lars Iyer
A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James
Redeployment by Phil Klay
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill
Adam by Ariel Schrag
The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld

“Ulysses” Group Read 2015!

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014


The Ulysses group readalong is happening! Read and tweet from February to Bloomsday (June 16) 2015, and I’ll be blogging about it here.

We’ll tweet with the hashtag #TCUlysses

Twin Cities readers can celebrate when we’re done with a meetup at Anchor Fish and Chips. (I wouldn’t be opposed to weekly meetings there, either, though my cholesterol might.)

2/9/15 Start Ulysses which has 18 parts of various lengths

2/16/15 discuss and tweet sections 1, 2= 32 pp
2/23/15 discuss and tweet sections 3, 4=29 pp
3/2/15 discuss and tweet sections 5, 6=40 pp
3/9/15 discuss and tweet section 7=29pp
3/16/15 discuss and tweet section 8=28pp
3/23/15 discuss and tweet section 9=30pp
3/30 section 10=31 pp
4/6 section 11=31pp
4/13 section 12=45pp
4/20 section 13=31pp
4/27 section 14=37pp

5/4-5/18/15 read, then discuss and tweet section 15 (150 pages in my ed.)

5/25/15 discuss and tweet section 16=44pp

6/1-6/8/15 read then discuss and tweet section 17 (65 pp in my edition)

6/15/15 discuss and tweet section 18=37pp

6/16/15 Bloomsday!

Group meetup and celebration to follow at the Anchor Fish & Chips in NE Minneapolis.

I’ve never even attempted this behemoth–too intimidating. But I’m raring to give it a go, and looking forward to the support of a group while reading!

Odyssey, Ulysses, anyone?

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014


I’m nerdishly obsessing over reading Odyssey and Ulysses with some friends, and have roughed out an outline. Any readers out there interested in joining us? This is for December 2014 through June 2015.

The copy of Odyssey at hand is the Harper edited by Lattimore, and 374 pages total, trade paperback, includes glossary and intro, actual work is pages 27-359.

The Ulysses copy I have to hand is the Gabler Vintage trade paperback edition, and is 650 pp plus an 6 pg preface and 4 page afterword. a 17 week read is 30ish pages a week.

Here are page breakdowns for an 8 week Odyssey read, about 45 pp a week:

12/1 start reading

12/8 1-3 41pp
12/15 4-6 48pp
12-22 7-9 44pp

break for holidays/catch up

1/12 10-12 49pp
1/19 13-15 45pp
1/26 16-18 45pp
2/2 19-21 42pp

2/9 22-24 53pp Odyssey done woo hoo!


2/9 Start Ulysses which has 18 parts of various lengths

2/16 sections 1, 2= 32 pp
2/23 sections 3, 4=29 pp
3/2 sections 5, 6=40 pp
3/9 section 7=29pp
3/16 section 8=28pp
3/23 section 9=30pp
3/30 section 10=31 pp
4/6 section 11=31pp
4/13 section 12=45pp
4/20 section 13=31pp
4/27 section 14=37pp

5/4, 5/11, 5/18–section 15 (150 pages in my ed.)

5/25 section 16=44pp

6/1, 6/8 section 17 (65 pp in my edition)

6/15 section 18=37pp

6/16 Bloomsday!

TBR Piles

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

You guys all know what a TBR pile is, right, since you’re my people? It’s To-Be-Read pile. Or, in our case, piles.

The other night my husband G. Grod says that Steve Brust linked to a site that has maps of all the Aubrey/Maturin voyages. “ALL OF THEM!”

He was really excited.

For the not-as-nerdy readers, this means the fictional voyages of Aubrey and Maturin in Patrick O’Brian’s series.

When he noticed I was not excited, he said snidely, or perhaps mock-snidely (sometimes it’s hard to tell) “Oh, yeah, you haven’t read them.”

See, they’re part of this ongoing squabble about how he recommends books then I don’t read them. And when I eventually do, then I gush about how great they are, e.g., Cloud Atlas.

In response, I simply gestured to my TBR pile on my bedside table.


G started to laugh. Then, I pointed to his TBR “pile,” which is the top of our radiator.


And, for fun, here’s a detail. Notice the cobwebs and thick layer of dust?


And finally, because I’m letting it all hang out, here, I’ll admit the bedside table is only my most recent TBR. I had to take all the others and create a wall of books because we’re balking at buying new bookshelves.


In my defense, the wall has become a sort of book catchall, accumulating things that aren’t To-Be-Read. Also, there are a few more stashes here and there throughout the house of things to-be-read.

Yes, we have a severe book-buying problem.

The Brothers Karamazov Readalong: Book VI

Sunday, July 7th, 2013

brosk6Who’s still with me? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

(That joke will never not be funny to me.)

I had so much trouble making it through Book V that after I finished I plowed right on through the shorter Book VI so I wouldn’t get behind. I still haven’t fallen in love with reading this, so I think it’s better for me to read it at the start of the week then at the end of it.

Wondering: Is the Grand Inquisitor chapter like The Council of Elrond? My husband said he got stuck on that chapter in LoTR the first couple times he read it, but then came to appreciate it later. That is, until Hugo Weaving was cast as Elrond, and about that, he is still bitter. (It came up when we re-watched Captain America last week.) Does Grand Inquisitor get better on better acquaintance? I thought I might try to re-read it, but have not yet worked up the gumption to do so.

Book V ended with Fyodor Pavlovich convinced that Grushenka was coming to visit him, though discerning minds suspect something entirely different is coming. Alas, whatever it is, we will have to wait AGAIN for it, because we’re back with the elder monk Zosima.

Ch 1 The Elder Zosima and His Visitors. Listeners gather at his deathbed. I particularly liked the description of this man:

quiet and taciturn, rarely speaking to anyone, the humblest of the humble, who had the look of a man who has been permanently frightened by something great and awesome that was more than his mind could sustain. (283)

Zosima says to Alyosha that he was worried about Dmitri, and that A reminds him of his own brother. Narrator interjects to say the upcoming pages are from Alexei.

Ch 2 Biographical Information of Zosima. a. He had an older brother who became holy and died. b. Zosima went into the military. c. Zosima became worldly, loved a girl but was rejected, challenged his rival to a duel, then didn’t shoot, to the consternation of many. Perhaps the time of the Decembrist uprising, so there’s your soundtrack for this part of the novel. d. Z was visited by a man who he urged to tell the truth about a dark past.

Ch 3 Talks and Homilies.Was anyone else spooked by this in e.?

the world is becoming more and more united, is being formed into brotherly communion, by the shortening of distances, by the transmitting of thoughts through the air. (313)

He then goes on to say the unity is an illusion, and that “they live only for mutual envy, for pleasure-seeking and self-display.” That science makes people worldly and that monks aren’t disconnected, but rather MORE connected.

f. A Dickensian tirade against abuse of children, especially in factories. Servants and masters are equal.

g. Prayer is good. Then, Dostoevysky finishes this segment with what sounds a lot like a personal statement of philosophy/theology:

Much on earth is concealed from us, but in place of it we have been granted a secret, mysterious sense of our living bond with the other world, with the higher heavenly world, and the roots of our thoughts and feelings are not here but in other worlds. That is why philosophers say it is impossible on earth to conceive the essence of things. God took seeds from other worlds and sowed them on this earth, and raised up his garden; and everything that could sprout sprouted, but it lives and grows only through its sense of being in touch with other mysterious worlds; if this sense is weakened or destroyed in you, that which has grown up in your dies. Then you become indifferent to life, and even come to hate it. So I think. (320).

On retyping this, I am strongly reminded of Battlestar Galactica. I am also reminded of the final chapter of The Screwtape Letters (as I was by Ivan’s confession in Chapter 4 Rebellion from Book V last week.):

when he saw them he knew that he had always known them and realised what part each one of them had played at many an hour in his life when he had supposed himself alone, so that now he could say to them, one by one, not ‘Who ARE you?” but “So it was YOU all the time.” All that they were and said at this meeting woke memories. The dim consciousness of friends about him which had haunted his solitudes from infancy was now at last explained, that central music in every pure experience which had always just evaded memory was now at least recovered.

h. again, everyone is equal. all are guilty (except children.)

i. Z speaks of heaven and hell, says to pity suicides though the church forbids it, then narrator jumps back in to say that the listeners were then shocked when Z suddenly died. Also, something is coming in the next book that is “unexpected…strange, disturbing, and bewildering”

Will we FINALLY get to what’s been foreshadowed for so long? Join me here next week. Same bat time, same bat channel…

The Brothers Karamazov Bk V: Pro and Contra

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013


This week’s section, Book 5 of The Brothers Karamazov, was a hard read for me. I was slow to pick up the book, then felt slow as I was reading it. I had particular trouble with Chapter 5: The Grand Inquisitor. I can’t imagine I’m alone in that.

Ch 1: A Betrothal. Alexei goes to the Khokhlakov house. Mrs. K is tending to Katerina Ivanovna, who has fallen ill after Ivan’s departure. Lise and Alexei talk. She is doing wild swings between laughing and being serious, but admits her letter telling him of her love was not a joke. He knows. Mrs. K overhears this, is upset, but Alexei, continuing calm in the crazy-town-banana-pants world around him, just goes on his way to look for Dmitri, who he’s worried about.

Consider, what contempt can there be if we ourselves are just the same as he is, if everyone is just the same as he is? (217)

Ch 2: Smerdyakov with a Guitar. Alyosha looks for Dmitri, finds Smerdyakov, who says Ivan was going to meet Dmitri in a tavern. Ivan insists that Alexei dine with him.

Ch 3: The Brothers Get Acquainted. Ivan shares his belief that he accepts God, but not God’s world. But

With one reservation: I have a childlike conviction that the sufferings will be healed and smoothed over, that the whole offensive comedy of human contradictions will disappear like a pitiful mirage, a vile concoction of man’s Euclidean mind, feeble and puny as an atom, and that ultimately, at the world’s finale, in the moment of eternal harmony, there will occur and be revealed something so precious that it will suffice for all hearts, to ally all indignation, to redeem all human villainy, all bloodshed, it will suffice not only to make forgiveness possible, but also to justify everything that has happened with men–let this, let all of it come true and be revealed, but I do not accept it and do not want to accept it! (235-6)

Ch 4: Rebellion. Ivan says, which made me laugh:

I must make an admission…I never could understand how it’s possible to love one’s neighbors. In my opinion, it is precisely one’s neighbors that one cannot possibly love. Perhaps if they weren’t so nigh…

Ivan goes on to specify that the reason he can’t accept God’s world is suffering, and particularly the suffering of small children. This is Ivan’s own attempt at Theodicy.

Ch 5: The Grand Inquisitor. Ivan narrates and explicates a poem he’s memorized from the 16th century about an Inquisitor who has killed heretics, meets Jesus (who’s visiting, rather like Henry V the night before the Battle of Agincourt), who’s performing miracles, and berates Jesus for not accepting the three temptations (winning over, dazzling by miracles, and overpowering). The inquisitor insists that people do not want to be free. Jesus kisses the inquisitor, who sets him free.

How about that 8+ page “paragraph”? Oh, for a little textual differentiation.

Alexei asks Ivan how he can accept something so depressing, then he kisses Ivan, who is pleased. (As Lise was in Ch 1 when Alexei kissed her; he’s the kissing bandit in this book.) He leaves initially to look for Dmitri, but gets distracted and heads back to the monastery.

Ch 6: A Rather Obscure One for the Moment. And once again, we are led down a side path, and I wonder WHEN WHEN WHEN will we ever meet up with Dmitri again, and be told what all this foreboding is about, though we probably know since we were told WAY BACK ON THE FIRST PAGE OF THE NOVEL that Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov (the father) dies a “dark and tragic death.” 265 pages in, and apparently it’s STILL not the “proper place.”

But anyhoo, Ch 6: Ivan has violent mood swings over the creepily behaving and passive aggressive Smerdyakov.

Ch 7: “It’s Always Interesting to Talk with an Intelligent Man” Ivan wavers on going to Chermashnya, as FP wants him to do, and urges him to do business with a man with a beard very much like the man Dmitri abused in Book 4. Smerdyakov says the cryptic words of the title to Ivan, then Ivan doesn’t go anyway. FP is convinced that Grushenka is FINALLY going to come to him for money, and the servants are drugged and unconscious, so are we FINALLY going to get his tragic death?

Alas, Book VI is about Zosima, so again, Dostoevsky gives us the Heisman, and we are DENIED.

Lots of theology, rather less of the insane people behaving insanely.

What did everyone else think?

Not quite there yet…

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

Sorry, but I haven’t quite been able to get up to speed on Brothers karamazov and the post. Coming today (I hope.) Wow, Chapter 5 of Book 5, The Grand Inquisitor. Woooo. Feeling a little dizzy after that one.

Book Stacks, Not My Own

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

Oh, there are some drool-worthy photos of book stacks in Japan, for example:


Image: Twitter. Via.

But my favorite part is the brief last sentence:

While still an emerging art, the ultimate book stacking style would combine style and strength but also allow customers to actually pick a copy up so they can buy it.

I have been mulling for a while that I want to create stacks with my TBR books, not buy more shelves, but have the books be removable, at least one at a time, without it all tumbling down. My summer project? Or another brick on the road to hell? Only time will tell. I wouldn’t put money on it.

Brothers Karamazov Summer Readalong!

Friday, May 31st, 2013


Nothing like flying by the seat of my pants, skin of my teeth, riding the ragged edge of disaster, la, la, la.

I’m reading Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov for one of my three book groups this summer, and I’d love it if you’d join me! I will even blog regularly so we can “talk” about it every week. I’m using the Pevear/Volokhonsky translation, but I bet any one would do as long as it’s divided into 13 books. Here’s the schedule. START NOW!

This Sunday, June 2, 2013: complete book 1. I’ll post to blog on Monday 6/3, and we can discuss in comments.

Sunday June 9, 2013, complete book 2. Discuss on Monday 6/10.

Sunday June 16, 2013 complete book 3. Discuss on Monday 6/17

Sunday June 23, complete book 4. Discuss on Monday 6/24

Sunday June 30 complete book 5. Discuss on Monday 7/1

Sunday July 7 complete book 6. Discuss Monday 7/8

Sunday July 14 complete book 7. Discuss Monday 7/15

Sunday July 21 complete book 8. Discuss Monday 7/22

Sunday July 28 complete book 9 Discuss Monday 7/29

Sunday August 4 complete book 10 Discuss Monday 8/5

Sunday August 11 complete book 11 Discuss Monday 8/12

Sunday August 18 complete book 12 Discuss Monday 8/19

Sunday August 25 complete book 13 and Introduction. Discuss Monday 8/26.

Books range from 20 pages long to 101, averaging 60. For this Sunday, it’s a mere 33 pages in my edition.

See? Totally do-able.

Women’s Prize Kerfuffle (AGAIN)

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

Apparently there were some people out there who thought Hilary Mantel shouldn’t be on the shortlist for the Women’s Prize for fiction, fka The Orange Prize. She’s won enough, seemed to be the feeling. Let someone else have a chance.

This is funny for a few reasons. It is EXACTLY what I was thinking when Mantel was included in this year’s Tournament of Books. She won it last year, give some other books a chance. Then I was thrilled when Orphan Master’s Son won, but it proceeded to win the Pulitzer, so it’s not like it was some tiny little book that needed recognition. But I agree entirely that she should be on this shortlist, which recognizes literary excellence. And her writing is excellent, even if I don’t care for it.

This was the point made by chair of judges Miranda Richardson.

“I was very keen to keep a balanced approach about Hilary Mantel,” she said, “because we have in the UK this tall-poppy syndrome: ‘You’ve already had too much; you can’t have any more. Go away and die now.’ It’s disgusting, frankly, because this competition is about excellence for writing.”

And I read this and was like, what? Is that THE Miranda Richardson, of Blackadder and oh so much more? Or was there some other, literary Miranda Richardson.

It IS the actor.

Every year there’s a kerfuffle over the prize, since many people (including AS Byatt) think it’s sexist to have an award just for women, except that last year’s VIDA stats show us that we’re still living in a world that slights women authors. But even AS Byatt agrees that Mantel should be on the list.

via Bookslut

Book Advice?

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

I’m obsessing nerdishly over what books from the Tournament of Books to read and which to skip. Here are the ones I haven’t read but am interested in:

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
May We Be Forgiven
Bring Up the Bodies
Beautiful Ruins

Might read sometime but not now: Dear Life, Building Stories,

Probably (or in the case of the Heti, mos. def.) not: Yellow Birds, Fobbit, How Should a Person Be, Ivyland

So, what should I read next? I was leaning to Beautiful Ruins, but it’s hard to lay hands on, and Bring Up the Bodies just came in for me, but I didn’t really care for Wolf Hall. And Billy Lynn just got eliminated, and doesn’t sound like a zombie contender.

So, what next: Bring Up Bodies, Beautiful Ruins or May We Be Forgiven?

Any on the maybe or no list that I should reconsider?

Who Wielded the Most Literary Influence?

Saturday, February 23rd, 2013

From “Dickens, Austen and Twain, Through a Digital Lens,” (hat tip friend V)

Any list of the leading novelists of the 19th century, writing in English, would almost surely include Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Mark Twain.

But they do not appear at the top of a list of the most influential writers of their time. Instead, a recent study has found, Jane Austen, author of “Pride and Prejudice, “ and Sir Walter Scott, the creator of “Ivanhoe,” had the greatest effect on other authors, in terms of writing style and themes.

Numbers aren’t everything, but I find it interesting to ponder that Austen and Scott–reductively romance and adventure, hers and his–come out, literary DNA-wise, as the progenitors.

Also, how awkward is the punctuation of the article’s title, given the NYT choice not to use the Oxford comma? Perhaps only we copyeditors (copy editors?) would care or notice.

On Weddings, from “Les Miserables”

Friday, February 1st, 2013

Les Miserables was a long book full of thrills, snores, tears and laughter. This was one passage that made me smirk:

Wedding customs in 1833 were not what they are today. France had not yet borrowed from England the supreme refinement of abducting the bride, carrying her off from the church as though ashamed of her happiness like an escaping bankrupt or like rape in the manner of the Song of Songs. The chastity and propriety of whisking one’s paradise into a post-chaise to consummate it in a tavern-bed at so much a night, mingling the most sacred of life’s memories with a hired driver and tavern serving maids, was not yet understood in France.


Acorn, Tree, Etc.

Tuesday, December 25th, 2012

I was in my sons’ room, looking for a missing book. Here’s what I saw, “hidden” under 9yo Drake’s pillow:



Ransom and Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan, two scary books I loved as a kid.

7 Bookish Questions

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

Prompted by my friend at Mental Multivitamin, I am always happy to obsess nerdishly over books. I’ll try to keep this short.

1. What book (a classic?) do you hate?

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. Though it does remind me to be a better, less selfish person.

2. To what extent do you judge people by what they read?

I shouldn’t but I do. But when I see someone reading a book I’ve consciously decided not to pick up, or that I’ve tried to read and disliked, it’s hard to feel a kinship.

3. What television series would you recommend as the literariest?

The A & E Pride and Prejudice miniseries.

4. Describe your ideal home library.

Shelves enough for all. Nothing stacked on its side.

5. Books or sex?

Both (but probably in that order, to be honest)

6. How do you decide what to read next?

It’s a balancing act. I’m in 3 book groups, and I have many bookish friends (including my husband) with whom I share recommendations. It’s definitely a holistic process, taking into account calendar, whether a movie’s coming out, whether it might be spoiled, what others are reading, if I feel guilty about having bought it, length…

7. How much do you talk about books in real life (outside of the blogging community)?

ALL THE TIME! Which is still never enough. I’m in 3 book groups, 2 of which meet monthly, and the other ever 6 weeks. One of them I started and moderate myself. I talk about books whenever I can, and if I’m at a loss with a person in conversation, I ask what they’re reading.

Bookish, blogging friends, how about you?

My Ideal Bookshelf (?)

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

My Ideal Bookshelf (?)

My Ideal Bookshelf (?)

There’s a new book out called My Ideal Bookshelf, which I read about at Mental Multivitamin, then promptly put on my amazon wish list. She posted her Ideal Shelf, here is a stab at mine–hey, it goes to 11!

by A.S. Byatt
Life with Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
Middlemarch by George Eliot
The Illustrated Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, ill. Dame Darcy
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
Hamlet, The Tempest and Twelfth Night by Shakespeare
The Holy Bible NRSV

Also, please note, I picked particular Shakespeare plays rather than a collection. More challenging, no?

Wuthering Heights and A Wrinkle in Time almost made the cut. I think I’m missing a good, cathartic weepie. Probably should have put Anne of Green Gables on there, in lieu of Witch of Blackbird Pond.

What does your shelf look like/contain? You can print out an illustration at the Ideal Bookshelf site, too.

Book Mountain!

Friday, October 12th, 2012

“Magnificent Five-Story Book Mountain Library”:


via The Morning News.

So, What Did You Do Last Weekend?

Thursday, October 11th, 2012


I went to the Half-Price books Clearance Event in the grandstand at the State Fairgrounds and got a whopping two hours to cruise up and down the boxes of children’s books. Interestingly, 2 hours was not enough time. For just children’s chapter books. There were THAT many books. Also, my knees and thighs were sore the next day from the constant knee bends of looking through the box atop the table, then below it. Up, down, up, down for two hours. Ouch. Yes, used book shopping made my muscles sore; I’m THAT out of shape.

In my defense, about a third of these are for Drake and Guppy. But oh, last summer’s Shelf Discovery Readalong has made me a junkie for old YA MMPBs (i.e., Young Adult Mass Market Paperbacks)