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February 2012

I'M SO much better at reading about work than actually working.

A while back I read and enjoyed the oral history collection Gig: Americans Talk about Their Jobs, edited by John Bowe, Marisa Bowe, and Sabin Streeter. Just lately, I don't know why, I felt like reading it again. So I did.

I liked it the first time, and I liked it again. I'm a fan of oral histories in general; reading them is like attending a party where you don't know anyone but all the other attendees are very happy to talk to you, and they all have interesting stories. (This is almost completely unlike parties in my reality, except for the part where I don't know anyone.)

GigIn this collection, published in 2000, individuals with all sorts of jobs (they're listed very helpfully on the back cover, and range from a UPS driver to a crime scene cleaner; a video game designer to a professional hockey player; a porn star to a funeral home director) speak frankly about what they do. Each story is only about 5 to 10 pages long, so it's an easy book to read in little snippets. And it might appeal to any fiction readers you might know--Mr. CR read quite a bit of it too, and even enjoyed talking some of it over, although he was a bit shocked and dismayed by some of the stories about drugs and groupies told by the heavy metal roadie.*

Readers who enjoy work memoirs might get a kick out of this one. I think I originally found it because I'm a big fan of John Bowe--loved his investigative book Nobodies: Modern American Slave Labor and the Dark Side of the New Global Economy, and also enjoyed his later oral history titled Us: Americans Talk about Love.

*They were a bit shocking, but for some reason I was not as surprised, I don't think, as Mr. CR. Perhaps I have been jaded by reading more shocking nonfiction (true crime comes to mind) than he has.

That righteous feeling.

Yesterday morning I had a hilarious conversation with my sister regarding Dylan Ratigan's book Greedy Bastards: How We Can Stop Corporate Communists, Banksters, and Other Vampires from Sucking America Dry and Matt Taibbi's Griftopia. She is reading the Ratigan book currently, and is planning to read the Taibbi. Because I cannot help but have an opinion on ALL nonfiction books, even those I haven't read (and I haven't read the Ratigan), I did have to say that I thought Ratigan, host of The Dylan Ratigan Show on MSNBC, has a bit more of a "shtick"* than Matt Taibbi and therefore his book might not be as good. Although, I admitted, Taibbi does swear a lot.

At which point my sister pointed out, and rightly so, that swearing is Taibbi's shtick, and that I don't think he has a shtick simply because I like his shtick better. Well played, Sis. But I maintain that anyone who has an MSNBC show has more of a, for lack of a better word, "salesmanesque" approach** to furthering their media and publishing brand, than does a Rolling Stone columnist such as Taibbi.

This is all neither here nor there. The point of this post is that it got me thinking: Who are the authors (fiction or non) who you feel the most righteous for liking? That's an odd question, I know. But I think it's an interesting one. I think a lot of readers, if they're honest, have authors they feel a bit superior for a) knowing about, and b) liking to the point of being blind to that author's particular shtick. The authors I feel most righteous about are Taibbi, William Langewiesche, Wendell Berry, and Anne Tyler (and no, I do not consider what she writes to be "women's fiction"--more book snobbishness on my part!). How about you? Come on, give in, feel superior--and list your faves in the comments!

*Shtick, defined.

**I read the description of Greedy Bastards at Amazon, and this part also struck me as very schticky: "This country, now more than ever, needs passionate debate and smart policy, a brazen willingness to scrap what doesn’t work, and the entrepreneurial spirit to try what does." Puke. Because we all know all it ever takes to get ahead is an "entrepreneurial spirit."

Friday Article: Remarkable Republicans.

I bet that headline got your attention.

I don't really mean it, don't worry.

What is remarkable is this article by, of course, Matt Taibbi. Now as you know, I love Matt Taibbi with my whole heart and soul and I WILL NOT REST until you love him too. You can start by reading this article, which contains a lovely, succinct description of George W. Bush:

"Then conservatives managed to elect to the White House a man who was not only a fundamentalist Christian, but a confirmed anti-intellectual who never even thought about visiting Europe until, as president, he was forced to – the perfect champion of all Real Americans!"

His earlier paragraphs, about Bill Clinton, aren't bad either:

"'Liberals' only remaining big issue is abortion because of their beloved sexual revolution, was the way Ann Coulter put it. 'That's their cause – spreading anarchy and polymorphous perversity. Abortion permits that.'

So they [conservatives] fought back, and a whole generation of more strident conservative politicians rose to fight the enemy at home, who conveniently during the '90s lived in the White House and occasionally practiced polymorphous perversity there."

What's remarkable about Matt Taibbi is that he's smart, and in his business and political reporting, he sees approximately 1000% more bullshit than any normal person should have to see and assimilate. And yet he still ends an article like this one by saying the process is "remarkable to watch." I get the feeling this guy just loves life, and he'll take a laugh wherever he can get it. Maybe I'm wrong, but I hope not, because I love him for it.

Happy weekend, all.

Little readers.

Whenever I see or hear about one, I tend always to pick up books on reading or how to get people interested in reading. This is a leftover habit from my public library job, where people often asked me how to get their kids to read something, or what books we might suggest for kids who hated reading.

I'm ashamed to admit, I was always REALLY BAD at answering that question.

WhispererIt wasn't that I wasn't interested, or that I didn't want to help. I did. I typically went with such parents to the kids' book shelves, where we tried to figure out what their kid (who never seemed to be with them--the first problem) might enjoy. These were always totally painful encounters. The parents typically acted like they had no idea what their kids' interests might be, and they seemed completely uninterested in books themselves. They were usually only there because their kid had tested poorly on reading skills or a teacher had suggested they read more, and they typically left with the first Harry Potter book, regardless of what else I suggested.

So when I read about Donalyn Miller's The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child, I thought I would give it a look. I don't have too many concerns about CRjr's reading as yet--the only benchmark the boy has ever been early on is "can turn picture book pages without ripping them"--but people still do periodically ask me how to encourage reading in their children. My sole answer, and one that I now know is supported by Miller, is stated in her book as:

"My credibility with students and the reason they trut me when I recommend books to them stems from the fact that I read every day of my life and that I talk about reading constantly. I am not mandating an activity for them that I do not engage in myself. I do not promote reading to my students because it is good for them or because it is required for school success...

Findings from a 2007 Associated Press poll,reported in the Washington Post, indicate that the average adult American read only four books that entire year. This statistic does not tell the whole story; of the adults who read, their average was seven books, but 25 percent of the respondents did not read a book at all (Fram, 2007). Teachers fare no better on surveys of adult reading behaviors than the general population; in the 2004 article 'The Peter Effect,' Anthony and Mary Applegate report that of the preservice teachers whom they studied, 54.3 percent were unenthusiastic about reading." (pp. 106-107.)

And there you have it. If you don't read, and your kids' teachers don't read, they simply will not see reading as something that is done, or worth doing. It's as simple as that. Almost all the parents who asked me to find books for their kids never wandered over to the adult stacks when we were done and picked out anything for themselves; at most, they would stop at the video cart on the way out.

The book is interesting, but is told from a Language Arts teacher's point of view and has more to do with teaching strategies and tips for larger groups of children. But the paragraphs above make me trust this author--she knows what she's talking about when she says the key to reading is "walking the walk."*

*Which is not to say I think the only way kids can be happy or successful is by reading. I don't believe that at all. But if YOU think you'd like your kids to read more, YOU have to pick up a book or magazine yourself sometimes. That's all there is to it.

Ah, those Victorians.

A few weeks back a friend and I went to see the new movie Daniel Radcliffe (a.k.a. Harry Potter) is starring in, a horror movie titled The Woman in Black (based on novel by Susan Hill). It had been ages since I saw a movie in the theater, and I enjoyed it, even though it was so-so. But man, that Victorian age. Talk about an era made for ghost and horror stories: everyone's wearing black; pollution in London and England was terrible; and they made some of the world's creepiest wind-up toys, evidently.

MurderSo it was a pleasure to go to the library not long thereafter and find Kate Colquhoun's historical true crime thriller Murder in the First-Class Carriage: The First Victorian Railway Killing waiting for me. It tells the story of the murder of a respectable City of London businessman, Thomas Briggs, the investigation of the crime, and the chase and apprehension of the prime suspect, a German expat named Franz Muller.

The book is divided into three parts: a description of the crime; the investigation of Muller (which included several detectives and witnesses following him across the ocean to America); and Muller's trial. I wouldn't say it's a great book--it dragged a bit in parts--but it was still sufficiently interesting to keep me reading until the end. And of course, who can say no to that good old Victorian atmosphere:

"The sun was low and swallows wheeled in the sky as the banker alighted from his omnibus to walk back through the City's stone warrens. Above him, the thin sliver of a bright new moon pulsed from between the clouds. The sounds of the metropolis had thinned. Passing under the great clock on the facade of Fenchurch Street Station and into the station with its modern vaulted roof, he nodded to the newsvendor. Eating his supper on a stool near the booking office, the ticket collector Thomas Fishbourne looked up as Briggs touched him on the shoulder and said goodnight. Alone, the old man mounted the stairs to the platforms, his empty black bag in one hand and his ivory-knobbed cane in the other." (p. 17.)

Rail travel! Stations called Fenchurch Street! Omnibuses! Old men carrying ivory-knobbed canes! It's the details that make this one interesting (I was going to say "fun" but that doesn't seem like the right word) and thought-provoking: imagine traveling on train cars that weren't connected to one another by doors and in which you had no way of alerting anyone to a problem (which is how early train cars in Britain were, evidently). Imagine a world before the telegraph line across the Atlantic Ocean, when the detectives had no way to alert anyone in America that they needed someone apprehended as he got off a ship in New York. Wild stuff.

Anthony Shadid.

I was rather shocked to read, over the weekend, that journalist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Anthony Shadid had died, of asthma complications, at the age of 43.

I don't know that I've written about it before, but if you haven't read Shadid's book Night Draws Near: Iraq's People in the Shadow of America's War, you should. His death is a real loss: he was one of the few people who could write about the Middle East like he had a brain in his head.*

*A new book of his is due out this spring as well, titled House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East.

A less than titillating travel read.

I was underwhelmed by Denis Lipman's A Yank Back to England: The Prodigal Tourist Returns.

Mr. CR, continuing his surprising trend of reading some of the same nonfiction that I am, concurred in this evaluation.

YankLipman, originally from England, weaves a tale of several years' worth of visits back to his home country to visit his parents (with his wife and daughter in tow). He's the son of two Cockney East-Enders who are getting on in years, which makes for some generational (and cultural) tensions between them and Lipman's new family.

In addition to visiting his parents, Lipman also details their week-long stays in a variety of lodgings and cottages, and the day trips they take to various small towns, churches, and other off-the-beaten-trail attractions in (primarily) the southern part of England.

The trips frequently start in Lipman's hometown of Dagenham, a suburb of east London, where he starts be describing his parents' place: "In the States, where cold and hot water come gently together, mixing is not required. In my parents' house, the hot water faucet spat liquid that could produce third degree burns on contact. By contrast, the cold faucet pumped out ice water that could congeal a slashed artery in a matter of seconds. The only way to survive the plumbing was to mix...Probably another reason why the English are innately patient at supermarket checkouts, long suffering when waiting for hospital appointments, and very good at waiting for buses. Our Job-like forbearance is tested from the moment we wake up. The English who do not possess this kind of fortitude, like me, tend to emigrate." (p. 6.)

I know. I should have chosen a quote where he's describing some of the places they visit to give you a feel for his writing. But honestly? I didn't bookmark anything and I couldn't find anything that stood out when I flipped back through the book. They do travel through a lot of places you might not read about in more urban travelogues or guides: Chartwell, Aldeburgh, Barking, Rattlesden, Lavenham, Saffron Walden, Woolpit, Romney Marsh, Rye, etc. But none of it seemed all that interesting or well-written, and I mainly stuck with it because, of course, I am constitutionally unable to put down books about Great Britain. But for your less dedicated Anglophile reader? Meh.

Parenting book tidbits.

Because I am now one of those boring suburban women who count "parenting" as among my interests*, it naturally makes sense that I am dragging home a lot more parenting books. So just in case anyone out there is looking for quick parenting book reviews, I thought I'd start posting tidbits about what I learn. Not full reviews--I rarely read these books cover to cover--just quick impressions.

Let's start with Athena P. Kourtis's Keeping Your Child Healthy in a Germ-Filled World. Let me save you some time on this book and give you the pertinent information: Wash your hands. Wash or make sure your children wash theirs.

The End.

GermWell, there's more info here than that, but you get the idea. Turns out there's really not much in the way of magic bullets for helping your kids avoid germs.** There's chapters here on food-borne germs, germs in school, sports germs, pet germs, outdoor germs, travel situations, and STDs, as well as information on common methods of fighting illness, including antibiotics, vaccinations, breastfeeding, and supplements and herbs. It's all quite logically written and organized, so if you're looking for a basic introduction to the subject, you could do a lot worse.

However, and this is an important caveat: if you are at all a Nervous Nelly or a germophobe-in-training, DO NOT READ THIS BOOK. It will just freak you out further without providing much in the way of additional knowledge. Take it from this Nervous Nelly.

*Well, it's not so much an interest as it is something I do now. And, as per usual, I am better at reading about it than actually doing it. Sigh.

**This book is of course also hugely positive on vaccinations, but I take all that with a grain of salt. I don't trust doctors at all, and because doctors are so, SO pro-vaccination, in all cases, I tend to view vaccinations with distrust, although CRjr does get most of what they recommend, because I am too weak to fight the system.

Fiction interlude: John Green

I am sneezing all over the place today, and I am blaming John Green for it.

FaultDid he give me the cold? Of course not. Was he responsible for me staying up way too late last week reading his new book The Fault in Our Stars?* Why, yes, as the author, he was. So because I didn't get enough sleep, my immune system was compromised, and now I have the mother of all colds.**

Luckily, Green's latest novel is about two teenagers who have cancer, so I'll say this: it puts my case of the sniffles in perspective. I won't bother with a plot synopsis; as with a lot of fiction (with the exception of thrillers and mysteries) the plot really isn't the point here. What is the point is that John Green can write a book about two teenagers with cancer who fall in love (even though one of them fights it) that somehow isn't a) melodramatic dreck, a la Jodi Picoult***, and b) makes you cry but then ends up leaving you feel somehow more hopeful than sad.

Is it is characters? Are they so intelligent, so imperfect and yet so charming, that you feel better just thinking that somewhere, somehow, teenagers who are this interesting and well-read (although preferably not suffering from cancer) really do exist? Or is it his prose?

"The only redeeming facet of Support Group was this kid named Isaac, a long-faced, skinny guy with straight blond hair swept over one eye.

And his eyes were the problem. He had some fantastically improbable eye cancer. One eye had been cut out when he was a kid, and now he wore the kind of thick glasses that made his eyes (both the real one and the glass one) preternaturally huge, like his whole head was basically just this fake eye and this real eye staring at you. From what I could gather on the rare occasions when Isaac shared with the group, a recurrence had placed his remaining eye in peril.

Isaac and I communicated almost exclusively through sighs. Each time someone discussed anticancer diets or snorting ground-up shark fin or whatever, he'd glance over at me and sigh ever so slightly. I'd shake my head microscopically and exhale in response." (p. 6.)

There's nothing fancy there but man, does it flow. It flows like that for 300 pages, so easy and pleasurable to read that you feel it would be almost churlish to stop. So you don't.

I really liked it. And it did leave me wondering, are there smart, kind, well-read teenagers still out there? Preferably ones without cancer? I wasn't able to find a whole lot of them when I WAS a teenager (although I did find a few, bless them) so it makes me wonder.

*Although in all fairness, I was really up because CRjr had a cold, and once I heard his congested breathing it got me worrying about fevers, influenza, etc. So I was really just kind of glad to have the Green book to at least give me something to do while I couldn't sleep.

**I'm fine. It's actually a very run-of-the-mill cold. I'm just being the mother of all babies about it.

***This book includes a jacket blurb from Jodi Picoult, which annoys me, but I suppose they're trying for adult women readers, even though the book is marketed as YA.

2012 nonfiction trends: the conclusion.

Let's wrap up this series on nonfiction trends in 2012, with a little question-and-answer.

Q: So are there any 2012 nonfiction titles that you DO want to read, CR, you big crank?

A: Why yes, as a matter of fact, there are. Not many, though.

Q: Okay, so what are they?

A: Well, there is one title that actually made me go, "oooh," in a high-pitched falsetto. (This is a good thing.) That title is The Lifespan of a Fact, by John D'Agata and Jim Fingal, which is based on the correspondence between a nonfiction author and his fact-checker. That's pure awesomeness. It seems to be getting a lot of press, although not all of it is good.

Q: But that's it? Just the one title? What, are you ridiculously picky or something?

A: Yes, now that I have less time to read, I do find myself becoming a bit more, as you say, "ridiculously picky." But I also wouldn't push these forthcoming books out of bed for eating crackers:

Any of the new biographies on Queen Elizabeth

Susan Sontag: As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh (just based on that title alone)

Colm Toibin: New Ways to Kill Your Mother: Writers and Their Families

Michael J. Sandel: What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets

Julia Fox: Sister Queens: The Noble, Tragic Lives of Katherine of Aragon and Juana, Queen of Castille

Craig Taylor: Londoners (an oral history--I'm actually pumped pumped PUMPED to get a look at this one)

Baldwin Rosecrans: Paris, I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down (Another one where I am primarily charmed by the title)

Rachel Cusk: Aftermath: On Marriage and Separation (I just love Rachel Cusk.)

Caitlin Flanagan: Girl Land (Flanagan just makes me laugh; I enjoy how feminists hate her SO MUCH, and yet even they have to admit she can really write)

Q: That's all you can find, out of 300+ titles?

A: Well, yeah. See aforementioned "crank" and "less time for reading" disclaimers. If it's shiny happy book coverage you're looking for, well, go to most any other lit blog besides this one.

2012 nonfiction trends: part 3.

To me, it seems that a third trend in 2012 nonfiction titles is a focus on Environmental and Natural History titles.

I have absolutely nothing against Environmental titles; many of them have been written by some of my favorite authors (Rachel Carson and Wendell Berry, I'm looking at you). All the same, I can't say that there is anything in the spreadsheet (under Environmental writing) or on this list that I really, really must read any time soon. Although Richard Fortey's Horseshoe Crabs and Velvet Worms: The Story of the Animals and Plants that Time Left Behind does sound kind of interesting.

So there's my ideas about 2012 nonfiction trends: politics, comforting history and historical biography, and environmental titles. If you'd like to see a PDF version of the talk I gave, here it is (or you can click on the Nonfiction Trends 2012 (OWLS) link at the right).

What I want to know is: do you agree with these trends? Have you been noticing any nonfiction trends? (I also think that there's fewer memoirs coming out this year, although I think they'll continue to be popular with readers.) Any trends that you'd LIKE to see?

Nonfiction trends 2012: part 2

In which we consider some nonfiction book trends for the coming year, and how they all make me want to stop reading, and then poke my eyes out for good measure.*

In addition to political books, it seems like there are a ton of History and Historical Biography titles coming out. (And a lot of Historical Biographies are related to politics; consider titles like John F. Kennedy, by Alan Brinkley; Two Americans: Truman, Eisenhower, and a Dangerous World, by William Lee Miller; Eisenhower in War and Peace, by Jean Edward Smith; Reagan and Thatcher, by Richard Aldous, etc.) And not only are there a lot of History books, there are a lot of History books on subjects and with angles that leave me cold (for various reasons):

Ike's Spies, by Stephen Ambrose (Ambrose is a big fat plagiarizer)

Freedom's Forge: How American Business Built the Arsenal of Democracy that Won World War II, by Arthur Herman (see? America was great once! All we need is another "great" war for which we can manufacture a ton of weapons--that will keep people employed and make America great again!)

Enterprise: America's Fightingest Ship and the Men Who Helped Win World War II, by Barrett Tilman (WWII! WWII! Keep writing about WWII and Americans will never notice anything is wrong currently!)

Now, this is unfair of me. There are actually a lot of forthcoming History books that have nothing to do with World War II and look decent. But I can't say that any of the titles in the spreadsheet or on this list light me on fire. What do you think?

*Sorry to be such a melodramatic grouch about it. But really. All of these new nonfiction titles bore me to death, and that's just the titles! Imagine getting stuck reading these entire books. Ugh.

2012 nonfiction trends: part 1.

In my trolling for forthcoming nonfiction titles I formulated some ideas about what's going to be big in nonfiction this year. These trends are, of course, based on my opinion--I've never really looked at or considered trends before, so I can't speak to my accuracy. All I can really tell you is that I looked at more than 300 forthcoming nonfiction titles, as well as a number of various blog and journal articles, to formulate these ideas.

So what's going to be big, and why?

I have two words that are bound to strike fear into the heart of anyone who never had or has completely lost any interest in politics: Election Year. God help us all, but 2012 is a big election year and correspondingly, political and current events books are going to be big. Not only will candidates be putting out their own books and having books written about them, plenty of authors are getting in on the subject. In addition to current political titles, there's a number of big political historical biographies coming out.

Curious about what the actual politics titles are? Please check the spreadsheet I posted a link to Monday*, or check out a condensed list of forthcoming political titles here.

I can't be objective about these titles; the very idea of reading any of these books makes me want to puke, but I'd like to give an extra special pukey shout-out to Dennis Prager's title Still the Last Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph, which is described at Prager's website as explaining how "Humanity stands at a crossroads, and the only alternatives to the 'American Trinity' of liberty, natural rights, and the melting-pot ideal of national unity are Islamic totalitarianism, European democratic socialism, capitalist dictatorship, or global chaos if we should fail."**

But if you're interested in politics? This is going to be a very good nonfiction year for you.

*A word about the spreadsheet. It's organized by genre, but those are my genre headings. Where I use the heading "name memoir," that means "celebrity memoirs." Also, books tagged with my genre heading "Malcolm Gladwell," are variously known as "Making Sense..." books, "Big Idea" books, "Big Think" books, and many other headings. I tend to call them Malcolm Gladwell books, myself, since his titles (e.g., The Tipping Point) are the best known in the genre.

**Does this sentence even make sense? It's hard for me to tell, I get bored in the middle of it and can't view it as a whole.

Tuesday Article: The real problem with the economy.

I really enjoy reading the Christian Science Monitor online, although it's typically depressing as hell.

I found this article (written by Robert Reich) on one of the biggest problems in our economy echoed what I've been thinking for years but could never verbalize so well. If you don't have time to read the whole article, here's one of my favorite paragraphs out of it:

"The crisis of American capitalism marks the triumph of consumers and investors over workers and citizens. And since most of us occupy all four roles – even though the lion’s share of consuming and investing is done by the wealthy – the real crisis centers on the increasing efficiency by which all of us as consumers and investors can get great deals, and our declining capacity to be heard as workers and citizens."

Incidentally, speaking of deals (or things that are not deals), someone posted yesterday on my post from a million years ago about Melissa & Doug products being crap. I share the comment here in its entirety because I will not rest, people, until all of you stop buying Melissa & Doug products. Thank you.

"Heh! I submitted a one-star review of a dreadful M&D product we were given -- a $35 set of dollar-store craft supplies with 'washable' paint that permanently trashed an easel, table, a bit of the floor, and so much clothing I have difficulty thinking about it, before I realised 'washable' was not 'washable.' The review was never posted. I got an e-mail from "Lisa" thanking me for my "e-mail" with an invitation to call her during [rather restricted times]. I wrote back to say I appreciated the response, but was extremely pressed for time and was not going to have time to make a phone call anytime soon; could she please address this in e-mail? Of course I didn't hear back, and of course my review simply didn't make it on the site. is littered with enthusiastic four and five star reviews; I haven't been able to find any poor ratings or reviews. Apparently they are all simply trashed as mine was, perhaps with a half-hearted attempt at contact from "Lisa." At least the paint disaster was bad enough for me to be rude enough to finally ask the person who had been buying us all the M&D stuff to please stop..."

Thanks for the comment, K.

Looking at 2012 nonfiction trends.

Somewhere in the middle of my neverending nonfiction reading slump I gave a presentation (for the Outagamie Waupaca Library System continuing education program--thanks again for hiring me!) on nonfiction trends in 2012.

As I told the attendees, it was somewhat hilarious for me to be giving a talk on trends. Me and any kind of "trends" are rarely in the same room together. I've never  particularly cared what the "it" books of each season are (I do, but more out of professional curiosity than out of a burning desire to read them myself) and I'm definitely not up on fashion trends. I put on a "work outfit" to give the presentation--it was given through web meeting software, and no one could see me, but I find it gives a little "oomph" to your presentation to be dressed professionally (or as "professionally" as I can manage)--and the sweater I was wearing was about fifteen years old. Pathetic. But I was happy to be speaking on a new topic--a topic about newness, if you will, so I read what I could and researched what I could to try and suss out some nonfiction trends of the coming year.

While researching the trends, I threw together a quick spreadsheet of nonfiction titles that will be coming out this year. I entered the authors and titles, the month they're coming out, and then assigned some quick-n-dirty genre headings. You can download that spreadsheet yourself; it can be sorted alphabetically by author or title, by genre (which is how it's sorted now), or by release month. All week I'll be talking about what I learned putting that spreadsheet together, so buckle your seatbelts. It's going to be a bumpy trends ride.

I'm really overthinking storytime.

CRjr and I are just back from a library storytime for one- and two-year-olds. He's taking a short nap, and I feel like I should also. Just to recover.

Now, storytime was just fine. Very nice, in fact. Some songs and singing, clapping and hand motions, a few stories, and then some coloring for those who wanted to. Lots of other little kids and their moms. (Yes, all moms or female nannies.)

So why did the whole scene make me so tired?

Now, I think CRjr enjoyed himself okay. He didn't seem too interested at first, but when the program started he faced forward (sitting on my lap, he wiggled back towards me after starting on a little carpet) and watched carefully. Of course we didn't know some of the songs and hand motions but everyone else seemed to, and we caught up after a while. The stories were good, the librarian kept things moving around nicely, and CRjr definitely enjoyed just looking around.

But my question is this: is it really important that CRjr learn the movements to "The Wheels on the Bus"?* That he learn to follow along with what everyone else is doing? To me it seemed eerily like preparing him for school, which will prepare him for an office job of some sort. To quote something I tell CRjr about unsuitable things to touch: Ucky.

But of course I am overthinking it. It doesn't help that CRjr seems by nature not to be much of a follower. He's hitting his gross and fine motor skill benchmarks, but the boy refuses to play things like patty cake. I should know--I've been trying to play patty cake with him for months now. He laughs and engages while I do the motions, but he seems uninclined to play the game with me. So, like any mother who just wants her kid to fit in with the crowd, I feel a little like we stick out, and it makes me nervous. I know it shouldn't.

I think we'll go next week. CRjr doesn't know enough to look forward to it, and I definitely won't, which seems the wrong attitude to have. But there you have it.

*I know it probably is important. But it's so hard for me to understand why. I was not taken to the library or storytimes (not because Mom didn't love me; it just wasn't something they did) and I learned to read and interact just fine.