I do feel compelled to note that I started blogging on September 11, 2001. I didn't write anything about what happened. I had spent hours curled in my room, wrapped around stuffed animals from my childhood, watching the events unfurl on television. Every channel. Every minute. When I couldn't bear any more I went to the computer. And I started a blog. I've been blogging (admittedly through different mediums) ever since.
On September 11, 2011, I didn't turn on the television. Couldn't. Didn't blog. Avoided the Internet. Avoided the tributes, the pictures, the stories, the epitaphs. I read. All day. I dragged a blanket and a few beers out to the yard and was lost in someone else's words. The day passed quietly.
Thinking of yesterday-- which must happen when I opened my computer to deal with the backlog of email, blog posts, and headlines that had piled over the weekend-- and how I spent it reminded me of where I was roughly a year ago. Remember the Spine Cracking Poll? In a nutshell for new readers, I was in a reading drought though I was reading everyday. I was reading an abundance of blogs, news articles, etc.-- but I wasn't reading books. I was stockpiling $1.00 books from thrift stores and yard sales and they sat, sadly, on the bookshelf.
This year, I'm happy to report The Great Nicki Reading Drought is over-- at least, for now. I've given myself the meager goal of reading at least one book and one play a month, no matter how much work I have to do. And damn it, I've been doing it. Even in June and July, the months so busy I barely breathed (July, in particular, was so busy I worked straight through the 4th of July weekend).
So for my fellow book lovers out there-- you know who you are-- I present my Summer Reading List of 2011.
Cracked Spines: Summer 2011 Edition
All images taken from Amazon in the hopes that both the company and authors won't mind I'm pimping out and linking to their products.
- The Sweet In-Between by Sheri Reynolds.
Full disclosure: I studied with the brilliant Sheri Reynolds in college and she remains one of my all-time, absolute favorite authors. If you like Carson McCullers-- deceptively simple Southern prose with a beating heart and a sharp mind-- you'll love Sheri Reynolds. Start with Rapture of Canaan, a book so brilliant it caught the busy eye of Oprah herself (she chose it for Oprah's Book Club in 1997).
The Sweet In-Between was no exception. Beautiful writing, breathing characters, a silent, subtle theme running like water underneath her prose.
There's a quote from the book that I find myself repeating, over and over, when I'm having one of those days that makes me want to rail against the bars, smash the glass, or bury myself in a deep sleep until I wake up when things are better: But sometimes you have to pass a day - in one way or another - just to get tomorrow. It isn't the most memorable quote in the book, nor is it the best. But that quote keeps me running on those dark days. And I pass those days, in one way or another, just to reach tomorrow.
And eventually, in one way or another, the tomorrows come.
Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science by Atul Gawande.
Would I recommend this book to everyone? No.
Would I recommend this book (about a doctor enduring a Boston-based residency) to significant others of doctors just beginning a Boston-based residency? Yes, yes I would.
I'd also recommend this book for med students, pre-med students, or anyone who wants an intelligent, well-crafted view of medicine. Insightful.
Fluke by Christopher Moore.
My first Christopher Moore. Don't look at me like that. Two years ago I rented a Moore novel on audiotape to pass the time on a long trip home to Pennsylvania. The audiotape was so damn funny I stopped it after Chapter Two, determined to experience Moore in a setting that wouldn't call for me to tune out every few pages in order to not die on the freeway.
I bought Fluke in a Virginia used bookstore only to discover a receipt tucked into the pages from a Mystic bookstore. Odd that a book left New England, traveled to Virginia, and landed in my belongings-- only to end up carted back to New England in a UHaul.
In short, Fluke is a hilarious whale of a tale about a brilliant whale scientist, a loveable photographer, a cute-as-hell research assistant and a whale that says "Bite Me" on its tail. Complete with a science fiction twist.
Was it funny? Yes. Did it contain anything I ever wanted to know about whales-- and more? Yes. Did I love it? Yes. Do I suspect it's Moore's best, given what I've had a taste of in the past? No. No, I don't.
A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again by David Foster Wallace.
Wallace has received a metric ton of critical praise, especially after his untimely death, so I don't know if I need to add to the thunderous applause. I'll say this: he inspires me. He's one of creative nonfiction's best and brightest. As a creative nonfiction gal myself, I'm a ready fan and a wide-eyed worshipper.
However, I will readily admit that I skipped an essay or two in this collection. Tennis doesn't interest me. My apologies, Mr. Wallace. However, "Getting Away From Pretty Much Getting Away From It All" and the book's namesake essay were so absolutely fantastic they made the book's purchase well worth it. If you want to read the most hilarious send-up of a Caribbean cruise you will ever read, buy this book. Or save yourself a few dollars: get it from the library instead.
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.
I will not gush about this book. I will not gush about this book. I will not-- okay, just a little gushing.
This book is probably the most boring book you'll ever read in your life unless you are absolutely envious of turkey butcherers and families who spent 90% of their free time planting, harvesting, cooking, and canning. I am one of those loony people. My weekly trip out for fun? It's not the movies, the bar, or the golf course-- it's to the farmer's market. It is, honest to God, the highlight of my week. Even loonier, I am a from-scratch addict. I make my own tortillas. I make my own tomato sauce, my own mayonnaise, my own BBQ sauce, my own stocks. I make my own crackers, for Chrissake.
So, being the sustainable food nut that I am, I read with rapture about chicken raising, mozzarella making, and turkey sex-- yes, turkey sex. It was one of my most informative, joyous reads of the year. But, like I said, unless you're a self-proclaimed food loony like me, it probably has the appeal of a book about mothballs.
I'm currently reading The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers.
If you feel the need to tell me any spoilers, I will find you and I will cut you.
It's your turn. I'm ALWAYS looking for new titles-- in fact, thanks to Brent's suggestion, I picked up a copy of Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs for a whopping $.50 at a recent library sale. What are you reading? What have you read this summer? Who's your latest favorite author? And are the Hunger Games really as good as everyone says they are?
Note to my oh-so-fabulous guest posters: the guest week should (cross your fingers) begin next Monday! I'll get a schedule out later in the week.