Friday Faves: What I’ve Read So Far in 2019

Can I read 30 books this year?

One of my goals for this quickly passing new year is to read (or listen to) 30 books. Ambitious? Perhaps. But if you saw the stacks of books filling the nightstand next to my bed, you might be inclined to agree that I need to pick up my reading pace if I am ever going to make a dent in the piles (which just continue to grow because I have a book-buying problem).

One of my tactics is to set aside one hour to read each night before I go to sleep, which is generally scheduled from 9-10 every night. Ideally, I close the book at 10, turn on my sound machine, and go to sleep. In reality, there’s far more time wasting — last minute slides down internet rabbit holes, perhaps I sit down before my intense magnifying mirror and start shaving my face* — before my light actually goes off. But I’ve been pretty good about the reading part and have found it much more relaxing falling asleep with a head full of whatever I’d just been reading vs. the local Fox 5 10:00 news, which had been my falling asleep routine for years (I’d set my TV timer to go off at 11).

Besides being a little more calming than news of rape, murder and whatever Donald Trump’s been up to, reading an hour a night has really helped me stay on task and get through the books on my nightstand.

Another strategy has been joining book clubs. So far, I’m up to three: the big, unruly one I’ve been a part of for years where there’s wine and side conversations about kids and menopause inevitably crop up; a smaller group of women who meet to discuss usually more challenging fare over lunch or dinner; and a no-strings-attached book club at my local independent bookstore where a group of strangers gather and have excellent conversation focused on a book for an hour. I’m what Gretchen Rubin refers to as an Obliger, so I know I need accountability if I’m going to get things done and committing to a book club (or three) seems to be working for me this year. I’ve also been selfishly pushing fellow book clubbers to read stuff I already own (shhhh).

Here’s what I’ve read so far this year:

Circe (Madeline Miller) : Here’s one I read that had nothing to do with book clubs and was all about my love of Greek mythology and the notion of a witch living on an island. This is a lifestyle I could get behind. It’s a reimagining of the story of Circe, daughter of Helios the Sun God, and features cameos from all your favorite mythological characters: Hermes, Dedalus, the Minotaur and the wandering Odysseus. Plus, she transforms rapey dudes into squealing pigs which, in this #MeToo era, is an interesting idea. I immediately bought the author’s earlier book, The Song of Achilles, which is now living on the pile but I can’t wait to dig into Helen of Troy, Trojan Horses and all that good stuff.

Educated (Tara Westover): I know. Everyone’s already read this one. My big book club read it for January and it prompted wonderful discussions and kept the dozen or so of us on topic for most of the night. I was reluctant to read at first, because the story sounded so much like that of The Glass Castle, which we all read 100 years ago. But I liked getting a peek into what life was like living off the grid on a mountain in Idaho with a crazy dad, brother and enabling mother (spoiler alert: not amazing). It made my large, dysfunctional family seem like The Waltons in comparison. I’d also listened to a bunch of the book via Audible, and loved the narrator. In fact, I couldn’t shake the feeling like I’d heard her voice before and then about half way through, realized it was the same woman who narrated the unsettling My Year of Rest and Relaxation and kept waiting for her to say something really snarky. But there’s no snark in Educated. Just a compelling reminder of what we are all capable of achieving and how complicated families can be.

Warlight (Michael Ondaatje): From the author of The English Patient, here’s the first line of this novel, set in post WWII England: In 1945 our parents went away and left us in the care of two men who may have been criminals. Atmospheric. Memorable characters. More contemplations on family and finding solace sometimes in those to whom you are not related. Maybe even forgiveness. I also listened to about half the book during a long drive, which challenged my ADD given its lack of real action. Read for my small book club and chosen by my friend who is an admitted Anglophobe who gobbles up any book taking place in or around the Great War. We also liked that it was on Obama’s list of favorite books in 2018.

Asymmetry (Lisa Halliday): Everybody is talking about this book, so when my local bookstore advertised it as their first ever book club pick, I had to sign up to read, but then walked into the meeting last week and said, “Somebody, please tell me what this was about.” One hour later, all the pieces had fallen into place and made me want to go back and reread (which a few of the women there had actually done). The internet, and an interview with the author, helps.

Scoop (Evelyn Waugh): I think I started this at the end of last year, but read the bulk in 2019, like, a day before my small group met to discuss in January. The send up of early 20th century Fleet Street journalism had been on my list for a while, and I’m glad to have read it but it probably won’t make my list of favorites at year end. A few interesting things: it’s where Tina Brown plucked the name “Daily Beast;” in some ways, (some) journalism seems to have swung back in that direction — where journalists less cover the news than create the news; and very interesting lesson in reading something under the lens in which the era it was written. Waugh is incredibly racist and uses some incredibly offensive language describing people of color and Jews. But then my fellow reader stumbled across this article, which helped us keep the book in perspective.

Next in my 2019 lineup:

The Female Persuasion

American Marriage

The Book of Help

The Library Book

Just Kids

My Sister, the Serial Killer

Follow me on Goodreads, which I’ve begun to dabble in recently. We can compare notes. As always, I want to know what YOU are reading, so please share. Also, if you want to borrow anything I’ve written about (or would like to peruse my sagging shelves), please come take your pick!!

Happy reading!

*WARNING: tread lightly with that micro trimmer! I went in to remove some hair right inside my nostrils and before I knew it, there was nothing left. For, like, a week I could see straight up to my brain. Lesson. Learned.

Friday Faves: What I Read This Summer

When my kids were young enough to come to the beach with me every day, but old enough to get themselves to the pool or spend the day trying to sell friendship bracelets up by the cabanas at our club, I’d squeeze in a lot of reading. I’d sit in a circle on the beach with my mother-in-law and sisters-in-law, and after we’d finish talking about funny things the kids did or our latest concerns about what the kids were watching or eating (we were young mothers, of course), we’d pull our books or newspapers out of our beach bags and quietly read alongside each other in the sand.

A few times, we all headed to the family cabin in the Poconos, and I am being very generous with the term “cabin.” It was pretty rustic — think outhouse and no running water — and had been furnished with the hand-me-downs of extremely frugal people. The kitchenware was mismatched and the stacks of bedding kept in a trunk in the living room had been worn thin with use. But despite its lack of creature comforts, the cabin sat a short distance from a lake that we’d ride our bikes around at dusk in search of beavers building dams and once, a mama bear and her cubs crossed the road right in front of the cluster of cousins that had zoomed ahead of the grownups. We’d drive over to the falls and slide down the rushing water into the cold dark pool below and eat a picnic of sandwiches and chips perched on the flat rocks overlooking the water flowing downstream. But in between adventures, we’d make our way out to the porch looking out over fields of foxgloves and teepees the kids had fashioned out of long tree branches, and settle in to read. With no TV to watch and still in that blissful era before iPhones and Instagram, the kids would pull out the latest Harry Potter of Captain Underpants and join us in the shade. 

Nowadays when I go to the beach, there’s a lot more talking than reading and I’m as guilty as the next guy of looking at my phone and falling down long and twisty Internet holes. So, it was nice this Labor Day to sit quietly with my older two kids (so far, the biggest of my readers) under the beach umbrella and read for most of the afternoon. It helped that both my daughter and I were finishing books that we were loving and couldn’t put down. That’s how I felt about (almost) all of the books I read this summer: they kept me coming back and I was sorry for (most) of them to end. Which, to me, is all you can ask for of a book.

Less (Andrew Sean Greer): It won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction this year and was what I had been (reluctantly) finishing up on the beach on Labor Day and I cannot recommend it enough, especially if you are turning 50. I think Arthur Less’s story will resonate with anyone of us who has lived a life. Less is a struggling novelist who decides to avoid his former lover’s pending nuptials by accepting a series of invitations (teach a course, be up for an award, celebrate somebody else’s 50th) that set him traveling across the globe. Here’s my favorite exchange.

Less smiles. “My birthday is in one week.”

“Strange to be almost fifty, no? I feel like I just understood how to be young.”

“Yes! It’s like the last day in a foreign country. You finally figure out where to get coffee, and drinks, and a good steak. And then you have to leave. And you won’t ever be back.”

AUDIO: My Year of Rest and Relaxation (Ottessa Moshfegh): A lot of times I will listen to the audio version of a book and become convinced that simply reading it would never have been as good (that was my experience with Lincoln in the Bardo, for sure). Such is the case with this story of a 20-something woman living in Manhattan during the summer of 2000 who decides to escape the sorrow in her life by spending a year asleep. Enter the wackiest, prescription writing NYC shrink and whiny best friend, and the narrator does a terrific job giving each character a distinct voice and personality. The final line of the book is everything. Haunted me for weeks.

Pachinko (Min Jin Lee): It took me until about two-thirds of the way through this generational saga set in Japan, which focuses on its Korean refugees beginning in the 1930s, that Pachinko wasn’t the name of a major character in the book. “When are we going to meet her?” I kept wondering as I looked at the illustration of the woman on the paperback’s front cover (it is not a spoiler to tell you that pachinko is a Japanese pinball game). Loved learning about the splitting of Korea and how kind of horrible the Japanese were to them when they fled their country and how displaced the Koreans were in their new home. Good insight into what it must feel like for all those refugees wandering around the globe, forced from their homes and unwanted in other countries. Hard to imagine.

The Woman in the Window (A.J. Finn): Fast. Fun. In the “Gone Girl” vein of unreliable narrators. Made me glad that for all the red wine I drink, I steer clear of prescription meds. It makes you see things. Maybe.

Calypso (David Sedaris): What can I say? I’ve loved Sedaris since I heard him on NPR reading his “Santaland Diaries,” when I pulled into my driveway and then sat, laughing as he threatened to have some mouthy kid — waiting on-line to see Santa — killed, until the end. This new collection of essays seems to have more of a thread running through the pieces than his other books, which I really liked. It kept a lot of the stories in context. One of the most alarming is the tale of a lipoma he had removed from his back and what he did with it. Strange and hilarious. The piece about his sister, Tiffany’s, suicide remains heartbreaking, no matter how many times I read it.

Look Alive Out There (Sloane Crosley): More collections of essays and maybe funnier than Sedaris, I am completely obsessed with Crosley and have wasted way too many hours stalking her online and reading everything she’s written. To wit: “Around this time, I began dating a younger and emotionally unavailable man who was completely wrong for me in every way but anatomically. So I fell for him.”

Gilead (Marilynne Robinson): The exact opposite of every book listed above, this slow contemplation of life and religion — written as a letter by a man at the end of his to his son — is no page turner. But it’s a beautifully written exploration of the relationship between fathers and sons and the inner workings of an Iowa preacher nearing death. Heavy.

Americanah (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie): Don’t be imposed by its size, this is a compelling, but dense, story of a Nigerian woman’s experience moving to the United States and a lot of comparisons between Black Americans and Black Non Americans (her labels). There’s also love and tons of humor. Plenty of the book is also set in Nigeria, which I loved getting a glimpse into and am fascinated by black hair politics and how long it takes to create those elaborate braids you see some black women wearing. I fell down such a deep Internet hole investigating the author and have watched both her Ted Talks (“We Should All Be Feminists” and “The Danger of the Single Story”) multiple times and find her utterly charming and sassy. I was so obsessed with her, I even Googled how to pronounce her name.

Would love to know what YOU read this summer and what you’re planning to read this fall! If you are like me and have a book-buying problem ( I have SO many piled up next to my bed rn), I highly suggest (if you are local) that you use River Road Books as your official pusher to get your next reading fix (the only compensation I receive from them for that plug is great conversation when I go in to browse). 

Also, if you are tired of having to come find me, may I also suggest you sign up to have me come to you? Subscribe in the box below and my latest posts will appear magically in your inbox. Voila!!


Join Me for Wine, Laughs & Leggings at Athleta, Shrewsbury

You guys, let’s hang out!

My lovely, and patient, friends at Athleta, Shrewsbury are putting together a little shindig for us next week to do just that! We can grab a glass of wine, I’ll tell some stories and we can get distracted by Athleta’s new Spring line (SPOILER ALERT: everything is adorable).

Grab your best pal and head to the Shrewsbury, NJ store in The Grove on Thursday, April 20 and we’ll have some fun from 7-9 p.m. You can RSVP here.

Can’t wait.

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Friday Faves: Book Addict

This is so not funny.

This is so not funny.

Hello, my name is Amy and I am a book-aholic.

You guys, I have a problem. Some people gamble. Some can’t stop buying shoes.

I am addicted to books. I love to buy them. I don’t necessary always read them. Or at least finish them. But I have a lot of them.

They sit in piles on my desk and my nightstand. They are stacked in my den and there’s even a few shelves of them sitting in my garage.

And I don’t just buy them for myself. I tend to buy tons of them for my kids, too. And when I was married, I’d often buy them for my then-husband in hopes he might open one up and read alongside me. When he had knee surgery I figured he’d have so much time on his hands lying around he’d definitely pick up “The Spy Who Came in From the Cold” or one of the other five books I had gone out and bought for the occasion. Instead he sat on the couch for about 45 minutes after returning from surgery until he got antsy and went out to clean dog poop up in the yard.

There was a reason why his knees were shot. He was not one to sit around.

Over the last few months I’ve purchased a bunch of books either for my Kindle or an easy one-click order on Amazon Prime or at the nearby Barnes & Noble and recently from my favorite book shop around the corner. And while I wish I gave all my business to the local bookstore, it’s like I’m a junkie and just need a quick-fix when it comes to my book habit. I need to score them as quickly as possible once the urge comes in.

Really, if I just concentrated on reading the many unread books I already own, I would probably save half my annual income. Well, that might be an exaggeration. That would only happen if I stopped buying wine, too.

Here’s what I’ve bought either for myself or one of my sons since about May:

  • The Grapes of Wrath: I bought TWO copies of this. One for my Kindle, which I’m about six percent through, and a paper version for my oldest child after he finished East of Eden and was looking for something to read next.
  • A Prayer for Owen Meany: So of course, while I was at B&N buying Steinbeck’s classic, I also picked up a few others I thought my son might like, including this one — one of my all-time favorites — which I believe I read when I was also just home after graduating from college. It makes me want to go back and read all those John Irving books I loved.
  • Master and Commander: Another one for oldest guy. I remember how much my dad loved this Patrick O’Brien historical series about the British Navy and thought my son might, too.
  • A Window Opens: The author, Elizabeth Egan, is coming to our local bookstore next month so I stopped in the other day and picked up a copy to read in advance. LOVED. She’s the former book editor at Self who left to work for Amazon and the novel seems a thinly-veiled account of her experience trying to balance being the mom/wife/daughter/friend she wants to be with a ferocious corporate culture. Smart. Well-written. Funny. Love her and can’t wait to read whatever she writes next.
  • Good Mourning: Whilst at the local bookstore, I also picked this up after a rave review from one of the owners with whom I chatted while she rang me up. This is a memoir of a woman who was the event planner at THE funeral home in Manhattan. The place where anyone who’s anyone is laid to rest including Joan Rivers and Heath Ledger. I’ve read a few pages and it’s funny and engaging and who doesn’t want to know some of those secrets?
  • Getting to 30: A Paren’t Guide to the 20-Something Years: I bought What to Expect When You’re Expecting the second I discovered (perfect word) I was pregnant with my first child and it became my handbook during that and the subsequent two pregnancies (by my last they had invented this thing called the Internet so I didn’t need What to Expect to self-diagnose placenta previa or kidney failure any more). Over the years I turned to Dr. Spock, How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk, Between Parent & Teenager, Odd Girl Out, Queen Bees & Wannabes and many, many more tomes for advice on how to raise my children. So why should this new stages we’ve entered — the post college period — go without a book as well? Good overview of the “emerging adult” and reminder of what a difficult time it is.
  • I Am a SEAL Team-Six Warrior: Memoirs of an American Soldier: It is my intention to get my little guy to read more this school year. Like, more than what his friends post on Instagram. That kind of more. So I’ve been looking for something he is REALLY interested in. And I found it in this. The subject matter totally suits his “God bless America/Young Republican” personality and he even read it while we sat waiting forever in the doctor’s office last night, so that is a great sign. I only hope he’s half the reader his brother (and older sister, I might add) are.
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: What? We never owned this one? Of course we do. The older kids read it and I even read it aloud not once but TWICE to various sets of children. But somehow, it the great house decluttering of ’15, it got swept into a donate pile and given away. I know. It makes me a little queasy, too. But my little guy and I decided we were going to read this one together, not out loud but more like a book club and then hopefully we’ll go through the rest of the series in much the same way. I know. Rainbows and unicorns. I’ll keep you posted on how this fantasy plays out.

On a completely different note, I cannot let the import of this date go unnoticed and want to send my love to everyone today. Not just the many people directly affected by the terrible events of 14 years ago who lost so, so much on that day. My heart breaks every time I think about all the men and women who are no longer with us. That level of loss is unimaginable and I don’t pretend to know how it feels.

So today is a day of rememberance, and I want to remember not just all the lives that were lost. I also want to remember how the tragedy brought us all together as a country and reminded us how much we loved living here and our fellow Americans. Despite all of our many, many differences, I want to remember that underneath it all, our hearts all look the same. We’re all struggling. We’re all doing the best we can. Let’s try to remember that today.


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10 Books That Shaped Me

I generally try to avoid all of those email and Facebook chain letters. I’m always flattered when someone includes me in a group of friends whom she thinks would be inspired or uplifted by the message  but try to dodge them all the same. I feel bad, but what can I do?

But now I’ve been asked by two girlfriends the Top 10 books that have inspired me over the many years I’ve roamed this planet — like the dinosaur that I am — and I am having a hard time resisting the urge to share. I mean, what narcissist who reads a lot wouldn’t want to bore you with the books that have made her tick?

So, Denise Swanzey and Staci Seltzer, thanks for letting me remember the books that have helped shape the weird person, weirder mom and navel-gazing writer that I’ve become.



1. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.: Judy Blume

Boobs, periods, boys: They were mysteries back when I first read the book in fifth grade and they continue to stump me almost 40 years later. Perhaps it’s time for a re-reading.







2. To Kill a Mockingbird: Harper Lee

The only good thing that came from leaving my tiny Catholic grammar school after my parents’ divorce and moving an hour south was getting to read this book in the public school I attended in 8th grade. Up to that point, the only stuff I’d read for school came out of a box on a giant glossy card (ugh that discouraging SRA Reading Program). I couldn’t believe my good fortune that I got to read an actual novel for English class (because it was English and not Language Arts back then).





3. Childhood is Hell: Matt Groening

Long before The Simpsons debuted on The Tracey Ullman Show, I adored Groening’s subversive “Life is Hell” cartoons in The Village Voice and stumbled across this collection while browsing a midtown Manhattan bookstore during my lunch hour from my low-level job as a glorified secretary at a women’s magazine. I spent the afternoon doubled over in my cubicle covertly reading about the “16 Types of Dads” (Fun Dad, Fear Dad, Lord Dad) and “Your Pal the TV Set” (“Is TV the coolest invention ever? Well, DUH.”). It’s now become one of my 11-year-old’s faves and that makes me feel like I’ve succeeded as a parent.




4. Bossypants: Tina Fey

I’ve read it twice and listened to it countless times during car trips up and down the Eastern Seaboard. My teenaged daughters adore it and I even let my little guy listen to it and am convinced the strong feminist ideas mixed with Fey’s deadpan humor totally override her liberal use of the “f” word. I think he’ll be a better man for it and will know how to use the term “motherfucker” in the right context. Score.





5. The Middle Place: Kelly Corrigan

My college girlfriend Honeypot — aka The Senator — sent me a copy of Corrigan’s first book long before I knew I wanted to be Corrigan. Her memoir about the place we find ourselves in mid-life between our parents and our children, with a little cancer thrown in, showed me that there was a place for people who wrote like I did.







6. The Twilight Series:

I gobbled up the first three books in about a week and mostly during a trip I took out west with my three sisters. I even had to stop at a bookstore near my sister’s home in Marin County to pick up book #2 and found myself often referencing vampires and their proclivities throughout the trip. And somehow, the series in a weird way made me want to end my marriage and find a dude that would take care of me like Edward. I am still accepting applications for that position.




7. The Honeymoon’s Over: True Stories of Love, Marriage and Divorce: Original essays by 21 writers

I read and re-read this collection of essays during the turbulent final years of my marriage and they helped me feel a little less alone. The writers showed me that there could be life on the other side, and you could even write about it.







8. I Feel Bad About My Neck: Nora Ephron

Funny. Self-deprecating. Shrewd.

Shards of brilliance: “Never marry a man you wouldn’t want to be divorced from.” 

And: When your children are teenagers, it’s important to have a dog so that someone in the house is happy to see you.”

I mean, what’s not to love?






9. Wild: Cheryl Strayed

I read Strayed’s memoir about going off and finding herself while I was sailing around the Greek islands and, well, finding myself. Enough said.








10. Eat, Pray, Love: Elizabeth Gilbert

Okay, obviously I’ve got a thing for chicks going off and finding themselves. But, as chronicled in detail here, listening to Gilbert read her memoir for a few weeks this spring really helped set the stage for a lot that happened in the heart department this summer. I highly recommend it.

VIDEO: That Time I Pretended I Was a Successful Writer

Bummed you missed last week’s hot ticket?

I know, I wish I went to see Beyonce at MetLife Stadium, too. And after you finish Googling videos  of her performing “Single Ladies” and “Crazy in Love” in NJ last week, check out the show I put on in a slightly smaller Garden State venue.

Here’s my ode to being a Jersey Girl and the merits of getting a spray tan:

And here’s something a little heavier, reflecting on the stages of divorce:







5 Things I Learned From My First Reading

IMG_2002For the three of you left who haven’t heard the news, last week I got to pretend for one night that I was a successful writer.

And it was great.

Some friends had thought it would be fun to invite a bunch of people to come hear me read some of my work in hopes of maybe introducing some new readers to my blog. And plus, it was an excuse to get a bunch of women together to drink wine. Who’s not up for that?

So, they invited a bunch of their friends and about 50 women showed up at a local cheese shop for an event that was billed as “Wine & Words With Amy;” two of my favorite things, all in one room. We stood around and drank some wine and noshed on snacks and then I got up and spoke a little and read a few selections from my blog and then we drank a little bit more.

So fun.

But of course, not everything was perfect. There were a few glitches and things I’d do differently if I ever had the opportunity again to do something akin to it. Herewith, the top five things I learned at my inaugural reading:

  1. It’s all about the party hair. Of course, when a girl like me is faced with the prospect of getting up in front of a group of people to speak, she immediately worries about how she’s going to look. What to say comes second. So, before I knew exactly what I was going to read and then say in between to tie them all together, I had purchased not one but two dresses from Anthropologie and booked an appointment to have my hair blown out by my guy, who helped me channel my inner-Kelly Ripa and gave me mad party hair for the night. Unfortunately, I also probably should have thought about my failing eyesight and had the same foresight to pack a pair of reading glasses for the night so I didn’t have to hold the paper I was reading from about three inches from my face, thus blocking said party hair for much of the night. Sigh.
  2. Expect things to go wrong: Exhibit A. My two daughters were amazing helpers in the day leading up to the event. The older girl helped shlep stuff into the cheese shop and set up and helped do my eye makeup because she knows I am terrible at that. And my younger daughter helped cobble together a platform for me to perch a stool on and had tracked down a tripod to set up our camera to record the event. Yet despite her best efforts – charging the camera and digging up a memory card – once she started filming she discovered the card was full and had to quickly come up with a Plan B. So the resulting videos are kind of cobbled together – because of course her phone died and my other daughter had to pick up where she left off – and not shot from the best of angles. Like, I may have a “Basic Instinct” moment or two, somewhere along the way. Just don’t look down there.
  3. Expect things to go wrong: Exhibit B. After we unloaded all the junk – like the sound system and platform – from our car, I gave one of my girls the keys and told her to go park while we set up. And at some point, I did notice that she’d been gone for a really long time, but was too caught up in the prep and people arriving to really investigate her absence. The girls quickly packed up and left after the reading part was over, and I lingered and then went out to celebrate with some friends. So it wasn’t until the next morning that I discovered the reason for my daughter’s delay in returning from parking the car: she had sideswiped another car in the parking lot, requiring police and subsequent calls from my insurance company. “I didn’t want to ruin your night,” my girl told me, and she was totally right making that call. “I couldn’t sleep all night,” she added, “I felt so sick about it.” And I knew she felt terrible and we’ll figure out how to pay the deductible and I will ignore how ghetto my car is starting to look because, well, what are my options?
  4. I am an attention whore. I kind of already knew this about myself. I mean, I do have a blog and write about a lot of pretty personal things. And I’m a Leo, so being in the limelight is something I just enjoy. But I haven’t always loved getting up and speaking in public, so was kind of worried about that going into the reading. Right before I got up to talk, the owner of the cheese shop gave me some last-minute words of advice about successful public speaking. “Know your subject and be passionate about it,” he told me, and I was like, “Done and done.” I love to talk about myself. So in the end, it was kind of exhilarating and something I could do every night. Methinks I’ve created a monster.
  5. Surround yourself with friends. So, in theory, the event was supposed to be all about introducing new readers to my blog, it turned out to be a show of support from all my friends who already read the thing. And that felt great. So of course, it was easy getting up in front of big group of friendly and familiar faces who only want to see me succeed. Plus a lot of them enjoy all my cursing. “You say what we’re all thinking,” one woman told me after the reading, and maybe that’s why it’s so easy to do what I do. Because we’re all going through the same shit.

Many thanks to all of you who came out and to the many people who told me they wished they could have come. Perhaps we’ll do it again some day because we always need a reason to get out and drink wine.

In the meantime, check out some videos from the night.

















Are You a Goodreader?

photo-9In my semi-retirement, when I am not eating or thinking about eating or making lists of things I’d like to be eating, I find I am catching up on things I was never able to get around to while I had a job.

Things I just didn’t have the time to do.

So now, when I wake up early in the morning, I reach for my journal before blogging on my laptop, which lets me filter thoughts and feelings a little bit better between my brain and the Internet.

I went snowshoeing not once but twice this past week and felt unhurried, able to take in the stillness and silence of the snowy woods and not have to worry about missing a call or coming up with some piece of content for work.

And I’ve also been reading a lot more during my unemployment. I finished two books I had started in the New Year — Still Writing, by Dani Shapiro and The Goldfinch, by Dona Tartt — and am determined to finish Middlemarch by the end of the month.

If it kills me.

And while I probably should be doing things like updating my LinkedIn profile and finding useful ways to utilize Pinterest for my blog, I found myself playing for a while on Goodreads yesterday instead.

Do you know that site? I am pretty late to the Goodreads party, since there are already about 20 million users who can make lists of books they’d like to read and rate and review books they’ve already read. So after I spent about an hour cruising through categories like “Popular book club books” and “Most read,” adding books I’d read to my shelf and marking the ones on my wish list, I quickly amassed over 100 titles.

It was like taking a walk down memory lane. I got to wave at some of the YA books I’ve been loving lately (The Fault in Our Stars and Eleanor and Park), books from my childhood (Charlotte’s Web) and books my children and I snuggled up to read over and over when they were young and yummy (Where the Sidewalk Ends).

And then I realized that it would be fun to see what was sitting on the shelves of other readers who I know, but was pretty limited as I had but one “friend” on Goodreads — my 19-year-old daughter. Out of 20 million users, that seemed kind of sad (even though she is excellent company).

So I tried to “friend” my real-life friend and voracious reader Susan, and quickly realized after Susan accepted my request and saw what was on her bookshelf, that I had indeed friended the wrong Susan.

My Susan definitely wasn’t currently reading Read Happiness: The Power of Meditation. She’s my Anglophile friend who leans more towards the World War II European experience than crunchy chewy self-help tomes.

So then I thought, why don’t I use my blog to try to make friends on Goodreads?

And so here I am.

I’d love to know what you’re reading (and listening to, too). What’s kept you sitting in your driveway or staying up way past your bedtime?

Let’s be friends. I think you can find me using the email

As for my own quick reviews, I was hesitant to get involved with the new Donna Tartt book, I’d heard mixed things about The Goldfinch, but I ended up loving it and have thought of the characters often since I finished it last week and had discussions about who should play Boris and Theo if it’s ever made into a movie.

And for someone who generally can’t even remember what happened on an episode of “True Detective” or “House of Cards” the minute the credits start to roll, that is impressive.

And I also fell head-over-heels in love with Ann Patchett after reading her collection of essays last month called This is the Story of a Happy Marriage. It’s made me want to read every piece of her fiction (aside from Bel Canto, which I read years ago) and make a pilgrimage to her bookstore in Nashville.

I legit want to stalk her (in a very friendly, non-threatening way).

Anyway, go friend me on Goodreads so I can see what’s on your virtual bookshelf and we can compare notes.

Maybe it will inspire me to crank through Middlemarch and move on.

Happy reading.


what are you reading this summer?

IMG_2590I am a reader. It’s just always something that I’ve done to stay busy ever since my mom handed me Babar to get me out of her hair when I was a kid.

Over the years, the amount I’ve read has ebbed and flowed – I don’t think I finished one book between like 1992-1998 when my older kids were small – but it’s always something I’ve come back to. By the time I had my fourth child in 2002, I spent late nights nursing him while reading Mrs. Dalloway and The Hours. Cheery.

And while I cut my teeth on Sidney Sheldon, Danielle Steele and The Thornbirds (oh, Father Ralph), I have gotten a little choosier as I’ve aged about what I spend my time reading.

Not that I’m all Don DeLillo and Proust now, but I recently tried to get into the new Dan Brown and found myself annoyed that the hero, Robert Langdon, was immediately – and obviously – paired with some gorgeous, yet brilliant, young doctor. Haven’t we already gone down that road? It just seemed formulaic.

Any time you open a book, you’re gambling with your time. Even though Entertainment Weekly, Oprah or someone in your book club raved about it, you might have thought Possession was unbearable. I know I did, and I’d like those hours I spent trying to slog through all those poems back.

I choose a lot of what I read based on reviews in maybe People or The New York Times. I see four stars and think, “That’s for me.” That’s how I found The Lovely Bones and Gone Girl and more recently, The Good House (my mom had sent me an article about the author and I felt an affinity for the picture of her lying on her bed with her laptop).

So imagine my disappointment when I realized the current book I’m reading, The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls, which garnered a wonderful review in the Times by Michiko Kakutani, is cleverly cloaked soft porn involving teenagers. Like, keep your hands to yourself, kids.

And don’t get me wrong, I’m all about porn — and frisky teenagers, for that matter. I devoured the Twilight series and Fifty Shades of Gray in days. Those trilogies were the equivalent of, say, plowing through a fresh box of Cheez-Its and quickly finding yourself scraping the salty bits off the bottom of the bag. Delicious.

Call me a prude, but there is way too much back arching, throbbing and moaning between teenagers than I could handle. And, really, if I want to read something about first love, I’d prefer to snuggle up with The Fault in Our Stars or Eleanor & Park. Even Judy Blume’s Forever, from what I recall, seemed more tame (but how many times did I reference page 86 back-in-the-day?)

So, I’m on the hunt for better. I want to find my next Gone Girl or This Is How You Lose Her to kick off beach season.

So tell me, what are you reading this summer? My Kindle is charged and ready for downloading.