Saturday, March 11, 2017

Blob is 13!

Happy 13th birthday, Blob! I can't believe you've been my very own sweet darling book blog since 2004! What do you mean "Whatever"?  And what's with the eye roll?

Here's some economy-sized Clearasil. No, you can't drive the car. Not even to a bookstore or a library. Okay, I'm really, really mean.

 Look, I found a picture of myself when I was 13! No, dinosaurs did not roam the earth. Yes, there were books. Not scrolls or hieroglyphics on a cave wall somewhere.

Well, yes, I was a bookworm when I was 13. No, I didn't read "a bunch of stupid shit". Maybe some, but hey. At least I was reading. Let's hop in the time machine and I'll show you 13 glimpses of my bookworm self at 13, would you like that? Spare me the theatrical sighs. Corny? Really? Whatever:

1. When I was 13, I enjoyed the horror genre, which led me to a book called Carrie by a new author named Stephen King.

2. My mom liked nurse romance novels, so I bonded with her by reading a lot of Arlene Hale.

3. Science class was boring, so I read books behind my science textbook. Every day, I would bring a book and every day, Mrs. Briley would catch me reading and confiscate it. She never gave them back, either. I got smart...smarter and started bringing school library books. She must have had at least 50-100 books in her desk by the end of the year.

4. I liked books about gypsies and Roma culture. I thought a caravan might happen by and ask me to join their carefree life. No science or math classes. I wanted to be ready.

5. I read The Outsiders for the first time. Two-Bit was my favorite character and I pronounced Socs as Socks rather than so-shez. I also felt a sense of urgency. S.E. Hinton wrote the novel at 16, and I only had 3 more years to write something timeless...maybe something about gypsies?

6. A girl in my class convinced me to read the Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace. She said they were the best books EVER. They were very good, but not in the same league as the Little House series. I'm still grateful to this girl, even though we fell out a little bit later.

7. I enjoyed Reader's Digest Condensed Books, but the illustrations always disappointed.

8. A cute boy in my class told me that I would like a novel about horses. I wanted him to LIKE ME like me so I read it. I forget the title. I didn't like the book. I don't remember the boy's name.

9. My brother got the bright idea to throw my mass-market paperback copy of Gone with the Wind from our third-story apartment window. I screamed. My parents laughed for a long time. When they finally recovered, they ordered my brother to go downstairs and fetch the damn thing.

10. My library card number at the post library was 778.

11. I checked out Lady Chatterley's Lover because I had heard it was a dirty book. I couldn't make heads or tails of it. Back to the library it went. Then I found a racy novel in my parents' room written at about fourth-grade level. I was very Ewwwwwww! for days.

12. Here's a book that kept me entranced and entertained for hours on end. I came away with the idea that no film made after 1945 was worth seeing:

13. 778 was invited to volunteer in the post library's summer reading program. I started off shelving books in the children's section, then was asked to shelve in the adult section. After admitting that I didn't understand how to do the nonfiction, the assistant librarian kindly and quickly explained the Dewey Decimal System. To paraphrase Dr. Seuss, I felt as if my brain grew three sizes that day.

Monday, February 13, 2017

i have no wrist but i must blog

not spraining, but fracturing...on groundhog day, of all days. i woke with some trepidation on the 3rd.

at first, i was going to wait until i could type properly, but that's another whole month. to HELL with that. if bauby could blink out all of the diving bell and the butterfly, then bybee can tap out a left handed post.

 my brain doesn't like this one bit. well, boo effing hoo, brain.

so yeah, my wrist, the floor. it was the convergence of the twain, as in the poem by thomas hardy, which is actually about the titanic and the iceberg. you see what i'm saying, of course.

you can't keep a good bookworm down, or even a mediocre one for long. here's what i've read/been reading this year.

1. her again: becoming meryl streep. nonfiction. michael schulman. i loved this look at the genesis of an acting genius. i eagerly await a volume 2.

2. $2.00 a day: living on almost nothing in america. nonfiction. kathryn j. edin and h. luke shaefer. bleak, but necessary reading. recommend pairing this with hillbilly elegy.

3. the green mile. fiction. stephen king.  uncle stevie delivers the goods in this depression era mashup of weird tales and charles dickens.

4. in the great, green room: the brilliant and bold life of margaret wise brown. biography. amy gary. i love the title, but the way it was written left me cold. i've got more to say about this book, but i need both wrists.

5. the art of x-ray reading. nonfiction. roy peter clark. fun, educational. clark profiles several writers and their greatest hits and shows why the prose is so effective. he really breaks it down and inspires. favorite chapters- shirley jackson, nabokov, flannery o'connor, sylvia plath. the whole book was a delight. that was january. i haven't yet finished a book in february. here's what i'm working on.

parade's end by ford madox ford. i chafed against this novel for the longest time, but now it owns me. so very glad i audiobooked this one. finally on the last book of the omnibus, last post. i think what finally swayed me was the realization that christopher tietjens is played by benedict cumberbatch. that's MUCH better.

consider the fork - bee wilson.  wilson explores technology in the kitchen through the ages. fun stuff.

captains and the kings. novel. taylor caldwell. i couldn't resist... only 54 cents today feb 13th on amazon. kindle edition. caldwell always puts me right. she's my go-to when i'm off-kilter.

margaret wise brown: awakened by the moon.  biography. author???????????  i was so disillusioned with the new mwb bio that i had to try the older one. so far, so good.

chernow biography of george washington. slow going.

i need to stop typing now.

Friday, January 13, 2017

F This, I'm Getting A Bookshelf

Last year, I decided to be noble and not take up so much space in the spare bedroom with my bookshelves. That space was needed for a twin bed or a futon for overnight guests.

Long story short, I moved the shelves out to the garage where they hold canned goods. The books are lined up along the tops of my dresser, desk and nightstand. The excess books are stored in plastic boxes under the bed.

The spare bedroom still has no twin bed or futon for visitors. Come to think of it, there have been no visitors.

Meanwhile, new books are coming into my life, or perhaps the old ones are breeding, and my bedroom is overrun. Books are stacked up, and while I love a book pile more than most, there's also that overwhelmed feeling.

My first thought was to go through the Bybeeary and cull out some titles, but I don't want to cull and I don't want to stash any more books away under the bed or out in the garage. I love my books and I want them on display. I long to see them on a shelf once more, standing up proudly and vertically with their spines neatly aligned.

Soon, very soon, the spare bedroom will house the Bybeeary again. I'll direct any overnight visitors to the living room couch.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

2016 Reads: All Together Now

Here are all 62 books I read in 2016. Favorites are bolded in blue.
I was under the impression that I read very few books published in 2016. Wrong!!!


1. Green Dolphin Street - Elizabeth Goudge. Novel. 1944.

2. Spark Joy - Marie Kondo. Nonfiction. 2016.

3. Hangsaman - Shirley Jackson. Novel. 1951.

4. The French Lieutenant's Woman - John Fowles. Novel. 1969.


5. Remarkable Creatures - Tracy Chevalier. Novel. 2009.

6. The Revenant - Michael Punke. Novel. 2002.

7. Think Small - House Beautiful. Nonfiction. 2014.

8. Relish - Lucy Knisley. Graphic Novel. 2013.


9. The Boys in the Boat - Daniel James Brown. Nonfiction. 2013.

10. Mess - Barry Yourgrau. Memoir. 2015.

11. Lucky - Alice Sebold. Memoir. 1999.

12. Chocolates for Breakfast - Pamela Moore. Novel. 1956.

13. Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky - Patrick Hamilton. 3 Novellas. 1935.

14. The Sailor Who Fell From Grace with the Sea - Yukio Mishima. Novel. 1963.


15. The Nest - Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney. Novel. 2016.

16. Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter - Kate Clifford Larson. Nonfiction. 2015. Audiobook.

17. Let's Just Say It Wasn't Pretty - Diane Keaton. Memoir. 2015.

18. High Lonesome World - Babs H. Deal. Novel. 1969.

19. Strangers on a Train -Patricia Highsmith. Novel. 1950. Audiobook.

20. The Selected Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder - Laura Ingalls Wilder and William Anderson, Editor. Nonfiction. 2016.

21. The Grand Tour: The Life and Music of George Jones - Rich Kienzle. Biography. 2016.


22. Let the Hurricane Roar - Rose Wilder Lane. Novel. 1933.

23. American Rust - Philipp Meyer. Novel. 2009.

24. The Paris Wife - Paula McLain. Novel. 2011.

25. Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen - Mary Norris. Nonfiction. 2015.

26. Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? - Jeanette Winterson. Memoir. 2011.

27. The Cowboy and the Cossack - Clair Huffaker. Novel. 1973.


28. Crossing to Safety - Wallace Stegner. Novel. 1987.

29. Brooklyn - Colm Toibin. Novel. 2009.

30. A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy - William B. Irvine. Nonfiction. 2009.

31. Never Tell a Lie - Hallie Ephron. Novel. 2009.

32. Encounter with an Angry God - Carobeth Laird. Memoir. 1975.

33. Vinegar Girl - Anne Tyler. Novel. 2016.


34. The Fireman - Joe Hill. Novel. 2016.

35. Hamilton: The Revolution - Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter. Nonfiction. 2016.

36. Alexander Hamilton - Ron Chernow. Biography. 2004.


37. Kick: The True Story of JFK's Sister and the Heir to Chatsworth - Paula Byrne. Biography. 2016.

38. A Family Matter - Will Eisner. Graphic Novel. 1998.

39. Dead Presidents - Brady Carlson. Nonfiction. 2016.

40. Idiot Brain - Dean Burnett. Nonfiction. 2016.

41. The Emigrants - Johan Bojer. Novel. 1924.

42. Burr - Gore Vidal. Novel. 1973. Re-read.

43. My Theodosia - Anya Seton. Novel. 1941.


44. The Hamilton Affair - Elizabeth Cobbs. Novel. 2016.

45. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance - Angela Duckworth. Nonfiction. 2016.

46. Mennonite in a Little Black Dress - Rhoda Janzen. Memoir. 2009.

47. Talk to the Hand - Lynne Truss. Nonfiction. 2005. Audiobook.


48. Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life - Ruth Franklin. Biography. 2016.

49. Literary Life: A Second Memoir - Larry McMurtry. Memoir. 2009.

50. Hollywood: A Third Memoir - Larry McMurtry. Memoir. 2010.

51. Closing Time: The True Story of the "Goodbar" Murder - Lacey Fosburgh. True Crime. 1977.

52. A Curious Man: The Strange & Brilliant Life of Robert "Believe It or Not!" Ripley - Neal Thompson. Biography. 2013.

53. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly - Jean-Dominique Bauby. Memoir. 1997.


54, Germinal - Emile Zola. Novel. 1885. Re-read.

55. Tampa - Alissa Nutting. Novel. 2013.

56. Hungry Heart - Jennifer Weiner. Memoir. 2016.

57. City of Secrets - Stewart O'Nan. Novel. 2016.

58. Cooked - Jeff Henderson. Memoir. 2008. Audiobook.


59. Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg - Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik. Biography. 2015.

60. Hillbilly Elegy - J.D. Vance. Memoir. 2016.

61. The Maid's Version - Daniel Woodrell. Novel. 2013.

62. Meat: A Love Story - Susan Bourette. Nonfiction. 2008.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Newly Minted, Minty Fresh 2017 Resolutions

Already January 5!  Time to resolve!

The "I would like..." format for resolutions felt pretty good last year, so I'm going with that again:

I would like to read 55 books in 2017.

I would like to finish Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow in 2017. As of today, I'm 4% in.

I would like to read 3 Pulitzer Fiction novels.

I would like to continually have an audiobook on the go while I'm driving around.

(which leads to...)

I would like to listen to/read more audiobooks this year.

I would like to watch or listen to a bunch of musicals this year. Forget Top 40, forget country. Nothing satisfies like a musical.

I would like to read that new Eugene O'Neill biography.

I would like to read some Korean literature.

I would like to read The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford.

I would like to read Earth by Emile Zola.

I would like to read a Stewart O'Nan novel.

I would like the bulk of my reading to be 19th and 20th century books.


Well shoot. I had a feeling I wasn't done yet. Two more book wishes floated to the top today while I was walking. I've heard things like that can happen.

I would like to read The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy. Maybe an audiobook?

I would like to get back to that Vincent van Gogh biography I left off reading while on the subway back in 2013 or 2014.

Monday, January 02, 2017

A Look Back at Those Pesky Bibliolutions

I am amazed at how full of goodness and energy and plans I am at the beginning of the year. I'm just brimming with it. This year is no exception, but first, let's revisit that list so freshly and confidently baked at the  beginning of 2016:

I would like to read 85 books in 2016.
 I read 62.

Actually, I would like to read 99 books in 2016.
  Yeah? Well, too bad. 62.

I would like to read more audiobooks. I had a great time last summer when I went on that audiobook surge. Sunlight and walking and words in my ears. Yes, I would like that again.
  I audioed four books this year. Three out of the four were done while I was driving around. 

I would like to read Villette by Charlotte Bronte.
I tried from April to October to read this novel. I tried audiobooking and reading it on my Kindle. Either way, it was no damn good. I would like to never, never, never, never, never read Villette again. DNF and I don't care.

I would like to read Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky by Patrick Hamilton.
Read and enjoyed!

I would like to read more graphic novels.
I read 2.

I would like to complete my Pulitzer Fiction collection. Only ten to go!
I added one book, the newest, The Sympathizer to the collection.  Still ten to go.

I would like to read three novels in my Pulitzer Fiction collection.
I didn't read any Pulitzer fiction this year.

I would like to read the new Shirley Jackson biography when it's published.
I did this! I gobbled it like cake, like potato chips. I even read the end notes. All hail Shirley!

I would like to finish reading all of Stewart O'Nan's novels.
I read one, City of Secrets. Not my favorite of his novels, but still great writing.

I would like to have an even split of fiction/nonfiction. 
Not bad: 29 fiction and 33 nonfiction.

I would like to read that biography of Alexander Hamilton, then listen to the musical. Or vice-versa. Oh boy, did I complete this resolution! I went on an extreme Hamilton tear that lasted all summer and into the fall. One of the highlights of my year.

I would like to stick to the TBR Dare until April. Read my own damn books.
Ha! Maybe the second week in January. Maybe.

I would like to start the day with reading.
Sometimes reading wins. Sometimes sleep wins. Sometimes, I'm jerked into wakefulness by someone screaming: DEAR GOD, SUSAN! YOU LET THE POINSETTIA DIE!!! and I bang my head on the book(s) lying next to me.

I would like to end the day with reading.
  I'm having good luck with this.

I would like to have a certain time of day that is cordoned off from life and meant only for reading. Alas, this glittering place still exists only in my imagination.

Edited to add:  I would like to read The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles.
 Done! Enjoyed.

Okay, that's that! My newest set of yummy book resolutions are almost done and ready to come out of the oven. Can you smell something burning?

Sunday, January 01, 2017

In Which I Try to Remember What I Read in December

No, I'm kidding. My December reading was fantastic. Mostly.

1. Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsberg - Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik. (Nonfiction)  An energetic, ardent look at our second female (and first coolest!) United States Supreme Court justice. From the time RBG graduated from law school, (where she and the other female students were made to feel guilty for taking a spot that a male student could have had) she worked tirelessly to eliminate discrimination towards both women and men. As I read about her career, my admiration grew by leaps and bounds. Her lifelong romance with her husband and fellow lawyer, Marty, made me tear up. Her strong feelings about legal writing being crystal clear, her obsession with opera, her ability to do push-ups in her ninth decade had me completely in her thrall. When my son asked me to give him a list for my birthday/Christmas, I included a Notorious RBG t-shirt. And I got it! Great read. I'm not sure I absorbed all its goodness the first time, so I have plans for a reread.

2. Hillbilly Elegy - J.D. Vance. (Nonfiction, memoir)  Vance is a former Marine and a Yale Law School graduate and is light-years from his troubling upbringing in the Rust Belt. He grew up in a poor, depressed area and his mother had problems with drug abuse. After his parents divorced, his mother brought in several stepfather figures who didn't stick around long. His life seemed to be going down a similarly bad path until he moved in with his maternal grandmother. Vance often appears stunned that he made it out of that background, and rigorously examines not only his own experience, but the collective experience of the culture he refers to as hillbilly. The triangulation he uses to make sense of everything lifts this book beyond the standard memoir. I was totally engrossed and could not stop reading Hillbilly Elegy.  Highly recommended.

3. The Maid's Version - Daniel Woodrell. (Novel) After Hillbilly Elegy, I had a reading hangover that left me hungry for more stories of that kind, so I thought about rereading Winter's Bone as a complement, but instead settled on another Daniel Woodrell novel, The Maid's Version. This short novel, set in the late 1920s, packs a hell of a wallop.  It's both myth and mystery -- the story of a dance hall fire in a small Missouri town. The maid in the title is the narrator's grandmother, an old woman half-crazed by the death of her sister in that fire. All during a summer when the narrator visits her as a 12-year-old boy, she serves up southern cooking and seemingly unconnected vignettes. She's like the Ancient Mariner (floor-length gray hair instead of an albatross) with a whiff of Chaucer. The language is distinctly Ozarkian, but the early 20th century slang lends to that aura of myth. Woodrell is madly brilliant. He says more in a half of a page than many writers say in several chapters.  I'm so glad I finally read this book. I'm grateful to my reading buddy, Pablo, for introducing me to Woodrell's writing in the first place.

4. Meat: A Love Story - Susan Bourette. Bourette, a Canadian reporter, went undercover as a worker in a pork processing plant. After a couple of days of slicing hog cheeks, she understandably fled the job and intended to live out the rest of her days as a vegetarian. She lasted only a few weeks before stumbling into a diner and ordering everything meat on the menu. The rest of the book details her quest to find the perfect meat meal. Her travels take her to Alaska to hunt and eat whale, to a steakhouse in Texas, to an upscale butcher shop in New York City and game-hunting. All of her adventures were interesting, but her writing didn't draw me in very much. Her style seems perfunctory and as a reader, I felt at a cool arm's length. The subtitle, "A Love Story" implies more heat than is present. I really wanted to like this book more than I did.

The end of 2016 found me working on two books:

 The very long and involving Parade's End by Ford Madox Ford. This is actually an omnibus of four novels Ford wrote from 1924-28 about English society pre-, during, and post-WWI as observed through one character, Christopher Tietjens. I have a bit of a lovehate hatelove relationship with this book and often wonder what in God's name I've gotten myself into. Ford Madox Ford wrote in that modern stream-of-consciousness style, but he often seems uncomfortable and ham-handed with it. Or maybe it's me that's uncomfortable; I'm listening to the audiobook, and when Tietjens goes off on tangent after tangent, I'm worried that I'm going to lose the whole thread because I'm also concentrating on my driving. The narrator of the book, Steven Crossley, is wonderful and probably the force that keeps me going.

 Her Again, a biography about the early life and career of Meryl Streep.  What a pleasurable reading experience! I've followed her whole career, and I've always found her mesmerizing.  One of my fantasies is to have an uninterrupted week in which I watch or re-watch every Streep movie. If there were a Meryl Streep t-shirt, I'd wear it.

Next up:

I'll look back at what I read in 2016, revisit my biblio resolutions for that year then proceed to make new ones for 2017.