Thursday, May 30, 2013

Summer Reading List: May the Reading Begin!

Summer reading can be the best reading of the year. Long days, vacation, plenty of sunshine, shade, chlorine, salt water, and ice cubes melting in iced tea. Add books and stir.

Here's a look at what I think I have in store for summer reading. Today. At this very minute. Well, technically, yesterday — I already found two more books today that might have to be jammed into this collection...

Here's a list of what you see:
  1. And the Mountains Echoed
  2. Arcadia
  3. Barn Stripping
  4. Chi Running
  5. Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter
  6. Discovery of Witches
  7. Faefever
  8. The Family Fang
  9. The Gun Seller
  10. How They Met and Other Stories
  11. The Labrynth  of Dreaming Books
  12. The Language of Flowers
  13. Let the Great World Spin
  14. Life After Life
  15. The Light Between the Oceans
  16. A Lion Among Men
  17. Map of the Sky
  18. The Mysterious Benedictine Society
  19. The Receptionist
  20. Shadow of Night
  21. Smut
  22. Spook
  23. Southern Gods
  24. The Twelve Rooms of the Nile
  25. Unnatural Acts
  26. A Vision of Light
  27. Wolf Hall
This doesn't include the novels I simply must read that will be published this summer (such as the newest Neil Gaiman) or others that appear to be quite tasty but haven't quite fallen into my hands yet (I'm looking at you, Joe Hill).

I know this is ambitious. I have faith. Or I am crazy.

I will donate $5 per book I read to Main Street Child Development Center, and I will buy three new books for the Fairfax County Public Library from its Amazon Wish List.

Also, if you want to join this summer reading club, share your "consumed list" with me. The reader who reads the most books will win a new book of her or his choice, courtesy of Hedgehog Lover. 

Are you in? Let me know!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Summer Reading Suggestion: Let's Pretend This Never Happened

Summer is on the horizon, and maybe — just maybe — you're on the hunt for books for the 2013 Summer Reading Club...

Well, if you want to laugh (and maybe even shed a tear or two), do yourself a favor: read Let's Pretend This Never Happened.

You won't want to put it down.

Okay, there was the time when Jenny Lawson talked about her father shoving his hand up a squirrel's — er, never mind. (I did have to take a break there. I am so not into taxidermy.)

Then there was the chapter about her reproduction that, even though she told us how it would end, still made me tense, so I read it with one eye open while clutching my kitten to my bosom. (I was in bed, so I could use only one hand to hold the book.)

And yet I didn't pause when reading about her dog. Or her first girls' weekend ever. Or —

Okay, that's enough about what's in the book. Now, let's talk about how The Bloggess can write about something that isn't in the least about what she's writing about and yet. And yet. It makes sense. You may not understand how you got from there to here, but what a great trip it was.

And for the record, I love her husband. Honestly, if she's only a fraction like the narrator of this memoir has depicted, he's a saint and a loving, loving man.

Finally, this author has the most precise comic timing and razor-sharp absurdity. I mostly read at night, propped up in bed, convinced that I'd wake up my husband and kitten with my laughter. I laughed until I cried. Then I cried. Then I laughed again.

You know what? Don't take my word for it. Really. Don't read any other reviews. Just read the book. Then buy a copy for a friend because you won't want to part with yours.

It's that good.

And when you're done, but you're not quite ready to let Jenny go (and yes, I'm calling her by her first name, very un-journalistic of me, fire me, okay?), watch this video.

Better yet, watch this one:

Go ahead, buy a third copy for your minister. You know you want to.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Poetry Wednesday: Poetry (The Original Version)

Last week, we read a very compact poem Marianne Moore pared down from a longer poem of hers by the same name. As promised, here is the longer version. Which do you prefer?


I, too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond all
this fiddle.
Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one
discovers in
it after all, a place for the genuine.
Hands that can grasp, eyes
that can dilate, hair that can rise
if it must, these things are important not because a

high-sounding interpretation can be put upon them but because
they are
useful. When they become so derivative as to become
the same thing may be said for all of us, that we
do not admire what
we cannot understand: the bat
holding on upside down or in quest of something to

eat, elephants pushing, a wild horse taking a roll, a tireless wolf
a tree, the immovable critic twitching his skin like a horse that
feels a
flea, the base-
ball fan, the statistician--
nor is it valid
to discriminate against 'business documents and

school-books'; all these phenomena are important. One must
make a distinction
however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the
result is not poetry,
nor till the poets among us can be
'literalists of
the imagination'--above
insolence and triviality and can present

for inspection, 'imaginary gardens with real toads in them', shall
we have
it. In the meantime, if you demand on the one hand,
the raw material of poetry in
all its rawness and
that which is on the other hand
genuine, you are interested in poetry.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Monday: A Moment, A Memory — Le Galion Beach

Le Galion Beach, St. Maarten

Some Mondays require a moment, a memory...

A sunny day, a light breeze, a morning of butterflies and an afternoon in the clear, warm water and gentle surf.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Poetry Wednesday: Poetry


I, too, dislike it.
***Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one discovers in
***it, after all, a place for the genuine.

by Marianne Moore

This is one published version of this poem — the version she preferred. How did it begin its published life? Read the other published version here next week!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Summer Reading Club: Are You Ready?

Okay, readers, it's coming up on one of the best times of the year: summer reading. Yes, that lazy, hazy, crazy time when you sit in the sun and sweat to words — well, whatever words on the page become to you when you read.

Let's do this together.

Declare your intention to read! Choose at least a few of your books before summer begins and let the rest of us know what's on your menu. I'll do the same. E-mail me your list and we'll share.

Then comes the fun part: read.
Read for fun.
Read for relaxation.
Read for edification.
Read just because you can.

At the end of the summer, we'll compare notes: how many did you get to on your list? How many new titles made their way into your hands?

The reader who consumed the most books wins a new-to-them book from a selection of titles.

Now, let's be fair: War and Peace counts for two books, agreed? If you think a book deserves extra weight, say so. Thin tomes — well, let's decide that on the weight of your list.

The reading period will be Memorial Day through the end of summer. This year, let's choose Friday, May 24 through Sunday, September 22. Send me your list any time you're ready. I'll publish mine by the end of May (and we can compare how many books from last year's list are contenders again this year!).

Get your reading caps on, grab your sunblock and iced tea and prepare to read!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Books By Post

Some days, the mail is almost as wonderful as Christmas.

Wednesday was that kind of day.

When I returned to my desk at work after a meeting, I found two packages. The first contained a keyboard/cover for my new computer device. The other was a book: The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Steadman.

When I got home, a second package awaited me with two books: The Twelve Terrors of Christmas by John Updike (with drawings by Edward Gorey) and The Twelve Rooms of the Nile by Enid Shomer.

This will give me plenty to read for a while. Steadman's book is my book club's next book (and I now can read it in time!). The rest will add to my "summer reading pile." Yes, summer reading: it's right around the corner, you know.

Have you treated yourself lately to a new book? If so, what did you get? Do tell!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

When It's More Than a Tootle

The first rule of driving is this: drive safely. If you think you can maneuver safely in traffic, do so. Otherwise, sit still or step out from behind the steering wheel. Our reflexes and skills vary, and drivers must understand and accommodate that when they operate their own vehicles.

Too many drivers ignore that rule, or they expect other drivers to have their "skill" or daring attitude. They try to encourage hesitant drivers with the horn.

Now, sometimes, a tootle of the horn is what you need: you are looking at something other than your path and the green light has been burning daylight for a good five or more seconds. A short "wake-up" beep does the trick: drivers look up, gasp, engage the car and wave (all fingers!) at the driver who alerted them. It happens to everyone, amateurs and pros alike.

Some days, it's just a tootle and both drivers are civil. Alas, too often lately are drivers anything but. Recently, an acquaintance died after an encounter with a fellow driver, who is accused of following him into a parking lot and committing violence against him. Shocking — but not really.

I had a front seat to road rage about a decade ago. I don't remember if my driver didn't accelerate quickly enough, or someone changed lanes too closely. What I do remember is the rude gesture of my driver. I do remember the furious encounter after the other driver followed my car to its destination. Both drivers dwarfed me in size, so I couldn't safely separate them. I was frightened and furious, and I walked away from the screaming drivers.

I was lucky. I got out with my life. So did my driver. Our friendship, however, was a victim of this incident; my driver didn't understand the danger his actions posed.

This morning, I was on the first of two major roads I travel to work. I had to turn left across oncoming traffic, and I saw a gap in traffic. Could I cross safely? I wasn't sure, so I waited. I heard a long honk, not a tootle. I kept waiting. Five seconds later, the gap was unmistakably safe, so I proceeded — and wondered if the angry honker would pursue me to "teach me a lesson."

Thankfully, no one followed me. Today I was lucky. Tomorrow, my caution may be someone else's flashpoint. Let's hope you and I never find out.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Poetry Wednesday: Smoke


It was everywhere in my childhood: in restaurants,
on buses or planes. The teacher's lounge looked like
London under fog. My grandmother never stopped

smoking, and walking in her house was like diving
in a dark pond. Adults were dimly lit: they carried
matches in their pockets as if they might need fire

to see. Cigarette machines inhaled quarters and
exhaled rectangles. Women had their own brands,
long and thin; one was named Eve and it was meant

to be smoked in a garden thick with summer flowers.
I'm speaking of moods: an old country store where
my grandfather met friends and everyone spoke

behind a veil of smoke. (My Uncle Bill preferred
fragrant cigars; I can still smell his postal jacket ...)
He had time to tell stories because he took breaks

and there was something to do with his hands.
My mother's bridge club gathered around tables
with ashtrays and secrets which are best revealed

beside fire. Even the fireplaces are gone: inefficient
and messy. We are healthier now and safer! We have
exercise and tests for breast or colon cancer. We have

helmets and car seats and smokeless coffee shops
where coffee has grown frothy and complex. The old
movies are so full of smoke that actors are hard to see

and they are often wrapped in smoking jackets, bent
over a piano or kiss. I miss the places smoke created.
I like the way people sat down for rest or pleasure

and spoke to other people, not phones, and the tiny fire
which is crimson and primitive and warm. How long
ago when humans found this spark of warmth and made

their first circle? What about smoke as words? Or the
pipes of peace? In grade school we learned how it rises
and how it can kill. We were taught to shove towels

under our closed doors: to stop, drop, and roll. We had
a plan to meet our family in the yard, the house behind
us alive with all we cannot put out... 

by Faith Shearin 
from The Empty House. © Word Press, 2008
Courtesy The Writers Almanac

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Poetry Wednesday: One Place to Begin

One Place to Begin

You need a reason, any reason—skiing, a job in movies,
      the Golden Gate Bridge.
Take your reason and drive west, past the Rockies.
When you're bored with bare hills, dry flats, and distance,
      stop anywhere.
Forget where you thought you were going.

Rattle through the beer cans in the ditch.
If there's a fence, try your luck—they don't stop cows.
Follow the first hawk you see, and when the sagebrush
      trips you, take a good look before you get up.
The desert gets by without government.

Crush juniper berries, breathe the smell, smear your face.
When you wonder why you're here, yell as loud
      as you can and don't look behind.
Walk. Your feet are learning.

Admit you're afraid of the dark.
Soak the warmth from scabrock, cheek to lichen.
The wind isn't talking to you. Listen anyway.
Let the cries of coyotes light a fire in your heart.
Remember the terrible song of stars—you knew it once,
      before you were born.

Tell a story about why the sun comes back.
Sit still until the itches give up, lizards ignore you,
      a mule deer holds you in her eyes.
Explain yourself over and over. Forget it all
      when a scrub jay shrieks.
Imagine sun, sky, and wind the same, over your
      scattered white bones.

From Of Earth. © Lost Horse Press, 2012.