June Lightning

June is going to go by lightning fast. For starters, there is a concert in Bangor, Maine that I cannot wait for! Then, a concert at home. After that, a week later, an art show reception for my talented sister’s work. Then, a vacation with my best friend (Maine for the third weekend in a row). I will have many opportunities to read. Hence, the huge list:

Fiction:

  • Confessing a Murder by Nicholas Drayson – in honor of the first month of boating weather (EB & print).
  • Stories of Alice Adams by Alice Adams – June is short story month (EB & print).
  • Afterlife by Paul Monette – in honor of gay and lesbian pride month (EB & print).
  • Jar City by Arnaldur Andridason – National Icelandic Day is in June (AB).

Nonfiction:

  • Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Middle East by Michael B. Oren – the Six Day War started in June.
  • Cactus Eaters: How I Lost My Mind and Almost Found Myself by Dan White – June is national hiking month.
  • I Dreamed of Africa by Kuki Gallman – in honor of Gallman’s birth month.
  • Mindfulness Meditation by Jon Kabat-Zinn – in honor of Zinn’s birth month.

Series continuations:

  • Pearl Cove by Elizabeth Lowell – to continue the series started in April in honor of Lowell’s birth month.
  • Envoy From Mirror City by Janet Frame – to finish the series started in April in honor of New Zealand’s Anzac Day.

Adrian Mole: the Cappuccino Years

Townsend, Sue. Adrian Mole: the Cappuccino Years. New York: Soho, 1999.

Reason read: Mother’s Day is May 13th and Pearl included this in her chapter about “Mothers and Sons.”

Adrian Mole: the Cappuccino Years could be seen as a cautionary tale for men in their 30s: do not get too dependent on mama. Adrian, at this stage in his life, is divorced, lusting after a former flame while being the father (a decent one, I might add) to two boys, and yes, still living with mother. As he tells his journal, he is frequently constipated and suffers from bad breath and ill penis health.
This was a silly read. I almost gave up on it a few times, especially when it became over the top ridiculous. Case in point, Townsend seemed to be poking fun at the Food Network with the creation of “Ping with Singh,” a cooking show aimed at microwave users. The show becomes popular enough to create a stage adaptation to satisfy the masses. Adrian’s own show “Offally Good” produces a book deal (which his mother ultimately ends up ghost writing, go figure).
The best parts were the current events of the times: Tony Blair’s election, Lady Di’s love affair with Dodi and Bill Clinton’s Monica scandal. The latter got a chuckle out of me.

The one line I laughed at, “‘Your money, Mr Mole, is an abstraction wafting in the air between financial institutions, at the mercy of inflation and interest rates, dependent on the health of the global economy'” (p 151). That, sadly, is banking in a nutshell.

Author fact: Townsend wrote a whole series of Adrian Mole books. I felt a little lost jumping in when Adrian is thirty years old. I imagine it’s like coming in late to a really wild party. Everyone is too drunk to talk to you and you can’t get drunk fast enough to catch up.

Book trivia: The entire story is Adrian’s journal.

Nancy said: Nothing. It is listed as a “Mothers and Sons” book.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Mothers and Sons” (p 160).


May Has Her Reasons

This is the first month since September that I don’t have some kind of race looming. It feels weird to not worry about the run. I guess I can concentrate on the books:

Fiction:

  • Landfall: a Channel Story by Nevil Shute – in honor of the month the movie was released.
  • Main Street by Sinclair Lewis – in honor of Minnesota becoming a state in May (AB).
  • Bruised Hibiscus by Elizabeth Nunez – on honor of the Pan Ramjay festival held in May.
  • Adrian Mole: the Cappuccino Years by Sue Townsend – in honor of Mother’s Day.

Nonfiction:

  • Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer – in honor of the failed Mount Everest climb in May 1994.

Series continuations:

  • Jade Island by Elizabeth Lowell – to continue the series started in April in honor of Lowell’s birth month.
  • Warding of Witch World by Andre Norton – to continue the series started in March to honor the month of Norton’s passing.

Something new! I just discovered archive dot org! They are brilliant! I have been able to find a bunch of the books I have on my Challenge list, including two for this month. That means I will be able to leave the print at home and still read on my lunch break!


April is Over

One of my all time favorite 10,000 Maniacs songs is “The Painted Desert” off the album, Our Time in Eden. If you have never heard it, the premise is simple. A couple is trying to have a long distance relationship. Or…one of them is anyway…While one is off in the Southwest, the other waits patiently for the time when he? she? can join the other. But, soon the patience tarnishes and the one left behind find themselves pleading, “I wanted to be there by May at the latest time. Isn’t that the plan we had or have you changed your mind? I haven’t heard a word from you since Phoenix or Tuscon. April is over. Can you tell how long before I can be there?” The underlying poison is that the partner has moved on and the answer to the question is “never.” How ironic.

Having said all that, April IS over. As far as the run is concerned, I begrudgingly ran a half mara and a 10k and despite not training for either, I am pleased with both races.
And I read a fair amount of books:

Fiction:

  • Amber Beach by Elizabeth Lowell

Nonfiction:

  • Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
  • The Corner: a Year in the life of an Inner-City Neighborhood by David Simon and Edward Burns
  • The Evolution of Everyday Objects by Henry Petroski
  • Bogey Man by George Plimpton
  • To the Is-Land: an Autobiography by Janet Frame

Series continuations:

  • Charmed by Nora Roberts
  • The Venus Throw by Steven Saylor

Poetry:

  • “Unexplorer” by Edna St. Vincent Millay
  • “Travel” by Edna St. Vincent Millay
  • “Wild Geese” by Edna St. Vincent Millay
  • New and Collected Poetry by Czeslaw Milosz

Early Review:

  • Deeply Grateful and Entirely Unsatisfied by Amanda Happe

Bogey Man

Plimpton, George. The Bogey Man: A Month on the PGA Tour.

Reason read: the Professional Golf Association tour usually ends in April. This year it ended on April 1st but there are other tournaments still going.

George Plimton was a journalist who liked to get into the thick of things when writing about his subjects. When composing articles for Sports Illustrated he played tennis, boxed with, and swam with professionals. Later he found himself pitching with the Yankees and throwing the football with the Detroit Lions. His involvement with professional golfers was no different when writing Bogey Man. He played as a participating amateur in the Bing Crosby National Pro-Am, the Lucky International, and the Bob Hope Desert Classic for a month. During that time he absorbed stories about the professional golf circuit, from the caddies to the fans and, the professional golfers and the game, of course.

Author fact: The perception I have of George Plimpton is that he had quite the ego. For starter, many of the photographs in Bogey Man are of Plimpton. Then, there is the author information. Most authors chose a short paragraph to be inserted on the back flap of a book. Plimpton’s takes up the entire back cover.

Book trivia: There are a smattering of photographs in Bogey Man mostly of Plimpton looking wistfully after an ill-struck ball.

Nancy said: Pearl said she would buy Bogey Man for “David” who eats, sleeps, and dreams golf (p 117).

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the catch-all chapter called “A Holiday Shopping List” (p 115).


Marching Out

March was one of those weird months. A few Nor’Easters. A few miles run. A few books read. We had two school closings in back to back weeks so that helped with the reading, but not the run. I finished the St. Patrick’s Day Road Race just two minutes off my time last year. Considering I didn’t train (again) I’m alright with that. There’s always next year! Here are the books:

Fiction –

  • The Good Son by Michael Gruber
  • Roman Blood by Steven Saylor
  • White Man’s Grave by Richard Dooling
  • Witch World by Andre Norton
  • Cards of Identity by Nigel Dennis

Nonfiction –

  • All the Way Home by David Giffels
  • Slide Rule by Nevil Shute

Series Continuations –

  • Coast of Incense by Freya Stark – to finished the series started in honor of her birth month in January.
  • Entranced by Nora Roberts

Early Review for Librarything –

  • Oneiron by Laura Lindstedt (started)
  • Infinite Hope – Anthony Graves

Poetry –

  • New and Collected Poetry by Czeslaw Milosz (not finished)

Fun – I’m not finished with either fun book so I won’t list them here.


All the Way Home

Giffels, David. All the Way Home: Building a Family in a Falling-Down House. New York: William Morrow, 2008.

Reason read: All the Way Home takes place in Akron, Ohio. Ohio became a state in March.

Who buys a house  they describe with adjectives and nouns such as these: rusty, dusty, decay, debris, ruin, smelly, stained, treacherous, flaking, rotted, grime, filthy, cluttered, damaged, wreckage, decomposed, dark, cracked, dingy, chilly, ugly, broken, dirty, scratched, soot, dangerous, rotten, warped, collapsed, cramped, broken, discolored, disintegrated, discolored, poisonous, fermenting, or crusted? You half expect to find, buried deep in the debris, a mummified body a la Bates Motel. In fact, when Giffels first tours the house there is a woman, perched amid the disaster. But, buy the house he does.
Giffels, a self described handyman, needs projects. When he buys the 1913 mansion on North Portage Path (Akron, Ohio) there is every indication he has bit off more than he can chew. That only becomes apparent to himself when he attempts to remove paint from every single door hinge in the house. The master bedroom alone has seventeen doors with at least two hinges…you do the math. And that’s just hinges. Never mind the structural damage like a leaking room that requires 55 roasting pans to catch the downpour whenever it rains, or the jungle of wisteria growing in through the cracks. Then there are the uninvited guests: mice, squirrels, raccoons, termites, carpenter ants, gawkers…it’s a wonder Gina didn’t divorce him.
One of a thousand quotes of humor, “more than anything else, I do not want to die a cartoon character’s death” (p 5).
Quote of foreshadowing, “And I honestly couldn’t decide which I wanted more; to get the house, or to get the house out of my system” (p 73). Indeed, there are numerous times he hoped to get out of buying the house. Starting with his sister-in-law’s neighbor, Earl. Hoping seventy-plus-year-old realtor Earl would advise him it’s a lost cause after seeing it; praying the inspector would say it’s his professional opinion the house is hopeless; and wishing the owners will refuse his insultingly low ball offer. Giffels is seeking any and all opportunities to wriggle out of the fantasy; to escape the choke hold of unreasonable and borderline fanatical desire. None of “outs” happen for Giffels and All the Way Home is born.

Author fact: Giffels used to write for MTV’s Beavis and Butt-Head so you know he has to be funny. And. And! And, I think it goes without saying he must like music since he worked for MTV. Indeed, he quotes Tom Waits right off the bat. Other musicians mentioned:

  • Lou Reed
  • Henry Rollins
  • Paul Westerberg
  • Rage Against the Machine
  • Judas Priest
  • R.E.M.
  • Henry Mancini
  • P.J. Harvey
  • Dave Brubeck
  • Guided By Voices
  • Suzanne Vega
  • Liz Phair
  • Duane Allman
  • Janis Joplin
  • Sonic Youth
  • No Doubt
  • Gewn Stefani
  • Henry Rollins
  • Circle Jerks
  • Rod Stewart
  • Guns ‘n Roses
  • Cyndi Lauper
  • Beatles
  • Joe Strummer
  • The Clash
  • Police
  • Andy Summers
  • Pete Townsend
  • Jimi Hendrix
  • Kurt Cobain
  • Chrissy Hynde
  • Yngwie Malmsteen
  • Morphine
  • Mark Sandman
  • They Might Be Giants
  • Replacements

The list was so eclectic I thought about making a mixed tape (because that’s how old I am coming from an era when mixed tapes were a thing). I would call it “All the Way Home.” Here is my (short) fantasy track listing:

    • “You’re Innocent” (when You Dream)” – Tom Waits
    • “Unsatisfied” – Paul Westerberg
    • “So. Central Rain” – R.E.M.
    • “Moon River” – Oranji Symphony
    • “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” – Cyndi Lauper
    • “Money (that’s What I Want) – Beatles
    • “I’m Just a Girl” – No Doubt
    • “Cats in the Cradle”  – Cat Stevens
    • “Swing it Low” – Morphine

Book trivia: Aside from a smattering of photographs in the beginning All the Way Home is mostly devoid of pictures. Bummer.

Nancy said: “This is more than a do-it-yourself memoir; rather it’s a paean to his hometown” (p 168).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called simply “Ohioana” (p 168).


Marching with Words

The only run I have planned for March is St. Patrick’s Day. No surprise there. Here are the books planned for March:

Fiction:

  • The Good Son by Michael Gruber (AB) – in honor of the start of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
  • White Man’s Grave by Richard Dooling – In honor of Dooling’s birthplace (Nebraska) becoming a state in March.
  • Roman Blood by Stephen Saylor – in honor of Saylor’s birth month in March.

Nonfiction:

  • All the Way Home by David Giffels – in honor of Ohio becoming a state in March.

Series continuations:

  • Coast of Incense by Freya Stark – to continue the series started in January for Stark’s birth month. This will end the autobiography.
  • Entranced by Nora Roberts (EB) – to continue the Donovan Legacy started in February in honor of Valentine’s Day.

Early Review:

  • Infinite Hope by Anthony Graves

Poetry:

  • New and Collected Poems by Czeslaw Milosz – in honor of National Poetry Month.

If there is time:

  • Slide Rule: the Autobiography of an Engineer by Nevil Shute – in honor of the birth month of William Oughtred
  • Which Witch? by Andre Norton – to remember Norton (who died in the month of March).
  • Cards of Identity by Nigel Dennis in honor of Reading Month.

Iron & Silk

Salzman, Mark. Iron & Silk. New York: Vintage Departures, 1990.

Reason read: Mark Salzman was born in December. Read in his honor.

Funny. You would not expect a memoir about a cello playing martial arts master in China for the purpose of teaching English to medical students a funny book and yet it is. It is very funny and eye opening. Salzman’s adventures are, truth be told, a string of essays laced with tongue-in-cheek wit and culture. You cannot help but laugh out loud at some of his exploits as he tries to make his way through Chinese bureaucracy and customs. Take for example, his attempt to receive a package containing medication for athlete’s foot. It’s so maddening you almost think he’s making the whole thing up. But then you remember, in South Central China, there is a regulation for everything real or otherwise.

Author fact: Salzman wrote The Soloist which I have already read. There are three other Salzman books on my list which I cannot wait to read.

As an aside, look Salzman up on YouTube. You won’t be disappointed. His interview in a phone booth is great.

Book trivia: I wish Salzman had included photographs…or is that asking too much considering it was made into a movie in 1990 starring Mark Salzman as himself?

Nancy said: In both chapters Iron & Silk is mentioned Pearl just describes the book.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in two chapters. First in the chapter called “Dewey Deconstructed: 900s” (p 77) and again in the chapter called “Mark Salzman: Too Good To Miss” (p 194). As an aside, the first chapter shouldn’t include Iron & Silk. Nancy was mentioning Salzman was a companion of Stuart Stevens when Stevens traveled to China.


Septembering

I’m not exactly sure what September will bring. The renovations for the library are finally finished (with a crazy punch list, I might add). The backyard is complete minus the hot tub, fire pit and patio furniture (that’s stage II). I have a half mara in ten days so I’m anticipating a good run month. Here are the planned books:

  • Curse of the Pogo Stick by Colin Cotterill – to continue the series started in May in honor of Laos Rocket Day
  • Edwin Mullhouse: the life and death of an American Writer – to honor kids in September
  • Life and Death in Shanghai by Nien Cheng – Mao died of cancer in September.
  • Tears of Autumn by Charles McCarry – Cold War ended in September
  • The Trial by Franz Kafka – September is the best month to visit the Czech Republic.
  • Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner – September is Southern Gospel month
  • Which Side are You On? by Elaine Harger – an Early Review from LibraryThing.

Never Wipe Your…

Robillard, Jason. Never Wipe Your Ass with a Squirrel: a Trail Running, Ultramarathon, and Wilderness Survival Guide for Weird Folks. Barefoot Running Press, 2013.

This has got to be the strangest guide to running I have ever come across. Okay, to be fair it is chock full of useful information and thensome. Hey, you even learn the names of clouds…as in cirrostratus and stratocumulus. I kid you not. That’s the tame stuff. Azz wiping is even more informative. But. But! But, it’s all organized in a bizzarro way. Here’s an example: you are reading all about wilderness dangers (because nature can kill). Robillard is covering what to do in cases of ticks, snakes, even cougars. Then all of a sudden he jumps to information about foam rollers and stretching. Just when you think he’s moved on from the hazards of nature he returns to tripping on tree roots and the importance of learning to fall correctly. More safety information. The stick/roller information seems really out of place. Having said all that, one look at the table of contents and you know this isn’t your typical runners’ guide. I would say beginner runners shouldn’t attempt to use this book as a serious guide. Serious ultrarunners will know everything he’s talking about and I would say, the more experienced the runner, the funnier Robillard gets.

Can’t quote anything from the book, even for a review…mostly because I’m too lazy to seek permission. Pretend I inserted funny examples of why you should read this book here -> “—-“(p).

Reason: okay, I admit it. The title caught my attention.

Author fact: Robillard likens himself to Tucker Max. I would say Robillard is just as funny except his writing is more interesting.

Book trivia: Oodles of typos. Not sure what to make of that.


French Revolutions

Moore, Tim. French Revolutions: Cycling the Tour de France. Read by Andrew Wincott.  Prince Frederick, MD: Recorded Books, 2009.

Funny. Funny. Funny. I like that Moore’s writing is unapologetic snarky. If you are sensitive to sarcasm and foul language, stay away! This book is lightly peppered with words only a hearty rant could benefit from. Take a slightly out-of-shape, thirty something year old British guy who gets it into his head he can ride the Tour-de-France. Outfit him with a bike and ridiculous clothes and the fact he has no idea what he’s doing. Suddenly you’ve got a beyond hilarious story. Tim Moore ignores all common sense reason and sets out to bike all 2,256 miles of the race before the actual professionals take the stage. Each chapter is a different leg of the Tour and what’s great about Moore’s account (aside from his incessant bellyaching) is the historical perspective he gives along the way. He isn’t shy about providing graphic descriptions of the trials and tribulations of the male body after eight to ten hours in the saddle, either. I could open French Revolutions any page and find something hysterically funny, and more often than not, off color.

Quotes: As I said, nearly every page had something worthwhile and funny, but here are just a few of my favorites: “Sadly, Dennis was an awful boy who cheated at Monopoly and avenged yet another Belgian victory in that year’s race by running amok in our flower-beds with the big lawnmower, so I did not at the time ascribe positive attributes to the focus of his obsession” (p 5), “I didn’t know whether to be glad or sad when I looked down while grabbing for a towel and saw that the elemental rigours of the day had apparently inspired my genitals to eat themselves” (p 116), and “The blathering torrent of self-pity was by this stage a staple of our telephonic encounters, and she listened patiently, as, dispensing with respiration or punctuation, I stated that I was in a town with no hotels, that she had the hotel book, and that having cycled 94,000 miles I had forgotten how to speak French” (p 255).

As an aside, I don’t know why all my audio books are read by people with accents.

Reason read: May is Bicycle Month…so go out there and ride!

Author fact: Moore has an incredibly patient and understanding wife named Birna.

Book trivia: Moore makes mention of taking photographs while “on tour” but sadly, none of them make the book. Not even one of himself.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Bicycling” (p 35). Simple and to the point.


A Bit of Wit, a World of Wisdom

Kurland, Yehoshua. A Bit of Wit, a World of Wisdom: Penetrating Thoughts That Open the Heart and Stir the Soul Through Humor. Jerusalem: Gefen Publishing, 2013

A Bit of Wisdom starts off a bit slowly. Before getting to the heart of the humor and wisdom there is the title page, dedication, memorials, table of contents, preface, acknowledgments, and introduction to get through. While each of these sections is not overly long I am betting many people will skip some if not all of them to get to the first chapter. Each chapter follows a format: starts with a joke and ends with a moral essay. Kurland believes education is easier through the universal language of humor. The only story I did not find a connection with was “Busted Story.” I felt it missed the mark somehow. My favorite story was “You’re Never Alone.” I could appreciate the idea that spiritual guidance is there if we need it.

Kurland previously published A Time to Laugh, A Time to Listen which sounds like another version of A Bit of Wit, a World of Wisdom.


Breakfast With Scot

Downing, Michael. Breakfast With Scot. Washington, D.C.: Counterpoint, 1999.

Less than 200 pages long this was a quick, in-one-sitting read. At first blush I would call this story “quirky” for the simple fact that all of the characters have their issues. What makes this fun to read is how they deal with those issues as well as each other. This is a story about relationships and relating to people around you. The point of view is told from Italian art magazine editor, Ed. Ed and his chiropractor partner, Sam, have become guardians to eleven year old Scot. Scot doesn’t fit in for a multitude of reasons. For one, Ed and Sam have never wanted children. For another, Scot is the child of Sam’s brother’s girlfriend, only the brother is not the biological father. Topping it all of is Scot’s unique personality; his affinity for hand soaps and charm bracelets. While Ed and Sam are homosexuals they are not sure how to deal with Scot on any of these levels. As the reader you want them to not only work it out but work it out as a happy ending.

Poignant line: “But Scot’s the kind of kid other kids push down and kick simply because of the way he puts his hand on his hip” (p 50). This line sums up the entire book.

Reason read: November is national adoption month and while Ed and Sam don’t “adopt” Scot, per se, they are legal guardians.

Author fact: Michael Downing is a local boy, growing up to the west of me and working to the east.

Book trivia: Breakfast with Scot was made into a movie in 2007.

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called “Adapting to Adoption” (p 1).


We Took to The Woods

Rich, Louise Dickinson. We Took to the Woods. Kingsport: Kingsport Press, 1942.

I love it when a book is so fun to read you don’t notice the time. You simply start reading and suddenly it’s three hours later and you are practically finished with the entire thing. Such is the case with We Took to the Woods. Rich is a fantastic storyteller. What makes her story even more appealing is the fact it’s a true story (complete with photographs) and Rich has a great sense of humor. Maine humor, if you will. It’s a great combination.
Probably the most fascinating element to We Took to the Woods is how current it is 70 years after being published. You can read about living in a cabin deep in the woods of Maine today and find it eerily similar to how Rich described it back then. A simple way of life is a simple way of life. I guess you could say simplicity barely changes. Rich divides her chapters into the most frequently asked questions she has had to answer over the years: “But how do you make a living?” “Aren’t you ever frightened?” and “Do you get out very often?” to name a few. It’s as if she wrote the book to shut people up about her unique lifestyle, living in the far Northern section of Maine in the middle of nowhere.

Favorite lines (and there were a few of them): “I see no point in being modest about the things you know you do well” (p 47), “You can neither remodel nor ignore a thing as big as winter” (p 62), and “It’s unreasonable, I know; but some fears lie beyond reason” (p 76). Here are two that illustrate her sense of humor: ” I can also run my household as badly as I please, and our house guests can sun-bathe in the altogether without hindrance” (p 307) and “I find her very tiresome at close range, but at a distance I rather admire her spirit” (p 307-308).

AS an aside – Rich writes about the hurricane of 1938 and how it felled enough trees to make a giant log jam. I find it interesting I am also reading about another natural disaster, the blizzard of 1978 – forty years later.

Reason read: We Took to the Woods takes place in Maine. Maine has an annual lobster festival in Rockland every August. A coastal celebration is enough reason to read about the Rangeley woods.

Author Fact: Louise Dickinson Rich didn’t start off as a writer. She was a teacher first, but always wanted to write a book. I’m glad she did.

Book Trivia: We Took to the Woods was Rich’s first book. She went on to write another one that has been on my bookshelf for years.

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “The Maine Chance” (p 135).

postscript~ I doubt I will forget We Took to the Woods anytime soon. Coincidentally, it is the book I chose to read aloud to Cassidy when she went missing her first night in the woods.