Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 reading wrap-up: how did I do?

At the end of 2008, I posted some general thoughts about what I hoped to read during 2009. Looking back at the books I listed, I did read Atonement by Ian McEwan, my short story collection by Chekhov, Crime and Punishment, and The Hungry Self: Women, Eating, and Identity by Kim Chernin. I'm also about a third of the way through Vanity Fair, which I've unfortunately "stalled out" with in the past week or so. I won't finish it in 2009, but I haven't abandoned it, either; just taking a break to read some poetry, and hoping to get back to it in the next few weeks. My short list of "other novels that are in my sights" are all still in my sights and never got into my hands to read. Makes me a little sad, but I'm trying to think of them as Worlds Still To Be Explored, which sounds pretty cool, right? ;-)

So what DID I read in 2009? I read (or listened to) 42 books, having just finished my new Billy Collins book. Here's the whole list (edited to add ** by my favorites):

1. Atonement -- Ian McEwan **
2. Lady with Lapdog and Other Stories -- Anton Chekhov
3. So Many Books, So Little Time -- Sara Nelson
4. Crime and Punishment -- Fyodor Dostoevsky **
5. Dead Souls -- Nikolai Gogol
6. To Kill a Mockingbird -- Harper Lee **
7. The Leopard -- Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
8. Duplicate Keys -- Jane Smiley **
9. Intruder in the Dust -- William Faulkner
10. Corsons Inlet -- A. R. Ammons
11. At Paradise Gate -- Jane Smiley
12. The Hungry Self: Women, Eating, and Identity -- Kim Chernin
13. Evidence -- Mary Oliver **
14. A Book Addict's Treasury -- edited by Lynda Murphy & Julie Rugg
15. Lucy Gayheart -- Willa Cather
16. Out Stealing Horses -- Per Petterson
17. The Browser's Ecstasy: a Meditation on Reading -- Geoffrey O'Brien
18. Miss Julie -- August Strindberg
19. Questions about Angels -- Billy Collins
20. The Woman in White -- Wilkie Collins **
21. Bleak House -- Charles Dickens **
22. Eva Cassidy, Songbird -- Rob Burley & Jonathan Maitland
23. I am the Messenger -- Markus Zusak
24. Life of Pi -- Yann Martel
25. God's Silence -- Franz Wright
26. Strong Feelings: Emotion, Addiction, and Human Behavior -- Jon Elster
27. Daphne -- Justine Picardie **
28. Walking to Martha's Vineyard -- Franz Wright **
29. Beach Music -- Pat Conroy
30. Florida -- Christine Schutt **
31. The Progress of Julius -- Daphne du Maurier
32. Tiny Alice -- Edward Albee
33. Pere Goriot -- Honore de Balzac
34. All Souls -- Christine Schutt
35. Feed -- M. T. Anderson
36. Say Everything: How Blogging Began, What It's Becoming, and Why It Matters -- Scott Rosenberg **
37. Austenland -- Shannon Hale ** (guilty pleasure!)
38. The Namesake -- Jhumpa Lahiri
39. Man Walks into a Room -- Nicole Krauss
40. The White Tiger -- Aravind Adiga
41. Native Guard -- Natasha Trethewey **
42. Ballistics -- Billy Collins

Hopefully I'll have a chance over New Year's weekend to post about some reading plans for 2010, probably with fewer specific titles in it than last year's plan. I don't want to shoot myself in the foot before I even get started!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Books I've bought twice

For a while now, I've been thinking about books I've purchased more than once. Some people find a book they love, and buy copies to give to other people. I've done that a few times, but that's not what I'm thinking of here. I'm thinking of books I bought secondhand, read and enjoyed, and then wanted a nicer copy; or books that I bought, read, decided not to keep, and years later decided I was wrong not to have kept; those kinds of things.

I know this isn't complete, because at one point the list in my head seemed longer than what I've got down on paper today. But, between my memory and my LibraryThing catalog, it's a long enough list to share. The titles link to LT; let me know if you find any that aren't correct.

Books I've bought twice because I wanted a better/nicer copy (but didn't always get rid of the first copy):
Their Eyes were Watching God -- Zora Neale Hurston
The Bell Jar -- Sylvia Plath
The Scarlet Letter -- Nathaniel Hawthorne
To Kill a Mockingbird -- Harper Lee
Middlemarch -- George Eliot
The Injured Party -- Susan Fromberg Schaeffer
The Golden Rope -- Susan Fromberg Schaeffer
The Scapegoat -- Daphne du Maurier
Charlotte's Web -- E. B. White
Dubliners -- James Joyce (My first copy was adequate, but the other copy was SO NICE and also CHEAP at the library book sale; I just couldn't pass it up!)

Books I weeded, then decided I needed:
Lonesome Dove -- Larry McMurtry
Proofs and Theories -- Louise Gluck
The Known World -- Edward P. Jones
A Theory of Justice -- John Rawls
Nine Months in the Life of an Old Maid -- Judith Rossner
Attachments -- Judith Rossner
Mainland -- Susan Fromberg Schaeffer
(Truthfully, I had to discard a bunch of books after my parents' basement flooded in the mid-90s, and a couple of titles above might actually fall into THAT category. I wrote out a list as I discarded, and replaced some, but lost the list years ago. One I finally replaced in 2008: The Struggle for Black Equality by Harvard Sitkoff.)

Books I owned in print but first "read" as audiobooks, and loved so much I purchased them on CD, too:
Middlemarch -- George Eliot, narrated by Kate Reading (over 30 hours long)
The Book Thief -- Markus Zusak, narrated by Allan Corduner
Great Expectations -- Charles Dickens, narrated by Frank Muller
(Two more I have in print and WOULD buy on CD as well if I came into money, audiobooks can be so expensive: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, narrated by Sissy Spacek; and Wickett's Remedy by Myla Goldberg, narrated by the author.)

Books that mean enough to me that I retain two identical copies:
Ariel -- Sylvia Plath (and I also have one copy of the "Restored edition: a facsimile of Plath's manuscript, reinstating her original selection and arrangement")
The Mothman Prophecies -- John Keel
Up a Road Slowly -- Irene Hunt

And finally, there must have been a few occasions when I bought a book I'd forgotten I already owned, but I only remember one off the top of my head: Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. But have I read it yet, even once? Nope...not yet!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

New video of PaPa and Kyle, set to Eva Cassidy

On the morning of Sept. 19, 2008, in the emergency room, my father-in-law lay gravely ill and unresponsive. With Grandma and Stacy, I listened to the doctor explain PaPa's status and the tests they were doing, what they'd found up to that point. Just before I stepped out of the room, I said to the doctor, "Do you see that boy in the window?" There was Kyle in the hall, looking through a small window into PaPa's room, watching me talking to this woman.

"Yes," she answered.

"That's my son, and PaPa is his best friend. Please do everything you can to save him." I was crying. Her face was genuinely sympathetic and understanding, and she promised she would.

That was 15 months ago, and you already know how that long day ended. I've referred to Kyle and PaPa's close relationship before on this blog, but I never felt I expressed it as fully as I wanted to, as beautifully as it deserved. Last week, I started making a video, using the song "Over the Rainbow" by the incomparable Eva Cassidy as the background. (I posted a blog entry about Eva this past summer, but I think that video has since been removed from YouTube, darn it.) I think one reason I didn't make a PaPa and Kyle video earlier is that I didn't have a song in mind; this time last year, I'd barely heard of Eva. But now, I'm thrilled to have this amazing song to accompany our precious memories.

I searched Flickr for rainbow photos, and was lucky enough to find some beautiful pictures available under a Creative Commons license from nicholas_t. The one I used in the video, right after the opening screens, is called "Double Bows."

Friday, December 18, 2009

Post from a Guest Blogger!

One of my favorite things about my husband is that he makes me laugh -- sometimes A LOT. He was cracking me up about something a while ago, maybe last weekend, and I got an idea. I told him he should write a guest post for my blog. "I need some new content, and I've been busy and I've had that cold, and you could totally write something funny." See, since Jeff was laid off over two months ago, he's had a lot of spare time, and has welcomed suggestions for things to do. (He still hasn't read To Kill a Mockingbird, or even listened to the amazing audio version. I gave up asking him about it.) But he surprised me when, just a day or two after I mentioned it, he actually wrote a blog post! Without further delay, I present to you a faux "job ad" that Jeff created, and then his letter of application. (Ahem...many spelling errors have been corrected, not to protect him, but so people can actually read it. His spelling is notoriously bad.)

Guest Blogger / Unemployed House Husband Opening:
Looking for an unemployed unskilled slacker to be a house husband and write a guest blog about unemployment. Good spelling, looks, grammar, and a love for reading and writing is a plus, but only a dream and is not required. Position is full time but temporary. “Oh God, please let it be temporary.” There is no salary for the position, however, we offer an excellent benefits package that includes room and board, a wife, a family, a vehicle, and health insurance, and food will be provided for you to prepare. Successful candidate must be unemployed with no real foreseeable chance of employment in the near future. Individuals need experience working as a husband and father. Applicants must fancy themselves as clever and amusing and be willing to do childcare, cooking, laundry, fetch drinks from Hasting’s, and run other errands while writing their blog posts. Prior experience dealing with moodiness, depression, bitchiness, PMS, or other issues related to a woman’s psyche would be helpful. Dress code is sweatpants casual, as long as the sweatpants outfits are laundered at least every few days. Apply online at HeathMochaFrost's blog, "All the parts of my life."

Dear Mrs. HeathMochaFrost,

Hello, my name is HeathMochaFrost Husband, and I am writing in regards to the position for a Guest Blogger / Unemployed House Husband at your website. Since I need to apply for at least two jobs a week to qualify for my unemployment payments from the State, I thought, “What the hell, I’m more qualified for this than I was for that Midwife position I applied for last week.”

The opportunity presented at your blog to reach an audience upwards of six or seven people is mildly appealing, and might help pass a little bit of my free time. I believe that my current married/unemployed status and relevant lack of job skills, current education or training, job prospects, writing skills and interest in blogging makes me a very competitive candidate for this position. The key strengths that I possess for success in this position include:

• Have been a husband for over twelve years and a father for nine
• Have been unemployed for over two months
• Have lots of free time to get bored and organize stuff
• Can hang out on the computer all day long if need be
• Like to be sarcastic; making fun of other people makes me feel better
• Have the best proofreader in the world at my disposal
• Not against sleeping with the boss
• Like to wear sweatpants
• Have experience doing childcare, laundry, and can cook crap in the oven

As you are aware, my background in unemployment and husbandry has provided me the unique opportunity to gain the practical knowledge and experience to support my candidacy for the position. Thank you for your time and consideration. I would welcome the opportunity to meet with you and discuss my qualifications. Perhaps I could send the kids to Grandma's some night so that we could meet. I believe my experiences have given me the necessary skills to make a valuable contribution. I look forward to speaking with you about this unemployment opportunity.


HeathMochaFrost Unemployed Husband

(I suppose it would be even funnier if I'd left in a few of those spelling errors -- for example, "Applicants must fancy themselves as clever" previously read "as cleaver." But for the sake of clarity, a bit of additional hilarity may have been sacrificed, and I'll take the blame for that. ;-) I'll see what I can do about posting more often than once in a very blue moon!)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Shop B&N this weekend, support a school program!

This Saturday, December 5, is the annual Barnes & Noble book fair to raise money for my sons' school district -- specifically, their Visiting Author program, which pays for a published author to visit the school, talk with the kids, and read from their books. Meeting authors is a great way to help bring books "to life" for kids. Between 9am and 5pm at the Topeka Barnes & Noble, all you have to do when you're making purchases is to tell the cashier that you want your purchases to support the Auburn-Washburn Visiting Author Book Fair.

But wait, there's more!

If you can't get to the store that day, or if you'd like to help my sons' school district but aren't even in Topeka ... or, if you're already planning to place an online order soon at, please check this out:

If you are unable to make it to the fair, you have the opportunity to order online and have the purchases count towards our district. From December 5th through 10th, go to, our book fair I.D. # is 487470. This is a great way to help our schools from your homes. Grandparents, friends, neighbors, relatives, anyone can participate!

That's right: friends, relatives, and any book lover who happens to read this blog entry! Are you about to give in to your desire for an e-reader and order a nook from B&N? See if you can order it online through the book fair link! Have a discount coupon to use and only spending about $6.50? That's fine too! (In fact, that might be what I'll end up doing, since we need to economize.) Whether your order is one item, ten items, or one item that can "hold" many many more (that's the nook again), if you shop with the book fair ID, you'll make a wonderful and much-appreciated donation to the school district's Visiting Author program, and help children to develop a love of reading.