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February 2017

Citizen Reading: 27 February 2017.

A weekly selection of reading and book news, sometimes with completely inappropriate commentary.

Well, Milo Yiannopoulos had a week that I wouldn't really wish on even...well...Milo Yiannopoulos. After a controversial clip of him was re-circulated, CPAC cut him as a speaker, Simon & Schuster canceled his book deal, and he resigned from Breitbart Media. Let's close this story by hearing from actress Leslie Jones, who suffered from a nasty trolling campaign on Twitter, undertaken by Yiannopoulos, when she said: stop feeding trolls.

Has watching TV become more like reading a book? An article largely about binge-watching, which seems to be a hot topic at the moment.

"Changes afoot" for how some of YALSA's book lists are created.

Why you should listen to audiobooks.

How to have better meetings. Yeah, it's not really about books, but good lord, most of what I remember from being a librarian was lots and lots and LOTS of terrible meetings. The whole profession should work on that.

Happy 75th birthday, Little Golden Books!

Six couples in literature "who should just break up already." I was hoping Heathcliff and Catherine would be on this list, and of course, they were. Although my sixteen-year-old self LOVED Wuthering Heights. I don't even remember why now, except...I do. Wuthering Heights forever!

For Black History Month: On African American history, decade by decade. This is from the author of the article: "I’ve selected the most influential books on race and the black experience published in the United States for each decade of the nation’s existence — a history of race through ideas, arranged chronologically on the shelf. (In many cases, I’ve added a complementary work, noted with an asterisk.)"

A lot of authors of whom I've never heard but who seem like they were influential died this week: "Roman Catholic social philosopher" and author Michael Novak; Poet Thomas Lux; "zealous scholar of presidents and liberalism, Theodore Lowi; "libertarian author and Trump biographer" Jerome Tuccille;

Tom Hanks is writing a collection of short stories.

Andy Weir's bestselling novel The Martian is getting a lower-profanity it can be used in science classes.

Walt Whitman: has a new novel by him been found?

Roald Dahl's final book for children to be re-released this fall.

"Against readability."

A great idea indeed: One Book One Garden.

"King Arthur: Legend of the Sword": Trailer.

Richard Wright novel Native Son: to be made into a movie.

Two new Ian McEwan adaptations are expected.

Is the BBC's "Sherlock" over?

65 writers and artists urge Trump to rethink the visa ban.

Nebula Awards: Nominees.

LA Times Book Prize: Finalists.

Walter Scott Prize: Longlist.

Oscars 2017: Complete list of winners.


A new history of butter. Just thinking about it is making me want a small piece of soft bread with a big hunk of cold butter on top of it.

A new non-new Southern cooking cookbook.

New York Times: two books on the need for police reform, from within; a new biography of Angela Carter, of whom I've never even heard; tales from the personal essay "industrial complex"; a memoir written by a 33-year-old in the aftermath of her stroke; a book containing profiles of seven women artists of the twentieth century; a new history of Russia's revolution "through expat eyes".


IndieBound: Bestselling books the week of Feb. 23.

Nine modern literary letter collections.

Christian Science Monitor: "Three outstanding new books" about African American history.

Amazon: Best Books of February.

School Library Journal: Spotlight on children's nonfiction, particularly for spring.

Reader's Digest: 10 books that will inspire you to travel the world.

Mashable: Ten books about marketing that you should read.

Paste Magazine: 10 best new young adult books in February 2017.

7 best books for entrepreneurs.

The Daily Beast: best books about American presidents.


I had a lot of reading notes this week; I'll put them in a post on Wednesday because this post is already a bit long. Nothing really struck my fancy enough for a full review...I think you'll see what I mean on Wednesday.


Starz announces the debut date for Neil Gaiman's "American Gods."

Love a good quick nonfiction graphic novel read: Andy Warner's Brief Histories of Everyday Objects.

Every now and then I like to read a good graphic novel (fiction or non, I'm open on graphic novels, for the most part) and Andy Warner's stupendously entertaining Brief Histories of Everyday Objects did not disappoint.

Brief historiesI found this title on some booklist of nonfiction graphic novels that I linked to in a weekly Citizen Reading post a few weeks or months back, leading me to once again say, YAY book lists. You gotta love a good book list, particularly one that is outside your normal reading interests or comfort zone.

In this lighthearted history Warner examines (very briefly, in just a few cartoon panels per story) the histories of some objects that we basically could no longer imagine living without: toothbrushes, kitty litter, silk, tupperware, traffic lights, beer cans, kites, and coffee beans (among many others). The drawings are clean and easy to follow (sometimes I'm too lazy to follow graphic novel layouts when they're too dense or complicated; I remain a word girl, not a picture girl, at heart) and the facts are fun, interesting, and very succinctly written. Also, at the end of each short history, Warner throws in a few panels of "Briefer Histories," with all the tidbits of research he couldn't really fit in anywhere else, like "Ingredients in ancient toothpaste included ox hooves, eggshells, oyster shells, and charcoal. Minty fresh!" (p. 5.)

I also really enjoyed running gags throughout the stories, such as when multiple visionaries/inventors failed to cash in on their inventions. In the first such instance, a briefer history discusses how "Walter Hunt's grave in Brooklyn's Greenwood Cemetery sits in the shadow of the monument of Elias Howe, who got rich manufacturing Hunt's unpatented sewing machine." (With a picture of Hunt saying, "Rub it in, why don't you?") (p. 47.) And by the end of the book Walter Hunt and a bunch of other poor visionaries are grouped together, saying "We've decided to move in together to save on rent." (p. 177.) I'm describing it badly, but it's funny stuff.

In other news, this book has a wonderful bibliography, including many popular micro-histories, and Mr. CR gave it the highest praise he can give a nonfiction book: "Hey, that book you've got in the bathroom right now is pretty good."

Citizen Reading: 20 February 2017.

A weekly selection of reading and book news, sometimes with completely inappropriate commentary.

God, I am so sick of the Milo Yiannopoulos story. I am sick of seeing a million links about him, and I am sick of writing about him and having to constantly look up his name because I can never remember how to spell it. I am tired of having to read stories about him because I keep forgetting what it is he even writes or why anyone cares about him in the slightest. I want to do with Milo what I tell everyone about my little CRjrs when they are tantruming for attention: JUST LOOK AWAY, EVERYONE. But I also feel that he and his book and Simon & Schuster publishing it are some of the big literary stories of 2017. How sad. So here's this week's primer, if you feel like you need to know what's going on. For everyone else: just look away.

First: The publication of his book, Dangerous (his autobiography), is being pushed back to June.

Secondly: Last week he appeared on Bill Maher's talk show, where investigative author Jeremy Scahill refused to appear opposite him and Larry Wilmore told him to go fuck himself. Okay. We're done with this story(ies) now.

UPDATE, Feb. 20: Simon & Schuster cancels Yiannopoulos's book deal. Word is the American Conservative Union dropped him as a speaker at their annual CPac conference "following pederasty video allegations."

Has everyone else known about this Five Books site all along?

People of color accounted for 22% of children's book characters last year.

New Star Wars novel will serve as a sequel to Rogue One.

What is Amazon all up to in Seattle?

Harold Moore, author of We Were Soldiers Once...And Young, has died, at age 94.

Dick Bruna, creator of the Miffy books: Has died at age 89.

Finally, we can learn a little bit about Willa Cather. I have got to re-read My Antonia one of these days.

What has Gay Talese learned, after six decades in journalism? I love journalism, I love investigative writing, but I've never been a big Gay Talese fan. Anyone else feel that way?

Margaret Drabble has a new novel out.

Phillip Pullman is releasing a new series (evidently it's a follow-up to his Dark Materials trilogy).

Margaret Wise Brown and the mystery of mood.

Arabic Fiction Prize: Shortlist.

Janice Y.K. Lee's novel The Expatriates to be adapted for TV.

Ursula LeGuin's novela Planet of Exile to be made into a movie.

"Outlander" is coming back for a third series.

Stephen King and J.J. Abrams will work together on Hulu's "Castle Rock."

The BBC is adapted Ian McEwan's A Child In Time...and has cast Benedict Cumberbatch.

HBO's movie adaptation of "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" will air in April.

Can booksellers help people combat loneliness?

Normally, the Bookends feature at the New York Times is super dull, but this one is interesting: who got our current dystopia right, George Orwell or Aldous Huxley?

Why do we love to hate grammarians?

The facts about Edward Snowden.

Oh, God, now there's a Mark Zuckerberg Manifesto. If Facebook is the only way left to have community, wow, I'm done with community.

The Reference and User Services Association of the ALA is offering an online course about experiencing genre fiction.


Has Mick Jagger written a memoir...that no one will read anytime soon?

More books on England's queens expected from Brit historian Alison Weir.

Is Sarah Manguso's new book 300 Arguments essays? Or is it poetry?

Tom Brady: husband of Gisele, five-time Super Bowl champ, now subject of a forthcoming book and movie.

A consideration of nonfiction graphic novels.

How can the arts help abuse victims?

New York Times: in the mood for a calm look at global disorder?; I don't know anything about Yiyun Lee, but this book looks interesting; Yiyun Lee book; on the "pet projects of the new billionaires"; a new "devotional memoir" that, I admit, I will probably not read. I am a bit memoired out right now.


Happy Presidents' Day!* 17 great books about American presidents.

IndieBound: bestselling books the week of Feb. 16.

Library Journal's Editors' Picks for Spring 2017. THIS is a super interesting list, y'all. Library Journal is everything that Booklist (totally boring magazine) and the LibraryReads list (totally boring list) is not. And yes, I used to review books for LJ, and no, I am not objective. I have always really enjoyed Library Journal.

Booklist: Spotlight on biography.

Bustle: 11 addictive book series to revisit in 2017.

School Library Journal's February 2017 Popular Picks.

Author Gill Hornby suggests some of the best dating books.

Recently published grade- and middle-school books for Black History Month.


I was so all over the place this week I didn't even read anything worth noting here. I hate weeks like that.


TV show "Lucifer," based on characters created by Neil Gaiman, has been renewed for a third season.

*And what I mean is, Happy Presidents' Day to YOU, Unruly Reader. :)

More reading about TV: The Platinum Age of Television and The Daily Show (The Book).

Yup, I've decided that watching too much TV is not enough of a time suck for me, I'm also going to read books about TV. Or, I should say, MORE books about TV.

Platinum age of televisionFirst up today is a book I really, really loved: David Bianculli's The Platinum Age of Television: From I Love Lucy to The Walking Dead, How TV Became Terrific. I read this sucker from cover to cover and now I want to just completely throw in the towel, stop going outside, and just watch TV all the time. Bianculli, a longtime TV critic for NPR's Fresh Air, clearly knows his stuff (he's been writing TV criticism since 1975) and organizes his book into genre-ready sections, from soap operas and crime to family sitcoms and workplace sitcoms to animation and spies. Each section includes 3-8 page (or so) descriptions of five or so seminal programs in each genre (ostensibly charting the "evolution" of each genre, but I didn't read the segments in order, so that was lost on me), and the sections are written to be both informative and enticing. I've tried to write both literary and TV criticism, and trust me, it's hard to write program and book summaries that give you a flavor of the piece AND make you want to see or read it, all while trying not to give too much away. Take, for instance, "The Wire," which I have thought about watching, but never quite got around to. But now I think I might have to make time:

"The first season of 'The Wire' seemed to be a straightforward police investigation into drugs, a longer version of the sort of case [David] Simon might have dramatized on NBC's 'Homicide: Life on the Street,' the series that pulled the former Baltimore police reporter into the orbit of television production. But as the season went on, we learned at least as much about the drug kingpins and street hustlers as we did about the cops. We got to know the detectives all right, especially Dominic West's Jimmy McNulty and Wendell Pierce's Bunk Moreland. But we also got to know, quite well, the drug kingpin Stringer Bell (played by Idris Elba), the street-level drug dealer Wallace (Michael B. Jordan), and the opportunistic street thief Omar Little (Michael K. Williams). Breaks in the case were made methodically and slowly, and given the bureaucracy and obstacles in place, the odds were against them making much of a dent at all." (p. 456.)

He also includes interviews with a lot of TV's big names (Matt Groening, Carol Burnett, Vince Gilligan, Louis C.K., Carl Reiner...they're all listed on the back) and a short history/description of each drama. Although Kirkus Reviews disagreed with me, I thought this was a highly readable book, and I was glad that a critic dispensed with the nonsense of rating programs by stars, numbers, or even by ranking them. I did, however, think this book had a terrible title: the "platinum age" bit and the long subtitle made it sound more dry and academic than it actually was. Give this one a read if you're interested in the writers and creators of some great TV, not to mention the TV programs themselves.

Daily showMy second TV read this month was The Daily Show (The Book), but I didn't enjoy that one nearly as much. It's a straight-up oral history, and there was very little context given for the conversations quoted. Plus, it was just more than I really needed to know about "The Daily Show." I only got to watch it online periodically when Jon Stewart was in charge (and I really miss that version, I'll admit) and I haven't seen it at all since Trevor Noah took over. This just wasn't the right book for me right now. Here's an example of how it just jumped right in, on the opening pages:

"JON STEWART, The Daily Show host, 1999-2015

At the time, I was obviously making my mark in such films as "Wishful Thinking" and "Dancing with Architecture" or "Dancing about"...Oh, no. They ended up calling it something else. "Playing by Heart," I think it was.

JAMES DIXON, manager for Jon Stewart, 1987-

After The Jon Stewart Show was canceled by Paramount, he was...not burnt on being on TV, but he wanted to kind of wet his feet with film. We had this nice deal with Harvey Weinstein, and Jon was down in Tribeca and he's getting to kiss Angelina Jolie in films."

Then there was another paragraph from Jon, about then working on "The Larry Sanders Show," and then the next speaker is Judd Apatow*:

"JUDD APATOW, standup comic, writer, director

Garry [Shandling] had the foresight to write about the talk show wars and this very subtle aspect of it, which is, you support a young comedian and slowly the network likes him more than it likes you, and then that younger guy, in ways that he understands and might not understand, slowly pushes you out of your job. Similar to what really happened with [Jay] Leno and Conan [O'Brien] and [Jimmy] Fallon. So there was a moment when Garry was considering continuing The Larry Sanders Show, and changing the name of it to The John Stewart Show, with an H so it wouldn't really be Jon. Everyone was excited about it for a while, but it went away." (pp. 1-2.)

The whole book was like that. It was ordered chronologically to cover the beginning of the show through Jon Stewart's retirement, but it was just too frenetic, with random people popping up throughout. I like oral histories, but I like them with a bit more organization and contextual information throughout. I basically skim-read this one, jumped about a bit, and then called it a day.

Two very different reads, and unless you're a hardcore (and I do mean hardcore) "The Daily Show" fan, I'd go with the Bianculli. Enjoy the rest of your week, all. I'm off to watch some TV.

*Yeah, it did not help this book's case that one of its first speakers was Judd Apatow. I am no Judd Apatow fan. I mean, yeah, Judd, sometimes your movies are funny and you know enough to keep casting Paul Rudd, but jeez, keep them to ninety minutes, would you? None of them are all that complicated plot-wise. Thanks much.

Citizen Reading: 13 February 2017.

 A weekly selection of reading and book news, sometimes with completely inappropriate commentary.

EarlyWord just had another GalleyChat, and here's the titles that are recommended for spring and summer.

I didn't even know this was a thing, so I'm sorry I missed it: February 4 as "take your child to the library day." Although the youngest CRjr and I were at our library a couple of days after that; God love the library in winter.

What can libraries do to help promote STEM learning?

I really love George Saunders, but I just don't know that I have the energy for his new novel.

John Grisham announces he'll be publishing two new books in 2017.

Are we officially running out of new things to talk about in re: Jane Austen? Seems so.

Quirk Books does some interesting things, and now their head honcho is branching out as a novelist.

I like this idea, although it's kind of hard to keep track of who's who. Five authors answer a Salon interviewer's questions.

Everything about this novel intrigues me. I may have to read a little fiction.

Here's the latest new thriller, blah blah blah. The word in publishing these days must just be write a thriller to make money, everyone's doing it.

Nigerian novelist Buchi Emecheta: Obituary.

"Full-time writers slam celebrity book trend."

My favorite part of this article about authors on Facebook was its tagline in my Feedly list: "There's a lot of nonsense happening on Facebook, and it's time authors stop contributing to it."

This year's hot new topic: learning a new language.

The Millions could use your support.

The "Trump Bump" of bookselling continues.

"Why men aren't funny."

Huh: an article about Laura Ingalls Wilder and her books, just as I am reading them to the CRjrs. Spooky!

Did you know there's a Magic School Bus reboot coming?

"Orange is the New Black" season 5 teaser and premiere date. Good lord, how long was the author of the book this series is based on IN jail?

"Fifty Shades Darker": the movie got terrible reviews, made a lot of money.

2017 Audie Awards: Finalists.

PEN Literary Award: goes to Stephen Sondheim. Really? Another musician? Did these literary types learn nothing from giving a prize to Bob Dylan?

Grammy Award Winners: Complete list.

Your TV is watching you. Remember when we read TechnoCreep, and Future Crimes scared the hell out of me? Yeah, the future is here.


I just got this book from the library: American Hookup: The New Culture of Sex on Campus. Think it will be any good?

Can Ron Chernow do for Ulysses S. Grant what he did for Alexander Hamilton?

I wonder if I would like this book any more than I liked Hillbilly Elegy.

A new book from Elizabeth Warren is expected this April. News of each new book from a politician, any politician, puts me immediately to sleep.

New York Times: On Egypt's revolution; new nonfiction about Abraham Lincoln; a different kind of true crime: insider trading; I'm tired of coming-of-age memoirs, but one about coming of age in Russia? I'll bite; and why does time fly?


IndieBound: Bestselling books the week of Feb. 9.

LibraryReads: March 2017. Wow, a whole one nonfiction title on this one, and yet another Debbie Macomber. Scintillating.

Adult Books 4 Teens: Showcasing marginalized voices.

GQ Magazine: Best Books of February. I maintain some of the most interesting book lists come from GQ and Esquire magazines.

"Poetry to pay attention to": a preview of 2017 titles.

A dystopia for every reader.


How was this for optimistic? After reading and enjoying Victoria the Queen, I requested Robert Tombs's book The English and Their History from the library, only to discover that it is 900 pages long...and dense. It looks so good, but it will have to wait until I go on one of those newfangled "vacations" I hear everyone else talking about. Now THIS is what I would take along to be my beach read!

I got Susan Hill's short novel Lanterns Across the Snow because I read about it on some list somewhere, but it is emphatically a Christmas book. I'm going to try and remember to get it back next Christmas.

Because it is Valentine's Day this week, I have gotten from the library Laura Ingalls Wilder's These Happy Golden Years (the most romantic of the Little House books; the CRjrs will probably never allow me to read it aloud to them) and the movie Return to Me. Because when I go sappy, friends, I go ALL THE WAY.


Book Trailer Thursday: Neil Gaiman's Norse Mythology!

Victoria the Queen.

I really loved the historical biography Victoria the Queen: An Intimate Biography of the Woman Who Ruled an Empire, by Julia Baird.

Victoria the queenIt was the perfect mix of detail and good writing, and Baird did a nice job of touching upon all aspects of Queen Victoria's life, including her relationships with the many Prime Ministers she worked with over her long life; her relationships with Albert, her husband, and their nine children; and her ruling style, opinions, and personal traits. Baird also does a nice job of placing Victoria's reign and Great Britain's influence in the nineteenth century in the broader context of world events. And she does it all in...let me look it up...752 pages?!?

Holy cow. This book read so fast that I really thought it was a lot shorter than that. Rest assured: a good chunk of that total is index and endnotes. And there's a lot of pictures spread through the book too. It was a great read; if you're at all interested in British history you should pick it up. (Particularly if you're watching the period drama Victoria on PBS that's running right now; if you read this, you can feel superior about all the historical details with which the BBC/PBS is playing a little fast and loose).

Just to give you a taste of the text, and for Victoria herself:

"What is most striking about Victoria is that apart from wanting to be taller and thinner, she cared little about her appearance. She knew she was  no beauty and did not dwell on it. She joked about her looks with her half sister, writing that she was 'very happy to hear that the portrait of my ugly face pleased you.' Yet she genuinely took pleasure from the aesthetic appearance of others--both male and female. Her second cousin Charles, the Duke of Brunswick, particularly fascinated her, with his dark mustache and the fur-trimmed coat he wore riding. She greatly admired the way he did his hair, which hung 'wildly about his face.'" p. 43.

Citizen Reading: 6 February 2017.

A weekly selection of reading and book news, sometimes with completely inappropriate commentary.

The saga continues: Milo Yiannopoulos's speech at Berkeley has been canceled, due to protests. (And here's what we "don't know" about his forthcoming book.)

Top trends in reading and book apps for children.

This is kind of fun: Write a love letter to your favorite YA author.

On the now boring use of "fuck" in book titles. This seems to be one of the big stories of the week; it even featured on NPR's Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me quiz program this weekend.

Your newest book club founder? Kim Kardashian West.

Well, at least the Trump Bump is selling some books.

New York City: the voting is open for your One Book, Five Boroughs program!

Bharati Mukherjee: Obituary.

Good lord, now James Patterson is moving into YA dystopia. James Patterson writing anything is my continuing dystopia.

The Women's Prize for Fiction (UK) is once again looking for a new sponsor.

Costa Book of the Year winner: Sebastian Barry (for the second time!).

Reference Reviews is looking for reviewers.

What's selling in Canada these days?

They're airing the new "Handmaid's Tale" trailer...during the Super Bowl? I kind of want to read "The Handmaid's Tale"'s been a long time.

"Small Great Things" (by Jodi Picoult): to be made into a movie. Ugh, Jodi Picoult.

Expected: A new screen version of The Rats of NIMH.

Game of Thrones: Is the show better than the books?

20 Best HBO original programs. I mainly had to post this because when I read the line, "The Sopranos is almost twenty years old..." I had to stop and have a little cry. I am getting so old! Seems to me like "The Sopranos" just finished its run last year.

Call for papers: Library technology LITA guide series.


Oh God, already we have to start thinking about the 2020 election? John Kasich will publish a book in April. (Related: Hillary Clinton already has a book deal, for a collection of essays.)

A new biography of Rasputin.

I can't keep up with Sarah Manguso's output, although I would like to try.

This book, a mixture of science and history and biography, looks really good.

It's official: my TBR list is out of control for 2017. This book looks fascinating; is "fraud an American tradition?"

New York Times: a "powerful memoir of depression" by Daphne Merkin; evidently, cannibalism was not really all that rare; on gentrification and the rise of Brooklyn; the secret of Israel's military success; gosh--a father's memoir of the death of his young son, I don't know if I'm going to be able to handle that; actress Patricia Bosworth on coming of age during the 1950s; four new nonfiction books about Paris.


IndieBound: Bestselling books the week of Feb. 3.

Flavorwire: 10 must-read books for February.

The Locus 2016 list of best speculative fiction.

For Black History Month: 15 influential black superheroes.

25 great books by refugees in America.

Bustle: Best fiction coming in February. I admit to being intrigued by Universal Harvester* and I may have to look at Swimming Lessons too. Other than that, snore. Too many "big, sweeping stories" on this list for me.

Ten motivational books used by the world's top achievers. This is an interesting list. I'm not quite sure what I make of it, but finding business self-help and letters from Seneca on the same list, that's a bit of a mind-bend.

The "top 109 audiobooks of 2016," as chosen by the ALA.

PopCrush: Most anticipated YA novels of February.

Further reading: on airplanes.

LitReactor: 10 highly anticipated books for 2017.

Booklist's most exciting titles from ALA Midwinter.

The best and latest in crime fiction.

In the Margins Book Committee names its 2017 titles.

United States Board on Books for Young People (USBBY) has compiled their Outstanding International Books listing.

Picture books to foster social emotional learning.


I have been trying to get through Will Schwalbe's Books for Living--it is about books and reading after all--but I'm giving up at page 100. There was some okay stuff in it and the books he covers are interesting choices, but it just isn't for me. It's too pseudo-inspirational, Tuesdays with Morrie-esque for me.

While cruising through my library's catalog placing other holds, I saw this title: Behind Closed Doors: The Private Homes of 25 of the World's Most Creative People, by Rob Meyers. Now, wouldn't you think that would be a neat-looking book? It's not. Well, at least for me it's not. The funny thing about this group of 25 creative people is that all their homes look almost exactly the same--white, almost cold color schemes; lots of somewhat nightmare-inducing tchotchkes; lots of odd photography.

I skim-read Jay Fultz's In Search of Donna Reed, a biography of the actress. Isn't it funny how you follow interests to reading material? I got this one because I was reading those big biographies of Frank Sinatra, and of course Frank Sinatra starred in "From Here to Eternity" with, among others, Donna Reed. He and Reed both won Oscars for their supporting roles. It made me want to see the movie again, so I got that from the library (no time to watch it yet), and it also piqued my curiosity about Donna Reed, so I got this biography. It's very simply written, but it certainly gets the job done: I learned a lot of interesting things about Reed (she became an antiwar activist during the Vietnam War, good on Donna Reed!), and I learned a bit about where her children ended up, which is more than I can say for the big Shirley Jackson biography that just came out. Also? Whenever "It's a Wonderful Life" was on at Christmas time, Dad always said something complimentary about "that cute Donna Reed," which tickled me, for some reason. A fun read.


A flight attendant goes above and beyond. And all for a Rodney Dangerfield book!

*Although, evidently, you can take the girl off the farm but you can't take the farm out of the girl. Every time I saw this title this week I thought it was "International Harvester"--which is a type of tractor (my brother, still a farmer, is a big fan). Finally when I couldn't find it in my library catalog, I had to double-check the title and saw that it was "Universal Harvester."

Here, there, everywhere: guest posts at RA for All and Anglophiles United.

Happy Friday, all. Ready for another six weeks of winter?

I am; I love winter.* It is the season for staying inside and reading nonfiction and watching British television, after all. In honor of our continuing winter I'd like to take a moment and humbly ask you to visit a couple of other blogs that have kindly published my guest posts this past week.

The first is at Becky Spratford's fantastic RA for All site, where nearly every day you can find a new post about reading and readers' advisory. At that post I primarily talk about starting up The Great British TV Site, so there's not much new information there for you, but please do visit RA for All when you can. Thanks, Becky!

The second is at Zella Watson's very fun, very informative site Anglophiles United. There I wrote about Strong Women Detectives on British Television. Feel like watching some great British police procedurals this weekend? There might be something on that list you'd enjoy. Thanks, Zella!

Now: Stay warm, get reading and watching, and have a cozy weekend.

*Not the eldest CRjr. He is emphatically ready for spring. "I'm ready to go outside without getting all this STUFF on!"

A serviceable read: Heads in Beds.

Okay, I really need to start writing down what book suggestions I get from where. I know I chose the book Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality from someone's blog, but now I can't remember where I found it. Anyone out there remember posting about this?

Heads in bedsIt is exactly what its title promises: a tell-all memoir from a long-time hotel employee, who worked in a variety of positions from valet attendant in a luxury hotel in New Orleans, to housekeeping management in that same establishment, to being front desk staff in a Manhattan hotel that he calls "The Bellevue." It's fairly rough and ready, in story and in tone. Here's how he was welcomed to his daytime shift on the desk by the bellmen, after being promoted from the overnight staff:

"The bellmen were the first to intimidate.

'Listen very closely to me, FNG [Fucking New Guy]. I see you handing guests their own keys, I'll stab you. You don't ask them shit. You call 'front' and hand the keys to a bellman. Let them tell me to my face they can take their own luggage and my baby girl has to starve. I catch you handing them keys, I figure you're the one who wants my baby girl to starve. In which case I will find out what train you take home and collapse your throat as soon as you step into your borough.'

New York pep talk number two! The first, from my roommate in Brooklyn, promising to throw me out if I didn't make rent, seemed like a pillow fight in comparison.'" (p. 103.)

So yeah. It's a lot of stories like that (although you should know that the author eventually became pretty tight with the bellmen, as he became pretty good at handing lodgers over to them with the personal touch, increasing the tipping all around), along with a few tips on how to improve your own hotel stays. I can't say that most of the tips will be that helpful to me, as I don't really want to eat things out of the minibar, even for free (it is important to note, though, that if there are wrong minibar charges on your bill, you should pipe up, as desk staff know nobody can actually tell what you've eaten out of the minibar and will remove the charges fairly easily) and I rarely stay at the types of hotels where upgrades are going to do a whole lot for me.

It was a quick read, somewhat informative, interesting enough to keep me reading the whole thing, but in the end I found it unsatisfying. Perhaps because there was absolutely nothing in the way of deeper thought or reflection here about how weird it is that we all go to hotels, and trust people we don't know to create our key cards, to clean the pillows on which we put our faces and the glasses out of which we drink. Among many other things. And I say this as someone who LOVES staying in hotels. Seriously. I traveled a few times for work and there was nothing I loved better than flopping on a hotel bed and turning the TV on to "Law and Order" (an episode of which is always on, somewhere, sometime), so I'd have been happy to hear any thoughts on the intimacy of helping hundreds of strangers bed down every night. I don't know what I wanted here, really. I just wanted something a little more.

I was also a bit annoyed with this opening statement:

"To protect the guilty and the innocent alike, I have deconstructed all hotels and rebuilt them into personal properties, changed all names, and shredded all personalities and reattached them to shreds from other personalities, creating a book of amalgams that, working together, establish, essentially, a world of truth. I mean, damn, I even change my own name."

And he did. Jacob Tomsky is his name, and he became, throughout this narrative, "little Tommy Jacobs." Why? Anyone else get that?