Monday, September 12, 2011

Cracking Spines on September 12th

I didn't write anything about yesterday. Anything I could have said wouldn't be anything compared to Steph or Kat's posts on the subjects-- please read their heartwrenching tributes. My words pale by comparison.

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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

    Still, fantastic.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.


  1. ergh. most of my reading is 'twilight' and 'the hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy', chick lit like sophie kinsella and meg cabot, and 'harry potter'.

    yes, seriously. i don't like to 'think' when i read.

    also: thanks for the blog props <3

  2. I'm sticking to trashy romance. I really don't have to think when I read that.

  3. I love your blog! It's my first time visiting but anyone with the blog title The Loaded Handbag is a DEAD GIVEAWAY!!!!

    I love the novels you've chosen to showcase! A few will definitely make it to my pile.

    The Hunger Games are truly amazing and must be devoured. The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab is equally as delicious.

    I've just finished Best Staged Plans by Claire Cook, Little Pink Slips by Sally Koslow, and Aimee Benders The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake.

    Ahem... I like to read. A lot.

  4. Yay for reading! Thanks for sharing your book list! I might have to try that Christopher Moore guy sometime. I'm always on the lookout for a good, funny read. :)

  5. This is PERFECT timing because I've been in a reading drought to the point that I've resorting to listening to the Harry Potter books on tape while working out.

    Yes. I just admitting to listening to books while at the gym (Harry Potter no less) and thus got my geek card punched again--three more punches and I get an overbite and pocket protector!!!

    I could probably get those three more punches by listing the last authors I read (Max Brooks, George R.R. Martin, Kim Harrison), but that's just cheating...

    I'm going to check out a few of you suggestions today--thanks, darlin'!

  6. The Gargoyle. David Andrews. Best book in years.

  7. Sorry, Andrew Davidson. I am sure David Andrews is good too.

  8. I'm re-reading (for the 100th time) Harry Potter. (Currently on Goblet of Fire). Also reading Decision Points.

    I've read lots of other stuff this summer. Don't remember most of it. What does that tell you?

  9. THis is great!
    Check me out =)

  10. So glad to know your drought is over. However, you have now caused me to feel as if I need to read those books you posted! Damn! Damn books! Damn, damn books!!!

    My reading pile is literally that: a pile of books, papers, and periodicals. And it's about 18 inches tall. Now it's going to be taller.

    Oh, and another thing - that doesn't count the stuff on my Kindle or iPad!

    Damn, damn, damn books!!!

    But I love you anyway!

  11. And hahahahaha! I just noticed that you have Boob Spam in your comments!

    Right above my first comment here. See?


  12. Steph-- You TOTALLY think when you read! I've actually been meaning to read Hitchhiker's FOREVER-- I'm actually shamed I haven't read it yet.

    Vandy-- I will say, romance cover heroes are HOT.

    Jen-- Welcome! I think any book called "The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake" deserves a place on my must-read stack. *Off to check out your blog*

    Candice-- I think you'll LOVE Christopher Moore! Let me know if you try him.

    Kat-- HAHHAHAHAHA. ACIO, FIVE POUND WEIGHTS! I shall put a banishing hex on this cellulite!

    Oh my God. TOTALLY not insinuating that YOU have cellulite. I was picturing the Hogwarts gym. And it's hilarious.

    I've read Kim Harrison before-- believe it or not, my MOTHER is the one who gave me her book. And we've already discussed G. R. R. M...sigh. Heavy sigh.

    Scott-- Fuck David Andrews. Andrew Davidson, on the other hand, is now residing on my Amazon wishlist. Thanks for the suggestion!

    Mary-- I am actually LONGING to reread the HP series. Can't bring myself to read Twilight, so HP's all I got.

    DM- Your damn books! rant TOTALLY made me think of the "Oh, wicked, bad, naughty Zoot!" section of Monty Python. I know you'll appreciate that. You read on your Kindle AND your iPad? God. I'm jealous and horrified (because my reading stockpile would increase exponentially) at the same time.


Comment on this post. Or tell me your favorite movie. Or your favorite pez flavor. Maybe your analytical interpretation of "The Graduate." Anything goes, really.