• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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Like Some Heroine

I’m in Miami and I’ve been skateboarding all day in my silver lyrcra unitard, so forgive me if this post is brief but I’m really tired. I went up and down the beach and people are reading. They’re reading Steve Jobs bio and Girl in a Dragon Hairdo. I love watching people read. If I had bigger balls, I’d go up to each one and ask what they are reading and why. And I would assemble the most amazing body of research that helped explain why it is that people need stories so desperately and why certain stories draw them in.

Tell me, what book are you reading right now and why. If you would.

148 Responses

  1. Bossypants. I like to laugh.

  2. i’m reading “quantum healing” by deepak chopra because i need healing and doctors not helping.

    i’m also reading a collection of short stories by mark helprin. i read his “winter’s tale” last winter and i want to read his work again and again.

    i’m a picky reader when it comes to fiction, so i tend to stick to authors i already know i like. but i’m always open to a good recommendation.

    so word of mouth is critical for me–provided it’s the right mouth.

    you would so not get me to read a book by advertising it, getting great blurbs, getting great reviews, or getting everyone talking about it.


    what gets me to read a book is someone with excellent literary taste recommending it to me personally, because they know i’d love it.

    the other way to get me to read a book is to write a great book. i open at random and if i can put it down i don’t buy it. make every sentence sing.

    i’m sure this helps the marketing people not at all.

    • It may not help the marketing people, but this is good enough for me.
      With so much deafening noise about promotion and marketing and branding and other words that strive for our attention, it’s easy to forget the thing that matters most.
      Write a great book. Make every sentence sing. I hear you, quiet and clear.

    • But here’s the catch. How can someone recommend it if s/he doesn’t know it exists?

      • I’m not suggesting marketing isn’t important. That would be stupid.
        I’m only saying that the Most Important Thing is to write the very best book you can write, and if your head is engaged in marketing to the extent you can’t give your book everything, the marketing won’t help anyway.
        If the book is great, someone who really knows marketing will do it.

  3. I am finally reading “White Teeth” and it’s taking me goddamn forever. She’s a fantastic writer. I’m just not in love with the characters.

    P.S. You, in Miami, skateboarding in a silver Lycra suit, just gave me the best visual.

  4. I’m on a Kate Atkinson kick. After reading “Started Early Took my Dog” over Christmas, I went back and re-read “Case Histories” and then “One Good Turn.” Now I’m reading “When will there be Good News.” I think I’m in love with Jackson Brodie.

    I picked Started Early Took my Dog out in the first place because it has such a fantastic title. I had vaguely remembered reading Case Histories years ago and so, while Christmas shopping for others, decided to pick it up for myself.

  5. Ever the overachiever, I’m reading 3: The Last Madam by Christine Wiltz (we are new friends and it seemed the right thing to do…); A Mountain of Crumbs by Elena Gorokhova (picked up on a whim) and re-reading the Golden Compass by Philip Pullman (all those wintry scenes make more sense in January).

    Hope that unitard was sleeveless – wouldn’t want you to be confused with an FTD delivery gimmick.

  6. I woke up and started reading The Hunger Games. I finished at 2:30, and now I’ve just read thirty pages in the second book. I’m reading it because my daughter asked me to. She promised it wasn’t so poorly written, like Harry Potter. And she was not mistaken.

  7. Just finished “The Art of Fielding” and I’m halfway through “The Marriage Plot,” a book I just love. I don’t usually hit two in a row that are this good.

  8. By the way, I started Patti’s book in June, got “sick,” and picked it up in July. I read half in a few days, but I got so busy at work that mindless TV won out. I finally finished it over the past three days. One of my favorite books in the world. I cried and cried over Jim. I cried a lot. I don’t know how you could read that without keeling over.

    And this is the only song of Patti’s I’d ever learned to play. We usually play it extra slowly and draw it out for a long, long time.

  9. The Journal Keeper
    by Phyllis Theroux

    ms. theroux is a writer’s writer.
    for real. i’m reeling from this book of thoughts and insights she has strung together like the most perfect pearl necklace (that’s for you averil) ever.

    it’s going on my list of books i like to give as gifts to people who matter enough to me that i want them to read the same things i read.

    (does your silver unitard chafe your inner thighs like mine does?)

  10. Jonathan Hayes’ Precious Blood, because it was next in my pile.

    This book is in my pile because he used to blog on Murderati and I attended one of his panels at Bouchercon. Brilliant gentleman, great accent.

    Since then, we’ve tweeted back and forth a bit, so I moved it to the top of said pile, which I wish I’d done two months ago. Good stuff.

  11. Silver lycra unitard. Hope you wore sunblock.

    I’m currently reading:

    Bleak House because I liked the big Dickens hits and was curious to see if I’d like his slightly less famous works and I liked the title. Someone told me he was paid by the word. It’s wordy. Yet entertaining.

    Amazing Grace by Jonathan Kozol for my indignation and do somethingness.

    Liar’s Club because someone who read some of my just completed memoiry work said it reminds them of it.

    And I just binged on the Girl with the Dragon Hairdo because I wanted to see what all the fuss was about, am a fan of David Fincher and Trent Reznor and thus would like to see the movie but have a rule that if a super hyped book becomes adapted for a film, I must read said book first.

  12. I’m reading The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. I read a gazillion queries and manuscripts each week and wanted to read something I’d never read before but should have. It’s all I have the bandwidth to muster right now.

  13. “Little Bride” by Anna Solomon. I read an excerpt of it in “Lilith” magazine and was intrigued enough to pick up the book. Love historical fiction and also love books with a Jewish angle. This has both. So far I’m definitely enjoying it.

    • Everyone who almost knows me keeps recommending Sarah’s Key. Anything with a little Jewish girl who’s killed or arrested, they figure I’ll really enjoy it, despite the fact that the only Jewy book I’ve ever liked is Portnoy’s Complaint, because if there had been a little Jewish girl in it, she’d be getting fingerfucked in the back seat of a Buick. My mother brings me holocaust memoirs and watches me put them in the recycling bin and then next visit brings another.

      • I cannot do Holocaust fiction/movies. I OD’d on it when I was in my tragic writer phase in high school, oh so many decades ago. Maybe it’s a phase all Jewish high schoolers go through. I ended it early enough that I never say “Schindler’s List,” which makes me an outcast. I absolutely refuse to read “Sarah’s Key,” although all of my non-Jewish friends tell me I’ll love it. What about “Foreskin’s Lament” by Shalom Auslander? No fingerfucking in the back of a Buick, but there might as well be.

        • I’m with you, Jenny. My book club (non-Jewish) just picked Sarah’s Key for its third Holocaust book in two years. That’s about 2 books too many in that time frame. I read a synopsis and decided to pass. There’s more to be Jewish than immersing oneself in Holocaust books/movies and not eating pork. I’m more interested in exploring that other part.

  14. I’m reading Writing was Everything by Alfred Kazin because A Walker in the City made me want to read everything the guy ever wrote. Not sure I’ll get through it. I’m on a memoir kick and have a whole pile of them next to my bed. We’ll see.

  15. October light, which I saw in a sale. I’m only a few pages in. It may not be for me but too early to tell. I just finished ‘A visit from the goon squad’ which I didn’t like at first but warmed to. I try to give a book 50 pages or so before I give up. Life’s too short to read bad books but also too short to make snap judgements if I think something might have promise. I always start a new book hoping it will change my life somehow.

    My 9 month old is eating ‘colours with Peter rabbit’ and seems to be enjoying it.

  16. I’m reading several books simultaneously on my Kindle, but the one that’s up right now is Mockingbird by Charles J. Shields. My book club chose this bio of Harper Lee, so I bought it. Right now she and her lifelong friend Truman Capote are headed to Kansas to work on the book that will become In Cold Blood.

  17. Liar’s Club. Mary Karr.

    Because this lady can write and she is inspiring me to keep working on my memoir.

  18. I’m reading Stephen Wetta’s If Jack’s in Love. I liked the cover and picked it up off the shelf. The dust jacket copy interested me so I took it home.

  19. Just finished Across the Universe by Beth Revis because I’m writing a YA book right now and want to know what’s out there, avoid the popular tropes (nigh on impossible) and not be derivative of something I haven’t even read. Next I think I might…I don’t know…my reading pile is large: http://wp.me/p1NlZX-cx

  20. War and Peace by you-know-who, because I haven’t ever before. I’m reading the translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, and trying to puzzle out the French bits before I look at the footnotes.

    Before that I read Iain Banks’ The Wasp Factory … it was the book chosen by a member of my reading group.

    Here’s to catholic taste….

  21. If you’re skateboarding with a silver Lycra unitard you have bigger balls than anyone, Betsy.

    I’m reading that Steve Jobs book, if you must know. Wait, actually I lied. The Jobs book is on my nightstand, serving as a docking station for my various devices. What I really just finished (on my hot little Kindle Fire) was The Boy in the Striped Pajamas because I promised my son’s English teacher I would read it concurrently with him to make sure he doesn’t just watch the movie and call it good. It’s a damn fine book, actually.

  22. I am reading Iris Gomez’s “Try to Remember”. I haven’t read a good book in so long because I have been distracted by raising my 15 months old son. I am having trouble writing and I thought reading a good book would help. I am definitely pulled in. Maybe it’s because it takes place in Miami where I semi grew up or it could be that her choice of words just reach into my heart. I highly recommend it.

    • Nice to see you here, Maceo. I’m from Miami. It’s nice to have a (-nother, but I’m only marginally hispanic) Latina here at Betsy’s, although I don’t give a damn about diversity. I visited your blog, which is in English, but am wondering if you write in Spanish as well. Since I am also struggling with writing, I strongly encourage you to check out the other commenters’ blogs here for encouragement and inspiration. A lot of them are very sweet, even if they don’t seem that way at first (glances obliquely at August, who doesn’t have a blog, but should).

  23. I’m reading Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, again. Just finished Another Roadside Attraction. I’ve recently realized that Tom Robbins is 75, no thanks to a random wiki-moment the other night. That struck me, for some reason.

    • I met him at a writers conference this summer and he’s still got it, despite his age. He must be doing that circular breathing and stuff from Jitterbug Perfume. Seriously. Still hot at 75, only him and Alobar!

    • Tom Robbins, yes. There’s a name I haven’t run across in a while. I read all his books (that were out so far) thirty years ago when I first set meself down to be some sorta serious scribblin thing. He had a terrific impact on my writing that took me several years to overcome. I can still see mornings squeezed from Mickey’s mousy snout, skies carved out of mashed potatoes and lye. And the world I live in is yet beset by people who would sell me anything they own, which is nothing, and kill me over anything they didn’t understand, which is everything. I’ll be old and Alzheimered, trembling and soiling myself, and still be able to remember Robbins’ words.

  24. I’m reading Stardust by Neil Gaiman because I need to. I read it before and loved it and I’m working on my own novel and don’t want to cloud my brain with a completely new idea. Rereading a book you love is like visiting with an old friend, isn’t it?

  25. A Confederacy of Dunces because I found it in a box at a garage sale, and in the forward, the author’s momma said it was great. Sometimes, mommas just know. Also, it’s set in my hometown and I get good visuals.

    • Hope you know the backstory: that book only got published because his mom refused to give up on it – even after the author (her son) committed suicide. But, truly, this book “gets” NOLA and all it’s quirks. I’ve especially admired how JKO’T captured that iconic local citizen specie: The Ignatius!

  26. The Book of Daniel by E.L. Doctorow. Last year I read The Coffee Story by Peter Salmon and in an interview he said it was the most influential book he ever read. So far the language is astonishing.

  27. BABY CATCHER by Peggy Vincent — It’s a collection of stories about her becoming a home-birth mid-wife in 1960s Oakland.

    Everyone looks at me strangely for reading this, because I don’t have kids and babies aren’t anywhere on the horizon, but the topic is absolutely fascinating– Since it starts in the early 60s, it deals with racist methodology and prejudice in hospitals, then follows through the Vietnam era where everyone went all hippy.

    I love how she talks about every single birthing story as being unique, and that these women become goddesses… And her style of writing gets me so wrapped up in each birth that I’ll be crying or jittery with anxiety.

  28. I’m reading Vacuum Diagrams by Stephen Baxter. It was an airport buy, and I just felt like reading some sci-fi. It’s been years since I’ve read any real sci-fi.

  29. I’m reading Steven King’s 11/22/63 as an anecdote to just having finished Infidel, Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s staggering memoir. Can’t wait to see what she does next.

  30. Just finished (last night, early this morning) Life Itself, by Roger Ebert, because my daughter loaned it to me. A signed copy, thank you very much, and she and her writer friends had their picture taken with him when they “happened” upon he and his wife in a book store in Chicago. I always loved Siskel and Ebert, and this book is a treat. Tonight I am starting The Devil in the White City. Fiction based on fact in Chicago 1893, The Worlds Fair. A friend recommended it, and she has never let me down.

  31. The Rules Of Civility, again.

  32. Hadji Murat, Tolstoy’s last book, slim and elegant at only 125 pages about a Muslim fighter in the Chechen hills caught between two enormous forces: the Russian Tsar on one side and Islam on the other. I picked it up in a book store and started reading the forward by Colm Toibin who said it took Tolstoy 8 years to complete the novel because he was driven to get all the fine details of this foreign world right. I found that inspiring. And it’s turned out to be a little gem.

  33. Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann. A slow read and possible breach of your typical narrative arc…but the poetry on every page gives me faith that that kind of writing is still valued somewhere (naturally the theme hits home on some level, though I don’t quite write like him yet).

    Also, I met him at a reading over here, and he was really engaged with every person in the signing line. Invited all of us to a cafe where Joyce used to hang out! I had to get home to a babysitter so couldn’t go.

    Finally, I used to visit my grandmother in NYC during the early-mid 70’s – the period of the book – and lemme tell you, the grit of the City is perfectly captured. Seems like “foreigners” are the ones who do that best: Rushdie, Amis, McCann. Go figure.

    • NYC in the 1970’s. Grit, all the way. I’m definitely going to have to pick this one up, ‘tho at the rate I read, I’ll be a grandmother by the time I finish it, which is kind of perfect in light of your comment.

      • Slow read but in a good way (did you ever read The Master by Colm Toibin?). Every page a meal kind of thing.

        I love lurking on your blog, BTW. Lovely writing and pictures.

      • No, but I just requested both books from my neighborhood library. Thank you for the recommendations and the lurking. Nothing makes me happier than sharing my pictures.

      • I loved Let the Great World Spin. Just finished reading it a second time, the writing is luscious. Ditto on your photos, MSB.

  34. The Jobs book for my book club. It’s not written very well but the lead character is so fascinating it doesn’t really matter. Coincidentally Mr. Jobs reminds me a lot of my husband. Not the successful part but almost definitely the delusional one. He does that thing, where if he doesn’t like the reality you’re delivering, he not only doesn’t respond, he goes ahead and makes up his own. And I’m not alone in seeing the similarity. He’s reading it, too, and totally agrees with me.

    I’m also finishing up Little Gale Gumbo by our very own Erika Marks and Larry’s Party by Carol Shields.

    I really wish I was a faster reader.

  35. Will you let me write a book about you, Betsy? Actually, you’re very like the heroine in my ‘script…gutsy and not afraid to offer an opinion even though it may not chime with everyone else. She doesn’t do the silver unitard thing, though. Something to think about for later maybe.
    Reading The White Mary by Kira Salak

  36. The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. Because it feels good knowing I’m not the only person alive who thinks religion is nonsense.

    • I read The GD. Excellent book! Apart from the anti-religion stuff – definitely some legitimate shots made – I just found it really interesting. I had never heard of the cargo cults before. Fascinating.

      Ultimately though, I didn’t find his case at all compelling. It’s understandable – I can empathize – it’s just not compelling. I remain on the “probably is” side of the debate.

  37. I just finished Alpine Winter by Mary Daheim, her best in a long time. I dislike almost all of her characters, but I read the series over and over because it’s set on a weekly newspaper in a small town. I’ve always wanted to work on a small paper and in fact did, for a few months, but it didn’t work out.

    I read, always, to escape.

  38. The Family Fang. A tad MFAish for me, but still enjoying.

    Also re-reading Amy Bloom’s Away. Can’t get enough of the woman.

  39. I just finished Sara Paretsky’s newest, Break Down. I love a well-written mystery. Now I’m moving on to The Rope by Nevada Barr. I work in a library and it gives me a little rush to be able to read the books before they go out on the shelves.

  40. I’m in the middle of “The Fifties” by David Halberstam. I picked it up for research, but find myself reading the whole thing. It jumps from the atomic bomb, to Lucille Ball, to McDonalds; I love it.

  41. I had picked up “Annie Dunn” awhile back and could no get into it. I started reading it again and was enthralled. The story is of 2 woman of a certain age taking care of a nephew’s children over the summer on a little Irish farm. It was so beautifully told and written. Such luscious “Yeatslike” prose…I was compelled to read the “Canaan’s Side” also by Sebastian Barry. Both such gracious story telling… a joy to read.

  42. “Myths and Mysteries of New York” by Fran Capo. I just started it last night. It was a Christmas present and it sucked me right in with tales of alligators in NYC sewers, McGurk’s Suicide Bar, Typhoid Mary and The Mysterious Leather Man. In the introduction the author wrote of all these false leads and misconnections while researching her book and that hit home for me. Also in her bio, Ms. Capo brags about her place in the Guinness Book of World Records as Fastest Talking Female. Pretty heady stuff, but I’m slogging through.

  43. I’m reading along three lines, rotating:

    DIVORCER by Gary Lutz, on the Literary Line;

    DENVER QUARTERLY, Vol. 46, No. 2, 2012, ed. Bin Ramke, on the Periodicals Line; and

    STONEWALL IN THE VALLEY by Robert G. Tanner, on the Civil War Research line.

  44. I’m working my way through the Akashic Noir series, because I recently read and loved The Best American Noir of the Century and I’m trying to find something that recreates the experience. I just started The Lemon Table by Julian Barnes, and Selected Stories by Alice Munro. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention our Laura Maylene Walter’s collection, Living Arrangements, which I have finished but refuse to put back on the shelf.

    All short stories. Yet the top spot on my Kindle is The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing, heavily and ambitiously highlighted. One of these things is not like the others. . . .

  45. STEIN ON WRITING – to hone my writing.

  46. I’m reading “Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgiveness” by Alexandra Fuller. Who can resist that title or the cover photo. It’s “Liar’s Club” meets “Out of Africa”.

    Also reading “Blue Christmas: Holiday Stories for the Rest of Us”. This was published by Books and Books and right now is only available through indie booksellers. I got a copy at a reading in Providence with Ann Hood, Colin Channer and Lynne Barrett-all contributors. John Dufresne is the editor. Amazing range of stories-funny, horrifying, gorgeous.

    • Apologies for my Freudian slip – that’s Tree of Forgetfulness, not Forgiveness. I suppose they are related…

    • Well, you have certainly rung my chimes, mentioning Out of Africa along with Liar’s Club (which I forgot to include in my current reading list, below). I will be searching for that one in my library’s catalog posthaste.

  47. Re-reading Half a Life by Darin Strauss because my students are working on personal narrative right now. I read them an excerpt here and there. I think I will make my son read this book before he is allowed to get his driver’s licence.

    The book – and the formatting, bravo McSweeney’s – is brilliant.

  48. I’m almost finished with READING MY FATHER by Alexandra Styron, after a recommendation from Teri; it’s every bit as compelling and as fascinating as I’d hoped. Also, like Averil, I’m savoring Laura Maylene Walter’s LIVING ARRANGEMENTS.

  49. I finally picked up LUCIFER’S HAMMER because I need a good apocalypse book to ring in 2012. It’s so 70’s, and I’m on like page 200 and the apocalypse is just getting started. It would never have been published had they tried to query it these days, but it’s entertaining nonetheless. I love a good apocalypse.

  50. Loved scrolling this list to see what everyone is reading. Also loved that others read more than one book at a time. Perhaps I’m not as weird as I thought.

    I’m reading Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese and Felidae by Akif Pirincci. The latter I’m actually re-reading. I bought it on a trip to London in the early 90s and out of curiosity about genre classification (cozy? thriller?), wanted to revisit it.

    • Loved Cutting for Stone. Raced through it once, now rereading slowly to savor. Hard to contain my excitement – Verghese is coming to speak in my town! Major sqeee! Can’t wait to hear him in person.

      • I heard him last year at the Texas Book Festival. He’s a great speaker, you won’t be disappointed. A woman in the audience asked him how she could get her husband to read, he’s a doctor and says he can’t afford to take the time to read. Verghese said he tells his medical students they can’t afford NOT to read. How else can you keep in touch with the humanity of your patients? Very thoughtful man.

        • Not all doctors are interested in the humanity of their patients. They look on the patient as a necessary evil – an ambulatory container for the interesting condition they want to treat. Those are the docs you will hear refer to “the gallbladder in Room 215.”

  51. I’m reading Death Comes to Pemberly by PD James, not because I love mysteries or that it was a well reviewed book but because I’d kill to know what happens with Elizabeth and Darcy’s marriage, the Wickhams, Jane and Mr. Bingley, etc. So far: moderately satisfying.

  52. Julian Barnes’ The Sense of an Ending, because I loved it the first time, and I’ve never quite understood time, and it feels like magic, and I want to know why.
    Salman Rushdie’s East West, short stories, because I’d never read him before.
    Chuck Palahniuk’s Haunted, because it’s making me laugh. Though it could be the pain meds…
    and Henry Lawson, because he fought the good fight, and he always told the truth, and he helps.

  53. Every Woman’s Guide to Foot Pain Relief by Katy Bowman. High heels are the new smoking!

  54. From reading the comments, I have a feeling I don’t quite belong but here goes…

    As I get older, I find myself reading less fiction. When I do it’s the Jeeves stories by Wodehouse – hilarious – and I’ve recently discovered the Hornblower novels by C.S. Forester – cracking good reads – I’m such a boy. I may give Rules of Civility a shot – I’m drawn to that period. Same thing when I read Razor’s Edge and A Moveable Feast a while back – but it’s all escapist.

    For the serious stuff, I just finished What It Is Like to Go to War by Karl Marlantes. It may be the best war memoir I’ve ever read – brutally honest and absolutely outstanding – highly highly highly recommended!

    I just started The Peloponnesian War by Donald Kagan after it sat on my shelf for a few years. So far so good.

    Also reading (on my brand new Kindle Touch!) Simply Christian by N.T. Wright, his shot why people ought to believe. It’s not bad (apart from the title being a shameless ripoff of C.S. Lewis), but Wright’s a theologian and makes a theologian’s case. I suspect there’s a better and simpler case to be made.

    The book of Jobs gathering dust in my office.

    Great post topic.

  55. “Gods And Soldiers,” an anthology of contemporary African writing. Africans do crazy-funny better than anyone on earth.

  56. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. I read it once in high school and it was good, but I was forced to read it. So I’m re-reading it now, and I’m really glad I have. It is amazing.

  57. I’m not reading anything. I’m just buying shit for my kindle and letting it gather dust on the virtual bookshelf. I’ve recently bought: Elissa Schappell’s Blueprints for Building Better Girls; Justin Torres’ We Are the Animals; Kevin Wilson’s The Family Fang; Blood, Bones and Butter; Eleanor Henderson’s Ten Thousand Saints; Dana Spiotta’s Stone Arabia; Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer. And a hard copy of Maggie Nelson’s Bluets. All untouched. I did finally read The Marriage Plot. I thought the way he moved through time was kind of amazing, but the DFW character made me feel kind of oogy.

  58. I have embarked on an Endless Reads project, all year, a book in my hand. I’m currently reading ‘The Summer Book’ by Tove Jansson, the woman who wrote the Moomins, and it is all about aging and feeling irrelevant and the comic harshness of children.

  59. A Special Providence by Richard Yates. Because I want to read all his books.

  60. What a great way to learn more about fellow Betsy-followers!

    Here’s my current book list:
    1. How to Be Your Dog’s Best Friend (The Monks of New Skete)
    2. The Screwtape Letters (C.S. Lewis)
    3. Joan Didion’s early essays (Slouching Towards Bethlehem, The White Album)

    Why? To develop my pack leader skills, to explore human nature, to revisit the 60’s & 70’s through the eyes of a master essayist. I tend to follow leads from respected guides, in this case, my husband, a former student/dear friend and a recent Atlantic Monthly review, then read and scribble words on bits of paper to incorporate, discard or save in an idea file for future musings.

    Here’s my question: What book(s) did you start and put back on the to-be-read pile? Why?

  61. Mad Dash by Patricia Gaffney. I really like her writing. This is third book of hers I’ve read. When I find an author I like, I read everything I can get my hands on by that author. I think we like to read stories to see how others live.

  62. “The Forgotten Waltz” by Anne Enright because I loved her previous two books. Next up is “The Whore of Akron: One Man’s Search for the Soul of LeBron James” by Scott Raab because I read an excerpt in Esquire that blew me away (and made me think of August).

  63. Daniel Woodrell’s story collection, The Outlaw Albums, one strong dose at a time, Denis Johnson’s Train Dreams and Julian Barnes’s The Sense of an Ending. Looking for that hard punch in the gut I want from fiction.

    • I must confess I don’t understand any writer, any artist for that matter saying that a strong story depresses them. What is up with that?

  64. The Power of the Dog by Don Winslow. He writes in my genre. I like to study the masters.

  65. I’m reading “Drinking: A Love Story” by Caroline Knapp. I was sober and then I went out and slowly started ruining my life again. I picked this up in a book store and ended up crying my eyes out in the reading room. It’s one of the best recovery books I’ve read.

    I’m also reading “Welcome to the Monkey House” by Kurt Vonnegut. I want to be a writer and am working on a book of short stories. Kurt is one of the greatest short story writers of all time.

    • Have you read Chekhov? Here’s something from Raymond Carver: “Chekhov’s stories are as wonderful (and necessary) now as when they first appeared. It is not only the immense number of stories he wrote—for few, if any, writers have ever done more—it is the awesome frequency with which he produced masterpieces, stories that shrive us as well as delight and move us, that lay bare our emotions in ways only true art can accomplish.”

  66. My upstairs book is Watchers of Time. I’m making my way through all Charles Todd’s Inspector Rutledge mysteries, I’m so interested in that post The Great War time period and love me a good mystery.

    My downstairs book (trust me, the house isn’t that big, it just means there’s always a book in progress at my elbow) is The Lacuna by Kingsolver. After being a fan of her writing, I hated Poisonwood Bible so much I couldn’t finish it. But this is good, the writing just swallows me.

    And my car book is a Wodehouse. It positively puts me in a silly mood after battling traffic. No, I don’t read a car book while I’m driving, I read it when I get to my destination too early or am having lunch alone.

  67. In all honesty? Sometimes I feel like I should stop reading because all reading does is point out my writing sucks.

    Having said THAT, I’m reading “Anywhere But Here (Mona Simpson),” and “The Liar’s Club.” (Mary Karr) I’m reading them because EVERYTHING I read these days has to do with writing/comparison. Maybe I’m developing some of those quirks/psychological issues Betsy was pointing out in “The Forest for the Trees,” that she mentioned the other day…. Which consequently I finished reading that one over the holidays.

  68. Dabbling on the Kindle. Many promises to keep. But trying to concentrate on The Tontine by Taylor Caldwell. Refreshing. The pages have those raggedy (deckle?) edges.

    • I think it was Thomas Costain who wrote The tontine. I remember reading and enjoying him in high school.

      • Yeah, Costain. Also read his Below The Salt as a kid in high school. Enjoyed it.

      • Thomas B. Costain! Another wonderful memory from my youth-riven past. His four-volume history of the Plantagenets was a voyage from which some part of me never returned, remaining ever content in an Avalon long vanished (yes, I know, they were dirty, they smelled bad, and there was no central heating, but still….).

        Damn but this blog is fun today. Good thing the boss is off skiiing.

      • I went through a Costain phase in high school, I think I read everything on his shelf at my small-town library. Wonder what prompted me to do that?? I might try one again, to see if it holds up.

      • You know what? I even went in and looked and that is what my brain did walking through three rooms. Apparently ADD turns into senility very quickly as I age. See”fox”; say “wolf”. So sad.

        And then there are all those pills. Thank you anyway.

        • No worries. I totally forgot his Silver Chalice, which was the book that got me hooked on him in the first place. I was a very religious young woman in that annoyingly pious way then. Now, not so much. I liked Taylor Caldwell, too, in those days.

  69. “The Joy of Music” by Leonard Bernstein – because I’m writing a screenplay about Bernstein.

  70. Destiny and Desire by Carlos Fuentes. Recently, I heard him speak about Mexican culture and afterwards he did a Q & A about his writing. At 83 he is so passionate that I wanted to jump him, but his people wouldn’t get out of my way.

  71. Purge by Sofi Oksanen. I’m reading it because while living in Finland I couldn’t help but be exposed to her celebrity over this book.

  72. ohh betsy, i too once had a unitard and roller bladded my way around collins ave and ocean drive, loop after loop….when i read your post last night i pulled 2 books from my wall length bookcase: Tales From the 5th Street Gym (“Ali, the Dundees and Miami’s golden age of boxing”) by Ferdie Pacheco…and “Forget the Facelift” by Dr. Doris Day. no joke.
    thats what im reading right now, today, and why? you inspired me to revisit Miami.(thanks coach!) i love books w information in them. dont need any help w emotional explorations.

  73. I am reading Katherine Weber’s The Memory Of All That, a very unusual and exceptionally well-written family memoir.

  74. I’m reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.
    Why? Because I’ve become That Age, and now, not only am I writing non-fiction instead of fiction, but also I am reading it.
    It’s weird.
    But the book is good.

  75. Just finished The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold and Nothing Was the Same by Kay Redfield Jamison; up next are Away by Amy Bloom and Half a Life by Darin Strauss (both of which I see referenced by others above)

  76. Russell Banks, Lost Memory of Skin, for the second time in two months. Because it’s brilliant and because it both makes me write and makes me not write.

  77. i’m reading peyton place because last year an online ‘classic trash’ book club suggested it and because i’m living in a peyton-y place right now so reading a story that has descriptions of the destructive side of gossip is proving salubrious. i am trying to wrap my mind around why it’s considered trashy but the group isn’t? is it a class thing? there’s also a fascinating photo of author grace metalious on the back, she’s wearing a buffalo plaid jacket w/ hood, jeans rolled up in thick cuffs like doris day and her feet clad in blue keds sans socks are propped up on the rails of the table where her typewriter sits and stares at her as she looks at it with this expression that i could stare at all day. she’s got an ashtray and folded laundry on the table too. i look forward to reading all about her one day, from what i understand she had a dramatic life and i think she’s extremely underrated.

    i’ve also just successfully located from the piles of books on my floor mind of the raven by bernd heinrich sort of a nice non-fiction companion piece to peyton place.

  78. I started POISON by Sara Poole (historical fiction), but put it down after a few pages. I guess I couldn’t get into a character who is a poisoner in Renaissance Italy, no matter how nefarious the victims.

  79. “A Storm of Swords” by George RR Martin, because I read the first two books in the series and can’t seem to stop…

    • It’s like crack cocaine. I’m so glad I came to this series so late. That way I had the first four books to sustain me until the newest one came out. Now I’m sitting and rereading and filling in the chinks with other stuff until the next book is published.

  80. Philip K. Dick’s Exegesis, because, although spirituality makes me nervous and people who walk that way usually make me run in the other direction, I just love him and can’t wait to see what he thinks.

  81. The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan. Great perspective on economy and a great history lesson. Thanks!

  82. As usual, I gave everyone in my family one or more books for Christmas. One of the perks (besides encouraging them to read) is they pass back the ones they liked that I haven’t yet read. So right now, I’m reading “It’s Kind of a Funny Story,” which I was pleased my niece loved.

    And I’m also rereading Haven Kimmel’s “A Girl Named Zippy,” which once again makes me kick myself that I didn’t keep a journal when I was growing up.

  83. I jusr finished AND SO IT GOES/KURT VONNEGUT: A LIFE — because my daughter gave it to me for Christmas. I have just begun (16 pages) reading a Western: KATE BURKE SHOOTS THE OLD WEST — about a lady who took pictures. — because my wife brought it home from the library.

    And so it goes. . .


  84. I don’t read, I gloss. And then I re-read, if I like the book. Twenty, twenty-five or more times will I scan, leaf, peruse, and occasionally, linger over a line or two. Reading certain books grow into intimate reunions over the decades, savoring the familiar, startled by a sentence that springs up, demanding to be noticed, finally, damn it, this time around.

    Right now:

    FOR THE TIME BEING, Annie Dillard. Because I wanted to steal some of her structure and rhythm. Incredibly, this time around I was not moved by her meticulous prose. God won’t let me get away with a knock-off, that much is plain.

    SENSE AND SENSIBILITY, Jane Austen. Because in my deepest heart, all I care about is story and morality, which she dishes up by the ladle-full.

    OUT OF AFRICA, Isak Dinesen. If sentences were food, hers would be truffles, each with a different flavored surprise filling. A great tale-spinner.

    MIRACLE ON SECOND AVENUE, Mukunda Goswami. Because I know the author.

    I COULD TELL YOU STORIES, Patricia Hampl. Because my head is so far up my butt when it comes to thinking about my memoir. Different perspectives loosen me up.

  85. I’m reading THE MASTER KEY SYSTEM by Charles Haanel. An old book & a heady read on how to create what you desire. I know this system works — been testing it out since 2006. Just wanted to get the dope straight from the old horse’s mouth.

  86. “The forest for the trees”, like coming out as a lesbian, I think I’m a writer…

  87. I put it down because Jack Reacher came in the mail. No remarks about the mess, please.

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