Supposedly Great Books I’ll Never Try Again

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

I was reorganizing a high school’s book room and was haunted by stacks of these, taunting me for never reading them. They teach this novel in school, for cripe’s sake. It’s Important American Literature! And despite trying to read it twice and listen to the audiobook once, and despite loving Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Kingsolver, I simply give up. I cannot get into this story, and I don’t know why.

The His Dark Materials omnibus by Philip Pullman

Product Details

How many people have told me how great this series is? Dozens? Oh well. Can’t get past the first seventy pages of it.

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

I know! Important! Great! Current! And yet every time I get it from the library, it molds on my nightstand for three weeks until it’s time to return it.

Ulysses by James Joyce

Worst. Book. Ever. Ever ever ever ever ever.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

I know I should identify with Heathcliff because The Man kept him down, but all I can think is, “You’re a dick, Heathcliff,” and not in a good way. I hope Catherine haunts the shit out of him.

Your turn!




I have so many books that I want to discuss with you! I’m not going to mention books I outright disliked, out of respect for authors, and also because there’s not much to discuss. “I hated it.” “Okay?”

Books I kissed and then wanted to break up with later

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

So, I didn’t put this in the outright “hate” spot in my heart (where it lives with spiky artichoke leaves and the very last bit of Harry Potter) because I liked the writing. At first. But I felt…bored. And then annoyed? And then I kind of didn’t get the point. I think I’m asking someone to explain why this won the Pulitzer.

The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. by Adelle Waldman

I actually quite liked this book, except that it’s about a pretentious asshat, and that puts a damper on outright loving it. It was really well-written and I felt sorry for every single woman in this book, but I thought the author had a certain specific point she was trying to get at (feminism has a long way to go? men are asshats? not sure), and it was either not clear enough or it was drowned out by asshatness. Still, it was interesting to see women through the lens of this particular male, and then to see the ending.

What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick

So, I loved Fitzpatrick’s first novel, and this was not that. At all. It was less idyllic and more truthful and while the romance in here was nice, it was a little too Pretty in Pink for my taste. But it was a good distraction on a plane.

Landline by Rainbow Rowell

This book broke my heart. Not because it was sad, but because it wasn’t up to the Rowell standards. Her previous three books were amazing, and this felt like a first draft of something. There were too many questions at the end of it. I think I would have liked it better as a first novel, or if it was by basically anyone else who I didn’t idolize. I will still read everything she writes, forever and ever, but it was just not up to my (too high?) expectations.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Same song, second verse. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks is perhaps one of the best pieces of YA literature, and this was not one of the best pieces. It was fine, but it was about really rich white people  and one slightly less rich non-white person and it was hard to sympathize with them.

How to Love by Katie Cotugno

I quite liked the audiobook of this. I heard there were complaints because the romantic hero in this novel was so very, very flawed, but as with almost all heroes, he finds his redemption, and I liked the way he worked to it, and it wasn’t a given. I wouldn’t break up with this book, but it just wasn’t a book I absolutely adored. It was sweet and well-written, though.

The Dog Stars by Peter Heller

This book was really uneven, but the good parts were great. Everything where the narrator talks about his dog, Jasper, is so touching, and if you’ve ever loved a non-human, you will relate.

Books I loved and proposed to and am now in a serious, committed relationship with

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

Perfect? This book is perfect. I listened to the audiobook driving to and from Portland to visit this lady, and then I sat and listened to it more at two in the morning after I came home because it was so good. It’s about the slowing of the earth’s  rotation, and how it effects an eleven-year-old girl’s life. It was so sad and haunting and wonderful, and if you need something to clear our your tear ducts, pick this up.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Has everyone already read this? It’s sweet and short and fun and romantic, and the main character, Don Tillman, is so fun.

Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson

I admit this is not a book I  would normally pick up (it was for work stuff), but it was beautifully written and I think there’s enough mystery in the ending to make a nice discussion with smart ladies and gentlemen.

The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider

If I were wearing my librarian hat, I would say something like, “If you like John Green, you’ll love this novel!” Except I loved it more than Green’s novels. I listened to the audiobook on my commute and the actor who narrated did an AWFUL job of girls’ voices, but other than that, it was so fantastic and it made me cry and I loved the ending.

Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

I liked this much more than her other two characters, perhaps because I identified more with Isla, but also, I think, because it relied less on quirk and more on her (very strong) narrative skills. If you’re looking for a sweet YA romance, I highly recommend this.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

This is the kind of novel that I think should win Pulitzers and National Book Awards. It is both literary and entertaining, both funny and insightful, and Zevin makes a main character that is not that likeable and yet totally loveable.

Origami Yoda series 

Okay, okay, so I read this series to my kids, but it was so cute and fun. Maybe “loved” is too strong a word for me, but the boys loved it.

Timmy Failure series by Stephen Pastis

Okay, again, I read this series to my boys, but it is so hilarious that we’d often by wiping away tears of mirth. Yes, tears of mirth! It happens.

Right now I’m listening to The Poisonwood Bible on audio (kind of confusing with the switched narrations), and reading Lucy Knisley’s graphic/comic biography, Relish. The boys are making their way through Lemony Snicket’s oeuvre, and adoring Series of Unfortunate Events very much.

Thoughts? Suggestions? Questions? Bathrooms are around the corner. (That’s the most popular reference question on any reference desk. That and, “do you have a stapler?”)  (Yes, I do.)


Of Mice and Mental Illness (Punny!)


Has it been a long while? I know I said in my last post that I would have a new URL, but that’s not the truth. The truth is I have no plans of writing things, of being a social medium, or of doing the twitters or the instagrams or the facebooks. I can use “the” in front of proper nouns now because I have transformed, chrysalis-like, from a caterpillar to a magnificent butterfly.

Maybe butterfly is too strong. But I’m not that bad.

I feel pretty good these days. On a scale of one to Ebola, I’m about a rheumatic fever. Or maybe one of those cutesy poxes. I don’t want you worrying about me and my mental illnesses. I have the mental illnesses, and some days are good, and some days are better, and some days are chicken pox and whooping cough. Some days are polio. Some days are just a runny nose. I haven’t gotten to the days where everything is “good,” or “fine,” or something else that could honestly be mumbled truthfully in passing by a teenager with hunched shoulders and hair in his face.

Listen, I could give you lots more metaphors and aphorisms, or I could just get down to business and write things in list form, as is the way of the kids these days.

1. I no longer have chickens. I killed them. With an axe and my hands. Okay, my husband helped. He held the axe. I held the chickens and closed my eyes, and the chickens closed theirs. I cried a whole bunch. It was awful.

And yes, I’m still a vegetarian.

2. Actually, I’m mostly a vegan. I gave up dairy, and since we no longer have egg-producing animals in the yard, I gave up eggs unless we can get them from a local farm, which isn’t that often.

3. Yes, I gave up cheese. I didn’t tell any of you about it because I thought maybe it would be like that time that Dooce divorced Jon. Who was Dooce without Jon? Who am I without cheese?

I did just compare a man to cheese. Every man should only be so lucky.

I’m doing pretty well without cheese. It turns out (ha ha ha) I’m allergic to dairy. That was what was causing my terrible stomachaches for twenty years! (Insert something about Dooce’s marriage. Wait, don’t. I feel bad about making that comparison at all, because marriage is tough shit, even when you’re married to Gregg the Bearded.)

I still miss queso. I don’t really read Dooce, but I respect her a lot, and I don’t give a shit if you don’t. I think she’s a strong lady, and I hope she finds some new queso one day.

4. I don’t really read blogs any longer. I don’t have twitter or instagram. I go on Facebook sometimes, but mostly I don’t. I am much happier without that.

5. I am no longer okay with people treating me like shit. When I first started this blog, I wanted to hear out every person’s criticisms and critiques of my ideas and my writing, because it would make me a better person. Or so I thought. What was really going on is that I had zero self-respect and I allowed strangers to trample me over and over and over again. (See #4.) Now if you leave a comment here and you’re an asshole, you’re getting deleted. That’s like pissing on my front porch. I guess you can do it, but you really are terrible if you do.

6. I have these glasses. And bangs.


(I still have a shitty camera and am still a shitty photographer, because a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, and also idiots who can’t take a good photo despite having all the megapixels in the world. Megaterapixels! MeganFoxpixels! Wait, is she still around? I’m about five to ten years behind pop culture. And hey, I started watching this show called Lost and I’m sure it’s going to be worth the payoff of watching and being confused!) (Wow, that parenthetical got out of hand.)

But maybe I’m growing out the bangs. I don’t know. I would ask, “What do you think?” except I am no longer soliciting opinions about that stuff. Unless it is books. If you want to recommend a book to me, please do, forever and ever, amen.

7. I do not know what I am going to do about writing in my life, or in this space, or in general. I’m not soul-searching or gnashing my teeth or anything, I just don’t know yet. Maybe one day I’ll know, but maybe I still won’t.

8. I miss many of you. That’s why I’m here. I actually woke up this morning cursing out a lot of people in my head who kept me away from you nice and funny and sweet folks. I’m feeling better enough that if no one tries to go pissing on my front porch, I might try this more often. Maybe. We’ll see. See #7. I don’t know. But I want to talk to you (about books! so many books!).

9. I have figured out some things about my mental illness. Well, me and my health care providers. It’s not something I’m willing to talk about here right now, but I feel a lot better.

10. I’m working (and thus you shall not see my real name here any longer), and the kids are good, and Gregg is good, and my health is better than it has been in a long while. I’m in transition, I suppose. I’m a stronger and better human being, but I also feel like a completely different human being. I think I was a doormat before, or maybe a dog that was kicked too often, seeking approval. Now I’m…a werewolf. A shirtless werewolf in jorts. Watch your back, or I might imprint on your newborn babies and you will be…totally okay with that (I’m still fucked up about this six years later).

See you later, alligators. Maybe.