Bookends: March 2017


One of the things I love about Massachusetts.

My time in central Massachusetts, experiencing the discourtesy people here call “direct,” has been six years of cultural fatigue. There are things that I love about the area, but the people are consistently prickly. Yes, people can be impolite anywhere and in a surprising variety of ways, but most places I’ve lived and visited, the rudeness has been shocking in part because it happened so infrequently. In Massachusetts, discourteousness is like an element: living here, we swim in rudeness, whether we participate in it or not.

Late in March, my family spent a week in California. From the moment we landed, the difference was obvious. Sure, we lost thirty minutes in the rental car place because the guys working there were inept, but at least they were friendly. Everywhere we went, people smiled, they were cordial, they spoke kindly to one another. I felt little to none of the social anxiety that clings to me in Massachusetts. For the first time in ages, I felt like I could exhale.

Going to San Diego was like jumping from a polluted river into one that ran with fresh, clean water; coming back has been the opposite experience. Just this morning I observed a cashier and her customer openly ridicule another customer for thinking the cashier had given her a friendly look. “She thought since you looked nicely at her that meant it was her turn!” said the first customer, and she and the cashier brayed together as the second customer apologized and got back into line. If the three had been friends, I could understand it as rough but good-natured joshing, but I saw nothing to indicate that these people knew each other.

On the plus side, this kind of interaction makes travel even more appealing. Time to put our passports to work.

Aside from this unpleasant but not unexpected welcome back, March has been wonderful. Not only did I spend a week in a place that felt like home, but I got a lot of reading done, and I’ve had the pleasure of watching my children write and illustrate their own books and stories.

My seven-year-old has moved from filling journals with his stories to typing them out on legal-sized paper on the Smith Corona my dad used in graduate school in the early 1980’s. My son will kneel on a chair at the dining room table, typing for hours and yelling at anyone who tries to interrupt him for something as trivial as dinner or bedtime. All he needs now is a bottle of scotch, an overflowing ashtray, and a fedora.

Something to look forward to: Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon is April 29! I’m especially excited because this time around, a goal of the readathon is to raise money for Room to Read, a non-profit focusing on literacy and girls’ education across Africa and Asia. To learn more about this part of the readathon and to donate, visit the Dewey’s Room to Read campaign page.

Reading through the night won’t be happening for me on April 29, but I plan to clear my schedule at least for the daylight hours. If I take part, I’ll post about it here and on Instagram.

Until my children finish their masterpieces, I’ve had to content myself with what’s already on the shelves. Here’s some of what I finished reading in March:

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Bookends: February 2017

Well, what do you know? It’s March. I’ve been so distracted by the crazy rollercoaster weather here in New England the past couple of weeks and so consumed with the books I’ve been binge-reading in March so far that I totally spaced on doing the February Bookends.

Here are the titles I finished reading in February:

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Bookends: January 2017

January was a very good month to immerse oneself in fiction. To do this, one needed only turn on the news, but, always one to choose the path that’s less likely to give me palpitations even if it requires a little more effort and better lighting, I opted to immerse myself in novels and short stories.

Towards the end of the month, I participated in the 24 in 48 Readathon. It was my first time with this particular readathon, and it only bolstered my burgeoning love of the “athon” philosophy of reading. Binge-reading generally seems more of an antisocial escape than a social activity, but with the magic of the Internet, it can be both. What a world we live in.

Here’s is the list of titles into which I escaped in January:

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January 2017 24 in 48 Wrap-Up Post

Well, the 2017 24 in 48 Readathon, January edition, has come and gone.

I’ll use the official 24in48 closing survey as a guide for my wrap-up:

How many books did you read? Pages?

I finished two books, The Graveyard Apartment by Mariko Koike (325 pages) and Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes (436 pages). I also read about ten pages of Edith Pearlman’s Honeydew, so my page total is about 771. And I listened to a little less than an hour of As You Wish by Cary Elwes while I took a constitutional, but I’m not going to attempt to convert that to pages read.

How many hours did you read?

I didn’t keep close track, but I estimate about twelve hours total, maybe fourteen. Some stuff came up that kind of derailed my reading plans (real life is always trying to push into my reading time), so I didn’t spend as may hours reading as I would have preferred.

What do you think worked well in this readathon?

I like the surveys, and I like the 24-in-48 format. I liked reading about the challenges, although I didn’t keep up with them myself.

What do you think could be done to improve the readathon for next time?

Couldn’t say. I didn’t follow the challenges or the social media presence all that well, but I think that’s my thing, not something anyone else needs to improve.

Will you participate in a future 24in48 readathon?

Absolutely. Anything to give me an excuse to bury myself in books for a weekend.

The 24 in 48 Readathon!

While friends march with thousands of others around the world, I’m reading. It’s not as extroverted an activity, but it’s subversive in its own quiet way, I suppose.

This is not my first readathon, but it’s my first time doing the 24 in 48 Readathon. I’ve done Dewey’s twice, and trying to read for twenty-four hours straight is awesome but especially challenging for someone with two kids and four decades and a desire to nurture her love for literature, not flog it to death. Reading for twenty-four hours within a forty-eight-hour spread is much more doable (and pleasant!). Not that I’m keeping track of how much time I spend reading, or at least not with any precision. But it’s a fun way to continue recovering from the cold my children shared with me and it gives me a chance to clean out the leftovers from the fridge.

This year, I chose a bunch of scary books. I generally don’t have trouble staying awake when I’m reading, but these should keep me from nodding off, if I start to fade in the wee hours or in an afternoon slump.


(Okay, so that bottom book, Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven by Susan Jane Gilman isn’t scary unless you fear travel memoirs, but the other ones should qualify as “scary.”)

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Bookends: November 2016

Between the cold weather and the relentless holiday cheer, this is the time of year when I just want to curl up with a stack of books and ignore the world. And that’s pretty much what I’ve been doing this month. It’s really helped me avoid buying holiday cards and putting together our yearly photo book. I’ve been making photo books each year since 2005, and while I like having the books to look through and I like that the grandparents appreciate the books, I’m not all that enthusiastic about actually making the books. And this year it’s even worse because with our weekly hikes there are so many pictures to sort through.

With that kind of task looming over me, I derive even more pleasure than usual from retreating into books and sorting my book lists on Goodreads and LibraryThing. I’m a little surprised at just how happy all of this reading and bookish re-organization has made me, but I’m not sure how healthy this happiness is. With my books, I’m fiercely giddy, like a food-aggressive labrador. Only I guess I’m a book-aggressive Charity. Either way, tread with care.

In other news, I would love your suggestions on some books. I’m on a quest for well written, literary horror that I have to read in bed because after closing the book I get too scared to walk through the house with the lights off.

Books I’ve found that are like what I’m looking for are Marisha Pessl’s Night Film, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, and several books by Neil Gaiman (including The Ocean at the End of the LaneCoraline, The Graveyard Book). Bonus points if it’s literary horror by a woman author. None of the books I read this month fit all of these criteria, although Tananarive Due’s The Good House was close. The books already on my list are near the bottom of this post and in my “scary” shelf on Goodreads.

So, let me know your suggestions, and in the meantime, here’s what my family has been afraid to stop me from reading this month:

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Bookends: October 2016

I’m typing this from the stairs that overlook our front door, interrupted every few minutes by children dressed in costumes I can’t identify and begging for candy. Actually, it’s less begging and more demanding, and when I offer them the candy bowl, they empty a quarter of it with two handfuls. If the candy is going to last, I’m going to have to start handing it to them myself. Although if I let them take it all right away, I can turn off the porch light and ignore the door for the rest of the night. What a tempting idea…

These kids and their Halloween. They don’t seem to realize that last weekend was the real holiday: Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon! Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas pale in comparison, and now that Dewey’s has been and gone, there’s nothing to look forward to until the next readathon in April. (Well, except maybe for this in January.)

I’ve read online about people who give books to trick-or-treaters. It’s an interesting idea, but I wouldn’t want to hand out picture books or middle-grade lit. No, this would be my chance to make a difference in the world outside my household by handing out titles like What Are People For? by Wendell Berry, Voluntary Simplicity by Duane Elgin, Living More With Less by Doris Jantzen Longacre, and How to Live Well Without Owning a Car by Chris Balish. Or I could get into the Halloween spirit and share Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House or Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist. I’d bet their parents would really appreciate my promoting a love of reading in their children.

At any rate, here’s what I read (or stopped reading) this month before I devoted myself to being an active Halloween Scrooge:

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October 2016 Readathon Wrap-Up

Well, I’ve finished my second readathon, and it was everything I expected it to be and more.

I learned so many things. Here are some of them:

•Audiobooks are my friend.

I took two one-hour walks yesterday. They really helped both my mood and my body, and because I had my audiobook, I was still making progress on my reading goals.

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Readathon Hour #5 1/2 Check-In

Coming up for air after several hours of bookish fun!

When I got my hair cut yesterday, the hairdresser asked if I had any exciting plans for the weekend.

I answered enthusiastically that I was going to have the house to myself and read for twenty-four hours.

“That sounds great!” The exclamation mark in her voice was so unexpected, I wondered if it was sincere or if she would have responded the same way if I’d said I was going to be working on a mosaic made entirely from the legs of insects or that I was excited to start my study-at-home chimney sweep course. “Is it for a cause or anything, or just for fun?” she asked.

“Oh, just for fun,” I answered, trying not to sound sheepish. I’d only had very fleeting thoughts of using the readathon as a way to raise money for a cause, and her question reminded me of what an indulgent weekend I’d planned for myself.

I’ve mostly brushed it aside, though, in the excitement of reading all day! I refuse to even feel nerdy about it because it’s just so awesome!

An Early Start: October 21

I found myself with some time Friday afternoon and evening and was craving something kind of scary, so I started the readathon early with Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane on audio. I’ll write up a thorough review after the readathon, but for now I’ll just say that although the choice was semi-accidental (the other audio books I’d planned to check out for the readathon had already been checked out), it was absolutely perfect for my mood, the weather, and my circumstances Friday evening. And it gave me a chance to get food prepped for the main event!

The Real Readathon: October 22




I started the day with a ten-page sprint through all of my readathon books. I got the idea from the Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon site. Basically, I read the first ten pages of every readathon book. The sprint led to three realizations:

  1. I’ve picked some awesome books for the readathon.
  2. I picked too many awesome books for the readathon.
  3. I read about one page per minute (at least when I’m doing a ten-page-per-book sprint).

After the sprint (and the kale salad).

After the sprint, I decided to focus on Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante and In the Woods by Tana French for my paper books, and Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch for my audiobook (it’s 32 hours long, though, so unless I find a way to stretch time, I won’t be finishing that one before 8am tomorrow).

Snacks: Kale salad with tahini dressing and 32 ounces of water.


Listened to The Goldfinch while I took a long walk then ate lunch and did some chores around the house (put out the new door mats, noticed that we really need our gutters cleaned, wiped down the bathrooms).

Lunch: leftover vegetable stir fry, a brown rice tortilla, chocolate-covered frozen banana slices, and a handful of roasted squash seeds.


Read twenty-odd pages of Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay.


Blog update!

Other notes:

-This morning I decided on a whim not to turn on any lights today. This works fine except in the kitchen, which is in the middle of the house and far enough away from windows that detail work is a little difficult. I use an oil lamp in there and imagine I’m on the Hempstock’s farm.

-I’m making updates in my newly-started bullet journal, but they’re not nearly as cute as other people’s bullet journal updates, so I won’t be posting any photos of my bullet journal unless I feel inspired to bust out the colored pencils and cuten things up next time I’ve got the audiobook going.

-I sense that I’m getting a little restless, so I might seek a change of venue soon. I was going to walk to the library, but walking 2 1/2 miles to the library in the rain sounds only slightly more appealing than walking 2 1/2 miles back home in the rain. So if the rain keeps up, maybe I’ll seek out another reading nook under my own roof.


My primary reading area, complete with cat.

Okay, off to visit a few other readathoner’s blogs, and I just realized I’ve not yet had any coffee so I’m going to go make some coffee, and then hit the books again.

Woo-hoo! Readathon!

Readathon Preparations

With today’s trip to the library, my Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon pile is ready for Saturday!


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