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I’m not old, and I’m not saying I am.  But I really don’t feel my age.  I have friends who are all different ages, including two who are still in their mid-20s.  I really do sometimes forget my age.  And then sometimes I’m reminded, and I have to laugh.

I have a 25-year-old friend who knows EVERYTHING.  He’s smart and makes good arguments.  So good, that I sometimes find myself wanting to believe what he’s saying, even when I know he’s not right.  As I listened to him say something the other day in that arrogant so-sure-I’m-right tone, I realized that I was listening to my 25 year-old-self.

I was really annoying.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m still a know-it-all.  But I’m able to keep my mouth firmly closed and my opinions to myself on occasion.  That’s what happens as you get older, I guess.  You learn that not every pearl of wisdom that enters your head needs to be shared with the world.

And that they’re not all pearls.

A long time ago, I remember reading that Dean Koontz hated some of his early novels and let them go out of print.  That he didn’t want them re-issued because he didn’t like them.  I thought he was crazy!  Why not let your early works be re-published?  If people want to read them, they can’t be bad.

With age comes wisdom.  I get it now.

I look at some of the stuff I wrote in my 20s and cringe.  I wasn’t a bad writer.  In fact, for school papers and stuff like that, I was way above average.  So much so that I thought my fiction writing must be exemplary as well.

It wasn’t.  At all.  Really.

I had an immature writing style, and yes, I have some things published online that I wish I could go back and edit, because they’re not as good as they could be.  But the thing is, that I believe that throughout our lives, we should constantly strive for improvement.  Perfection doesn’t exist, so all any of us can hope to do is be a little better today than we were yesterday.  As long as I’m striving for improvement, my writing will never be as good today as it will be tomorrow, and so on.  I can’t just keep going back and changing what I wrote; when would it end?

I enjoy writing.  Most of the time, it’s fun.  My goal is to keep it fresh and fun, and to write for myself first.  Maybe I won’t like what I wrote in the past; maybe I’ll see all the flaws.  But you know, I don’t think that matters.  Yeah, I was annoying at 25, but I wasn’t boring.  And as well all know, friends, boring is about the worst thing I can imagine being. I have great affection for my 25 year old self (even if I would sort of like to go back and slap her.)

So I’m older and wiser, and in another 10 years, I wonder what I’ll think of what I wrote today.

What I’m Reading

Olive Kitteredge by Elizabeth Strout– This book was chosen by a friend, and it’s an interesting premise… a novel told in short stories.  The novel is about Olive Kitteredge, but its sometimes told from other people’s points of view.  Sometimes the story is about someone else, and Olive only plays a small role.  As I read this book, I didn’t always like Olive, but I enjoyed getting a glimpse into different aspects of a complicated person.  It’s definitely worth borrowing.

Watchers by Dean Koontz-I’ve read this book so many times that I’ve lost count.  I discovered it when I was 12, and it’s been by favorite book ever since.  My relationship with this book has changed over the years.  When I was 12, I thought it was as perfect as a book could get, but as I’ve grown older (and maybe wiser), I’ve discovered that’s it’s not as perfect as I thought.  That’s okay; I love it unconditionally.  It’s like an old friend, and a visit with it never fails to cheer me up.  If you’ve never read this book, I absolutely recommend you remedy that ASAP.

Devoted in Death by JD Robb– This is book 41 of the In Death series.  First off, I’m in awe of Nora Roberts (JD Robb is her pseudonym for this series) for being able to write a 41 book series (and counting).  I love the characters, the romance, the crime drama.  It’s always fun and keeps me breathlessly turning pages.  Though all the In Death books are great, this is one of my favorites.

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante-  This book came highly recommended by friends in my book club.  They tend to like more literary fiction than I do, but it sounded interesting enough to try.  It took me a long time to get into.  It’s a book about two girls and their relationship from childhood until they’re about 17.  As with many works of more general fiction, I felt like nothing happened for a long time.  The language was beautiful and the characters were interesting, but I did find myself wondering when something interesting would happen.  After awhile though, I did get involved in the story of these girls’ lives, and I really enjoyed it.  I came into it knowing it was a series.  About halfway through, I didn’t think I’d bother with the other books, but now that I finished the first one, I have to read the others.

If you’ve read any of these, what did you think of them?

Version 2I have too many books.

I know, I know.  Can you have too many books?  No, probably not.

But there comes a time when you (I) can’t fit them on the bookshelves anymore and might actually have to buy another house, just for books.  (And I’m exaggerating, but wouldn’t that be awesome?)

A couple of years ago, I made a commitment to only buy books that I wanted to reread.  I read 80-100 books a year, and while many of those are “new” books (as in, new to me), many of them are rereads.  I stuck with that commitment for a year or two.  When I moved, I did really well at reading exclusively on my Kindle.

Now, I like my Kindle.  I like the convenience of it.  I like that it’s light, and that I only need one hand to “turn” a page.  I like that it lays flat so that I can put it down and read hands-free.  I also like having lots of books with me, but not having to carry the physical weight of real books.

However.

I really like highlighting and writing in books.

When I was a kid, I hated that.  Even when we were supposed to highlight, like in books for college, it drove me crazy.  It felt destructive.  Now, I think that books are improved by highlighting and writing.  I love when I go to the used bookstore and find a gem that’s been written in.  It ties me to whoever had that book before me, like that 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon game, except that I won’t know who had the book before me and I’m not famous.

Anyway.

When I read The Night Circus by Erin Morganstern, I really liked the book, but it jumps around in the timeline, going back and forth.  I read it on my Kindle, and it drove be crazy because it’s not easy to go back and glance at the chapter before to see “when” that one takes place.  I ended up buying the book twice because I want to reread it in physical form.  I feel like I missed things in my first reading because of the issues with timeline.

This is not the only book I’ve purchased twice for this reason.  Some books, I purchase multiple times on purpose.  I have three copies of Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen, including one on my Kindle.  Why?  I’ve read this book many, many times.  It’s one of my favorites, and I can pick up a copy, start reading anywhere and pass the time happily.

What about the library? you ask.

Another great question.

I love the library.  Love it.  My favorite use of the library is to read new books, during those times I can’t wait for the paperback.  Dean Koontz and JD Robb come to mind.

I discovered several great book series that way (Matched, Divergent, and The Mortal Instruments come to mind). However, when I realized I wanted to own two out of those three series, I put it off, feeling guilty about making the purchase.

And then one weekend (I’m a moody reader), I suddenly HAD TO read the Divergent series again.  No other book would do.  Because I developed this insatiable craving at night, I ended up purchasing the Kindle version.  Which was great, but I’m still going to purchase the physical book.

I read an article by a man who asked “What’s the point of reading a book that you don’t want to own?”

I don’t have to own every book I read.  I enjoy trashy romance novels at times, and I don’t feel the need to own every one I’ve ever read.  However, I do think there’s something to be said for owning books.  I get sentimental about my books, and I like to be able to browse my own shelves and come up with a book I’ve enjoyed.  Sometimes it’s nice to be able to look on the shelf for something I haven’t read before, and know that it’s there because I thought I’d like it.

So how about you?  Do you like to own your books or borrow them?

What I’m Reading

IMG_4271At the end of the year, I post a list of everything I read, but I think it would be far more fun (and potentially generate more dialog) to talk about what I’m reading a couple times a month.

So, here goes.  So far in January, I’ve read:

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill–  This is a ghost story, but a really, really cool ghost story.  It’s about a guy (Jude) who buys a ghost on an auction website.  It’s a horror story, of course, but what makes the story so interesting is that it’s about interesting people.   The author focuses on the characters’ reactions to what’s going on, and he does a great job of showing how relationships change under stress.  The ghost made it scary, but the ghost was integrated so seamlessly into the story, that I believed it could all happen.  This is one of the best (and most unique) ghost stories I’ve ever read.

In the Unlikely Event, by Judy Blume– I have fond memories of reading Judy Blume from my childhood.  Blubber and Are You There God?  It’s Me, Margaret were pretty much required reading for a girl growing up in the 80s.  I’ve read a few books as an adult, but they haven’t had the same magic.  In the Unlikely Event is based on something that happened in the author’s life, in which there were multiple plane crashes in her hometown in a two month period.  This book is about a group of characters and their lives.

My primary criticism of this book was that there were just far too many characters, and the book kept switching point of view.  I read it on my Kindle, and it was somewhat hard to keep track of everyone and how they were related.  I read it, I liked it, but I wouldn’t buy it.  If you like books about people and how they react to events, it’s a good book, but it’s definitely not at the top of my list.  I like books where I can connect with characters, and with this one, we went broad, but not deep.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen–  I’ve read this book 3,467 times before.  Okay, maybe not that many, but a lot.  It gets better every time.  Published in 1813 (200 years ago… yikes!), it’s about Elizabeth, a witty young woman, and Mr. Darcy, a proud and reserved man.  They have a series of run-ins and misunderstandings.  Throughout the book, they both mature and come to a better understanding about themselves and the price of making assumptions.

I read this one cover to cover about once a year, but I have paperback and Kindle copies of it, so sometimes, if I’m bored, I pick out my favorite passages and reread them.  I love the romance, the portrayal of the time period, and the language.  The language is beautiful without being overbearing.  Often, in literary fiction/ classics, the language becomes so “beautiful” that I have no idea what anyone’s saying.  Not so with this book.  If you’ve never read it, go out and buy it right now.

If you’ve read any of these books, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

FlowersOnLedgeThe death of Alan Rickman got me to thinking about stories, and how important they are, in so many ways, to us all.

Everyone loves a good story, whether it’s one that’s been written down, acted out, or told.  Stories are one of the oldest forms of entertainment.  They’re endlessly flexible, and though the core of them has never changed (good vs. evil, love, etc), the way they are told does reflect the times.  Fiction has a way of holding up a mirror to what’s important in society.

Alan Rickman was a wonderful actor who played a myriad of parts, though he’s perhaps best known for his villains.  His death has led others to speak out about what a wonderful man and friend he was as well, something I didn’t give much thought to before his death.  To me he was Snape, Hans Gruber, the Metatron, the Sherrif of Nottingham, and so many other characters.

That’s the power that stories have.  Stories transport us from our everyday lives, and have the ability to speak truths more profound than if they were plainly stated.  There’s a reason why artists of every kind are important to a society, and why the stories they tell, if told well, overshadow the writer, the actor, the teller.  The tale is what’s important, and if told well, becomes alive.

Pride and Prejudice was first published in 1813.  That’s over 200 years ago.  Yet there have been dozens of movie and TV adaptations of it.  Most recently, a parody novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies has been published and will be made into a movie.  The story takes the classic version and adds our currently cultural obsession.  There have been countless adaptations and spinoffs.  The story is timeless, and both Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy are characters with lives of their own.  They’re not just names on paper; they’re living, breathing, people.  They’ve lived 200 years, and it’s unlikely that they’ll ever die.

I expect that Harry Potter will be the same way.  In our movie age, though, it’s likely that the books and the movies will always be merged, to an extent.  Who can picture Severus Snape without picturing Alan Rickman?  I can’t.  Will Alan Rickman still be Professor Snape 200 years from now?  Only time will tell, of course, but I’d like to believe that even if the movies are redone decades from now with fresh faces, Alan Rickman will always be the Snape that others are measured against.

There’s nothing I love better than a good story.  I want to be transported to different times and places.  I want to live inside someone else’s head for a little while, see through their eyes.  I love to talk to others about their stories, or the stories they love, or the stories they don’t love, and why.

I don’t want to hear about the weather; I want to hear about how the sun baked your skin, why you use sunblock (or don’t), what you think about vampires, and about whether or not you dance in the rain.

I don’t want to watch you use your cell phone while we’re at dinner; I want to hear about the last really great meal you had, whether or not you think you should have dessert first (because life’s short), whether or not you think that cell phones are secretly used by the government to listen to me talk about the weather, and how you use your phone to stay in touch with the people who are most important to you.

In other words, I’d rather hear you say something absurd than something mundane.  We’re all so in the habit of having safe conversations that we don’t say the really interesting things we’re thinking.  I’m wondering if people even have interesting thoughts anymore, or if cat videos are the current highlight of human insight.

Smile at me.  Say something absurd.  Tell me a story.

 

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Haters Gonna Hate– My thoughts on people meeting negativity with negativity.

I Bet 99% of You Won’t Repost This– This was actually published in 2014, but was my second most popular post of 2015.  Apparently I’m not the only one fed up with the new version of the chain letter.

But What If There Are Bad People– I don’t want to be controlled by fear, and I encourage you to think critically about how you let fear influence your decisions.

J is for Journals–  All about how I love journals but until recently, didn’t really write in them.

Q is for Quotes–  A few of my favorite quotes.

Walking Down Memory Lane– Reading my old diaries and thinking about the lost art of letter writing.

The Horrific, Awful, Rotten Truth About Being Fat– Being fat is not the worst thing a person can be.  Get over it.

I’m Fat… Now What?– How to deal with being body image in a superficial world.

Friday Writing Prompt: Nostalgia– This is apparently a popular post from way back in 2012.  I have no idea why this was popular in 2015… but it was.

These books are in the order I read them, not necessarily in the order of their wonderfulness or anything like that.  I liked them all for different reasons, and though I’d recommend all of them, not all of them will make it to my mental “all time favorites” list.

  1.  The Night Circus, by Erin Morganstern  My book club chose this one. I hadn’t heard of it before they picked it, but it sounded interesting.  I have to say that the book jacket description didn’t do it justice, because it’s so many different things.  It’s a fantasy novel, an adventure novel, and a romance.  It’s about relationships and the real meaning of family.  It’s about the power of love.  I do love books set against interesting backgrounds, and this one, with its circus setting, is described so vividly that I had no trouble picturing it, even though I’m not really a visual thinker.  The book is not told sequentially, however, and I read it on my Kindle, which actually did take away from the book somewhat.  I’d recommend reading a paper book to better keep track of the timeline.  It always helps me to be able to flip backward and forward.  I bought the paper novel, and it’s on my re-read list.  I look forward to getting out my highlighter.
  2. Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes (also the sequel, After You)  This was another book chosen by my book club and I loved it so much that I read it twice back to back.  I seriously thought about reading it a third time.  It’s hard to explain why I liked this book without giving away spoilers, so forgive me if I’m vague.  I found this book thought provoking, entertaining, sad, and beautiful.  The main character, Louisa, is who she is.  She doesn’t give much thought to her life.  She’s vibrant and likes to dress in weird clothing.  She doesn’t really fit into her small town, but never gives it much thought.  It’s just how life is for her.  When she’s hired to help care for Will, a man who became quadriplegic in an accident, she starts to think more critically about her life and ask questions about what she really wants.  It deals with an issue I’m very interested in philosophically, and I believe deals with all sides of the issue, and does so sensitively.
  3. A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving  A friend of mine recommended this novel, saying that John Irving is one of her favorite authors.  I was intrigued by the premise of the novel, and the way it started off drew me right in.  The book follows the narrator and Owen Meany.  It meanders, feeling like a path through the woods.  Sometimes I could almost glimpse my destination, and other times, I had no idea where I was going.  The book didn’t exactly get boring, but there were times where I wanted to ask “are we there yet?”  I read a little, put it down, read a little more, put it back down.  Once I got to the last 100 pages though, I threatened to murder my husband if he talked to me.  The meandering journey became a frenetic race through those proverbial woods, crashing into branches and getting scratched by thorns.  It was well-worth the trip.  I will probably re-read this one at some point, but I’m not sure when.  It’s a very long book (over 600 pages), but worth it.
  4. There Will Be Lies, Nick Lake  I found this book on the rack at the library, and picked it up based on the title.  When I read the back, I was intrigued enough to give it a try.  This is one of those books that I’m jealous that I didn’t think of first (I don’t aspire to write something like Owen Meany).  This book is like a modern fairy tale.  Shelby is hit by a car, and after that, goes on a journey with her mother, fleeing things that Shelby doesn’t understand.  She goes back and forth between the real world and a dream world, where Coyote tells her that she must complete tasks to prevent the world from ending.  It’s a book full of surprises and twists, but they felt natural, not like the author was saying, “Haha, fooled you!”  It was easy to read, perfect for a weekend or vacation.
  5. Traveling to Infinity: My Life With Stephen, Jane Hawking  I’m not usually one for memoirs, but Stephen Hawking is a genuinely interesting guy.  I like smart people with a sense of humor, and he’s always seemed like someone who doesn’t take himself too seriously. When I heard about this book, I realized that I’d never given much thought to his wife, and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one.  Jane Hawking tells her story, and it’s done with humor and love, but doesn’t pull any punches on how difficult things were for her, living with someone both brilliant and disabled.  It was a wonderful memoir, and made me want to read more about both of them, and their lives together and separate.  It also reaffirmed my belief that anything is possible, as he’s 73, and doctors predicted that he wouldn’t live past 30.  He communicates by way of a device controlled by a cheek muscle, and has made huge contributions to science.  What excuses can I possibly make for anything?
  6. The Silver Linings Playbook, Matthew Quick  I saw the movie first, and I don’t remember what drew me to the movie, but I really enjoyed it.  I love stories with flawed main characters, and Tiffany and Pat, with their mental health issues, were flawed and brave.  The book is significantly different than the movie.  The characters are the same, but some of the events have been changed, and the supporting characters are different.  I liked both and recommend both.
  7. Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel  This was another book club choice.  It started off right before a flu wiped out most of the world’s population, with unconnected people who made a brief connection before the end of the world.  The book follows Kirsten and the group of entertainers she travels with.  There’s also a comic book Kirsten considers her most prized possession that has a bigger meaning in the context of the story.  Very interesting and original, a different perspective on post-apocalyptic stories.
  8. Americanah, Chimamanda Negozi Adichie  This is the fourth book club pick on the list.  Considering that I only read seven books recommended by my club, I’d say they do a pretty good job with the books they pick.  This is why I just go with the flow.  In any case, I got completely sucked into this book from the start.  It’s about Ifemelu, a young African woman who moves to the US and becomes a blogger about race.  The book talks about racism without being about race.  It’s about people, and how those people fit in to the world around them.  I liked Ifemelu, and enjoyed walking with her for a little while, through the pages of this book.  She’d be the type of friend who would help me grow: honest, blunt, uncompromising.  She’d make me uncomfortable, but I’d never be bored.
  9. Ready, Player One, Ernest Cline  On the surface, this book is a fantasy novel about a competition to find Easter Eggs in a huge online video game world.  It can be read that way, and it would probably still be a pretty good book if you did.  Under the surface though, it’s about friendship, growth, and figuring out what’s really important.  Wade is a young man who doesn’t fit in anywhere, not in real life, or in the virtual one.  He ends up taking on a major corporation that’s part of the race to find the Easter Eggs, and learns how strong he can be, and how much he’s willing to risk for what’s really important to him.
  10. Same Kind of Different as Me, Ron Hall & Denver Moore  I found this on the discount rack at Half Price Books.  It was sitting there, marked $2, and the title was interesting enough to catch my eye.  I’ve found that books on that rack aren’t always the bad ones.  Often times, someone just bought too many of them, and they need to get rid of some stock.  So I read the back, and it sounded interesting, and then I read the first page, and it sounded even more interesting.  Even then, it might have sat on my shelf for a long time, unread, except that some friends and I started a game.  We have to read a book we already own and pass it around, then talk about it.  It’s a different twist on a book club.  I didn’t realize this was a memoir until after I started reading it.  It’s about a poor black man from the South who ends up homeless, a rich white couple, and how their lives intersect and ultimately become intertwined.  It’s very much a story of faith and gratitude, though it avoids being preachy.  I felt uplifted and moved after reading this book.  Many books inspire emotional reactions, but this one made me feel connected with powers greater than myself.

So that’s it, the best books I read in 2015.  If you’ve read any of these, I’d love to know what you thought of them (even if you hated them).  I’m eager to find out what wonderful books I get to read in the coming year.

 

What I Read in 2015

I started reading 102 books this year, and completed 98 of them.  I abandoned one book this year and didn’t complete three others (though I’m working on them).  I completed reading 69 new books this year, and three of them were from the list of classics I’m working through.  I liked most of the books I read this year.

In past years, what I’ve read has skewed more heavily toward romance.  Because I’m working on being a more critical reader (and hopefully a better writer), I started taking a closer look at what I enjoy about the books I read.

I realized that in general, I enjoy romance novels, but I don’t love them.  Reading romance novels is like eating potato chips.  I can go through them quickly, and they kind of taste good, but after while, it becomes mindless consumption.

My favorite books are the ones that make me think, surprise me, and take me on a journey I haven’t been on before.  I enjoy highlighting passages of beautiful language, thoughtful observations, and philosophical musings.  I like books that are hard to put down because I don’t know exactly where they’re going, and I’m enjoying the ride too much to get off, even if it makes me a little dizzy.

That being said, I don’t want to wade through thoughtful observations so deep that the plot gets lost.  I think it’s more difficult to weave that kind of thing into an intriguing plot than it would be to just write a book full of purple prose.

Knowing what I know about what I like to read, I’m going to treat romance novels like sweet tooth cravings.  There’s nothing wrong with satisfying it once in awhile, curling up on a rainy Saturday and racing through an easy book, but my challenge to myself this year is to choose more books that I’m really going to like, to make my reading life more interesting and enjoyable.  I want to read the types of books I’d like to write.  Maybe that will help me figure out what works and what doesn’t.  If nothing else, I’m sure I’ll learn a few things through observation.

*This is a book I’ve read before.
+This is a book I didn’t finish.
x Recommended by my book club.
# From classics list
= audiobook

1. X The Night Circus, by Erin Morganstern (12/30/14- 1/2/15)
2. A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, David Foster Wallace (1/3/15-not completed)
3. The Curvy, Not So Skinny Girls Dating Agency, Ava Catori (1/5/15- 1/6)
4. If I Stay, Gayle Forman (1/14/15)
5. Where She Went, Gayle Forman (1/15/15)
6. X Me Before You, JoJo Moyes (1/16/15)
7. *Me Before You, JoJo Moyes (1/24/15- 1/26)
8. Paper Towns, John Green (1/27/15- 1/28)
9. # A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving (1/29- 2/8)
10. Dark Witch, Nora Roberts (2/12- 2/13)
11. Graveminder, Melissa Marr (2/13- 2/16)
12. Shadow Spell, Nora Roberts (2/17- 2/19)
13. *Treachery in Death (#32), JD Robb (2/20- 2/22)
14. Concealed in Death (#38), JD Robb (2/22-2/24)
15. Stories from the Open Range, Anne Proulx (2/25-not completed)
16. Blood Magick, Nora Roberts (2/26- 2/27)
17. x+The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt (3/1-abandoned)
18. Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser (3/11-not completed)
19. The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels, A Love Story, Ree Drummond (3/11)
20. Every You, Every Me, David Levithan (3/17)
21. Boy, Snow, Bird, Helen Oyeyemi (3/18-3/23)
22. Every Day, David Levithan (3/24)
23. Let It Snow, John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle (3/25)
24. There Will Be Lies, Nick Lake (3/28- 3/30)
25. *The Baby-Sitters Club, Book 1, Kristy’s Big Idea, Ann M. Martin (4/2)
26. You Are Destined To Be Together Forever, Dean Koontz (4/3)
27. *The Baby-Sitters Club, Book 2, Claudia and The Phantom Phone Calls, Ann M. Martin (4/5)
28. *The Baby-Sitters Club, Book 3, The Truth About Stacey, Ann M. Martin (4/5)
29. *The Baby-Sitters Club, Book 4, Maryanne Saves the Day, Ann M. Martin (4/5)
30. Boy Meets Boy, David Levithan (4/6)
31. Unite Me (Destroy Me & Fracture Me), Tahereh Mafi (4/10- 4/24)
32. Traveling to Infinity: My Life With Stephen, Jane Hawking (4/10- 4/14)
33. *The Fault in Our Stars, John Green (4/15)
34. The Silver Linings Playbook, Matthew Quick (4/18)
35. *Firestarter, Stephen King, (4/24- 4/26)
36. When Beauty Tamed the Beast, Eloisa James (4/28-4/29)
37. The Neighbor, Dean Koontz, (5/3)
38. The City, Dean Koontz, (5/3- 5/8)
39. Obsession in Death (#40), JD Robb (5/9- 5/10)
40. *The Language of Flowers, Vanessa Diffenbaugh, (5/12- 5/14)
41. x Tender is the Night, F. Scott Fitzgerald (5/15- 5/31)
42. Those Who Live Long Forgotten (6/1- 6/20)
43. Festive in Death, JD Robb (#39) (6/3-6/4)
44. *Naked in Death, JD Robb (#1) (6/4)
45. *Glory in Death, JD Robb (#2) (6/5)
46. *Immortal in Death, JD Robb (#3) (6/6-6/7)
47. *Rapture in Death, JD Robb (#4) (6/8- 6/9)
48. *Ceremony in Death (#5) (6/9- 6/10)
49. The New World, Eli Horowitz & Chris Adrian (6/11- 6/12)
50. #Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck (6/1- 6/13)
51. *Vengence in Death (#6), JD Robb (6/12- 6/13)
52. *Holiday in Death (#7), JD Robb (6/13- 6/14)
53. *Conspiracy in Death (#8), JD Robb (6/14- 6/15)
54. x Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins (6/16- 6/19)
54. *Witness in Death (#10), JD Robb (6/19-6/20)
55. *Judgement in Death (#11), JD Robb (6/20-6/21)
56. *Betrayal in Death (#12), JD Robb (6/21- 6/23)
57. *Seduction in Death (#13), JD Robb (6/23- 6/24
58. *Reunion in Death, (#14), JD Robb (6/24- 6/25)
59. *Purity in Death (#15), JD Robb (6/25- 6/26)
60. *Portrait in Death (#16), JD Robb (6/26- 6/27)
61. +The Truth About Mr. Darcy, Susan Adriani (6/30-
62. *Loyalty in Death (#9), JD Robb (7/6- 7/7)
63. How Not to Write a Novel, Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman (7/10- 7/13)
64. *Imitation in Death (#17), JD Robb (7/14)
65. Don’t Stay Up Late, RL Stine (7/15)
66. 21 Proms, (7/16- 8/16)
67. A Certain Light, Garth Stein (7/21- 7/27)
68. The 100-Year-Old-Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, Jonas Jonasson(7/29- 8/4)
69. Siri & Me: A Modern Love Story, David Milgrim (7/30)
70. Forever, Chanda Hahn (8/7- 8/8)
71. Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel, (8/9- 8/11)
72. The Fine Art of Pretending, Rachel Harris (8/12- 8/14)
73. Unpublished manuscript of my critique partner (8/17- 8/21)
74. The Love Book, Rachel Harris (8/21- 8/25)
75. The Darkest Part of the Forest, Rachel Harris (8/27)
76. Grey, EL James (8/27- 9/4)
77. x# To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee (9/5)
78. The Giver, Lois Lowry (9/10- 9/11)
79. Tuck Everlasting, Natalie Babbit (9/13)
80. The Martian, Andy Weir (9/14- 9/15)
81. It, Stephen King (9/17- 12/10)
82. Between the Lines, Jodi Picoult & Samantha Van Leer (9/20- 9/21)
83. Which Brings Me To You, Steve Almond & Julianna Baggott (10/8- 10/11)
84. The Seventh Tower, Book 1, The Fall, Garth Nix (10/12)
85. The Seventh Tower, Book 2, Castle, Garth Nix (10/13)
86. The Seventh Tower, Book 3, Aenir, Garth Nix (10/14)
87. The Seventh Tower, Book 4, Above the Veil, Garth Nix (10/14- 10/15)
88. The Seventh Tower, Book 5, Into Battle, Garth Nix (10/15- 10/16)
89. The Seventh Tower, Book 6, The Violet Keystone, Garth Nix (10/16)
90. Hanover House, Brenda Novak (10/19- 10/20)
91. *Out of the Shadows, Kay Hooper (10/22)
92. Off the Page, Jodi Picoult & Samantha Van Leer (10/31- 11/1)
93. Modern Romance, Aziz Ansari (11/2- 11/10)
94. Carter & Lovecraft, Jonathan L. Howard (11/4- 11/5)
95. After You, Jojo Moynes (11/7- 11/8)
96. *If I Stay, Gayle Forman (11/9)
97. *Where She Went, Gayle Forman (11/12)
98. x Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (11/17- 11/26)
99. A Certain Slant of Light, Laura Whitcomb (11/29- 12/1)
100. Ready, Player One, Ernest Cline (12/14- 12/17)
101. =* Life Expectancy, Dean Koontz (12/15- 12/31)
102. Same Kind of Different as Me, Ron Hall & Denver Moore (12/21/15- 12/23/15)

I like to read genre fiction.

There, I said it.

In fairness, this is what I prefer to write too.  I like interesting, multi-layered stories.  I don’t like fiction I have to decode.  I don’t like fiction without plot, or even worse, a plot that ends up going nowhere.

I read a few “difficult” books at the urging of a friend, specifically The Crying Lot of 49 by Thomas Pynchon and The Broom of the System by David Foster Wallace.  Both of those books took me far longer to get through than anything else I read.  It felt like work to get through them, and not satisfying work either.  Work that ended up being ultimately unrewarding.

Some people really enjoy working their way through a book and finding satire or some deep message.  I don’t.  In fact, I don’t feel smarter after reading books like that.  I don’t feel dumber either; I just feel like I wasted my time.  Perhaps I just don’t like it when I feel like language is being used to obscure rather than enlighten.  I’ve enjoyed reading many of “the classics,” but most of those books were meant to be read by a lot of people.

I enjoy reading some types of difficult books.  Books with rich language, layered narratives, and lots of characters.  I don’t mind when a book takes me a long time to get through, as long as I feel like it was worth the effort by the end.  (A Prayer for Owen Meany springs to mind.)

As I’ve gained more life experience, met more people, seen events and had adventures, I’ve grown to enjoy different books.  While I still love genre fiction, I also enjoy more classics.  I’m glad I tried those other books, and that I was open enough to read books recommended by a friend, even though I didn’t think I’d like them.  I was right, but I think it’s better to try something and not like it, than to be unwilling to try it at all.

What do you think about trying books that you don’t think you’ll like?

I love to write, and I primarily write fiction because that’s what I enjoy reading.  I enjoy reading and writing stories.

Often in writing, we talk about plot driven fiction and character driven fiction.  Plot driven fiction is the type that’s focused on action and lots of stuff happening.  Character driven fiction is more about the characters in the world.

I’m more interested in character driven fiction.  That’s what I like to read, and that’s what I like to write.  I became a therapist because I’m interested in people.  I want to hear their stories and learn why they think and feel the way they do.

When I talk about social issues, it’s because I’m interested in the people having the issues, not the groups.  I care about the story of one homeless man, and the story of the refugee mother.

I’m intensely interested in people, especially those who can’t (or won’t) speak for themselves.  We have a lot of people who don’t have a voice, or who’s voice isn’t heard over the cacophony of social media.

When I write fiction, I write for entertainment first.  But a lot of my characters do struggle with other issues.  I think that the most interesting characters are ones who’ve triumphed over something.

It is really, really easy to believe the worst about someone based on what you assume.  It’s only when you sit down and listen to their stories that they become more sympathetic, and ultimately, more human.

That’s why I talk about social issues sometimes.  I care about the humans who get lost in the crowd.  I don’t want to tell anyone how to think, and I’m fine if people disagree with me.  I just want to offer up a different point of view, speak for the voiceless.

I’m no expert on politics or religion or other social issues.  I am, however, a sympathetic person who is good at caring about others.  I’m a work in progress who wants to be a little better every day.  I’m a writer who loves to be entertained, but also wants to remember that people matter.  Words matter.  If nothing else, try to make yours a little kinder today.

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