Tag Archives: reading

15 in 15

This blog thing is kinda funny.

Inspired by some of our 5-10-15-20 lists, Lisa wrote this piece for our education newsletter blog.   In the comments, someone posted a link to THIS blog exercise which, in turn, inspired me to write the entry you’re now reading.

Since many of you have posted about reading lately, I thought I’d take the challenge, so here goes:

The rules are simple—think of 15 books in no more than 15 minutes.  The titles don’t have to be cool or influential, just books that stick with you.

Here’s my list (posted in the order in which I thought of them):

  1. Crashing Through by Robert Kurson
    I read this one on vacation two years ago and I’m hoping to read it again this summer.   It’s the story of a blind man who gets his vision back, but it’s soooo much more than that. It’s about courage and commitment and a live-life-to-the-fullest philosophy we can all learn from.   Utterly fascinating! Read my review, which was originally posted on mySpace.
  2. Ishmael by Daniel Quinn
    When forced to pick one favorite book, I always list Ishmael. It was assigned reading in a sociology class in college and I immediately fell in love with its approachable themes of sustainability, responsibility, and the questioning of “facts.”   As I’ve become more educated on many of the issues illustrated in the book, I can understand why some people criticize it for being too simplistic, but it got me “hooked,” so it will always be one of my favorites.
  3. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
    Before I read Ishmael this would’ve been my “favorite book.”  I borrowed a copy from Mr. Kleiss’ classroom library in 5th grade and never returned it!   From the first sentence to “stay gold, Ponyboy” this book has a permanent place in my heart.
  4. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon
    We read this in book club and I remember liking it. It’s different. It’s quirky.   I usually like books where I learn about something outside of my realm of experience and this kicked off my fascination with Asbergers Syndrome.
  5. Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
    I read this during my “books that were made into movies” stage and then I read a bunch of other Michael Crichton books soon after.  It has stuck with me after all of these years SIMPLY because there are a couple of scenes in the movie that make a lot more sense after you’ve read the book.  Of course, I don’t remember details now, but one of them has to do with dinosaur dung.
  6. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
    I’ve probably read this book 3 or 4 times for school.  Any time we could pick our own book for independent reading or for literature circles, I picked this one because a) I’d already read it and b) it’s really, really short.   Steinbeck is a great writer, but at the time I was impressed with his conciseness more for my own good than for its literary merit!
  7. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
    Around the time Scarlett came out (the Gone with the Wind sequel, Google tells me it was 1992. I was 13), my mom had hardcover copies of both of the books in our house.  I was impressed by the length of the book (“It’s bigger than the dictionary, Mom!”) and decided to read it one summer.  I remember laying out in our backyard for HOURS devouring the tale of Rhett and Scarlett and wishing I lived in the South.   It was YEARS before I saw the movie and although I appreciated the whole making-a-dress-from-curtains thing, it wasn’t nearly as good as I’d hoped.
  8. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
    I don’t remember much about the plot of this anymore, but I remember loving the book when I was younger.  And I’m sure it has helped shape my current obsession with Lost and all it’s time-travel loops.   Time for a re-read on this one as well.
  9. Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
    I jumped on the HP train kinda late. I refused to read them when they first became popular simply because they were popular.   Then I took a trip to visit my grandma.  Was reading the books and had the first 3 in paperback by the bed in the spare room. I couldn’t sleep and didn’t have anything to read, so I opened up the first one and was immediately enchanted.   I made it almost halfway through the first book that night and she let me borrow the other ones.    The next day was September 11, 2001.   During the days that followed, I watched the news like everyone else, but I’d spend my nights reading about Harry and Hogwarts.  Perfect escapism.
  10. Lamb by Christopher Moore
    I love Christopher Moore’s books.  The first one I read was about the grim reaper.  This one is a fictionalized story of Biff, Jesus’s best friend. It’s funny (and not quite as sacriligious as it sounds).  Moore’s books are great vacation/easy reads.
  11. Same Kind of Different as Me by Ron Hall, Denver Moore, and Lyn Vincent
    This book was given to me as a gift and even though the gift-giver described it as “kind of spiritual” I read it anyway. (I don’t usually go for “spiritual,” but I almost always feel obligated to read things people give me.)   I’m so glad I did.  It’s the story of a homeless man and an upper-crust art dealer who become friends.  But, more importantly, it’s a story about love and sacrifice and just being a good person.  I read the ending on a plane and couldn’t keep the tears from rolling down my face.  I highly recommend it.
  12. Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
    I’m not sure how or why I started reading Anne Rice.  I’m not especially interested in vampires and I never was much of a “horror” reader, so maybe it was the Brad Pitt/Tom Cruise movie that encouraged me to read the book.   I loved it!  And I quickly devoured more of the books in the Vampire Chronicles series.  They are MUCH better than that *other* vampire series.
  13. The Family Nobody Wanted by Helen Doss
    This was my mom’s favorite book growing up.  We had an old, tattered hardcover copy at our house, the kind with the cloth cover (you know… it wasn’t slick and shiny like hardcovers are today.)   I remember picking it up because I needed something to read, but I have NO CLUE how old I was.   It’s the story of a couple who adopt a bunch of “unadoptable” kids– racially and ethnically diverse kids who “nobody wanted.”   Another for the re-read list as I wonder how well it would hold up today.
  14. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
    Like just about every kid I know, my first introduction to poetry was through Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends and A Light in the Attic, but the book that actually sticks with me is The Giving Tree. My aunt Linda gave me this story about a boy and his unusual relationship with a tree when I was fairly young, and that book has followed me to college, to internships, to various apartments/houses, and now it has a place on my bookshelf at work.  It’s cheesy and sentimental, but–at it’s heart– has a good message of friendship and of, well, giving.
  15. Scruples by Judith Kranz
    This is by far the most random book on the list. I remember buying a box of books at a garage sale when I was in 7th or 8th grade.  My cousin and I “shared” the box and sifted through it to find something to read.  We landed on this story of a woman who does something in the fashion business.  I’m not a huge fan of romance novels, but I REALLY liked this one.   We both read the book and would take turns looking for the “good parts.”   This may have been a precursor to my short-lived fascination with Jackie Collins!


So, there you have it:  15 books in 15 mins (although it took considerably longer to write this post!).  Quick– can you think of 15 books that have stuck with you over the years??

And, yes, I plan on reading Jane Austen now.  You’ve all convinced me!! :)


About Twilight…

I’ve been sick.  Stupid stomach flu has kept me inside for the last 3 days and I’m going crazy.  This afternoon was the first time I even felt good enough to get online, if that tells you anything.   I watched MOST of the Oscars and took notes but haven’t had a chance to search for/upload pix.  If you’re still interested in my post-Oscar fashion re-cap, let me now. Otherwise I’ll skip it this year.

On to Twilight–    Because I had 3 days of nothing to do and TV made me nauseous, I managed to finish the Twilight series.   I have to say that, as a whole, I was disappointed.   I kinda thought it was a little hokey after the first book, but I promised myself I’d reserve judgement until the end.    And, you know what?  I honestly don’t see what all the hype was about.

Yes, I can see why teenage girls like it.  Yes, it’s easy to read.  Yes, I found myself wanting to know how it all turned out in the end.

But, the problem is:  I really didn’t CARE about any of the characters.  Well, maybe Charlie.  But the rest of them were just prototypes–  The awkward, misfit, “She doesn’t know she’s beautiful”  duckling that turns into a SWAN (Get it?  Bella Swan?  Real subtle),  her dashing “prince” Edward (who is way cuter in the book than in the movie posters I’ve seen btw), with amazing self control, the tortured “best friend” Jacob who just loves Bella more than life itself… yada, yada, yada.  

I also had a problem with the storyline.  Although I did wonder how Stephanie Meyer would tie everything up in the end, there was never any doubt that she would  tie everything up… in a nice, little, no-real-harm-done-here little bow.  It was so simplistic that I was surprised it took 4 books and over 2500 pages to tell the story.   And NONE of it was new– vampires vs. werewolves, shape shifters, vampire “law,” immortal children. I’ve seen it all before, and it’s not like I’m a huge vampire fanatic (although I have read some Anne Rice and I do enjoy the TV show True Blood).

I think the thing that bugged me the most about these books is the fanfare.  These books have been billed as  “the next Harry Potter.”  I think that’s a huge insult to Harry Potter and JK Rowling.    Don’t get me wrong… I wanted to get swept up in Twilight mania. I wanted to find something as lasting and as magical as Harry Potter.  But this, my friends,  just ain’t it.  

The Harry Potter world is true fantasy– filled with all kinds of magical people, places, and things.  This world is our world– filled with people (and vampires and werewolves) that are pretty much just like us.  And I realize that the “realness” of the world is part of the appeal… part of the fantasy that this could REALLY happen, but it also takes away some of the richness and depth.  

For me, these books are more like the “next Sweet Valley High;” fun to read, entertaining, but utterly forgettable.  I know many of you disagree, so please feel free to tell me why you liked the books.   ‘Cuz I honestly don’t see what all the fuss is about.

I Was Told There’d Be Cake

I just finished I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley.  It’s a collection of essays from a single girl in New York who is almost exactly my age.

Usually, these kinds of books annoy me.  They’re either really vapid and self-indulgent (“Look at me… I spent my rent money on $800 shoes!”) or focus WAY too much on the sexual escapades of being single in New York (call it the Carrie Bradshaw effect.)   And they always make me feel worse about myself.

Luckily, this wasn’t one of those books.

Granted, Crosley’s career in publishing is a bit different than mine. Her volunteer experience is at the Museum of Natural History and not the Champaign County Humane Society, but there’s enough shared experiences to make this a delightful read.  

It made me think of a Steinbeck quote* I once read:

We are lonesome animals.
We spend our life trying to be less lonesome.
One of our ancient methods is to tell a story
begging the listener to say
–and to feel–
‘Yes, that’s the way it is,
or at least that’s the way I feel it.
You’re not as alone as you thought.

— John Steinbeck

With anecdotes about playing Oregon Trail, drinking Zima and wishing her parents had moved her to Australia,  Crosley successfully delivers a plenty of laugh-out-loud “hey–me, too!” moments.  

And she does it without being intimidating or condescending.  Yes, she works and lives in New York City. And, yes, she went to an Ivy League school.  But it’s her average, everyday (and hilarious) stories that really resonate with me, that make me want to say, “Yes, that’s the way it is.”


*I had to Google to verify that this was, in fact, a Steinbeck quote.  I discovered that it’s part of a longer quote on the relationship between writers and readers.  It’s interesting, but I like the shorter version better.


This month’s book club selection was Bottlemania: How Water Went on Sale and Why We Bought It by Elizabeth Royte. In the spirit of books like Fast Food Nation, Royte seeks to educate (scare?) us by peeling back the curtain to look at ins and outs of the water industry, specifically as it relates to bottled water.

She frames her argument by focusing on a seemingly small local issue in a town near Portland, Maine. The pond on Howard Dearborn’s property is losing water and he thinks it’s due to over-pumping by Poland Springs, one of Nestle many brands. It’s a classic struggle between small town America and a multi-national corporation.   (Apparently Nestle is the largest food company in the world–who knew?)

By looking at the issues surrounding this case, Royce tells a compelling story about water use and policy in America. From pumping and bottling to purifying and delivering water to our taps, she presents complex scientific and legal information in terms that even I can understand. 

I generally like books that make me think and that help me understand things in different ways.  Although I had some slight issues with some of the writing and the arguments, I can definitely recommend this book. 

Among the things I learned are

  • There is no easy answer.  Bottled water isn’t inherently evil, but it’s not that good, either.  Yes, it’s expensive and it causes a lot of waste.  But more than that, the proliferation of bottled water is undermining our trust in public water systems.  The less we trust public supplies, the less likely they are to be maintained.  
  • On an even deeper level, Royte argues that clean, drinkable water is a human right… not a commodity to be bought and sold by the powerful elite.  By increasing our dependence on bottled water, we are denying that right to those people (the young, the old, the sick) who are at risk.
  • Simply drinking tap water might not be the answer, either.  She does a great job of explaining how water is processed and the steps it takes to get from your local aquifer (or lake, or river) to your faucet.
  • The safety of our water supply is connected to so many things.  In addition to a basic human need, water is used in manufacturing, in food production, in beer(!).  Ensuring a usable water supply is just as important–if not more so– than other conservation/environmental issues.

In the end, the book left me feeling much more informed.  It also left me feeling a little hopeless.  I’m fine with tap water.  I have a jug of it in my fridge at all times and try to avoid bottled water as much as possible.   But I’m not sure where to go from there. 

Luckily, there’s a page of water links on the web site for the book.  If you’re interested in learning more, pick up the book or check out some of the links.

The Mayor’s Tongue

I finally finished reading The Mayor’s Tongue by Nathaniel Rich (no relation). I originally picked it up as a suggestion for our book club.  We chose a different title, but I was so intrigued by this one that I decided to read it anyway.

The book is certainly well-written.  It’s a little more fanciful that I had anticipated, but it’s fast-paced and compelling. The characters are colorful and likeable, and the plot is engaging.   It reminds me of Big Fish, Pan’s Labyrinth, Field of Dreams, The Truman Show and The Neverending Story all rolled into one.   As much as I adore all of those films, however,  I still haven’t decided whether or not I actually like this book.

This is where having a group of people to discuss the book with would come in handy.  For me, a good book club title is one where the book lends itself to discussion and interpretation.  This book certainly fits the bill.  I’m interested to know how other people experienced the plot “twist” and whether or not they felt it was too derivative.  Plus, there are a couple parts I simply do not understand, and I need someone to help me clarify.

All in all, I’d say it was an enjoyable read, but not nearly as earth-shattering or progressive as some of the blurbs and reviews lead me to believe.  Maybe I’m missing something.  Or maybe blurbs just can’t be trusted!

For Reals

We’ve established that I’m horrible at blogging. In an effort to get better, here are some random happenings:

  • Some bratty kid kicked my dog at the pet store the other day.  Just walked right up and kicked her.  Then the parents SORTA said “sorry” before picking up the kid, hugging her and telling her it was okay.  Um, no… it’s NOT OK!  As my friend said: “that’s how serial killers start.”
  • I’m thinking about getting a bike.  There’s a local bike co-op. I think I’ll go tomorrow and see about getting a bike.  I want to bike for a number of reasons:  exercise, transportation, saving the environment.  Those are good enough reasons, dontcha think?
  • We’re learning to write for the web at work.  I’m trying to use the tools to start an intra-staff blog. We’ll see what happens.  It’s amazing how little people know about this crazy new internet thing.  Even the developers.  Weird.
  • I’m hating that WordPress took away the “insert image” link.  Now I have to add it as “media”?  WTF?  I liked it better when I could just steal from someone else.  I guess that’s the point, huh?
  • I finished a book this month.   Which doesn’t sound like it should be THAT big of an accomplishment, but I’m still reading On the Road from May.  Just can’t get into it. I really want to like it.  It’s got sex.  It’s got drugs.  It’s got counter-culture.  But I’m just not as into it as I want to be. 
  • I’m also reading a book about Web 2.0 (or Web Twenty as the cool kids are calling it).  Very interesting.  I’ll post a review when I’m done.

Five Finger Discount

My blog stats have been WAY up the last few days so I was trying to think of something to write to keep up the momentum. For inspiration, I used my trusty friend the tag surfer and happened upon this blog and decided to do my own version. Maybe I’ll be inspired to write something more “meaty” later, but I wouldn’t count on it.

5 things in my bag

(yes, more than 5, but I’m not exactly a ‘rule follower’ am I?)

The bag– a fake Gucci I got at a purse party a couple months ago and have been carrying ever since. I love it. It’s deep red/almost burgundy and fits a lot of shit (as you’ll soon see)


The Contents:

Since this is the “5 item game” I’ll just point out the highlights:

1) Cigarettes-– I haven’t been smoking much lately but on my way out of town I bought a pack. In the spirit of honesty, I left those in, although I am NOT proud of it!

2) A Lint Roller— No matter what, I’m *always* finding lint, fuzz, dog hair, etc. on my pants, so I’ve been carrying it around with me

3) My camera— You can’t see it in the picture (because, duh, it was taking the picture), but I almost always have my digital camera on me in case a photo op arises.

4) Various lipglosses/chap stick. There are a total of 7 lip products in my bag. SEVEN! Seriously.

5) Random papers— including a written warning for speeding that I got back in July. I was using the back of it for my to-do list

5 favorite things in my room

I honestly don’t have a lot of fun stuff in my room, but here’s what I came up with

1) This great necklace I’ve been wearing everywhere. It came from Silpada or Lia Sophia or something but it’s exactly the right length and it’s a little quirkier than the rest of my jewelry

2) My “Wall of Shoes”-– I especially like the black Nine West’s, but they’ve seen better days!

3) My Old Crow and I Heart New York stickers— they usually live on my mirror, but I put them on the dresser for better a better pic

4) My “piggy bank”— It’s actually an old milk bottle, but I love it. I’ve had it since I was a kid!

5) Gap Messenger Bag— I got this in college and I’ve carried it EVERYWHERE– to school, to work, on vacation. Its an all purpose bag. I think I paid $10 for it!

5 things I’m currently into:

1) Reading— I’ve always been a reader, but right now I’m on one of my reading “spurts”

2) Kelly Green and Lemon Yellow— I’m kinda transitioning from the green to yellow, but couldn’t find a good yellow object to photograph

3) Self-Reflection: This is a poster I made a while ago about “who I am,” but I feel I’ve grown since then

4) This awesome weather— It has been SO NICE here the last couple of days. I’m finally able to wear my sunglasses!

5) Handlebars by the Flobots. I can’t get enough of this song!

flobots video

5 things I’ve always wanted to do

1) Go skiing. I’ve tried to water ski w/no luck and I’ve NEVER been snow skiing

2) Join the Peace Corps

3) Get paid to write

4) Be a man for a day

5) Be famous