Kate's Queen City Notes

Blundering through Cincinnati, laughing all the way

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100 Books While 40: The Phantom Tollbooth

Title: The Phantom Tollbooth
Author: Norton Juster
Published: 1961

The world is full of beautiful, unexpected things, but they can only be seen by those who are looking. Everyday the sun rises and sets and dusts the sky with blues, purples, and oranges. And each season bestows these daily displays with subtle changes.

It’s the easiest thing to mortgage the current moment in favor for some distant future or to mourn what has passed and fail to enjoy the present. It requires effort to be here now.

Milo is awakened to a world of possibilities when a tollbooth turns up and opens him to wonder and curiosity. And every day we can make this choice. We don’t need a tollbooth.

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100 Books While 40: The Shining

Title: The Shining
Author: Stephen King
Published: 1977

I love a good story teller. And Stephen King is exactly that. Seeing this book on the list was like seeing water in the desert, because this book was sandwiched between Silent Spring and The Autobiography of Malcolm X. You know, a little light reading.

Every childhood home is capable of generating emotions and thoughts from those who came to know the world in it. The high school football stadium brings the warmth of past successes or the bitterness of past failures. Places have power and character. We know it in our lives and in our fiction. In Sex And The City New York is just as much a character as Carry Bradshaw.

This is one of Stephen King’s powers as an author. He’s capable of reaching into the places we cannot put words and tell us something of ourselves. In this case, we all respond to inanimate objects like old friends or terrible enemies.

The Overlook housed every kind of excess. All the people who have been blessed with money only to learn that real human connection remains beyond dollars and cents. And the location’s disease leech into all who inhabit it, including the young family that minds the grounds over the winter.


I loved Kubrick’s take on this book. I was surprised by deviations that Kubrick made from the book. The creepy little girls beckoning to Danny were all of Kubrick’s invention. And all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy was Kubrick’s addition. As much as I enjoyed the book, I am convinced that Kubrick felt the sinister soul of this story more than the author himself.

Read the book. Watch the movie. Both or either.

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100 Books While 40: Blog Bankrupcy

In the last four weeks I have moved across the country, collected and constructed all new furniture, survived eight days in Cuba, and taken over a failing project at work. I’ve managed to keep meditating, studying Spanish, and enjoying myself through it all. I haven’t managed to keep up with writing. At all.

I’ve finished The Corrections, A Wrinkle in Time, The Invisible Man, and Bel Canto. I’ve not written about any of them. And after a week of fresh hell in Cuba, I have thousands of words that could be written just about that experience. Plus, there are a whole host of bands that I could be researching in preparation for Bunbury.

I am declaring blog bankruptcy on the blogs that should be written about those books. The Corrections captured the desperation of the suburbs and the sickness that can be passed between dysfunctional family generations with jarring clarity. If there are only enough spare minutes for one book, The Corrections is that book. With that mile-wide brush stroke, I can attempt to capture Cuba with words.



1984 or 2016?

War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength – 1984 George Orwell

Permanent war as a means to distract the populace from their own dire economic situation? Hey war on terror, I see you over there. Pervasive surveillance of most human interaction? Ah, yes warrant-less wiretapping. Manipulating language to obscure the truth? This is in essence Reagan admitting to his role in the Iran-Contra scandal. Try to find it in there… go on…

Orwell suggests that a lack of privacy and choice equal a lack of freedom. The word freedom is thrown around in our politicians’ speeches and our media. Typically it is either in a self-congratulatory manner or as a trigger for fear mongering (Obama’s taking our guns!). But if freedom is choice, I would argue most of us don’t have it. And with warrant-less wire tapping and drones, I think it obvious we lost privacy years back.

Every day in America everyone who isn’t rich or on state assistance is waking, commuting, working, commuting, consuming and sleeping. The exact hours allocated to each of these activities varies, but the general structure is true for almost all of us. Is that what freedom looks like? I know almost no one who enjoys their commute. But they need the job, because they need a roof over their heads and thus need the commute.

I think it apt to replace freedom with consumer choice. Because that’s actually what we have. We get to choose if a Jeep better represents us or a Dodge. We get to choose if we like Tide better than Gain. We choose to watch (consume) Mad Men or Breaking Bad, The Ravens or The Bengals. It’s these trivial things that we’ve mistaken for freedom.

And as we zombie-walk to the 2016 elections, I reflect yet again on choice, or in this instance the illusion of choice. The media will do it’s best to ratchet up the drama as though who we elect has dramatic consequences. But what will most likely be true is as follows:

  • Both nominees will support using most of our discretionary budget for defense
  • Both nominees will change little to nothing about our general monetary policy
    • More trickle down economics
    • Continued absurd reliance on wall street AKA giant casino
    • Continued trade policy that favors exports expanding the collapse of the middle class
  • Continued monetary support for Israel
  • Continued drone strikes where ever the war on terror is deemed on any given day
  • No one will touch the trusts that exist in multiple American markets (Telecom companies, the constantly merging insurance companies, and the to-big-to-fail banks)

That list above effects every American in multiple ways. Trade policy to a large degree determines the availability of decent-paying unskilled jobs. For those of us who manage to have a retirement fund, wall street bankers are currently gambling with them. Shoving most of our discretionary spending to defense takes money away from other things, like you know, fixing our crumbling infrastructure, supporting colleges, and keeping track of what ever the fuck they were doing at the EPA office in Flint. But… go ahead and tell me again how the gays (the whole whopping 5% of the population we command) getting married is destroying everyone’s life. And quite literally, this will/is one of the things the media will go hysterical over.

Orwell botched this part. He suggests that Big Brother is able to achieve complete control of Oceana via socialism. Big Brother crucifies the capitalists, and the society that enabled them to live off the labor of the rest of the population. Orwell was so close to the real truth, which is that power only seeks to further itself and will do so regardless of the prevailing economic system. This is why 1984 will be relevant well into the future.


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100 Books While 40: Starting with a Bang

I was hoping that the wild swings between intense joy and crushing despair would be a memory of 2015. No such luck. My dad has been in the ICU for the last four weeks in Cleveland after having what I will nickname a heart tune-up. This has resulted in a series of flights, airports, and gracious humans letting me surf their couches and crash their guest rooms.

I feel as though Frontier and I have an intimate relationship, and like a good john I have come up with cash to deepen our connection. The travel and schedule inconsistencies have done their worst on my physical and emotional health, but have given me ample time to tear into the new book list. Powered by sleepless nights and lots of hours spent bedside, I sped through four books in a matter of a week and a half.

I put down Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret. by Judy Blume (1970), A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ismael Beah (2007), A Series of Unfortunate Events #1: The Bad Beginning: The Short-Lived Edition by Lemony Snicket (1999), and Born To Run – A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall (2009). In the interests of not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good I am going to breeze through my thoughts of these books. Never fear, I am reading 1984. That book will require a novella blog entry and should be coming up in the next week or so.

Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret. was among the best tween books I’ve read. As regular readers will know, I rage that most books aimed at little girls put the search for a boyfriend at the center of the plot. While this book has a minor subplot regarding a special boy, the two main plot lines tackle religion and the commencement of lady parts doing as they do to create babies. I can’t say I enjoyed the book in the sense that I am long past twelve. But I appreciate the challenging topics explored.

Lest I forget that I am a whiny rich white person, reading A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier reminded me. This book is devastating. It at once makes me feel disgust at the things that I take for granted, and our incredibly myopic foreign policy. The book is about boys 11, 12, and 13 who are taught to kill and maim their fellow villiagers. But more broadly, the book describes how easily we can cease to see each other as people. Empathy and kindness are at any given moment and in any country just a few unfortunate events away from annihilation.

A Series of Unfortunate Events #1: The Bad Beginning: The Short-Lived Edition was at a disadvantage coming on the heels of tween boys learning to burn their countrymen alive. The characters are cute. The plot is cute. Read this to your kids or some such. Do not read this as an adult.

Born To Run – A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen had loads of interesting information in it. It almost makes up for the extremely long book vacillating between a jocular Maxim article and science journal in terms of tone. Almost.

The book is about running. The focus is on our misconceptions about the sport from proper footware to evolutionary history suggesting us all natural marathon contenders. Specifically, running shoes create injuries, and we beat out the stronger, perhaps smarter neanderthals thanks to our wheels. Since I trained for The Flying Pig Marathon barefoot, I found most of the book relevant to my own experiences even while wincing at the acrobatics needed to keep a Maxim reader reading beyond one sentence.

Whew. 1984 here I come.

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Correcting for Mistakes 2016

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you know that I read the BBC’s best 100 books list over the last few years. I sum up the experience here. I enjoyed completing the list very much, but I made one mistake. I didn’t choose my list wisely.

I am aiming to correct for this mistake now. I am starting on a new list. This one is from Amazon, and seems to have a nice mix of fiction and non-fiction and an over-representation of American authors–the BBC list was very … British. While I am open to reading books by foreign authors, I would prefer to nail down some American classics first. Never fear. I have read all of Jane Austen’s and Charles Dickens’s works. Thanks BBC!

I will write about what I read just as I did the last one. And I am trying something a bit more ambitious. Amazon has two lists, one that’s suggested by the editors and one that’s readers choice (for some reason this link is broken on Amazon’s, no worries I have the list below). I am going to try and knock both of them out.

There is probably overlap in the lists, but that requires more Excel wizardry than I want to attempt right now. I will get to that, just not today. Pending reading total from both lists is exactly one hundred and twenty books. I am shooting to have these all read by my forty-third birthday. Basically, I am giving myself the same amount of time to finish one hundred and twenty books as I did a little over seventy books from my last list. Read, set, read!

Here’s the Amzon Editor’s list and what what I’ve already read marked. Twenty-nine down, seventy-one to go.

1 1984 George Orwell
2 A Wrinkle in Time Madeleine L’Engle
3 Are You There, God? It’s me, Margaret Judy Blume
4 Catch-22 Joseph Heller – Read
5 Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Book 1 Jeff Kinney
6 Goodnight Moon Margaret Wise Brown
7 Interpreter of Maladies Jhumpa Lahiri
8 Little House on the Prairie Laura Ingalls Wilder
9 Me Talk Pretty One Day David Sedaris – Read
10 On the Road Jack Kerouac – Read
11 Silent Spring Rachel Carson
12 The Autobiography of Malcolm X Malcolm X and Alex Haley
13 The Corrections Jonathan Franzen
14 The Golden Compass: His Dark Materials Philip Pullman – Read
15 The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Rebecca Skloot
16 The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 Lawrence Wright
17 The Poisonwood Bible: A Novel Barbara Kingsolver Read
18 The Shining Stephen King
19 The Wind in the Willows Kenneth Grahame – Read
20 To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee Read
21 A Brief History of Time Stephen Hawking
22 Alice Munro: Selected Stories Alice Munro
23 Bel Canto Ann Patchett
24 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Roald Dahl – Read
25 Dune Frank Herbert Read
26 Great Expectations Charles Dickens – Read
27 Invisible Man Ralph Ellison
28 Lolita Vladimir Nabokov
29 Middlesex Jeffrey Eugenides – Read
30 Out of Africa Isak Dinesen
31 Slaughterhouse-Five Kurt Vonnegut – Read
32 The Book Thief Markus Zusak
33 The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America Erik Larson
34 The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald – Read
35 The Liars’ Club: A Memoir Mary Karr
36 The Lord of the Rings J.R.R. Tolkien – Read
37 The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York Robert A. Caro
38 The Stranger Albert Camus
39 The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel Haruki Murakami
40 Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption Laura Hillenbrand
41 A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius Dave Eggers – Read
42 Alice in Wonderland Lewis Carroll – Read
43 Beloved Toni Morrison – Read
44 Charlotte’s Web E.B. White
45 Fahrenheit 451 Ray Bradbury
46 Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies Jared M. Diamond
47 Jimmy Corrigan: Smartest Kid on Earth Chris Ware
48 Love in the Time of Cholera Gabriel Garcia Marquez – Read
49 Midnight’s Children Salman Rushdie – Read
50 Persepolis Marjane Satrapi
51 Team of Rivals Doris Kearns Goodwin
52 The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Junot Diaz
53 The Diary of Anne Frank Anne Frank
54 The Handmaid’s Tale Margaret Atwood
55 The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1) Rick Riordan
56 The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat: And Other Clinical Tales Oliver Sacks
57 The Right Stuff Tom Wolfe
58 The Sun Also Rises Ernest Hemingway
59 The World According to Garp John Irving
60 Valley of the Dolls Jacqueline Susann
61 A Long Way Gone Ishmael Beah
62 All the President’s Men Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein
63 Born To Run – A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen Christopher McDougall
64 Cutting For Stone Abraham Verghese
65 Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream Hunter S. Thompson
66 Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone J.K. Rowling – Read
67 Kitchen Confidential Anthony Bourdain
68 Love Medicine Louise Erdrich
69 Moneyball Michael Lewis
70 Portnoy’s Complaint Philip Roth
71 The Age of Innocence Edith Wharton
72 The Catcher in the Rye J.D. Salinger – Read
73 The Fault in Our Stars John Green
74 The House At Pooh Corner A. A. Milne – Read
75 The Little Prince Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
76 The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals Michael Pollan – Read
77 The Road Cormac McCarthy
78 The Things They Carried Tim O’Brien
79 The Year of Magical Thinking Joan Didion
80 Where the Sidewalk Ends Shel Silverstein
81 A Series of Unfortunate Events #1: The Bad Beginning: The Short-Lived Edition Lemony Snicket
82 Angela’s Ashes: A Memoir Frank McCourt
83 Breath, Eyes, Memory Edwidge Danticat
84 Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead Brene Brown – Read
85 Gone Girl Gillian Flynn – Read
86 In Cold Blood Truman Capote – Read
87 Life After Life Kate Atkinson
88 Man’s Search for Meaning Viktor Frankl
89 Of Human Bondage W. Somerset Maugham
90 Pride & Prejudice Jane Austen – Read
91 The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay Michael Chabon
92 The Color of Water James McBride
93 The Giver Lois Lowry
94 The Hunger Games Suzanne Collins – Read
95 The Long Goodbye Raymond Chandler
96 The Phantom Tollbooth Norton Juster
97 The Secret History Donna Tartt – Read
98 Things Fall Apart Chinua Achebe
99 The Very Hungry Caterpillar Eric Carle
100 Where the Wild Things Are Maurice Sendak

Here’s the reader’s choice list. Fifty-one down, forty-nine to go.

1 To Kill a Mockingbird – Read
2 Pride and Prejudice – Read
3 The Diary of a Young Girl
4 1984 George Orwell
5 Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (book #1) – Read
6 The Lord of the Rings (The Lord of the Rings #1-3) – Read
7 The Great Gatsby – Read
8 Charlotte’s Web
9 The Hobbit – Read
10 Little Women (Little Women #1) – Read
11 Fahrenheit 451 – Read
12 Jane Eyre – Read
13 Animal Farm
14 Gone with the Wind – Read
15 The Catcher in the Rye – Read
16 The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
17 The Book Thief
18 The Help – Read
19 The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games #1) – Read
20 The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – Read
21 The Grapes of Wrath – Read
22 Lord of the Flies – Read
23 The Kite Runner
24 Night (The Night Trilogy, #1)
25 Hamlet
26 A Wrinkle in Time
27 A Tale of Two Cities – Read
28 The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Read
29 Of Mice and Men – Read
30 Romeo and Juliet [New Folger Edition)
31 The Secret Garden – Read
32 A Christmas Carol – Read
33 The Little Prince
34 Brave New World
35 Where the Sidewalk Ends
36 The Handmaid’s Tale
37 The Giver (The Giver #1)
38 Wuthering Heights – Read
39 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (HP #7) – Read
40 The Fault in Our Stars
41 Anne of Green Gables – Read
42 Macbeth
43 The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
44 The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Read
45 Frankenstein
46 Holy Bible: King James Version too many humans
47 The Color Purple
48 The Count of Monte Cristo – Read
49 A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
50 East of Eden
51 Alice in Wonderland – Read
52 In Cold Blood – Read
53 Catch-22 (Catch-22, #1) – Read
54 Outlander (Outlander, #1)
55 The Stand – Read
56 Anna Karenina – Read
57 Ender’s Game (The Ender Quintet #1)
58 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (#3) – Read
59 Memoirs of a Geisha
60 Watership Down – Read
61 Great Expectations – Read
62 Rebecca – Read
63 A Game of Thrones (A Song of Fire and Ice #1)
64 The Old Man and the Sea
65 The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Sherlock Holmes #3)
66 Les Misérables – Read
67 Celebrating Silence: Excerpts from Five Years of Weekly Knowledge 1995-2000
68 Life of Pi
69 Harry Potter and the Half-Blook Prince (HP #6) – Read
70 The Scarlet Letter – Read
71 The Pillars of the Earth (#1) – Read
72 The Chronicles of Narnia (#1-7) – Read
73 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Read
74 Catching Fire (The Hunger Games #2) – Read
75 The Princess Bride
76 Water for Elephants
77 Dracula – Read
78 The Secret Life of Bees
79 The Raven – Read
80 The Poisonwood Bible – Read
81 One Hundred Years of Solitude
82 The Time Traveler’s Wife – Read
83 The Odyssey
84 The Good Earth (House of Earth #1)
85 And Then There Were None
86 Mockingjay (The Hunger Games #3) – Read
87 The Thorn Birds – Read
88 A Prayer for Owen Meany – Read
89 The Glass Castle
90 The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
91 The Road
92 The Things They Carried
93 Crime and Punishment – Read
94 Siddhartha
95 Beloved (Toni Morrison Trilogy #1) – Read
96 The Story of My Life
97 The Phantom Tollbooth
98 Cutting for Stone
99 The Brothers Karamazov
100 From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

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I Wrote a Book

Amy Poehler writes about writing in Yes Please:

Everyone lies about writing. They lie about how easy it is or how hard it was. They perpetuate a romantic idea that writing is some beautiful experience that takes place in an architectural room filled with leather novels and chai tea. They talk about their “morning ritual” and how they “dress for writing” and the cabin in Big Sur where they go to “be alone”— blah blah blah. No one tells the truth about writing a book. Authors pretend their stories were always shiny and perfect and just waiting to be written. The truth is, writing is this: hard and boring and occasionally great but usually not. Even I have lied about writing. I have told people that writing this book has been like brushing away dirt from a fossil. What a load of shit. It has been like hacking away at a freezer with a screwdriver.

Good god damn. That is the truth. I participated in NaNoWriMo last month. This is what kept my blog posts and Facebook status updates lean. All of the energy I could muster for crafting words was poured into writing twenty-five hundred words five days a week for four weeks.

SIDE NOTE for nerdy nerd nerds: In that quote she references the cabin in Big Sur that Jack Kerouac worked in toward the end of his career. This is the place I am going on a pilgrimage to in the coming weeks. This was in the plan before I randomly picked up this book.

The point of NaNoWriMo is to prevent the perfect from being the enemy of the good. At thirty-nine I am finally grasping the reality of this problem. I shall explain.

I made a sensible choice years ago to take a job in tech as opposed to design. After years of eating ramen to snag two degrees, I was in desperate need of creature comforts, comforts that are easily procured with money. With skills in both software development and design, I pursued software development to net a bigger paycheck and an assured brief job search. I could always go back to design after I avert the very real risk of scurvy.

Fast forward thirteen years, and I never went back to design. True story: eating ramen and sweating making rent sucks. I can’t say that I have regret. Yet, I have been yearning to stretch my creative muscles.

Two things mortified me when I started tentatively stretching those atrophied muscles in the last few years. First, I have grown afraid of failure, or perhaps more precisely, afraid of displaying my stunning lack of competence. The second compounds the first. I’ve spent fourteen years consuming excellent writing and music; I have a much keener sense of what good and, unfortunately, bad looks like.

I found these two gremlins in my photography, writing, and music. I spent years thinking I would find sunlight to melt them into oblivion. Instead years passed, and I created nothing.

Something caught my imagination a few years back when I read Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. Bear with me as I will grossly truncate one of the key ideas he expresses in his book; 10,000 hours of practice is all that’s required to master a skill. What we often call talent, might better be understood as persistence and discipline in a given area of interest.

In the years since, I’ve come to see compelling arguments that some of his interpretations are questionable. I read the book just after it was published, so I didn’t have this information to discourage me. And for that, I am thankful.

I decided to blog. I decided to schedule photo shoots. I shared my photos on my blog. My discomfort with mastering my new camera body was on display. My utter failure as an editor is still there for all to see–just go to my archives here and select stuff from three years back or more. (I’ve probably let some typos through in this very post.) Since I committed to write about the BBC’s Big Read booklist, I had to write blog entries when the muse wasn’t there. I forced myself out of the apartment with my camera when I wasn’t inspired.

Something wonderful started to happen. I learned a habit that enables my inner editor–multiple passes of the same passages in different sittings. Sometimes in pass two or three I discovered that under my aimless, uninspired rambling was something worth saying. Sometimes the muse that left me adrift on the first draft found me on rewrite two or three. Shots that felt pointless in the moment only revealed their beauty once I sat at the computer editing.

And then there’s learning that can only take place in the context of experimentation. Over three years, I mastered my photo editing software. I started to know what could and couldn’t be altered later while at the shoot. My vocabulary has expanded, giving me more efficient ways to express myself. I know how to use a colon–sure I had to look that up about nine times. I got physically adept at manually focusing–and quickly–so as to not be victim to autofocus selecting the wrong focal point. My ear for good prose expanded. I’ve grown to have a sense of what lens I should use with just a rudimentary understanding of the environment.

At first, I couldn’t look at my work. I cringed at every sloppy mistake. But more than three years on, I see my mistakes less and my progress more. I see that the experiences of creating the work, writing or pictures was worth while in its own right.

And this brings me back to the perfect being the enemy of the good. The unholy mess of writing I did years ago, I can now see as the good. It wasn’t good writing. Yet the only way to to become a better writer is to write, and this is the good. The journey of learning to write well is the good.

I wrote a novel. It is not great. And that’s ok because multiple rewrites can solve for this. It’s good because I now know I am just awful at writing dialog. It’s good because the experience has made me a different reader. It’s good because I know something about writing now. I know that writing my way through a plot I know from word one feels dull even when the pacing might be appropriate for the reader. My mind moves faster than my fingers. My brain fumbles with thoughtful prose as I am eager to move the plot forward. I’ve learned that my inner artful muse really needs my inner planner to ensure all plot holes are sealed up. I’ve learned that I forget what the hell I wrote the day before.

And this was all better than good but less than perfect. It was great. Congratulations fellow NaNoWriMo winners. Congratulations me.



100 Books by 40: In Retrospect

In August of 2012, I started a journey to write and read more. I committed to read the BBC’s Big Read list and blog my thoughts. I aimed to complete the list prior to my 40th birthday. With my 40th six months away, I met the time limit.

I love reading, but I don’t make time for it. Plus, the unlimited selection of books paralyzes me picking the next read. Finally, I struggle choosing between books that I “should” be reading-anything Jane Austen-vs books that I want to read-Harry Potter Series. The list solved for all of these problems.

Writing, I enjoy the process. I have things to say. I’m not yet sure how interested other people might be in these things. Book reports are the bane of every young student’s existence. I begrudgingly admit that they serve a purpose. My response to a book is guttural, formless emotion. Shepherding those impressions into words challenges me. As a person who struggles to name my feelings, this process has been invaluable.

This meadow has a animal carcass that needs to be addressed. Choose the list wisely. I didn’t. There are very good books in this list. Books seventy-five though one hundred are crap; I am convinced a summer intern came up with them. There are exceptions, On the Road and Ulysses among them. However, considering the sheer amount of time those mediocre to shitty books took up, I would have gladly given that over to more pleasurable reading in retrospect. As an American, this BBC list is very British, and unless you have a thing with Brit Lit the American reader would be better served by this list from Amazon.

This was such a good experience that I am doing it again. I have yet to decide if I will blog about it. I’m sure if I do it will turn up here.

Finished list:
1. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
3. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
4. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling
6. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
7. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne
8. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell
9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis
10. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
11. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
12. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
13. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
14. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
15. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
16. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
17. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
18. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
19. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres
20. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
21. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
22. Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone, JK Rowling
23. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, JK Rowling
24. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, JK Rowling
25. The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien
26. Tess Of The D’Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
27. Middlemarch, George Eliot
28. A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving
29. The Grapes Of Wrath, John Steinbeck
30. Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
31. The Story Of Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson
32. One Hundred Years Of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
33. The Pillars Of The Earth, Ken Follett
34. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
35. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
36. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
37. A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute
38. Persuasion, Jane Austen
39. Dune, Frank Herbert
40. Emma, Jane Austen – only 99 cents for Kindle edition
41. Anne Of Green Gables, LM Montgomery
42. Watership Down, Richard Adams
43. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald
44. The Count Of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
45. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
46. Animal Farm, George Orwell
47. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens – have on Kindle
48. Far From The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy – have on Kindle
49. Goodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian
50. The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher
51. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
52. Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck
53. The Stand, Stephen King
54. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
55. A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
56. The BFG, Roald Dahl
57. Swallows And Amazons, Arthur Ransome
58. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
59. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer
60. Crime And Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
61. Noughts And Crosses, Malorie Blackman
62. Memoirs Of A Geisha, Arthur Golden
63. A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens *I read this when I was too young to appreciate it; I would like to read it again as an adult. I will do so if I have time.
64. The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCollough
65. Mort, Terry Pratchett
66. The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton
67. The Magus, John Fowles
68. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
69. Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett
70. Lord Of The Flies, William Golding *I’ve read this twice. I will read it again if I have time.
71. Perfume, Patrick Süskind
72. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressell
73. Night Watch, Terry Pratchett
74. Matilda, Roald Dahl
75. Bridget Jones’s Diary, Helen Fielding
76. The Secret History, Donna Tartt
77. The Woman In White, Wilkie Collins
78. Ulysses, James Joyce
79. Bleak House, Charles Dickens
80. Double Act, Jacqueline Wilson
81. The Twits, Roald Dahl
82. I Capture The Castle, Dodie Smith
83. Holes, Louis Sachar
84. Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake
85. The God Of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
86. Vicky Angel, Jacqueline Wilson
87. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
88. Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
89. Magician, Raymond E Feist
90. On The Road, Jack Kerouac *I’ve read this twice. I will read it again if I have time. I have the unabriged unedited version and will probably take on that if time allows.
91. The Godfather, Mario Puzo
92. The Clan Of The Cave Bear, Jean M Auel
93. The Colour Of Magic, Terry Pratchett
94. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
95. Katherine, Anya Seton
96. Kane And Abel, Jeffrey Archer
97. Love In The Time Of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez
98. Girls In Love, Jacqueline Wilson
99. The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot
100. Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie

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Book: The Princess Diaries and Love in a Time of Cholera
Authors: Meg Cabot and Gabriel Garcia Marquez
PUblished: 2000 and 1985

Inspiration. I have none for these books. I read them, and I am left with perfect indifference.

The Princess Diaries is inoffensive. The plot lacks creativity. I have read several titles aimed at young adults, and more specifically young women. The books follow a pattern. Girl feels insecure, but has treasured friend. Girl wishes for love. Girl faces an unexpected event; I’m a princess! Girl struggles to be truthful about event which distances her from her true friend. Girl might try and date an obvious loser. Girl wises up, and grows a pair. She comes clean. Everyone is happy, and she realizes perfect boy was there all along.

Love in a Time of Cholera is not unlike the other Gabriel Garcia Marquez book that I read earlier in this book, 100 Years of Solitude. Characters with unrequited or ill-fated love are tossed about by multiple plot twists as quirky side characters provide equally quirky subplots. I have a thing with quirky characters. Obnoxious and interesting separate via a very slight line. These characters tap dance on it with abandon.

And with that I finished the BBC Big Read List. Anticlimactic isn’t it? I will publish my closing thoughts on that list in the next day or two.

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100 Books by 40: KATHERINE

Title: Katherine
Author: Anya Seton
Published: 1954

This is gonna be a short one. Are two of the following things true for you?

  • Are you British?
  • Do you love The Royal Family?
  • Do you overly romanticize the Middle Ages despite the obvious fact that it was mostly likely a disgusting time to live?(Seriously… Bathing optional, lack of waste removal, lack of dental care, rotting corpses due to The Black Plague… I don’t need to elaborate further do I?)

Can you guess how many of those questions I answered yes to? Uh huh, that was five hundred pages of my life right there. And this is one hundred and twenty-six words. Let’s just say, all of that? Too much. Too much to energy to spend on this book.