All Kinds of Things….

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Over the past few days, I’ve been making notes about what to include in a post, and now I have a bunch to share….


Sad news first….Eric Hill, the creator of Spot, died at the age of 86. Think how many children Hill made smile and laugh during his career! Like millions of toddlers, my son was completely taken with the yellow and brown puppy, especially when the book had a flap to open and “find” Spot!  In fact, my son was born on December 20, and five days later, he received the first gift from his parents – Spot’s Christmas.  According to The New York Times obituary, more than 60 million copies of Spot books have been sold. Although I knew Hill was British, I learned in the NYT article that Hill was born in London in 1927 and was evacuated during WWII.  To read more, here’s a link to the article:



Reading the July issue of Vanity Fair (summer vacation has started!), I read about a new book by Marja Mills, The Mockingbird Next Door. Mills was one of the few people to get to know Harper Lee who has, to put it mildly, avoids publicity.  Mills, however, became Lee’s next door neighbor door and spent a year and half in Monroeville, Alabama. She even went to McDonalds with her!

Cool video….Foyle’s Bookshop, one of the most famous bookshops in London, recently left the Charing Cross address that has been its home since 1929. Now it’s on….Charing Cross Road. The store just moved a few doors down. Check out this time lapse video of the big move:


Last night I finished reading The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin. Zevin’s novel is a love letter to readers and bookstores. The story of A.J. Fikry who owns an independent bookstore on an island very similar to Nantucket, it follows Fikry’s journey from a grumpy widower to happily married husband and father to Maya, one of the book’s most delightful characters. The novel is both happy and sad, but most of all, it’s a well-written ode to the joy of reading. This is a must-read for anyone who looks for the bookstore in any new place they visit.  Zevin has clearly spent hours in cozy shops and her imaginary Island Books is magical.

As a side note, Zevin is also the author of Elsewhere, a 2005 young adult novel that is on our middle school summer reading list every year. It is one of those novels that I regularly recommend to 13-year-olds who are looking for a thoughtful and engaging. Elsewhere is the story of Liz Hall who is 15 at the opening of the book.  Almost immediately, she is killed by a  hit and run driver – no spoiler. It happens right away. But that’s where her story gets interesting. Liz goes to a place called Elsewhere where people age backwards – they slowly return to being babies. When I first read Elsewhere, I wondered if Zevin was inspired by The Giver in which “Elsewhere” is the unknown place beyond Jonas’s community. I e-mailed Zevin to ask, and in a very nice response she told me did not read The Giver until after writing Elsewhere so no connection there.  Bottom line: if you have time, read both of her novels.


I’m now reading a novel that’s been on my “to read” list for awhile…..The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout.  I was hooked after reading the first chapter about Bob and Jim Burgess who both left their small hometown in Maine to become lawyers in New York City. Their sister, Susan, stayed in Maine and has raised her now teenage son in the same small town where the Burgess children grew up.  When Susan’s son does something I won’t give away here, Bob and Jim have to return to Maine to help. I’m not done yet, but this is a powerful and intense novel.

Happy Reading…


A Decade of Reading


I began keeping a list of every book I read since 1999, so I’m taking advantage of yet another snowy afternoon to look back on what I’ve read over the past decade.  This is the first time I’ve read through the lists since I began keeping them, and what is most striking is that they reflect the events of the year.  For example, during the years I was in graduate school, I read nearly 100 books per year, but almost all of them were assigned reading.  Many, read in the wee hours of the morning, I barely remember.  After graduation, I’ve settled back into a pattern of about half of that; between 40 and 50 books per year seems to be the average.  Even on those lists, there are books I would be hard pressed to tell someone about.  I remember really enjoying Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress (December 2002), but I don’t recall any details.  After 2005, things become a little clearer.

Based on the past five years, these are the books (adult and young adult’s) that still make my heart jump in recollection of how much I love—and remember—them:


The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak  (I know this is considered a young adult book as well.  I put it here because it’s cross-marketed, and because it is the first book on my list regardless of where it’s shelved.)

The Rain Before It Falls by Jonathan Coe

Zeitoun by Dave Eggers

Atonement (and Saturday) by Ian McEwan

Netherland by Joseph O’Neill

Young Adults:

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell

Hunger Games and Firecatcher by Suzanne Collins

A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly

Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin

Just add a blanket and a steaming mug of hot cocoa…


Today’s topic: books for girls.  I know.  There’s no such thing as books for girls.  Books are books, right?  But…let’s be honest.  You just reach a time in your life when you have questions and there’s nothing like a good book to remind you that this road to adulthood is well traveled.  Here are ten books that I recommend to middle school girls when they need to remember that they are not alone:

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares

Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor

A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta

Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin

Tomorrow…10 Books for Middle School Boys