For the Love of Reading

I’ve always thought that memes are the blogger’s equivalent of joining a franchise affiliate program – you’re given the form and content, but have the room to put your own spin on it. I’m in a meme-ish mood today, hence this one.

What have you just read?
I just finished reading William Dietrich’s latest Ethan Gage adventure, The Barbary Pirates

What are you reading now?
I’m between books. I have two I need to review, Skin and Bones by an author whose name I can’t remember, and which appears to be missing in my house (I swear it was on the counter an hour ago) and This One is Mine by Maria Semple. Guess which one I can actually find?

Do you have any idea what you’ll read when you’re done with that?
Whichever one of the two above that isn’t first, will be second, but then I’m open. I have a bunch of books I recently bought that I haven’t read yet, and there’s a new Holmes/Russell coming out soon.

What’s the worst thing you were ever forced to read?
Miss Lonelyhearts, by Nathanael West. I had to read it for a writing conference a couple years ago. It is, hands down, the most bleak, depressing, unrelentingly dark piece of fiction I’ve ever been exposed to.

What’s one book you always recommend to just about anyone?
Katherine Neville’s The Eight

Admit it, sadly the librarians at your library know you on a first name basis, don’t they?
No. I’m not a frequent visitor to our local library. The collection sucks, the first rack when you walk in is Christian fiction, and it smells funny. Give me funky bookstore-cafes over libraries, any day.

Is there a book you absolutely love, but for some reason, people never think it sounds interesting, or maybe they read it and don’t like it at all?
Jane Eyre. No really, in an age where the classics are not required reading, anything Bronte earns sneers. In more modern fiction…Bread Alone by Judith Ryan Hendricks.

Do you read books while you eat?

While you bathe?
Yes, but generally only paperbacks.

While you watch movies or tv?
Sometimes if we rent a DVD that is more Fuzzy’s taste than mine. Ditto television.

While you listen to music?
Sometimes, but it has to be instrumental music.

While you’re on the computer?
E-books and fanfiction, and once in a while, a proof or ARC that’s been delivered via PDF.

When you were little did other children tease you about your reading habits?
No. All my friends were bookish and geeky, too.

What’s the last thing you stayed up half the night reading because it was so good you couldn’t put it down?
Coop, by Michael Perry

Have any books made you cry?
Not whole books, but scenes. Certain scenes in The Zookeeper’s Wife, for example, or, when I was a girl, Little Women

Retro-Reading: Where Did I Come From?

When I was five years old, and cognizant enough of the world to start asking where babies came from, either my mother or a friend of hers presented me with the wonderfully candid, but not explicit, children’s book Where Did I Come From? written by Peter Mayle. Yes, that Peter Mayle. The very same one who spent A Year in Provence.

Recently, after a burst water-heater flooded our garage, and forced some long overdue cleanup, my husband found my 1973 edition of the book. It’s battered, stained, and a little warped, and the dustjacket has been missing for decades, but it’s still in excellent reading condition, and when he presented it to me, I blew the dust from its cover, and sat down to do just that.

The cartoon sperm, dressed to the nines in top hats and tails, though sans tuxedo shirts, are just as cleverly depicted as ever, but the thing I truly appreciate through almost-forty-year-old eyes, is that the mother and father cartoons are not pretty people. These are not illustrations based on actors (unless they’re extremely loosely based on the cast of the Brit-Com French Fields, but instead they are lumpy and frumpy, and kind of bald. Well, the father is bald. And frankly, I find this refreshing, because most of our parents don’t look like actors now, and didn’t when we were young children, either.

The book itself is a frank discussion of how babies are made, and while it does use correct names for genitalia, it’s fairly vague about the mechanics of it all.

It also has the subtle humor that I now know is one of Mayle’s trademarks.

I don’t think every adult should run out and read this book.
I do think it’s a wise investment for parents of young children who are beginning to catch on to the fact that the stork story doesn’t hold water.

Book Review: Coop, by Michael Perry

Coop: a Year of Poultry, Pigs, and Parenting
Michael Perry
Harper, 368 pages
Get it from Amazon >>

I wasn’t going to post any kind of review of Coop here, but I love Michael Perry’s writing so much that I couldn’t not.

In this, the third of his collection of memoirs about his adult life in rural Wisconsin, Perry writes about everything from becoming a parent, both to a stepdaughter (he refers to her as a “given” daughter) and to a new baby girl, to raising hogs to building the titular chicken coop, which project becomes the recurring theme in the book.

As always, Perry’s description of his own carpentry skills is self-deprecating at best, and whether he’s discussing the way he salvaged windows from his previous home for the coop or talking about industrial hand wheels, he’s funny and engaging, and also makes you want to reach into the pages of his book and just offer a hand.

He’s also unabashedly proud of and impressed by the women in his life – and it is that directness and admiration that makes Coop a great gift for a mother, daughter, wife, or friend. It’s not typical chick-lit, not even close, but his writing is so easygoing that reading this book with a cup of coffee on the back porch is something every woman I know would likely enjoy.

I mean, I read it that way, alternating coffee and sips of iced tea, lightly sweetened with local honey.

I’m not sure if Perry has another book planned next, or if he’s going to concentrate on music for a bit, but I eagerly await his next words.

And you should, too.