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May 2017

Dr. Willie Parker's Life's Work: A Moral Argument for Choice.

Life's workI forget where I first read about Dr. Willie Parker's memoir Life's Work: A Moral Argument for Choice. I think I saw it on a booklist somewhere--but of course now I can't remember where.

Let's be honest here. I don't have much of a belief system anymore. I was much more black and white in my beliefs well into my thirties, than I am now. And you know what? That was comforting. I kind of miss that. Lately, though, I find I am just so tired of all sides of problems that I have much less energy to judge who is in the right or wrong. Like this: yes, criminals need to be punished and go to jail. But have you heard about jails lately? That's not going to solve anything. Yes, Trump sucks. Clinton sucked too.


So pretty much one of the few things left that I really believe in is that you can't kill people. As such, I am still against abortion. (I'm against capital punishment and war, too.) So what was I doing reading this memoir by a doctor who has committed his life to performing abortions, particularly in areas where access to abortions is becoming ever harder to find?

I don't know, really. I kind of just thought I should read it. (And it's only about 200 pages long. I love authors who can make their point in 200 pages or less, and will almost always give them a try.)

And here's what I think: it was a good book. Parker knows his way around a narrative and he is clearly impassioned about his choices and his work. He describes his childhood, spent growing up in poverty in Alabama; his epiphany of being "born again" as a teenager and his life spent proselytizing about religion; his journey through medical school and his decision, eventually, to learn how to perform abortions and to dedicate himself to performing them regardless of the challenges and dangers to himself. He is clearly a thoughtful person and he lays out his entire trajectory of thought and action for the reader here.

"Sometimes women, having absorbed the lessons of Christian churches like the one in which I was raised, call the clinic to wonder aloud to anyone who answers the phone: 'Will God forgive me?' And if I happen to be on the other end, what I say, in substance, is this: I see no reason why a woman should feel herself deserving of a separation from God because of a decision she has to make. The Jesus I love has a nonconformist understanding of his faith. He realizes that the petty rules and laws laid down by the fathers and authorities are meaningless, and that to believe in a loving God is to refuse to stand in judgment of any fellow mortal...Performing abortions, and speaking out on behalf of the women who want abortions, is my calling. It is my life's work, and I dedicate this book to them." (p. 16.)

Probably the most interesting parts of this book for me were reading about Parker's impoverished upbringing and the hard work, good luck, and kindnesses of connections that accompanied his education and medical career. Frankly? This was kind of the book, on that subject, that I wanted Hillbilly Elegy to be. It may seem strange, but I also appreciated Parker's dispassionate descriptions of the abortion procedure itself. Or, I should say, it didn't make me happy to read those descriptions, but I have not had an abortion and have not ever had anyone describe one to me, so I felt that was knowledge I could use.

And here's what else I think: it was a good book for me to read. I thought about it a lot while reading it and I thought about it a lot in the days after I read it, and I really think it helped solidify a few things for me on how I feel about abortion, and that surprised me, since I thought I was already pretty solid in my opinions on the subject. Here's one thing it made me realize: I used to read about the actions of anti-abortion activists, taking steps simply to chip away at access to abortion, rather than trying to get Roe v. Wade overturned completely. And I had to admit that those were probably effective tactics if you simply wanted to try and lessen the numbers of abortions being performed. But those "victories" never really made me very happy. And now I know why: because it's kind of a prick move*. It disproportionately punishes poor and rural women who have fewer options. To me it's a prick move, just like gerrymandering is a prick move to chip away at voting rights. It may be stupid (and simplistic) of me, but I feel it is more honest to either allow abortion to be legal and allow access to it, or call it murder and outlaw it. Either way it should be the same for everyone.

There are a host of other reasons why I personally believe abortion is wrong, and we're not going to get into all that. And I totally understand Parker's narrative, and why he has made the choices he has. Really. I do. I am poor enough and (formerly) rural enough that I know how hard it is to scrape together $500 when you really need it, and how hard it is to get somewhere when your time (and perhaps a mode of transportation) is not your own. I have children and I know what pregnancies and birth do to your body. I GET IT. But on so many levels it keeps coming back to this for me: people are not disposable. Once I give up that thought I truly will have nothing left.

Oh, and then there's this: I cannot get behind abortion because I think it is purely a gift to men, specifically the worst kind of men, the ones who don't think about their actions and never ever have to deal with them. And that's just not right either. I don't have the answer for how to force men to take more responsibility for childbearing in general, I really don't, and that is frustrating. But allowing them abortion as yet another easy out where the woman has to go and do everything (and pay for it herself) makes me want to throw up. I can't help it. That's just the way I feel.

Go read this book. Really. However you think or feel on this subject. I would love to discuss it with someone. I would LOVE to know how this would go down in a library book group situation.

*"Prick move": A tactic or action which may be successful but is nevertheless underhanded; in other words, something a total prick would be really pleased with himself for thinking up. (A personal definition.)

Citizen Reading: 29 May 2017.

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

NPR's summer reading poll is about comics and graphic novels this year.

What next, after coloring books for adults?

Manchester-based publishers respond to the terrorist attack on their city.

Is even Anne of Green Gables becoming politicized?

Libraries: As if they didn't have enough to do, now they are helping with the opioids epidemic too.

"Wonder": Trailer.

New BBC America adaptation: "Fever," based on a novel by Mary Beth Keane.

"Game of Thrones": are there only 13 new episodes left? (And here's the trailer for season 7.)

The film version of Kristin Hannah's Nightingale will be released in August 2018.

Will the next hot calendar for 2018 feature...librarians?

Nebula Award Winner: All the Birds in the Sky.

Author Denis Johnson: has died.

Historian Michael Bliss: Obituary.

Scott Turow's new novel is about The Hague.

Nine "rediscovered" Ruth Rendell stories to be published this fall.


Going to the dentist doesn't particularly bother me, but I don't know that I'm up for this new history of dentistry.

Another book about books, this time from the editor of the New York Times Book Review.

I've linked to this book about one man's experience of schizophrenia in his family before, but I'm linking to it again to remind myself I really need to read it.

New York Times: On the Colorado River and its "unnatural world"; new memoirs on our bodies and our relationships to them; on "the murky future of the Great Lakes"; a dual biography of Winston Churchill and George Orwell; on the Gulf of Mexico in the "age of petrochemicals"; three new books that "make sense of cyberwar" (as if anything could).


IndieBound: bestselling books the week of May 25.

NPR: 6 books for a "summer escape."

Entertainment Weekly: Must-read books of the summer.

10 Mysteries with women in the lead.

Summer book recommendations from Bill Gates.


Well, it's Memorial Day, and I still think these are the books you should read on the subject of wars. Oh, and also go watch this documentary about drone warfare. It's terrible (and inaccurate) that we call ourselves civilized.


Neil Gaiman may do a reading of a Cheesecake Factory menu...for charity.

Life Moves Pretty Fast: The Lessons We Learned from Eighties Movies, by Hadley Freeman.

Well, thanks a lot, Hadley Freeman. Not only did I spend the time reading your book, but then I fell down a YouTube rabbit hole of "Say Anything" clips. My productivity this week is not high.

But you know what? Sometimes it's not about high productivity. Sometimes it's just about reading and enjoying a book, and if that book is about watching and enjoying eighties movies, well, then, so much the better. I very much enjoyed Freeman's book Life Moves Pretty Fast. Who should read this? Anyone who's ever enjoyed an eighties movie, for one thing, and that includes people who were too young to see eighties movies on their first pass around, and who instead found them on VHS, DVD, or on YouTube or any streaming service in any decade since. But you know who else should read this book? Anyone who would ever like to see a movie again that is NOT about superheroes or big explosions.

The most obvious and enjoyable part of Freeman's essays are her unabashed love for and knowledge of these movies; also very enjoyable are the "lessons" she draws from them. In her chapter on "Pretty in Pink" she suggests that she learned the lesson "awkward girls should never have makeovers." From "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" she learned about social class. From "Baby Boom" she picked up the fact that successful women are "sexy as hell." I loved reliving some of these movies through her eyes (and was completely pleased that she focused a lot of attention on "Baby Boom"--I saw that one with my mom when it first came out and we both enjoyed it, although I was a bit young for it, and now whenever I see it on TV I can't NOT watch it) and came away with a desire to watch them all again.

But the subtitle of the book is "(And Why We Don't Learn Them Anymore)," and that part of Freeman's thesis is not nearly as fun to read. To wit:

"So now studios will only back films that are easy to sell and will work around the world because this then guarantees they will make their money back. This also means that they want movies that appeal to as many demographics as possible, or 'quadrants,' as film marketing staff refer to people: men, women, old people, and young people. This is turn has led to the demise of traditional women's movies, because they wouldn't appeal to enough quadrants (according to a Hollywood theory that has been around only for the past thirty years, women will see movies starring men and women, but men will see only movies starring men). It also means that films become less interesting because whenever anyone says they want to make something appeal to everybody, they inevitably blandify it to such a degree that it is loved by nobody." (p. 13.)

God, we're in a sad state, aren't we?*

Anyway. It's a fun book. Read it. But be aware that after you're done you're going to have to drop everything and go watch a John Hughes movie or some early John Cusack. Don't say I didn't warn you.

*This wouldn't have been SO depressing, except I read almost exactly the same book this month in actor/director Jay Chandrasekhar's memoir Mustache Shenanigans: Making Super Troopers and Other Adventures in Comedy: "The idea factory that was the American film business from the seventies through the late nineties can't function if the expectations on each film are that it make $250 to $400 million or be judged a financial failure. Corporations bought film companies, in part, because they were 'fun investments.' But when corporations took control of the studios, they took all the fun out of them by forcing film presidents to hit incredibly high profit targets...So, my dear corpoations, make your grand-slam profits on some movies, and also on computers, phones, cars, and insurance. But get back to making the $30 to $50 million theatrical film that makes enough of a profit. Do that, and there will be a creative rebirth that will propel a whole new generation of maverick filmmakers." (pp. 282-283.)

Citizen Reading: 22 May 2017.

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

Amazon's new bestseller lists "track what people actually read"--as long as what they're actually reading are Kindle books. I'm so tired of this up-to-the-minute fixation on what people are reading. And I'm really tired of Amazon knowing every last little thing about what, when, how much, and (soon, I'm sure) why I read. I forgot they owned GoodReads too. I weary of you, Bezos.

How real books have trumped ebooks.

What is bookselling going to look like in the future? I asked a friend this week if he thought bookstores would be around in twenty years and he said, simply, no. He's probably right but I'm considering not being his friend any more.

On publishing's "digital transformation."

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month: 13 must-read titles.

Christian mommy blogger Glennon Doyle Melton is now married to Abby Wambach.

Have you ever heard of the author Kathryn Croft? She's moving a lot of ebooks.

Children's nonfiction author Jean Fritz: Obituary.

Roger Ailes "built the silos we all live in." (The Fox News founder died last week, at the age of 77.) I actually feel kind of bad for any women already in hell. They didn't need this too.

Oh, good on you, Helen Fielding: you've won the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize.

The £40,000 Wolfson History Prize winner: Christopher de Hamel, for the book Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts.

"The Glass Castle": First trailer.


Martin Luther books commemorate the 500th anniversary of the posting of his ninety-five theses in 1517.

A new microhistory: about boredom.

Now you can get poetry inspired by Dr. Who!

A new book about anxiety by someone who suffers from anxiety.

A memoir of "loss and life in motion"--about mourning and running.

Kareem Abdul Jabbar has written a book about his 50-year relationship with his coach.

There's a new biography of Papa Hemingway out.

Even conservative, religious authors sometimes can't go home again.

A new memoir by the bestselling neurosurgeon author of Do No Harm. I kind of want to see it.

Oh god, three new memoirs about marriage. It's one of my catnip subject areas; where am I going to find time to read all three? (Although, yeah, Love and Trouble doesn't sound like something I want to read at all. Down to two!)

Star chef Tommy Banks to publish a cookbook.

New York Times: a new book by Senator Ben Sasse about raising them kids up right (God, I'm already sick of hearing about this title; it's been all over this week--evidently the answer is to make them do chores. Thanks, Captain Obvious.);the Revolutionary War was not a pretty war; civil rights stories we need to remember; a closer look at three 18th-Century revolutions and why they matter now.


Publishers Lunch: Is offering their Complete Fall/Winter 2017 Buzz Books list.

IndieBound: bestselling books the week of May 18.

Bookbub: Ultimate Summer Reading List. Oh, joy. The summer reading lists are starting to come in. Another reason I hate summer. I think all "summer books" are so boring. For example? The very first author on this list: James Patterson. BORING.

Coastal Living: 50 Best Books for the Beach this Summer. Okay, this list is mostly boring. But I will confess to being interested in the Jimmy Buffett biography.

Popsugar: Best books for women this summer.

Christian Science Monitor: Best Books of May.

10 best books for entrepreneurs in 2017.

Entrepreneur Magazine: Top 10 books every leader should read.

Booklist: Best new books the week of May 15. You know, Grocery: The Buying and Selling of Food in America sounds interesting, but I've never been a big Michael Ruhlman fan. (Here's a New York Times article about this book.)


Me and the printed word and the Internet have been having a tough week. I haven't been feeling very well, so looking at the computer and reading still makes me a bit wonky. I'm getting better, no worries, but I also continue to be in a mood. So I am very fitfully starting and stopping books at will.

RadishI don't even remember why I got The Wisdom of the Radish: And Other Lessons Learned on a Small Farm, by Lynda Hopkins, from the library. One look at the cover was enough to make me think, I can't get any more books by millennial hipsters about going back to the land. And it didn't get better on the first page: "It's 4:30 a.m. on a Saturday: the start of my workweek, if a week without an end can be said to have a start. As usual, I'm awake--having opened my eyes ten minutes before the alarm's shrill beeps--but wakefulness does not correspond to readiness. At the moment, I'm firmly fixed in a state of denial. It isn't 4:30 in the morning, I'm not going to work, I didn't spend another Friday night harvesting instead of drinking, I'm not about to sprint around a field brandishing scissors and a buck knife in the predawn gloom." (p. 1.) Blah blah blah: I followed a dude who wanted to farm for love, I'm growing organic greens, it's hard work, it's hard to make a living...I've heard this all before. I've lived this all before, circa my years on the farm from 0 to 18.

I was really enjoying bits of Peter Orner's essay collection Am I Alone Here? Notes on Living to Read, Reading to Live, but it is overdue, so I've got to take it back.

So then I started Priestdaddy: A Memoir, by Patricia Lockwood. Memoir about growing up the daughter of a married--yes, married--Catholic priest. Evidently you can become a priest if you convert to Catholicism after marriage? And, get this, her father, the priest, was also a difficult man with whom to live? Huh. This is what it comes down to: I AM SO NOT IN THE MOOD FOR THIS RIGHT NOW.


Teaser trailers for "How to Talk to Girls at Parties," a new movie starring Nicole Kidman and Elle Fanning (and based on a story by Gaiman).

Nonfiction collection development webinar: it's like you can be there!

So last week I had the honor to be part of a webinar sponsored (at least in part) by the Indianhead Federated Library System and the Outagamie Waupaca Library System.

It was so much fun!

Well, at least, it was fun after I figured out that my home Internet connection wasn't going to be working in time for me to join the webinar (not my fault; phone/Internet company TDS's fault) and got myself to the library. And, once there, figured out that I wasn't going to be able to connect to the webinar using the library's heavily trafficked wireless or my cell phone, which was getting no reception in the basement room I was in. But, I went and begged an ethernet cable and a connection to the good old-fashioned plug-in-the-wall DSL, and, bang, it was just that easy, I could join my co-presenters for our webinar on Adult Selection Tools for Collection Development.

Sigh. Thank God for the library, and thank God for the kind librarian who gave me an ethernet cable. Seriously, we all know libraries are the best, right?

Of course we do.

Anyway, many thanks to the coordinators who handled my technical difficulties with admirably cool heads, and my co-presenters, who just went ahead presenting until I could get my act together.

I'm not sure the recorded presentation is available unless you were signed up for the webinar. But I did want to point out that my presentation pages (and links to many title awareness and collection development tools, as well as to other nonfiction collection development presentations on the web that I found helpful) are all available over in the right sidebar, under the title "Nonfiction Collection Development (IFLS)." Go ahead and click away and see if there's anything there you can use!

Citizen Reading: 15 May 2017.

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

A bit shorter post than usual this week; sorry about that. Internet outages and Mother's Day and other unforeseen issues, oh my!

What's the hot new category for kids? Religious books, evidently.

Top audiobook titles for summer and fall.

People who read books are nicer, study finds. Is just the same study that everyone keeps reporting on, or are these all new studies? It seems like I see this headline every week.

"Dear book club: It's you, not me."

"Young adult fiction uses myths to keep storytelling alive."

Tor to start publishing "experimental stuff."

The rights to Peanuts cartoons and Strawberry Shortcake just sold...for $345 million dollars.

Historian Hugh Thomas has died, at age 85.

Mary Gaitskill: "as we get older, we become more ourselves." I have been saying that for years! With fear, because frankly, I'm already more than I can handle.

Author and chef Vivian Howard on how to make a sandwich.

Kidnapping survivor Michelle Knight writing second book.

J.K. Rowling: STILL good for sales surges. Honestly, that's incredible.

James Patterson: never-ending juggernaut (and now he's got his son in on the action too). He's everywhere! Also he's writing a book with Bill Clinton.

Now Curtis Sittenfeld is going to imagine Hillary Clinton's life without Bill.

Andy Weir (author of The Martian) has a new book coming out.

How can you learn tech skills in a fun and interesting way?

Happy: TV adaptation (based on a comic by Grant Morrison and Darick Robertson).


An excerpt from the new book Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and what the Internet Can Tell Us about Who We Really Are

I was listening to NPR the other night when they talked about this book Generation Wealth. I think I'm going to have to look at that. (And: new nonfiction on inequality that I'd like to read.)

Sigh. The story that won't go away: Milo Yiannopoulos to self-publish, and sue Simon & Schuster for dumping him. Whatever else happens I'm sure Milo will end up just fine, money- and career-wise. It always seems to, for his loud and unpleasant type, doesn't it?

New York Times: Examining the lives of three generations of African-American residents in a Harlem home; on the "rise of Asian powers"; hey! here's the NYT take on the new Prince Charles biography I just read; a new biography of Barack Obama.


LibraryReads: June 2017.

IndieBound: Bestselling books the week of May 11.

NPR: Four romances to kick off your summer.

Stellar speculative fiction.

Top ten books on storytelling.

Flavorwire's Summer TV Preview.


Book Trailer Thursday featured Cinnamon, by Neil Gaiman.

American Gods has been renewed for a second season.

Sally Bedell Smith's Prince Charles.

Let's be honest. Nobody thought that a biography of Britain's Prince Charles was going to be the most scintillating book on the planet, did they?

Prince charlesSally Bedell Smith may not have chosen the liveliest subject for her biography Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life, but she has written a lively biography nonetheless. I don't usually pay a whole lot of attention to the subtitles of biographies, but in this case, I think she's got it about right. Although part of a family known for its stiff reserve and formality, Charles, the Prince of Wales, does indeed seem to have many passions in his life: Camilla Parker Bowles, perhaps, foremost, but also tradition, the environment, and spirituality. Likewise, "paradoxes" is a fair word choice for the duties governing him. Just think about waiting for your "real" career to start as you age into your 70s.

Smith is no stranger to writing biographies about the royal family (her earlier books include Diana in Search of Herself, about Princess Diana, and Elizabeth the Queen, which I've also read, about England's current monarch Elizabeth II), and she is also a former journalist. Her writing's a bit journalistic/gossipy at times:

"Patrick Beresford, a friend for some fifty years, said that whenever Camilla walked in the room, 'your spirits rise, because you know you are going to have a laugh.' For a young prince with downbeat tendencies, that sort of personality was catnip." (p. 67.)

But in all she does a good job of relating the details of Prince Charles's life, and she does it in efficient fashion. This book is 500 pages long, but it only took me a few days to read, and that's largely due to Smith's straightforward expository style, short chapters, and copious quotes from interviews that she did with friends, family members, and former staff members of the royal household.

This review is feeling fairly dry but I can't seem to help it. I enjoyed this book, and I enjoyed learning a little bit more about Charles, but, at the end of the day, he's still a bit of a challenging man to really enjoy spending much time with. By all accounts he feels his beliefs strongly and he's not afraid to let them be known, so that makes me like him. All the same, he also seems to have a self-pitying streak a mile wide, although for that, again, I can't really blame him. His childhood and schooling don't really sound like they were much fun, and just imagine having a telephone call of yours taped in which you confessing to simply wanting to live within your lover's trousers forever (perhaps as her tampon). Having that sort of story blown all over the news might make one, I assume, a bit prickly about ever letting the press know any of your personal details again.

It's a good book. But unless you're a hardcore British royal family fan or Anglophile*, there probably isn't much in it for you. Oh! Except a ton of pictures. Good on Random House for publishing this book complete with two stand-alone color photo sections, plus a photo at the head of every new chapter. Nicely done, Random House. I require my biographies to contain lots of pictures.

*I'm guilty on both counts!

Citizen Reading: 8 May 2017.

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

"Confessions of a lifelong audiobook addict."

"Book readers make the best lovers, reveals survey." I think this is supposed to be a reading-positive article, but this tidbit made me snort with derision: "In fact, the data revealed that men who list it [reading] as an interest receive 19 per cent more messages, and women three per cent more."

Becky Spratford of RA for All on volunteering in her child's school library.

Question: Can male writers avoid misogyny?

The Dark Tower: Trailer.

Netflix has added a "warning card" to its "13 Reasons Why" program.

Now Netflix is adapting Anne of Green Gables...but will she be a "grittier" Anne?

HBO is, of course, developing Game of Thrones spinoffs.

Shattered, the new book about the Hillary Clinton campaign, might also become a TV show.

"The Handmaid's Tale" will have a second season.

The BBC/PBS to adapt the classic "Little Women."

TV is "rewriting the book" on how to adapt novels.

Children's book illustrator Peter Spier: Obituary. Author Jean Stein: Obituary.

What year is this? J.K. Rowling launches a Harry Potter Book or re-read your favorite Harry Potter.

Does George R. R. Martin actually need to finish the Song of Ice and Fire series?

Cory Doctorow and Edward Snowden talk SF and reality.

School Library Journal webinar: Hottest Graphic Novels of Spring 2017.

School Library Journal webinar: 60 tools in 60 minutes (for literacy, STEM, and maker spaces).

Collection development: reflecting our communities.

Chicago Tribune YA Book Prize winner: David Levithan.

Best Translated Book Awards: Winners.


A new chapter for Devil in the White City. I was not a fan of this book but I was pretty much the only reader who felt that way, I think.

Ivanka Trump has a new book out, titled Women Who Work.

A look at Neil DeGrasse Tyson's new book on astrophysics.

"Should the giving styles of the rich and famous alarm us all?" I haven't even read this book yet but I have a feeling the short answer is yes.

New York Times: Cheryl Strayed reviews Richard Ford's new memoir about his parents; Rob Sheffield on The Beatles; Condoleezza Rice has written a book about democracy; Britain as a port in the storm during World War II; on fast-tracked evolution; how did the fiscal crisis of the 1970s affect the New York City of today?; how "four powerful rulers decided the fate of a continent"; how the "ideas industry" now caters to the prejudices of the rich (although this book is presented as being "in the style of Thomas Friedman..." Ugh.).


IndieBound: Bestselling books the week of May 4.

Entertainment Weekly: 19 best books to read in May.

GQ: Best Books of May.

Amazon editors: Best books of May.

Booklist: The year's best crime books.

Christian Science Monitor: 10 great new sports books.

School Library Journal: 32 stellar picture book titles.

Barnes & Noble: May's best books for teens.

Books about chemicals and foul play.

New York Times: The latest in crime fiction.

The Independent: 32 books that will make you a more well-rounded person. Okay, I want to like this list. I want to take this list seriously. But any book list that refers to Randy Pausch's and Jeffrey Zaslow's awful book The Last Lecture as a book about "philosophy" that you should read, well, that's a book list you have to chuckle at and then disregard.

Book-to-film adaptations coming in 2017.

Flavorwire's Summer Movie Preview.


Yes, I got the new biography of Prince Charles, and plowed through it in a few days. Review to come. One point to make early and often? It's got a ton of great pictures, both throughout the text AND set apart in two color-photo sections. Well played, Random House.

Still can't find much that is really wowing me. I take it back. I re-read Helene Hanff's book of BBC radio addresses about living in New York City, titled Letter from New York. Helene Hanff always wows me.


13 facts you need to know about Neil Gaiman.

A tale of two novels.

Swimming lessonsI got and read Claire Fuller's novel Swimming Lessons because somewhere I read that it was a good book about a marriage (or, as the jacket copy promises, it explores "the mysterious truths of a passionate and troubled marriage"). I have been burned by this interest before, but I almost always look at novels and nonfiction that are primarily about marriage.

And it was okay. I read the whole thing, and I wondered vaguely about the lives of the characters, but when I finished it I didn't have a real strong feeling about it one way or the other. At points I was unsure what had happened, or what the author meant by some things, and, as I told Mr. CR, "You know, in all of modern literary fiction lately I feel like I am just guessing at what happened or what the author meant." And I do not like that feeling. Sure, I'm a lazy reader, but sometimes I just like to feel like I get the whole story the author is telling.

I was almost off of novels for a while, but then I remembered that I had Jami Attenberg's new novel All Grown Up home from the library. I almost took it back sight unseen, but then I remembered my reading experience that had been her earlier novel, The Middlesteins. I read it during one of my non-blogging periods, but I should have written about it later: I loved it.

So I read the first fifty pages or so of All Grown Up, and I was confused a bit by who was talking and who the names at the heads of the chapters were referring to (see earlier: I am a lazy reader), and I thought, well, it's no The Middlesteins. But I felt I owed it to Jami Attenberg to stick with it.

All grown upAnd somewhere in the middle it did two things: First, it kicked me in the heart. Then, it made me do that thing I do where I don't really sob, but I pause from the text and I put my hand to my face and I look around a bit and I try not to cry.

Look, it's not a big profound novel about love.* It doesn't particularly reveal any truths, passionate or otherwise. But, goddamnit, do I love Jami Attenberg's characters. They're nothing like me, particularly her main female characters, and yet I LOVE them. I love their voices, which sometimes say such simple and heartbreaking things. Because you know what? Life is kind of heartbreaking in its simplicity. It is hard to get along with people. It is hard to care for people with sicknesses. It is hard to not know what you want and have weaknesses and it is very, very hard to get old. It is hard, in short, to be all grown up.

Just read it, okay? How can you not like a main character like Andrea Bern, who has a number of (arguably) unhealthy relationships with men, and yet can say things like this after a tryst with a lover:

"That was two years ago. I haven't seen Alex since, though sometimes we text, and once he asked me to send him a naked picture, and I laughed and laughed, so for that I thank him, because who doesn't need a good laugh? (p. 51.)

Because yes, that should be the response of all women when asked to send a man a naked picture. Laughter.

And here she is, conversing with her therapist:

"ME: My mother is leaving me and moving to New Hampshire.

THERAPIST: And how does that make you feel?

ME: It makes me feel like she doesn't love me.

THERAPIST: Hasn't she proved to you she loves you already?

ME: How?

THERAPIST: By caring for you, nurturing you, supporting you, raising you to be the person you are today.

ME: All of that comprises a rational argument but can I just ask you a question?


ME: Whose side are you on, anyway?" (p. 65.)

So: a tale of two novels. The first made me say "meh" and the second made me re-start it all over again when I had just finished it, and I NEVER do that. Go read something, anything, by Jami Attenberg. Okay? Okay.

*And it's not perfect, but mostly its flaws are tiny and forgivable. Its cover, though, which looks like Chick Lit Covers 101? I hate the cover.

Citizen Reading: 1 May 2017.

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

Booklist: May is Mystery Month.

April 29 is Independent Bookstore Day. Yeah, I missed it, but you know what? Let's all try harder to make EVERY day Independent Bookstore Day. And yes, frankly, at this point I'll consider Barnes & Noble independent too. Yes, it's cheaper at Amazon. But please buy a book, every now and then, NOT from Amazon.

Well, here's the story we never wanted to hear more about: Milo Yiannopoulos has raised $12 million to make sure we have to keep hearing about him.

SLJ Webinar: technology to aid the struggling reader.

RA for Genre Readers (link via RA for All).

Next GalleyChat at EarlyWord will focus on New Crime and Nonfiction.

Benjamin Barber, author of Jihad vs. McWorld, has died.

Robert Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcyle Maintenance, has died. Not the author's fault, but I was never able to finish that book. I don't think I was ever able to get past page 10 of that book.

Any article that picks on New York Times commentator David Brooks is an article I want to read.

Junie B. Jones: first musical edition!

In William Gibson's new novel, due in 2018, Hillary Clinton is president.

There's a new YA novel based on the life of Lucy Maud Montgomery (author of the Anne of Green Gables series).

2017 Edgar Awards: Winners.

James Beard Media Award winners.

Wellcome Book Prize (with a very rich purse indeed): Winner.

LA Times Book Prize: Winners. I've still got to read that Svetlana Alexievich book.

International Prize for Arabic Fiction: Winner.

Locke & Key MIGHT become a movie.

Mindy Kaling has optioned the behind-the-scenes political memoir Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?

Anne Rice has a TV deal for her Vampire Chronicles.

Glen Cook's The Black Company series has been optioned for film.

Because you all know your collections needed one: a new reference book on UFO sightings.

Librarians: taking a leadership role on literacy.


I am addicted to books about cities/regions enduring tough times. Here's another one, telling the story of a "Refinery Town."

A new history of the Nez Perce War. In grade school we had to do reports on various Native American tribes, and I was assigned the Nez Perce. I thought they were so boring, and now, that I am no longer a shallow grade-schooler (now I'm a shallow adult), I feel kind of bad about that. I should read this book.

Joely Fisher to write a memoir about her half-sister, Carrie Fisher.

Speaking of celebrity memoirs, Kelly Osbourne has written a memoir.

James Patterson is planning a True Crime book on Aaron Hernandez.

New York Times: Oh, joy, talks with Sheryl Sandberg about her new book in their book review podcast.

Speaking of book review podcasts: here's a new one called Just the Right Book! (Hosted by the owner of a Connecticut indie bookstore.)

New York Times: Thanks, Harvard, for fucking up the economy; new nonfiction by David Grann about yet another group of Native Americans enduring a "reign of terror"; a closer look at America's new "megadonors"; encounters with undocumented migrant children; two new books about living life with genetic disorders.


5 new reference books that all look SO COOL. On a whim I picked up a 2010 Guinness Book of World Records book for CRjr at a library sale, and he LOVES it. He carries it around reading out of it to us, and showing us pictures. He was reading it at breakfast the other day and finally I had to take it away from him so he would eat his Cheerios. Reading at the table is fine with me, as long as you read AND eat.

IndieBound: Bestselling books the week of April 27.

Harpers Bazaar: 12 new books to read in May. I suppose I'm going to have to read the memoir Priestdaddy. But do I really want to? No, not really. Full props to Harpers Bazaar, by the way, this is one of the more interesting booklists I've seen in a long time. LibraryReads? Take notes on how it's done.

8 books to read before you get married: a list from the Business Insider, of all places. It's probably too late for me (as Mr. CR would tell you) but I'm going to read some of these.

Publishers Weekly: Religion and spirituality books spring preview.

Adult Books 4 Teens: Love is in the air!

Six modern books inspired by Jane Eyre.

The Netflix series "13 Reasons Why," about a teen committing suicide, was the big news on the Internet this week. Here's a list of YA books to read after you watch it (or perhaps instead of watching it?) If you haven't heard of the Netflix series, here's what Jenny over at Reading the End had to say: "I’m furious at 13 Reasons Why, and this post and this post are two (YES I’M DOING THIS) reasons why. My brother-in-law, who teaches high schoolers, reports that all his students are watching and loving it, and I want to protect all those babies from this harmful nonsense. Ugh."

Granta: Best young American novelists.


I am all over the place with reading. A novel here, some nonfiction about the horrors of technology there (Mr. CR: "How many of these 'all your data has already been stolen' books can you read?"), a re-read of a really old novel here, some kids' nonfiction there. I didn't know where to settle.

I was without my laptop/Internet for much of the week, and it was both soothing and completely unnerving. Weirdly I had more time for reading but couldn't find what I wanted to read. An odd week. But the eldest CRjr continues to pound shark books like there's no tomorrow, so at least he knows what he wants.


American Gods: Why was Neil Gaiman "deeply concerned" when he watched the first Starz episode?