Tag Archives: Reading

Liking Memoirs Can Be Really Awkward

I was having an absolutely lovely November morning last week – enjoying breakfast at a local café, chatting with one of my favorite severs, Derrick. He happened to mention that his roommate had written a memoir, and would I like to borrow a copy? It was published last year, it’s really great, and he could just pop into his apartment and grab a copy (he lives around the corner and it wasn’t busy yet). Derrick is smart, so I knew there was a good chance that if he loved his roommate’s memoir that I would too. So, yeah sure, I’d love to borrow it! He mentioned her name, and I hadn’t heard of her, and I’m always excited to learn of a new memoirist. Derrick handed me the loveliest book. A small sized hardcover with embossed flowers . . . all class. I said “oh, this is so pretty, I love it!” But then I looked at the title and my heart sank. It was called The Young Widow’s Book of Home Improvement. Ugh. I wish I had noticed the, um, obvious reference to death before I had tossed out the off the cuff and downright jolly compliment.

But then I realized this is something that happens with memoirs. Who didn’t love The Glass Castle? But we certainly wouldn’t wish that kind of childhood on anyone. What do you say to someone who wrote a memoir that particularly moves you? Love the memoir but I’m so sorry your life sucked? It really does seem strange to compliment someone on their work without making a reference to the difficulty of the material. Or am I making way too much of this? Feel free to tell me I’m crazy.

And the beautiful book Derrick handed over to me? It’s called The Young Widow’s Book of Home Improvement: A True Story of Love and Renovation by Virginia Lloyd. I’m looking forward to reading it and I’ll be sure to report back.

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Filed under Challenging Issues, Writers

Comfort Books

After starting and stopping what feels like several thousand books, I’m pleased to report that I’ve happily settled into one.  I’m reading Second Honeymoon by Joanna Trollope.  Have any of you read her novels?  I’ll just say right now that she’s probably more of a women’s read (and oh, more on that later – some recent blog posts have my mind reeling), so her subject matter might not appeal to guys so much, but if you haven’t read her books you’re truly missing out.  Her books take place in England, usually in a small town – but they have a homey yet sophisticated feel.  She takes on everything from infidelity to sibling rivalry.  Second Honeymoon is about a mom whose last kid has flown the coop, and she’s freaking.  Her books are funny, smart and utterly charming.  She’s also written seventeen of them (last I counted), so it’s great to know there’s always another one on the shelf for you to read.

I'm positive that everyone in Joanna Trollope's novels lives in an adorable cottage just like this one.

I realized today that Joanna Trollope has become one of my “comfort reads.”  One of those authors you turn to in either times of turmoil – when you need a book to take you away from whatever is going on in real life, or on the flip side, when all is just swell but you’re not connecting with anything.  I open up one of her novels, sit back and am instantly  absorbed – don’t even try to talk to me.  So thank you Joanna Trollope!  I have a few authors and books that are on my list of “comfort books,” but I’d certainly like to add more:

  • Joanna Trollope
  • Laurie Colwin
  • Mary Cantwell
  • Carol Goodman
  • Cheryl Mendelsohn
  • The Great Gatsby

Do you have books or authors you re-read when things are rough?  I’d love to know!  Like I said, I’m always anxious to add to that list of mine.  It’s a little bit shorter than I’d like it to be.

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When It Feels Like There Is Nothing To Read

Firstly, let me start off by saying there is obviously ALWAYS something to read.  There’s usually too much right?  But have you ever been in that awful place where nothing sticks?  You just don’t know what you’re in the mood for?  You can’t get into anything and you’re stuck starting about 9 million books and you feel like you’ll never connect with anything ever again?  That’s where I am right now.  Honestly, I don’t have much time to read since I work at home (read loads on the subway when I had an office job) and I have a 2.5 year old and they really don’t let you read much.  But when I have a book that I’m really into and I manage to read a chapter here and there, life is a little bit better.  Books are kind of like Klonopin, or yoga (probably not really, but hey, it’s another excuse not to exercise) – they’re relaxing.  I just got back from a conference, and I’d love to settle in with a book for awhile, but nothing is capturing my attention.  I just finished Jonathan Tropper’s amazing This Is Where I Leave You and Wendy Webb’s totally creepy and fun The Tale of Halcyon Crane (which incidentally, I also blame for a new almond latte addiction).  Totally different books, but I loved them both, and now nothing is measuring up.  So, can I blame Jonathan Tropper and Wendy Webb for the fact that I’m watching a lot of reality television?  An obvious idea is to read the rest of Mr. Tropper’s books right away, but here’s another weird thing about me – I want to save them and dole them out over time.  Do you know what I mean?  You don’t, and think I’m a total freak right?

Irrational I know. But I blame the quality of this book for my addiction to reality television.

What do you guys do when you can’t find a book that keeps your attention?  Resort to old favorites or classics?  Beg friends for recommendations?  Eat 5 dozen donuts?  Watch the entire John Hughes collection on VHS?  I’m getting desperate here.

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