I really love a good book. And even though the last time I reviewed my reading materials on here it was in this post, (which might not have not represented my actual tastes, but more my available time-frame to read), I do like an engaging read; one that that will sweep me up in it’s narrative and stay on my mind long after I’m done with it. Being a mother of 3 boys however, I am at best an opportunistic reader. That means I read whenever I have the opportunity to and whatever I have the opportunity to.
I’m not discriminating about genre or style, I read whatever looks good. I go for a good title or sometimes (like wine) just because of groovy cover-art. I listen to the recommendations of the women with whom I meet monthly (cough, cough, wink) for book group. I listen to the reviews and interviews on NPR for what to read (guess that means I really am almost 40) and I grab whatever I can stumble across at my local library.
Just a brief aside to say, that although this may be breaking some serious cultural taboo to admit, I hate going to the library with my kids. I know I am fostering their literacy and curiosity and supporting a precious cultural institution and all that…blah, blah, blah.. But man, these kids really cramp my library style. Gone are the satisfactory days of endless browsing for a good book. Or of actually getting to use the catalog to look up that one title that I’m always meaning to find. Nope. Now it’s just grab ‘n’ go. I try to corral my little boys to browse in the storybook section, while my pre-teen does a kamakaze run for his favorite authors. “Library voices” are not the strong point of my 4 and 6 year old and I’m usually happy to make the trip as short as possible. This is where Lucky Day comes in.
My library branch, Belle Cooledge, has a shelving area right smack dab in the front as you walk though the doors and it’s called “Lucky Day”. There they stock an ever-revolving cycle of current titles right off the presses, hot and in demand. And if you happen to grab a great book or dvd because you were there at the right moment then, it’s your lucky day. My new library technique is to make a bee-line for this area and grab one or two books, whatever catches my eye and then hit the backside of the shelf where the non-fiction new releases live ( as you’ll see I have a thing for memoirs), grab one or two more and that’s it. Blammo, got my reading material for the next three weeks picked out in under two minutes.
Through this trial and error approach to reading I admit that sometimes my picks are duds that go only partially read, but there are other times I realize I’ve stumble across an unexpected gem of a book and I want to spread the good news.
So the following is my list of good books that I’ve read recently (and by recently I mean within the last 12 months. What can I say, I don’t get to read very often and I’ve been keeping this list for a while). In truth it is an edited list of books. After writing about all the titles on my list I saw that this blog entry was getting too long (snooze) so let’s just call this a “Part One” and if y’all like it I’ll put up Part Two later.
Although in no particular order or ranking, all of these titles are worth checking out whether through your kindle or your library or your local (do those exist anymore?) bookstore. Perhaps you’ll find something to add to your own personal book list. And if you have any recommendations for good reads, please leave them here.
I’m always ready to follow the whiff of the next great escape…
If You Ask Me (And Of Course You Won’t) by Betty White
An upbeat and very readable memoir (like, I finished it in a day and a quarter). Although Betty is known for her racy octogenarian humor, this book is not like that at all. It’s like talking to a favorite Grandmother about the good old days..if the good old days involved coming up in the golden age of television. Not a gossipy word, just sweet recollections. My favorite part in the whole book was when Betty meets Koko the gorilla and they learn to ‘talk’ to each other. Koko signs the name for her new friend as “Lipstick”. Now that’s classy
Lies Chelsea Handler Told Me by Chelsea’s Friends and Family
I was drawn to this book because I’ve liked the little bit that I’ve seen of Chelsea’s obnoxious t.v persona , and because a friend of a friend recently appeared on the Chelsea Lately show to promote her book, whereupon Miss Handler did not pass up the chance to publicly tease her. So I picked it up curious to know more. Funny, but not laugh-out-loud funny, the thing that impressed me the most about this book was the extent to which Chelsea goes to humiliate and ridicule the people closest too her. Recounting elaborate practical jokes that they have each been the butt of, her people seem to all make the same point; she’ll get you – no matter what.
One women’s exploration of her Little House on the Prairie obsession. I really loved Wendy McClure’s writing style. Her voice was consistent, funny and smart. And because I myself have always wanted to take my family on an Laura Wilder road trip, I was fascinated as she followed the routes and settlements of the Wilder family, all the while unraveling the myths of these American pioneers. Her book is LHP nerd porn for bonnet-heads like me.
I liked reading Wendy McClure so much that I looked up her other books and found my way to her candyboots blog where she writes about a set of 1970s Weight Watchers recipe cards. Funniest thing ever. Trust me on this, it’s hilarious, you HAVE to check it out.
What It Is by Lynda Barry
I had to include this book because it was my immediate first choice when my husband asked me which book I would want if stranded on a desert island.
I bought this book for him a few years ago and quickly adopted it as my own go-to nightstand reading material. Part workbook on how to get creativity flowing, part autobiographical comic-book style story of Lynda Barry’s artistic life as a child, this book is a work of art to look at and inspiring to read. This is an example of a book I sought out after hearing this NPR interview with the writer/comic artist herself. It’s worth a listen if you have time. Since it’s really more of a visual book I found some images to give you just a taste of the deliciousness:
Boy by Roald Dahl
This one desrves honorable mention since I mistakenly grabbed it at the library thinking it would be another one of Dahl’s twisted and strange adventure story for children. Instead it was the twisted and true-to -life stories of Roald Dahl’s own childhood and adolescence growing up at English boarding schools. Full of family tragedies and cruel adults it’s easy to see where Dahl got his dark perspective on the nature of childhood. Fascinating. Oh and if I had to recommend just one of Roald Dahl’s children’s books let me say for the record it would be the BFG. It wins the award for the most playful use of the English language in it’s wonderfully imaginative dialouge (which just for fun you can read some of here)
Yes yes, I am getting to end of my list. But because there is always a stack of books to be read, here are just a couple more titles from our most recent library run (run, get it? haha ) the other day. I am sort of reading these con-currently so I can’t confidently summarize them yet but each looked appealing enough to bring home and like a cheap date, so far they seem interesting enough to keep around for entertainment:
Bird Cloud by Annie Proulx:
Another memior, this time by fiction writer Annie Proloux who brought us The Shipping News and Brokeback Mountain. This book is the story of the construction of her own dream house on 640 acres of land in Wyoming. I think I brought it home with me because of the breathless desciption on the inside cover of “solar panels” and “the Japanese soak tub”. It speaks to te geek in me I guess. Just flipping though it I enjoy her eye for desciptive detail but I probably shouldn’t have read the above review first because I can understand how Bird Cloud might be like the ultimate testament to WPP (“white people problems”). We’ll see…
Turn Here Sweet Corn by Atina Diffley:
So far I am enjoying this book immensely. I just picked it off the shelf because of my interest in organic farmers but Atina Diffley’s writing style is so wonderful (I’m jealous: a woman of the land and a natural born writer?!) that I am compelled to pick it up whenever I get have a moment. I fact, I want to get done with this blog so I can read more!
Here’s a book on a topic that I really want to understand more about and that I feel has real implications for our family life. In fact my husband rolled his eyes when he saw it, knowing all too well that once I read about how much screen-time and technology use is undermining modern family life, I am sure to go all crazy and impose a strict “Media Diet” upon us. And I probably will, once I’ve finished the book….which I will do. Just let me just check my email and facebook and finish watching this marathon of Jersey Shore first….