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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Bookshelf ABC - Z

The Zombie Survival Guide makes a great gift for a pre-teen or young teen boy. My oldest received it for his fourteenth birthday and pored through this manual, reading and re-reading portions to ensure adequate preparation should the unthinkable happen. Boys obsess over the potential hordes of undead that may or may not show up in their front yard unexpected by their parents. I for one am comforted to know that my son will know what to do. I, on the other hand, will run screaming, which will not help the cause.

Shew! I made it to the end of the April A to Z Blog Challenge. Another year in the books. But before you scurry off to celebrate (or ward off zombies) take a moment to post a comment about a Z title you have loved.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Bookshelf ABC - Y

The Yearling will make you cry. Though it's technically children's literature, the content appeals to a broader audience. The novel is of the same ilk as Old Yeller and Where the Red Fern Grows. Without witches, without vampires, without futuristic utopias gone bad, The Yearling captures the angst of coming of age. Set in central Florida when it was a wild, unforgiving landscape, the book tenderly examines the challenges a boy faces as he crosses the threshold to manhood. If you missed out on reading this book as a kid, read it now.

Examine your bookshelf or your memory and leave a suggested Y book in the comments.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Bookshelf ABC - X

Xenophobe's Guide to the English pretty much explains the part of me I inherited from my English ancestors. And for those of us fascinated by Brit Lit, it's a fine resource for understanding the conundrums and complexities of English reasoning and behavior.

You are just now asking yourself, "Am I a xenophobe?" You are both worried that you are and afraid that you are not. So, to clear up the confusion, a xenophobe is a person fearful of foreigners and things foreign. This delightful guide will aid the reader in overcoming anxiety about those enigmatic folk across the Atlantic. It also sheds light on characterization in novels originating from the Mother Country.

Excite me with more X titles of your own!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Bookshelf ABC - W

White Nights takes place in the Shetland Islands of Scotland. As my people are from the Scottish Highlands, I love to read books set in Scotland. And since I visited Shetland about a year ago for the annual Viking festival, I feel a kinship with the place. Nonetheless, I have not read this book. My mother just gave it to me on Sunday, and I've added it to my to-read stack on my bedside table.

Wow me with another W book.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Bookshelf ABC - V

V for Vendetta, a graphic novel upon which the movie of the same title was based, begins with my birthday anthem: Remember, remember the fifth of November, the gunpowder treason and plot. I know of no reason why gunpowder treason should ever be forgot. The vigilante hero in this novel fashions himself as a futuristic Guy Fawkes fighting a battle against an oppressive government. If you're not into graphic novels, I recommend the movie instead.

It is very important that you do not leave this blog post before putting in a vote for your favorite V book.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Bookshelf ABC - U

The U.S. Constitution: A Reader is the most important book a United States citizen can read. Too few of us understand the constitution, a living, breathing document composed by visionaries. For everything that is wrong with our country, this is the one thing that is right. This book provides a tutorial on this landmark document.

It would be unconstitutional for you to leave without donating a U title to the cause. Put it in the comments, please.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Bookshelf ABC - T

Tuck Your Skirt in Your Panties and Run will walk you through some of life's most embarrassing moments and out to the other side. All things will pass if one has a sense of humor in hand. True stories about tough situations and the people who survived them.

Tickle me with T title you have read or would like to read.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Bookshelf ABC - S

Still Life with Woodpecker remains one of my favorite books of fiction. In college I went through a Tom Robbins phase and his offbeat yet sophisticated humor and characters entertained me in a way that others writers could not. As an author, Robbins influenced my writing as much as Faulkner and Twain. I need to go back and reread Robbins's tomes to see if if I've outgrown them or if I interpret them the same over twenty years since I first discovered them.

Oh, and did I mention that this novel takes place inside a package of Camel cigarettes?

So, do share an S title with me.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Bookshelf ABC - R

Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs has been mentioned in my blog before: here and here I love the way this book starts out, with the description of Augustine as a young boy enraptures by the smell of tobacco in his mother's purse. I'm a smell person. Odors trigger childhood memories for me.

Beyond that, the author tends to go for shock and awe over intrigue and drama. He gives graphic details that would be better left to the imagination. Nonetheless, this is a fascinating memoir of a boy caught up in the pathological crazy of multiple adults. Though our Mamas taught us that the polite thing to do would be to look away, we can help but stare at the mess.

Are you ready with your R contribution? Leave it in the comments, please.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Bookshelf ABC - Q

Q & A a Day: A five year journey is a book you write yourself. My mother gave me mine as a Christmas gift in 2012. I began logging entries on January 1, 2013. Every page has writing prompt and enough space to write about 200 characters, depending on the size of your lettering. Sometimes I answer the questions, often I ignore them and write down what was significant about the day. Now that I'm in my second year, I like looking back at what I wrote in 2013.

A lot happens in a day. This book provides a quick and easy way to keep track of five years of days. The limited space keeps me from self-indulgent rambling and forces me to pin down what was most important about my day.

What Q titles have you read or written?

Friday, April 18, 2014

Bookshelf ABC - P

The Pearl was on my school's reading list when I was in 7th, 8th and 9th grades. We were assigned by our English teacher to choose a book to read independently and write a book report. In those idealistic days of youth, I chose to read The Pearl because it was short. Very short. I could knock out 96 pages, write the report and get on with adolescent dawdling.

I was such a stupid kid. John Steinbeck plunges the reader to the depths of the ocean and the human soul. By the time I finished the book, I could taste the salt of sea and tears. That was an inspired book report I turned in!

Please me by leaving a P title that wowed you.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Bookshelf ABC - O

On Writing by Stephen King is one of the best books he's written in his wildly successful career. He proves that persistent plugging away at a passion pays off, and he shares his wisdom with other writers and the world. You don't need to be a writer to read this book. You don't need to love King's genre to read this book. All you need is curiosity about what goes through the mind of a man who writes novels like Carrie and Amityville Horror and Cujo.

As an added bonus, King includes a list of his favorite books, and they're not all macabre tales of fear and foreboding.

Offer me a suggestion for an O book.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Bookshelf ABC - N

The Naked Bus Driver: An evening spent perusing a bookstore's shelves makes me happier than a goose on a golden egg. But I have a weakness for buying books based on title alone. Sometimes I get lucky and pick a winner, but the night I brought home this paperback was not a lucky night. The title is the best thing about the book.

I really hate saying that about another author's work, but I also feel responsible for warning naive readers like myself. There are things that a person shouldn't have to find out on her own.


Surely there's a book that begins with N that I must read. What is it?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Bookshelf ABC - M

Memoirs of a Longshot retells the wonderful life of Cot Campbell, owner of the 2013 Belmont Stakes winner, Palace Malice. With grace and humor and honesty, Campbell shares the lows of alcoholism and the highs of Thoroughbred racing and the people and places he has known on his journey.


I had the good fortune of interviewing the illustrious Cot Campbell last Fall for an article I wrote for Aiken Homes and Lifestyles. He was generous with his time and incredibly entertaining.

Share an mmm-mmmm good M title with me, please, especially if you have a personal story behind it.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Bookshelf ABC - L

The Little Friend by Donna Tartt is mesmerizing. Fans of southern literature will love it. In the book, a young girl and her friend determine to identify the person who killed her older brother when she was just a baby. The humorous logic of children juxtaposed against a family's screen of grief, characters who pose danger and a decaying southern way of life create a spellbinding novel.

The cover of the novel disturbed me, though, and I had to keep it turned face down on my nightstand.

After the April A to Z challenge, I'll make a final list of all the Bookshelf ABC titles I've posted plus the ones suggested by readers. What L title would you like to add?

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Bookshelf ABC - K

The Kite Runner seems an obvious choice for K. I didn't read the book, but I saw the movie. It tore out my heart, so I rest assured of the powerful prose in the book.

Kick me a K book to add to my collection.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Bookshelf ABC - J

The Joy of Family Traditions is chock full of fabulous ideas for adding fun to family life. The repetition of activities whether yearly, monthly, weekly or daily makes children feel secure. Traditions give life predictability. Unfortunately, we adults sometimes get bored doing the same things over and over. So why not infuse your routine with new ideas?

The Joy of Family Traditions gave me the idea of instituting a winter hibernation day at our house. Since the day our fourth child was born, my house has been a hive of constant activity. As the children have grown older the radius of activity has expanded, making us ever more crazy. After many years of never slowing down, I realized what a gift a day off would be. Now we take one winter Saturday a year to wear our pajamas all day, eat popcorn, watch movies, play board games and cards, and chill out.


Okay, your turn. Throw out your best J title to me.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Bookshelf ABC - I

If Mama Don't Laugh, It Ain't Funny will have you giggling until stuff comes out of your nose. The universal antics and anxieties of family life get to the core of why our relatives, the crazy ones and the cool ones, define who we are.

Combine this book with a bouquet of flowers for a heartfelt Mothers' Day gift.

I'd love to know what I titles have resonated with you.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Bookshelf ABC - H

The Hotel New Hampshire confirmed for me that I would be a writer. Though I primarily write non-fiction, I can pinpoint the beginning of inspiration with the cracking open of this book. It wasn't John Irving's mad cast of characters that stirred me so much as it was his prose. I wanted to string together words like he did and suddenly I knew I could.

By the by, my favorite part is when the dog dies, not because the dog dies, but because of what happens next.

A bonus H book to check out: Help Me, Jacques Cousteau

How many H titles can you name?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Bookshelf ABC - G

Ghosts of Grandeur captures the disappearing antebellum homes, people and places of the American antebellum South, specifically the state of Georgia. The primary purpose of this coffee table tome is to preserve the history and memory of antebellum structures that time has left behind since the Civil War.

As an extra treat, the pages are filled with  stories about the people who called these gracious buildings home and the places now transformed by their absence. No matter how you feel about the pre Civil War South, you'll appreciate the architecture of the lives and homes of the people who occupied it.


What G title have you read lately (or ever)?

Monday, April 7, 2014

Bookshelf ABC - F

Fahrenheit 451, by the master of science fiction, Ray Bradbury, is a throwback classic. I gave it to my oldest son to read last summer. He never opened it. When will accept that anything I suggest to my children will be automatically rejected? One would think I'd be more savvy by now.

In summary, this book is about the unthinkable prospect of the extinction of the book and the rise of the television as the predominant form of entertainment. Who says science fiction is stranger than real life?

Wow me with your own suggested F title.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Bookshelf ABC - E

Eat, Love, Pray, it seems like a cliche to list this book in my April A to Z alphabetical bookshelf. After all of the hype and the movie, who hasn't read it, right? But, still. Put it on your bookshelf.

Some friends at work gave it to me as a going away gift during a huge turning point in my life. I was leaving a job that I was conflicted about to embark on uncertainty. Though I wasn't going on a grand adventure in the fashion of Elizabeth Gilbert and I'm not into meditation, I did relate to the low point in her life that catapulted her on a year of discovery. And I related to her as a writer.

Eat, Love, Pray is for every person who wonders if her path in life can change.

Now, scan your bookshelf for the best book you know with a title that starts with E. Please type it into the comments. Selfishly, I'm trying to build my reading list, too.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Bookshelf ABC - D

The Dirty Life is not quite what the title implies. This is the classic tale of New York City girl meets organic boy, falls in love and throws away modern conveniences to follow a dream. At times she and her beau seem cracked and at other times they seem like the best friends we all wish we had. If you need some fresh air or you're craving milk in the raw, this is a good read.

Please return the favor and suggest a D list book for me.