Don’t call it a comeback

Don’t call it a comeback

I been here for years.

My 2016 book list was far smaller than my 2015 list (100 books) or my 2014 list (54 books).  However this year was heavy on the nonfiction and long books.  Purity (563 pages), Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention (608 pages) and Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (1006 pages) all took forever to read. My favorites for the year are in bold.

  1. Imperium, Christian Kracht
  2. 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing my Edge and Found Self-Help that Actually Works, Dan Harris
  3. Echo, Pam Munoz Ryan
  4. The Grownup, Gillian Flynn
  5. It Ended Badly: Thirteen of the Worst Breakups in History: Jennifer Wright
  6. Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, Margot Lee Shetterley
  7. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, Susanna Clarke
  8. Armada, Ernest Cline
  9. Neither Snow nor Rain: A History of the United States Postal Service, Devin Leonard
  10. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, John Tiffany
  11. Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention, Manning Marable
  12. The Nest, Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
  13. Keep Me Posted, Lisa Beazley
  14. Bon Appetempt: A Coming of Age Story, Amelia Morris
  15. The Cook Up: A Crack Rock Memoir, D. Watkins
  16. The Girls, Emma Cline
  17. Typhoid Mary: An Urban Historical, Anthony Bourdain
  18. The Clasp, Sloane Crosley
  19. The Widow, Fiona Barton
  20. LaRose, Louise Erdrich
  21. Circus Mirandus, Cassie Beasley
  22. The Dinner, Herman Koch
  23. Bunnicula, James Howe
  24. Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances, Neil Gaiman
  25. Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking: A Memoir of Food and Longing, Anya von Bremzen
  26. The Rainbow Comes and Goes: A Mother and Son on Life, Love, and Loss, Anderson Cooper
  27. Me & Earl & the Dying Girl, Jesse Andrews
  28. Rage, Richard Bachman
  29. The Rosie Project, Graeme Simsion
  30. Red Queen, Victoria Aveyard
  31. Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs, Johann Hari
  32. Purity, Jonathan Franzen
  33. A Cure for Suicide, Jesse Ball
  34. Beautiful Ruins, Jess Walter
  35. Fates and Furies, Lauren Groff
  36. Parenting is Easy: You’re Probably Just Doing it Wrong, Sara Given
  37. The Vegetarian, Kang Han
  38. Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, Erik Larson

Books I hated and quickly put down:

The Witches: Salem, 1692, Stacy Schiff

A God in Ruins, Kate Atkinson

What did you read in 2016?


The Bachman Books

The Bachman Books

I had a recent urge to revisit some of my early favorite books. When I was in Jr. High and High School, my first steps toward developing my own taste in reading was to borrow books from my dad’s bookshelf.  He loved Stephen King, Ray Bradbury and all kinds of other dark stuff.  When I left for college, I stole his copy of Different Seasons (sorry Dad!). I picked it up recently and read through the first novella– Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, before realizing that it actually wasn’t the collection I was wanting to read.  I often mix up Different Seasons and The Bachman Books, because they are both Stephen King collections, made up of books that are scary, not in a supernatural sense, but because they explore how dark, hurtful and sinister people can really be.

Sometimes I read dark stuff, but it’s an escape for me. Not all of my choices in entertainment are so bleak. Maybe I’ll write soon about my recent binge on Fuller House.

The most memorable novella in The Bachman Books is Rage.  It’s a story of a teenager that goes on a school shooting rampage, but as the event goes on, the students change sides and join up with him.  It’s extremely dark, and when I first read it in 9th grade or so, it was so dark as to be beyond all bounds of of belief, and in its own way was a terrible, cathartic escape from the teenage anguish of high school.

I read the book before Columbine. Before Sandy Hook. Before school shooting after school shooting after school shooting showed that Rage was not beyond all bounds of belief.

The Bachman Books

In my most recent urge to revisit some of these old books, I tried to download Rage from my library’s e-collection.  It’s not available there. After some poking around online, I learned that Stephen King had pulled Rage from all future printings.  He pulled it because he learned that school shooters had drawn inspiration from it, and he felt responsible and guilty.  He never intended someone to act like that, and never wanted to inspire others in the future to carry out horrible, violent acts.  He explained that when he wrote the book in the 1970’s, it was a different time, and that the book served its purpose in its day, but that times had changed and it did not have a place in modern day, in the way it was intended.

In general, I oppose removing books or ideas from the marketplace, but I guess I kind of get what King did there. If I were in his shoes, I can’t say I would do anything differently.  However, the book still had a place for me in my life, and I still wanted to read it. It’s easy to find a used copy of The Bachman Books online, containing Rage.  My copy arrived today, and since I’ve got a pretty casual weekend ahead, I’ll probably make a good dent in its pages over the next few days.

I’m happy to have the book for myself, but am left wondering. When my kid begins to develop her own reading taste, and starts digging through my books in this new and different era, am I going to let her read it? Or, like Stephen King, will I pull it from the shelf, because it doesn’t have its place in today’s world, like the purpose it had when it was written?


Men We Reaped

Men We Reaped

Over the last 2 days I’ve had a cold. And when I have a cold, I am the most pathetic, whiny crybaby. I’ve been especially whiny and pathetic because between congestion and headache and a 4 year old who likes to climb in our bed at 3 am, I haven’t been sleeping much. Since I couldn’t sleep, I picked up a book. And in 2 nights, I breezed through Jesmyn Ward’s Men We Reaped. Ward spoke in Pittsburgh just a couple months ago with the Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures series, and now I’m just kicking myself that I did not go to the lecture.

Men We Reaped

Ward’s memoir is framed around the 5 tragic deaths of young men she grew up with, including her brother. I am having so much trouble describing it, because she confronts massive issues of race, racism and poverty, as well as individual struggles of grief and loneliness. Men We Reaped is tragic and gorgeous.


Holidays, books, all curled up by the fire!

Holidays, books, all curled up by the fire!




Ok, it’s a gas fireplace. And I have no idea how it works. And the little paper pamphlet that has the warranty information is still sitting IN the fireplace, so we might want to get that out before trying to turn it on. But still, A FIREPLACE YOU GUYS! And I’m hoping we can get our act together sometime before next summer to actually get it going, so I can have one of those nice toasty winter evenings in front of the fire, sipping mulled wine and reading books.

It will probably end up being something more like me sitting in front of the fire, sipping mulled wine, listening to Scooby Doo on the TV because at least that keeps my kid sitting in one place. But I’ll take what I can get.

Speaking of books, I’ve been on a streak of good reads lately:


I don’t know why I had it so incorrectly stuck in my head that Bonfire was set in 19th Century England, and was some Jane Austen type book.** It most absolutely, definitely is not. Not even remotely close. It’s all 80s extravagance, scandal and Masters of the Universe. A fantastic, guilty-pleasure sort of read.

**Likewise, for years I thought A Streetcar Named Desire was a musical (thanks to The Simpsons episode where they perform Streetcar). It most definitely is not.


I’m gonna admit it: I’m a total sucker for anything JK Rowling. She could probably re-write the telephone book and I’d be like “Yes, pls, I would like to read.” She’s just a good writer. She’s engaging, she’s fun, her writing is light and quick. Her characters aren’t terribly complex, but they are interesting. You want to get to know them, to see what they’ll do. All good fun.


Goofy, sappy YA story, without being TOO sappy. I was going to call this a YA romance, but it’s not “romance” as the genre is typically considered. It’s high school romance. Sweet and naive. I really enjoyed this book now, but I wish it had been around when I was in high school, because I would have adored it then.


Tell The Wolves was hands-down one of my favorite books I read this year. It’s so hard to describe, other than to say it’s a story about identity and family and relationships. One of my favorite things about book club is that since we each take turns picking a book, I read so many books I would have never much been interested in from the description alone. Sometimes these books are amazing. This is one such book. Go read it. Amazing.

So what books to yinz guys have stacked by your nightstand right now?


October feelin’

Welcome to October! I haven’t felt much like blogging lately. Maybe it’s because I’ve been very busy, using up all my brain and my words during the day. Maybe it’s just because I’ve been more interested than reading words than writing them lately. Maybe it’s just because we haven’t been out to too many new restaurants lately, so that usually abundant stream of inspiration is not so abundant right now. But even though I’m not writing as much, I’m still here, I’m still reading, I’m still kicking. And here are some things on my mind tonight:

Page Dairy Mart’s last day for the season is scheduled for October 24. Sad. Even though the chocolate chip cookie sundae is di-vine (featuring Nancy B’s cookies), my favorite and go to is coffee soft serve with hot fudge and whipped cream. I need to stop on down there to get one last treat before they’re gone for the cold months.

Page Dairy mart Chocolate Chip Sundae

American Horror Story starts again tonight! It’s the only show that I regularly watch. My favorite season was season 1, but this whole circus thing looks especially creepy. I like to think I like scary things, but in real life I’m a giant crybaby and get too scared. American Horror Story tends to be just the right level of scary for me (meaning it tries to be scary, but isn’t really scary). Relatedly, my husband has banned me from ever watching a Paranormal Activity movie ever again, because he’s not a fan of being up all night while I cry over nightmares.


My birthday is next month. If all yinz guys wanna bake me a cookie table, I won’t complain. Also, I think the fact that 99% of the pictures I pin on Pinterest are baked goods is not helping me any with my (failing) efforts at losing weight.

I’ll be going on a mini solo trip this weekend to Washington DC to run the Army 10 Miler. I’m going to basically have an afternoon ALL TO MYSELF. I’ve already booked a trip to the Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa, and I think I’m going to go see Gone Girl (yes, because I drive 3 hours to go to see a movie that I could see at a movie theater 2 miles from my house) and go to bed early, because I am a WILD woman. But when you’re running 10 miles around the Pentagon the next day, hiking all over to sight see isn’t the wisest idea anyway.


Autumn clothes are my absolute favorite. Sweaters and cowl necks and boot socks and all things lovely and warm. Things I want want want:


Want want.

I just downloaded Hollow City, which is the sequel to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, and am very excited about reading it. Spooky!

Hollow City