Thursday, July 11, 2019

On My Nightstand ~ June into July 2019

I like to have a lot of books from different genres going at one time, each genre lending itself to a different time of day.

Now that work is done for the season and I don't have to rush to get anywhere by 8 a.m., I'm enjoying a morning reading routine. First, I read the day's entry from's Naturally Curious Day By Day by Mary Holland, followed by a handful of poems. I'm still working my way through Balancing Act 2, an anthology of Maine women poets. If I have time to linger over breakfast or, even better, in bed, I read a little nature writing. Edwin Way Teale's North With the Spring has followed me into summer, and I'm still enjoying his apple blossoms and warblers.

If I have time to read during the day, usually at lunchtime or while kids are warming up for a soccer game or if I'm sitting in a waiting room, I often pick up nonfiction. This month I've been reading I Miss You When I Blink, a collection of essays by Mary Laura Philpott, which I learned about on the #amwriting podcast and discovered in the book store when I was wandering around with a coupon and no specific purchase in mind. I always enjoy collections like this that demostrate that your life doesn't have to be dramatic or traumatic in order to engender good nonfiction writing. Interestingly, the essays in the first half of the collection wander through a little of this, a little of that before finally coming to the crux of Philpott's story, which is that, in her early 40s, she found herself vaguely but distinctly unhappy, despite all the trappings of a good life.  It's a scenario a lot of women I know, including myself, have dealt with and are dealing with. A series of choices and lucky breaks that lead Philpott out of the doldrums and into a new city, a new job, and a more satisfying life made me kind of want to hate her, except that she's such an endearing narrator that's impossible. 

Reading nonfiction during the day makes me feel responsible, like I'm kind of working. If I want to be a rebel, I'll pick up fiction. My friend and grad school mentor Aaron Hamburger recently came out with a new book (more on that in a later post), and I realized I'd never read his previous novel. I have a bad habit of buying lots of books a readings and book signings and adding them to the "to-read" pile, where they get lost in the crowd. So before I went to the reading for Aaron's new book, I pulled out Faith for Beginners, a story that takes place during a Midwestern Jewish family's trip to Israel. The protagonists are the mother, Mrs. Michelson, and her younger son, Jeremy, a gay man in his early 20s who's experiencing a delayed adolescence. As the two of them make their way through the searing heat of Jerusalem, they are each forced to confront their personal shortcomings as they reach inside and find hidden strengths. It's a humorous, touching, and very human tale.

I'll usually read a chapter of either my nonficton or fiction book at bedtime, and then, before I go to sleep, I like to read a bit of murder mystery, suspense, or ghost story. My taste in this area tends toward the cozy and gothic. I eschew gratuitous and graphic violence. I need there to be a real who done it puzzle. I like suspense. I like informative. I like a bit of romance and a happy ending. Yes, I'm describing Elizabeth Peters/Barbara Michaels. But I branched out a little. My mom sent me Murder With Peacocks by Donna Andrews, a madcap murder mystery involving three weddings (the narrator is the maid of honor and chief cook and bottle washer for all three), a flock of peacocks, and several assorted bodies. It was an entertaining ride, though I don't think I did very well keeping track of all the aunts and uncles and cousins who made their way into the story. In early June, I attended a crime writing conference and came home with an armload of books by Maine authors. The first of these that I've read is Crime and Punctuation by Kaitlyn Dunnett, the first in the Deadly Edits series, which cracked me up, since I spent the winter as an editor/proofreader (and murder did cross my mind on occasion). This book falls into the cozy who-done-it category (complete with old house and cat), as the narrator, having returned to her hometown after retirement, tracks down the killer of one of her clients.

What's on your nightstand this month?

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