Hey guys, today’s post is a little different than usual. First, a little roundup of our Halloween festivities from this past weekend and then a not-so-little roundup of some of my favorite books I’ve read this year. Random? Yes. But let’s roll with it.
Trying to Be Less of a Scrooge
I tend to be a Scrooge about most holidays, especially the ones between November and March. I don’t really have a good explanation for my lack of holiday enthusiasm, other than I don’t particularly enjoy being told when I should have fun. I mean, most of these holidays are usually built up like crazy and then when it comes time to actually celebrate, nothing can compare (hello New Year’s). Thanksgiving and Christmas are lovely because we get to see family, but no one can deny the stress that comes with the big holidays.
But all of that said, I’ve been making a concentrated effort in the past couple of years to shake off my Scrooge whiskers and make a vodka-spiked lemonade out of those holiday lemons.
I started off small. AKA, torturing my poor dog with a silly Halloween costume.
His face adequately sums up all of the feels I feel about Halloween costumes. It’s a mixture of “Is this really necessary?” and “If you’re going to force this to happen, I’m going to need a cocktail immediately.” He’s so cute though, right?
And since I was forcing my dog to dress up, I clearly had to follow suit. AKA, I was invited to a surprise birthday party slash costume party and knew that resistance was futile.
Tom and I thought long and hard about what we could do for the least amount of effort. May I present the result:
What looks like a simple homage to fast food is really much more clever. Watch this video for the full story.
Of course our costumes revolved around gluttony and DC silliness. They were also incredibly easy. I wish I was creative enough to go all-out dressing up, but it’s just not my way. I saw so many amazing costumes at the party and on social media that now I’m determined to step it up a notch next year. It probably won’t actually happen, but it’s a nice thought.
My First Bookish Roundup
Something I’ve failed to communicate on this site is my immense love for reading. I started early, going through the necessary fine literature – the entire Babysitters’ Club series, then Sweet Valley High, then Goosebumps and into Fear Street. An aunt gifted me with the Boxcar Children collection, which I devoured. I couldn’t get enough Nancy Drew.
My first classic was Little Women, another gift followed shortly thereafter by the Secret Garden. In middle school, I was obsessed with fantasy and read The Hobbit, the Chronicles of Narnia series, A Wrinkle in Time and my all time favorite book from my youth – The Giver.
My brother had an impressive collection of used books in his room, which I came to think of as my own personal library. Because of him I read Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Catcher in the Rye, most of Poe and countless others throughout my angsty high school years.
Over the years my love for reading has remained constant, and it’s one of my most comforting pleasures. I still prefer real books, but I think e-readers are great for re-energizing the popularity of reading. I also always have a book on my Kindle Cloud Reader so that I can read something on my phone when I’m waiting in line at the store or even a paragraph or two on the elevator.
Because I’m obsessed with lists, and with books, Goodreads is my addiction. I currently have 1,430 books filed as T0-Read. I hope to live a good long life so I can get to them all.
And now, without further ado, here are some of my favorite books from 2015, as in that’s when I read them. You’ll notice none of them are new titles. But that’s okay, books don’t expire. If you guys seem to enjoy this, I’ll continue doing similar roundups monthly. We’ll see how it goes.
The majority of what I read is fiction. I love the escape of it.
Birds of a Lesser Paradise Stories by Megan Mayhew Bergman. I typically prefer novels to books of short stories, but there are exceptions to that rule. Birds of a Lesser Paradise is one of the most eloquently personal books I’ve read in a long time. Bergman finds a way to incorporate nature and wildlife into this sweet and poignant collection that explores the ways in which we seek to nurture ourselves those around us. Another collection of stories that I can’t recommend enough is Self-Help by Lorrie Moore, one of the funniest and most heartbreaking works I’ve ever read.Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle of the band The Mountain Goats. This book is unlike anything I’ve ever read. On the surface, it’s a book about gaming and a talented guy who created his own role-playing game universe. Gaming is not something I’m even remotely interested in, but Darnielle’s storytelling instantly drew me in before my prejudices began to crop up. Of course, it goes much deeper than that and the way the story holds back on major details and switches back and forth in time makes this a serious page-turner. It’s far from a happy story, but is seriously one of the best things I’ve ever read.
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. This novel was basically book porn for me, an epic with multiple points-of-view, tons of offbeat humor and tantalizing exotic imagery to fuel my wanderlust. Diaz’ writing style is smart and direct, and this story about a tragic family from the Dominican Republic is both shocking and delightful.
Skinny Legs and All by Tom Robbins. This novel almost defies explanation. First published in 1990, Robbins explores tension in the Middle East in a way that’s still incredibly relevant today. It’s also about self-expression, talking household items, love, jealousy and philosophy. Robbins is one of my all-time favorite authors, although I do understand he’s not for everyone and this revelation may cause you to judge me. His ability to draw sharp conclusions about the world while educating and entertaining his audience is breathtaking. For a person who generally likes her literature serious with a heavy dose of sad (I don’t know why, it’s just my way), the humor injected into every page is a welcome respite. This book will keep you laughing and on the edge of your seat until the very last page.
Although fiction is typically my jam, I’ve been on a non-fiction kick lately. Here are a few that stood out.
Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace by Anne Lamott. I read this book when I was in Brazil and feeling a bit homesick, and it was like reading a big hug. Anne Lamott is another of my favorite authors, specifically her fiction. Her “self-help” books range from incredibly inspiring to slightly annoying, but I found this one to be very reflective and insightful. As I get older, I find myself frantically trying to grasp the reality of death and aging and Lamott’s words bring the truth to light on these subjects in a way that’s easy to digest.
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe. This book had been on my to-read list for as long as I can remember, and I finally got around to reading it over the summer. I love reading about the lives of writers, and this is probably one of the most fascinating accounts of a famous writer that’s been written. Wolfe’s work focuses on the life and mishaps of Ken Kesey, author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and his band of Merry Pranksters as they get into one mess after an other. Fact is definitely stranger than fiction in this outlandish-but-true story.
Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana by Michael Azerrad. I’m actually still reading this, but should be finished by the end of the day. My brother recommended this to me when we were talking about the HBO documentary, Montage of Heck, that came out over the summer. It was actually written before Kurt Cobain died, and gives a much more detailed look into his life and the history of the band as they rode the wave from obscurity to superstar status. The book gives as unbiased and as comprehensive an account of the band and its members than I’ve read anywhere. Also, if you’re into books about music and punk rock, I highly recommend No Slam Dancing, No Stage Diving, No Spikes: An Oral History of the Legendary City Gardens about a once-iconic music venue in Trenton, New Jersey.
Currently Reading and What’s Next
Along with Come As You Are, I’m reading another nonfiction book – The Devil in the White City: A Saga of Magic and Murder at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson. I’m only about 40 pages in, but I’ve heard so many good things about this book I can’t wait to read more.
After that, I’m not sure what will be next. I need more fiction in my life, I know that much. Recommendations would be much appreciated!