If you know me, you know I am a reader and a walker. When I looked through the books I read in 2022 (78 – not a record), I was amazed that less than 10% of the books I read were art related. So – 2023 is my year to devote more of my downtime to art. (more…)
In case you aren’t familiar with my reading quest, I am currently reading a book written by someone from each state in the United States.
I read not one, but two books written by Sarah Smarsh from Kansas. Born in rural Kansas, she grew up on farms in small towns. Her family moved frequently and she attended eight schools before reaching ninth grade. Attending the University of Kansas, she received her MFA in nonfiction writing from Columbia University (not a small feat!).
This is not only a powerful but a very relevant book. As Smarsh says “You can go a very long time in the country without being seen.”
Born into a family of farmers, she traces her family through five generations of teenage pregnancies – her mother was just 17 when Sarah was born.
During her childhood, in the 1980’s, family farms were going under – sometimes a victim of foreclosure, but also often the growth of giant agribusinesses. Her father began taking any job he could get, roofing, driving semi trucks and even disposing of poisonous industrial chemicals – one that almost killed him, resuting in years of debilitating psychosis.
The family was living below the poverty line, while at the same time considering themselves middle class. She writes:
“That we could live on a patch of Kansas dirt with a tub of Crisco lard and a $1 rebate coupon in an envelope on the kitchen counter and call ourselves middle class was at once a triumph of contentedness and a sad comment on our country’s lack of awareness about its own economic structure. Class didn’t exist in a democracy like ours, as far as most Americans were concerned, at least not as a destiny or an excuse. You got what you worked for, we believed. There was some truth to that. But it was not the whole truth.”
If there is an underlying question that begs to be answered, it is how did Smarsh get out?
How did a member of the sixth generation end up with a graduate degree from Columbia, a down payment for a house, and a memoir that is nominated for the National Book Award? There is no single answer, even she doesn’t know if herself. She suggests she had supportive male role models – her father and grandfather – in a family where many women were prey to dangerous men. She abstained from teenage pregnancy – but she was talented and worked hard. Going to the University of Kansas on a merit scholarship, she also had three jobs lined up – this is the only thing that made college possible for her.
Is it a rebuttal to Hillbilly Elegy? Could be, because she proves that poverty is not the result of laziness and bad choices, and the American Dream is not always possible for even those that work hard.
Not a political book, she does point out most of her family are Republicans, which for them is a matter of pride, even if it means they are voting against their best interests.
“People on welfare were presumed ‘lazy’, and for us there was no more hurtful word.”
When she is admitted to college on a federally funded program for minority, first-generation, and low income students, she found the handful of those in the program called themselves “White Trash Scholars”.
This is not a sentimental book, but she makes a powerful point that much of the “American World” has taught them they are disposable.
It seems as if the second book would be a perfect fit, but actually I read this book first.
SHE COME BY IT NATURAL, Dolly Parton AND THE WOMEN WHO LIVED HER SONGS – While Sarah Smarsh was growing up in poverty, she heard songs by country female artists telling powerful stories of life, hard times and surviving. It was a language among the women – and no one said it clearer for them than Dolly.
This was originally published in a four-part series for THE JOURNAL OF ROOTS MUSIC. Smarsh feels Dolly’s songs have validated women who are invisible – the “trailer trash” women who are struggling. Dolly began singing on the front porch of her family home, achieving stardom in Nashville – a world managed by powerful men. Along the way, she managed to found both a self-made business and philanthropy empire, in her own terms. Go Dolly!
INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT KANSAS
Dodge City is the REAL Windy City in the US – average wind speed is 14 MPH
Kansas really is as flat as a pancake as it was compared topographically to an IHOP pancake.
White Castle – the first hamburger chain was started here. Weirdly, there are no White Castles in Kansas at this time.
The amount of wheat grown here would stretch all the way to the Pacific Ocean from Kansas.
The helicopter was invented in Kansas.
Next I travel to Kentucky and then Louisianna – and I have my books picked out for these states. But then I travel to the “M” states (of which there are eight!).
If you have requests for the authors from the remaining states – let me know!
As the year of 2020 is behind us, I actually read less than usual, completing 79 books and over 24,000 pages. I have broken the books into categories to see if there was any “trend” to my reading (the answer is “NO) – which I share at the end of the December books. I read 9 books in December.
THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS AND WHAT ALICE FOUND THERE by Lewis Carroll – This was the book that I ended the year with – good choice because I haven’t read it in years. This is kind of a symbolic bookend as I read Alice in Wonderland earlier in the year!
SECRET LIVES OF GREAT ARTISTS – WHAT YOUR TEACHERS NEVER TOLD YOU ABOUT MASTER PAINTERS AND SCULPTORS by Elizabeth Lunday – I’ve read this before and very entertaining . My one complaint -. with little stories and vignettes highlighting 35 artists – only TWO of them are women!!!!!!
READER’S DIGEST BIOGRAPHIES – BEETHOVEN by Allan Pryce Jones – I actually found this on the bookshelf while cleaning out my books. I’ve read many biographies on Beethoven, but this made me want to pick up a very thorough one in 2021. In fact, in 2020, I learned several pieces of Beethoven on the piano – including on Sonata!
JAZZ BABY – by Lisa Wheeler, illustrated by Gregory Christie – I got this for my grand-niece and couldn’t resist reading it myself. It is delightful – and the illustrator is a friend of mine – and he did the cutest inscription for me (actually for Lilly).
UNSEEN by Karin Slaughter – I picked this up book written by an Atlantan author from a Little Free Library. This particular one is set in Macon. a fun, but somewhat confusing read.
COP TOWN by Karin Slaughter – This is set in Atlanta in the early 1970’s, so it was a fun read. Wow – Atlanta has changed alot since then!
DAILY RITUALS – HOW ARTISTS WORK by Mason Curry – Another reread and one I revisit. Some of the rituals are bazaar, but the most common ritual is daily walks!!!! The author has another one now devoted entirely to women!
NAKED by David Sedaris – As always – Sedaris is hysterical. It is worth it to read through the entire book to get to the last story about his adventure in a Nudist Colony.
HOLIDAYS ON ICE – by David Sedaris – I should read this every year, because I had a tradition of seeing The Santaland Diaries play every year!!!!
WHAT DID I DISCOVER WHEN I LOOKED BACK:
Most of the books I read were actual rereads – 10 in all!
I read 6 classics, including a Hardee’s boy mystery. I read the complete Aesops Fables this year for the first time.
I read five books about animals; a pig, an octopus, a parrot, and if you count fables – walking and talking animals!
I read 5 children’s books
I only read three biographies in 2020 – Alice Roosevelt, Harriett Tubman and Beethoven.
AND – I started re-reading my favorite book in the world at the beginning of 2021 – THE SHADOWS OF THE WIND by Carlos Ruiz Zafon – which is the first book of the Cemetery of Forgotten books series. Doesn’t it sound like a magical place??
What are you reading?
As we all navigate through another month of “stay at home”, my reading is finally getting back to normal. For the past several months, I started more books than I finished. But, in July, I managed to finish 8 books – which is a normal amount for me.
THE ART DEALERS by Laura de Coppet – This book has been on my bookshelf for years, so I finally took it down and read it. Interesting, but a little dated because it was written in 1984. Thirty-two contemporary art dealers talk about their careers, trends in modern art, and their opinions on art history and evaluation.
NEVER HAVE I EVER by Joshilyn Jackson – I picked this up from a Little Free Library while on a walk and it is written by a fellow Decatur, Ga. resident (who says she moved here because of the Decatur Book Festival, considered the largest independent book festival in the states). This is a psychological thriller, based on the game “never have I ever” that a new resident into the community introduces to the book club. There are some twists, many that involve blackmail. I put this in the “good beach read” category.
ONE PLUS ONE by JoJo Moyes – I have read several books by JoJo Moyes, and they are always fun reads. This is the story of Jess, a cleaner/barmaid struggling to make ends meet and IT Guru Ed, who is involved in a financial scandal. They embark on a road journey to Scotland with Jess’s daughter Tanzie (a math genius), Nicky (a goth, kind of a stepson that has been bullied) and Norman, the drooling smelly dog. While it is a fun read, it seemed vaguely familiar. When I logged it into Goodreads – I had read it back in 2014!
LUNCH AT THE PICCADILLY by Clyde Edgerton – Edgerton has a gift for capturing Southern dialogue, and this book gives us the challenges of aging with sympathy, sensitivity, all done with a sense of humor.
ANTI-RACIST BABY by Ibram X. Kendi – I have been very impressed with interviews with Ibram Kendi – so I ordered this book prior to publication to send to my one year old grand niece – and of course I had to take a peak! I love it!
THE ENGINEER’S WIFE by Tracey Enerson Wood – Historical fiction based on the building of the Brooklyn Bridge and the role Emily Roebling played in it. When her husband, the chief engineer of the project is injured on the job, she puts her role in the women’s suffrage movement on hold and takes on the project under his guidance. It is interesting, but the introduction of P.T. Barnum as a possible love interest is not based on fact at all. Their paths may have crossed, they were in New York at the same time and P.T. Barnum historically took his circus across the bridge (with all the elephants) to prove the strength of the structure. But, it did succeed in sparking my curiosity to look up these characters.
THE WEIGHT OF A PIANO by Chris Cander – This is the first of two books I read in July where a musical instrument is actually a character. I was captured by the first paragraph in the book referring to the spruce trees in Romania that would be made into a Bluthner, commonly referred to as one of the big “four” of the piano makers, (the others are Bechstein, Bosendorfer and Steinway). My grandfather sold pianos, and there is a Bosendorfer in my family and I have owned a Steinway. It is the story off Katya, who leaves her beloved Bluthner in Germany, and a woman that inherits one in 2012. It’s a good concept, but it turns into a road trip of a photographer moving the piano around to photograph it around a National Park. Even with an unbelievable story line of endlessly moving a piano around a national park, I couldn’t put it down!
GONE, A GIRL, A VIOLIN AND A LIFE UNSTRUNG by Min Kym – In this memoir, you learn what it is like to be a child prodigy – she wins her first international prize at age 11. Her violin is a personal choice for many reasons, and when it is stolen from her in a London cafe, her world crashes. She felt as though she had lost her soulmate, and with it her sense of who she was. Overnight she became unable to play or function and is silent. Even though the violin is recovered 3 years later, it no longer belongs to her – it belongs to the insurance company and she can’t afford it. I loved this book. I loved the way she described the music and the instrument. I loved the music history she threw in. For instance, I’m aware of Clara Schumann – who was herself a child prodigy – and I knew she was expected to take care of the entire household even while traveling and performing. I didn’t know Brahm’s was in love with her, they travelled together with her children, and he felt he had to choose between love and music – and obviously – he chose his music.
I’m going to finish some of the books I began in April and May and research more books where a character is actually a musical instrument.
What are you reading during this “Stay at Home”? Are your reading habits changing? I’d like to know!
To say life has changed lately is an understatement. My reading habits have changed, I have started more books than I have finished lately. But, here are the ones I actually finished over the past two months.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland With Artwork by Yayoi Kusama I purchased this at the Kusama exhibition in Atlanta, as I love this book and I have probably read if at least five times. But, I have to admit, I missed the old illustrations by John Tenniel. It’s time to pick up Through The Looking Glass!
The Mark on the Door and The Secret of Skull Mountain both by Franklin W. Dixon – I had never read a Hardy’s Boys book, but I found these two on the bookshelf (they belong to my husband). I didn’t know anything about the Hardy Boys’ – I didn’t even know their father was a world class detective. But, these books were a nice diversion while “staying at home”.
Peachtree Road by Anne Rivers Siddons – I read this book when it originally came out (1988) and living in Miami. I realized how much I missed Atlanta, and I was back before the end of the year! Even though it starts off a little slow, it picks up. Of course, it is fun to read a book knowing exactly where they are. Plus – you can’t put a book down that begins with this: “The South killed Lucy Bonduran Chastain Venable on the day she was born. It just took her until now to die…..It’s what we do best, kill our women. Or maim them. Or make mother’s of them, which may be the worst of all.” The two main characters, Shep (the narrator) and Lucy are well fleshed out. I was glad I saved the book and could revisit it. On an aside, when the “stay at home” began, I started walking. I no longer live in Buckhead, but it is a short drive from my home in Decatur. My plan was to go into Buckhead, park my car and take a walk on the streets that are in the book. But, then the demonstrations started and I decided to stay close to home, at least for now!
Hiking Atlanta’s Hidden Forests – Inside and Out – by Jonah McDonald – I’ve had this book for YEARS and have referred to it over and over again. But with my new interest in walking, I sat down and read through the entire book and have started visiting new places to explore. My favorite? The Doll’s Head Trail –
When the land was purchased to create a nature preserve, volunteers and other workers noticed the many dolls and other interesting finds in the dump and began placing them in thoughtful ways along the trail they were foraging, that would eventually be the Dolls’ Head Trail.
The Fifth Assassin by Brad Meltzer – At the end of May, I saw a story on CBS Sunday Morning about the explosion of audio books. Apparently, there is a “star” in this world, Scott Brick. Meltzer was interviewed and he said when he writes his books, he hears Scott Brick reading them. (here is the link to the story) I’ve read his books before and I found the story interesting. Weirdly, on a walk later in the week, I came across a Little Free Library – and there was this book, which was discussed in the story! Serendipity in action.
The main character is trying to find the identity of an assassin before he kills the President. And, of course, the President is corrupt. The real history of presidential assassinations is blended into the mystery. The timeline moves about – and it is alot to keep up with. I would say it is an “okay” read, not his best, but it still moves forward.
A Man in Full by Tom Wolfe – another reread, in fact I received this book after attending a luncheon with Tom Wolfe. (I am a long time fan. In fact, I went to see him four times over the years beginning in 1975.) At 704 pages, it is a commitment. There are three different stories. First is Charles Croker, once at football star at Georgia Tech, now a middle-aged Atlanta titan with an outsize ego, who also has a 29,000 acres quail shooting plantation in South Georgia, a young wife, empty commercial real estate and alot of debt. Then you have Conrad Hensley, who is laid off from his job for Croker Global foods in California. There is Fareek Fanon – a Georgia Tech football star from the slums, accused of date-raping the daughter of a wealthy member of the top echelon of Atlanta’s white society, and the lawyer, Robert White II, who represents him. The book is thought provoking and at times hilarious. It would make a good HBO series!
Sullivan Island by Dorothy Benton Frank – because this is set in the “low-country” of South Carolina, I enjoyed reading it. Great beach read – but it won’t stay with you for long.
Severe Clear by Stuart Woods – This is one of his “Stone Barrington” novels – a character that has appeared in 20 novels. This one deals with the opening of a very upscale hotel in Bel-Air, on property that belonged to his late wife. Of course, terrorists are involved and havoc ensues!
The Bible Salesman by Clyde Edgerton – Henry Dampier loved selling Bibles, saving souls and getting to know his customers who bought Bibles from him. One day, Preston Clearwater invites Henry to join him working for the FBI. Henry is clueless that he is actually transporting stolen cars. Henry begins to read the Bible he has been selling for years and falling in love with the girl at the produce stand. It takes place in the early 50’s, and goes back to Henry’s childhoods in the 30’s. Edgerton understands the South – and while this isn’t his best book, it was still a pleasure to read!
I see an inadvertent trend here. All of the books except for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, The Hardy’s Boys books and the Brad Meltzer book were written by Southerners.
While the library remains closed, many of these books came from Little Free Libraries (or which I have one!). If you prefer reading an actual book, refer to their map and see if there are a few around you!
Moving forward, I’m going to revisit some of the books I started and finish them. It is very unusual for me to not finish books – and there was nothing wrong with the books, I just couldn’t concentrate!
What are you reading? Has your reading changed during the “Stay at home” time we are living in?
We can agree these are challenging and changing times. One thing that has changed for me is the way I read. I am a daily reader, usually 8-12 books a month. However, for the months of March and April, I read only 7 books!
For the first time in recent memory, I am putting down more books than I am picking up. Below is what I read, these are not reviews.
WHAT I READ BEFORE THE STAY AT HOME
The Ensemble, A Novel – by Aja Gabel This is about a quartet trying to make it in the world of classical music. I found it both interesting and tedious; the descriptions of the music was interesting, the relationships were tedious.
Clock Dance by Anne Tyler Anne Tyler never disappoints. It is the story of Willa Drake, beginning in 1967 coping with her mother’s disappearance (again). In 1997 she is a young widow. In her second marriage, she is kind of sleep-walking through her life when she receives a phone call from a stranger prompting her to travel across the country to Baltimore to take care of the daughter of her son’s ex-girlfriend. If you love Anne Tyler – you will love this book
WHAT I READ DURING THE STAY AT HOME
Mary Coin by Marisa Silver This is based on an iconic work of art, Migrant Mother by Dorothea Lange. This was a book club selection and I had trouble getting into it. However, after visiting MOMA in New York in March, I saw this photograph in an exhibition devoted to Dorothea Lange. That connection made it more compelling, so I returned to it. However, I was thirsty for the real story and the real women. I picked up a biography about Dorothea Lange, Dorothea Lange, Life Beyond Limits, (which I have not finished) which I found more satisfying. Oh yes, I was in New York in March on an annual art trip. I was there when the proverbial shit hit the fan!
The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett I had never actually read this book, but I knew the story. Even so, the book charmed me and I count it as one of my favorite books now!
Circus Shoes by Noel Streatfeild After enjoying The Secret Garden, I looked at my own bookshelf. I have two shelves of very old books people have given me over the years – and I found this little gem! The story is of an orphaned brother and sister. who learn they are going to be sent to separate orphanages. When they learn about an uncle they have never met, they set out to find him. And, wouldn’t you know it? He is a performer in a circus!!!! What better setting for a childhood adventure! This was published in 1937, and there is an entire series devoted to different shoes; Tennis Shoes, Skating Shoes, Dancing Shoes – the list goes on.
Lewis Carroll’s Alices Adventures in Wonderland illustrated by Yayoi Kusama This is an all-time favorite book for me. I have to admit, this was a spontaneous purchase while visiting the Kusama exhibit in Atlanta. While the book is fun to read, I found myself missing the old illustrations. It is still a great friend, yes, books are friends.
Wacky Chicks: Life Lessons for Fearlessly Inappropriate and Fabulously Eccentric Women by Simon Doonan I bought this book years ago in New York at the SoHo shop of designer Jonathan Adler. See, Simon Doonan is his partner. I kept the book (I am not a book hoarder) and have lent it out several times. After seeing Mo Rocca interview the couple on CBS Sunday Morning and hearing a discussion about what does Zoom reveal about reveal about your house, I remembered the book. It was a fun re-read.
Plus, the discussion was of interest to me, because with so many talking heads on television these days, I continually walk up to the television and study what is behind the talking head, especially the books on their shelves.
What are you reading these days? Has this new world changed your reading habits?
The world has changed in the past couple of weeks. I have found myself with alot of energy (good thing) without focus (not good). One thing about me, I am an AVID READER, I begin every day with a bath and a book, every single day! But – I the words I’m reading have not been sinking in, and I’m restless. So – I’ve taken to the streets and started walking 3-5 miles a day – the length of a good podcast. So – I thought I’d share some podcasts I’ve really enjoyed.
THE MOTH – THE ART AND CRAFT OF STORYTELLING
Celebrating it’s 20 year anniversary – there are definitely plenty of things to find here. In their own words, it started as “a whiskey-fueled dream in Georgia to the storytelling movement of today”. There are over 25,000 stories, that people like you and I have shared, always live and without notes. Many of them are very inspirational, some are hilarious, and it is rare not to be moved. Unfortunately the live in Atlanta this week was cancelled.
DOLLY PARTON’S AMERICA
Need I say more? Just to hear Dolly laugh always brings a smile to my face. My only complaint is there are limited episodes, but I know I will listen to this series again!
This is a true crime podcast about musicians behaving badly, starting with the death of Jerry Lee Lewis’ fifth wife found dead. Did he murder her? What happened? Told by Boston musician Jack Brennan – an expert storyteller – you will learn things you never knew.
DISORGANIZED CRIME: SMUGGLER’S DAUGHTER
Hosted by non de plume Rainbow Valentine, this is her about her artist mother and “businessman” father were pot smugglers in California in the 70’s and 80’s, something she didn’t know until she was 14!! She interviews both of them, as well as the parents of her friends that were also smugglers. It is very entertaining with interesting history about “pot” thrown in along the way. Just so you know, the word “pot” doesn’t come from something you cook in. It comes from the Latin term “potation de guayana” which means, “drink of grief” and is a traditional Mexican drink made from steeping cannibus buds in wine.
This is a delightful different take on art history. Was Van Gogh accidentally murdered? Is the Mona Lisa you see at the Louvre a fake? Was a British painter actually Jack the Ripper? Each episode is thoroughly researched by art curator Jennifer Dasal.
YOU MUST REMEMBER THIS
This is the secret or forgotten history of Hollywood’s first century. Episodes include The Hemmingway Curse, Cass Elliott and Fat Shaming (she did not die eating a ham sandwich btw), Esther Williams and the Birth of Waterproof Makeup. Interesting stuff!
There are so many great things to listen to out there – but I’ll stop here! I’d love to have suggestions on podcasts I may not know about!!!
It is MOTHER’S DAY I in America. I decided to kick of a series of blogs about Women in Art – and here is a series of works i found.
Migrant Mother, 1936, Dorothea Lange
Do you have a favorite?
Again, I am beginning a new and improved series of Women in Art. Up next is Diane Arbus, Bourgeous and Ingrid Calame’. If you have suggestions I’d love to know!
First – MOUNTAIN MAN by Vardis Fisher, the book the movie Jeremiah Johnson is based on. Sam Minard is a hunter/trapper wandering through Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. This book isn’t for the faint of heart, beginning with Sam coming upon a horrific scene of an Indian massacre, where a lone woman is left alive after her three children are murdered and her husband is kidnapped and scalped. Sam builds her a cabin and get word out to other “mountain men” to look out for her. He takes an Indian Wife, and simplifies her name to Lotus. When it is time for him to leave in the winter to trap fur, he leaves her pregnant in the winter (in the comfort of their cabin). He returns to find his family has been slaughtered most likely by the Crowe tribe. This begins a murderous path of vengeance, vowing to kill every member of the tribe that killed his family. Again, this isn’t for the faint of heart.
Then I found another book that is probably stylistically on the other end of the spectrum! Echoes from the Hills of Idaho by Ruth Butler. This is the humorous, tragic and folksy memoir of Ruth, a girl who lived the first few years of her life on a thousand acre dry farm, which was near the Grand Teton Range of the Rocky Mountains and Yellowstone Park was only a few miles away. Surrounded by the grandeur and beauty of the area, she also lived in a loving family. Her heartfelt stories are of growing up during the twenties and thirties. Complete with pictures, it is an endearing memoir and this childhood must have ignited a sense of adventure in Ruth because she worked as an airplane mechanic in WWII, raised a family in the Willamette Valley of Oregon and traveled America solo in her motorhome after retirement. She wrote this book in her 90’s and even though she is in now in a wheelchair and suffers from glaucoma, she writes every days, writing her third memoir!
Idaho is called the “Gem State”, because nearly every known type of gemstone has been found in Idaho.
Idaho’s state capital building is the only one in the United States that is heated by geothermal water.
Known for potatoes, Idaho produces one-third of the potatoes grown in the U.S. (it also produces the most lentils).
Hells Canyon, (in the Western portion of the state) is 7,993 feet deep, making it the deepest river gorge in North America (The Grand Canyon is only about 6,000 fee deep).
The state seal of Idaho was designed by Emma Edwards Green, making this the only state seal that was designed by a woman. (The state seal is used in the flag too).
Sacagawea, the Shoshone woman who accompanied the Lewis and Clark expedition as an intrepreter was born here (and so was Sarah Palin, but we’ll forgive that).
The Salmon River is the longest free-flowing river that flows within a single state.
63% of Idaho is public land
The capital city of Boise was named when French-Canadian trappers arrived in the early 1800s and were so relieved to see the forest and river that they exclaimed “Les bois! Les bois!” (“The trees”)
In 2004, the mayor of Wallace, Idaho, a town with a population under 800 people declared the town as the Center Of The Universe, complete with a manhole cover painted to mark the site.
This football field is also immortalized in Matthew (my art isn’t for everyone) Barney’s Cremaster series (and Barney grew up in Idaho too.)
There are more than 3,100 miles of rivers in Idaho, more than anywhere else in the US!
Napoleon Dynamite lived in Preston, Idaho – in fact they whole a Napoleon Dynamite festival every summer.
If you know of other authors that are FROM Idaho, let me know!
Next, I will be traveling (by book of course) to Illinois (Ray Bradbury, Indiana (Kurt Vonnegut) and then Iowa (Bill Bryson)!
I have had a lot going on for the past several months (more about this in another blog), so I haven’t been blogging. I actually wrote this blog the first week of July and never proofed it. I was going to include July here, but I decided to go with the mantra “Progress – NOT PERFECTION” and go ahead an publish this as my 2nd quarter reading.
THE CROWNING GLORY OF CALLA LILLY PONDER by Rebecca Wells – This was a nice beach type read. As with Rebecca Wells’ previous books, there is a profound sense of place, and this time it is on the La Luna river in Louisianna, where life is simple, and there is a colorful cast of locals. However, after some heartbreaks, Calla goes to New Orleans to attend a beauty school with dreams of opening her own salon back in La Luna. Here she makes new friends and eventually moves back to La Luna after more setbacks. The book was enjoyable, but I felt the ending, which seemed to go on and on, was contrived and not as good as the rest of the book.
HELP, THANKS, WOW: THREE ESSENTIAL PRAYERS by Anne Lamott – I heard an interview on NPR with Anne Lamott and she touched on this book. When I received a copy of it, initially I was disappointed in how small it is – it can be read in about an hour. But, it packs a punch. I will keep this book to refer back to!
THE ZOOKEEPER’S WIFE: A WAR STORY by Diane Ackerman – This is a true story set in Warsaw during WWII. Antonina lives with her husband and son in a villa on the zoo grounds – which is well ahead of the times, providing natural habitat for the animals. Then the Nazi’s arrive, along with their total disregard for life. Drunken soldiers shoots animals in their cages for instance. But, the family manages to survive and ends up rescuing Jews and working in the resistance. I would say part of the book is endearing, and other parts horrifying. It is well worth the read (No, I haven’t seen the movie).
HOW TO LIVE A GOOD LIFE: SOULFUL STORIES, SURPRISING SCIENCE AND PRACTICAL WISDOM by Jonathan Fields – This was recommended by a friend, who actually makes an appearance in the book! This is a simple, but profound, instruction manual to reclaim your life in 30 days. He divides the book into three buckets: Vitality, Connection and Contribution. I bought several copies of this book and have given it to women that are going through profound changes.
I REMEMBER NOTHING AND OTHER REFLECTIONS by Nora Ephron – This is a wonderful collection of essays by Ephron – she apparently wrote them while suffering from leukemia, which her closest friends were unaware of. It is kind of like sitting down and having lunch with a good friend! I will read more by her!
MARRYING GEORGE CLOONEY: CONFESSIONS FROM A MIDLIFE CRISIS by Amy Ferris – On a quest to find books where the heroine is an older woman, I stumbled upon this laugh out loud funny book. Amy Ferris began writing down her stories in the middle of the night while going through menopause. Along the way, she googles old boyfriends, imagines her life with George Clooney, researches obscure diseases on the internet. She tries to get care for her mother, with severe dementia and who has a crush on Jesus Christ. This is a book to share with other women!
WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR by Paul Kalanithi – This is not a book to read, put down and forget. This is a story of courage and hope. Dr. Kalanithi wrote this while battling a terminal lung cancer diagnosis. “I began to realize that coming face to face with my own mortality, in a sense, had changed nothing and everything,” he wrote. “Seven words from Samuel Beckett began to repeat in my head: ‘I can’t go on. I’ll go on.’” He goes from a top-rated surgical resident to a patient and a writer. It is a memoir on how to live a well-lived life while facing death.
MINDSET: THE NEW PSYCHOLOGY OF SUCCESS by Carol Dweck – There are basically two types of mindsets – a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. This with a fixed mindset are those who believe that abilities are fixed – and they are less likely to flourish in the world. Those with a growth mindset are those that believe abilities can be developed. It is interesting – and yes – you can change your mindset.
THE BREAKDOWN by B.A. Paris – good psychological suspense story that is a page turner – I couldn’t put it down. I don’t want to give anything away, but be prepared for anything in the book!
NEW PASSAGES – MAPPING YOUR LIFE YOUR LIFE ACROSS TIME – by Gail Sheehy – A sequel to the previous book PASSAGES, this book goes beyond the midlife crisis to the later stages in life. If a woman reaches her 60’s without any major health scares, she will probably reach her 90’s. This book shows there is still a lot of living to do – that you don’t have to buy a rocker and learn to knit. You can live your “Second or Next Adulthood” on your own terms!
BROKEN OPEN: HOW DIFFICULT TIMES CAN HELP US GROW by Elizabeth Lesser – The stories in this book show how people who have experienced illness, divorce, loss of a job, of loss of a love one have risen up and become stronger and wiser than before. She shows us how to learn to break open and blossom into who we were meant to be. I will keep this book and refer back to it.
THE UNDERDOGS- CHILDREN, DOGS, and the POWER OF UNCONDITIONAL LOVE by Melissa Fay Greene – okay – I admit it, I am a dog person – and on top of that, the author is local (from Atlanta). The book is filled with stories of children, that were considered “too disabled” to get a service dog. It is the story of Karen Shirk, who at age 24 was told the same thing. She founded 4 PAWS 4 ABILITY to combat that belief. Over 1000 trained dogs later, the human/dog bond is explored. There is a cast of characters, including felons, scientists, children with disabilities and their parents, and of course the dogs. You will laugh out loud, and you will cry. And you will hug your dog while reading this.
OH MY GOD, WE’RE PARENTING OUR PARENTS: HOW TO TRANSFORM THIS REMARKABLE JOURNEY INTO A JOURNEY OF LOVE by Jane Wolf Waterman – This book if for anyone that is taking care of their elderly parents. It is filled with much needed advice and insights as more and more adult children are taking care of their elderly parents. It is a book to refer back to and share with others going through the journey.
TATTOOS ON THE HEART: THE POWER OF BOUNDLESS COMPASSION by Gregory Boyle – Gregory Boyle started Homeboy Industries, which is a gang-intervention program located in Los Angeles, the gang capital of the world. A book of essays, one is constantly reminded that no life is less valuable than another. You will realize there is power in unconditional love. If Gregory Boyle ever comes to town, I will go hear him speak!
THE YEAR OF YES: HOW TO DANCE IT OUT, STAND IN THE SUN AND BY YOUR OWN PERSON by Shonda Rhimes – Shonda is challenged by her sister over Thanksgiving dinner to start saying yes, so for one year, she decides to say yes to anything that scares her. With three children at home and three hit television shows, it was easy for her to say she was just too busy to do something. During this year, she forces herself to get out of the house and explore her truest self.
ELIGIBLE by Curtis Sittenfeld – This is a modern-day retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. The Bennet’s are facing financial ruin because Mr. Bennet’s has had a heart attack. Liz, a magazine editor in New York, moves home to Cincinnati to help. We meet Chip Bingley, the former star of a Bachelor type show, along with his obnoxious sister Caroline and the seemingly snobby Fitzwilliam Darcy. This was a book club selection and I believe I was one of the few that had read the original Pride and Prejudice, and the members of the book club loved it. It is hilarious and easy to read.
THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING by Joan Didion – When Didion’s husband, the writer John Gregory Dunne, dies suddenly of a heart attack, while their only child, Quintana, as in a coma at the hospital (with pneumonia and septic shock). Didion calls this time as “magical thinking”. There is the pain of loss, you feel the quiet apartment. But you read about her memories of their almost 40 years today. It is a little painful to read, and as part of the human race, we will all go through losses and heartbreak.
SMALL GREAT THINGS by Jodi Picoult – I didn’t realize when I read this that is was based on a true story. In the fictional version, Ruth, an African-American nurse, has been told not to care for a newborn baby because the white supremacist father has requested it. She finds herself in court because of the events that happen. You get the back story of Ruth, Turk – the white supremacist father, and the public defender who takes the case. Some of the book is a little uncomfortable. I felt parts of it were over researched. But, this is a great book for book club to discuss!