Saturday, July 15, 2017

Summer Reading: How is it Coming Along?

Summer is in full swing now, and so is summer reading. 

Well, it can be. 

It should be. (I mean, it's summer!)

So, how is your summer reading coming along?

My summer reading is ebbing and flowing. When we last met this intrepid reader, I was experiencing a surprising level of book ennui. I could not find my groove. I looked, I skimmed, and yet nothing launched me into the book frenzy I sought.

I have completed eight books in seven weeks. Not bad, but I have done better.

What am I reading now?


  • The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. I read it when it was first released 31 years ago, and it chills me as much — if not more — now than then. This time, I am listening to Claire Danes read it to me, and I am enjoying her narration. When I read the book without her, I still hear her in my head. (Thanks, Claire!)
  • The Case Against Sugar by Gary Taubes. He makes his case, relentlessly. It's an interesting book, but I think he's trying to trim a bonsai with a power saw. It may be me, but I'll keep on keeping on.
  • The Day the World Came to Town by Jim DeFede. I love the musical Come from Away and am intrigued about how a small town managed to host 7,000 strangers during one of the most stressful times in recent history. Full disclosure: I want to know how (or if) the municipal government managed it. It will be a slow read: I get to the comments about what a stunningly beautiful day it was, and I have to stop and think about that stunning day. Wish me luck.

What is on deck?


  • A Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason. Karen gave this to me, and I am totally intrigued!
  • Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. My book club will follow this with a tour of the graveyard from this book. The tome seems daunting, but I shall try.
  • Little Dorritt by Charles Dickens. My friend Carole and I are reading "weighty tomes," and this is the latest tome. We just finished Anna Karenina, so why not a little light reading about poverty in Dickens' England?
  • Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen. I have this in print and audiobook, and I will read it this summer no matter what!
  • The Magicians trilogy by Lev Gorssman. He will be at Fall for the Book this year, so I have to catch up!
  • Exit West and The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid. Another Fall for the Book author, and the narrator the second novel mentioned captured my attention.
  • The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead, or maybe The Noble Hustle. Guess who else will be at Fall for the Book this year? It is going to rock again this year!
  • The Wide Circumference of Love by Marita Golden. A quick review of her books shows that readers seem to prefer her fiction that focuses on family life, and I want to know why. Plus, four words: Fall for the Book.

Of course, by listing them, I have put the Reading Whammy on them, which means I will read entirely different books beginning today — but, hey, you never know.

What's in your TBR pile?

Don't forget: it's never too late to join the summer reading club! And it's not too late to start your summer reading!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Library Loot: Bones, Bookbinding, and a Mystery

When it comes to Library Loot, I'm a slacker.

Upon reviewing the last few Library Loot articles, I discovered I did not read those books in their entirety. If anything, my eyes are too big for my bookshelf.

At any rate, I persist. And who knows: I may read at least one book from this recent looting!

First of all, book displays were meant for me to loot. I don't care who the intended audience is, when I'm intrigued, I take a book. The slim volume of Forgotten Bones will be an introduction into slave burial sites — this one in New York. Our past is never very far behind us, and this is an excellent reminder.

I also can't wait to delve into the Roanoke settlers mystery — I read about this new book, and about a recent finding announced in the Smithsonian, which makes me very excited.

David is a fan of comics, and I thought he'd like to learn more about comic books.

Finally, I needed to visit Brooklyn Wainwright again. This will be the third try at reading the third book in her bibliophile mystery series, so let's hope it's the charm. I don't mind skipping it if it doesn't tickle my fancy, which is why I also picked up the ninth book in the series, the one I saw at the bookstore that made me ask, "Wait, a cat and books on the cover? I must find out more!"

Of course, I also spent a few hours at a used bookstore today, and that may impact how long it takes me to read these delectable books, but we shall see.

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

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Discovering a Wonder-Full New-to-Me Bookstore

I have tried to expand my resources for books. I am a sucker for used books, but it's not always easy to find a reliable, interesting, and affordable used bookstore in the real world.

Oh, we always have the online behemoth, and a few other Web favorites, but sometimes you just need a room full of books you haven't yet purchased or borrowed.

So began the adventure: choosing the new-to-me bookstore within driving distance. We discovered the lovely Hole in the Wall on a whim, so why not meet Wonder Book and Video?

When I walked in, I knew I came to the right place. This was similar to Acres of Books, may it rest in peace, and Hole in the Wall Books, with narrow corridors of bookshelves. Wonder Book featured lots of narrow corridors that lured book lovers deeper and deeper into the labyrinth.

"Chris?" I heard David call once.

"Hey honey, I'm in Modern Fiction. Mostly hardbacks and trade paperbacks. To your left." Moments later, he peeked down my row, relieved. With me, he could never tell: he has lost me in smaller bookstores.

"You know, the classic literature is back that way," he said, gesturing over his shoulder.

"Yeah, I saw that. I'm looking for Fall for the Book authors, in case they're here." (Spoiler alert: I didn't see any books by authors scheduled for the 2017 event, but I found plenty of books by authors from previous festivals.)

I bonked my head once or twice as I stepped back to peruse titles and discovered a few odd-shaped books sticking out of the shelves, but one expects that. I just adjusted my stance and kept reading.

I was surprised that the only Connie Willis I found was a mass paperback, but that just meant she was not long for the shelves.

I found a few classics for the local Little Free Library, which is in heavy use during pool season (its neighbor, and the most brilliant location in the neighborhood). Doesn't everyone want to read about romance and monsters in the summer sun? Happy reading of Frankenstein, Emma, Wuthering Heights, and Home Front, neighbors!

David found a few books for his studies on gems and healing.

Me, I mostly stuck to modern fiction — with a dip into Lillian Hellman's classic plays. I also found the first of the Persia Wooley series on Guinevere, which I intend to own as I come across the books.

Lastly, but not leastly, I found a jolly Christmas bookmark and David found a couple of music CDs.

As we checked out, David talked me into what was the most delicious chocolate soda I have ever tasted. I'm sure it wasn't the result of just spending an hour or two in an old, dry building full of books and discs that made it so tasty, but it was.

I will continue to shop Wonder Book both online and in person. The other stores under this name are farther afield, but I can think of at least one other book lover who may join me in an adventure. I'll take back the reusable bag they gave us and find a few more gems, no doubt.

How do you find your new-to-you bookstores: online, word of mouth, driving until you encounter it? What was the last gem you found, and what gems did you find in it?


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Library Loot: Roy, Tolle, Fellowes, and Knots

This week's library loot experience took me to a rarely-visited branch of my library system for a book not for myself.

My husband David wanted to read a book by Eckhart Tolle, which was available at a branch of the library he passes in his travels every week. Apparently I never took him into that library, which I find hard to believe, but it could happen. (In a strange alternate universe, but still.) We resolved that issue immediately.

I took a lap around the lovely little library, checking out the "new books" section, the audiobook shelves, and the "Friends of the Library Book Sale" shelves. My audible gasp caused at least one patron to turn toward me (sorry!), but as I reached for Arundhati Roy's new release, I couldn't help it. It's a 14-day book, so heaven help me finish it on time, but I'll give it the old college try.

(Full disclosure: I began listening to The God of Small Things last year, but stopped after a very short time. That was about the same time I couldn't get into Uprooted, so I will call that timeframe "my bad.")

On the book sale shelves, I found a lovely hardback copy of Belgravia, which has intrigued me since its publication. The buzz hasn't been off the charts, but one cannot make all the people happy all the time, so I'll check it out.

David also was lured to the used book sale, but by fly fishing. There were two books, and one caught his eye. It was the knots, I believe.

All in all, it was a very successful trip to the library.

What treasures have you found at your library recently?

(Shout-out to Clare, the Captive Reader, for the original Library Loot column, and fabulous logo.)

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Summer Reading: Book Ennui

Entire weekends of reading! Long nights of nothing but book time! It's summer! Woo hoo!

Well, don't spill your lemonade, but this year's summer reading is starting off very slowly for me.

You'd think that I'd have more than two book under my belt after three weeks of summer reading.

Nope, just two. A whopping 461 completed pages. A fabulous 461 pages that includes a Pulitzer Prize-winning play, but still a paltry sum of pages and books.

Oh, don't get me wrong: I'm reading. My nightstand reading stack is dwindling, somewhat. I am nearly halfway through Anna Karenina, and I can see the end of Speaking From Among the Bones (which I began months ago — yes, months).

I'm just not tossing back the books at a breakneck speed as intended.

I will continue to plug along, and pick up interesting books along the way. I won't break down, but I will limp along a little slower than anticipated. Wish me luck!

What do you do when you experience book ennui? Do you dial back the reading to give your psyche a rest, break on through to the other side no matter what, or wallow the ennui until it dissipates?

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Library Loot: Three Print Books and an Audiobook

I went to the library this week and got some loot: I borrowed two books and purchased a third, only one of which is on my original summer reading list. 

(Like that's a surprise. We all know I make the list, I chuckle, and then a I reach for whatever I darned well please. Hey, it's summer reading: no rules, just reading! Plus, can you blame me if I stray with so many great choices?)

I shall read at least one this weekend, possibly two (if I am ambitious). 

I am excited that one is Ruined, a Pulitzer Prize-winning play by a playwright new to me, and the others are by authors I know and enjoy. I have encountered Lynn Nottage in numerous articles lately, so it's really a sort of sign that she is in my loot today.

I also am excited about listening to Eric Weiner's new book. I so enjoyed his Geography of Bliss and I can't wait to see what he has to say about "genius."

As for Cristina HenrĂ­quez's book, I almost didn't leave the library before starting it. Her novel made my Favorites of 2014 List, so I am very hopeful about this tome.

The book I purchased at the ongoing Friends of the Library book sale, Being Mortal, is one I'm rather intrigued to read. I have read Atul Gawande's  The New Yorker articles and enjoyed them immensely. I heard his interview on Fresh Air about aging and medicine. 

Thanks to Clare, the Captive Reader, for such an inspirational column! I love my library, and what it gives me, and it's nice to share that love.

So, tell me: what did you get from the library this week?

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Summer Reading Has Begun!

Summer means reading — and summer reading club! 

Remember back in the day, when reading came with rewards? In my local library, readers would have their names posted with the number of titles read during the summer. One year, I read 4o books. My librarian was skeptical — then she remembered how I sat in the library for hours at a time, reading. Forty it was.

Getting a shout-out on Hedgehog Lover may not be as cool as having your name posted on the Norwalk Library children's section activity board, but it's still not bad. 

Visit your library (public or private), your local bookstores and thrift shops, yard sales and online book suppliers, friends and family, and choose what books look like they need to be read this summer.

So here's what I hope to consume this summer between the Memorial Day weekend and the first weekend in autumn. This year, that date is Friday, May 26 through Sunday, September 24.

First of all, please take a moment to think about Memorial Day, and understand what it really means, 149 years after it began as Decoration Day in an Illinois town. May we strive for peace, and love, and the things that bring us together.  

In that vein, we may want to add a book to our list that reflects Memorial Day, and an article published by the Los Angeles Times may be a good place to start. 

My list is more a "wish" than carved in stone, but here it is, in no particular order:
  1. Hamilton: The Revolution
  2. Evicted
  3. Anna Karenina
  4. Lady Cop Makes Trouble
  5. The Burning Pages
  6. Dark Money
  7. Map of the Sky
  8. The Intuitionist
  9. Ready Player One
  10. The Labyrinth of Dreaming Books
  11. The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu
  12. Me Before You
  13. Yesternight
  14. The Fall of the House of Cabal
  15. The Descent
  16. The Book of Harlan
  17. At the Water's Edge
  18. Thank You for Your Service
  19. The Glass Sentence
  20. The Keeper of Lost Things
  21. The Lost City of Z
  22. Wicked
  23. Bone Season
  24. The Gun Seller
  25. Wolf Hall
  26. The Lowland
  27. And the Mountains Echoed
  28. Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter 
  29. The Sixth Extinction
  30. Revival
  31. Bellman and Black
  32. Just Mercy
  33. Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits
  34. Redeployment
  35. The Handmaid's Tale
  36. The Case Against Sugar
  37. The Magicians
  38. The Unbanking of America
  39. The Inexplicable Logic of My Life
  40. Welcome to Night Vale
  41. Hidden Figures
  42. Speaking from Among the Bones
  43. Ruined
  44. The Bear and the Nightingale
  45. Uprooted
I suspect this list will change. As soon as something looks or sounds good, it will be on the list. I can't help it!

Join the Summer Reading Club and put yourself in the running for a new book. Read as much as you wish from Friday, May 26 through Sunday, September 24, and if you read the most books, you will win a book of your own.

To join the club, just send me an e-mail or leave a message below. Then, at the end of the summer reading period, send me a message or include your reading list in a blog comment. If you read the most, congratulations! If not, you still are a winner because you spent your summer reading.

I've already had a few e-mails from eager readers, and I can't wait to read your list!

I make sure summer reading is beneficial to my community. As I have done in years past, I will  donate $5 per book I read to Main Street Child Development Center (minimum $150) (I know, no sweat, right?), and I will buy three new books for the Fairfax County Public Library from its Amazon Wish List


Hopefully, reading club members also will find a way to help their communities through their reading, or to help share the love of reading with their communities. It's not a requirement, of course, but it certainly is a worthy effort. It doesn't have to be financial support, either — think of what the community wants and needs. Every reader can determine what is within her or his power to bestow.

Even if you don't join the reading club, I still would love to know: what's on your summer reading list? Tell me!