The election was yesterday and there are no results so let’s ignore that and talk about books.

These have all been read in the past month/month and a half, and I really went after the Halloween vibe. So aside from the first one, this list trends a little darker than normal.

Very Nice by Marcy Dermansky
A nice, soapy summer read. In fact, a lot of the story takes place around a pool during the summer. Think a modern-day The Last Picture Show/The Graduate set in an upscale commuter town in Connecticut. May not leave you feeling warm and fuzzy, but a nice, easy distraction from the serious shit happening in this dumpster fire of a country every day.

The Prettiest Star by Carter Sickels
When I talk to my friends these days about book recommendations, everyone tends to shy away from anything too heavy (see above). For that reason, given the premise of this novel (a young man dying of AIDS in 1986 returns to his home in the midwest following the death of his partner in New York City), I haven’t suggested it to many people. But man I really loved this one. When you feel like you’re in an emotionally stable place, I highly, highly recommend.

The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey
I was SO excited to get this book (from! Support small book stores!). It was right up my alley. A British murder mystery. Written in 1951, this classic has been heralded by many as the greatest mystery novel of all time. Premise: an investigator confined to a hospital bed pursues the truth about Richard III and the boys in the tower (if you’re familiar with The White Queen, or have any knowledge of the Tudors, you probably know a little bit about the backstory). It is a super interesting story and a real-life mystery that plays a huge role in our current understanding of the royal lineage. The New Yorker had an article a few years ago (prompted by the discovery of the former king’s remains under a parking structure) on the role this particular novel played in altering the public perception of Richard III. So it is through gritted teeth that I say that I found this book to be sort of….a slog. Maybe it was just where I was at the time, maybe my expectations were too high, but it just didn’t do it for me. Maybe I’ll pick it up again in a few years and see if I can become more invested. Because I really, really wanted to love it.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid
Ooooooh this is good spoooooooooooky Halloween read. It’s dark. It’s creepy. It’s weird. There are articles upon articles written about the ending. They made a Netflix movie out of it (which I haven’t watched). If you don’t like ambiguous endings, avoid this one. If you like books that have a murky, sinister, wintery feel, go for it.

The Dinner by Herman Koch
Another book made into a Netflix movie that I didn’t know about! This is a Dutch novel that was translated into English in 2013. The entire book takes place over the course of one meal (I’ll let you guess which one). Two grown brothers meet to discuss something involving their children. Secrets trickle out over the course of the meal, along with increasingly unsavory attributes of the attendees and, even more so, the narrator. Unlike Ending Things (above), there is no ambiguity or subtlety to this one. Just barefaced human ugliness. Not a warm fuzzy read.

I have more but 5 is enough for now. Back with more soon.

Recent Reads


Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Don’t mind the chewed corner.

Found this book in the Little Free Library around the corner from our house. I love those things. I read the back, thought, “This should be an easy read”, and went into it expecting a sort of in the Ruth Ware/Gilly MacMillan genre. Murder mystery/beach read deal. But no. Oh no. It was not. This book was…dark. The well-intentioned but destructive actions of family members towards one another, the misinterpretation of acts of love, the fallout of all of that…oh man. It was sad. I wouldn’t read this if you aren’t feeling particularly stable.

That being said, the book is good, so go ahead and read it if you feel up for it. (I know, I should go into sales.)


Commonwealth by Ann Patchett

(Note, I did not take the above picture. I stole it from here. Let’s not pretend like I have my shit together enough to do a citrus photo shoot to match my book cover.)

Another LFL book! This book was chosen for a bookclub I was once in where the book choices veered into the relationship/love/woman-centric novels most of the time, which isn’t always my cup of tea. So when it came up for book club I read the synopsis, was like, “meh”, and just skipped it (but attended book club anyway).

Turns out I should have read it the first time around because…I liked this book a lot. I really did.  It spans multiple decades and basically follows the members of a mixed family. Not super plot driven (as I mentioned, I wasn’t compelled by the back cover copy), but a great read.

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The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Oh I loved this book. I went in having no idea what it was about. I finished the last page still not entirely sure I understand what it all means, but I so, so loved reading it. The story is like Roald Dahl meets Ray Bradbury meets Madeline L’Engle. It is dark and fantastical and scary and warm and confusing and beautiful all at the same time. It’s a book I never would have picked up if I had read the synopsis, reads like YA, and one that I was sad to see end. Haven’t read any other Neil Gaiman, so can’t speak to how it holds up to his other work. But give it a try.

The Endurance


I recently finished reading The Endurance.  I really need to stop whining about how cold our house is in the mornings.

A few years ago I started following a blogger who may have mentioned once or twice that Shackleton is her hero.  At the time I was like, pfft, explorer, whatever.  Then a few months ago my dad mentioned him and was like, no, seriously, that is a crazy story, it’s such a good book.  And I was looking for a book anyway.  So  I went online to check it out and ordered a used copy for one cent on Amazon Prime.


…and this hardcopy behemoth was delivered.  But turns out it is actually great, because the photos in there are incredible.


Basic synopsis: British explorer attempts to make the first land crossing of the Antarctic continent in 1914.  Not something I would have ever picked up on my own.

Legend has it that Shackleton placed this ad in the paper to find his crew:



Tim Ferris recently used this to advertise for a personal assistant (true story).  The book never mentioned it, and from what I’ve read elsewhere it sounds like there’s no proof that it ever existed. But it’s awesome to think that the crew was made up of people who would respond to that.

One of the remarkable things about this trip is that in addition to including a photographer, Frank Hurley, on the crew, Shackleton and a large number of the crew kept journals religiously.  Shackleton had struggled to scrape together the financing for the expedition and had sold exclusive story and film rights prior to his departure, so the trip was documented extensively.  When things were looking really, really bad, many continued to write.  Even when (SPOILER ALERT!) they had to abandon ship and had to leave behind everything except for emergency provisions, all of the journals and a sizable portion of Hurley’s negatives, as well as his basic photography equipment, were considered important enough to be saved.


Pretty awesome.  A few other takeaways:

First:  You (or at least, I) would assume that there would only be room for one expedition of this magnitude, with this amount of risk, in a lifetime.  But for Shackleton, and many crew members, this was their second, or third, or FOURTH trip to the south pole.  From England. On a boat.  In the early 1900s.  Following the expedition, a number of them went to fight in the war, then came back and went on even MORE arctic explorations, then finally settled down and led regular lives as pub owners or fishermen.  What.

Lesson 1: there is time to accomplish a lot of big things in life.  Don’t let the magnitude of something stop you from trying.

Second: (again, SPOILER ALERT!)  The expedition never even set foot on the continent, and yet their story is held up as one of the greatest, most amazing adventure/survival stories of all time. In a letter to his wife Shackleton wrote, “I have done it.  Damn the Admiralty…not a life lost and we have been through Hell.”

Lesson 2: “Success” redefines itself over time.  You never know what it will look like.

Third:  Shackleton was a badass and that was why his crew survived.  Not because he performed superhuman feats of strength, but because through subtle, everyday actions he conveyed a fortitude and unwavering faith in the crew’s collective ability to succeed, no matter how horrifically bleak the situation.  Caroline Alexander wrote:

“(Shackleton) would be remembered not so much for his own accomplishment….as for what he was capable of drawing out of others.  …  The mystique that Shackleton acquired as a leader may partly be attributed to the fact that he elicited from his men strength and endurance they had never imagined they possessed; he ennobled them.”

Lesson 3:  How you act really does effect others.

And seriously, the pictures.


Good read.  Great story.  Check it out.

Goodnight Noises Everywhere

I hadn’t read Goodnight Moon in about 20 years before this happened:

20140517_11401915th percentile body weight and height, 50th percentile head circumference

She loves books.  LOOOOOVES books.  So there’s been a good amount Goodnight Moon up in these parts for the past year or so.  And upon reading it again for the first time, I was surprised.

I was surprised by how completely random and creepy Goodnight Moon is.

The lines and pictures from this book reside in the same eerie, dream-like haze as early childhood memories.  There is a ghostly familiarity to them.  But when my grown-up mind saw the pictures with grown-up eyes and heard the words for the first time in many, many years, my initial thought was, “HOW is this book so popular??”

There is no story.  The rhymes aren’t super fun or clever.  And take, for instance, the mush.  We wish it goodnight, as it sits, cold and colorless, next to a blank page that says “Goodnight Nobody.”



There is the picture on the wall across from the three bears sitting in chairs of a big rabbit fishing for a little rabbit with a carrot on a string.  What.

And then, of course, the quiet old lady whispering “hush”:


Nightmare material like woah.  Case in point:


Tell me there’s no resemblance.

And yet, despite the objective weirdness, Goodnight Moon is soothing.  And warm.  And because it lacks the typical structure and singsongy-ness, as you read it the second (or third, or fourth) time, it doesn’t grate.  It is simple and familiar and calming.  And the glowing light of the stars and the dollhouse windows on the last page…I love the last page.

So, like every other parent and grandparent, we’ll keep a few copies around, reading it over and over and over again, burying the same strange story with the same strange pictures deep into someone else’s childhood memory, to be rediscovered later.




Looking at pictures of shelves of books on Pintrest is like crack.  I know….where does the excitement end.

Books are potentially good that I started this year and have not been able to get through:

  • Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling.  I had been looking to read this book since it came out like 2 years ago. One afternoon, after a rough week at work, I was in Target for a baby something and decided to splurge and bought it.  SUPER. EXCITED.  Got about 150 pages in and found myself forgetting to pick it up when I had a free minute, and not remembering what was going on when I started reading again (the biggest signs that I am just not into it).  It is dark.  The characters are depressing.  You know it isn’t going anywhere good.  Maybe it was just the wrong time for me to read it?  But I put it down and picked up…
  • Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan.   Great name (the book).   A few tech blogs I read had said it was a really fast, fun read.  I was very excited.  And I liked it, for the first part.  But about 2/3 of the way through it started to drag.  Plus the way they talked about certain parts of the tech community in Silicon Valley kind of bugged.  So I quit and moved onto….
  • The Sting Man by Robert Green.  Story of Abscam (Americna Hustle).  Organized crime, corrupt politicians, scandal, intrigue…totally up my alley.  But the writing style for some reason didn’t work for me.  So many names.  Had serious trouble engaging.  Could not get into it.

Time to bring in the pinch hitter…

  • The Goldfinch.  Since everyone and their mother was talking about it.  Finished it 3 weeks ago.  Winner!

Books I have been reading on and off that I like:

  • My Best Race.  A series of short stores by 50 runners talking about what their greatest race was (and in many cases, it’s not the biggest race or the one that brought them the highest accolades.)  I like it.

Books sitting on the sidelines that I plan to read next:

…and there, my friends, is a book update.

Where oh where has October gone…

{Celebrated a wedding with old friends in Colorado}

David and Mom, 1966

{and the life of an old friend in Seal Beach}


{…some trail running in Barea…}

{…and Kentucky football games at Commonwealth Sadium…}

{…a little pumpkin baked deliciousness at home (recipe here)…}

{…and domestic adventures in canning…}

{…seasonal reading (yes, this book is from the “required high school reading” section of the library and is labeled “teen” on the cover)…}

{…and, of course, fall sunsets.}

Time’s a Goon

I LOVE SUMMER SO MUCH.  Even when I get tangled up in the pool vacuum hose.  (and no, I don’t know where my bellybutton went in that picture…maybe the whiteness ate it.)

It doesn’t hurt that Paul’s sister’s boyfriend’s mother (did you get that?) has a house with a pool around the corner from where we live.  And she lets us use it pretty much whenever we want.  She even brings us lemonade and pretzels while we float around in the sun, which reminds me of summers in high school when we lived at Emily’s pool and her mom would bring us popcorn.  And now that I’m not doing 3 hour bike rides every weekend, this is what I do instead: lie on my floatie reading my book, drinking lemonade, getting sunburned, and dreading the end of August.  It’s amazing.

Anyway, the book I’m reading above is A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan, and I thought it was pretty phenomenal.  Different format than most novels, almost a series of short stories, very fragmented and unconventional in both the narrative and the actual visual presentation.  Really good.  Recommend.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I started this book on Sunday and finished it last night.  I know it’s a young adult novel geared towards the Twihard generation, but I was actually pretty surprised about that after I learned the premise.  Thought it was a little dark for that demographic.

But if you’re looking for something to fly through that you won’t be able to put down, read this immediately.  It’s good.

What I talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

Somerset Maugham once wrote that in each shave lies a philosophy. I couldn’t agree more. No matter how mundane some action might appear, keep at it long enough and it becomes a contemplative, even meditative act.

I LOVED Kafka on the Shore, so was pretty excited when I found out Murakami had written a book about running.

Honestly, I had a little trouble getting into it…and it never really picked up speed (pun intended).   He hit a few points that rang true (like the above), but overall kind of disappointing.  Bummer.  But it was short, so no harm done.   I’ll go back for more Murakami…but maybe no more autobiographical accounts.

This Is Where I Play With Fire

Books, books, books…

This Is Where I Leave You by Johnathan Tropper
GREAT BOOK.  Really entertaining, parts of it are hilarious (though the subject matter is anything but…death, infidelity, being stuck in a house with your family for 7 days…)  I haven’t read any of his stuff before, but will check out some other novels.  Definitely worth a read.

The Girl Who Played With Fire by Steig Larsson
I know, everyone and their mother has already read this.  Good airplane book.  Plot driven, exciting, much better than the first (which I thought was kind of slow in the beginning), though it did get kind of…ridiculous?…toward the end.  (Like…SPOILER ALERT: A giant man with superhuman strength and exceptionally strong bones that are impossible to break who also has a strange disorder where he feels no pain.  Really?)  But still a fun read.  Have been told I should read the third one soon, so it’s on my list.