If chocolate truffles, maple souffle, peanut butter banana ice cream, lemon mousse, strawberry fudge, eggnog muffins, and the idea of using only two ingredients sound good to you, I have an article you should read.
Friday, June 28, 2013
If chocolate truffles, maple souffle, peanut butter banana ice cream, lemon mousse, strawberry fudge, eggnog muffins, and the idea of using only two ingredients sound good to you, I have an article you should read.
Thursday, June 27, 2013
- Have writing that is complex enough that I find it beautiful, but simple enough that I don't need a dictionary or have to reread passages for them to make sense
- Be that amazing paradox between being able to put it down and still pick up where I left off and have it make sense--but also that tantalizing deliciousness that makes me not want to put it down
- Be available in paperback
I've never actually done beach reading (having only been to the beach once since I was a child), and frankly, I would have no problem reading Wuthering Heights or Slaughterhouse-Five while lounging in the sun. (I've definitely done Thomas Hardy and John Steinbeck while tanning by the pool.) But I still like the name "beach reads" for conveying the feel we're talking about here, and my recommendation for it is the genre Goodreads has sort of boringly named "Funny Women Memoirs." I've read a surprising number of the books on that list (most recently, ones by Chelsea Handler and Mindy Kaling) and they're just a lot of fun. They're very quick reads, they're usually hilarious, and you get an interesting glimpse of a life that's probably very different from yours. Bossypants, How to Be a Woman, and Wishful Drinking are a few of my favorites.
I would have to take Stephanie Perkin's two books: Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door. Stephanie describes her own books: "They have funny bits and kissing, so you should totally read them. If you're into that sort of thing." Both books are fun and easy beach reads that leave you smiling. The kissing is self-explanatory, but here's an example of the funny bits. Lola has two Dads (as in a gay couple), and as she is leaving one night to hang out with a guy, one of her Dads tells her, "Don't do anything I wouldn't do!" The other Dad laughs and says that it gives her permission to do everything that he doesn't want her to do! It made me laugh out loud, but I guess you really need to read the book to get the whole hilarity of it, so check them out!
Before I sat down to finally pick a book of my own to suggest to y'all I decided to read through all the other lovely ladies' suggestions. I was surprised at how many non-fiction books were chosen, but was even MORE surprised when the first book that popped into my mind as my top beach read this year was ALSO non-fiction: That Woman by Anne Sebba. Y'all don't really know me, so you don't know that to me, "fun" reading is always fiction. There have been so few exceptions to this personal rule that I was bowled over when a biography of the one and only Wallis Simpson was so fascinating that I stayed up until 3 am two two nights in a row to finish it- an honor usually only bestowed on the most delightful fiction books I read. For those of you drawing a blank, Wallis Simpson is the twice-divorced American woman who King Edward VIII gave up the British crown for and she is fascinating, I tell you. Fascinating!
Meg: I am definitely of two minds when it comes to summer reading. On the one hand, I really did used to read a Thomas Hardy novel every summer. I find that lately I've had a little bit of "My reading keeps getting interrupted by a crying baby taking too short of a nap" syndrome. I've enjoyed more chick lit in the last year than I've ever read in my entire life, because it doesn't matter when I pick it up and put it down. However, of the books I've really enjoyed lately that I think I will still care about in a few years that are also light enough to enjoy while you make sure your baby doesn't drown in the ocean, I think my top picks are The Night Circus by Eric Morgenstern (I didn't read it on a beach, but I did read it last summer when I was very pregnant and couldn't ever sleep) and What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell. One is a lovely, magical, non-cliche love story with a nice dose of fantasy, and the other is a series of fascinating articles about things you had no idea you wanted to know (mustard, dogs, birth control, hair color, pitchmen, etc.), and both are perfect for summer.
I have a huge girl-crush on Maggie Stiefvater and love everything she writes, and her latest book The Raven Boys did not disappoint. Well, it disappointed my husband because in the two days it took me to read it, he didn't come home to a hot meal or a clean house. (He's a good sport when it comes to my literary binges.) But that's beside the point. The basic gist of the book is as follows: "Blue Sargent, the daughter of the town psychic in Henrietta, Virginia, has been told for as long as she can remember that if she ever kisses her true love, he will die. But she is too practical to believe in things like true love. Her policy is to stay away from the rich boys at the prestigious Aglionby Academy. The boys there — known as Raven Boys — can only mean trouble." I know, I know. Forbidden love? Prep schools? Rich entitled boys? That dead horse has been flogged in so many young adult novels, but Stiefvater doesn't stoop to gimmicks or love triangles to keep things interesting. The only flaw with this book is the fact that it's the first in a series that hasn't been finished. This makes my literary heart hurt. But! In the words of Kathleen Kelly, "Read it. I know you'll love it."
I must say I haven't been to the beach in a few years, well I guess I once went to the beach in California in February at 10pm, trust me, it's not the same. But the last time I was there I read a book that I truly enjoyed, it was Jody Picoult's Plain Truth. It's a book about an Amish girl, and her secret baby, and her being accused of killing said baby. It has some powerful emotional moments. I have to be honest, when I go to the beach it's all about guilty pleasures for me. I also read pretty much every book Sarah Dessen ever wrote. What can I say? When I am at the beach I am not really in the mood for deep thoughtful writing, I want to relax and be able to fall asleep in the middle of a sentence without having a hard time picking up again!
My family loves the beach, and we've been several times. I've even camped out on La Push for a night, which was pretty awesome. (I'll give all of you Twilight crazies a chance to catch your breath before reading any further.) There's always a book in my beach bag whenever I go, and I really do try to read while slowly baking in the sun. The thing is, though, that I soon realize that my brain is melting in the heat and the water looks much more appealing. The beach, to me, means giving my brain a break from everything, so I'm going to recommend one of the funniest books I've ever read: I Was Told There'd Be Cake by Sloane Crosley. It is, without a doubt, hilarious. I received this book from a good friend many moons ago, and it changed my life. I think almost everything is funny, but this book... I don't know. There's just something about it. That's all I'm going to tell you, because you need to figure out how amazing it is on your own. If you've read anything by Jack Handey and loved it, then you'll love this book, too. (If you haven't, then his book What I'd Say to the Martians is another book you should bring. You can thank me later. It also reminds me of Stefon from S.N.L. That skit has my sister and me rolling on the ground every single time.) Anyway, it's that kind of funny that this book entails, so I hope you enjoy it! Oh, and don't get stung by a jellyfish. Those suckers are crazy and will sneak up on you like no other.
Don't get me started on reading while on vacation. My husband always makes fun of me for packing way too many books. What can I say? I don't want to be stuck anywhere without reading material. Back on topic- I usually go for two things when picking books to take with me- one of which being books that are relevant to where we're going. For example, when we went to Moab in March, I read Red: Passion and Patience In The Desert by Terry Tempest Williams. The other genre I like on vacation is teen fiction. Amanda and Lis already mentioned some of my favorites. I also like John Green, and he has some fun road trip-themed books.
Wednesday, June 26, 2013
I have two pretty cool kids. Crazy, fun, usually covered in food and sporting great bed-head throughout most of the day.
A boy. A girl. They each have their own bedroom, a spot around our 4-person dinner table, and a roomy seat in our small car.
So, with everything going so well with two, why not complicate things with maybe one more?
I swore upside down and sideways that I would never have another baby. I proclaimed it defiantly to those who thought I was ‘too young’ to make such a final decision! I scheduled a vasectomy for my husband!
(Seriously. He didn’t show up because apparently that’s the kind of appointment he wanted to make for himself. Go figure.)
Let me tell you, contemplating a third child brings up some pretty strange questions. With two kids behind me, I’ve googled everything there is about babies and all that crazy business. Google knows my ovulation cycle.
It knows everything.
So what is there left to contemplate when deciding if tres is your magic number?
Well, everything. Here are the things I’ve typed into that magical search engine just TODAY:
-What is the average number of children per household in Sweden? (I’m really into all things Scandinavian, so I wanted to see how I’d fit in…it’s weird. I know. But at least now it’s all on the table, right?)
-Will my child be crazy if he/she has to share a room? (Apparently many children share rooms and grow up to be mentally stable. A revelation, I tell you!)
-Fitting 3 humongous car seats in the back of a Ford Escape (I did an Image search for this one…it is not possible to safely fit 3 humongous car seats in the back of a Ford Escape.)
-Cool Minivans (Google: Did you mean Un-cool Minivans? Because apparently cool ones don’t exist).
Ok. For that last one, I jest…I’m totally pro-van.
What I’m getting at is, I thought that I’d been through the ringer with two little ones and knew everything there was about anything…but there is always so much more to learn. Even if it isn’t all that useful in helping you make life-changing decisions.
Like the average number of children per family in Sweden is 1.94.
(And that I feel sorry for those .94 children. Round up your statistics! For the sake of the children!)
So maybe I should tell you that really . . . truly . . . I don’t feel like our family is complete just quite yet. Maybe my feelings will change. Maybe we won’t be able to have another baby for some reason.
But for now, I’m trusting my gut and going for #3.
Monday, June 24, 2013
When I got married I thought my days of awkward dates were over and I could not have been more thrilled. The truth is I hate meeting new people. Or more accurately, I hate the process of meeting new people. Where you have to pretend that you're super normal, not eat second helpings at dinner, and not blurt out stuff like your son was conceived under a Christmas tree. Why can't we just skip right to the good stuff from the moment of introduction? "Hi I'm Paige and I ate three doughnuts for breakfast today." It would be so much easier.
Instead I find myself in the throes of awkward first dates all over again, trying to act normal enough to entrap someone into my waiting arms. Only this time around I'm married with a baby, I'm too tired to go through the song and dance of what do you like to do for fun and then feigning interest in a lengthy explanation of the many intricacies of origami. And this time around instead of courting young undergrads, I'm on the prowl for a more elusive and complex group of people...
I recently moved to a new state where I don't know anyone and I am sort of desperate for some serious committed relationships.Why can't they make an eharmony site for meeting other moms? I'm pretty good at putting myself out there, going to book club, to parks, to baby music class, though the whole time I'm not watching my baby bang on a wood block, I'm checking out the other mommy tail and trying to decide who I have a shot at. My problem is I don't know how to take the next step, how to go from small talk at baby music class to play dates that I pretend are for my infant son when they're really just for me.
I do have a lot of ideas though! Driving by their house several times a day to see if they're home. Leaving really long, rambling, incoherent voicemails that just end with a trail of nervous laughter. Pretending something fell out of their purse and I needed to return it. Isn't this your stick of gum? I thought you might need it... As long as I'm here, you want to grab lunch or something?
All solid ideas.
I also have the same jealousy issues that I did when I was actually dating, only they're magnified tenfold. "Oh you and Jill went to the thrift store together? That's soooo great. I'm so happy for you two! Really great. That's just so so so great. I hate the thrift store so it's a good thing you didn't call me..."
At the end of my first round of dating I wound up with a wonderful prize, a loyal husband who fills my days with love and laughter. I hope that at the end of this round of dating I will end up with something similar. Someone who will make all the nervous flirting in tight jeans at baby music class worth it. Someone who will go to Krispy Kreme with me for breakfast, sharing laughs over a dozen doughnuts, our diaper bags touching under the table. Someone who will look the other way when my son snatches their kid's toy away. Someone I can swap poop disaster stories with. Someone to call for advice when my son gets a weird rash....
But until then, I have got to get better at dating.
Friday, June 21, 2013
If you need a date this weekend but don't have a lot of money, hopefully you can find a little love at your local library. Tell your librarians they need to do this. Or start your own little library! Share the love of books and reading with those around you.
Looking for the perfect name for your little ones, or writing a novel and need the best name for your characters? Ask the Baby Name Genie! Type in the last name, pick the gender or leave it a surprise, and make sure you block out some time because you'll keep clicking through name after name.
Need to keep yourself or some kiddies occupied while you're getting an oil change? Create your own word searches, cross words, cryptograms, mazes, and more with the puzzlemaker. You could make a lot of these and then bind them together to make your own puzzle books.
Still in a creative mood? Try Wordle! Type in your favorite words, or someone's name and things about them, or whatever you'd like. Then style it up with colors and fonts. This would make a fun present or wall hanging. Hint- the more you type in a word, the bigger the word will be.
Madeleine L'Engle. Remember reading A Wrinkle in Time in elementary school? Yup, that's Madeleine L'Engle. She wrote fiction, nonfiction, childrens, teen, and adult books, and auto-biographies.
You know all those times you had such good intentions and bought tons of fruit and veggies and then two weeks later you found bags of moldy squishy goop in your fridge? Well, your problems are all solved now! You can cut out these produce pictures or draw your own, then stick magnets on the back. After you go grocery shopping, put up a magnet of the fruit and veggies you bought, then you'll have a nice reminder of what's in the fridge!
And lastly, if you just need a big kick in the butt to get you motivated, here are 6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You a Better Person. PS- these are not for the sensitive soul.
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Monday, June 17, 2013
Has anyone ever seen that Elvis movie? I haven't. It's just in my DVD collection. My husband likes it...
So I was watching "Boy Meets World" while my children napped (ah, relaxation!) and it's the episode where Eric becomes a weather man. *SPOILER ALERT* Turns out he can either be a weather man or graduate from high school. He talks about how it was always his dream to be a weather man.
I started to think about my dreams, what I always wanted in my life. Here's my list:
-Graduate (high school and college)
-Get a good job that was fun
-Fall in love
-Create a home
Those were the big highlights. Well, I'm 26, and I have accomplished all of my list. Done, fin. So now what? I feel a little silly, being an adult and trying to come up with new dreams. What now? I have the most wonderful husband (THANKS MEGAN!), 2 gorgeous children, a great home, a degree, and I turned down 2 different job offers in my chosen profession-HR, feel free to laugh and make funny faces, you wouldn't be the first. Are you ever too old to dream? Too old to come up with new goals? I never imagined myself at this point. I always thought that dreams were life long, that you had them, and they never ended. But how exciting is this?!? I have already accomplished so much, and now I can come up with a whole new set of goals. Goals are really just dreams written down, right? I want to run a 5k, I want to grow a garden, I want to take my children to see magnificent places, I want to get old with my husband, and play with my grandkids, I want to go on a mission for my church, I want to do whatever I want! Make your dreams monumental, you can do it! Dream whatever you want, and then do it. Follow that dream :)
Friday, June 14, 2013
In an effort to end this week on a happy note, here are some delightful links.
I'm kind of addicted to pillows. Also, blankets. It's a real obsession and I have to actively keep myself from buying more pillows. And blankets.
I also am a big fan of bags that say things. Generally from TV shows and books. The nerdier, the better.
Have you seen GeoGuessr yet? Maybe it has only solidified my desire to travel and confirmed how utterly unfamiliar I am with most of the world, but it's still fun and there are points to earn!
And thanks to Miri, I now know this exists. Jinni.com, which is basically like GoodReads for movies. Just my cup of tea.
Apparently, I am also into looking at photos of other people reading. That sounds kind of creepy and stalker-like, but it's totally on the up and up because Jill is into it too. I go for the Tumblr "Awesome People Reading" and she goes for "Underground New York." Both are more interesting than you would think, I swear. If I'm being totally honest (speaking for myself), maybe I hope to end up on a page like these one day. Just randomly captured immersed in an awesome book. Of course, with my luck, I would look like a hobo.
Last, but certainly not least, this picture sends me into great fits of laughter every time I see it. You are welcome.
Thursday, June 13, 2013
I grew up hearing that men and women are so different. Opposites. Things about Venus, Mars, and spaghetti.Men need sex. Women need emotional intimacy. Men only need respect. Women only need love. Men watch sports. Women go shopping. Men are doers. Women are feelers.Over the weekend I read yet another Christian list of "10 ways to show love by respecting your husband!" Be kind. Don't interrupt him when he's speaking. Show interest in sex. Join him in activities.And as I read this list, I thought, "Wait. I want every single one of these things from my husband."
If certain writers of certain books were to hang out with Mike and me for a few weeks, I think they might be a little confused by our life. Like when Mike does all the cooking, because I hate/am terrible at cooking except for special occasions. Or when I really, honestly don't care whether he gets me a gift for my birthday, or our anniversary, or Valentine's Day, and actually he's the one who would be hurt if we didn't make a big enough deal out of the day. Or maybe especially when we talk about our plans for the future, and how Mike would prefer to be the stay-at-home parent, while I know now that I never could be.
We have hugely overlapping interests, and we have similar personalities. We both have reclusive tendencies, which works out well when we want to spend the weekend hanging out in the library or snuggled on the couch with snacks and The Big Bang Theory. We have different ways of arguing, which are very obviously traceable back to our families and the different ways we grew up; we've both had to adapt in order to make our arguments constructive. (If we thought those problems were just the innate differences between men and women, would we work to change them? Can you change what planet you come from?)
We each have quirks, faults, and strengths that are very particular to us as individuals. Long before I am "a woman," I am Miri. Long before he is "a man," he is Mike. Our relationship is far from perfect. But it's our relationship, and so far as I can tell, it bears very little resemblance to that of Mars and Venus.
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
|She had such a promising start, showing interest in the potty very early.|
|Watching me go through several unpleasant months of morning sickness was confusing , and this is how she reacted when I gifted her with her own personal throne.|
|At least she had good literary taste?|
Monday, June 10, 2013
If you're not a frequent visiter to your local library, I implore you to visit and see what they have to offer. You might just be surprised at the value of library use. The obvious benefit is not having to pay for every book or magazine you want to read, every DVD you want to watch, or every CD you want to listen to. You might say that you have an e-reader or an iPad now and don't need your library. Guess what? Most libraries allow you to download eBooks or eAudiobooks. My local library is even offering a way to download magazines now. We've offered free music downloads for a long time as well. Some libraries even offer passes to local museums or state parks. We were able to get into two state parks on our last road trip for free.
If you have children, the library is even more valuable and important. It's important to have a personal library of children's books, but the library allows you to have variety. Currently, my son is obsessed with the Scaredy Squirrel series by Melanie Watts and the Elephant & Piggie books by Mo Willems. There is no way I could afford them all when I know he'll have a new favorite within a few months.
Generally, libraries have amazing programming for kids- story times, puppet shows, movie nights, etc. My library alone is having multiple science activities throughout the month of June, preschool fitness, a program called Bedtime Math, a magic show, and a juggling event.
Most libraries have summer reading programs where adults and children can earn prizes for reading or even have fines waived for reading. If we've met the criteria at the end of the summer, we both get to pick out a free book (or a fine waiver) and we get a free pass to our local natural history museum.
And as for what specifically inspired my post tonight, my son was able to check out a bird backpack for a week. The pack comes with a book about wildlife in your own backyard, two bird field guides, a bird call identifier, a pair of binoculars, and a list of local hikes. How freaking awesome is that!
If you haven't been to your local library lately, please check it out and see what it has to offer you. If you already go, let me know what you love about your local library.
Friday, June 7, 2013
School's out (or almost, you poor elementary school kids) but, I'm always learning something. Here's a few things I've learned just this week:
Pop vs Soda isn't the only battle in the United States.
Should I check my e-mail?
Graduate school is a lot like kindergarten.
It's really easy to make everything okay.
It turns out that not all porn is bad.
The next book I need to read is My Nest Isn't Empty.
Only 95.55 cans of Red Bull would kill me.
Thursday, June 6, 2013
I entered through the door that says EXIT.
Now, normally this wouldn't have been a big deal. This happens quite frequently to anyone who has ever shopped at Walmart. I venture to say this is not the craziest thing to ever happen at a Walmart. When I went through the doors I was met by a gentleman, who was following the signs carefully, exiting through EXIT.
We collided. My baby went flying out of my arms, his groceries went spilling everywhere, I think he sustained a neck injury, possibly a broken kneecap.
Okay, none of that happened. What really happened was we came towards each other and I side-stepped him while smiling, embarrassed, and said, "I'm sorry, excuse me." Based on his reaction however, you would have assumed the former happened.
He started yelling at me, in front of my family, in front of a half dozen other customers. Now, should I have entered through the exit? Absolutely not. There are reasons for specified doors and Walmart foot traffic laws. I was totally in the wrong and I can own up to that. I thought I did when I apologized to him, but it wasn't enough. He threw up his hands, disgusted, and shouted several times that he hoped that I could set a better example for my children and that I could teach them to read. I felt pretty validated by the fact that everyone around us was looking at him like he had a screw loose or something, and a few people even tried to come to my defense. (Including my husband, who had gone through the ENTER door like a good boy.) I didn't say anything to him, just ignored and went about my day...but the next day I thought once again about that moment.
How easy is it for us to lose our temper? Maybe he was having a bad day, a bad week, a bad decade? Maybe he had a rock in his shoe or a gnarly wedgie. I'm certainly guilty of behaving irrationally, set off by a seemingly insignificant something or other. After it happened, I was reminded of our motto:
Make sorrow incidental, let joy be monumental.
There is an old truth that states we are not always in control of what happens to us but we can control how we react to each situation. The way we react speaks volumes about our attitude toward life. Hopefully we can minimize the moments where we become a burden or annoyance on someone by not entering through the exit, but if we come across a person who may not be very considerate in the moment, lets try to take the high road. More often than not, we should give people the benefit of the doubt because the number of times people annoy us is probably pretty proportionate to the amount of times we have been annoying to someone else.
Wednesday, June 5, 2013
There are so many people who love animals, love pets, love any creature that crawls, wiggles, runs, or flies. Admittedly some animals can be very cute and adorable, especially when they are babies. But, I just can't love them.
I don't like how animals shed. Dog and cat owners are frequently covered in hair, as well as their couches and carpets. Snakes and tarantulas shed their skin and leave ghost snakes and tarantulas behind.
There is always poo and pee to clean up, and it doesn't smell good. Though we don't own any animals, we have had to do our share of cleaning up the yard from various neighbor dogs. We're also pretty sure that the next door cats have left some 'presents' in our unplanted box gardens.
I shy away from picking up animals because it unnerves me when I can feel their ribs through a fluffy coat of fur. They wriggle and squirm when picked up also, and I'm worried about dropping them.
Major confession: When I see you pet your dog, then reach into the potato chip bag, then lick your fingers after your chips, then pet your dog, chips, repeat cycle.... it makes me never want to eat potato chips again. Also, open mouth kisses with your dog? Ewww.
We had two rabbits and a guinea pig growing up. It was really fun to feed them, but I didn't enjoy cleaning up after them. When I had to pick one of them up, I would wrap them in a towel first. It's calming to pet animals, but I always feel like I have to wash my hands afterwards.
I do enjoy looking at animals though, especially the zoo. It's fun to see all the different types of animals and learn about their amazing lives. I do appreciate also that people can get much love and comfort from pets, and I'm grateful that those people have animals.
I also have a mildish fear of dogs. The small yapping ones aren't as worrisome because I know I can kick them away if they bite me. But the big dogs, especially German shepards and pitbulls are slightly terrifying.
Many times I have gone the long way around to avoid a dog on the loose. When I'm with my husband and a dog starts barking and running towards us, I squeeze his hand and try to remain calm. Everyone says dogs can smell fear- is that actually true? Also, they say to not bare your teeth at them because it's a show of aggression.
Watching Cesar Millan's Dog Whisperer show has helped a lot. He tells the dogs that he is the master, and they always end up giving in to him because he is the alpha dog in the relationship. He has an amazing way with dogs, and I'm glad he's willing to take so many dogs in and train them.
Just growing up and being in charge of others has helped as well. When I'm alone with my baby on a walk, I can handle the dog situation much more rationally because I am in charge of her safety. I have to take care of her, so I do.
My daughter seems to have taken a fascination to animals though. Whenever there are animals of any kind on tv, she stares and gets excited. She loves to pet cats and dogs. I'm pretty sure she'll want a pet when she's older, but I'll cross that bridge when I get to it!
Tuesday, June 4, 2013
Monday, June 3, 2013
It almost never works out.
Here's part of the problem. Once I feel assigned to read a book, I have a hard time being excited about it. Picking my next book is always an exciting thing for me, and when I don't get to do that because there's one I have to read, it takes some of the fun out of reading for me.
But the other problem is finding a book club that suits my personality. Everyone reads a little differently and likes different kinds of books. I happen to like a lot of different kinds of books, including an array that didn't always go over well when I brought them up at book club. Here are a few gems (all of which were really good books!)
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach*: I actually read this one in my most successful book club, and we all loved it. It's this truly fascinating book about what happens when people donate their bodies to science, what happens to bodies when they decompose, body snatching, and more. Mary Roach is hilarious and insightful, and I love her. Then I brought it up at another book club a couple of years later and it went something like this: "And there was this cool part where old people who were dying just ate honey until their bodies turned INTO HONEY! And then other people ATE THEM AS A DELICACY!"
In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex* by Nathaniel Philbrick: This is an absolutely wonderful book about the true story that inspired Moby Dick. I could not put it down. It was full of history and science but presented in a wonderfully readable narrative form. I brought it up at a book club like this: "And then after the whale crashed into their boat, they all got lost at sea and started eating each other!" (Correct. That's two for cannibalism.)
World War Z by Max Brooks**: This book is written like a series of oral histories, and it's fun and a little gory, but also thought-provoking. Someone at my book club was talking about a book they'd read where they examine what would happen if we lost power, and how nursing homes and hospitals would be affected and so forth, and it reminded me of a part in this book where the blue collar workers became much more valuable to society than the accountants and lawyers and such because they have real-life skills when America is no longer inundated with first-world problems. But what I said was, "That reminds me of this book I read about the zombie apocalypse!" There is no coming back from that when you're talking to 40 year old ladies from church.
The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson: This is a really fantastic book about the Chicago World's Fair and the serial killer who built a death hotel and lured young women into it. It is CRAZY and so well-written. This is what you should not say about it to someone you want to convince you are not a nut for reading it: "I thought I would just like the part about the serial killer, but the part about the World's Fair was really interesting too!"
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson: This is a fun, creepy book about these two sisters who live in their family house and are ostracized by their town after the rest of their family mysteriously was poisoned all at the same family dinner. Whoops. "So it's about these two sisters who are living alone after one of them is accused of having poisoned their whole family, and the other one is crazy. And it was awesome."
Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein: This is a very interesting, well-researched and (I thought) fairly balanced book about the girly-girl culture that seems to be springing up as women gain equality, and whether it's ruining/limiting our daughters. Pretty much all I had to say was, "I just checked out a book called Cinderella Ate My Daughter. It's about feminism."
The Secret History by Donna Tartt**: I read this one for a book club too, but only about two of us actually read it, and then while we discussed it, lots of people looked at us suspiciously. "So their teacher gets them all obsessed with the Greek classics, and there's a guy named Bunny, so you know he's doomed, and there's a weird part where the protagonist is just hanging out in an apartment with no heat because he's too proud to mention it to anyone and he almost DIES, and IT WAS SO GOOD!!"
Okay. So looking over the list now I realize that it's possible my tastes occasionally tend toward the macabre. And then those are ALWAYS the books that come up. But I swear some of them aren't as bad as I made them sound. In fact, they were great!
The moral here is two-fold.
- Don't judge a book by its cover, or by the weird thing someone says to you about it before you've read it. There are lots of really fabulous books out there that don't sound good but just are. (Have you ever tried to explain Room by Emma Donoghue to anyone and make it sound appealing? It is nearly impossible, but it is SUCH a fantastic book.)
- If you're going to be in a book club, find people who already know you're crazy.