• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies Sometimes I think a meteor could strike the earth and wipe out mankind with the exception of my mother’s Bridge club — Roz, Bea, Bette, Rhoda, and Jackie — five Jewish octogenarians who continue to gather for lunch and Bridge on Mondays as they have for over fifty years. When I set out to learn about the women behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, and most of all the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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As The Present Now Will Later Be Past

If you invite me to your house, I’m going to rifle through your medicine chest. It’s that simple. In that spirit, I want to know what you’ve got on that dang Kindle. I can tell you what’s on my bedside table:  Henrietta Lacks, Tinkers, some book about Russian novels with a Roz Chast cover, Savage Detectives, Stuff,  Words in Air (I never finished the last 80 pages because I didn’t want it to end), and a book that has the calorie count of every food on earth). So what are today’s most sophisticated and critical writers and readers downloading, i.e. the readers of this blog? Or if you’re still holding out, what’s on the night table?? Hit me.

74 Responses

  1. Holding out. I’ve got Marlow’s Dr. Faustus, Goethe’s Faust, and Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.



  2. I don’t know what “today’s most sophisticated and critical writers and readers [are] downloading,” not even those who are readers of this blog, but I am happy to list for you those books which I must finish ASAP as they have to return to the library, in the order of their due dates:

    The Age of Modernism, eds. Joachimides & Rosenthal
    The Age of Shakespeare, Kermode
    The Literary Guide to the Bible, eds. Alter & Kermode
    The Heartless Land, Stern
    Pieces of My Mind, Kermode
    The Hidden Damage, Stern

    (Yes, Frank Kermode recently died and I thought, shit, I haven’t read enough of this guy, better get on it.)

  3. stack one (labeled as such as it is closer to my pillow):
    The Writing Warrior
    Traveling with Pomegranates
    Hollywood (L. McMurtry’s 3rd memoir)
    Operating Instructions

    stack two:
    Our Tragic Universe
    Life Would Be Perfect If I lived in that House
    Devotion (D. shapiro memoir)

    …and the latest New York Magazine issue with Jon Stewart on the cover

  4. Nightstand. The Yellow House by Patricia Falvey, a book on painting technique and…. I can’t believe I’m going to say it: The Happiness Project. The woman’s a promotional dynamo. How could I not be curious?

  5. I have refused to finish Toni Morrison’s A Mercy…because who knows when her next book will come out. I did however reread Sula since I started reading the aforementioned.

    I’m needing to actually get to OSC’s Speaker for the Dead. Even though it won’t be Ender’s Game.

    At least two unpublished books.

  6. Today I went to the Jewish Community Center Booksale and this is what I have to look forward to on my night table: Chumash: The Five Books of Moses, The House of a Thousand Candles (1905 edition!!!!) ; The Good Book Cookbook by Naomi Goodman and the Hershey’s 1934 Cookbook. And much much more….two bags of books for seventeen bucks…sorry, I’m a fanatic for booksales at great places with the most interesting people…The heck with J Franzen!

  7. I just finished Ms Hempel Chronicles, which was beautiful.

    I just started How To Sell by Clancy Martin, which feels like a Sunday night movie so far.
    In the stack, some finished, but unable to be put out of the stack because the love is too great, some lovingly unfinished, some just gathering dust because the maid is taking some personal days:
    Budapest by Chico Buarque
    Too Much Happiness by Alice Munro
    The Three Weissmanns of Westport by Cathleen Shine
    When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
    Yesterday’s Weather by Ann Enright

    • Loved Budapest the book. But then, I love Budapest the city, so perhaps it was inevitable. Discovered it in a cool little travel bookstore in DC on 16th street — wonder if that place is still there.

  8. The Parent’s Daughter, The Girl with the Cliched Character, Swarthy Literature for Pasty Poseurs, Hip Contrarian Nonfiction I’ll Forget Tomorrow, They Called Me Pustule: a Memoir, and Shitlit I Imagine Will Prove My Worth.

    And What To Expect When You’re Terrified, For No Particular Reason, That Your Sweet Little Sensitive Boy Is Having a Tough Time in Kindergarten.

  9. -Big Girls Don’t Cry (Rebecca Traister, purchased on pub day)
    -Fury (Koren Zailckas, gifted at the BKBF)
    -Hitch-22 (Christopher Hitchens, acquired shortly after BEA, and before…you know.)

    There are others, so many others, but their titles have been obscured from view…by a drooping pile of MSs.

    What’s a Kindle?

  10. Real books on the real table:

    Book of Days (Emily Fox Gordon)
    Broken Fever (James Morrison)
    Room (Emma Donoghue)
    Lost in Translation (Eva Hoffman)
    Let’s Take the Long Way Home (Gail Caldwell)

  11. Every time you write how horrible the Kindle is, I find myself on Amazon checking them out. But I just can’t. My stack:

    Given Sugar, Given Salt, Jane Hirshfield
    Waiting for the Barbarians, Coetzee (I need Hirshfield after every chapter of this)
    Soulcraft, Bill Plotkin
    The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, Aimee Bender
    The Practice of the Wild, Gary Snyder
    The Lacuna, Barbara Kingsolver
    Tinkers and Freedom on the way

    • Loved the new Aimee Bender. I know it wasn’t supposed to make me want to eat cake but it kind of did…

      • Do you think it’s comsidered YA? I liked it– the concept and the family dynamics but couldn’t shake the feelinmg I was being talked down to. Still, I couldn’t stop turning the pages.

      • Hmmmm. That distinction can get murky. I think it might be one of those like Curious Incident or When We Were Romans that could stand up as both adult and YA.

  12. No ereader, just lots of colorful covers. And dust.
    Rock Paper Tiger, Lisa Brackman
    Freedom, Franzen
    The 3 a.m. Epiphany, Kiteley
    The Age of Reason, Sartre
    On Writing, Stephen King
    Immortal Poems, edt. by Oscar Williams
    do not disturb, anthology
    Population 485, Michael Perry
    Slapstick, Vonnegut
    The Preacher’s Bride, Jody Hedlund

  13. Two by Wendell Berry; The Unsettling of America, The Gift of Good Land

    Sri Manah-Siksa (Instructions to the Mind), Bhaktivinoda Thakura

    Essays, Michel de Montaigne

    Farms of Tomorrow, by Trager Groh

    A compilation of excerpts on faith by C.S. Lewis

    2666, Bolaño

  14. Kindle app for the iPad
    Tinkers-Paul Harding
    Winter’s Bone- Daniel Woodrell
    Housekeeping-Marilynne Robinson
    How to Disapear-Frank Ahearn
    Let the Great World Spin-Colum McCann


    Bedside table hard copies
    Too Much Happiness-Alice Munro
    The Western Lands-William S Burroughs
    City of Night-John Rechy

  15. I feel a little embarrassed to write that there are only two books (both paperback) on my dresser (no room on the nite stand which holds a small hutch my son made when he was younger) – “Cheri and the Last of Cheri” by Colette and “Complete Tales & Poems of Edgar Allan Poe”.

  16. On my iPad: Daisy Chain, by Mary DeMuth; God in the Yard: Spiritual Practice for the Rest of Us, by L.L. Barkat; Shaken Not Stirred… a Chemo Cocktail, the first 1/2 of my W.I.P.

    On my nightstand: The Message; DK Pocket Dictionary and Thesaurus; Thursday Next, by Jasper Fforde; Home, by Marilyn Robinson.

  17. I’m chasing Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad with Super Sad True Love Story. DO NOT RECCOMMEND! Both are great (the Egan is better imo) but the combo will make you super paranoid about technology. Given how we all feel about mere Kindles and iDouches it will FREAK you out.

    Going to read Guernica next cause it takes place in oldentimes when people read words on pages and talked face to face.

  18. I ordered and read Possessed (the Russian novels book with the Roz Chast cartoons on the cover) but felt it didn’t live up to the review in the NYT (I was one of those Russian-studiers in college). (No disrespect meant to Elif Batuman, and there were parts I really loved).

    I keep meaning to get back to Tinkers; I keep feeling that reading it in the Metro is not the way to ‘respect’ it or something.

    Must admit to reading all of Rosanne Cash’s Composed in one night last week (another impulse order from the States). It needed a better editor but there was some good stuff in there.

    I’m actually having a lot of guilt about what I am/am not reading right now. I need to be reading the Booker shortlist (so I can be an intelligent bookstore employee) and time is running out, but I think I really want to go back and read a Russian classic or two. So I’m in this paralysis state and reading a French book about the ties between the English and French languages and getting ever further behind.

    Also Alison Weir’s history of the fall of Anne Boleyn.

    I think that’s it, but I don’t have a bedside table. In the hovel in which I live, we have a bed on the mezzanine, so books are stacked in the space between the mattress and the wall.

    • P.S. Plus the 3rd in Anne Cleeves’ Shetland mystery novels (Red Bones) and the Lauren Child-illustrated Pippi Longstocking.

  19. Recently:

    Kindle — The Tiger by John Vaillant
    iPod touch — King James Bible
    Bedside table — NYer

    I think an iPad is in order this Christmas. I am resigned.

  20. I sit in front of a computer all day. I don’t need to read my books on a screen as well – my eyes need a break.

    My nightstand is actually a pile of books stacked really high! There’s a few biographies there at the moment:

    The Many Faces of Marilyn Monroe (Churchwell)
    Clear Pond – the Reconstruction of a Life (Mitchell)
    The English Climate (Gindin)
    The Dark Stuff (Kent)
    Plus a few writing books.

    Fiction-wise I have:

    Atlas Shrugged (Rand)
    Serena (Rash)
    Great Apes (Self)
    Lord of the Flies (Golding)
    American Blood (Nichols)

    All piled up together they make a lovely little stand!

  21. No e-reader . . .

    On the bedside table:

    A truly astonishing number of parenting books (“How to Talk So Your Kids Will Listen”, “Yes, Please, No Thank You”, “Raising Happy Children”, “Sibling Rivalry, Sibling Love” . . . OMG, how embarrassing! Time to either get rid of them or read them)

    A Gate at the Stairs
    The Lacuna
    Backwards in High Heels
    The Navigator of New York
    Room (journal)
    Journey Prize Stories (anothology)
    big stack of back issues of Mslexia

  22. Holding out. But will get the 2G iPad as soon as it’s out.

    Reading: Story (McKee) – writers: this is a great book.

    On deck:
    The Lacuna (Kingsolver)
    The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (Murakami)
    The Crimson Petal and the White (Faber)
    — all are 2″ thick and major commitments, so have been holding off.

    Franzen comes out in the UK later this week. Will probably buy & read that before the others, if only to see what the fuss is all about.

    • The Atlantic (not the ocean, but the monthly) published a scathing review of Franzen’s book in its October 2010 issue. Called “Smaller than Life: Jonathan Franzen’s Juvenile Prose Creates a World in Which Nothing Important Can Happen,” it’s by B. R. Myers and is a fairly thorough thrashing. It’s available through the Atlantic’s website and through the Arts & Letters Daily website.

    • This is bizarre to me because we’ve been selling it in our (UK-origin) bookstore for at least three weeks now. I know we have two editions — one is the U.S. and now I guess the other one is a UK export edition. Bizarre that you all don’t have it yet.

      I feel all kind of sly telling people for the last two weeks I didn’t love it — it was just so damned pedantic in places. So I’m definitely going to read the Atlantic review.

  23. Re-reading: Out of the Shadows: A Story of Toni Wolff and Emma Jung (Elizabeth Clark-Stern)

    Waiting for delivery: Jung’s Circle of Women: The Valkyries (Maggy Anthony)

    Listening to: Mother Night (Clarissa Pinkola Estes) Audio

    Reading the physical book, listening to and reading e-book to write an essay on the experience of each format: The language of Emotions (Karla McLaren)

  24. First – the medicine chest rifling thing. The best way to discourage such rifling is to fill the medicine cabinet with marbles. When said rifler opens the cabinet, marbles fall out and make big noise. Ha! We did this at a party once. Hysterical. Okay, maybe not for the rifler, but for those of us in the ‘know’ it was too dang funny. Okay, perhaps the excess alcohol helped make it a bit funnier . . .

    Latest Kindle download: Wicked Appetite by Janet Evanovich.

    Download before latest: Peril at End House by Agatha Christie

    Download befor that: Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay

    As for the nightable: alarm clock, silk plant, chapstick, bitter apple spray (in case the dogs get testy with each other in the middle of the night), and treats (jealousy among dogs isn’t pretty, treats help distract them when they hop into bed)!


  25. Time’s Arrow, Martin Amis. Love to hear him talk about it, and admire the cleverness, but his style is too cold. It’s been there as long as the bedside table has, stuck at page 20.
    The Hunger Games. Romping through. Perhaps I am a simple soul.

    What else is on the table? A wooden box from the Hotel Sacher, Vienna, which disguises some very dull sewing items. A black and gold box that contained a bottle of 2000 vintage Moet et Chandon, which disguises some totally unpresentable padded insoles – because I am too fond of crippling shoes. Nothing electronic, except for an alarm clock that is supposed to tune into a central atomic time station but is always claiming it can’t get a signal.

  26. No kindle, no ipod, no laptop, just a desktop … don’t know if it’s lack or lack of desire.

    Books on bedside table:
    The Art of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri (the best how-to book!)
    Music, the Brain and Ecstasy by Robert Jourdain
    Miletos, The Ornament of Ionia by Vanessa B. Gorman
    A History of the Archaic Greek World, Blackwell Publishing
    The Best American Short Stories 2007
    The Best American Short Stories 2008

    All of them with post-it notes and bookmarks sticking out

  27. The Red Thread (Hood)
    Designated Fat Girl (Joyner)

  28. I thought e-books would get me out of hot water with my husband, but as it happens he can read a bankcard statement. Now I’m back to real books that I can pay for in cash and slide between the mattresses. It’s lumpy on my side of the bed.

    Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
    The Rose Variations by Marisha Chamberlain (what’s not to love about a bearded lady?)
    Broken by Megan Hart (don’t judge)
    Exhibiting Photography by Shirley Read
    Justice by Michael Sandel
    The Stand
    House at Riverton by Kate Morton
    September by Rosamund Pilcher

    Next to the bed, because they are too big to fit anywhere else, are my photography books. I’ve collected these so avidly that when I find one I don’t already own, I fall upon it with lust in my heart and carry it home to bed.

    Except if it’s written by Jeff Smith, that hack.

    • Revolutionary Road stuck with me in ways I hadn’t anticipated. Nothing else I’ve read by Yates had quite the persistence that book has had.

      • I agree. That book was brutal but gorgeous and I return to it constantly. I love the part at the very end, when Shep describes Frank … how Frank is dead too. Oh, shivers.

        Justice is also good. I saw the author on Charlie Rose and I found the subject fascinating. The book is overflowing with concepts from which a novel could be written. Is being written, as a matter of fact.

  29. I only read books about physics. There should be more conversation on this blog about physics.

  30. iPad–Shit My Dad Says

  31. On the nighttable: Library of America’s new Shirley Jackson volume. The novellas of Hortense Calisher. Henry James on Italy.

  32. I’m a Kindle holdout, though one of my good friends just broke down and got one. I’m not against them per se, but I don’t really want one myself.

    On my nightstand I’ve got a half-read copy of the Iliad I’m never going to finish, Michael Cunningham’s A Home at the End of the World, which I love and don’t want to end, and an ARC of a book called Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self by Danielle Evans that I’m really excited about as well. Also a translation of the Tao, which I feel guilty about reading in pieces.

  33. no kindle.

    The Thing Around Your Neck (Adichie)
    The Chalk Circle Man (Vargas)
    Brooklyn (Toibin)
    The Architects are Here (Winter)
    The Given Day (Lehane
    The Penguin Book of Irish Fiction
    Journey Prize Anthology (2009)

  34. Holding out. One day, I’ll see the appeal of an e-reader but I don’t think it will be anytime soon.

    The Songcatcher by Sharyn Crumber
    In the Sancturary of Outcasts by Neil White

  35. What a tremendous range of reading among the posters to this blog!

  36. Love this. So interesting to see the spectacular variations in reading tastes.

    No Kindle. Not philosophically opposed to it, though if I had one I’d only use it for traveling. Love the feel of paper and smell of ink too much. On my bedside:
    2666 (Bolano)
    On Writing (King)
    Ahab’s Wife (Naslund)
    Red Sky at Morning (Bradford)
    Lacuna (Kingsolver)

  37. Really interesting article in the NYT from Steven Johnson on the topic of reading as a social activity:


    Don’t know if I find this thrilling or terrifying.

    • Just skimmed the article while eating lunch drinking tea and collating notes for my revision. Crappy concentration has never been my problem.

  38. This is great! Getting into so many people’s bedrooms to look at their books (and e-readers). I want to read in bed with all of you!

  39. “Downloading” problematic, since do not have kindle.

    Between covers (book) for reading between covers (bed):
    The Audacity Of Hope (Barack O.)
    Fear And Loathing: On The Campaign Trail ’72 (Hunter Thompson).

  40. Cutting for Stone, bookmarked at Page 101 because I gave up books for six months.

  41. My Kindle has most of my paranormal romance (fave authors are Marjorie M. Liu, Karen Marie Moning, and Lara Adrian) and fantasy books. Memoirs and other non-fiction are on my nightstand. Right now, I’m reading Barrel Fever by David Sedaris.

    It’s pretty cool getting to see what people are reading!

  42. Right now, I’m flipping between these 3 on my Kindle-

    The Lonely Polygamist, Super Sad True Love Story, and Anthropology of an American Girl.

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