Monday, March 11, 2019

Happy 15th Birthday, Blob!


Oh Blob, my sweet bloggy-blog,

 You probably feel as if you aren't getting much love or attention lately. Even though you are an adolescent, I'm sure you still care.  I care as well. We'll get through this. After all, haven't we gotten through going on two decades together?

We've gone through major life events and upheavals. We've gone through a name change or two. (Well, you have.) We've gone through international travel and living abroad. We've gone through Readathons and book clubs and libraries and bookstores and reading in every conceivable location. (That bar was difficult. The shower still eludes me. The year of Zola on the subway makes me smile.)

As for the sheer amount of books themselves in all their guises, how many do you think we've read since March 11, 2004?  You don't know? I do, because I keep track. How does this number grab you?

1,376*

Happy birthday, Blob. I hope we read 1,376 more.  A million more.

Love,
Bybee

*Edited, because I was looking at the wrong year.

Thursday, March 07, 2019

Jan-Mar, 2019: Not Blogging, But Reading

I want to blog. Really, I do, but I'm having the most terrible time with it. Unpacking all the reasons why would look like self-pity and probably tax your patience.

I thought perhaps if I came here and admitted it straight out, my blogging mojo would be returned to me, with or without a stern lecture delivered by a steely-eyed muse. Here's hoping.

I have been reading, though. I promise. So far, for 2019, 11 books are in the books. Good stuff. I hope to catch up here soon. Maybe this fragile, skittery post will break this block.

Here's what's in progress on my bedside table:

1. Rin Tin Tin - Susan Orlean.

2. An American Marriage - Tayari Jones.

3. Middlemarch - George Eliot

and, in the car:

4. Dopesick - Beth Macy

Saturday, January 05, 2019

My 2018 100-Book Resolution: A Critical Look Back

Even on my worst day, with electrodes hanging out, I'm *still* infinitely better-looking than your crazy 2018 Reading Resolution list.


What a freaking mess!

24 out of 100. Yikes.

My rationale for building such a big list seemed sound to my twelve-months-younger self. I'd have room to wander and all types of books to try. I'd read the list and thus cull my shelves.

Almost from the beginning, I knew I was in trouble with this resolution. It was not elegant; it lacked order. It's so weird it almost defies description, but I'll take a run at it: It's like a drunken Frankenstein (the monster, not Victor) wearing snowshoes and boxer shorts tap-danced it out in the middle of the sodden, muddy pasture during a heavy rainstorm.

Each time I returned to the list, I didn't feel like reading. I only felt like cringing.

And speaking of Frankenstein, why didn't I include it on the list?

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Reading Resolution


 For my 2019 bookish resolution, I've decided to have fun and sharpen my focus with Unruly Reader's Book Bingo.
http://unrulyreader.com/book-bingo/book-bingo-2019/

Happy Book Year and see you in the stacks!


Update, Jan. 13:

1. Elevation - Stephen King - LGBTQ

2. Nomadland - Jessica Bruder - Life Hack

3. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine - Gail Honeyman - Gen X Author

Update, Jan. 18:

4. The Nightingale - Kristin Hannah - Heroine

Update, Jan. 21:

5. If Beale Street Could Talk - James Baldwin - Place Name

Monday, December 31, 2018

Readjoice: 2018 Is In The Books


Here are the 77 books I read in 2018.

Not a bad number; I only pledged 57 on Goodreads!

Fiction, nonfiction, picture books, graphic novel, a book of essays, a play, poetry, letters. Lots of audiobooks. A couple of DNFs.

Reading trends: True crime, Sylvia Plath, Ottessa Moshfegh, Movies, Intermittent Fasting, Memoirs, Pulitzer fiction

1. Caroline - Sarah Miller. (novel)

2. Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House - Michael Wolff. (nonfiction)

3. Rotten Ralph - Jack Gantos (picture book)

4. The Great Influenza - John M. Barry (nonfiction)

5. The Cooler King - Patrick Bishop (nonfiction)

6. The Girls in the Picture - Melanie Benjamin (novel)

7. Off the Cliff: How the Making of Thelma & Louise Drove Hollywood to the Edge - Becky Aikman (nonfiction)

DNF
Reckless Daughter - David Yaffe (biography of Joni Mitchell)

8. Our Souls at Night - Kent Haruf (novel)

9. Pachinko - Min Jin Lee (novel)

10. Swearing is Good for You: The Amazing Science of Bad Language - Emma Byrne (nonfiction)

11. Ten Days in a Mad-House - Nellie Bly (nonfiction)

12. Helter Skelter - Vincent Bugliosi (nonfiction)

13. The Six: The Lives of The Mitford Girls - Laura Thompson (nonfiction)

14. The Warmth of Other Suns - Isabel Wilkerson (nonfiction)

15. The Getting of Wisdom - Henry Handel Richardson (novel)

16. The Stranger in the Woods - Michael Finkel (nonfiction)

17. Turtles All the Way Down - John Green (novel)

18. Pippi Longstocking - Astrid Lindgren (novel)

19. World Enough and Time - Robert Penn Warren (novel)

DNF
Traveling Sprinkler - Nicholson Baker (novel) so bad. not writing but typing.

20. In This Our Life - Ellen Glasgow (novel) omg, hated. this. book.

21. Not My Father's Son - Alan Cumming (memoir)

DNF
Vein of Iron - Ellen Glasgow (novel) Totally breaking up with Glasgow.

22. October, 1964 - David Halberstam (nonfiction)

23. Life Plus 99 Years - Nathan F. Leopold (memoir) what a self-serving piece of crap.

24. Compulsion - Meyer Levin (novel)

25. The Crime of the Century: The Leopold & Loeb Case - Hal Higdon (nonfiction)

26. The Teammates - David Halberstam (nonfiction)

27. Less - Andrew Sean Greer (novel)

28. Wishful Drinking - Carrie Fisher (memoir)

29. Bust Hell Wide Open: The Life of Nathan Bedford Forrest - Samuel W. Mitcham, Jr. (nonfiction)

30. Woe To Live On - Daniel Woodrell (novel)

31. Destiny of the Republic -Candice Millard (nonfiction)

32. The Optimist's Daughter - Eudora Welty (novel)

33. Pain, Parties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer, 1953 - Elizabeth Winder (nonfiction)

34. Calypso - David Sedaris (essays)

35. Birthday Letters - Ted Hughes (poetry)

36. In Cold Blood - Truman Capote (novel)

37. No Ordinary Time - Doris Kearns Goodwin (nonfiction)

38. The Good Daughter - Karin Slaughter (fiction) so disliked this book. I want my time back!

39. A Raisin in the Sun - Lorraine Hansberry (play)

40. Kitchens of the Great Midwest - J. Ryan Stradal (novel)

41. Letters of Sylvia Plath, Vol I 1940-1956 - Peter K. Steinberg and Karen V. Kukil, eds. (nonfiction)

42. Killing and Dying - Adrian Tomine (graphic novel)

43. Lover of Unreason - Yehuda Koren, Eilat Negev (nonfiction)

44. Born a Crime - Trevor Noah (memoir)

45. The Bell Jar: A Novel of the Fifties - Linda Wagner-Martin (literary criticism)

46. Dad is Fat - Jim Gaffigan (memoir)

47. Priestdaddy - Patricia Lockwood (memoir)

48. Heartbreak Hotel - Anne Rivers Siddons (novel)

49. My Year of Rest and Relaxation - Ottessa Moshfegh (novel)

50. Conviction - Juan Martinez (nonfiction)

51. 90s Bitch - Allison Yarrow (nonfiction)

52. The Road to Little Dribbling - Bill Bryson (nonfiction)

53. Fast Diets for Dummies - Kellyann Petrucci, Patrick Flynn (nonfiction)

54. Amy Falls Down - Jincy Willett (novel)

55. Homesick for Another World - Ottessa Moshfegh (short stories)

56. Girl [Maladjusted] - Molly Jong-Fast (memoir)

57. Eat Stop Eat - Brad Pilon (nonfiction)

58. Educated - Tara Westover (memoir)

59. Giant: Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, James Dean, Edna Ferber and the Making of a Legendary American Film -Don Graham (nonfiction)

60. Humans of New York - Brandon Stanton (nonfiction)

61. Unbecoming - Rebecca Scherm (novel)

62. Heroes of the Frontier - Dave Eggers (novel)

63. Can You Ever Forgive Me? - Lee Israel (memoir)

64. The Obesity Code - Jason Fung, M.D. (nonfiction)

65. Dead Wake - Erik Larson (nonfiction)

66. The Laid Back Guide to Intermittent Fasting - Kayla Cox (nonfiction)

67. The Camerons - Robert Crichton (novel)

68. The Nix - Nathan Hill (novel)

69-77 are December's reads. Except for one, I haven't posted about these yet:

69. You Can Sleep in Your Car, But You Can't Drive Your House to Work - Sutton Parks (memoir) Sutton loses everything because of drinking and immature behavior. He joins AA and moves into his car and attempts to get perspective. An interesting account, but it could have used one last stern rewrite. I looked for Parks on social media and he hasn't updated in a year. I hope he's OK.

70. The Wonky Donkey - Craig Smith, Katz Cowley (picture book) Thank you, Scottish Granny for introducing me to the Wonky Donkey. I hope with all the hits your video got that you were able to bring out an extra figgy pudding at the holidays.

71. In Such Good Company - Carol Burnett (memoir) Audiobook, read by the author. So much fun to listen to Burnett reminisce about her show. I felt as if I were sitting at her feet, basking in the warmth of her voice.

72. Montana, 1948 - Larry Watson (novel) A stripped-down but brilliant novel that reminded me of Richard Ford's work.

73. Letters of Sylvia Plath, Vol 2, 1956-1963 - Peter K. Steinberg and Karen V. Kukil, eds. (nonfiction) The last six months of letters will rip your heart right out of your chest. I never wanted a time machine so badly.

74. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath (novel) I've read this before, but this time I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Maggie Gyllenhaal. There were lines I was so familiar with, but never realized the humor until I heard them read aloud. Great performance by Maggie G.

75. Year of No Clutter - Eve O. Schaub (memoir) I like books about clearing out clutter and I love memoirs, but this was a hard go. It felt as difficult as Schaub's dogged efforts to tame her "Hell Room". There is a video on YouTube of her process.

76. The Great Alone - Kristin Hannah (novel) I was so looking forward to reading this book all year and I was not disappointed. On the contrary, I was swept up in the story of a family attempting to homestead in Alaska during the 1970s. Kristin Hannah paints a picture of an Alaska that is both terrible and beautiful. The women were magnificent in the novel. I can't say too much; I'm still processing it and I don't want to blurt out any spoilers! One more thing: I was strongly reminded of Educated, the memoir by Tara Westover. I'm sure I'm not the only one who has made this observation.

77. Coming to My Senses: The Making of a Counterculture Cook - Alice Waters (memoir) A difficult read. Alice Waters is a sensory person. She seems to have 'talked' this book, but words aren't her strong suit.  She is charming but flitting and fleeting and maddeningly vague at times. I really felt her ghostwriters' struggle to get the essence of Alice down on the page; I bet it was like herding cats.


Tuesday, December 11, 2018

The Wonky Donkey



What can you say about such a beguiling and complex hero? 


He's a donkey of few words (Hee Haw) but he manages to convey so much meaning. 

He's lanky and good-looking, but secure enough in himself to appear to others as a bit stinky-dinky. 

He's also in touch with his emotions: when he hasn't had his morning coffee he's cranky and if he feels like getting up to mischief by eating someone's tantalizing patched undershorts, well, he's only equine, right? Just sync up some country music for him (I'd like to think traditional country rather than modern, but that's just me) and he'll be as fine as a honky-tonk on a Saturday night.  

The injuries to his leg and eye (which are never fully explained, adding to his mystique) add rather than detract from his appeal. Furthermore, his grit in continuing down that road each day give him the rough-hewn and larger-than-life stature of a John Wayne or a Clint Eastwood. 

Once encountered on the page, Donkey is unforgettable and belongs in the literary pantheon alongside Mr. Darcy and Heathcliff.

Sunday, December 09, 2018

November, Two

I finished only two books in November, but I swear that I was reading my eyeballs out. Early that month, I finally received my copy of Letters of Sylvia Plath Vol. 2. Like Vol 1, it's gargantuan, although a slightly slimmer version (1000-ish) of the hefty (1400+) predecessor. Also, it's not the sort of book you can just whip through. At least, I can't. After so many years of reading her words heavily edited by others, I finally get to see what Plath says, unedited. Even if she's going on about rugs and such, I will read it because it's her own damn voice at last.



Here are the two books I did manage to finish in November:

1. The Camerons - Robert Crichton. 1972 novel about turn-of-the-20th-century Scottish coal miners. Like family sagas? Fish-out-of-water stories? Social justice? Strong women characters? Men in kilts? This one's for you. Very well researched and crafted and robustly told story.

2. The Nix - Nathan Hill. This sprawling masterpiece from 2016 has everything. I'm surprised that it didn't get a nod for the Pulitzer. There's a dizzying array of topics: ghosts, video games, 1968 Chicago riots -- among other things -- that the novel could conceivably sink under its own weight. But it doesn't! Everything is gorgeously woven together. I listened to the audiobook and the narrator, Ari Fliakos, is more than equal to the challenge and the madness of all these characters and their obsessions. He was a brilliant, inspired choice to perform Nathan Hill's prose.