Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Pondering My 2013 Reading List (With a Last-Minute Addition)

I read a lot this year, more than I realized: nearly six dozen tomes in all. Now, to be fair, a few were books for younger readers — but that means they were shorter, or more carefully illustrated, as opposed to being less robust and complex. 

Good authors write to the story and trust their audience. Good readers read the story and trust their authors. That perfect match makes for heavenly reading, and I made quite a few good matches this calendar year.

What was my favorite book? As if I could choose one! Well, here are a few (in no particular order) that stayed with me long after I turned the last page:
  • Life After Life — what if you could take nearly every path life could offer? (review)
  • Dr. Sleep — Finished it in the waning hours of 2013, so right now all I can say is, "Wow." If I can manage more of a response than that, there may be a review.
  • Behind the Beautiful Forevers — examine Indian "slums" and poverty through the eyes of the residents of Annawadi (review)
  • Tiny Beautiful Things — like a hug from a special friend (review)
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane childhood in all its terrifying complexity (review)
  • Salt Sugar Fat — it's no accident that you love a particular processed food, and this fascinating tome takes a look at how processed foods evolved in America
  • Let the Great World Spin — the intersection of lives in the shadow of Philippe Petit's daring tightrope walk between the Twin Towers
  • The Dinner — think you know where the story's going? Think again. (review)
  • The Creeps — Return to Biddlecombe at Christmas to see how Samuel Johnson, Boswell, Nurd and a few other familiar characters battle the forces of evil (and a few scary elves)
  • The Winter Sea and The Firebird (in that order) — fall in love with history, fiction and one or two independent spirits via these compelling tales 

I made a few bad matches, too. One that comes to mind is A Visit from the Goon Squad: I can't understand why it won so many awards when it could not make me care about the characters and tales. Another was Southern Gods, which despite its fascinating concept was way too gory for me. (That means it will be perfect for my husband, David, whose criteria for a good movie is, "Does anybody die?") I wasn't keen on Caleb's Crossing, but its sin was the wrong narrator who couldn't give me the intricacies of the story I really came to the novel to read. (It was as much about the narrator as it was the subject, a sort of bait-and-switch.)

I took a few detours down "juvenile fiction" lane. I'm a huge fan of Cynthia Rylant's Mr. Putter and Tabby series, who join Mrs. Teaberry and Zeke in more than their share of adventures. Neil Gaiman provided more than a few graphic novels or heavily illustrated stories, and I will forever love the father who good-naturedly traveled around town until his son retrieved him. The experiences of Miss Finch creeped me out, and I was able to re-read a few of my favorite animal tales recreated as graphic novels.

After disliking an iconic novel by Ursula K. LeGuin, we both were redeemed by her Catwing series.

My reading took me me to India, North Korea, Ireland, Scotland, England, Russia, Africa, the Netherlands and Hell. I've lived a different life every day, and lived multiple lives in time. I've been to hell, I've been dead, I've been nearly dead and I've known the right neighbors.

I made a summer reading list and promptly abandoned it. I haven't come to terms with the fact that I will not read everything, and maybe not even everything I want to read, but I'll keep trying. Just tonight I found three more books to read. I'll figure it out. Really.

Here is this year's reading list (probably not totally complete, considering I deleted the list by accident in September and had to recreate it from memory). Did you read any on this list? What are some of your year's reads you'd recommend? Tell me!

2013 Reading List
  1. Dr. Sleep
  2. Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins
  3. Caleb's Crossing
  4. Mr. Putter and Tabby Clear the Decks
  5. Mr. Putter and Tabby Stir the Soup 
  6. The Poisonwood Bible
  7. Mr. Putter and Tabby Make a Wish
  8. Mr. Putter and Tabby Dance the Dance
  9. Mr. Putter and Tabby Ring the Bell
  10. Creatures of the Night
  11. Crazy Hair
  12. The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish
  13. The Arrival
  14. Stitches
  15. Selected Stories/Open Secrets — Alice Munro
  16. The Bookman's Promise
  17. Cat Versus Human
  18. The Dinner
  19. The Creeps 
  20. The Vagina Monologues
  21. The Seventeen Traditions
  22. Humans of New York
  23. Bossypants
  24. The Winter Sea
  25. Sh*t My Dad Says
  26. Illusions
  27. Ella Minnow Pea
  28. Under New York  
  29. The Firebird 
  30. Catwings 
  31. Catwings Return
  32. Wonderful Alexander and the Catwings
  33. Jane on Her Own: A Catwings Tale
  34. Southern Gods
  35. Unnatural Creatures
  36. Dreamfever
  37. Poe's Children
  38. The Tarantula in My Purse and 172 Other Wild Pets
  39. Salt Sugar Fat
  40. The New Yorker Book of Cat Cartoons
  41. The Charles Addams Mother Goose
  42. If I Stay
  43. Inferno
  44. The Ocean at the End of the Lane
  45. Let the Great World Spin
  46. Smut
  47. Next
  48. Every Day
  49. Life After Life
  50. Up the Down Staircase
  51. Will Write for Food
  52. Social Media Marketing
  53. Wishes Fulfilled
  54. The Tao of Womanhood
  55. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Taoism
  56. The Winds of Marble Arch
  57. An Outrageous Affair
  58. The facts in the case of the departure of Miss Finch 
  59.  The Dangerous Alphabet
  60. Blueberry Girl
  61. Notorious Nineteen
  62. The Twelve Terrors of Christmas
  63.  Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich
  64.  M is for Magic
  65.  Tiny Beautiful Things
  66.  Hello, Goodbye, Hello
  67.  The Round House
  68.  A Visit from the Goon Squad
  69.  The Lucky Gourd Shop
  70.  Behind the Beautiful Forevers

Friday, December 27, 2013

Review: Caleb's Crossing

Caleb's Crossing has been on my bookshelf for years. My friend Carole and I purchased it in 2011 as soon as we saw it for sale. Both she and I enjoyed Geraldine Brooks' books in the past. We have seen met her on previous book signing tours and enjoyed her other books.

And yet this one languished on our shelves for years.

After reading it, I can see why: it was not her best.

The story is of Caleb, a Native American Indian who lived on the island now known as Martha's Vineyard, who was the first of his tribe to graduate from Harvard University in 1665.

Well, not exactly. It's as much about the narrator, Bethia Mayfield, as the character named in the title. Bethia  is a teenage English girl who, remarkably, is a feminist of her age. She was smarter than her older brother, who was being educated to follow his father into the ministry, but was denied an education because of her sex. She chafed against her society's boundaries. One of her society's boundaries was a relationship with any American Indian on the island, with whom her settlement had an uneasy truce. She chose a relationship with a young male of the tribe, an added taboo.

Alas, Caleb's world was described by an outsider with no intimate knowledge of his culture. Indeed, she harbored many of the biases against Caleb's people as her own society did. The second-hand information, filtered through Bethia's eyes, dampened my enthusiasm for the novel. Never did we get Caleb's perspective, and Caleb's words were shared through Bethia, who was not a reliable narrator.

The novel is written as a personal journal kept by Bethia — often written days, months, even years after an event. Her details are complete, rich and full,  not at all like journal entries one would expect so long after the fact, and another reason for me to mistrust her as a narrator. References to historical events and characters were carefully shared to create a sense of connection to this colonial period. If you like colonial history, this might be a good book for you.

Bethia's character was a 21st century woman who every once in a while flashed a colonial, meeker face. The constant interjection of her religious beliefs in her writing and the use of colonial-period language didn't change that fact: she was not a girl of that age.

Finally, there was little urgency in the tale. Only once or twice did I rush through the story to discover the resolution of a situation.

I'm sorry to say I wouldn't recommend this book.

I can, however, recommend every other tome in Brooks' collection. Consider that, then read Caleb's Crossing, and tell me if you agree with my assessment.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Mr. Putter and Tabby: They're Up to Something!

The other day, I wondered about some old friends — so I let the library help me reconnect with them.

These friends are Mr. Putter and Tabby, an adventuresome elderly gentleman and his older, charming cat. Author Cynthia Rylant teams up with illustrator Arthur Howard to share his unusual adventures with juvenile readers like me.

This couple of characters live next door to Mrs. Teaberry, the more adventurous of the two, and her good dog, Zeke. Usually it's Mrs. Teaberry who has the idea to try something different, and Mr. Putter is always in. However, when Mr. Putter has the idea — well, watch out!

I stumbled across these characters a few years ago, just by chance. Having a few tabbies in my life made me feel kin to Mr. Putter, and growing up with dogs made me appreciate Mrs. Teaberry. I had to find out what they could get up to in their silver years.

Plus, on a purely academic level, it's nice to remind children that older people aren't all dinosaurs — and that older pets can be good companions.

And the illustrations — well, see for yourself.

So, last night, Ginger and I read a few adventures. We have a few more waiting for us (thank you, Library!). It's always nice to see what these four can get up to, and they have yet to disappoint. Something as tame as tea can become a crazy day for them!

If ever you want a laugh, turn to Mr. Putter, Tabby, Mrs. Teaberry and Zeke.

Who are your favorite characters? What do you think of illustrated books?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Poetry Wednesday: Happy, Birthday, Emily Dickinson!

"Arcturus" is his other name

"Arcturus" is his other name—
I'd rather call him "Star."
It's very mean of Science
To go and interfere!

I slew a worm the other day—
A "Savant" passing by
Murmured "Resurgam"—"Centipede"!
"Oh Lord—how frail are we"!

I pull a flower from the woods—
A monster with a glass
Computes the stamens in a breath—
And has her in a "class"!

Whereas I took the Butterfly
Aforetime in my hat—
He sits erect in "Cabinets"—
The Clover bells forgot.

What once was "Heaven"
Is "Zenith" now—
Where I proposed to go
When Time's brief masquerade was done
Is mapped and charted too.

What if the poles should frisk about
And stand upon their heads!
I hope I'm ready for "the worst"—
Whatever prank betides!

Perhaps the "Kingdom of Heaven's" changed—
I hope the "Children" there Won't be "new fashioned" when I come—
And laugh at me—and stare—

I hope the Father in the skies
Will lift his little girl—
Old fashioned—naught—everything—
Over the stile of "Pearl."

— Emily Dickinson
Courtesy Poem Hunter

Monday, December 9, 2013

Christmas Reading: What's on Your Shelf?

Readers are a sentimental lot who re-read when appropriate. I'm not a frequent re-reader, but I do have a few favorites I pull out at about this time of year. I also throw a few new ones into the mix every year, and sometimes they join the usual holiday suspects the next year.

First, my husband David and I re-read A Christmas Carol. We have a lovely reprint of the original, complete with drawings, that we read aloud (hopefully before Christmas Day). It was so important to us that we — okay, I — bought a second copy before the library was set up in our current home. If you've never read it, please pick it up today and read a few pages aloud. It's how Charles Dickens intended it to be experienced, and it sounds glorious.

Another favorite is Connie Willis' Miracle and Other Christmas Stories, which has an excellent mix of classic sci-fi and mystery — with a couple of surprises.

A new read I plan to pick up this season is Holidays on Ice. I want to see how David Sedaris views Christmas.

Enhance your joy of the season with The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror by Christopher Moore. It will quickly become a holiday favorite. Imagine angels, death, confused boys, a former movie queen a la Xena, Warrior Princess and a dog experiencing Christmas in Pine Cove. Honestly, it's a hoot.

Consider a few other Christmas classics, like The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, which I picked up from the library for this very reason. 

Remember, books don't have to be long to be good: consider A Visit from St. Nicholas — known best by its first line, "'Twas the Night Before Christmas," which I read to my nieces and nephews when we were together for Christmas.  

How the Grinch Stole Christmas is a great tale to share with folks of all ages. (Please don't mention the live-action movie. Ever.)  

The Polar Express and A Child's Christmas in Wales also are great options.

There's Truman Capote's A Christmas Memory, a poignant memory that will stay with readers for long after the story ends.  

Skipping Christmas and Visions of Sugar Plums will transport you to unique ideas of the holidays and what the season really may mean. 

Learn more about Kris Kringle in The Autobiography of Santa Claus and take a trip back to another time.

Stop by your local library and let your librarian guide you through other interesting options. There's a lot of material out there about a fascinating, emotion-filled holiday.

What are you reading this season?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Poetry Wednesday: Thanksgiving

Later, after dinner, we examine your uncle’s photos
of trees, flowers, waterfalls, birds
until I just can’t stand it another second.
I am not at one with nature.  Never was.
Some of the people can be fooled all of the time,
even when you yawn right in their faces.

Guests, or ghosts, have taken over the house,
lounging in the living room, watching t.v.
Ugly images of war and politics are all I see.
Cancel the rest of the holidays, please, until this
knot can be untied and our hearts released.

-- Terence Winch

Monday, November 18, 2013

Review: The Dinner

I remember the initial clamor over The Dinner. Radio hosts were gasping, "It's an incredible book!" So I picked it up — and found it tedious.

Then I did the only thing I could do: I gave it to my friend Carole, my Other Reading Self, to help me see if it was me or the book. When she handed it back, she said, "You have to give it another try."

Then I mentioned on Twitter that I was giving The Dinner another shot, Random House Canada told me this.

Now I tell you:

Paul and Claire meet Serge and Babette for dinner. What happens next: well, the minion said it all.

Books in translation often display a clumsy gait to me, especially books originally written in German or Germanic languages. (The Reader failed this reader before I even got to the pedophilia.) However, This translation was very smooth, allowing the undercurrent of the narrator's apparent awkwardness to knock the reader off-kilter.

And don't get sidetracked by the narrator's tangents. Don't try to make these threads weave into a familiar pattern. My mistake was that I thought the narrator was drawing me a road map. What I needed, instead, was to sit back and let the story do the driving.

Let me know when you read it. You'll need to talk. I'll be here.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Poetry Wednesday: The German Ward

The German Ward

When the years of strife are over and my
recollection fades
Of the wards wherein I worked the weeks
I shall still see, as a visions rising 'mid the War-
time shades,
The ward in France where German wounded

I shall see the pallid faces and the half-sus-
picious eyes,
I shall hear the bitter groans and laboured
And recall the loud complaining and the weary
tedious cries,
And the sights and smells of blood and wounds
and death.

I shall see the convoy cases, blanket-covered
on the floor,
And watch the heavy stretcher-work begin,
And the gleam of knives and bottles through
the open theatre door,
And the operation patients carried in.

I shall see the Sister standing, with her form
of youthful grace,
And the humour and the wisdom of her
And the tale of three years' warfare on her thin
expressive face-
The weariness of many a toil-filled while.

I shall think of how I worked for her with
nerve and heart and mind,
And marvelled at her courage and her skill,
And how the dying enemy her tenderness
would find
Beneath her scornful energy of will.

And I learnt that human mercy turns alike to
friend or foe
When the darkest hour of all is creeping
And those who slew our dearest, when their
lamps were burning low,
Found help and pity ere they came to die.

So, though much will be forgotton when the
sound of War's alarms
And the days of death and strife have passed
I shall always see the vision of Love working
amidst arms
In the ward wherein the wounded prisoners

— Vera Brittain

courtesy First World War Poetry Digital Archive

Monday, November 11, 2013

In Honor of Veterans Day Never Forget

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
      Between the crosses, row on row,
   That mark our place; and in the sky
   The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
   Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
         In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
   The torch; be yours to hold it high.
   If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
         In Flanders fields.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Poetry Wednesday: Te Deum

Te Deum

Not because of victories
I sing,
having none,
but for the common sunshine,
the breeze,
the largess of the spring.

Not for victory
but for the day's work done
as well as I was able;
not for a seat upon the dais
but at the common table.

by Charles Reznikoff
Courtesy poets.org

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Review: Bossypants

I wasn't sure what to expect from comedienne Tina Fey's memoir, Bossypants. She is so young, yet iconic and very successful. I wasn't completely disappointed with the memoir, but I also wasn't completely satisfied.
I thought she wrote some funny stuff in her book and I laughed out loud quite often. I like funny. But I've read consistently funnier memoirs by people who aren't "professionally" funny. (Caitlin Moran, anyone? Jenny Lawson?) I know, the curse of the comedienne is that she's always expected to be hilarious, which isn't fair — but only when you bump into her at the grocery store.

May I also ads: I have read more honest and revealing memoirs. At times she skated across the top, rather safely. That was disappointing.

I was a little surprised by what she chose to include in her memoir: some of it was a little out of left field (climbing a mountain at night) and some of it was unexpectedly personal and rather un-funny (wanting a second child). What she revealed about Saturday Night Live, one of her best-known gigs, was guarded. She definitely had a handle on what she wanted to reveal.

Having said that, there were some nice surprises. I liked meeting her father. (What a stylin' badass!) I liked the readers' guide at the end, which gently poked fun at readers' guides and social media. I liked the description of her "30 Rock" staff because she gives props to the people who help her be in the position to write a memoir people want to read. I liked the part about her Palin impersonation; it was kind to the people usually criticized or vilified by those on the "other side of the aisle." I kind of liked the whole Christmas trip chapter.

I liked her "girl power" moment, when she told us how Amy Pohler shut up Jimmy Fallon about what was funny. Personally, I have fond humor long controlled by men who write about what they think is funny and make women the butt of many jokes, or assign them certain roles to support their jokes. I also think women writing for current cinema too often have turned themselves into men to try to be funny to everyone. ("Bridesmaids," anyone?)  Tina didn't do that with her first feature film, "Mean Girls." She looked at how women act and found the humor in it, and it told a great story. I would have liked a little more insight into how she creates and judges "funny."
In the end, I didn't think there wasn't enough Tina in the memoir. I don't think I know her any better now than I did before reading the book. I didn't expect deep, dark secrets — which, don't get me wrong, I'm not sad she doesn't seem to have — but I expected more "her."

I liked her writing, though, and I will continue to watch and read her work.

Have you read Bossypants? What did you think? Tell us in the comments below, or drop me a line.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

All Hallow's Read: All Souls

Happy Halloween!  

Enjoy this poem as part of All Hallow's Read 2013.

For maximum effect, read it aloud.

All Souls


A thin moon faints in the sky o’erhead,
And dumb in the churchyard lie the dead.
Walk we not, Sweet, by garden ways,
Where the late rose hangs and the phlox delays,
But forth of the gate and down the road,
Past the church and the yews, to their dim abode.
For it’s turn of the year and All Souls’ night,
When the dead can hear and the dead have sight.


Fear not that sound like wind in the trees:
It is only their call that comes on the breeze;
Fear not the shudder that seems to pass:
It is only the tread of their feet on the grass;
Fear not the drip of the bough as you stoop:
It is only the touch of their hands that grope —
For the year’s on the turn, and it’s All Souls’ night,
When the dead can yearn and the dead can smite.


And where should a man bring his sweet to woo
But here, where such hundreds were lovers too?
Where lie the dead lips that thirst to kiss,
The empty hands that their fellows miss,
Where the maid and her lover, from sere to green,
Sleep bed by bed, with the worm between?
For it’s turn of the year and All Souls’ night,
When the dead can hear and the dead have sight.


And now that they rise and walk in the cold,
Let us warm their blood and give youth to the old.
Let them see us and hear us, and say: “Ah, thus
In the prime of the year it went with us!”
Till their lips drawn close, and so long unkist,
Forget they are mist that mingles with mist!
For the year’s on the turn, and it’s All Souls’ night,
When the dead can burn and the dead can smite.


Till they say, as they hear us — poor dead, poor dead! —
“Just an hour of this, and our age-long bed —
Just a thrill of the old remembered pains
To kindle a flame in our frozen veins,
Just a touch, and a sight, and a floating apart,
As the chill of dawn strikes each phantom heart —
For it’s turn of the year and All Souls’ night,
When the dead can hear, and the dead have sight.”


And where should the living feel alive
But here in this wan white humming hive,
As the moon wastes down, and the dawn turns cold,
And one by one they creep back to the fold?
And where should a man hold his mate and say:
“One more, one more, ere we go their way”?
For the year’s on the turn, and it’s All Souls’ night,
When the living can learn by the churchyard light.


And how should we break faith who have seen
Those dead lips plight with the mist between,
And how forget, who have seen how soon
They lie thus chambered and cold to the moon?
How scorn, how hate, how strive, we too,
Who must do so soon as those others do?
For it’s All Souls’ night, and break of the day,
And behold, with the light the dead are away

by Edith Wharton, 1903

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Library Loot: The Halloween Edition

Yes, it's nearly Halloween - can't you tell from my Library Loot?

There is enough scary stuff (or possible scary stuff) to keep me occupied. The problem is, not much has scared me yet.

I also picked up a little classic literature. I am hoping that will satisfy.
Ghost Story has a reputation of being one of the scariest books written in the 1970s. I wanted traditional horror. Alas, I didn't enjoy it: the story was slow to build and rather obvious. I stopped reading it after I anticipated every plot point for the first 50 pages. I really wanted to like it.

Now I wonder what other books from my childhood I would view in the same way, as slow and predictable. (Yes, I read all of those books I wasn't supposed to, that were way beyond my years. It was the 70s — I think it was the law.)

I did, however, like The Vagina Monologues. That classic did not disappoint.

I also plan to scan local ghost lore for a little scare. It's always nice to know what's happening in our own backyard.

What did you pick up at the library this week?

Thanks to Linda (Silly Little Mischief), Claire (The Captive Reader) and Mary (The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader ) for establishing the weekly Library Loot. Check out what they're checking out!

Monday, October 21, 2013

All Hallow's Read — Be Ready to Share!

There are many reasons to like  author Neil Gaiman. All Hallow's Read is one of them.

All Hallow's Read is an excellent way to share the love of books and reading. If you love books and stories, then you love sharing those very things. (I know I do.) Neil Gaiman encourages that. In fact, he says — but wait, let me let him tell you himself.

Me, I share poetry. Every Halloween, trick-or-treaters receive not only good chocolate candy (the kind I'd eat, and usually do, until I have to give it away), but also a poem. I've shared the works of Edgar Allan Poe, Edna St. Vincent Millay. This year, I've chosen — wait. I can't tell you until Halloween.

What poems would you share for Halloween? (Note the plural. You don't have to stop at one.)

If you're looking for novels, I'd recommend one by the man himself, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, or the delightfully weird story John Dies at the End.

What are you reading for Halloween? Is it scary, gory or creepy? Spooky or just unusual? Let me know!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Summer Reading, Fondly Remembered

As the days grow chillier and the sun sets sooner each night, I look back fondly on my summer reading — and, I have to say, it was pretty good. 

Below is a list of books I completed, the final book skidding in under the wire as the clock ticked down to autumn.

I did not like all of the books. In fact, I probably would not recommend Southern Gods or Poe's Children. (The former was more gory than Gothic, the latter too eclectic and scattered a vision.) I threw a couple of children's books into the mix, and more than my share of hefty tomes.

Here they are, the most recent at the top of the list.
  1. Illusions
  2. Ella Minnow Pea
  3. Under New York  
  4. The Firebird 
  5. Catwings 
  6. Catwings Return
  7. Wonderful Alexander and the Catwings
  8. Jane on her Own: A Catwings Tale
  9. Southern Gods
  10. Unnatural Creatures
  11. Dreamfever
  12. Poe's Children
  13. The Tarantula in My Purse and 172 Other Wild Pets
  14. Salt Sugar Fat
  15. The New Yorker Book of Cat Cartoons
  16. The Charles Addams Mother Goose
  17. If I Stay
  18. Inferno
  19. The Ocean at the End of the Lane
  20. Let the Great World Spin
  21. Smut
  22. Next
  23. Every Day
  24. Life After Life
  25. Up the Down Staircase
I also half-finished four other books (Steve Jobs, The Winter Sea, The Light Between Oceans and The Language of Flowers), which I will count as two books. (Hey, it's for a good cause, and not just my ego!)

Yes, I realize very few were on my original list, but I can live with that. Those others will be read in good time. (Never soon enough, but in good time nonetheless.) 

Also, I know a few were juvenile fiction, but they were surprisingly substantial. I mean, Ursula K. LeGuin — 'nuff said.

That gives me a total of 27 books — and $135 for the Main Street Child Development Center, a fabulous program for children in Fairfax, Va.

I also donated three books to the Fairfax County Public Library:

I met Will Schwalbe at a book club conference in Fairfax, and he was charming and entertaining. (More on that as the year winds to a close.) (The book club conference, that is — although the book also hopefully will be consumed soon, too.)

What did you read? Don't forget: if you're in The Club, you may win a new book! E-mail me to find out more information on The Club Contest!