Admin Blah Blah

Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be pop-culture-addled idiots.

So this is a humbling story, but it also made me laugh, so I thought you might enjoy it too.

I saw this headline today on the Interwebs:

Meet Annie Jump Cannon, Who Cataloged and Ranked Over 300,000 Stars By Their Hotness

And I clicked on it, because I thought, awesome, I totally want to see where all my fave British TV and movie stars rank on that list.

Really.

Now, in all fairness, I've trained my Yahoo to give me exclusively pop culture, TV, and British Royal Family news, so how this actual STAR-related science-y link got in there, I'm not sure. But there you have it. I'm an idiot. And a shallow idiot at that. This probably explains why I didn't get a very good grade in my high school physics class.

That is all. Enjoy your week, everyone.


Happy 2020!

Huh. I'm tired and I'm not getting anything done. So far 2020 is looking a lot like 2019. Expected, but disappointing.

A quick word about 2019. Goodbye, Sucktastic Year. I learned a lot from you, I'll grant you, but I'm finding that learning experiences are not necessarily fun experiences. Here is what I learned: our bodies are weak and yet none of us are going to die at the right time, it's always going to be too soon or too late; I struggle to find solidarity with anyone because I seem constitutionally unable to get along with anyone who isn't my sibling or child; money is in fact the root of all evil and you can't win an argument with a stupid person and there are quite a few stupid people (nice though they may be otherwise) out there. Myself included.

That about sums up 2019.

But it wasn't all bad. I talked books and reading with some lovely online kindred spirits. (Thank you, dear readers.) I watched the CRjrs get a little bigger and navigate the world in ways I would never have expected. I laughed a lot, mostly ruefully, but also sometimes joyfully. I learned that although I make no money and it starts to look like I never will, I have numerous treasures that I am ridiculously grateful for and that I need to find ways to share. 

I learned something else*. Toward the end of the year I went to Half Price Books and bought a pile of books for nieces and nephews and myself and it felt really good. It was healing to touch books and stand among books and if you can swing it this year, please go to any actual physical place you can and buy books there. Increasingly I find I am a woman without a country. I feel lost when I go to church and when I pay attention to local politics and I have absolutely nothing in common with all the parents of the CRjrs' friends and I could give a flying fuck whether my alma mater's football team wins the Rose Bowl today. But when I stand among books I am home. I touch them and they touch me and they are a finite universe that I can understand, while they help me understand the infinite universe around me.

My hope for you in 2020 is that you surround yourself with books. May you feel at home there. Then come feel at home here and tell us what you've read, okay?

I wish you all a healthy and safe and peaceful new year.

*I also learned that "The Wire" is the best TV program ever. Ye Gods. It hurts me to love American television this much but if there was ever a series that could give any of the best Brit series a run for their money, it would be "The Wire." (Of course it's based on books: David Simon's Homicide and The Corner.**)

**One of the books I bought for myself at Half Price Books.


Citizen Reader at Cagibi Magazine.

I don't know what's up with me. I've been thinking a lot about cornfields (as you know), and the farm, and the country. So I wrote this:

At the End of the Road: Postcard from Wisconsin

This thought cycle is due, at least in part, from my experience reading Sarah Smarsh's spectacular book Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Growing Up Broke in the Richest Country on Earth. It's stupendous. If you haven't read it yet, please do so.

Thank you all for another wonderful year of reading with me. Let's go forth and find some new books to chat over in 2020. Have a peaceful season of whatever it is you celebrate and we'll see you on the other side of this decade, all right? And remember to  keep your stick on the ice--we're all in this together.


Bingeworthy British Television book...ON SALE!

Binge-britUpdate 12/3/2019: Big thanks to everyone who purchased a copy of the book this past week. The price has reverted to $19.99, but the deal of you buying a book at Amazon, posting a review, and then letting me know about it, will always result in me sending you a second book absolutely free! Thanks!

Hello, everyone!

Please bear with me as I write one more blatantly advertorial post for my and Jackie Bailey's book Bingeworthy British Television: The Best Brit TV You Can't Stop Watching.We're so proud of the book and the good reviews it has been getting, and if you're at all a British TV fan (or know someone else who is) we want to make the book even more easily available. We also just learned we were named a Finalist in the category of Best Cover Design--Non-Fiction at American Book Fest.com, so rest assured: it's an attractive book to own and to give!

So: The announcement is that, if you are doing any shopping on Amazon this Black Friday through Cyber Monday, please consider buying a copy of Bingeworthy British Television. For that day only we'll be lowering the price from $19.99 to...I'm not sure yet. But it will definitely be cheaper than 19.99. AND our earlier deal applies--if you buy a copy for yourself and review it at Amazon (and you are free to review it honestly--even if the book turns out to be not your cuppa--anything you have to say about it will help us if we ever write a new edition) and shoot me an email at sarah.cords@gmail.com--or comment at The Great British TV Site on any post to let me know you've reviewed it, I'll get in contact with you and send you a second copy absolutely free!!

As long as I'm asking for stuff I'll ask this as well: Please consider linking to this post on your blogs or social media to help us spread the news about these deals. We can also be found anytime at The Great British TV Site, or on Facebook at @GreatBritishTV if you can link to any of those sites.

Last but not least we're currently part of a huge giveaway over at the wonderful period television site Willow and Thatch. If buying the book just isn't in your budget this year, consider entering that contest to possibly win a free copy (or tons of other neat prizes), and please spread the word about that giveaway as well.

Thanks so much. End advertorial, and next week we'll get back to other nonfiction titles. And: Happy Thanksgiving. May you and yours be safe and content.


Always nice to see evidence that some people still have a sense of humor.

So we're in the middle of a record snowy and cold November here. When I was out today, this is a sign I saw in an elevator:

"Snow in November happens when people decorate for Christmas prematurely. We know who you are. Stop it."

I enjoyed that quite a bit, on the same level where I enjoy London Underground signs like this one: One Direction film premiere in Leicester Square.

That is all. Go about your business.


It's autumn, and a (not so) young woman's thoughts turn to Keats.

We have had three truly glorious days of autumn weather here in Wisconsin, and it almost makes up for the climate in the state all the rest of the year.

At this time of year my thoughts turn to my dear tubercular John Keats, most specifically these lines from his poem "Ode to a Nightingale":

"Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!
No hungry generations tread thee down;
The voice I hear this passing night was heard
In ancient days by emperor and clown:
Perhaps the self-same song that found a path
Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,
She stood in tears amid the alien corn..."

When I first read those lines I was in my first year of college in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, ninety minutes away from home, and I burst into tears. I was so homesick. And Keats couldn't have landed any better an image on me to turn on the waterworks.

During this time of year I need and crave to be near cornfields. I mean it's a desperate physical and bodily requirement. Which is funny, because growing up I always had a difficult relationship with corn. Yes, I'm not lying, it felt like a relationship in that my feelings about it were very complex and it took a lot of work. My farmer dad grew field corn, of course, to sell and to use as feed for the cows, but the corn I am thinking of is sweet corn. We sold veggies at the local farmer's market, a job I helped with from about the age of 8 onward. There was always a lot of work and at first our biggest cash crop was raspberries (I have never been a fan of raspberries and I was gobsmacked that anyone would willingly pay--holy shit--three bucks for a pint of the little bastards) and other fruits, but then one year the idea of also selling sweet corn was discussed. And, although we kept selling a variety of fruits and veggies, corn became THE crop. It made the most money but it was also a lot of work.

In my life I have picked probably a million ears of sweet corn. (Actually, I know about how much corn we used to sell, so I should actually do the math on how many ears that amounted to per year, per years of work. But "million" is certainly what it felt like, even if that is not numerically accurate.) And I picked it in the wet Wisconsin summer heat, when every part of your body sweats, and when you're going among corn stalks to pick corn, all of the itchy tassels and pollen drop on you and stick to every available surface, and its knife-sharp leaf edges slice up your arms and your face, so by the time you are done you are a sweaty, sticky, sometimes bleeding mess. And I picked that corn mostly with my father, who, even at the age of fifty-seven, could physically work me under a table, and who never, ever slowed down. He also had some heart problems and I often watched the sweat roll off his nose, wondering if I should be worried if we were both going to make it out of that field alive.

But also: it was satisfying to pick. It was a systematic task that began at the start of the row and was done at the end of the row, and those are my favorite types of tasks. It required some subject expertise in that I developed a way of feeling for which ears were ripe, which was to grasp an ear lightly at the tip and to feel, very carefully, for the ever-so-slight juicy bursting "pop," under my fingertips. It was not enough pressure to actually crush a kernel of corn through the husk, but it was more that I could feel, through husk and silks, and in a split second and over the course of hundreds of ears in a picking, that slight promise of juicy ripeness.

When I buy sweet corn now I still use that technique to find good ears, and I pity all the poor clueless city dopes who have to rip open each ear, without nuance, to see if it's ripe.

But I digress. The corn was a lot of work, and it made us a lot of money (by farm marketer standards, mind you). But the true glory of any kind of corn is to look at a field of it in the glowing autumnal sun. Depending on which angle you view the field from, it can look just like dying plants, their lush summer green being replaced by light tan and brown stalks. It can look absolutely dry and colorless and dead. But if the sun is shining through it at just the right angle, the tan is gold and all those purple tassels are still covered with dried pollen that has gone fuzzy and lends the entire field an almost angelic halo. Then the wind comes along and the entire field moves and undulates, although it's a dry and somewhat stiff undulation, but it's still unified moment that is hypnotizing to the eye. And the sound. The autumn wind in a drying cornfield is unlike any other sound on earth. You know what the wind sounds like in the trees? It's like that, but simultaneously bigger and softer. It is countless dry leaves rustling against one another rather than crackling; it feels both warm and full of life but still, all the time, dying. There's the immediate noise of the leaves rubbing together, but there's also an underlying constant swish of all the sound waves from the entire field converging together at the same time. I could listen to it forever.

I hope you are having a good autumn. I hope you can find a cornfield somewhere and enjoy just listening to it for a while. I hope, wherever you are, you are not sick for home, in tears, amid alien corn.


Citizen Reader, Elsewhere.

In the mood to learn about period British TV mystery/crime series that were adapted from books? I have written an article on that very topic, just for you!

Many thanks to Willow and Thatch for publishing it.

Now go forth and have a great weekend and watch some TV, it's good for you. Okay, it's not, but it's less bad for you than many things, like watching presidential debates or giving in to your state's drinking culture.


What to Watch: A Whirlwind Tour of British TV presentation.

Binge for blogsMorning!

If anyone is in the McFarland/Madison WI area, I'll be giving a presentation on British television and how great it is at the E.D. Locke Public Library in McFarland, Wisconsin, on Tuesday night, August 27. Here are the details:

Program: What to Watch: A Whirlwind Tour of British Television

When and Where: Tuesday, August 27, 6:30 p.m., at the E.D. Locke Public Library in McFarland. The library's address is 5920 Milwaukee St., McFarland.

I'm really looking forward to it and hope it will be great fun! I'll have books for sale ($15 for one, $20 for two, although I can only accept cash) and can't wait to hear everyone else's suggestions for their favorite Brit TV programs.

Hope to see you there! And if you can't make it, I've made a page over at the Great British TV Site to cover what we'll be talking about!

More information about my and Jackie Bailey's new book, Bingeworthy British Television: The Best Brit TV You Can't Stop Watching, can be found at Amazon, or you can read some lovely reviews of the book at Anglotopia and British Banter in Atlanta. The book is also available to libraries and stores at IngramSpark with the standard industry discount.

 


Citizen Reader at Introvert, Dear.

Have I really not posted here all summer?

Well, that's just ridiculous. Please forgive me. School let out and the first thing I knew it was CRjrs all day long, every day. Being with the CRjrs is my favorite thing to do, but between adjudicating Lego fights (because they both need EXACTLY that one Lego brick, right now, even though there are a million other Lego bricks laying on the floor), applying sunblock and band-aids, and supervising them while they play their version of American Ninja Warrior at the playground, well, it's been busy.

More later, because it's been a really good reading summer. For now I just wanted to share that I had a couple of articles published recently! One was titled A History of Miss Marple in Cinema and British Television, and ran at Anglotopia. The other, just published yesterday, was "Why Introverts Should Run for Public Office"* at a site called Introvert, Dear. I stumbled across that site earlier this year and LOVE it...tons of good information there. The author of that site, Jenn Granneman, is also the author of the book The Secret Lives of Introverts, which I am reading and enjoying right now.

How has everyone's summer been?

*Based on my experiences, last spring, of running for my city's Common Council. Please note this article is about running for office, not winning office, because I am a big loser. But that's okay. It was still fun. My favorite moment of the race was when the elder CRjr saw all my opponent's pricey yard signs (I didn't take any money, and therefore couldn't spend any, so any road signs we put up were homemade) and said, "Mom, I'm pretty sure you're gonna lose."


Hitting up the comfort reading hard.

I really, really enjoy Christmastime.

Of course it is not really the done thing anymore to say it that way, and that's okay. I'm down with saying "Happy Holidays" or whatever other greeting is appropriate for people I know. I don't particularly believe there's a war on Christmas. But there's also no use denying that it's Christmas that I really love. "The holidays," particularly when taken to include Thanksgiving and the hell that is the New Year's Eve/New Year's Day duo, and "the holidays" with all its connotations of enforced shopping and relative-seeing, well, "the holidays" actually aren't my favorite things ever.

But I like twinkly lights, and to some extent I like cold weather, and I love singing Christmas carols (if you haven't heard Frank Sinatra sing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," you haven't lived...unless you've heard Judy Garland hit it out of the park), and I ADORE making my ravenous way through absolutely horrifying amounts of chocolates and cookies and Christmas goodies, and as a routine-driven introvert I like doing the same things around the same time, year after year after year. I love putting up the same old nativity set that I've put up my whole life (my mom is still with us, but gave me her nativity set--the one we always used when I was a kid--a few years back). I love hanging the same ornaments. I love watching the CRjrs hang their favorite ornaments, and finding some of the crafts they made last year.

And most of all I love reading and watching all of my favorite things. Often in December I'll give the hardcore reading a rest and instead spend a lot of time with my favorite British TV Christmas episodes, watching my favorite holiday movies (I have added Just Friends to this rotation), and re-reading all my favorite and non-challenging books. Because I always re-watch Bridget Jones's Diary at this time of year, I also decided to re-read the novel it was based on, and that's fun. (The movie and the book are really different. I'd totally forgotten that.) And this year, although I've read it several times before, I am re-reading Helene Hanff's lovely Letter from New York, where I found this:

"I have eight people and two dogs coming for Christmas dinner and since studio apartments have small refrigerators, you have to work out the logistics in advance. You make your pies, cranberry sauce and sweet-potato casserole ahead of time and then distribute them around the building in other people's refrigerators, since the turkey, hors d'oeuvres, vegetables and eggnog bowl are all you'll have room for in yours. On Christmas morning once your turkey's in the oven, you go and get everything back. And the logistics consist in remembering whether the casserole is in 4-F or 16-B, and did you get the keys to 8-E up the hall, because Shelley and Susan have gone skiing in Vermont for Christmas, with your pies in their freezer." (p. 16.)

If that doesn't get you in the holiday spirit, I don't know what will. Happy Christmas to all, to all a good night, and may your 2019 be filled with only good things.


Let's chat about 2018, shall we?

I gotta be honest with you: 2018 has been a bit of a shit show.

For me, for family members, for friends; in my small and cranky circle the feeling emphatically seems to be that none of us will be sorry to see the backside of 2018. I hope this is not the case for you. And I hope that your 2019 (and mine) is a fabulous year. It goes against my nature, but hell, I'm out of other ideas, so I'm going to think positively.

One thing that has not sucked has been our Essay Project 2018. I have enjoyed reading some different essay collections, and what I have really enjoyed is talking them over with you. Thank you so much! Keep reading suggestions and comments coming--I think we should keep reading essays in 2019. What do you think?

Now, to housekeeping. I am not yet done with the Roxane Gay and still want to talk about her a little bit more. Although I agree with several commenters here that some of her work could do with a good edit and that her book Bad Feminist was perhaps a touch over-hyped*, I am still finding much to like in her writing.

So, originally for December, we were slated to book-club Garret Keizer's small book Privacy. Frankly, kids, I don't think I have the energy this month. (I used to love baking Christmas cookies. And even that job is kicking my ass this year. Middle age is schooling me.) Would you like to read and discuss it in January? Let's do.

In other news, I took a nostalgic wander through the New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2018 list last week (I used to love doing that, and critiquing the list, and laughing that I had only ever read like one or two books on it). It was fun as always. More on this later, including my new budding love affair with David Sedaris and his new essay collection Calypso.

What a year: Everything's shit! I'm too lazy to bake Christmas cookies! I'm finally falling in love with David Sedaris! Up is down! Cats and dogs living together in sin!

Get here, 2019. And for chrissake be better, wouldja?

*And I hate the title, which does not really capture the essence of the collection. I think publishers just think sticking "feminist" with any combination of incendiary words in a title will sell books. Lame.


Citizen Reader, Elsewhere.

Okay, apologies, this is shameless self-promotion, but I got another essay published at Mother.ly!

I Didn't Know How Badly I Wanted a Natural Birth Until It Wasn't an Option.

Also apologies because I know you are probably tired of reading about me and my process of having babies.

Also please note it is November! Ye Gods! Checking the schedule for The Essay Project 2018 in the sidebar at the right, I see we are on Roxanne Gay's essay collection Bad Feminist. Anyone else checked it out yet?

 


Questions about the comments.

Hi everyone!

Nothing about essays or books today, just a blog housekeeping question. A friend has reported she's having trouble leaving and viewing comments--is that happening to everyone else? Anyone able to leave a comment, view the comments, or not?

I've looked things over on the back end and it all seems set up properly, but what I don't know about TypePad is a LOT, so I thought I'd ask. Thanks for the help!

*Sorry--it just occurred to me that if you can't leave comments I wouldn't know. If you can't leave or view any comments, please email me at realstory@tds.net. Thanks!

 


Looking for a name for our "Best of" Nonfiction list.

I thought long and hard about what to title these new types of posts:

1. The Citizen Reader Worldview in 52 Books (Or, Become a Bitter Middle-Aged Midwestern Woman in Only 52 Weeks!)

2. 100 Game-Changing Nonfiction Books

3. Nonfiction for a Twenty-first Century Citizen Reader

4. 100 Nonfiction Books Deemed "Too Depressing" by Mr. CR

5. Great Nonfiction to Read While Watching Two Preschoolers Who Can't Stop Pushing Each Other Down On the Cement Driveway

But all of those seemed a little personal (well, not the second one, the second one just seems boring), and I would like this list of Nonfiction Greatest Hits to be more broadly useful to a wide variety of readers.

So what to call it?

...

First maybe I'll tell you a little story about how I really started thinking that it is time to change Citizen Reader, or perhaps just to start to go out with a bang. In the month of March I slowly read an investigative nonfiction/business history book titled Glass House: The 1% Economy and the Shattering of the All-American Town,* by journalist Brian Alexander. It was a great book. It was not the best book I've ever read, and in some ways it was a very run-of-the-mill example of the type of nonfiction I favor (namely, "depressing" investigative nonfiction on current economic and cultural trends in America), but it was a great book. It was a book I found on another list, elsewhere, and I was intrigued by the title, so I brought it home, and it sat around my house for a while. And then I took a little break from reading, but shortly before this book was due, I thought, "No, even if my eyes are tired, I want to read this book."

So I did.

I read it more slowly than I usually read these books, and I never really felt like I couldn't put it down, but all the same I kept being drawn back to it. It is the story, basically, of the city of Lancaster, Ohio, and how its main manufacturer and employer, Anchor Hocking Glass, began and (pretty much) ended. It is a story of community history, the business environment of America in the twentieth century through 2016, it is the story of individuals struggling to find meaning in their work and a living wage, it is the story of an insular town mentality, it is an individual business history, and it is also a story of opiate abuse and other crime (mainly petty, but also huge glaring financial crimes perpetrated by the 1% of the title).

It's got a lot going on.

I would like for you to read this book, but I know that a lot of readers would be turned off by the level of business details in it. Trying to understand the financial shenanigans of leveraged buyouts and corporate takeovers (many of which have been going on since at least the 1980s) is ridiculous; I have to give Alexander credit that he could describe most of it as clearly as he could. Where the rubber really meets the road is in one of the final chapters, when he discusses the trend of pundits telling Midwesterners to leave their smallish cities and towns and rural areas if they want to avoid drugs and find better-paying work:

"For decades, politicians--Republicans and Democrats both--and pundits had all been spewing empty platitudes of praise for 'the heartland,' 'real America,' and 'small-town values.' Then, with shameless hypocrisy, they supported the very policies that helped destroy thriving small towns.

Corporate elites said they needed free-trade agreements, so they got them. Manufacturers said they needed tax breaks and public-money incentives in order to keep their plants operating in the United States, so they got them. Banks and financiers needed looser regulations, so they got them. Employers said they needed weaker unions--or no unions at all--so they got them. Private equity firms said they needed carried interest and secrecy, so they got them. Everyone, including Lancastrians themselves, said they needed lower taxes, so they got them. What did Lancaster and a hundred other towns like it get? Job losses, slashed wages, poor civic leadership, social dysfunction, drugs...

Telling Lancaster to surrender and call U-Haul made it easy for America to ignore its Lancasters. Sure, there was a lot of talk about such places and the people in them, but few wanted to spend much time learning about how they'd been left behind by the financialization and digitalization of American life. Silicon Valley kept promising nirvana but delivering new ways to gossip, even while disconnecting people from each other and their real communities. Politicians soothed the blows of globalization with promises to retrain and educate, but none of that happened for Lancaster's working class.

To so blithely dismiss the value of community was to pretend there was no loss. But there was, and the effects of that loss continued to ripple throughout the town." (pp. 291-294.)

So here's where my little story ends. I read this book, and I read that, and somewhat sharply it struck me that yes, that is a culmination of most of the nonfiction I've been reading since 2000. In my brain I could feel all sorts of threads coming together, and I felt for a moment like I had a clear picture of the time and place I live in. I have read A LOT of books to get to this place. And for the first time in a long time I thought, I don't need to read any more.**

I want to do something else.

So, in light of our discussions a few weeks back, here's what we're going to do. Citizen Reader is going to place of action. Mine, and yours. We're also going to take things seriously enough to have a schedule; I'll post it soon. We're going to read some essays, and one month we're going to have an online book club, and in the middle of all that I'm going to write posts that list books I've read and helped me get to this moment of clarity, and this is what I'm going to call that list, because I am a Gen Xer and although I want to take things seriously, I also can't resist a pop culture reference:

Nobody Puts Nonfiction In a Corner (or, 100 Nonfiction Books I Couldn't Live Without)***

And #100 on that list is Brian Alexander's excellent Glass House. This list will not really be in order, but I'm calling this book #100 because I don't think you can start there. I want to tell you about the best, clearest, most helpful nonfiction books that I've read about living in this place and time. Won't you join me?

Oh, and don't worry. I'm still going to read. I'll still need something else to look at besides my little CRs pushing each other down in the driveway.

*This link goes to an excellent review of this book at Slate; concise, well-written, even very good about explaining briefly the financial mishaps wreaked on the Anchor Hocking company.

**I actually had this thought in quote form: in Anne Tyler's novel Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, elderly Pearl Tully is being read to by her son Ezra, out of her own childhood diary. At one point he reads to her an entry about a happy moment she had: "...'I saw that I was kneeling on such a beautiful green little planet. I don't care what else might come about, I have had this moment, it belongs to me.'

That was the end of the entry. He fell silent.

'Thank you, Ezra,' his mother said. 'There's no need to read any more.'" (p. 277.)

That's exactly the way I felt. Thank you, Ezra. There's no need to read any more.

***With full props to the film Dirty Dancing, for giving us one of the most truly ridiculous lines of dialogue ever.

 


Cabbages and kings, and whether pigs have wings...

...and what to do with Citizen Reader? Those are the questions.

Hi!

If you were here on Monday, you got to witness the slow burn of my continuing midlife crisis, which mainly involves me not knowing how to best spend my time. Mostly I don't know how best to develop my professional self, which is a problem for a whole other blog (or therapist, or something). But recently I have faltered even in my one hobby: my reading self.* And, by extension, my blogging self. So, what to do?**

I want to make CR something different, something fun, something useful. So here were some things I was thinking about doing.

  1. A very slow, very intense nonfiction book club meeting. Like there's this great little book by Garret Keizer (he of the teaching memoir Getting Schooled) titled Privacy that I would love to read and discuss. Mainly because I find the subject interesting, but also because it's not the kind of book you can just pound through for fun. I've read parts of it before and put it down because I wanted to return to it when I had more time to savor it. So maybe a weekly book club meeting where we discuss one or two chapters of a specific book a week?
  2. Just pulling out favorite quotes from books I'm reading and posting those, letting you make your own decision based on the writing, if it's a book you want to read.
  3. Something like "An Education in Nonfiction." I'd love to mine this blog for some of my favorite and, I hate this descriptor, but here goes, "life-changing" nonfiction I've enjoyed. Nonfiction books that really shifted my thinking or shed a lot of light or just really taught me a lot about the world in one simple reading. Not a list of best books. Not a list of "should read" books. More like a compilation of my Nonfiction Greatest Hits, and what they meant to me. And asking if any of you have read them, and what they meant to you.
  4. Oooh, I almost forgot, how about Year of the Essay? Where we read and discuss just one essay by various authors throughout the year? I know essays are popular, but I don't think they get their due, either on review blogs or in the library worlds of collection development and readers' advisory.
  5. Some combination thereof.

What do you think? What would you like to see us read and talk about? I do think I'd like to return to the major emphasis being on nonfiction. I read a lot of fiction too, but man, I read a lot of crap fiction that I don't make it all the way through, and a lot of the stuff I do make it all the way through, I just do because I'm hate-reading it. Besides, everyone else talks about fiction. After many years of chasing reading and book headlines, I know this: I CANNOT PRETEND I CARE ABOUT THRILLERS OR THE LATEST NEW THRILLER JUST COMING OUT anymore.

Do let me know what you think we should do. I'd love to increase commenting and readership because that's really the most fun part of this entire endeavor anyway. We all need a bit of connection, and I'm no exception, even if I am introverted and grouchy and misanthropic and I don't really like Neil Gaiman. It has been an honor all these years to share reading connections with all of you. (Thank you again for that.)

*Once I filled out a questionnaire on which I was supposed to list hobbies or things I enjoyed doing. So I listed "reading," and then I had to stop and pause. I thought about writing "cooking" or "baking," but then remembered what I really like to do is read books about cooking. Ditto gardening, and ditto music, ditto everything, really, including travel, although I do like to actually travel, it's just that my time and budget constraints don't really lend themselves to travel right now. So I just left it at "reading." Yup. I made myself sound REALLY exciting on that questionnaire.

**This post is about how I want to change Citizen Reader. But I would be remiss if I didn't mention that I also want to change how I blog at The Great British TV site. Namely, I'd like to spend more time writing there. Because if there's anything that comes close to matching my love of reading, it's my love of watching British TV.


Time for something new at Citizen Reader.

'The time has come," the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages--and kings--
And why the sea is boiling hot--
And whether pigs have wings.”*

I actually only know that poem (or part of it), because it was in one of my favorite bits of the kids' classic Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh. When Harriet's nanny Ole Golly quits her job as nanny, she and Harriet trade the lines above, in a lovely, moving on, "the time has come" kinda way.

Which is all a roundabout way of saying that the time has come for a change here at Citizen Reader.

Ever since the Reader's Advisor Online blog shut down (in May 2016--can you believe it's been that long?) I have been providing, in my typical half-assed way, a weekly list of reading and book news links on Mondays (titled the "Citizen Reading" posts). Let's get one thing straight: I had a lot of fun making those lists, complete with sometimes inappropriate commentary. I had a lot of fun, but I also spent a lot of time doing that. It becomes ever clearer to me that time is really not something I have a lot of to spare, right now, so I won't be providing those links lists anymore. (Not to worry--Neal Wyatt is still providing book headlines over at Library Journal. She's doing it more regularly than I was, and she's getting paid to do it, so we're going to let her do it. Also, Becky at RA for All is still blogging and providing a lot of librarian and readers' advisory professional development links--which I also tried to provide--so kudos to her also for doing that work.)

This is not only a time management issue. There are at least two other factors at play here. For the first, let me tell you a little story:

Lately I have been standing around a lot, looking into space and thinking about a variety of things: How many more years can I squeeze out of my aging car? How am I going to grow my freelance business so I can do it full-time when my littlest CRjr goes to school during the day? How did I get so old? How am I going to find the inner strength and patience to have the CRjrs cook at least one meal a week with me, so they learn not to be helpless in the kitchen? My "thinking face" must be a weird combination of thoughtful and accusing, because on several occasions in the past month both my eldest CRjr and Mr. CR have caught me looking at them while I think and have demanded, suspiciously, "What? Why are you looking at me like that?!?!?" And then I have to explain I'm actually not looking at or thinking about them at all.

So I wondered, why is this coming up so often lately? Why do I have so much time to be standing around making the people around me nervous? And then it hit me...since I have been trying to read less to give my eyes and eye muscles** a break, I am not standing around with a book in my hands AT ALL TIMES. Really. I have gotten in the habit of reading while I watch the boys***, as well as reading at pretty much every other time I can.

This indicates to me that I am reading too much. Of course I enjoy it, and I've sort of always been able to pass it off as work, but increasingly reading has become a crutch, an addiction, almost, to keep my mind occupied and not thinking about other things I should perhaps be thinking about. I also read a lot while I work and watch the boys because it's easy to do in ten-minute increments, which is about how long anything lasts in this house. I can pound through a lot of nonfiction in ten-minute windows, whereas it is not as easy to concentrate on other things like house improvement work or essay writing when I am interrupted that frequently.

So, firstly, I need to put down my "book as crutch" and re-calibrate my reading habits.

Also: I am tired of the emphasis current culture puts on the new, the exciting, the constantly updated. I don't think I really care anymore, other than finding books I want to read myself, what the fiction and nonfiction trends are. What the book and publishing stories are. (To be truthful I think I stopped caring about bookish current events when the Milo Yiannopoulos story hit.) I'm sick of churning through Internet links. I'm sick of the Internet, full stop.

So, secondly, I think I want to discuss books a different way.

What's it all mean? I don't really know. I do know that it DOESN'T mean I'm quitting Citizen Reader altogether. I can't give up Citizen Reader. I love it and if there's any readers of it still out there, I love you. But it's time, as the Walrus says, to talk of other things. You up for it? Pop round on Wednesday and I'll talk about kings and cabbages and maybe new directions for the blog. Please do join me.

*The Walrus and the Carpenter, Lewis Carroll, at https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/walrus-and-carpenter.

**No worries. My eyes and eyesight actually seem fine. It's the actual muscles below my eyes that bother me; they're just very tired. I think I just overdid it reading online, scrolling Feedly for links, reading books, and not getting enough sleep.

***Okay, you probably think, good Lord, how closely watched are those two little boys, but honestly, I don't think it's just me being crazy, they seem to require a lot of watching and interaction. Even my sister, who has three kids, thinks my two are a bit of a handful. Let's just say that the one day a while back when I decided I was going to stop watching them as closely and let them work things out on their own, was the day I ended up driving one of them to the emergency room.


Slight hiatus.

So sorry not to be posting a Citizen Reading list again. I've got some freelance work on which I have to concentrate, which is a good thing, because my car clonked out on Saturday and the furnace man is coming on Thursday and so, all things considered, it could be an expensive week over here.

Hope you are staying warm and dry and enjoying the Olympics, if you are into that sort of thing. I must confess I can't get myself to care now that Russian figure skater Evgeny Plyuschchenko is retired. It used to be I watched the Winter Olympics solely to see him skate, and I still miss him. Below you'll find my favorite video of his skating. You don't have to watch the whole video--the skating program is only the first five minutes or so--but you do have to watch his program to the end. It is, as one commenter said, "amazeballs."

Now go forth and have an amazeballs week.


A new piece of nonfiction I'm very excited to tell you about.

Good morning!

First off, I hope that wherever you are, you are staying warm and dry. What a start to the new year.

Secondly, today I would like to show off an essay that I wrote! That has been published! That someone has actually paid me for! It's titled The Tiny Blue Stocking I Pack Away Each Holiday Season. Spoiler alert: it's about a miscarriage I experienced a few years back, so if that is too personal an issue for you to read about, I completely understand. If you're up for it, though, please do consider checking it out!

Also: the picture of the beautiful woman reading in bed at the top of that essay? That is not me. That is so not me it's actually hilarious. Except wait, gosh, she's beautiful. Yup, that's totally me.

Have a great weekend, and may no more bomb cyclones or cold snaps or anything hit for a while.


Citizen Reading: What I read in 2017.

This was the year I totally dispensed with trying to act like I enjoy computers or understand Excel. As such, from the start of 2017 I simply recorded what I read in one of my favorite pieces of technology ever: the notebook.

Not only was it easy to keep up with, it was a total joy to leaf back through the pages and review my year in reading. In addition to titles, authors, and quick descriptions, I also recorded any little asides I wanted, like how the books made me feel and favorite quotes. In addition to recording titles, the notebook also made it easier to track books that I got from the library and either started, didn't like, and didn't need to get back, or books that I got, didn't have time to read, but I really want to read at some point in the future. What that told me was how many times in the year I was simply "not in the mood" to read certain titles. In addition to my eye wonkiness, there were several rough patches where I clearly didn't feel like reading books I normally would have loved. I noted these books by writing down their titles, noting "not in the mood" (and sometimes why I wasn't in the mood: "I may actually be done reading parenting books now."), and then circling them and writing "GET BACK" if I thought I would want to read them sometime in the future.

Let's face it. For me it's just more fun to flip through paper than to scan a spreadsheet. I know they're important and all but I hate spreadsheets. All that organization and tiny little cells trying poorly to hold more information than they can show. Bah!

So I don't have real scientific tallies for you, and I certainly don't have Excel-generated graphs. And you've already seen my Best Books of 2017 lists. So here's the big picture*:

I read 69 nonfiction books. 36 of them were by women. 3 of them were by "writers of color."

I read 15 novels, about half of which I hate-read (I'm still recovering from expending a lot of energy on hating Who Is Rich?).

I looked at and decided I didn't want to read or wasn't in the mood for an additional 15 nonfiction books.

I wrote down the titles of 41 nonfiction books that I didn't have time to read, but that I would like to "get back" from the library. This constitutes a partial TBR list, about which I can only say, "oof." This indicates to me that, as much time as I spend reading, I'd still be happy to spend MORE time reading!

I don't know what any of this means, and refuse to draw any conclusions from a half-assed notebook. You want big sweeping conclusions, you go talk to someone who has their act sufficiently together to make a spreadsheet.

Just kidding. My conclusion is this: I would be so lonely without books. And I would be very lonely without you, dear readers. Thanks for reading and thanks for spending some of your time in 2017 with me. I do so hope you will continue to honor me by visiting here as we all sail along into 2018.

*Which actually does not include the reading I did in December; I wrote this post in November. Fuck it. Close enough! There's my mantra for 2018, which is no big change, since that's been my mantra, basically, since graduating from high school.