March of the Books

Here’s the singular thing I love, love, love about March: the St. Patrick’s Day Road Race in Holyoke, MA. I adore running this race. Runner’s World magazine has mentioned it more than once, calling it the mini Boston Marathon for it’s toughness. I PR’ed this year! But what I am more excited about is that this time I was only five seconds away from breaking an hour. Unlike last year (1:07:and something seconds) I was 1 hour and a measly four seconds. But, enough about running! Here are the books finished for March, 2017:

  • Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote (AB +EB)*
  • Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel (AB + print)
  • Falling Angels by Barbara Gowdy*
  • Treachery in the Yard by Adimchinma Ibe*


  • Breaks of the Game by David Halberstam (DNF)
  • Big Empty edited by Ladette Randolph and Nina Shevchuk-Murray (EB)
  • No Ordinary Time by Doris Kearns Goodwin (AB)

Series continuations:

  • Red Bones by Ann Cleeves
  • Hall of a Thousand Columns by Tim Mackintosh-Smith (DNF)
  • Endymion by Dan Simmons

Early Review “won”:

  • Ma Speaks Up by Marianne Leone (received and finished)
  • My Life with Bob by Pamela Paul (This has arrived & I have started it)

*Short enough to read in one day.

Big Empty

Randolph, Ladette and Nina Shevchuk-Murray. The Big Empty: Contemporary Nebraska Nonfiction Writers. University of Nebraska Press, 2007

Reason read: Nebraska became the 37th state in March of 1867.

Big Empty is comprised of 27 essays and excepts covering a variety of subjects but all centered around the geography of Nebraska. Ted Kooser will often quote the Bohemians and the proverbs while telling you about the land. Bob Ross will tell you how to mend fences to keep the cattle in. William Kloefkorn will have you smiling as he remembers an ill-fated trip down the river with a group of friends. Kenneth Lincoln will have you weepy-eyed as he remembers his coming of age. You get the point, this is Nebraska from every angle. Some of the stories will bring tears to your eyes. Some will make you laugh out loud. But most will educate you to the Nebraskan landscape.

My big takeaway from reading Big Empty: Nebraska means flat water. Just kidding. Nebraska has gone from a place I knew absolutely nothing about to something of intrigue. I am more than a little curious about the state now.

Confessional: I used to say I didn’t know anyone from Nebraska until someone told me my deceased uncle was from Nebraska. Then I discovered he was actually from Arkansas. So I still don’t know anyone from Nebraska.

Line I liked from the preface: “Instead of sleeping away the drive through, they are awake and taking notes” (p xi).
Other lines to mention, “My argument is this: if it floats and gets you there, it is a boat” (“This Death By Drowning” by William Kloefkorn, p 73), and “…and when the auctioneer hammered “Sold!” Vic had bought that mule for a price that even brought a smile to the mule’s face” (“Uncle Vic’s Mule” by Roger Welsch, p 84), and “Grandpa’s plate was where the talk stopped and the patriarchal authority started” (“Excerpts from Prairie Homeboys” by Kenneth Lincoln, p 151). There were many, many other lines I could quote but I’ll just let you read the book. You should.

Author Editor fact: Ladette Randolph is also a writer. She published Leaving the Pink House in 2014 (University of Iowa Press).
Nina Shevchuk-Murray was born in the Ukraine.

Book trivia: I know this is a collection of essays but I would have loved a few photographs as well.

Nancy said: Big Empty “offers a diverse look at people’s lives in the state at various times and under various conditions” (p 149).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go from the chapter called “Nebraska: The Big Empty” (p 149). Gee, I wonder where she got that title from?

Spring Forward

I’m really looking forward to spring. The chance to run outside (sorry, New Guinea) & a little more green in my life. Here are the books planned:


  • Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel ~ in honor of the best time to visit Mexico (AB). I think this will only take a few days to read so I’m adding:
  • Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote (AB) as a backup ~ in honor of the Oscars (even though they just happened, embarrassingly so).
  • Falling Angels by Barbara Gowdy ~ in honor of the time Niagara Falls stopped flowing, and,
  • Treachery in the Yard by Adimchinma Ibe ~ in honor of Nigeria’s president as of 2015.

Both of these fictions are short-short so I should be able to read them in a day or two each.


  • Breaks in the Game by David Halberstam ~ in honor of March Madness (basketball)
  • The Big Empty edited by Ladette Randolph ~ in honor of Nebraska becoming a state in March.

Series Continuations:

  • Red Bones by Ann Cleeves ~ to continue the series started in January in honor of Up Helly Aa.
  • Endymion by Dan Simmons ~ to continue the series started in January in honor of Science Fiction month. This sucker is 600 pages long. Not sure I’ll finish it in time…
  • Hall of a Thousand Columns by Tim Mackintosh-Smith ~ to continue the series started in February in honor of Exploration month. This is an ILL and it hasn’t arrived yet, so I’m not sure I will finish it in time.

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • Ma Speaks Up by Marianne Leonne ~ maybe. I “won” it in February but it hasn’t arrived yet.
  • EDITED to ADD: I just got word I also “won” My Life with Bob by Pamela Paul. It isn’t expected to arrive for awhile so this is really an April book.

“Huckabuck Family”

Sandburg, Carl. The Huckabuck Family and How They Raised Popcorn in Nebraska and Quit and Came Back. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1999.

Super cute short story that was pulled from the Rootabaga Stories and made into a book for children with fabulous illustrations! This was a joy to read (and a little odd). The Huckabuck family grew corn for popping. Maybe they were the Reddenbocker family, I don’t know. The first name of each member of the family is repeated because if daughter “Pony” doesn’t answer when called she might answer to “Pony Pony.” Interesting concept. But, here’s the thing about the Huckabuck family, besides the double name thing, one year they had a fire and all the popping corn popped and there was too much popcorn. They had to leave town for three years! Hence the title of the book, they raised popcorn in Nebraska, quit because they grew too much and then came back when they thought all the popcorn was gone.

Reason read: June is National Short Story month.

Author fact: Carl Sandburg is known for his poetry.

Book trivia: Two things. The Huckabuck Family story (children’s version) was illustrated by David Small. The original Huckabuck Family story came from a compilation called The Rootabaga Stories published in 1922.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “The Great Plains (Nebraska)” (p 155).

Goodnight, Nebraska

McNeal, Tom. Goodnight, Nebraska. New York: Vintage, 1999.

This could have been a movie for me. It is the coming of age, and redemptive story of Randall Hunsacker. Although he is just a teenager Randall has been sent to Goodnight, Nebraska to turn his life around. He has escaped a violent past and left behind a broken family in Salt Lake City. Redemption is not what Randall is seeking, at least not at first. Goodnight is a small tight-knit community and Randall’s inclusion is not readily welcomed. He rebels with ridicule in letters to his sister and remains a mystery in school. The only place Randall allows himself to feel anything is by being violent on the football field. Over the course of ten years Randall slowly starts to settle down with a wife and an occupation. It is during this time that Randall realizes redemption is what he needed all along.

My one complaint? At one point the story breaks away from Randall and follows his wife, Marcy, when she decides she needs a fresh start. After Randall starts drinking and becomes progressively violent she leaves Randall behind and escapes to California. There is no real explanation for Randall’s behavior and you almost want the marriage to fall apart.

Favorite lines – one really short and one really long: “Me. I believe in me” (p 126), and “…there are some kinds of love, the ones we’re all after, that are meant for open air and natural light, but there are other kinds too, more than we’d like to think, that come out of the dark and drag us away and tear parts from our bodies, kinds of love that work in their own dim rooms, and harbor more sad forms of intimacy and degradation and sustenance that those standing outside those rooms can ever dream of” (p 260).

BookLust Twist: From more Book Lust in the chapter called, “The Great Plains: Nebraska” (p 108).

March ’10 is…

March is a small stash of books. Small because I want to get back on the training schedule…with a vengeance.

  • Turtle Diary by Russell Hoban is actually a leftover from February. It was one that I was really looking forward to reading so I’m adding it to March
  • Goodnight, Nebraska by Tom McNeal ~ in honor of Nebraska becoming a state in March
  • Jennifer Government by Max Barry ~ in honor of March being Max Barry’s birth month
  • Making of a Quagmire by David Halberstam ~ in honor of March being the month the U.S. withdrew from Vietnam

If there is time I will tackle:

  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte ~ in honor of national literature month
  • Armful of Warm Girl by W.M. Spackman ~ in honor of… and this is a stretch…Oscar Month. Here’s the thought process: March is Oscar month which translates into giving award for the best something-er-rather. Nancy Pearl gave Armful of Warm Girl the award for best title. Told you it was a stretch…

For LibraryThing and the Early Review program I promise, promise, promise I will finish No Instructions Needed: an American Boyhood in the 1950s by Robert G. Hewitt.

March is also a concerted effort to get back to training, a little bit of music and hopefully, a whole bunch of fund raising…