Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Return to Reading

As a newspaper copy editor for about 20 years, my job was to read. Eight or more hours a day. Read five stories out of Iraq, then another five out of Afghanistan. Read Washington stories and local stories, then reread them two more times. So when I got home from work, the last thing I wanted to do was ... you guessed it.

I love reading. It's all about learning, escaping, exposing, sharing, reflecting. When we were sailing, we'd pore through books, chasing shade around the deck with a paperback in hand. Cruisers routinely traded their reading material, unable to be too picky and willing to understand pages swollen by the salt air.

Now here in our Tennessee cabin, the chase is back on, this time for sunlight (so we don't have to burn any electricity while we read).

In the past year, I've managed to read about 15 books (see list below). OK, that may not sound like a lot to some of you, but remember, I did that in between sanding, painting, hauling, digging, cooking, sweating and, of course, beer-making.

Most of those books were gifts from my generous book fairies (good friends and my mom), whom I cannot thank enough. They surprise me with big stuffed envelopes, even boxes, full of fabulous reading. But there is one fairy I must mention: Michiela. Those who know this magical woman know her generous heart. Her gift-giving is legendary, not just in volume but for its personal touch. It's as if she spends all her spare time thinking of her friends and finding the most perfect gift that captures their soul.

But there are other fairies. My Twin Cities friends from just sent me a subscription to a fabulous news magazine (thank you so very much, ladies!). After losing touch 10 years ago with a childhood friend, Natalie Baszile, I found her this past Christmas and sent her a long letter. Sure enough, she sent me a long letter back -- and two books!

Natalie is a wonder, and she's also a writer. Her first novel, "Queen Sugar," will be published this spring; I plan to be among the first to buy it. Until then, I have a box full of love from Michiela to pick and choose from. And a pile of New Yorkers sent to me by my longtime partner in crime, Cindy Eggert.

Thank you to all my book fairies!

Here's my 2011 reading list. An asterisk means I recommend it:

"12 x 12" (about living in a 12x12 cabin in N.C.)
"Shanghai Girls"*
"Glass Castle"* (even Mason read and loved this one)
"The Tenderness of Wolves"*
"And I Shall Have Some Peace There"
"The Post-Birthday World"*
"The Help"*
"Half a Life"*
"Blood Bone and Butter"*
"Travels With Barley"
"Gutted" (newlyweds buy a wreck of a house and gut it ... sound familiar?)
"In the Garden of Beasts"* (I love good historical nonfiction)
"The Passage" (*turn brain off and enjoy in the summer sun and wait for FOX TV to pick up for miniseries)


  1. ooooh, lionel shriver! and emma donoghue! there's a sequel coming to "the passage." what great titles! i should send you some; i have lots and lots of new paperbacks. i'll get your address from michie.

  2. The book fairy of ALL book fairies! Please don't go to great extremes or expense, but YES, YES YES, I'd love to have your recommendations and contributions! Man, I feel like an unworthy charity case, but I just can turn down books! I know Michiela picks up a lot from your book sale that she sends along to me.

  3. lionel shriver has a new book coming out this spring; i haven't read it yet but i'm sure it's good. too bad you've read BLOOD BONES AND BUTTER; i just got the paperback edition of that today. i'll keep my eyes peeled.

    and if you haven't read other Shriver books, they're all good.