Notes from Mt. Bookpile

Whew!  What an end to the year... 400 books read, 91 in this quarter.  Reviews on the other blog. No other comments here: stay tuned for the year-end book posts!


Children's/Young Adult

Adult Fiction



  • That Mad Game
  • The Skull in the Rock, Marc Aronson
  • A Little History of Science, W. F. Bynum
  • The Pause Principle, Kevin Cashman
  • The Law of Superheroes; James Daily
  • Faces From the Past, James M. Deem
  • It's Raining Fish And Spiders, Bill Evans
  • The Split History of the Civil War, Stephanie Fitzgerald
  • The Wild Horse Scientists, Kay Frydenberg
  • Spirit Seeker, Gary Golio
  • This I Believe, John Gregory
  • The Warrior's Heart, Eric Greitens
  • Rescuing the Children, Deborah Hodge
  • Among the Islands, Tim Flannery
  • The Information Diet, Clay Johnson
  • Into a Paris Quartier, Diane Johnson
  • We Are Their Voice, Kathy Kacer
  • Dear Teen Me, Miranda Kenneally
  • Leonardo and the Last Supper, Ross King
  • So You Wanna Be a Superstar? Ted Michael
  • Young, Innocent and in Prison, Jeff Mitchell
  • When Organizing Isn't Enough, Julie Morgenstern
  • The Bronte Sisters, Catherine Reef
  • Inside Scientology, Janet Reitman
  • Growing Up Muslim, Ali-Karamali Sumbul
  • Fourteen And Sentenced To Death, Bill Swan
  • Effective Grading, Barbara Walvoord
  • Pier 21 and Children of the Titanic, Christine Welldon
  • Titanic, Philip Wilkinson

Speculative Fiction


Best Reads of 2012

Looking over my reading from last year, I'm a little surprised at how many 5-star books there were 31 of them.  And I thought I was getting more critical in my old age!

Here's how they break down:

Adult Fiction
Children's/Young Adult (all genres)
Speculative Fiction



There's a group I belong to, the Plain Language Association, dedicated to promoting clear, plain language over jargon, not just in the legal field (where the movement began) but everywhere.

I hate jargon and when I edit people's work I tend to change things like "stakeholders" to "community" (unless, of course, they're talking about people building fences, tying up plants or hunting vampires, in which case "stakeholders" is absolutely the right word).  I change "impact" to "affect" or "effect", depending on which is correct.

If you were to watch tv with me, you might have to cover your ears when I yell at the announcer's sign-off (usually you hear "for Tom, Dick and Susan, I'm Larry", which implies that for everyone else, he's Dave or Joe; what he means to say is "on behalf of...").

So you can imagine how I responded to reading this in my e-mail this morning, part of a message enumerating upcoming changes to a social media site I use:

a simplified design, provides deeper insights, and surfaces new ways to connect and build relationships. 

I'm not even going to start....


Notable Quotes

I am always intrigued to hear from men and women facing retirement that they will get a chance to read the books they never had time for. I don't believe this, unless they mean read more steadily, for longer periods. Reading -- like those more frivolous lifelong pursuits, singing in tune, or driving, or roller-blading -- is either an early acquired passion or not; there is no in-between, no catching up in one's later years.

-- Carolyn Heilbrun, Last Gift of Time


Voting for groceries

Woke up early today, grabbed the handy dandy postcard that gave me my new district information, and headed out to the not-so-local high school to vote (by quirk of county configuration, I have a street address of SmallTown1 but pay taxes and vote in SmallTown2 and am in SmallTown3's fire district - if I had kids, not cats, I'd have to petition to get them into the Middle School literally across the street, because it's in SmallTown1!). Anyway.

The first election I "voted" in was 1968, when I proved to my mother that clearly nature was winning over nurture: my choice was the guy whose name was nearly a palindrome and had that cool x in it. Folks, I was in kindergarden. And in Ohio. Do I need to say more? The incredibly sophisticated voting method our teacher used was to have us raise our hands while she pointed to (and probably said) the name.


Notable Quotes

Presence is a noun, not a verb; it is a state of being, not doing. States of being are not highly valued in a culture that places a high priority on doing. Yet, true presence or "being with" another person carries with it a silent power -- to bear witness to a passage, to help carry an emotional burden, or to begin a healing process. In it, there is an intimate connection with another that is perhaps too seldom felt in a society that strives for ever-faster "connectivity."

 - Debbie Hall in This I Believe


Notable Quotes

English professors are trained to limn, contest, and quibble.  You should see us at faculty meetings -- it's like trying to herd cats.  No issue's too major for a soapbox, no issue's too minor for long-winded hairsplitting.

Does This Church Make Me Look Fat? Rhoda Jenzen


Notes From Mt. Bookpile

I guess 106 books isn't bad, right?  Chugging right along in my quest for 365 (as of today, I'm at 305!) and Mt. Bookpile is still well below 300.  Reviews in the usual spot:

Sutton, J.R. Moehringer
The Black Count, Tom Reiss

Children's/Young Adult
Kiss & Make-Up, Katie D. Anderson
Cold Light, Jenn Ashworth
Cash Out, Greg Bardsley
Iron Hearted Violet, Kelly Regan Barnhill
The Diviners, Libba Bray
The Dark Unwinding, Sharon Cameron
3 Below, Patrick Carman
Summer and Bird, Katherine Catmull
The Savage Fortress, Sarwat Chadda
Skinny, Donna D. Cooner
The Last Dragonslayer, Jasper Fforde
Pinned, Sharon Flake
In a Glass Grimmly, Adam Gidwitz
Three Parts Dead, Max Gladstone
Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend, Matthew Green
Silhouette of a Sparrow, Molly Beth Griffin
Burning Blue, Paul Griffin
Magisterium, Jeff Hirsch
The Templeton Twins Have An Idea, Jeremy Holmes
Origin, Jessica Khoury
Ask the Passengers, A.S. King
Every Day, David Levithan
Adaptation, Malinda Lo
Son, Lois Lowry
Carnival of Souls, Melissa Marr
Necromancing the Stone, Lish McBride
Betrayal, Gregg Olsen
Dodger, Terry Pratchett
The Encyclopedia of Me, Karen Rivers
Stealing Air, Trent Reedy
Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone, Kat Rosenfield
Endangered, Eliot Schrefer
Entice, Jessica Shrivington
The Fire Chronicle, John Stephens
The Raven Boys, Maggie Steifvater
The Other Normals, Ned Vizzini
Blasphemy, Sherman Alexie
Walking on Glass, Iain Banks
Telegraph Avenue, Michael Chabon
Scandal Wears Satin, Loretta Chase
Girl With A Pearl Earring, Tracy Chevalier
The Orchardist, Amanda Coplin
The Mirrored World, Debra Dean
The Stockholm Octavo, Karen Engelman
Crackpot Palace, Jeffrey Ford
The Midwife of Hope River, Patricia Harman
Flight Behavior, Barbara Kingsolver
Live by Night, Dennis Lehane
Escape, Perihan Magden
The Great Escape, Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Those We Love Most, Lee Woodruff

The Blackhouse, Peter May
The Beautiful Mystery, Louise Penny

So, You Want To Be A Comic Book Artist? Philip Amara
Better Than A Lemonade Stand! Daryl Bernstein
SnApp Shots, Adam Brockhorst
A Black Hole Is Not A Hole, Carolyn Cinami Decristofano
Guy-Write, Ralph J. Fletcher
Zora! and Stolen Into Slavery Dennis Brindell Fradin and Judith Bloom Fradin
40 Day Journey With Parker J Palmer, Henry F. French
Food, Kathlyn Gay
Rookie Yearbook One
One Dead Spy, Nathan Hale
So, You Want To Be A Writer? Vicki Hambleton
Moonbird, Phillip M. Hoose
It's Not All Black and White
They Stood Alone! Sandra McLeod Humphrey
The Giant and How He Humbugged America, Jim Murphy
Outcasts United, Warren St. John
The Great Molasses Flood, Deborah Kops
The Where, The Why, And The How, Matt LaMothe
Consent of the Networked, Rebecca MacKinnon
The Adventures Of Deadwood Dick, Pat McKissack
Iceberg, Right Ahead! Stephanie Sammartino McPherson
Unusual Creatures, Michael Hearst
Forensic Identification, Elizabeth A. Murray
Buffalo Bird Girl, S. D. Nelson
Steve Jobs Thinking Differently, Patricia Lakin
Discovering Wes Moore, Wes Moore
Lincoln's Last Days, Bill O'Reilly
Hand In Hand, Andrea Davis Pinkney
Beyond Courage and Helen's Big World, Doreen Rappaport
Paris in Color, Nicole Robertson
The Pregnancy Project, Gaby Rodrigues
Go, Go, Grapes! April Pulley Sayre
People Who Said No, Laura Scandiffio
Bomb, Steve Sheinkin
Seymour Simon's Extreme Earth Records, Seymour Simon
Swell, Evan Slater
Stars in the Shadows, Charles R. Smith
Discovering Black America, Linda Tarrant-Reid
Their Skeletons Speak, Sally M. Walker
Too Big To Know, David Weinberger

Science Fiction/Fantasy
The White Forest, Adam McOmber
The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern


Not a complete waste...

My Uncle A was recently in Memorial Sloan-Kettering for an extended stay.  I visited him twice, and on the second visit he was a little dejected - his nurse and the respiratory helper didn't know Kipling's Just-So Stories.

I hastened to reassure him that I knew the story!  With a father like mine, how could I not?  You see, my father (beyond doing amazing things with wood and beyond being scary smart) is an amazing reader.  Not as in "reading a lot of books" but as in "a great storyteller".  My earliest years were spent with him reading to me from some of his favorite childhood books:  Penrod, The Five Little Peppers, Tom Sawyer, Treasure Island*, etc.  And I remember him telling me the story of the elephant along the banks of the "great, green-grey greasy Limpopo river".  Now, to be honest, he may not have actually read the story to me because one of the other traits of a great storyteller is the ability to tell stories without having the book in front of you.  He also made up stories, and car trips were often times for another episode in the saga of some little boy, name now forgotten, who had adventures that ended with him falling from a mast - but no problems, because he was "rough and tough and hard to bluff and used to hard ships." **

Thing One did not grow up with a father who read to him, but he did know Kipling and the Just-So Stories.  He even sounded a little shocked that there were people who did not know these stories. 

Last night I called home to thank my father for reading/telling me that story and all the others he'd read over the years.  While he stopped reading the entire book to me by the time I was 6/7, he often read a passage or the first few pages and then handed me the book (which is how I got to read The Catcher in the Rye).  And then I told him that he really wasn't a complete waste as a father.***

ps - If you're so minded, go to Uncle A's blog and reassure him that there are still people in this world who know that story, and who are passing it along to the next generation.   

* I've recently confessed to him that I never finished the book: when I was 6(ish), he stopped a few chapters from the end and told me to read the rest myself - he'd decided that my sister deserved his attention.  Yes, I've been throwing a 40+ year hissy fit over this.

** Dad loves puns.  And shaggy dog stories.  Blame him for my affinity for both.

*** He also has a sense of humor.  He did, however, decline the idea of making that his epithet - but it might end up a direct quote on his updated c.v.


My kingdom for a horse...

Yesterday my friend Infowitch posted this article from the Telegraph:  'Strong evidence' Richard III's body has been found – with a curved spine. She then said that she was off to re-read Josephine Tey's The Daughter of Time.

When I was a young teen (13? 14?) my father suggested I read that book.  It was my first exposure to Josephine Tey, but more important it was my first inkling that perhaps Shakespeare was - gasp - a propagandist.  Being the odd child I was, I stared looking into the real Richard III and what we knew (and didn't know).  Then, in my 20s, I discovered Elizabeth Peters and her Vicky Bliss books, specifically The Murders of Richard III.

Since then I've seen two great productions of Richard: one at BAM starring Ian McKellen (available as a film for those not lucky enough to have seen it in person) and one at the Public, starring Peter Dinklage. Very different productions, very different interpretations of Richard.  McKellen's was Hitleresque, and the production hammered home his despotic, cruel personality.  There was no hunch, but he was certainly malformed (the scene where he singlehandedly put on a glove? amazing).  Dinklage, being far shorter than virtually any other actor on stage, used his lack of height as his crutch, growing in power and cruelty as the production progressed.  By the end, he virtually loomed over the other actors.

So now we have the possibility of finding his bones.  With or without hump, the question of Who Killed Those Two Princes has not been definitively answered.  Unlike my friend, I'm going to check out Alison Weir's The Princes in the Tower.


Mid-year Reading Challenge Check-in

Way back in January I posted my 2012 Reading Resolution.  So, how am I doing?

Thus far, I've read 197  books, and of them 15  were added to Mt. Bookpile pre-January 2012:

According to the rules, I'm at Level 3.  My goal was Level 4, and with a mere six books more I can make it.  Six books in six months... can't be that difficult to accomplish, can it?

Notes from Mt. Bookpile

Not quite as good as last quarter, but 97 books isn't bad. I've even revised my annual goal from 300 to 365! Reviews in the usual place.

  • Simone De Beauvoir, Deirdre Bair
  • Baby's In Black, Arne Bellstorf
  • His Name Was Raoul Wallenberg, Louise Borden
  • George Bellows, Robert Burleigh
  • Chuck Close, Chuck Close
  • Abraham Lincoln And Frederick Douglass, Russell Freedman
  • Does This Church Make Me Look Fat?, Rhoda Janzen
  • The Amazing Harry Kellar, Gail G. Jarrow
  • The President's Stuck In The Bathtub, Susan Katz
  • Cleopatra, Stacy Schiff
  • Mark Twain, Michael Shelden
  • Last Airlift, Marsha Forchuck Skrypuch
  • Eminent Victorians, Lytton Strachey
  • Regine's Book, Regine Stokke
  • First Girl Scout, Ginger Wadsworth
Childrens/Young Adult





  • Turn Right At Machu Picchu, Mark Adams
  • Religion For Atheists, Alain de Botton 
  • Summit Series '72, Richard Brignall
  • Words Set Me Free, Lesa Cline-Ransome 
  • Cowboys, David Harrison
  • Titanic, Deborah Hopkinson
  • George, Frank Keating 
  • Sable Island, Wendy Kitts
  • No Shelter Here, Rob Laidlaw
  • The Fairy Ring, Or, Elsie And Frances Fool The World, Mary Losure
  • The Polar Bear Scientists, Peter Lourie
  • Black Gold, Albert Marrin
  • Emily Included, Kathleen McDonnell
  • Sacred Stories, Marilyn McFarlane
  • Temple Grandin, Sy Montgomery 
  • Invincible Microbe, Jim Murphy
  • The Book of Blood, HP Newquist 
  • A Hidden Wholeness, Parker J. Palmer 
  • The Horse And The Plains Indians, Dorothy Hinshaw Patent
  • City Critters, Nicholas Read
  • The Mighty Mars Rovers, Elizabeth Rusch
  • Buried Alive!, Elaine Scott
  • Soul Searching, Sarah Stillman
  • Shannen And The Dream For A School, Janet Wilson

Science Fiction/Fantasy


Am I a horrible person?

Those who know me well know that I'm a bit of a pedant, and snarky about things others get wrong.  Note: I'm not talking about small mistakes, I'm talking about the really obvious ones.  The recently past ALA Annual Conference brought two opportunities for serious snark, and no, dear reader, I did not let them pass quietly.

First up was this sign at the Bowers Museum.  Can you spot the typo?  

Hint: think Tom Petty.  

The second was later that night, at the first ever Andrew Carnegie Awards.  Did you know that the correct pronunciation is carNAYgie, not the Dale Carnegie version CARnaygie (proof needed? here 'tis).  Imagine my disappointment when the chair of the selection committee got it wrong every single time.  Luckily, the President of ALA and the Executive Director got the memo. 

Yes, I took pleasure in spotting both.  I'll go hang my head over in the corner... 


Notable Quotes

Eventually we find that we no longer need silence. We no longer need solitude. We no longer even need words.  We can make all our actions holy. We can cook a meal for our family and it becomes prayer.  We can go for a walk in the park and it becomes prayer.
The Red House, Mark Haddon


Culture Vulturing

As the academic year draws to a close, it seems a good time to do another wrap-up of the fun stuff I've seen and done since last summer*

  • Blondie: This was the second time I've seen them in the past few years (previously, in 2002 at Roseland).  While the Highline Ballroom is a fun space, sharing it with so many hot, hip PR/record VIP youngsters trying to impress each other with whom each knows and and what they're working on, etc. was not so fun.  As for the concert, it was short - Blondie was basically previewing Panic of Girls, their new album.  It's vintage Blondie in many ways and I keep reminding myself that I should buy it! Of course they played some of their classics, like "Heart of Glass" and "One Way or Another", and while Debbie Harry's voice has changed somewhat she's still able to make those songs work every bit as much as she did in the 70s and 80s.
  • Sybarite 5: One of my favorite quintets, classical division.  This time they let their iPod choose their playlist, with their oeuvre on shuffle and pressing "next" after every piece.  Bohemian Rhapsody will never sound the same again.  They recently did a Kickstarter fundraiser, looking to finance a tour of all 50 states: if they're in your nabe, go see them.  You won't be disappointed!
  • Ray Davies: When I saw he was playing at the Beacon, it was a Must. Go. situation (unlike Thing One, I never saw The Kinks playing at Queens College) and who knows how much longer Mr. Davies will be among us (that gunshot wound in 2004 is still affecting him...).  Of course 99% of the people there were over 40 and many were over 50, longtime fans of The Kinks.  It was a little odd to be seated next to two semi-hip 20-somethings who clearly had no clue about who they were seeing or why.  Even odder, they didn't move during the first half of the concert (they left at intermission) while the rest of us were on our feet, singing and dancing.  The addition of the Dessoff Chamber Choir made songs like "Picture Book" and "Waterloo Sunset" even more special.  And can we all just agree right now that "Waterloo Sunset" is one of those perfect songs?  Because it is.  
  • Julia Haltigan: If you's like Adele's and Amy Winehouse's vocal quality with a country vibe, you'll love Julia.  Musically she's a bit more rock - and she plays guitar, so she's not just up there singing.  I saw her at Mercury Lounge, which didn't do the best for her horn section (it was often overwhelmed by the rest of the musicians) but on her albums it's nice and clear.  Check her out.

  • Comedy of Errors: Not your father's Shakespeare!  Boscobel - well worth a separate visit - hosts the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival and they tend to do things slightly sideways.  This one had mermaids... rap music... "Sea of Love" as a soundtrack... and plenty of laughs. The setting is under a tent, looking out towards the Hudson, which can make it a little difficult to concentrate when the sunset competes with the action!
  • Mary Poppins: Thing One's brother and sister-in-law had never been to see a Broadway show, and when it's a Monday you're a little starved for choice so... Mary [effin'] Poppins it was.  Don't get me wrong, I love the movie (Dick Van Dyke's accent notwithstanding) but does anyone really need a 5-minute production number around Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious?  Truly, it was atrocious.  And the two Big Effects (when Bert dances around the proscenium and when Mary flies away) are less exciting when you can clearly see the guide wires. Having said that, as a spectacle, as a first Broadway experience, it was just perfect.  Familiar plot? Check.  Familiar songs? Check. Interesting effects? Check.  
  • Seminar: Two words: Alan Rickman.  Oh, all right, here are a few more words: if you know English majors who spout jargon at the drop of the hat, you'll find this even funnier.  Jerry O'Connell's opening monologue talking about Yaddo and "exteriority" and "interiority" was absolutely hysterical.  The plot was slightly predictable but that final set of scenes, in Rickman's apartment?  Yep, that'll be my house in a few years.  
  • The Best Man: Like last year's John Gabriel Borkman, this play is so prescient! As a matter of fact, some one sitting behind me commented that they thought the director had added lines to reflect the Santorum candidacy.  Sorry, folks, Vidal thought this all up decades ago (the setting is the 1960 Republican Convention).  The acting was as good as anticipated, with James Earl Jones and Angela Lansbury showing their age but also showing how it's done.  Eric McCormack was a surprise, looking different than his Will character and displaying the gravitas the role requires.   
  • Snap Shot Plays: This series of short one-acts (short = 10 minutes or less) at the Milk Can Theatre was, as expected, a mixed bag.  The plots were usually predictable and the acting was uneven.  Still, watching new/emerging talent is always fun.


  • SAB Workshop: One of my favorite annual events.  The three pieces were a little uneven, with the younger dancers (not unexpectedly) showing less poise than the older dancers.  Those that starred were clearly the future of ballet, and I look forward to seeing them on the main stage.  As for the ballets performed, Twinkliana was cute - although I confess I was a little tired of the song by the end, and Corgege Hongrois pleased the crowd appropriately.

* in other words, I forgot to post one earlier - shh!


Notable Quotes

I'm having the estate sale early,
Long before I go,
Clearing out the mind's troubled attic,
Sweeping clean the cellared soul. 

Out with the moth's wooly dinner,
Out with the soft nesting of mice,
Haul out the mouldering anger;
I'll no longer review it all night. 

Burn the bushels of grudges,
Dump the files of regrets,
Uncage the ferrets of old fears,
Shame is so last year's dress. 

Sweep the cobwebs of outdated thinking,
Shred the ledger of "you owe me",
Recycle the tattered "someday",
Box up anxieties. 

Bundle the blues and the grumbles,
Delete the detritus of doubt,
Padlock that carton of fidgets,
Pack up that outdated pout. 

Sixty-five years is enough time
To figure out what's needed and what's not,
Old habits and tired protections,
Are all stacked by the door to take out. 

Such baggage impedes freely living,
It's no part of a life simplified;
A soul that is loving and giving
Is not one that's terrified. 

I no longer need these remainders
Of life as I've lived it before:
The soul is shrugging off ego,
The heart learns what it is for.

Certified Wisdom from a Certified Crone, Alice Paul


I can't resist a challenge

Well, Jandy gets her wish... I took the reading test over at Staples and here are the results:

Now, to get an accurate total, I took the test three times and my scores were 586, 1303 and 1132.  It should be noted that the first was from The War of the Worlds (which I've never read), the second was Alice in Wonderland and the third was The Wizard of Oz (both of which I've read often).  The first text had considerably fewer words than the latter two, and since I didn't know what to expect I didn't hit the STOP button the nanosecond I finished.  I'm not sure what to make of this test...

Still, you take the challenge and report back.  Is it accurate?  Is it helpful?


Notable Quotes

How often do we tell our own life story? How often do we adjust, embellish, make sly cuts? And the longer life goes on, the fewer are those around to challenge our account, to remind us that our life is not our life, merely the story we have told about our life. Told to others, but – mainly – to ourselves.

Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending


Remember that letter?

The Very Important Letter?

It was my Letter of Convincement to join the Religious Society of Friends (aka Quakers).  Here's what happened:

In 1996 I worked for a Quaker school and every morning we had Meeting, broken into 20 minutes of silence and 20 minutes of announcements/skits/whatever.  As that year drew to a close, I realized that silence was important to me and started attending Meeting in Brooklyn.  Off and on for the next eight years I would sit, silently but in communion with others, listening for that of God within me to speak.  When I left Brooklyn I briefly attended a Meeting near the Cold Cottage from Hell, and then when I moved, I found a small Meeting that really (as we Quakers say) spoke to my condition.

After a few years, I was ready to write my Letter.  What was in it?  Well, if thee were writing thy letter, thee'd talk about your commitment to Friends and Quaker testimonies.  Only thee wouldn't need to use plain speech.  And no, Thing Three, it doesn't contain an Offer They Can't Refuse.  Why is it called a Letter of Convincement?  There are two different types of Quakers: Birthright (those born to Quaker parents) and Convinced (those who are - wait for it - Convinced that Quakerism is the right path for them).

The Clerk asked that members read the letter at the next Meeting for Worship with a Concern for Business, and then a Clearness Committee was formed (note: this is not the same as what Scientology considers "clear"! Clear?)  We met, and talked.  Some Meetings are more conservative and/or Christocentric than mine - for example, those affiliated with Ohio Yearly Meeting or Whittier First Friends Church (home to Richard Nixon) - and there are even evangelical Quakers (I do a great impersonation of one).

Long story short, the Clearness Committee reported to the Meeting at the following Meeting for Worship with a Concern for Business... I was approved... then I signed a Membership Book that dates back - I kid you not - to the 1700s.

So there 'tis.


Notable Quotes

Reverie was once a major part of childhood. The time that kids used to spend in the free-form worlds of imagination and the outdoors has been drastically reduced by television, computers, phones, and tightly scheduled activities... In summer, [Todd Kashdan] recalls, "we had no camps, programs, or internships.  We had to figure out how to entertain ourselves on the streets and in our own little worlds."


Notable Quotes

Give up the world; give up self; finally, give up God.
Find god in rhododendrons and rocks,
passers-by, your cat.
Pare your beliefs, your absolutes.
Make it simple; make it clean.
No carry-on luggage allowed.
Examine all you have
with a loving and critical eye, then
throw away some more.
Repeat. Repeat.
Keep this and only this:
   what your heart beats loudly for
   what feels heavy and full in your gut.
There will only be one or two
things you will keep,
and they will fit lightly
in your pocket.
~ Sheri Hostetler ~


Does an award matter?

There's been a lot of fuss over the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction not being awarded this year.

Last week, the Teen Top Ten nomination list was announced and, well, some of the books baffled me.  To be honest, some of the books listed baffled my favorite readers, too.  No, I'm not going to name titles, because that's not the point of this post.

Today, I got my daily Shelf Awareness e-mail, which talked about the Pulitzer issue.  As with any award, some of the books are now classics and some... forgotten except by those who are completists or who really responded to those particular books.
Which begs the question: Is long-lasting prominence the result of the prize, or of the brilliance of the book? The prize spurs sales, which engenders word of mouth, which leads to more sales. Of course, popularity would soon wane if the book wasn't worthy. But bottom line: a Pulitzer would have been more than nice.
I think of other books, ones not nominated for an award, due to whatever conversations the committee had, or ineligibility, or lack of an appropriate award, and how many of those have had "long-lasting prominence" (Diary of A Young Girl, anyone?) .  Looking at some of the award winning books purchased for the school libraries I've worked in, and how frequently those books have been checked out in later years, it makes me wonder whether its worth it.

My new thinking is that if a book - any book, no matter how lauded - doesn't circulate within 3-5 years, it gets weeded.  And books in The Collection?  Only those I could see myself re-reading in years to come.


Notable Quotes

Of course, solitude is essential to personal integration: there are places in the landscapes of our lives where no one can accompany us.  But because we are communal creatures who need each other's support -- and because, left to our own devices, we have an endless capacity for self-absorption and self-deception -- community is equally essential to rejoining soul and role.


Notable Quotes

The digital revolution's tremendous benefits include access to nearly all the world's knowledge, greater efficiency, more freedom from boundaries such as home and office or artist and spectator, new ways to bond, and a riotous explosion of popular culture... Both as individuals and as a society, we can become so distracted by trivial yet instantly gratifying new things that we lose sight of neophilia's grand purpose of selectively focusing us on the important ones that help us to learn, create, and adapt to a changing world...
To understand and make proper use of our neophilia, we need to look beyond secondary issues, such as out-of-control consumerism, attention problems and electronics addiction, to see it as a metaphenomenon that underlies much of our behavior.


Notable Quotes

A life of simplicity can be defined as a life that has removed all of the nonessentials.  It is marked by oneness.  It is uncomplicated.  As a result, it is freeing.  It allows our lives to be focused on the things that are most important to us.
Joshua Becker, Inside-Out Simplicity


Meeting Musings

Today a Friend mentioned a film she'd seen recently, with the father telling his children "Go ahead an aim for extraordinary - but pay attention to all right.  You'll spend a lot of time with all right."  She said that she'd been thinking how grateful for "all right" she was right now.

In that spirit, here's k.d. lang celebrating an "extraordinary thing":

Notes from Mt. Bookpile

Wow - over 100 books this quarter. Pinch me! Reviews in the usual place.


Childrens/Young Adult




  • Master of Deceit, Marc Aronson
  • Death of a Dreamer, Alison Behnke
  • Steve Jobs; Karen Blumenthal
  • Superman Versus The Ku Klux Klan; Rick Bowers
  • Black and White, Larry Dane Brimner
  • Quiet, Susan Cain
  • The Lifespan of a Fact - D'Agata, John
  • Voyagers of the Titanic, Richard Davenport-Hines
  • Friend Me! Francesca Davis DiPiazza
  • Quantum Wellness Cleanse, Kathy Freston
  • New; Winifred Gallagher
  • To the Mountaintop; Charlayne Hunter-Gault
  • French Women Don't Get Fat; Mireille Guiliano
  • We've Got a Job, Cynthia Levinson
  • Dietrich Bonhoffer; Michael J. Martin
  • Miles to Go for Freedom, Linda Barrett Osborne
  • The Impossible Rescue, Martin W Sandler
  • Hearts of Darkness, Dave Thompson
  • Blizzard of Glass, Sally M. Walker
  • Charles Dickens and the Street Children of London, Andrea Warren
  • I Am a SEAL Team Six Warrior, Howard E. Wasdin

Science Fiction/Fantasy



Quakers, Quakers Everywhere

Perhaps someone (or Someone) is trying to tell me something?  This past tenday's reading has been filled with references to people who are Friends.  For example:

I have no idea where this is leading (or Leading), but coincidence?  Methinks not.


Notable Quotes

I believe, thinking about it now, that he was a man who felt it was important to do 'the done thing'. He skied at St. Moritz and summered at the family estate in Prussia; he read the current books, precisely because they were current.  For Uncle Erwin, there was a curriculum for living in which the things to do had been set down by others.  The satisfactions and pleasures of life consisted less in doing them than in having ticked them off the list.
Anna Funder, All That I Am


Meeting Musings

Instead of going on my planned trip to Philadelphia this weekend, I stayed home - one thing changed, and it seemed better to change all my plans.  And now it's clear why that felt like the right decision to make... Today, during Meeting, a Friend stood up with the following message (which I will try to repeat verbatim):
I'm going through some changes in my life and they're no going as smoothly as I'd thought they would.  I'd always imagined my life a being a beautiful strip of embroidery, with gorgeous colors and patterns flowing into each other.  But it seems that the better analogy is to a piece of macrame - knotted, twisted, with holes and the occasional shiny bead woven into the pattern. 
After she spoke, I knew why I'd stayed home and been able to attend Meeting.  My scattered, twisted thoughts heard the shiny bead of her message... it truly spoke to my condition.


A 2012 Reading Resolution

Way back in November, Shree posted abouther reading challenge plans for 2012. I'm not so organized, but I kept thinking about her post and there's one challenge I think I can actually do: The Read Your Own Books Challenge. What does it entail?

  • Starts January 1, 2012 and ends December 31, 2012
  • Anyone can join
  • You don’t have to have a blog to participate.
  • Non-Bloggers feel free to share your list of books in the comment section of the monthly link up post.
  • Reviews though not required are always nice.
  • Audio, E-books, Bound all count
  • Re-reads DO NOT count
  • There is no need to come up with your list of books in advance.
  • Challenge crossovers ok
Create a sign up post and link up in the linky below.

What qualifies for this challenge?:

Any book that you have personally purchased, been gifted, or swapped, BEFORE January 1, 2012 and just have not gotten the chance to read yet.

What DOES NOT qualify for this challenge?:
  • Any book that has been purchased AFTER January 1, 2012.
  • Any book that you have been asked to review
  • Tour sites, Netgalley, GalleyGrab, etc.
  • Library Books
Level 1 – Read 1-5 Your Own Books
Level 2 – Read 6-10 Your Own Books
Level 3 – Read 11-20 Your Own Books
Level 4 – Read 21+ Your Own Books

Like Shree, I'm trying to kill Mt. Bookpile and make some room on my shelves so... LEVEL 4 it is.

Who's with me?  Aravis?  Jandy?  Anyone else?