Monthly Archives: January 2016

Yeah, About that Reading Challenge …

Remember a year ago when I wrote about a 12-book reading challenge that I wanted to tackle for 2015, and it seemed totally realistic, and I began by reading three books in a month-and-a-half? Well, I kept going, devouring new books left and right, and ended up surpassing my goal and finishing the year with a whole new set of titles that challenged, entertained and educated me! Well, then my infant became mobile, I applied, interviewed for, and accepted a new job at a new university, moved two states away, started the new job, bought a house, moved into that house, dealt with a broken water heater, hosted visitors every month from August to December, had a first-birthday party, a third-birthday party, celebrated the holidays, and went on vacation with friends in Palm Springs. So, 27 excuses later, I definitely did not finish that reading challenge.

I did make progress, although didn’t blog about it after February. So now, on my last night of Christmas/New Year’s vacation, I thought it was finally time to post an update, at least about what I can remember. Maybe this time next year I’ll be completely done.

A Book Recommended by Someone with Great Taste

wheredyougoUnlike me, my best friend, Melody, does an incredible job of making time for books, and she is constantly offering high-quality recommendations. So for this category, I read one of her suggestions: “Where’d You Go, Bernadette?” by Maria Semple. The story  is centered around a precocious teen girl, her brilliant/neurotic architect mother (Bernadette), and her also-brilliant, overworked father, set in upscale hippie Seattle. After suffering a series of mental breakdowns, Bernadette disappears, and the daughter starts an investigation to find her. Told largely through letters, emails, and records, it’s funny and tragic and moving. I was disappointed in the ending–it felt rather abrupt and unfinished. But overall, a lovely book. Apparently Richard Linklater and Cate Blanchett are doing the movie, so, yay!

A Book You’ve Been Meaning to Read

writingforstoryI checked out “Writing for Story: Craft Secrets of Dramatic Non-Fiction,” by Jon Franklin from the UT library literally years ago and just kept re-reserving it every time it came due again. When we decided to move to Tucson, I finally got my act together to finish it.

Franklin has twice won the Pulitzer Prize for his newspaper writing, and this book shares his painstaking process for how he crafts his masterpieces. It’s full of tremendous advice, tools, and perspective on researching, structuring and editing stories, and demonstrates that writing is hard work, not a mysterious art. But the most useful parts were two of his articles reprinted in the book, in original format and also with footnotes explaining the different storytelling techniques he uses. They are masterfully written and must-reads for anyone who puts pen to paper (so to speak) for a living or hobby.

A Book Published This Year*

commaqueenMy dad gave me “Between You and Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen,” by Mary Norris for my birthday. Norris is an editor at The New Yorker, and the book is part-memoir, part grammar and language exploration. As someone who writes and edits for a living and has always loved language, I was excited to dig in. I enjoy the parts of the book where Norris gives a behind-the-scenes look at how the copy department works at The New Yorker, but other parts, mainly her own personal history, are less compelling. I’m about halfway through the book, (I think–Camden lost my place) so I’m only partially counting it as a 2015 read.


There have been a few other books that I’ve started, but the only other significant one I finished was “Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times,” by Jennifer Worth. Unfortunately it really doesn’t fit in any of the categories in the challenge. My review: it’s amazing and beautiful and heartbreaking, and I’ve never been so grateful to have given birth in the 21st century. I’ll get around to watching the show one day–after I read a few more books.