“If You Want to Know What a Man’s Like …

…look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.” Sirius Black said that in an attempt to explain why Crouch’s mistreatment of his house elf, Winky, might be a good peek into his character.  It came to mind recently when The Atlantic posted an interview with a janitor at Harvard.  While some people recognize that people are people no matter their job, others at the prestigious institution (and probably every other place where there is a paid cleaner) treat the janitor like a lesser person.  Read the full interview here for a good reminder that it takes all of us to make it happen. 


What Folks Were Reading the Year You Were Born

Good Housekeeping compiled a list of the most popular novels of the last 87 years.  It makes me wish I’d been born 10 years earlier so To Kill a Mockingbird would be my birth-year book.  Instead, I’ve got Love Story.  Really?  Sigh. 

If you want to find out yours, it takes a little patience to click through them, but it’s an interesting, informal survey of literature.


Marriage Has Never Been Easy

If your relationship sometimes feels hard, take heart.  It’s not just you.  Last month on Signature, Lisa Rosman compiled a list of 11 works of literature to prove that while today’s marriages may have more digital complications, marriage has always been hard.

Orpheus and Eurydice: Ovid, Metamorphoses; Virgil, The Georgics

The Tragedy of Macbeth by William Shakespeare

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

Too Far to Go: The Maples Stories by John Updike

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf by Edward Albee

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

The Shining by Stephen King

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood


Essays for Fall

Sometimes I enjoy reading collections of essays because they are easier to stop reading.  A chapter makes me want to read the next chapter (well, a good chapter does, anyway), and sometimes that can go on well into the wee hours.  An essay, on the other hand, is an independent thing. I can read one and feel satisfied. It is easier to turn off the light and hold the next essay as a treat for the next day because I haven’t left any characters frozen in time, unable to move until I return.  Signature Reads recently presented a list of 12 essay collections for fall reading.  If you enjoy essays, too, you might want to check them out.


Follow the Script

I admit to some misgivings over the fact that the latest edition to the Harry Potter world was a script, not an actual book.  I worried that it wouldn’t fly quite true.  I finally mustered up the courage to read it, though, and found my worries assuaged (well, mostly).  It’s true that I did miss the details of a full novel, but the script didn’t trip me up nearly as much as I expected it to.  I’m not saying I’d like to go out and read a whole mess of scripts, mind you, but it was a nice change of scenery.

If you are in the market for a whole mess of scripts, Matthew Love has some to recommend:


5 Reasons Writers Should Move to Ohio

Annie McGreevy, writing on LitHub, makes a pretty convincing case for why writers should move to Columbus, OH.  She cites 5 good reasons, but my favorite is #3:  There is just enough to do, but not too much.  Annie writes:

“I didn’t always love Columbus. In 2011, a group of writer friends and I were joking about the city’s campaign to come up with a new slogan. “Come Settle Here,” one suggested. “Columbus: Everything You Need and Nothing More,” another said. Now I think about that second one fondly.”

To read more about #3, as well as 1, 2, 4, and 5, click the link below. 


Hughes vs. Starbucks

Langston Hughes’ house in Harlem is unoccupied and has been for several years.  Real estate value in the area is skyrocketing, and locals note (some with hope, some with despair) that there’s now even aStarbucks in the neighborhood.  A Whole Foods is supposedly due in next.  Gentrification is happening fast, and Hughes’ house could be the next victim.

Renee wants to save the house and turn it into a commemorative space, a place where writers can give readings and people can remember.  She has gathered other artists and authors to found an Indiegogo campaign to turn Hughes’ home into an artist co-op. Who would you vote for: Starbucks or Hughes?



A Cold War Weapon

I never imagined that what I think is one of the coolest things out there was originally conceived as a weapon against communism in the Cold War.  I’ll give you some hints, and you can see how long it takes to figure it out.

  • It was signed into law on this day in 1961 by JFK.

  • It originally targeted developing countries in the hopes of reducing the allure of communism.

  • It is an “army” of volunteers.

  • Another word for “army” is “corps.”

  • The Peace Corps.

Still going strong today.  The Cold War, not so much.


Object Lessons Continued

I like the idea of Bloomsbury Publishing’s series called Object Lessons.  Here’s how Bloomsbury describes the series:

Object Lessons is a series of concise, collectable, beautifully designed books about the hidden lives of ordinary things. Each book starts from a specific inspiration: an historical event, a literary passage, a personal narrative, a technological innovation-and from that starting point explores the object of the title, gleaning a singular lesson or multiple lessons along the way. Featuring contributions from writers, artists, scholars, journalists, and others, the emphasis throughout is lucid writing, imagination, and brevity. Object Lessons paints a picture of the world around us, and tells the story of how we got here, one object at a time.


The titles for the 2017 Object Lessons, have just been released and include Traffic, High Heel, Tumor, Jet Lag, and Personal Stereo.  For a brief summary of each, thanks to our friends at LitHub, click here:


Paint Your Spot

There’s a school in Florida that allows seniors to paint their parking spots at the high school.  I love this.  I want to paint my driveway now, but my husband isn’t a fan of the idea.  I’ve decided to paint it virtually instead. It will say “You be you” because I say that about 15 times a day.  Next year, it might say something different, but for now, it’s you be you.  What would your spot say?


Attention, Dictionary Fans

Yes, there are such things as dictionary fans.  Some people love dictionaries, and I’m one of ‘em. It’s not all that often you hear dictionary news, but we’ve got some now.  The OED has just released its quarterly update and since this month marks the 100th anniversary of Roald Dahl’s birthday, the new additions include a few tips of the hat in his direction, i.e., splendiferous, human bean, and Dahlesque.

A couple of non-Dahl-isms include YOLO and yogalates.  Now that they’re in the OED, feel free to use them as you please.


For a complete list of the September update, click here:  http://public.oed.com/the-oed-today/recent-updates-to-the-oed/september-2016-update/new-words-list-september-2016/

A Good Hire

On this day in 1917, 23-year-old Aldous Huxley was hired as a schoolmaster at Eton.  Here are 3 fun facts about ol’ Aldous.

  1. He wrote his masterpiece, Brave New World, in 1932.  He wrote the book in just 4 months.

  2. He was a proponent for controlled use of psychedelic drugs to liberate the mind.  He wrote two books on the subject, one of which was called The Doors of Perception.  A slightly famous band took their name from that title:  The Doors.

  3. While at Eton, Aldous taught a young man named Eric Blair.  The world would later come to know Eric by his pen name, George Orwell.


20 Years Ago Today, a Woman Started a Book Club

Got any guesses who that woman was?


And while your own book club might not change the country’s attitude towards reading, Oprah’s did.  You book club might not make an author’s career, but Oprah’s does.  Your book club might use Oprah’s picks as things to avoid or as things to consider, but this is one time where someone with great power used it well.  Thanks, Oprah, for reminding us that reading something together and then talking about it together is good for us in all sorts of ways.

And YOU can read a book, and YOU can read a book, and YOU can read a book!


National Book Awards Longlist - Fiction

And there’s more…presenting the 10 books on the longlist for the National Book Award for Fiction:

  • Chris Bachelder, The Throwback Special (W. W. Norton & Company)

  • Garth Greenwell, What Belongs to You (Farrar, Straus and Giroux/Macmillan)

  • Adam Haslett, Imagine Me Gone (Little, Brown and Company/Hachette Book Group)

  • Paulette Jiles, News of the World (William Morrow/HarperCollinsPublishers)

  • Karan Mahajan, The Association of Small Bombs (Viking Books/Penguin Random House)

  • Elizabeth McKenzie, The Portable Veblen (Penguin Press/Penguin Random House)

  • Lydia Millet, Sweet Lamb of Heaven (W. W. Norton & Company)

  • Brad Watson, Miss Jane (W. W. Norton & Company)

  • Colson Whitehead, The Underground Railroad (Doubleday/Penguin Random House)

  • Jacqueline Woodson, Another Brooklyn (Amistad/HarperCollinsPublishers)

If you click through to this article in The New Yorker, you’ll also find links to the longlists for poetry and non-fiction at the bottom of it:



Behold – The Bullet Journal

I don’t know a whole lot of people who are totally satisfied with their method of organization.  Calendars, to-do-lists, agendas, post-it notes, apps, it seems to take a lot to keep us between the lines.  And even then, we swerve around a lot.  Here’s an interesting idea about how to stay organized:  a bullet journal.  It’s a way to document the past, organize the present, and plan for the future…all in one place.  The New York Times recently featured an article about bullet journals, and once I started googling it, I realized that it’s everywhere. It looks like one of those things that might take a little time, but once you get it set up and learn how it works, it could really make things easier.

Side Note:  If you do search around for it a bit, you’ll see that some people’s bullet journals are amazingly beautiful.  Stunning.  Works of art.  Listen, my non-creative friends:  That is optional.  It has to be.  If it’s required, there’s no way most people could be successful with this.  I choose to appreciate what others can do, but I just don’t have that in me.  I’m doing well to read my own handwriting these days.  If you choose to try a bullet journal, do it your way, and it will be beautiful no matter what because it will be what you need.  Zen on, bulleters.  You be you.


National Book Awards Longlist - Young People's Literature

Here it is, folks, hot off the press (sort of).  The 10 books on the longlist for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature follow:


Books to Look for in the Remainder of September

Ann Patchett, one of my favorite authors, has a new book out today:  Commonwealth.  I can’t wait to read it.  Here are a few more coming out during the rest of the month that you might want to check out:

Murder in the Bayou: Who Killed the Women Known As the Jeff Davis 8?, by Ethan Brown (Scribner, Sept. 16)

Ten Restaurants That Changed America, by Paul Freedman (Liveright, Sept. 20)

Reputations, by Juan Gabriel Vásquez, trans. Anne McLean (Riverhead, Sept. 20)

Blood at the Root: A Racial Cleansing in America, by Patrick Phillips (Norton, Sept. 20)

The Wonder, by Emma Donoghue (Little, Brown, Sept. 20)

Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life, by Ruth Franklin (Liveright, Sept. 27)

Those oughta keep you busy for a couple of weeks, right?


Basic Human Compassion

Basic Human Compassion

Yesterday, I wrote about basic competence.  Today, on this 15th anniversary of 9/11, I commend basic human compassion.  I heard a report on NPR about a new musical that opened a couple of nights ago called Come From Away.  It tells the story of what happened when 38 planes were unexpectedly grounded in Gander, Newfoundland as the air traffic controllers cleared the skies on September 11, 2001.  Suddenly, there were more than 6,000 unanticipated visitors in town with a population of not quite 12,000.  Basic human compassion was the theme of the day, and Gander just welcomed the travelers in.  Gander opened their homes to them.  They cooked food for them, they clothed them, they treated them like family.  It’s a little known story for now, but I have a feeling it’s about to be big time.  It’s good to see the good in things. It gives us hope and courage to do the same. 

To hear the full NPR story, click here:


To learn more about the musical, click here: