A Year In Books

No one can say I don’t stick to my New Year’s resolutions……..

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much

Last week I read The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett. I’m going to be straight-up with you guys- when I first picked up this book at my local B&N, I totally thought it was fiction. I took one look at the title and thought “Oh, I’m in.” and bought it. As it turns out, this book in non-fiction, which is awesome except this was a fiction week, nevertheless I got really crazy wild and decided to continue reading a  non-fiction during a fiction week. I am such a wild woman.

So check it, I LOVED this book. It was quite the page turner. This  isn’t a book you read a chapter of a night. This is a book you read until your eyes literally pop-out and then you rest them for a while but get straight back to the book when they are firmly back in-socket. To be honest, one of the things that attracted me the most was the title – I mean, that is a killer title for a book. I already told you what my first thought about this book was, but my second thought was “No way is there such a thing as loving books too much.” I still don’t think there is such a thing as loving books too much but this book did make me think about the reasons why I love books so much. Gilkey, the thief, loved books because of the status he thought they brought him. Books made him feel rich- not that he was- just that they made him feel that way. And it wasn’t even so much about reading all of them (He thought Lolita had little moral fiber….this coming from a thief), it was more about the way they made him feel. Interesting. Gilkey is a criminal but he has such an interesting psyche- there were several times I had to re-read what he said because I was sure I had it wrong the first time, he didn’t seem to have a strong grounding in reality and yet he comes across so average. Gilkey stole rare books not for profit, but (supposedly) for love. I have to say, of all the types of crimes I’ve read about this one makes the most sense to me, although I’m much more interested in saving money to buy a first edition than stealing one. Prison would not suit me.  But to be honest, I don’t think Gilkey loved books so much. I think he was just a kleptomaniac who stole rare books because it was easier than stealing jewelry- at least it was much less guarded.  Sanders is the rare book dealer turned detective that catches Gilkey. He was incredibly fascinating as well. Not because he loved books so much but because he took a job he hadn’t asked for, security chairman of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America, and carried it out so diligently. I mean, Gilkey stole books but the grand total of what he stole was about $100,000, which is not even close to what some very rare first editions are worth. (Seriously, a first edition Slaughter-House Five goes for about $7,000). Why was Sanders so hell-bent on catching Gilkey? Because it was his job I guess, although not one he got paid for or even- it seems- likes that much. More than anything, what I really loved about this book was the tales of bibliomania, my favorite being the story of a professor who had to sleep on a cot in his kitchen because his home was filled with 90 tons of books. Some would call that crazy, I call that a dream come true. Do I suffer from bibliomania? No, I don’t think so. I wouldn’t be willing to kill anyone for a book, and I wouldn’t trade my relationships for them either. I just love books. A lot. A lot a lot. And though I’ve always thought of myself as a bit of a bibliomaniac, I realized after reading this book, that I love books, but I’m no maniac.  Which, was nice to realize actually.

Loving A Celebrity. It Seems Weird.

Alan Alda

Oh Hawkeye.....

Celebrity love. Loving celebrities. Hmmmm. It seems weird, right? I mean, what, you follow them on twitter, facebook stalk them, real-life stalk them? Where is the line? And if you aren’t the stalking kind then do you just walk around all the time with like lots of unrequited feelings??? And how do you handle loving someone who like a million other people also love? (I’m using the term “love” here pretty loosely- I assume it’s something more akin to lust or desire, but hey, I’m not judging) How do you get past all the groupie love? Do you get jealous? I mean, this all seems very strange, right? Am I right? I’m totally right.

Here’s what I think- I think that celebrities make for a convenient face for whatever your fantasy guy/girl is. They can be anyone, with any type of characteristic because you don’t actually know them. And they are wonderfully good-looking so that doesn’t hurt.  Am I right? I’m totally right.

And yet, I too have fallen into the trap of crushing on a celebrity. Alas, Alan Alda never returned my fervent letters that went something like this.

Dear Mr. Alda,

Can I call you Alan? Al? Sugarbee? Ok- Al it is. (Although I perferred sugarbee myself).

I just want to tell you that you are my favorite actor. Like, most favorite ever. I have a million questions to ask you but I will limit myself to 7 since I’m sure we will be communicating regularly after this and I can ask my other 999,993 questions then. Boy- do we have an exciting life ahead of us!

1. Who is you favorite actor? I just want to know so I can love him as well. It’s really important that we like the same things.

2. Do you have access to a time machine? Listen- you were super foxy as Hawkeye but I realize time has passed since then and I would feel a little strange being with you now (although you are way cuter than Hugh Hefner). So, we are going to need to travel back in time a bit. (Wait- will I exist if we do that? This is pretty complicated but you are totally worth it!)

3.  What is your favorite fruit? Please don’t say blueberries…. please don’t say blueberries….please don’t say blueberries.

4. Do you think the world would be able to handle a hilarious power-couple such as ourselves?

5. Would our love cause an apocalypse? (This is a follow-up to number 4)

6. What is your favorite pick-up line? You should know I will assume you are trying to use it on me. The answer is yes by the way.

7. Can I please call you sugarbee? Please say yes……I don’t want to have to change all the monogrammed towels I ordered.

Love, hugs, kisses, and roses

Be A Lifehacker

I can’t believe he never responded. I. Am. Heart. Broken. What I learned from this experience is that you can’t love celebrities. They will break your heart every time. And they won’t even know they broke your heart because they don’t know you- and you don’t know them. Am I right? I’m totally right.

What celebrities are you loving? And how do you avoid stalking them?

A Year In Books Week 9

Armageddon In Retrospect

I hope you don’t think I’m a cheater cheater pumpkin eater (I do love pumpkin….) with my book choice last week. Because, to be honest, I’ve read it before. I’ll pause for general gasps and tears. Also, it’s not strictly non-fiction, even though it was a non-fiction week. Go ahead and gasp again.

Have you pulled yourselves together? Onward and upward. I chose Kurt Vonnegut’s Armageddon In Retrospect. If you’ve read this blog for a while, I’m pretty sure you know of my deep and undying love of Mr. Vonnegut. This collection of speeches and short stories was published posthumously and has an introduction by Mark Vonnegut, Kurt’s son. I have clung to this book since it was published. Mr. Vonnegut never disappointed me in any of his published writings but there is something about this collection that hits the heart of me. Maybe because I know it will be his last. Maybe because when it seems like nothing makes sense and everything is in limbo, I can read this and find reason and humor and logic again. I felt like an intruder reading the letter Vonnegut sent his family after his release from being a POW in Germany- and yet I was so compelled by it. You can already see some of the brilliance that was to come later. More than that, it was so different from any kind of letter I could imagine writing in that situation- and that comforts me. I don’t know why. The rest of the book is mostly short stories revolving around World War II. They are humorous and haunting and poignant and perfect. Perfect.

Sometimes, I just need Kurt V. in my life. Last week was one of those weeks and I wasn’t disappointed in my choice. He never lets me down- and that’s nothing short of a miracle. Of course, I’m going to tell you to read this. I think you should read everything Mr. Kurt Vonnegut wrote. He reminds me to laugh and he reminds me to think for myself and I think he is the bees knees and the cat’s meow. So there.

Kurt Vonnegut

A Year In Books Week 8

The Help
The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Powerful. Beautifully written. Stunning. Exquisite piece of literature. This novel had a profound effect on me. The story is told from the point of view of three different women, living in the deep South, in the 1960’s. Skeeter is privileged, white, educated, and itching for something more- although it isn’t apparent to her what that is at first. Abileen is black and works as a nanny and maid in the home of one of Skeeter’s best friends- she is a woman of great faith, compassionate, loving, mourning the loss of her only son, and she is brave, the kind of brave that is quiet but more powerful than any type of bombast. Minny is black and has worked in the houses of many white women but has been dismissed for speaking her mind, she is bold, clever, an expert cook, and despite her harsh words has a truly beautiful heart. These descriptions hardly scratch the surface of who these women are but in order to get the full view of them you would have to read the book. Kathryn Stockett’s characters have so many layers- they are real people despite being fictional. These women are able to come together under difficult and dangerous circumstances and start a project that threatens all of their lives, especially Minny and Abileen’s. They all want change. They want equality. They want the truth of life in the deep South to be told. TRUTH, it’s painful, it’s difficult, it’s harsh, and acknowledging it is cleansing. Parts of this book are very difficult to read. Mississippi in the 1960’s was chaotic, churning, and the epicenter for both hatred and change. I found the descriptions of racial hatred particularly difficult to read. But the story is also beautiful- these three women are absolutely stunning and the way they handle themselves and their lives is enough to break your heart and then put it back together, making it even stronger. I’m shocked this is Stockett’s first novel- she wrote this brilliantly. This story is so compelling and heartfelt. I couldn’t read it fast enough, I had to know what was going to happen to these women. It felt like I knew them and I wanted to help them and protect them and laugh with them and cry with them. This novel is breathtaking. Breathtaking.

I am so glad I read this. So. Glad. This book is a new classic. Everyone should read it, especially women. Ladies, read about these women- learn how not to live from the women in this book who let hatred and ignorance dominate their opinions and take strength and example from the women who stand-up for what is right, who literally jeopardize their safety to tell the truth and work for change. Staggering and truly touching.

What are you reading this week?

A Year In Books: Week 2

The Teahouse Fire

The Teahouse Fire by Ellis Avery. Although there were elements of humor in this book- it wasn’t funny. So, I’m a bit out of my depth in evaluating it. Please forgive me for trying to be eloquent.

This book was stunning and yet quietly beautiful. Reading it was like participating in the tea ceremony that was a central theme of the book. At times it was beautiful, structured, painful, refreshing, dreamlike, breathtaking, and haunting. The story follows Aurelia/Urako as her entire life is transplanted from France to New York to Japan in the 1860’s-1890’s. The historical events of Japan at a time when they opened their world to the West are both central and secondary. Most important, is the story of Aurelia/Urako’s life and what it means to be accepted as well as what it means to be foreign. There are times in this book when it seems that every character surrounding her life is cruel and yet there is always a faint undercurrent of hope that one, just one, has a kind heart. And you aren’t disappointed- there are moments of quiet but brilliant kindness. One moment your heart is shattered by a brilliantly written scene of quiet cruelty and the next it’s mended by another brilliantly written scene of understated kindness and hope. There is a balance to this book that exactly mirrors the balance that should be present in a perfectly made cup of tea. And as a tea enthusiast myself, the overall feeling I have after reading this book is very similar to the feeling I have after enjoying an immaculate, delicious, and lingering pot of green tea. I guess what I’m trying to say, albeit very poorly, is that I enjoyed this book very much and I think you should read it.

Ok- I’ll stop humiliating myself by attempting to be eloquent. I promise to be funny again tomorrow.

Good Vibrations

This post is dedicated to a certain lovely and brilliant writer friend of mine.


Wordle To Your Mother.

Get it? It was a play on the saying “word to your Mother”. I learned that phrase from Vanilla Ice although I’m pretty sure he didn’t come up with it.

I digress. This post is about Wordle. Because I love it. And it reveals stuff to you, like a fortune teller, except it isn’t anything like a fortune teller. I use it for work quite a bit and for inspiration in writing all the time. I love Wordle. You should too. Because I said so. Also, because it’s brilliant.

I took all my most popular posts and copied and pasted them into the magic Wordle machine and this is what it revealed to me:

WordleAccording to Wordle, I talk about my Grammy a lot. And Wordle is correct, because there is a Grammy post coming this week as it so happens.

According to Wordle, I say “like” a lot. Touche, Wordle. Right again.

According to Wordle, I ask the question “really?” a lot. Really?

According to Wordle, I talk quite a bit about people. I do indeed and I’m glad to see that Wordle recognizes my selfless need to help people and protect them from awkward moments, flirtation failures, and men in women’s restrooms. Clearly, I am practically a living saint who uses the power of the interweb to spread her message of hope and sage advice. I never realized how good of a person I was until Wordle told me. I mean, I’m pretty sure that’s what it’s trying to say. Thanks Wordle.

According to Wordle I am only moderately concerned with all things “awkward”. You may have gotten this one wrong Wordle because I am almost entirely consumed with awkward things. My life is like a walking tour of awkward-ville. True story.

According to Wordle, I talk about Mondays quite a bit. I hate Mondays. Unless they are holidays, in which case, they are fine. I think Wordle is trying to tell me to give Mondays a chance, and also, stop talking about them because people are getting real sick of hearing about it. I appreciate Wordle’s honesty.

I’m surprised not to see the word “douche bag” in this. But then again, I didn’t use all my posts to create this, just my most popular ones. I can deduce from this that people don’t want to hear about douche-bags. Too bad guys, because I find douche bags too amusing not to write about them.

I love Wordle, I think it’s brilliant, and amusing, and completely diverting. There are lots of fonts and layouts and colors to choose from and I could literally spend all day on Wordle. Word clouds are fun. Seriously. I have found Wordle to be an absolute gem when it comes to helping me get inspired by my writing. When I’ve written quite a bit, I just copy and paste it into Wordle and see what words I’m using most. It really helps target my writing and has yet to fail in giving me a little boost in writing energy. You can also enter in any website or blog that has an RSS feed and it will create a lovely little picture of your words (although I think it only does the first page of your blog because when I did this “zombies” and “candy” were by far my largest words- which is awesome but not entirely accurate if you take the whole blog into account so I really think it just does the first page.) I encourage you, nay, I demand that you all Wordle right now!!! I really think you will like it, especially if you’re a writer or blogger or both. Or just a person who likes pretty colors.

Today’s Lesson: You should Wordle. Your Mother should Wordle. End of story.