Friday, December 24, 2010


Thank you. Yes, you.

2010 was an easy year in which to worry. About the economy, about the advent of the e-reader, about many larger and more pressing things in the world. As an independent bookseller, Lucy's is one of about 1400 left standing in the United States. A staggeringly small number, in all our 50 states. This holiday shopping season has been, counter to everything it should have been in this "brave(?) new world" we live in, wonderful. Being in downtown Astoria is a joy. I have never encountered so many people out and about, determined to patronize their very own small, local businesses. I feel sure that my neighbors downtown would agree. This has been a season of immense good will, and good cheer, every day.

Mr. Mattson, as you know, is regrouping after fire took his entire home, one of his beloved dogs, and his vast book collection. I have rarely seen such generosity as in the dollars (for books) and books themselves that have found their way here for him. At least one other local family has been temporarily displaced by fire, and the loss of #1 and #10 6th Streets to fire, and everything irreplaceable within and without, have given me pause to consider my blessings.

For my family, of course, and for Lucy's Books, which has given me another kind of family and community, I am profoundly grateful. My co-bookseller Brie is another source of my gratitude. She has been steadfastly present in my life for several years, and without her I honestly don't know what I'd do. I have found in my almost two decades living here, that this community cares for each other like no other place I have ever experienced.

I could go on, and it would just get sappier. Suffice it to say, I thank my community for the place and the people you are. Happy holidays, whatever those are for you, I hope for you peace and calm, health and happiness in the new year and all the years to come.

Laura, and Lucy's Books

Monday, December 20, 2010

Top Ten for 2010

Mind you, these are the very best books I read this year; I don't require that they were published this year to include them. I'm not a huge new release reader. I choose based on my mood, and what is on the table! I know I'm jumping on the bandwagon here, doing something that I find the tiniest bit annoying. I guess my family can confirm that I have the capacity to annoy...

In no particular order:

1. Anything by Jean Hanff Korelitz. She wrote four novels: Admission, The White Rose, The Sabbathday River, and A Jury of Her Peers.

2. Where Men Win Glory, by Jon Krakauer.

3. How to Leave Your Hometown for Good, poetry by Tim Sproul. If you know how to reach him and get more books help me! I can't seem to track him down!

4. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot.

5. Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand.

(OK, I know that 4 and 5 are on lots of lists, but many people know a good book!)

6. The Nine, by Jeffrey Toobin - if you are as thrilled as I am by Supreme Court doings...

7. Making Toast, by Roger Rosenblatt - the saddest and loveliest memoir.

8. Just Kids, by Patti Smith.

9. Faithful Place, by Tana French.

10. Gimme Refuge, by Matt Love - really one of the spectacular teacher memoirs ever.

Bonus #11. My Stroke of Insight, by Jill Bolte Taylor, accompanied by her amazing talk on

Friday, November 26, 2010

Mr. Mattson's Books

This morning when I came to work there was a long message on the answering machine from long-time Lucy's Books customer and supporter Dick Mattson. By itself that is unsurprising. He often leaves us long messages, with lists of books he wants us to find. Mr. Mattson is a lifetime resident of Warrenton, who I believe lives in the home, and on the land on which he grew up. He is one of my favorite customers, and one reason I am grateful for the job I have. Without it I might not know him. Curious and friendly, sharply and yet humbly intellectual, he always has kind words for and about my family, my service to him (he might not realize he serves me in immeasurable ways with his presence in my life here at Lucy's) and his kindness and wit extend of course to Brie, his other biggest fan here at Lucy's.

In the message Dick told me his home and book collection burned two nights ago. This alone is enough sadness for today, but I must explain the significance of his enormous book collection. I have mentioned his collection often to others, knowing that there is likely no collection like his anywhere. For years he has doggedly collected, with my help finding and acquiring titles (he does not use computers) a likely unrivaled collection of northwest and American history through the eyes of its most influential (and not necessarily most famous) figures. Dick is one of the most well-read, knowledgeable people on the history of this place and of the exploration and settling of the North American continent, and his obsessive collection of journals, first person accounts, biography, and history reflects his interest.

He said two very Mr. Mattson-like things in his message. He said he needs to start his collection over, and he mentioned he'd like to continue reading the book he had started the other night and would I order him another copy. Oh, and he said Happy Thanksgiving to Brie and I and our families.

I share all this with you because Lucy's would like to donate this year's holiday season percentage to replenish those parts of Dick's collection he chooses. We'll buy him what he needs at only cost so any money collected will line only his bookshelves. And we'd like to offer you the opportunity to donate what you can to this fine community member. Mr. Mattson quietly gives much to this community. I know that he and his sister spend lots of their free time buying and delivering untold pounds of food to our local food bank.

So in the spirit of the holidays, whatever they mean to you, I'm here to say that this is one good cause, and reason for sharing what we have this year. Peace this holiday season,

Laura & Brie

Friday, September 10, 2010

Lucy's Review Fall 2010

First, Events!

Robert Michael Pyle
Thursday September 30th
7:00 at Lucy's Books

Celebrate the release of Mariposa Road: The
First Butterfly Big Year

Part road-trip tale, part travelogue of lost and found
landscapes, all good-natured natural history, Mariposa Road
tracks Bob Pyle's journey across the United States as he races
against the calendar in his search for as many of the 800
American butterflies as he can find.
Like Pyle's classic Chasing Monarchs, Mariposa Road
recounts his adventures, high and low, in tracking down
butterflies in his own low-tech, individual way. Accompanied by
Marsha, his cottonwood-limb butterfly net; Powdermilk, his 1982
Honda Civic with 345,000 miles on the odometer; and the small
Leitz binoculars he has carried for more than thirty years, Bob
ventured out in a series of remarkable trips from his Northwest
Robert Michael Pyle is the author of fourteen books,
including Sky Time in Gray's River, Chasing Monarchs,
Where Bigfoot Walks, and Wintergreen, which won the John
Burroughs Medal. A Yale-trained ecologist and a Guggenheim
fellow, he is a full-time writer living in southwestern Washington.

Clarence B. Parker
Book Signing
Wednesday September 15th
1-3 pm at Lucy's Books

Shades of Glass is Mr. Parker's first novel, and tells the
story of the journey of returning Vietnam veterans in 1970 in the
Pacific Northwest. The publisher calls it an explosive and
resounding mystery.
Clarence B. Parker is a native Astorian, now living in
Arizona. He graduated from Oregon State University and served
in the United States Air Force.

Fishes & Dishes Cookbook Celebration
Reading & Signing
Friday October 8th, 7:00 pm
at Lucy's Books

Sisters Kiyo and Tomi Marsh were fishing in the Bering Sea on
Tomi's 78-foot commercial fishing boat, the Savage, when they
dreamed up an idea of publishing a cookbook combining seafood
recipes and personal stories from other fisherwomen they had
met and worked with in Alaska.
Tomi, who lives in Ketchikan where the Savage is based,
owns and skippers the vessel. Her sister, Kiyo, who now lives in
Seattle, ran the deck and galley. Between fishing openings, they
both turned out creative, mouth-watering dishes taking advantage
of the bounty of seafood available to them. Laura Cooper of
Seattle, a friend and former fisherwoman, brought her own
illustrations and a philosophy that stresses the importance of
seafood sustainability to the project.
What began as a joke about "cooking in the ditch"—the
trough of the wave—became The Fishes & Dishes Cookbook:
Seafood Recipes and Salty Stories from Alaska's
Commercial Fisherwomen
In addition to sharing 80 mouth-watering recipes, the book
describes the adventurous lives of women who work in America's
most dangerous industry. They relate many funny and harrowing
stories, from the travails of running their own boats, to the
danger of working on deck in the Bering Sea. These women have
been involved in most of the Alaskan fisheries, from the king
crab fisheries of TV's "Deadliest Catch" fame, to long-lining
black cod and halibut in the Gulf of Alaska, to tendering salmon
in Southeast Alaska.

Celebrate the Spirit of the River

A festive evening of music, dance, photography, spoken word, and fine art!
Saturday, October 9th
7 pm Silent Art Auction with refreshments ~
Masonic Lodge, 1577 Franklin Ave.
8 pm Program
Clatsop Community College Performing Arts Center
16th and Franklin, Astoria

This year's special guest, award winning writer William Layman, is the author of River of Memory: The Everlasting Columbia, and Native River: The Columbia Remembered. Says Layman, "Whatever gratitude I feel at given moment has its source in the water that sustains my life. I will always be grateful to the rivers that carry such a miraculous life-giving substance to us." Layman's books will be available for purchase and he will be happy to sign them after the program.
Also embracing the spirit of the river are
performers from both the WA and OR sides of the Columbia Estuary.
This 4th annual event benefits Columbia Riverkeeper and the work to keep our beautiful river LNG free!!
Put it on your calendar and see you there!

A Meandering Literary Path... by Laura

If you follow Lucy's on Facebook or have spoken to me personally in the last several months, you have heard of Jean Hanff Korelitz. I seem to yammer on about her latest novel Admission, and the others I've sought out (two of which are out of print mysteries), at the drop of a hat. Her writing is sublime - intellectually sharp, observant, stylish, sardonic, yet without the depressing tendency of being overly ironic and devoid of basic humanity. Her stories are New England stories, after my own heart. Admission's protagonist is a Princeton admissions officer, struggling with her present and her past. The bonus is Korelitz's impeccable description of the college admissions process (parents and students - be entertained while learning how to apply for college!) from a true insider point of view. The White Rose was an equally fine New York City love story, with some unusual elements.
Alafair Burke is my other recent everything-I-can-get-my-hands-on author. A lawyer herself, she's written one series about a Portland assistant district attorney and another about a New York City detective. Both are vastly readable, smart, and fun, with the added bonus of the familiar neighborhood feel of the Portland (Samantha Kincaid) series.
Oh Serena... Oh Ron Rash. Where to start: This novel was painful, difficult, and mildly stomach-turning (as all novels with psychopaths as protagonist tend to be). And yet, it was brilliant. At once a classic tragedy (complete with a spot-on, hilarious chorus of a timber crew) and a lesson on Depression era environmental pillaging, it's a story of unchecked logging in the Great Smoky Mountains by ruthless and greedy lumber barons. As Serena made my stomach turn and my blood boil, I also learned a great deal about the politics surrounding the battle between lumber interests and the philanthropists and politicians who would create the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Thank you Tony, for the must-read recommendation!
Jon Krakauer is at his investigative best in his latest book Where Men Win Glory. He tells the story, in excruciating detail, of Pat Tillman's death by friendly fire in Afghanistan, and the subsequent cover-up of its circumstances by the federal government. But what is astonishing and uplifting are the many, many pages Krakauer devotes to telling Tillman's life story. This extraordinary man's biography is one not to miss. Tillman was a far cry from any expected stereotype of a professional football player turned soldier.
Meanwhile, the beloved, much worshipped (by some of us) Anthony Bourdain has grown up. Medium Raw is the wonderful and vastly matured follow-up to Kitchen Confidential. Don't worry, he still curses and screams about everyone from Alice Waters to Food Network executives, but his perspective has changed in twenty years, and getting off drugs and becoming a father has done remarkable things for this remarkable food icon.
Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor is a remarkable person. And not just because she had the unique experience of being a brain scientist who consciously observed the inner workings of her own brain while having a stroke. I think she was probably quite remarkable before that. I've read lots of medical and science memoirs and novels, and I've never experienced physiology described so spiritually as in My Stroke of Insight. During her stroke Taylor completely lost the ability to process any future or past. No memories, no anticipation. What she realized was left was only the present moment; she observed that she experienced nirvana and I guarantee you will love reading about her experience. The book also provides much useful and practical information regarding strokes.
Jeannette Walls' (The Glass Castle) Half Broke Horses was one of my favorite books this year. Walls essentially channels her grandmother by writing her life story from the first person, in what she calls a "true life novel." Lily Casey Smith's life spanned much of the 20th century, from all over the southwest to Chicago and back again, and what a life it was. Her independence was astonishing for the time, and her determination and at times hilarious level of self-confidence is something to which our 21st century daughters should aspire.
Free-Range Kids wins my most entertaining parenting book award. Lenore Skenazy is hilarious! Though the ideas in this fast-paced book are serious and worthy of your deepest consideration, Skenazy's presentation is readable, self-deprecating, and down-to-earth. She addresses the issue of our 21st century obsession with children's safety through the myths and misconceptions by which many parents operate. She debunks many myths, for example the one about the hazards of poisoned Halloween candy (there has never been a case of this documented), and she lobbies hard for giving children a good measure of freedom and independence. I loved it!
Hopefully the extremely well reviewed film version of Winter's Bone will eventually show up in my little burg on the edge of the universe, but until then I'm satisfied with having read Daniel Woodrell's beautiful novel. It's reminiscent of the rural classic The Beans of Egypt, Maine, though I think Woodrell does a better job giving the reader even glimmers of hope for the life of his protagonist, the shimmering, outrageously determined teenager Ree Dolly. (Cormac McCarthy as well could take a lesson from Woodrell on hope!) I highly recommend this dark, disquieting, blunt story of a life of poverty in the Ozarks.
Brian Turner (Here, Bullet) has a new poetry collection, Phantom Noise. Turner is a truly gifted and eloquent poet who addresses war from the soldier's perspective. He served in Bosnia and Iraq and has much to say about war and its aftermath.
Newport native Tim Sproul's collection, How to Leave Your Hometown for Good is a gem. Well crafted, accessible, elegant, and true, my favorite was "Fisherman Grocery Shopping." Sproul lives in the Portland area; don't miss a chance to hear him read if you can.
I'm not so great at calming down and reading enlightening books, which probably implies I am just the type of person who could benefit from contemplating what's inside them. I did succeed this summer with a lovely small book by John Tarrant, Bring Me the Rhinoceros: And Other Zen Koans That Will Save Your Life.
What a pleasure! Tarrant has the gift of bringing some pretty esoteric ideas down to earth for someone like me, and I loved it. He lovingly chooses a group of koans to share and then guides readers in applying them to aspects of their own lives. He emphasizes happiness, which is lovely.

Paperback Release Extravaganza!
There are so many I'm just going to list them. All are out between now and January. I'll put an asterisk by the winter releases, so as not to overly excite anyone! I'm sure I have missed many!
Half the Sky, Kristof and WuDunn
Her Fearful Symmetry, Audrey Niffenegger
War Dances, Sherman Alexie
A Short History of Women, Kate Walbert
Lit, Mary Karr
Swimming, Nicola Keegan
Under the Dome, Stephen King
The Vintage Caper, Peter Mayle
Where Men Win Glory, Jon Krakauer
The Lacuna, Barbara Kingsolver
Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel
The Collector, Jack Nisbet
A Gate at the Stairs, Lorrie Moore
Chronic City, Jonathan Lethem
The Big Burn, Timothy Egan
Eating Animals, Jonathan Safran Foer
The Case for God, Karen Armstrong
The Immortals, Amit Chaudhuri
Stones Into Schools, Greg Mortensen
Half Broke Horses, Jeannette Walls
The Unnamed, Joshua Ferris
Juliet, Naked, Nick Hornby
Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell
Cockroach, Rawi Hage
Too Much Happiness, Alice Munro
Glover's Mistake, Nick Laird
Committed, Elizabeth Gilbert -
Nurture Shock, Po Bronson
Spark, John Ratey
Born to Run, Christopher MacDougall
The Help, Kathryn Stockett
Nothing Was the Same, Kay Redfield Jameson

Ms. Ani's Reviews
Aside from counting the days until she can drive, Ani has spent lots of her summer reading books. I can't remember the last set of reviews that did not include the author Meg Cabot, indicative of Cabot's across-the-ages appeal. I rue the day that Ani will not write these any more. I keep thinking that day is near but my begging won out once again. ~Mom
House Rules, by Jodi Picoult, is a book that you won't be able to put down until you've finished it. It is about a boy with Asperger's Syndrome, which is a form of autism. Jacob is obsessed with forensic science, which has to do with crime scene investigation. He often shows up to crime scenes and tries to help the detectives. When his social skills tutor shows up dead, her boyfriend is the first suspect. After further investigation, Jacob is arrested and forced to stand trial.
House Rules is very suspenseful, with lots of surprises. Anybody from middle school students to adults would enjoy this book. It is written so that each chapter is in the point of view of a different character, which makes it really fun to read. I promise that if you pick this book up, you will spend all of your free time reading. I know I did.
Pants on Fire, by Meg Cabot, was a really fun read. It is a good book for teenagers to read just for fun in their spare time. Katie has told a few too many lies in the past few years. She lives in a small east coast town where quahogs are the specialty. There are quahogs as in the clam, the Quahogs are the high school football team, and there is a contest for Quahog Princess. Although Katie dislikes football, she is dating the star of the football team. Although she hates quahogs (the clams), she is running for Quahog Princess. She has told so many lies that some time or another they will all have to be revealed. Meg Cabot is one of my favorite writers - her books are laugh-out-loud funny, while still full of unexpected turns.
Ed.: My friend Tony loves Ken Wells' Meely Labauve, so I convinced Ani to read this Louisiana coming of age story. If how late her light is on is any indication, it's good:
Meely Labauve is an interesting book to read. It is written in the way that the main character talks, so there are lots of misspellings and strange grammar (otherwise known as Cajun patois). Once you get used to it, it's actually really fun to read. Meely is a fifteen-year-old boy growing up on a bayou in Louisiana. His dad hunts gators, and is often gone for days at a time. His dad also drinks a lot, and he has had a lot of close calls with the law.
A fight at school balloons into an incident where Meely, his dad, and his friend Chilly have to take off in their truck, hoping to escape from the police. This book is full of unexpected surprises, many of which will make you mad. Once you get into it, you won't want to put it down.

Speaking of Tony - I've been bugging him endlessly for a Top 5 reading list, because he IS such a favorite literati of mine. He finally obliged, though he wouldn't commit to this list being an absolute - the top Top 5 was pretty hard to contemplate. Here, very succinctly, are five Tony says everyone should read. (And for those who know Tony, we do what he says.)
The Brothers Karamazov: Dostoevsky's novel covers the complete range of human emotions better than any novel ever written.
Don Quixote: de Cervantes created literature's best-known character. It's funny, poignant, and highly readable.
Blood Meridian: Cormac McCarthy has written the great American novel.
Zorba the Greek: Kazantzakis' message: Live your life. Love your life. A truly unforgettable character, Zorba is the great free spirit of modern literature.
Lonesome Dove: It's purely American. McMurtry's gives us old time fun and Western adventure.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Lucy's Review Spring 2010 - at long last!

Introducing… Red Dot Books!
After almost 12 years, we at Lucy’s are in the mood to be slightly innovative, slightly attuned to our customers’ desires, slightly, um… modern.
We are ready to buy very gently used, contemporary paperbacks back for resale! This means, that new novel you bought, read once, and you don’t want to keep? Bring it here! We want to provide the opportunity to recycle and share books – it’s a win-win for sellers and buyers. Now, to the nitty-gritty:
We will buy books for 25% of the cover price, that we feel we can resell. We will base their pricing on desirability, cover price, our current stock levels, and condition. What we buy from you will be for sale here for 65-75% of the cover price. We reserve the right to pick and choose what we will buy, based on the parameters above. We will not buy:
~books older than 3-4 years (at our discretion based on title and condition)
~ hard covers (exceptions may be current, high demand titles not yet paperback)
~ books with broken spines or hinges, markings, loose or missing pages, mold or dampness, odors, or excessive wear
~ bibles, textbooks, audio books, encyclopedias, Readers’ Digest, magazines, comics, etc.
Basically, we will buy the types of books we already sell here. We plan to maintain our used area upstairs – this is the place for trade credit only (for other upstairs books) on old mysteries, romances, and miscellaneous titles at our discretion. These are not Red Dot books and credit upstairs may not be used on Red Dot titles.
To keep things smooth and happy, please be reasonable and choosy in the quality and quantity of what you bring!

What I Talk About…. Laura

If you know me, you know 2009 was my Year of Running Dangerously. 2009 brought me the ecstasy of a half marathon and the agony (ok, and ecstasy) of the full Portland Marathon as well. I am not super-athletic but have always been intrigued by long distance running. This felt like a good year to make good on a big item from the to-do list of my lifetime. Of course, doing anything necessitates reading about it, and I’ve found some truly fun reading about running, though surely I’m going to hit just the tip of the iceberg here.
Thank you John Irving, for making Garp a runner, as well as Daniel Baciagalupo, a protagonist (and a writer himself) of Last Night in Twisted River. Dexter Filkins both kept his sanity and took his life into his hands by satisfying his intense need to go running in the streets of Baghdad during his years on assignment there, detailed in The Forever War. How many other writers and their creations are runners? And why?
I sat in my shop furtively reading someone’s reserved copy of Born to Run, half hoping that the person wouldn’t show up. Well, I ended up with my own copy, thankfully, and am naming it my Book of the Year of 2009! In all my Books of the Year I get that let down feeling of finishing, and not quite being able to follow them with anything for a while. Celebrated magazine columnist and runner Christopher McDougall took his running obsession to the remote Copper Canyons of Mexico to uncover the secrets of the Tarahumara tribe, who practice techniques that allow them to run literally hundreds of miles fast, injury free, without rest, and wearing minimalist sandals. McDougall is funny and self-deprecating, and runners and non-runners alike who love great non-fiction will love the way he leaps wildly yet gracefully among sports science, anthropology, hardcore adventure reportage, and memoir. McDougall, the barefoot runner, makes book writing (and reading) seem as fun and effortless as running should be, if your mind, heart, and feet are in the right place. Getting there is my challenge for 2010!
Haruki Murakami’s memoir What I Talk About When I Talk About Running provided evidence for the beginnings of my conclusion that distance runners are a strange and quirky lot. It’s a wonderful, quick read about this renowned novelist’s relationship with running, the emptiness of mind that it affords him and the support it provides him to enable his writing.
Bernd Heinrich is Mr. Detail. I suppose to be a biologist of his stature one must be attentive to the details. Why We Run, his study of the biology of running intertwined with his own reflections on his illustrious ultra-marathon career is nothing if not detailed. I was partial to the personal story more than the mechanics of grasshopper legs but hey, there’s something for everyone, and it sealed the deal on my distance runner theory.
Liz Robbins writes about running for the New York Times and her bias for NYC shines in A Race Like No Other, a fabulous and fun homage to the New York City Marathon. That said, she expertly weaves on and off the course, giving non-New Yorkers a wonderful picture of the variety and diversity the great city offers, alongside the personal stories of the elite and not-so-elite runners, walkers, and wheelers. The stories are rich and powerful, and help explain just what completing a marathon means to so many.
Don’t read First Marathons for the artful writing (it isn’t there). Do read it for three things: a great historical perspective on early distance running; a synopsis of the evolution of women in distance running; and a wide variety of experience, from Bill Rodgers’ early days (he dropped out of his first marathon, by the way) to the 300-pound chain smoker turned marathon runner. There is wonderful, inspiring material in this densely packed book.
Danny Dreyer’s runner’s bible Chi Running is an excellent source of wisdom and will encourage you to rethink the mechanics of and approach to your own running. Dreyer’s philosophical approach can really increase the enjoyment and meditative qualities of running, which is probably why most of us run.
For you swimmers out there, I don’t want to neglect you! The Chi Running equivalent for swimmers is Terry Laughlin’s Total Immersion. And, if you love reading about swimming I recommend Lynne Cox’s memoir Swimming to Antarctica and Nicola Keegan’s ethereal novel Swimming. Given that the former is about a cold-water (I mean really cold water) endurance swimmer and the latter is a fictional account of the life of an Olympic swimming sensation, there is probably not a lot of direct relatability (my invented word) for us mere mortals. Nevertheless, they are wonderful reads.

A Reader’s Miscellany by Laura

“State briefly the ideas, ideals, or hopes,
the energy sources, the kinds of security,
for which you would kill a child.
Name, please, the children whom
you would be willing to kill.”
Leavings, Wendell Berry’s new poetry collection needs no more introduction than that. I find myself grateful for this man and for his prolific writing life each time I open any one of his many books. In poetry, fiction, and essay, Berry speaks to the beauty, and the horror, of the world in which we find ourselves. He has a new essay collection as well, Imagination in Place.
Dexter Filkins leaves nothing to the imagination in The Forever War. In his time as an embedded journalist with a group of Marines in Iraq, he weaves the dignity of the men who find themselves in the midst of this urban war, with his frank assessment of the futility of the U.S. presence there. Filkins is an eloquent writer, and doesn’t shy from an admission that his own life has been forever altered for the worse, as a result of his time in Iraq. If it’s so for a journalist, imagine the lives of the soldiers returning home. This was excellent, difficult reading with something to say to all of us.
The Nine, Jeffrey Toobin’s account of the Supreme Court of the last 40 years brings to detailed life the individual Justices and the universal implications of their collective work. As a nerd who turns up the volume and moves to the edge of my seat when Nina Totenberg starts quoting Justices on NPR, I loved this book! I appreciated reading of each Justice’s background, philosophy, and worldview, especially those of Sandra Day O’Connor. O’Connor’s pivotal role in all of our lives cannot be overstated, and in the aftermath of finishing this amazing book I look forward to reading her own memoir The Majesty of the Law.
And one more political book – there are just no words that can describe how much fun I had reading Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime, by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin. Yes, it was several hundred pages of juicy gossip. No, it wasn’t exactly educational or life changing. But if you want to know the answers to life’s persistent questions such as why Sarah Palin said “Hey, can I call you Joe?” when her debate with Joe Biden began, then you are a good candidate for this unhealthy, yet delicious snack of a book.
Abraham Verghese is the kind of guy I envy. A physician and professor of medicine at Stanford, a graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop as well and contributor to all the upstanding magazines… Anyway, his novel Cutting for Stone is the work of a truly gifted human. Verghese reaches deep into so many areas – the immigrant experience, the political turmoil in Ethiopia in the 70’s, a fifty-year historical span of descriptions of the practice of medicine – this was a novel I sunk my whole self into and it is still with me. As soon as I finished it I read an early Verghese memoir called My Own Country, which details his time practicing medicine in Tennessee in the 1980’s, as the AIDS epidemic began to appear in small town America. It’s a fascinating, personal look at a fascinating and painful time.
I have a thing for medical memoir. Don’t ask me why – I never took a single non-required science class in my life, a statement of which I am less than proud now. Nevertheless, my alter ego is totally drawn to books by doctors, books about doctors, descriptive passages about surgery or disease, and treatises on public health. Some of my favorites you know: Mountains Beyond Mountains, How Doctors Think, Abraham Verghese’s books, anything by Atul Gawande. I just picked up a new (to me) one called Match Day: One Day and One Dramatic Year in the Lives of Three New Doctors. So far, it’s promising, with author Brian Eule following three women through their first year of internship. I’d pass it to Ani when I’m done, but she asked me the other day if one ought to plan to be a doctor if one doesn’t really like science class. This begs the ancient question (Mom? Thoughts?): Am I still a Jewish mother without at least one child inclined toward practicing medicine?
I just finished the luminous Making Toast, Roger Rosenblatt’s heartbreaking and life-affirming memoir. In the aftermath of his daughter Amy’s sudden death he and his wife moved in to the home of Amy’s husband and three young children. Rosenblatt shares Calvin Trillin’s gift of rendering ordinary encounters and conversations with loved ones as the gifts we should all remember they are. I am unable to conjure up the largesse of the sensations I had while reading, teary and with a lump in my throat throughout the entire book, an entirely un-sappy sense of the richness of life and the largeness of grief. This book is simply beautiful, and honestly, you really should read it right now.

The Ani Section by Ani Graves, 14 (!)
Lately I’ve been reading lots of different books and genres. The last book in Meg Cabot’s Princess Diaries series, Princess Forever, was hilarious, as they all have been. I read a couple of books by Han Nolan, great books about dealing with hard situations. The Catcher in the Rye was an interesting book, and I liked it. Chris Crutcher’s books Deadline, Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, and Whale Talk were great too.
Han Nolan’s Born Blue was an amazing book with a really tough story. Janie, the daughter of a heroin addict, was removed from her mother and put into foster care at a young age, but she still misses her mom and wants her to come back. Janie’s foster brother, Harmon, is her best friend. They listen to music together, and that’s how Janie discovers the thing she loves the most – singing. That’s what keeps her going when Harmon is adopted. To escape from the hardships of her life, Janie changes her name to Leshaya and takes off. On her way to achieving her dream of being a famous singer, Leshaya gets addicted to drugs and alcohol, has a baby, and much, much more. I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone under the age of 13; it was a hard story and very well written.
I read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass because I was going to see the movie. That book is really weird. There isn’t much of a story, but lots of things happen very randomly to Alice, and it’s just really interesting. I really liked it, even though a lot of it was just plain random. It did a great job telling what happens in a dream, because dreams are weird and confusing, and so was the book. What happened to Alice could only happen in a dream, which it did, so I guess it all makes sense.
Deadline, by Chris Crutcher, is a great book about life and death. If you had one year to live and you knew it, what would you do? 18-year-old Ben Wolf finds out that he has a rare disease leaving him with roughly one year to live. Instead of getting treatment, which might or might not make him better, Ben decides to live his last year to the fullest. He doesn’t tell anybody at first, and he is 18 and won’t let his doctor tell anyone, either.
Ben is a cross-country star for his high school, but after finding out about his sickness he decides to do something he has always wanted to do – try out for football with his brother Cody. Ben makes the team, which wouldn’t be that big of a deal, except that he is barely 5 feet tall and just over 120 pounds. Ben does many new things in his last year and the people who are close to him will remember him forever.
Nightlight, by the Harvard Lampoon, is a very funny and well-done parody of Twilight. In this hilarious book, Belle Goose moves to Switchblade, Oregon to live with her dad. Belle is very full of herself – none of the boys at her new high school are up to her standards, but when she sits next to Edwart Mullen in biology, that changes. Edwart is a major computer nerd and pretty antisocial. Belle is soon convinced that he is a vampire, but is she right? He DID leave his lunch untouched, and he DID save her from a flying snowball, and he DID sparkle in the sun. Belle really hopes that her theory is right, because she has always wanted a vampire boyfriend. Will Edwart turn out to be a bloodsucking monster? Will he bite Belle and turn her into a vampire? This is a perfect parody – if you are a Twilight fan, this will make you laugh.

And the boy... by Laura
As for my 12-year-old son (quite different in book tastes from his sister) we just read together one of the best books for young people I have ever read. If you haven’t given yourself the treat of reading Gary Schmidt’s The Wednesday Wars, stop what you’re doing right now and start this wonderful book. The story of a 7th grade boy in the turbulent years of 1967 and 1968, Schmidt gives us in one book personal experiences of the Vietnam War, the King and both Kennedy assassinations, a pitch-perfect young people’s study of several Shakespeare plays, and a depiction of a boy’s relationship with one of those exceptional teachers that transforms one’s life. Tim loved it, but sent many a sideways glance my way as I sniffled, wept, and laughed through it.
We’re also reading Touching Spirit Bear, Ben Mikaelsen’s tough love coming of age novel about a teenage boy who avoids going to prison by agreeing to participate in Circle Justice. Circle Justice involves being deposited on a remote southeast Alaskan island for a year, and also going beyond the concept of simple punishment to make amends and take responsibility. It’s an intense, fabulous middle reader book.
I am quickly becoming versed in the category whose name I just learned is “high interest/low vocabulary.” Research for my son has netted me a couple of publishers who specialize in Tim-style action stories at his interest level but written at his dyslexia level. Ask me for help if you need these! I must add a nod to the Wimpy Kid series: I don’t love it one bit, BUT… I have witnessed my son sitting on the stairs in here quietly READING these for prolonged periods, a sight for which I have immeasurable gratitude.
I’m attempting to insert some literary novels into Tim’s life between junior spy thrillers. Don’t get me wrong - many junior spy thrillers are well-written, fabulous books. It’s just that I can only take so many thousands of pages of them! We have finished eight Alex Rider novels (almost back to back – that’s a couple of thousand pages read aloud by yours truly, people) and will get started on James Patterson’s Maximum Ride series when my boy begins to feel explosion deprivation.
I have one of those brains people (my husband) liken to a hamster wheel endlessly spinning. Mostly that wheel spins about my kids – I found my wheels spinning so hard I had to read a book - aptly titled Yes, Your Teen is Crazy: Loving Your Kid Without Losing Your Mind. I’m pretty skeptical of parenting books and their seemingly one size fits all solutions. That said, I gleaned some good information from Michael Bradley’s engaging, often funny book. I was reassured by the discussion of brain chemistry (fully detailed in Barbara Strauch’s great book The Primal Teen). And I found especially helpful the emphasis on my (ahem…) behavior as a parent as more important and productive a focus than picking apart and analyzing the behavior of my teen. Next up: Get Out of My Life, But First Could You Drive Me and Cheryl to the Mall? Ah, life…