regression and dragons (this is not about math)

I tried really hard. When we went to the beach, I borrowed books from my sister instead of choosing from my own shelf, ensuring there was no way I would wind up taking nonfiction on vacation. But then I had trade credit from my favorite bookstore and I remembered I’d been wanting to read “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” since I read about it’s release in the NYTimes over a year ago. The Ben Franklin biography has been ongoing for many months; it’s great, just slow going and I only pick it up here and there. Then I got “The Healing of America“, which had been on my paperbackswap wishlist for a long time, and at the same time I was reading “The Greater Journey” because I like history and Paris…and you can see where this is going. Nonfiction has once again started consuming my life.

I keep rationalizing this slip, telling myself that it’s just a few, etc. etc. but the truth is 1) they’re really good books and 2) I’m totally going to compensate for it this fall when these books are released. Because the truth is I’m a huge nerd and I have been waiting for the next book (and in one case, the last book) in these series for a long time.

The last time one of the books in the Inheritance series was released, my sister and I were a few of the only attendees at a sparsely attended and pretty lame midnight release party. By “sparsely attended”, I mean it was us and a 10 year old kid who was accompanied by his mother. It was pretty great.

We’re planning on calling the Barnes & Noble where said release party took place to see if they’ll be hosting another one this time. Despite it’s lameness, I’m hoping they say yes. This is mainly because nothing is better about a midnight release than being the first people to get your book (yes, we definitely beat that 10 year old to the register). While it will never match the experience of the Harry Potter midnight release variety (unless that kid dresses up as a dragon this time, and I’m really hoping he does) it’s still pretty exciting.

In the mean time I will bury myself in nonfiction, hoping to have a fully geeked out experience in November. Fingers crossed on the midnight release.


summer reading blues

summer reading

One of my favorite things about summer is that there is (usually) more time for reading. Fun reading, not the overly-dry kind that seems to be preferred by graduate school professors. But this summer I am struggling. It took several episodes of me sitting on the floor, staring listlessly at my bookshelf to reach a diagnosis. Hi, my name is Kelly, and I have a nonfiction problem.

My bookshelf is covered in nonfiction. Books checked out lately from the library? All nonfiction. I’ve read books about food policy, which I consider one of my interests (see: nerd), until my eyes cross. I’ve read about the guy with only 100 possessions, the woman who quit her job with Martha to garden, and “Bossypants” because I’m obsessed with Tina Fey. The last book I finished was about the gay couple who left their lives in the city to start a farm in upstate New York (one half of the couple was Martha’s personal physician until the economy fell, so it seems that she has inadvertently become a theme in my summer reading).

It hasn’t always been this way. I have several fiction series on my shelves, and I love Harry Potter as much as the next person. But as far as new-to-me fiction goes, my bookshelf is seriously lacking. One of my problems is that a lot of the “best”, most critically acclaimed fiction books have sad endings or are just flat out depressing (here’s looking at you, Lovely Bones). I recognize that this sadness is sometimes a realistic reflection of life, I just don’t want to read about in my spare time.

I’m thinking about petitioning Amazon to add an “exclude sad endings” feature. Until then, recommendations are most welcome. In the meantime, I will spend the rest of the week re-reading the HP series, in preparation for this.

Picture: here, via Pinterest


crayons and other very exciting things

Practically every blog entry I’ve ever read on starting a blog says that one of the most important things is “regular entries.” At this I am failing miserably, mainly because my imagination is sporadic and I have started my internship for the summer. The job is great but consists of offices and meetings working on environmental legislation in a state whose political climate doesn’t really make that a productive line of work. 

Fighting this uphill but totally worthwhile battle (or rather, observing and tangentially participating, because I am just interning) is mentally exhausting and leaves me staring blankly at the computer screen in the evenings. I’m adjusting though, so hopefully soon I will be better at writing at regularly. In the mean time you can check out one of the more interesting highlights of my short interning tenure here, involving the NC House Majority Leader and American Idol. Always a good time. 

In other exciting news I saw Wilder Life author Wendy McClure speak last week (she was great) and while visiting home this weekend my mom found a pack of Crayola crayons from 1992 that had never been used. Very few things in life are as exciting as opening a box of new crayons, even if 9 years later the wrappers are crumbling and “chocolate” has developed a weird crystal covering (no big deal, I never used brown anyway). The important thing is that “cerulean” was still perfectly intact. We can all breathe a collective sigh of relief. 


ask and you shall receive

or, divine intervention regarding the butter churn. 

While wandering my favorite bookstore last weekend I came upon a flyer announcing that The Wilder Life author Wendy McClure will be visiting the store to speak about her book! Unfortunately the butter churn is at home and not at my apartment but I’m hoping that just mentioning that I have a butter churn will really help me stand out from the crowd. 


there is a butter churn in my room

I’m not sure whether to finish that title with a “!” or a “?”, but it’s true. In all fairness I was expecting it’s arrival, but it’s still a little strange. Let’s back up to the day my grandmother called because she had a butter churn, and it was an antique (to which I almost responded “duh” but that would’ve been mean) and did I want it? She said she was asking me because I sometimes like “things like that” (which is her way of acknowledging that I am weird but she accepts me). My mind immediately flashed to Little House on the Prairie daydreams because I loved those books and I wanted to make butter and be exactly like Laura, so of course a butter churn would be quite useful. 

Except that butter takes a really long time to churn, and would probably be messy, and I wasn’t ever going to churn butter anyway, so I’m staring at it wondering how this is going to go. And now I want to re-read all the Little House books, and this new book, The Wilder Life, where the author follows the Little House story and does practically everything they did, including churning butter. I need to track her down. Maybe we could be friends. 


disappointed

I know people don’t read blogs to be depressed. But today all I can think about is how the author of one of my favorite books apparently took some creative license with his supposedly non-fiction story. This is sad for so many reasons, including the damage done to honest people who worked with him both here and abroad. On a much more personal level, I feel betrayed; I choose my favorite books carefully and only recommend ones that I love. I have recommended this book to a lot of people (many of whom I’m sure will be glad that I’m finally shutting up about it). It may be naive but I inherently trust people who write books. I’m mad at Greg Mortenson both for stretching his story and for betraying this trust. 

On a lighter note, possibly, I am also disappointed in the direction The Office seems to be headed post-Steve Carell. It is a sad, sad day. 

So as not to end on such a dour note, a short of list of things that are making this a good week: spring, visitors, the 3 year old kid who just requested a “small cup of coffee dad me too!” at the coffee shop where I’m writing this, getting to meet my friend’s baby for the first time ever (first impressions are important, here’s hoping he likes me), the last day of classes, a new episode of Glee, and EARTH DAY!!!!! 


benjamin franklin love

I started reading a Benjamin Franklin biography last night until I looked up and realized it was 1 a.m. which was surprising to me because 1) that’s way past my usual bedtime and 2) I don’t usually find biographies that riveting. I picked Ben Franklin because he seems like a pretty interesting guy and also because I know relatively little about him. I blame this on my elementary school history classes which were big on Virginia’s native sons like Washington and Jefferson and not so much on anyone who did anything outside of the Commonwealth.

Whether it is a fair assessment of my history classes, I’m not sure, but my fuzzy memory seems to recall that the day Franklin was mentioned it was something like “kites, electricity, ok back to the Declaration of Independence, which wasn’t written in Virginia but should have been!”

Anyway I’m learning all sorts of cool things about Mr. Franklin and his family, including that his brother started the nation’s first independent newspaper. I felt consoled by the news that Franklin “excelled at writing but failed at math” (which I chose to interpret as “you too can be as successful as the most famous founding father never to become President!”) But my favorite was when I learned that Franklin adopted vegetarianism for a time (not at all a popular decision) so that he could save half the money his brother gave him for food and spend it on books.

It has always been a mystery to my home state’s elementary schoolers why Franklin’s face graces the $100 bill (he wasn’t even born in Virginia!) while Washington and Jefferson got stuck with the $1 and nickel, respectively.

After learning about the lengths he went to for books, however, I completely understand. And it has nothing to do with kites.