Happy Labor Day 2023!


How did it get to be Labor Day 2023?

How did it get to be 2023?

Well, clearly I'm just way behind. But as you may or may not know, Labor Day is one of my very favorite holidays (no war, no church, no gifts, no family get-togethers), and reading about labor is one of my very favorite things to do. This year marks my 11th year of offering a round-up of the job-related nonfiction and fiction I've read the previous year (links to each previous year's list are at the bottom of this post); I hope you enjoy. Apologies for the shorter list; my reading time has, for various reasons, taken a real hit the past few years.

Remainders of the Day, Shaun Bythell

RemaindersThis is the third diary published by Scottish misanthropic bookseller (my very favorite kind) about his life selling books in the largest used bookstore in Scotland. I LOVE THESE BOOKS. I love hearing about the locals of Wigtown, Scotland; I love hearing about the books Bythell buys and sells; I love hearing about the annual Wigtown Book Festival.

I find these books so calming and so wonderful that I just read them compulsively, over and over (the first two are called Diary of a Bookseller and Confessions of a Book Seller). In fact, my need for comfort reading this year has been so great that I have read these three diaries over and over and over again in lieu of reading many other new books.

Against the Wall: My Journey from Border Patrol Agent to Immigrant Rights Activist, by Jenn Budd.

This book was so good, and so sad. Budd talks about how she joined the Border Patrol because she really wanted to serve her country. And what happened to her? Horrible sexism, being raped at the Border Patrol academy; a work life that consisted mainly of learning about how much racism and anger exists in the Border Patrol organization. A must-read if you want to learn more about how America's immigration "policy" (if you want to call it that) is not working.

Fire and Rain: Nixon, Kissinger, and the Wars in Southeast Asia, by Carolyn Woods Eisenberg

Okay, this one is only tangentially about work, but it is an unparalleled inside look at what passed for foreign relations and military strategy under the Nixon and Kissinger White House in the 1960s. Spoiler alert: Whatever else you say about them, Nixon and Kissinger were also not very good at their respective jobs.

Milked: How An American Crisis Brought Together Midwestern Dairy Farmers and Mexican Workers, by Ruth Conniff

This one's all about the dairy industry in Wisconsin and the Midwest, and how dependent it is on immigrant labor. Conniff not only interviews farmers and workers in this country; she also traveled with some farmers as they traveled to the places their workers came from to learn more about their lives.

It was really interesting, but it was almost too hard for me to read. My father was a dairy farmer and so was my eldest brother, so it is really hard for me to read about the continuing demise of the small family dairy farm. Even though I could never have been a small dairy farmer. If that makes any sense.

Proof, by Dick Francis

Dick Francis, a former jockey (who rode horses owned by the UK's Queen Mother!) is famous for his second career as the author of horse- and racing-themed mysteries. When I worked in libraries he was very popular and I reshelved his books, which often had very distinctive, minimalist covers in bold colors, a LOT. And yet I never read one, and probably would never have read one, if a friend of mine hadn't recommended his mystery Proof. (To be more accurate, she recommended it by saying Francis's writing is, ahem--not good--but that he is very good at showing a lot of character information and vividly setting a scene in just a few words and pages.) So I read Proof, and then it promptly moved onto my night table as the book I compulsively re-comfort read whenever I need a little break from Shaun Bythell.

The main character/amateur sleuth in the book is a wine and spirits merchant named Tony Beach, and although he's actually rather boring, he's also rather wonderful. And of course the book is very British, so there is that. But my friend was not wrong--when I read this book, I can actually see Beach's store and smell his liquor storeroom--specifically that pulpy, heady smell of cardboard that contains wine, beer, and spirits bottles. You know that smell? I can no longer drink and if I smoked a cigarette I would probably pass out from the buzz, but there are not many things I love in this world more than the smells of cigarette smoke and a tavern serving beer and wine. I used to slow down when walking by bars on sidewalks just in case someone would be coming out and I could get a nice long sniff.

Weird, I know. Tell me something I don't know.

Anyway. Happy Labor Day to you all. Now go take the day off.

And here, in case you want to see them, are our Labor Day lists from previous years: 2022, 2021, 2020, 2019 part 1 and part 2. 2018. 2017. 2016. 2015. 2014. 2009.

What a very strange year.

I gotta be honest with you--2019 wore me out, and I was SO HOPEFUL that 2020 would be easier and more peaceful.

Or not.

Let's be clear: the virus is awful and I feel very badly for anyone who has had it, because a. feeling sick is terrible, and b. interacting with our health "care" system is a nightmare even if you have time and health insurance. I also know it is a nightmare for the service industry and as a former waitress, I feel deep-body sympathy for anyone caught in that shitstorm of a sector this year. On the other hand? If you could work at home and homeschool your kids, as we are lucky enough to be able to do in ChezCitizenReader?

Well, then, I'm not proud to admit it, but it's been my least anxious year ever. Mainly because it has removed interactions with other people and (mostly) with systems with which I don't agree and hate being a part of. If you think I missed social functions at the school of the CRjrs, you are way, way wrong.

If you think I missed any social functions at all, you are way, way wrong.

Are other anxious introverts feeling this way? I hesitate to even admit it because I know how tough and how ugly 2020 has been for many, many people worldwide.

No year-end round-up, because, truthfully, I hate those things. But I WOULD very much like to hear what you read and loved this year and why. Or just pop in and say hi and tell me how you're doing. Either way, and whatever havoc COVID-19 has wreaked in your life, I wish you and yours all the very best in 2021.

Trying to find the thread.

The CRjrs are both in school now, and dear friends, I am bereft.

They like school, and I'm glad for that. Likewise, it's been exciting to make ten years' worth of doctors' appointments, haircut appointments, car appointments, and house-repair appointments. But other than that? I really miss the Jrs. Sure they're enough to make you crazy, but whatever other nonsense I was doing with my day--freelancing, visiting Grandma, baking, etc.--when I was watching the CRjrs too it felt like I was actually getting something done. Doing a job I enjoyed, and was good at. I am a bit lost without that.

But, enough fooling around. I have plenty to do and am trying to write more, and I am trying to think what to do with this blog that will make it into more of an "author website." (Fingers crossed I get something published and can really lay claim to the "author" part of that equation.) I feel like I am spinning my wheels though. Would you like to hear about my current wheel-spin?

Here is what I am re-reading: an anthology called Labor Day: True Birth Stories by Today's Best Women Writers, Rose George's The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters, Sarah Perry's After the Eclipse, Sarah Smarsh's Heartland, essays by Joan Didion but most particularly the essay Holy Water, Helene Hanff's Underfoot in Show Business, and Stacy Horn's The Restless Sleep: Inside New York City's Cold Case Squad.*

I know, weird list. But I have collected them purposefully and as I re-read them together, it seems to me they are all related. When I first started reading nonfiction, it felt like my mind blew up and I could see the connections between everything, like I wanted to tape a string to a passage in one nonfiction book, and then when I chanced across another nonfiction book that related to that passage (that starts to happen a lot when you read a lot of nonfiction), I would tape the other end of the string to that book. Bright orange string, and the nonfiction collection would be tied together with great big bunches of string. To this day when I walk into a library I don't see nonfiction shelves; I see books in a tapestry of orange string, just waiting for me to dive in and follow the leads and become enmeshed.

So how do those books relate? I don't know. It's something about being a woman, and how our ability to live and create and endure is beset on all sides with the thwarting of our wills to control; by violence; by poverty; by the weaknesses of our bodies (and the constant dealing humans have to do with shit and blood and bodily fluids, which, let's face it, is a lot that falls mainly to women). Except for the Hanff book. The Hanff book represents solely joy, and chutzpah, and the overwhelming will of women to do what it is they want to do, and how that's part of the experience too.

Yeah, I know. It makes no sense. But I'm going to keep on trying to work it out anyway. Otherwise I will notice that no CRjrs are around fighting about Legos to the point of throwing punches (the adjudication of which fights take up most of my time when the CRjrs are here) and be sad all over again.

You ever spin your wheels? Let me know how it's going with you.

*Mr. CR knows about my Stacy Horn fixation, but every time he sees me re-reading this book, he has to ask, "How many times can you read that book?" (Mr. CR is not really a re-reader.) And I say, "I'm not dead yet, so we'll just see, baby."

Labor Day work books: Just a few more.

Right after I finished compiling the list of books about work and jobs that I read last year, I realized that this week I've kept fairly busy reading more books about jobs, so here's the Labor Day List part two!

Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe, by Roger McNamee. Okay, I didn't actually get this one read, but I started it a number of times. It's written by a former Facebook insider, and details all the horrible stuff Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg, et. al. are doing to destroy our sanity, our lives, and our democracy. I couldn't get into it because I don't care a whole lot about how Facebook influences elections, because I think politics is a waste of time. But I do care that Facebook and tech in general are destroying our lives and how everyone seems mostly happy to let our lives be destroyed. (Please note: All the big money tech execs out in Silicon Valley are now paying to send their kids to "tech free" schools. What does that tell you?) Still: this book was too dense for me and I already know Zuckerberg and Sandberg are jerks. Moving on.

Prince of the City: The True Story of a Cop Who Knew Too Much, by Robert Daley. Okay, this one's a classic, first published back in 1978. I'm on a cop kick lately (it all started with Serpico), and this title did not disappoint. It's the story of a detective named Robert Leuci who decided he could no longer go along with some of the corruption that was happening at the time in the New York police force, as well as in other levels of government and the criminal justice system. Unfortunately, Leuci thought he was going to inform only on corrupt people who weren't connected to him--but of course he ended up informing on friends, cop partners, and family members, because that's just how it goes when you get started unpeeling the onion (you know, like how you go to the doctor's office for one little thing and pretty soon you've got 18 follow-up appointments that you really don't want but now feel like you have to go to). An okay read, but it's very hard to understand what Leuci's real motivation was throughout the story.

My absolute favorite anecdote in it is the one where drug enforcement officers were trying to tap the phone line of a convenience store owner who they believed was involved in the drug trade. So then follow this chain of events: the mob called the convenience store owner and told him they were storing 300 (illegally procured) TVs in his store whether they wanted him to or not, and he needed to close for a few days. So he did, and the mob stacked his store with 300 TVs. An off-duty cop walked by, noticed the TVs, and called it in to the local precinct, at which point a whole bunch of other cops came over, took a TV, and then CALLED FRIENDS AND FAMILY MEMBERS ON THE TAPPED PHONE to come and get a TV for themselves. So then the drug cops had to get involved and tell them to put the TVs back, and for god's sake to stop calling their friends on the tapped phone. Good stuff.

Gaining Ground: A Story of Farmers' Markets, Local Food, and Saving the Family Farm, by Forrest Pritchard. This one is a memoir by a guy who grew up with a farm in his family (his grandparents lived on it, and his parents tried to keep it going with managers and workers while they worked full-time jobs) but didn't really plan on becoming a farmer. Eventually he decided to go all in and try to make the farm a paying concern--from selling firewood to raising grass-fed beef, to starting a pasta company with his wife. I liked this one because it was a bit less holier-than-thou than many "back to the land" memoirs are--Pritchard has a nice straightforward way of writing and isn't afraid to list his many missteps, like when he made a couple grand selling firewood but also caused $4600 worth of damage to his truck by hauling it around.

There you go! More books to read rather than doing your own work. You're welcome.



Happy Labor Day! 2019 Edition.

Well, if you know me at all, you know Labor Day is one of my very favorite holidays. No relatives, no big meals, no celebrating war...just a day off (if you're that lucky) to celebrate working.

Personally, not working is one of my very favorite things, but I can also appreciate a good book about the working life. Each year I try to do a wrap-up of the labor-related books I've read, and here they are all to date: 2018. 2017. 2016. 2015. 2014. 2009.

So what did 2019 look like? Well, it looked like a lot of not reading. My difficulties with sleeping and my wonky eye continued, meaning that I can't regularly pound through hundreds of pages of nonfiction (interspersed with hundreds of pages of fiction reading as a palate cleanser) the way I used to. I also ran for my local city council, which was a super funny experience (well, funny sad, in that I lost, but also funny ha ha, in that I learned a lot about myself and the larger political process and also about how smart my son is: early on he saw my opponent's fancy yard signs and said "I think you're going to lose, Mom." In short, I wasn't my regular reading self. But I still found the time for some good books about work:

The Diary of a Bookseller, by Shaun Bythell. Bythell is the proprietor of The Book Shop in Scotland, and WOW, is this book fantastic. A highly detailed but unbelievably engaging read about trying to make it in the used-book business, as well as his marketing activities and his appreciation of his Scottish hometown. One of the best books I read all year, and Vivian Swift liked it too. Even if I hadn't liked it, I'd have to respect it, because it is not easy to earn Vivian's love (just check out her comment at that post about a book by Mr. Bythell's love interest).

The Woman Who Smashed Codes, by Jason Fagone. Another superlative book about World War II (and earlier) codebreaking married couple Elizebeth Smith and William Friedman. A great history of codebreaking, a complex love story, and a well-done biography of a singular woman.

Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death, and Brain Surgery, by Henry Marsh. I think all doctors are jerks, and yet I can't stop reading their books. I read this book by Brit author/surgeon Marsh right before my mom had a stroke last spring* and, honest to god, I actually felt I had a slightly better understanding of what her doctors were telling us about her brain because I had just read this book. Marsh is an interesting personality and although this book is detailed and sometimes frightening, it is nonetheless fascinating to consider that there are actually people out there who can hack into other people's heads and brains for their paycheck. That is amazing to me.

Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth, by Sarah Smarsh. The best book I read all year. Just go read the review, and then read the book, because I can't do it justice in a sentence here.

Huh. Every year lately I think, I didn't get to read many books about work/jobs this year. And it turned out again that I had read more than I thought I had. I definitely like reading about working more than I actually like working.

Happy Labor Day all, and happy September to you as well.

*She's doing quite well now, thanks for asking, but let me tell you this: aging is not for pussies.


Best of 2018: The Max Power Way.*

I've got to be honest with you: I'm not all that sorry to see 2018 go. Not that I really expect great things out of 2019 (my secret to happiness being, of course, low expectations), but it is nice to pretend through at least January or so that "YEAH! This'll be my year!"

One of the reasons I was not fond of 2018 was because my reading took a real hit. Between eye fatigue and newly developed (I think, anyway, who the hell knows? Not any of the doctors I've seen) sinus headache issues, as well as any number of other job and family chores, I wasn't able to churn through at least a hundred pages of something every day like I've been pretty used to doing for the last twenty years. But there's people in this world with real problems, and I'm related to some of them, so it's time to stop whining that "I can't read as much as I used to and it is making me depressed!" and move on. So let's stick a fork in 2018 and make it official with this "Best Books I Read in 2018" list. The links below go to my reviews of each book.

Roxane Gay, Bad Feminist. Actually, I liked Bad Feminist: Essays a lot more than I thought I was going to. It made me think. It made me look at a few things differently. That's why I read essays. And, God love her, Roxane Gay dares to say, when men ask her if she's on the pill, "No. Are you?"

Stacy Horn, Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York. Stacy Horn is the hardest working, most thoughtful, most rigorously dedicated to good fact-checking nonfiction author we currently have. Go read the conversation I was lucky enough to have with her this year, and then go read all her books.

Peter Maas, Serpico. About whistle-blowing NYPD cop Frank Serpico. What a great read. Technically I read it in 2017, but hey, this is my list so I make the rules.

In addition to losing productivity as a reader, I also lost productivity as a writer this year, which was not a direction in which I wanted to go. I read a lot of nonfiction that I never got around to blogging about. I would finish a book, give it some thought, put it on my table to write about it, eventually went overdue and I just had to return it to the library. One of those books was David Sedaris's latest essay collection Calypso. I've never really been a huge Sedaris fan, and I tend to like him most when he is writing essays about his large and completely (and I mean this in the nicest way, coming from a similar family myself) BATSHIT INSANE family members. Guess what? A lot of the essays in Calypso are about his family! There's also an essay in it about how strangers speak with one another and how (what I'll call) "marketing speak" fills up most of our conversations, and I just laughed the whole time I read it. Then I cried a little bit because the laughter wore me out and the essay was just so good, so gentle, so everything I wish my essay writing could be. Well played, Sedaris.

InfidelityLast but not least I read a memoir titled Infidelity, by Ann Pearlman. It is a memoir of an entire life, and a big issue: that of the history of the men in her family to be unfaithful to their wives (which happened to her grandmother, her mother, and herself). I didn't expect to like it. It was, in its way, depressing as hell. But it was also really, really good. I mean, look at that cover. I hardly ever include pictures on this blog anymore but I had to share this one--it's a perfect cover and it's perfect for the book. Anyone else read it? I'd love to hear others' thoughts. I don't even remember where I found it, except that I think maybe I read something else online by or about Ann Pearlman? Ah, it's hell, getting old.

That said, here's to another year of all of us getting older together. As long as we continue to read good books together and chat them up here, I'll be happy with 2019. Thanks, as always, for reading, not only this blog, but in general. Reading is good for you. Now get out there and spread the word.

*Wrong, but faster.

Labor Day Reading List 2018.

Good morning! If you'll remember, Labor Day is one of my absolute favorite holidays. I am determined to enjoy it today, although for some reason I cannot sleep at all lately and so stumble around all day like a zombie. Also, it is dark out there (I live in a new monsoon zone where it is constantly dark and rainy) and we will probably not be able to play much outside; major bummer.

So every year at this time I compile a list of books that I've read that have to do with jobs and work. (Here's the prior links: 2017. 2016. 2015. 2014. 2009.) This is a category of nonfiction I really enjoy, so normally this is a long list, but not this year. I've read a lot less this year, so apologies for this short list. Better luck next year, right? I hear you just feel better and get lots more time to indulge in your favorite activities as you age*, so here's looking forward to 2018-2019.

Helene Hanff, Underfoot in Show Business. A re-read, but God, this book is so awesome. About trying to make it in theatah and i New York City in general.

Michael Perry, Population 485. Another re-read, about being a writer, volunteer EMT and firefighter, and all-around decent guy.

Brian Alexander, Glass House: The 1% Economy and the Shattering of an All-American Town. An investigative book about Ohio's Anchor Hocking Glass company, and how finance types and business people raped it for all the profit they could get, helping destroy its hometown in the process. In bold because it's one of the best books I read this year. READ IT, even if some of the financial fine print gets a bit dense and you have to skip parts of it.

Peter Maas, Serpico. About being a cop, and a whistleblower. Unbelievably great read.

Caroline Fraser, Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder. About Wilder's life as a farmer and author. Fantastic. Very important in these days when Wilder's reputation is taking a hit. Yes, the settlers were not nice to Native Americans. Maybe we should read about that and discuss why it was wrong rather than pretend it never happened. At least that's the way I feel about it.

Annie Spence, Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks. About books, reading, and being a librarian.

Rachel Arneson, No Apparent Distress: A Doctor's Coming-of-Age on the Front Lines of American Medicine. About becoming and being a doctor. It didn't set me on fire but was an interesting read.

NOW: Go forth, and have a Happy Labor Day. I wish you a good day celebrating work by not doing any.


Best Books 2017 (part 2): That I DID blog about!

A while back I wrote about books that I read in 2017, enjoyed, and never blogged about. Today's list runs down the books that I enjoyed in 2017 and that I DID blog about! Please note: this list is not solely about titles that were published IN 2017. Books published in 2017 on the below list are in BOLD. Links are to my CR reviews.

After the Eclipse: A Mother's Murder, a Daughter's Search, by Sarah Perry. True crime, and one of the best books I've ever read, full stop.

The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2016, edited by Amy Stewart. A nearly perfect collection, encompassing a broad range of essay styles, topics, and length, on topics that you may not always think of as science (sports bra design?) but which certainly are.

Raw dealRaw Deal: How the "Uber Economy" and Runaway Capitalism are Screwing American Workers, by Steven Hill. A bit dense, but very interesting investigative writing on tech, jobs, the economy, and ultimately, what kind of society we want to have.

Getting Schooled, by Garret Keizer. A memoir by a writer who started his career as a teacher, then went back and put in another year teaching after many years away from it. Great stuff.

Life's Work: A Moral Argument for Choice, by Willie Parker. I am anti-abortion, so why was this memoir by a doctor who provides abortions a "favorite"? Because I think it was an important read especially if you ARE going to be anti-abortion. In what ways can we move this issue to one where we care for babies who do arrive, make adoption a better option, and address the base-level inequalities between men and women that lead to women ALWAYS having to make all the hard choices themselves? (MALE BIRTH CONTROL PILL FOR THE LOVE OF GOD. I'm just saying.)

Life Moves Pretty Fast: The Lessons We Learned from Eighties Movies, by Hadley Freeman. Pop culture. I just plain enjoyed it.

All Grown Up, a novel by Jami Attenberg. I just love Jami Attenberg.

Why I am Not a Feminist: A Feminist Manifesto, by Jessa Crispin. I don't agree with Jessa Crispin on a lot of things, but on the other hand, I agree with Jessa Crispin on a lot of things.

Dorothy dayDorothy Day: The World Will Be Saved By Beauty, by Kate Hennessy. A biography/memoir about The Catholic Worker newspaper founder Dorothy Day and her family, written by her granddaughter. So beautiful. So sad. Just like life;

Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets, by David Simon. A True Crime classic about Baltimore. Can't believe I'd never read it before.

Brief Histories of Everyday Objects, a graphic novel by Andy Warner. Great history, fun format. I really should read more graphic novels.

The Platinum Age of Television, by David Bianculli. Another great pop culture read.

Victoria the Queen: An Intimate Biography of the Woman Who Ruled an Empire, by Julia Baird. Such a great read that I really didn't even notice that it was more than 700 pages long.

Frank: The Voice, and Sinatra: The Chairman, exhaustive biographies of Frank Sinatra by James Kaplan. Great reads both, although I preferred the former.

What were your favorites this year? I hope very much it was a good 2017 for each and every one of you. On to 2018!

Best Books 2017...that I didn't even blog about.

I read a lot of really good nonfiction this year. But what almost invariably happened was that when I really liked a book, I set it aside to blog about it later when I could "take more time writing about it."

Yeah, right.

I'd set my favorite books aside, wait for this magical mythical moment when I had lots of free time,* it would never come, then the book would go overdue, and I would just have to return it to the library. BUT! I did usually write down the titles of the books I was reading, so that's how I know what great books I read and never blogged about. Here they are:

Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman, by Lindy West. Actually, I quite enjoyed this book, a collection of essays by West. One of the most interesting ones was how she actually met and talked with a very misguided man who went to the trouble of creating a whole fictitious Twitter account FOR THE SOLE PURPOSE of trolling her. Normally I don't feel a lot of communion with millennial woman, but I enjoyed her frustrated but still understanding/forgiving tone. A thoughtful read.

Am I Alone Here?, essays about reading by a man named Peter Orner. I didn't get the whole thing read, but this was an interesting collection about reading and what it means to us.

PrivacyPrivacy, by Garret Keizer. Ohmygod did I love this book. I think I'm making plans to either force this book on you in a Menage, or to host some kind of read-along or something. It's a very short little book with some very big little essays on the nature of privacy and how we feel about it and (don't) protect it.

Arbitrary Stupid Goal, by Tamara Shopsin. Memoir by daughter of the infamous New York City grocery/restaurant owner Kenny Shopsin. I still hope to write about this one. It was a crazy ride.

Wedding Toasts I'll Never Give, by Ada Calhoun. Surprisingly good and eerily right-on collection of essays about marriage.

Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks, by Annie Spence. Lord, this book was so good, and it pissed me off SO bad. This is the book that everyone who a. loves books and b. wants to make people laugh, would LOVE to write. I can't hate Annie Spence for being better at loving books more and being funnier than me, though, them's just the breaks. She gave us a great book.

So there you have it. Some of my favorite books of the year that I didn't even write about. On to more laziness in 2018!

*I actually get some free time. But I don't always want to spend it blogging, I'll admit, especially since I feel my blog writing has been somewhat lackluster lately, and no one wants to spend time doing something that makes them feel lackluster. If I want to feel lackluster all I need to do is get up in the morning.

AudioFile Magazine's Best Books of 2017!

Last year I was very excited to partner with AudioFile Magazine to draw attention to their Best Audiobooks of the Year (2016). So I was glad that they contacted me again this year to run a similar post!

AudiofileFor those of you who are not aware of AudioFile Magazine, it's a great resource to keep you up-to-date on all the latest audiobook news, complete with reviews that focus both on a book's content and its narrator--because we all know a very important part of how much you enjoy a audiobook is how much you enjoy its narrator's voice and style!

I also love AudioFile Magazine because they're an independent reviewer--too many review sources these days are owned by conglomerates*. So, without further adieu, here are their suggestions for BEST NONFICTION AUDIOBOOKS OF 2017. The links go to the AudioFile reviews of each title. (Want to see their entire list? Go to their AudioFile Best Audiobooks list.)

CAESAR'S LAST BREATH by Sam Kean, read by Ben Sullivan

DRAFT NO. 4 by John McPhee, read by John McPhee

FINISH by Jon Acuff, read by Jon Acuff

I CAN'T BREATHE by Matt Taibbi, read by Dominic Hoffman

LETTERS TO A YOUNG WRITER by Colum McCann, read by Colum McCann

THE LITTLE BOOK OF HYGGE by Meik Wiking, read by Meik Wiking

THE MEANING OF MICHELLE by Veronica Chambers [Ed.], read by January LaVoy, Prentice Onayemi

OPTION B by Sheryl Sandberg, Adam Grant, read by Elisa Donovan

OWN IT by Sallie Krawcheck, read by Ellen Archer, Sallie Krawcheck


WORD BY WORD by Kory Stamper, read by Kory Stamper

What a list. DO check some of these titles out, and DEFINITELY check out AudioFile Magazine!

*Ahem. I'm looking at you, GoodReads, also known as "Yet another way Amazon collects info on people."

**I look at a lot of nonfiction book news, and nowhere else this year did I see that Poundstone had a new book out. I like Paula Poundstone, so yay on AudioFile Magazine for bringing this title to my attention!

Labor Day Reading List 2017.

I certainly hope you enjoyed your Labor Day holiday. As you may or may not know, Labor Day is my favorite holiday. (Okay, I lie, Christmas is actually my favorite holiday, but the MINUTE Labor Day gets cookies, fudge, and as good a song as "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" associated with it, then it will truly become my favorite holiday.)

So every year I like to look back at the blog and highlight any books I read that had to do with labor. Here's the list from the past year (links go to my reviews of the books).

Hill, Steven. Raw Deal: How the "Uber Economy" and Runaway Capitalism are Screwing American Workers.

Keizer, Garret. Getting Schooled.

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

Simon, David: Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets.

Martin, Brett. Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution--From The Sopranos and The Wire to Mad Men and Breaking Bad.

Moore, Anne Elizabeth. Threadbare: Clothes, Sex, and Trafficking.

Tomsky, Jacob. Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality.

Kaplan, James. Frank: The Voice. I'm including this bio of Frank Sinatra because it is so jam-packed with info about Sinatra's development of his instrument (his voice) and his financial prowess.

Franklin, Ruth. Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life. I'm also including this one because it is such an exploration of Jackson's work and development as a writer, as well as a parent.

Kidder, Tracy. A Truck Full of Money.

Hirshey, Gerri. Not Pretty Enough: The Unlikely Triumph of Helen Gurley Brown.

Brown, Chester. Mary Wept Over the Feet of Jesus: Prostitution and Religious Obedience in the Bible. Because if prostitution isn't work, then by God, I don't know what is.

And here are the lists from previous years: 2016, 2015, 2014, 2009.

Cleaning nonfiction house: a whole bunch of titles I won't get read.

I carry a lot of books home from the library.

Normally this system works out quite well for me. Everything from the library is free, so I just request books I hear about from family members and friends, books I see on lists and other blogs, and books I find while meandering through my library catalog looking through other things. This means I almost always have something around I want to read, want to look at, or just want to dip into at random. Because I also fall on the minimalist side, I also try to keep few things in my house, but with small children and various freelancing jobs my house still always looks like a paper and plastic toy bomb just went off.* The point of this long, admittedly not-very-minimalist story is that sometimes I look at my overwhelming shelf of library books and feel the urge just to get them all out and start fresh.

So today I'm going to list everything that's going back. If you see anything on this list I should bother getting back, let me know, would you? Thanks!

Amy Gary, In the Great Green Room: The Brilliant and Bold Life of Margaret Wise Brown. Bybee, who I trust for all recommendations bookish, suggested that this one is perhaps not worth the read. Mr. CR also took a look at it and thought it read mostly like a gushing fan tribute. I took a look at the index and was disappointed; the entry for Michael Strange, "the gender-bending poet and ex-wife of John Barrymore," with whom Margaret had a love affair, had no fewer than 50 page references and no subentries. That is not responsible indexing.

Beth Macy, Truevine: Two Brothers, a Kidnapping, and a Mother's Quest--A True Story of the Jim Crow South. For some reason I keep bringing Beth Macy books (she also wrote Factory Man) home and never closing the deal on reading them. Anyone read this one? Should I? Why?

Lisa Wade, American Hookup: The New Culture of Sex on Campus. Got a lot of press but gosh, I just can't face it right now.

Robert A. LeVine and Sarah LeVine, Do Parents Matter? Why Japanese Babies Sleep Soundly, Mexican Siblings Don't Fight, and American Families Should Just Relax. I'm just not in the mood for this. I might be done with parenting books for a while.

Eric Fair, Consequence: A Memoir. Memoir of a man who worked as an interrogator in Abu Ghraib prison. I just don't have the heart right now. This was another book on my shelf that prompted Mr. CR to ask, "Can you bring home some books that aren't as depressing as hell, please?"

James M. Stone, 5 Easy Theses: Commonsense Solutions to America's Greatest Economic Challenges. Actually, I read parts of this one, and it made several "best of" lists in the economics category. It seemed interesting but again, I'm just not in the mood right now.

So? Should I let all these go or are any of them worth getting back? What books have you seen or had lately that you just weren't in the mood for?

*Incidentally? All the bombs in the world should be required to be made of only paper and plastic toys. They wouldn't be as lethal as most of the weapons we use today, but such bombs, I can attest from seeing their effect on my house, are very disruptive.

2016: My Year in Reading.

I'm happy to report that my 2016 was roughly a million times better than my 2015.*

This was for many and various reasons, none of of which we will be discussing here. This, my friends, is a post about READING. So let's get to it.


The Reader's Advisor Online blog closed down, which was sad, because it was a great resource for readers and librarian types. Librarians, I'm sorry we couldn't keep it going for you. But this year also saw the conclusion of Bookslut and Gawker, so at least we were in hallowed company.


I've just taken a quick toodle through the blog here, and through my new handy-dandy reading notebook, and it looks like I got through 70+ books this year. Sure, I had to not clean my house and ignore my kids a lot to get to that total, but I still feel good about it. And a lot of those books were so good. Here were some of my favorites from the year (links go to my reviews of them):

Avalanche, by Julia Leigh.

Patient H.M., by Luke Dittrich.

TV (The Book): Two Experts* Pick the Greatest American Shows of All Time, by Alan Sepinwall and Matt Zoller Seit

Alive, Alive Oh!, by Diana Athill.

Mama Tried: Dispatches from the Seamy Underbelly of Modern Parenting, by Emily Flake.

Not Pretty Enough: The Unlikely Triumph of Helen Gurley Brown, by Gerri Hirshey

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, by Matthew Desmond

Deep South, by Paul Theroux

British Stuff: Life in Britain through 101 Everyday Objects by

The Water Knife, by Paolo Bacigalupi (fiction)


I also read some books I did not like, at all, but they certainly made me think:

Mary Wept Over the Feet of Jesus: Prostitution and Religious Obedience in the Bible, by Chester Brown.

And other books I didn't like didn't make me think at all:

Tracy Kidder's A Truck Full of Money


Let's not forget that I read at least one book that I really, really think you should read too. Immediately:

Future Crimes: Inside the Digital Underground and the Battle for Our Connected World, by Mark Goodman.


And, after years of fussing around with an Excel spreadsheet (that I hated) to track my reading, I gave up and went back to writing down my reading thoughts in a notebook. I'm really happy with this new (old) method and am glad to be back with it, even if I won't be able to speedily generate pie charts from its data. Pie charts suck anyway.

Happy (Reading) New Year!

*This is my wish for all of you: that your 2017s are roughly a million times better than your 2016s (however your 2016 was--there's always room for improvement, right?)

AudioFile Magazine's Best Audiobooks of 2016 (including a sweepstakes contest)!

I was recently contacted by AudioFile Magazine to participate in the blog tour about their picks for Best Audiobooks of 2016. I like AudioFile magazine because they're a great independent review resource for all things audiobook. God knows we have few enough independent reviewers of anything left; to learn more about the site and what they offer, click here.

Ezine-best-audiobooksIf you're looking for a way to stay up-to-date on new and the best audiobooks, do consider checking out the magazine. Also, as a promotion along with their Best of... feature, they're offering a sweepstakes chance for you to win free audiobooks from Please click over and check that out; they're accepting sweepstakes entries through THIS FRIDAY, DECEMBER 16. (You've got to love these people--they ask for your email address to enter you in the sweepstakes, but they also "promise not to share your email."

And now on to the Best of 2016! Here are the titles the editors have chosen for Best Nonfiction Audiobooks of 2016 (links go to the AudioFile reviews of the books):

HAMILTON by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Jeremy McCarter, read by Mariska Hargitay, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Jeremy McCarter [Intro]

HOW WOMEN DECIDE by Therese Huston, read by Susan Boyce

I CONTAIN MULTITUDES by Ed Yong, read by Charlie Anson

JOY ON DEMAND by Chade-Meng Tan, read by Telly Leung

LOST SOUND by Jeff Porter, read by Arthur Morey

OLD AGE by Michael Kinsley, read by Danny Campbell

THE ABUNDANCE by Annie Dillard, read by Susan Ericksen

THE GENE by Siddhartha Mukherjee, read by Dennis Boutsikaris

THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES by Joseph Campbell, read by Arthur Morey, John Lee, Susan Denaker

THE HOUR OF LAND by Terry Tempest Williams, read by Terry Tempest Williams

THE KINGDOM OF SPEECH by Tom Wolfe, read by Robert Petkoff

THE VIEW FROM THE CHEAP SEATS by Neil Gaiman, read by Neil Gaiman

THE YEAR OF VOTING DANGEROUSLY by Maureen Dowd, read by Elisabeth Rodgers

THEN COMES MARRIAGE by Roberta Kaplan, Lisa Dickey, read by Andrea Gallo

TRIBE by Sebastian Junger, read by Sebastian Junger

I don't get to listen to a whole lot of audiobooks (the CRjrs are in a very chatty stage), but I'm going to check out "How Women Decide." AudioFile's made that easy for me, too, by pointing me to this YouTube video by the narrator.

DO check some of these titles out, consider entering the sweepstakes, and DEFINITELY check out AudioFile Magazine. independent review sources forever!

Nonfiction November: Be the Expert

Thank goodness some nonfiction book bloggers have had their acts sufficiently together to host Nonfiction November. It's such a great idea, and every year I'm late to the party, because, well, I'm always late to parties (if I go at all). If you haven't seen any NN posts yet, please check some out. It's great stuff.

The discussion this week is called Be the Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert, and I first came across it when reading Unruly Reader's post about aviation books. (A great post, by the way, and even better comments discussion.) So I thought, I'm not really an expert on anything and I don't have the time or energy to become an expert at anything (and my TBR pile is too huge to even think about asking for expert recommendations and adding to it), so I should probably leave that discussion around. But then I looked around my house and noticed that I have three, count 'em, three books on the go (and a fourth on hold at the library) about...television. So I may not be an expert, but three or four books on the subject seems like a good start for now.

First, a word about me and television. One of my family members is not really a fan of television, and although she never tells me to get off my butt and turn it off (or turn off the CRjrs' PBS Kids, which, not to put too fine a point on it, was the only thing between me and total insanity this past summer, when the CRjrs' sole entertainment was pushing each other down every. single. minute.), I have gathered from her that TV really is a big waste of time. Finally I just had to tell her, okay, but here's the thing: I LOVE TV. I always have and I do and I think I always will. I am the kid who avoided working on the farm by telling my mother I had to do homework, and then I snuck into my brother's room to watch Remington Steele.* I love television almost as much as I love reading. And that, as I think you know, is a lot A LOT. It's like I have two best friends: the solid one who is always there for me and knows just what I need and yet still manages to make me laugh, often. That friend of mine is named Reading. And then I have my other friend, the slightly flashier one who is almost always tons of fun and who isn't always good for me but who I love anyway. That friend is named Television.**

I come from a family of workers and producers, so it has been a long lifetime for me trying to become comfortable with the fact that, for the most part, I am a consumer. I can churn through work with the best of them but for my money? NOTHING is better than reading a book or watching a truly great TV show. It's just the way it is.

So you can see how I ended up with three books about TV in my house at one time. (Incidentally, how's that for having my cake and eating it too? Reading books about TV? So awesome.) And here they are:

Tv the book1. TV (The Book): Two Experts* Pick the Greatest American Shows of All Time, by Alan Sepinwall and Matt Zoller Seitz. I'm really enjoying this one. The general theme is that these two longtime TV critics used some sort of "objective" number scale to rank what they feel are the greatest (American) TV shows of all time. I don't care at all about their rankings but they generally do a nice job of summarizing a wide variety of television programs, without giving too many spoilers away. For instance: I can quite safely state that I have never had a desire to watch one episode of the show "Homicide: Life on the Street." But after reading these guys' description of it? I totally want to watch it. The book also includes nice sidebars with further rankings, like "Best Mustaches" (the winner there is Tom Selleck on "Magnum, P.I.," of course). I don't always agree with their choices, because I think their rankings and choices reflect their stereotypical male tastes (their top five shows are "The Simpsons," "The Sopranos," "The Wire," "Cheers," and "Breaking Bad." Now, I know women watch and enjoy those shows, but to me that list still reads like it was written by two men. Which it was.

Still. A fun compendium.

Seinfeldia2. Seinfeldia: How a Show about Nothing Changed Everything, by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong. I'm actually only partway through this one. It's a serviceable read and I'm enjoying the behind-the-scenes tidbits about how the show started, was cast, and the various personalities that made it all happen. And the author (a former writer for Entertainment Weekly) seems to have done her homework on all the interviews and resources she could find, as well as an impressive interview list with many of the show's key writers and other creators (among them Peter Mehlman, Alec Berg, Spike Feresten, Carol Leifer, and many more). But it does not appear that she got to interview any of the four main stars personally? I know. I suppose none of them have the time or inclination to grant interviews, but it still makes this book feel like it was written at a bit of a remove. Although it's getting terrific reviews. I should probably reserve judgment until I've read the whole thing. I was glad to see that a woman wrote this book, though; have you ever read what a sausage fest most TV and movie reviewing is? Jesus.

Play all3. Play All: A Bingewatcher's Notebook, by Clive James. This book, on the other hand, is annoying the piss out of me.

First of all, it's boring. The introduction is titled "Title Sequence," and here's a sample: "There will always be formal scholarly work to be done. But it will be done best if contact is not lost with the tone of common speech in which habitual consumers discuss the product; a tone not all that far from the voluble congeniality with which they pass the popcorn. Binge-watching is a night out, even when you spend the whole day in. It's a way of being." (p. 11.)

Okay, whatever. It's good writing but it's not exactly prose that you just blow through because it's so fun. I should give James a pass; he was diagnosed with leukemia in 2010 and points out himself that, while drugs are currently keeping the disease in check, he's still facing his mortality. And I'm sure he knows his stuff; he wrote a weekly column about television for the London Observer from 1972 to 1982. But I'm just not enjoying the book. For one thing, it's another sausage-fest of programs: those that get the most attention include "Band of Brothers," "The Sopranos," "Game of Thrones" (I know GoT is popular with women, too, but something about it still says GUY to me), "Mad Men," and "Breaking Bad" (although it doesn't read like he's a very big fan of "Breaking Bad"). Secondly, he blows spoilers all over the place where he wouldn't even have to. I don't even particularly mind spoilers but the way he uses them doesn't even seem necessary (he really lets a big one out for "The Wire," which annoyed me somewhat, because I'd still like to watch that one without knowing about the plot point he's told me). Definitely not a book I need to binge-read.

So that's what I've got home. And now I just heard about this new one, The Platinum Age of Television: From I Love Lucy to The Walking Dead, How TV Became Terrific. Anyone read any of these books? And, of course, here's the real question: Seen anything good on TV lately?

Have a very happy Thanksgiving, all.

*Eventually my older brother, not as dedicated to shirking work as I always have been, noticed the blue glow from his room when our mother was out working in the garden alone, and ratted me out for not doing my homework. Yes, it was not nice to make my mother work alone while I watched TV. But, in my defense: it was REMINGTON STEELE.

**If I really wanted to beat this analogy into the ground (and I do) I would say I have a third friend, like a good guy friend who I have a little crush on but who isn't interested in me in that way. That friend is named Movies. Movies are great but are just a little more standoffish (sometimes you have to leave your house to see them, after all) than books and TV.

***OOooh, extra points, because "expert" appears right in this title!

Friday Book Lists: 7 November 2016

A round-up of the week's bookish lists from your friend and mine, the Internet.

New York Times: Ten new nonfiction books they recommend this week

Bustle: 15 best nonfiction books coming in November (and the best fiction of the month as well)

You have a chance to add to the Best of 2016 lists yourself: at GoodReads

TeenVogue: 12 new young adult books to read in November

Bustle: Ten books to read on a cozy fall day

Entertainment Weekly: New November books they can't wait to read

Barnes & Noble: best picture books of November

And here they all come: HarperBazaar's Best Books of 2016

Friday Book Lists: 28 October 2016

A round-up of the week's bookish lists from your friend and mine, the Internet.

IndieBound bestsellers the week of Oct. 27

The Independent (UK): 11 best new novels

Barnes and Noble: The best books that scarred us for life. How I LOVED The Dollhouse Murders. Any time I see it mentioned I feel like I have to go read it all over again. (I feel that way about The Westing Game too.)

Nine new books to read for a historical Halloween

New York Times: New True Crime books for fall. Oh my LORD, why aren't there 48 hours in each day (you know, 24 hours to do the living, 24 hours just for reading?)? I want to read ALL of these books.

Red Online (UK): Books for little feminists

Booklist: Top 10 Art Books 2016, Top 10 Art Books for Youth 2016

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Friday Book Lists: 21 October 2016

A round-up of the week's bookish lists from your friend and mine, the Internet.

IndieBound: bestselling books the week of Oct. 21

4 audiobooks for fall

Amazon: 100 books for a lifetime of cooking

November LibraryReads on audio

Just looking at this list is giving me nightmares, much less reading the books on it. Creepy clown books

Poetry and picture books for little ghosts and goblins

Ten great reads for "wannabe Love Warriors" (I'm not a big fan of Glennon Doyle Melton, myself, but thought this might be a handy list for any librarians who have to tell their patrons that there's a waiting list for Love Warrior)

Friday Book Lists: 14 October 2016

A round-up of the week's bookish lists from your friend and mine, the Internet.

IndieBound: Bestselling books the week of Oct. 13

36 novels about time travel.

Harper's Bazaar: 16 books you need to read in November. I'll be getting Victoria the Queen, natch. 8 drinks from books that will warm you up

Parade Magazine: The best books to read on fall vacation

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: Ten kids' books that celebrate fall

Friday Book Lists: 7 October 2016

A round-up of the week's bookish lists from your friend and mine, the Internet.

Indiebound: Bestselling books the week of Oct. 6

Reader's guide to this fall's big book awards

Amazon: Ten best books of October

Cultured Vultures: Most Anticipated Books of October

"Vice-presidential reads" Best books of 2016 (so far)

Christian Science Monitor: 12 really good new sports books