Admin Blah Blah

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.


Free book for you...if you like reading chick lit!

The Natural Sequel CoverHi!

So good to be back. In honor of a new year of blogging (yes, I know it's December, but in January I will still be busy digesting too many big meals, and will still be exhausted from trying to make more room in the house for the new toys the CRjrs inevitably score over the holidays, to get excited about the new year), I'd like to give you a little thank-you gift for reading Citizen Reader.

Don't get too excited: it's just a PDF file of a novel I wrote for fun. Of course I had dreams of making it a publishing and paying proposition, but I can't get a literary agent interested and I am not of the type of personality that can self-publish a novel. I did look into that, but it turns out that self-publishing is a ton of work, what with deciding which service to use, formatting, making the cover, etc.

And if there's one thing I'm definitely not interested in, it's more work.

On the other hand, I did write the whole thing and I'd be beyond tickled if anyone wanted to read it (and--if you're so inclined--comment on ways in which I could improve it).

Enough already. What's it about? Here's the jacket copy I wrote:

"Eight years ago, everyone had advice for Fran about her boyfriend, Joe. Snap him up, her mother said. Lock him down, her friends said. Marry me, he said.

But who always wants to be told what to do?

The Natural Sequel is a modern twist on Jane Austen’s novel Persuasion, featuring a heroine who wants to be left alone to make her own decisions."

So, there's the cover I made at the right side. I know: not great. I'm no graphic designer and I didn't want to take any more time with it (see: "not interested in more work" caveat above.) And here's the link to a PDF of the book. I'm hoping you'll get some "you time" over the holiday season, and I'd be touched beyond all reason if you'd like to spend a bit of your you time relaxing with my chick lit novel. Happy holidays!

The Natural Sequel (PDF file).


Officially off the reading rails.

The other day I tried to pick up my holds at the library and was stopped at the self-checkout when it informed me that I had 100 items checked out and couldn't take any more. This was a problem, as I still had three holds to check out.

So I moseyed to the checkout desk (what's odd was that I almost NEVER use self-checkout; I loathe and despise self-help machines, but I was just ducking in by myself and thought, well, I can try self-check this one time--see how that worked out for me?) and they very nicely let me take out the three additional books. Yay for human workers! Our machine overlords clearly were not going to override the system for me, but the librarians did.

Wild krattsBut the point is: 103 items (plus a few on Mr. CR's card). And my house looks it. There are picture books, kids' sports books, novels, adult nonfiction books, and DVDs on every single surface around here. Ever since my eye has felt a little better I have just been pounding through any kind of reading material I can find. Add to that the two little boys demanding I order and pick up more books and DVDs for them ("Mom! More basketball books! Mom! More car books! Mom! Wild Kratts DVDs, STAT!"), and the fact that I'm taking Spanish language lessons and am now checking out Spanish CDs and kids' books, and it all adds up to one full library card.

Of course the obvious answer is to get CRjr his own card, but frankly, I don't have the energy to monitor two cards' worth of materials. So we will just have to streamline a bit.

What's also weird in this reading bacchanalia is that I don't really have one book I want to review today. In the past week I've skimmed a book on Dr. Who (Dr. Who the Doctor: His Life and Times), two books on reading lists and suggestions (Book Lust and The Novel Cure), a book on race that I really don't want to talk about because it's just too depressing and I can't figure out a way to talk about it without someone yelling at me for something, because that is how we don't talk about race in this country (The Beast Side: Living and Dying While Black in America), a frothy romance (The Royal We), and listened to several intro Spanish CDs ("Hola. Que tal?" "Hello. What's happening?"). Oh, and did I mention I'm binging on British TV? Have you seen this series Line of Duty? It is UNBELIEVABLE.

Okay. I will try to be more focused next week. Really.


Be nice to your librarian this summer.

The other day I took the CRjrs to a different library in town, because sometimes the eldest CRjr likes to browse a new (to him) shark book selection. (This is what we do in lieu of taking a summer vacation.) The library we went to happened to be the one I worked at for many years; sometimes I'm still surprised to see that the staff has almost completely turned over since I was there.

Anyway. The jrs and I were browsing in kids' nonfiction; the eldest had found the shark books and the littlest had found the truck books, so they were happy. I took to tidying up the shelves, pushing in bookends, replacing stray books, just generally straightening up the collection, so I was happy. And I had exactly 30 seconds of feeling nostalgic for my old job when, from the public computer area, there came the noise of a disturbance.

Nothing terrible, mind you. No violence and no big deal. But there was definitely yelling and something going on that, had I been sitting at the reference desk, I would have had to try and "handle." And that would have been no good, as "handling" anything isn't really my strong suit.

So. Just a reminder today, in the midst of summer library reading programs, disturbances, and everything else public librarians have going on, to be kind to your librarian this summer.


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 week off, and a new venture.

Hi!

Thanks for stopping in, as always. There's no Citizen Reading post this week, nor will there be a mid-week review or a Friday book lists round-up; I am taking the week off. This is partly because I love taking time off. But I'm also taking some time this week because I'm starting a new venture!

Please do consider visiting me over at a new blog, The Great British TV site, at greatbritishtv.com. For this week I'll just be there, but the hope is that in upcoming weeks I'll be here on Mondays and Wednesdays (posting a Citizen Reading links list on Monday, complete with book lists at the end), and there on Tuesdays and Thursdays, posting reviews of British television, viewers' guides to British programmes (yeah, you know I'm totally just looking for an excuse to use Brit spellings), and eventually conversations with a British friend of mine about the telly she's watching. I hope it will be a good resource for people who love British TV (you know who you are), but also for librarians and others whose job it is to help people find entertainment that they want to watch. Please do consider visiting the new site and telling any Brit TV fans you know about it.

So. We'll see how it goes. I figure the only thing more cost-effective than writing for free three days a week would be to do so four days a week. But let's face it: reading nonfiction and watching British television are two of my most favorite ways to pass the time anyway, so what better subjects to write about?


So here's what we're going to do.

Well, it's been a bit of a time, frankly.

First off: Hello. I'm sorry it's been a while. Whenever I take a break from blogging, I feel instant relief. I can just read! I don't have to track it, write about it, think about how to write about it! Bliss! But I always find that I really miss blogging in very short order. Or, I should say, I miss conversing. The best part of this blog, for me, is checking in periodically to see if you are commenting and what you are saying. I have had so many thoughtful, interesting conversations here. I spent a little time this month going back and reading some much older posts and comments--and laughed all over again to see the fun.

So what's up? Well, I've not really felt myself for some time. I've been reading--almost nothing stops me from reading--but for a long time I have not felt like writing about the books I've been reading. Mainly because 2015 was a sucktastic void of a year. I came up against my midlife crisis in 2015 and it won. Never before had I ever felt so old. Never before had I felt so physically, mentally, and emotionally lousy. Never before had I felt so fundamentally unlike any self I had ever been comfortable with or wanted to be.

And then my dad died.

Okay, 2015, I could have done without that.

Now, am I being melodramatic about 2015? Am I being just like my two-year-old son when he screams the house down because he doesn't get to eat a delicious buttery cracker* RIGHT NOW? Well, of course. I'm not young, so you know my dad wasn't overly young. He lived a great life. He received the gift of a quick death that millions of suffering people all over the world are praying for right at this moment. I can't really be bitter about either my dad's life or his death.

But still. I keep finding I just don't feel like doing anything, and I think deep down part of that is about missing my dad. And aging. And all that good stuff. Come to think of it, I could go for a good delicious buttery cracker.

But I think I need 2016 to be better. And I think that's going to require me returning to being Citizen Reader. Are you in? First order of business is to set up some sort of title awareness/reading news weekly post, to replace the Reader's Advisor Online blog, which I miss writing (and reading). Further bulletins as events warrant...

*Yeah, it's just a Ritz cracker, but I'm trying to teach the boys to enjoy the little things in life so we call them "delicious buttery crackers." As in: "If I eat all my pork chop, can I get some delicious buttery crackers?"


The end of an era: Bookslut will cease publication.

Sad news on the Interwebs last week: Jessa Crispin's long-running literary blog and online magazine Bookslut will cease publication.

A million years ago I had the good fortune to write some reviews for Bookslut, and I'm still grateful that they let me. And I'm grateful for their many years of publishing well-informed articles, interviews, and reviews of both fiction AND nonfiction books.*

You'll be missed, my dearest book harlot.

*Now: can you recommend some good book blogs for me, where they either focus on or at least include nonfiction?

This just in: a new(ish) reprinted interview with Jessa Crispin, at The Rumpus.


The best nonfiction I read all year...

...was the 1978 desk calendar diary written by my grandmother-in-law.

I'm very sorry to tell you this, because this diary is not a nonfiction book you can buy. (And I'm never giving it up.) Earlier this year my mother-in-law gave it to me, saying it was one of the few diaries that her mother wrote or kept, and she thought I would enjoy it because there were some stories in it about when Mr. CR was little. And I did enjoy those bits. But what I enjoyed more was getting to know my grandmother-in-law a little better (she died shortly before after Mr. CR and I were married), learning about her relationship with my mother-in-law, and learning about day-to-day life in 1978 (grocery prices, etc.).

But I'm not lying about it being great nonfiction. What was especially interesting was seeing how the more things change, the more they stay the same. Various family members I know have certain identifying hallmarks of behavior and personalities, and to a large extent, those personalities were already obviously set way back in 1978.* And all the seasonal details of the work people did, the never-ending laundry and canning and work, as well as many causes for celebration, well, it was quite the year.

So what I'm really getting at today is that you might want to think about writing a diary. Even if you just put a few notes in a day book or calendar. Really. Forty years from now, you never know who might get a real kick out of it. And feel closer to you and yours as a result of it. So today I'm thankful for getting to know family better, and thankful that my mother-in-law was generous with her mother's diary.

I also wanted to take this opportunity to say that I am thankful for you, fellow readers. Solidarity! I hope all of you had much to be thankful for this year, and I hope you enjoy the rest of your week.

*Which is appalling and comforting in equal measures. I've always been of the opinion that people don't really change, myself included, but I don't mean that in a damning sort of way. I also believe that our strengths are also our weaknesses, and vice versa, so you don't really have to change a whole lot if you just try and be aware of what you're working with.


Housekeeping: Amazon, a new blog feature, and James McAvoy

Just a bit of blog housekeeping today.

First off, I am no longer an Amazon affiliate. I have removed the banner ad at right that linked to Amazon, and also the links to Amazon from my "About" page. A few words about this change: THANK YOU so much to people who made their purchases at Amazon after following my links. For several years now, I have gotten a small percentage of any purchases made at Amazon from many of you, and I have been very grateful for that. I'm making this change now because Amazon has changed some of their rules, and demanded that all links to their site be changed, and honestly, I just don't want to figure it out. Secondly, I'm not all that fond of Amazon as a company (although I do periodically shop there, either because they have something I can't find elsewhere, or because I am reluctant to feed my credit card number to any more online sites than I have to), and I wasn't really comfortable asking you to shop there for me.*

I am still an affiliate for Powell's Books (my link to them is still at the right; anything you buy at Powell's after getting there through my link would provide a small kickback for me as well), because I believe in Powell's as an independent bookstore, and because I believe their site is relatively secure. If you ever shop for books online, I will still continue to humbly request that you go to their site through my link. Thank you so much!

SECONDLY: I am thinking of starting a new feature at this blog where I ask strictly nonfiction authors about their reading tastes, writing influences, and projects they are working on currently. You see a lot of this sort of thing for novelists--who do they read; what bookstores do they like, etc., but I think it's time to start showing nonfiction authors the same love. What do you think? Any nonfiction authors you'd like to see me contact with these questions?

LAST: For no reason whatsoever, an appreciate of Scottish actor James McAvoy. I've always been a big, big fan, but the other day I watched this video clip about how he is NOT on social media, and it made me love him all the more. It's an interview about one of his latest movies, "The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby," but the part of this clip I loved starts at about the 1:20 mark. Because I firmly believe we should start every Tuesday listening to someone speak with a beautiful Scottish accent, particularly when they are saying they don't know what texting abbreviations mean.

*Also, there are many great blogs and authors out there who remain Amazon affiliates; if you like the feeling of having some of your purchases help out another blog writer, please consider shopping through author Stacy Horn's website or Savvy Working Gal's website.


Conferences, reference books, RA training, oh my!

Just a quick repeat of my post about ALA Annual from last week.

If by any chance you're a librarian type, and you're attending the ALA Annual conference this week in San Francisco, I wanted to reiterate my offer of "Buy a Book--Get Email Training!" The deal is simple: Buy a book from the Real Stories series of readers' guides* (books designed to help you find NONfiction books that your patrons might enjoy), I'll offer you a free session of RA training (your choice: general readers' advisory or nonfiction-specific) over email. We can discuss ways to widen your RA services, put together compelling nonfiction booklists, find great title awareness websites, anything!

So please do consider stopping by the ABC-CLIO booth (#814) and looking at the books. All you have to do is buy a book from the Real Stories series, either at the conference, or, if you're not going, buy one through an online bookstore or the ABC-CLIO site, through the end of June. Then just contact me at realstory@tds.net, tell me what book you bought**, and we'll use that as a jumping-off point for an email conversation/training about nonfiction reading, readers, and RA.

What do you say? A great reference book and an email training. That's got Google beat, right?

*Full disclosure: I'm the current series editor for these books, so of course I might be biased. But they really are great.

**I'm not offering this through the publisher, or the marketing department, or anything like that. So no proof or receipts required; just tell me you bought the book and we'll be good to go. Gotta love the honor system; it really cuts down on paperwork.