Category Archives: Books and Literature

Books Read in 2011

Every year I like to keep up a list of all that I have read, and then rate them on a scale of 1-5 that my friend Natalie made up. I also like to add little reviews to both explain my ratings and to give you an idea in case you want to read them. Feel free to strike up a friendly discussion if you’ve read any of these books, by the way! I could talk about books all day.
Here is the scale:
5-I REALLY liked it!
4-Also very, very good
2-Okay, but not necessarily worth the time
1-Wouldn’t recommend it
  1. A Broom of One’s Own by Nancy Peacock – 5 – This is a nonfiction book written by an authoress who does not make enough money to support herself just from writing books, so she also cleans houses. The thing is, she enjoys it and feels like between the hard work, the people she meets, and the time she gets to therapeutically reflect actually helps her writing. A great book to start the year off with… very inspiring, and definitely makes a person want to go work a labor-intensive job and then come home and write. 🙂
  2. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte – 4 – This book was extremely depressing, and even kind of dark. But I loved it! It spans over a very long amount of time, and they characters are the epitome of a dysfunctional family. I’d honestly read it again, as frustrating as it was at points. It was a very interesting and I think about it a lot. I even wrote a poem about it later in the year.
  3. Dishwasher by Pete Jordan – 4 – A comedic, first person account of 20-something Pete who discovers that he has a calling to washing dishes for a living. Soon it becomes his goal to wash dishes in all 50 states. In doing so, he encounters many strange people and experiences, and eventually starts producing a zine for passionate dishwashers everywhere. At the end he falls in love with another dishwasher, though they up and decide to move to Ireland before Pete goes through all 50 states. But other than that disappoinment, it was a fun book to read.
  4. Microgreens by Fionna Hill – 4 – When I arrived at the farm I worked at in the winter and spring, I was assigned to research and then grow microgreens, which are greens grown very close together in trays and harvested after they have developed one or two sets of true leaves. They have not only compacted flavor (good for garnishing), but also it is supposed that they have compacted nutrients (handful of kale microgreens may be equal in nutritional value to a whole pound of full-grown kale. Little research has been done on this, though). This book was my research starting point, and it was super informative! It was very visual, and covered every angle I needed to know. I did some online research afterwards, but I really didn’t need to.
  5. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller – 5 – A story about telling stories, and how the author, Donald Miller, learned to make his own life into a story by putting himself out there and setting himself up for adventures and the unexpected. Very inspiring book on so many different levels, and also very sweet and funny.
  6. The Mystery of the Yellow Room by Gaston Leroux – 4 – A Sherlock Holmes sort of mystery written by the same dude who wrote one of my all-time favorites, The Phantom of the Opera. The only reason I gave it a 4 instead of a 5 was simply because it wasn’t SUPER exciting, but it was a great book.
  7. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway – 4 – A short, sad book. I read it mostly while sitting up in a giant tree which definitely added to it being awesome. My dear Hemingway never fails.
  8. Vagabond’s House by Don Blanding – 4 – Pretty book of poetry about traveling and settling down and then traveling some more. I’m not often the biggest fan of structured, rhyming poetry, but Blanding writes so beautifully that I quickly forgot to notice anything rhymed. I read a lot of it out loud to myself, which enhanced it just as the tree did for the Hemingway book.
  9. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer – 3 – I think I would have liked it more if it had been written by somebody else. Krakauer, to me, seemed to be trying too hard to write, to the point of nearly upstaging the story. Still, it was very interesting, and very sad in a frustrating way, as the kid was very rash. I’d like to see the movie.
  10. The Inferno by Dante Alighieri – 3 – The reason I gave this a 3 is a matter of personal preference. I’m not a huge fan of reading stories in poetry. But how else could it have been told? The translation was well done, and it was interesting to see Dante’s philosophy. I’ve yet to find both other parts of the Divine Comedy, but when I do, I look forward to reading them.
  11. Demian by Herman Hesse – 3 – Another philosophical kind of book… a coming-of-age story in which the characters sort of sit around discussing spirituality and conformity. I didn’t really agree with the philosophies, but it was interesting food for thought.
  12. The Witches by Roald Dahl – 5 – I didn’t even realize who Roald Dahl was until this year! I know, pathetic. So I picked up this book from the library and LOVED it. It made me feel like a kid again, turning page after page, not wanting to go to sleep till I could finish it. Which, in turn also inspired me to write more children’s literature myself that adults could also enjoy.
  13. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott – 2 – This book is about writing…. it had some very good parts, but all in all it could have been said in half the book. Mid-way it just started to feel redundant. I’ve met plenty of people who love it, though, so you don’t necessarily have to take my word.
  14. Becoming a Tiger by Susan McCarthy – 5 – BEST BOOK EVER. From genetic imprinting to learning styles to creativity to animal rehab gone wonky, this book is full of funny case studies on how baby animals learn to grow up. I highly recommend it, unless you are not really into animal stuff.
  15. A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink – 3 – A great book; the reason I personally give it a 3 is because most of it was not new information for me. It’s about how technological skills are becoming less and less relevant to this society, giving way to the creative mind, just like the technical mind replaced the farmer/laborer back in the day. A quick read with lots of good resources.
  16. Horseradish By Lemony Snicket – 3 – A book of witty Lemony Snicket quotes. Short and fun; would make a good coffee-table book if itwas bigger.
  17. The BFG By Roald Dahl – 4 – Roald Dahl again! I’m only giving this a 4 because I liked The Witches better.
  18. The Bad Beginning
  19. The Reptile Room by Lemony Snicket – 4 to both – Depressing and frustrating in the coolest way possible. Snicket is an amazing author; this year was also my first time reading anything by him, and he almost lives up to Roald Dahl.
  20. The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hill – 2 – Cool way to learn about Toaism, but the author does not live up to A.A. Milne’s writing style in the slightest when he tries to emulate it. So that bothered me.
  21. The Town and the City by Jack Kerouac – 5 – Kerouac’s first book, much more clear and structured than his later, beat-poet-jazz works, but still an amazing book. It is set in my favorite time period, 30s and 40s, and tells of a large family growing up together in a small town and later parting ways, never to be brought together again. Beautiful, and tear-jerking in many places, too. I highly recommend it.
  22. Crazy Love by Franis Chan – 3 – Christian book about how God loves us and how we should work harder on loving. Unfortunately, a lot of the book came off as very judgemental towards certain other types of Christians, which is unfair and hypocritical. Further proof we probably just need to shut our flappers and stop talking about how we SHOULD love, and just go DO it. (See? Here I am doing the same thing. It’s hopeless.)
  23. Emily of New Moon
  24. Emily Climbs
  25. Emily’s Quest by L. M. Montgomery – all, 5 – Written by the same person who wrote another favorite book series, Anne of Green Gables. Another set of witty, sweet novels. Emily has been recently orphaned and has gone to live with her two spinster aunts and bachelor uncle. Very , very similar to the Anne books, but I think that is one of the main reasons I liked them so much.
  26. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt – 2 – I more just read this to kill some time, it is very short and I’d seen the movie years ago. Eh, it was okay, not really a page-turner.
  27. Banana Rose by Natalie Goldberg – 2 – I was so disappointed! I’ve mentioned before that I really look up to Natalie Goldberg as a writer; I have read most all of her books on writing and they have helped me so much. But this book was mostly horrible, I am sorry to say. I liked a couple of the secondary characters enough to keep reading, but the two main characters were just awful, in my opinion. Also, her style jumped around a lot – it was metaphorical at some points, almost too metaphorical, like an acid trip, and then other times it was bland and with no description or anthing. Honestly I would not recommend it, which makes me so sad to say. But I can see why her other books are the ones that sell so well and that it took me forever to find this.
  28. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck – 5 – Another short book, but sooooo good! The first book I’ve ever read by Steinbeck, and I must say he is an excellent story teller. Even as it was very sad, it was a lovely book, and I’d read it again and again.
  29. Unintentional Music by Lane Arye – 4 – Part zen, part psychology, part in-depth study of creativity. Arye writes about “process work”, which is following subconscious processes of all different sorts of artists, turning mistakes into something better. He uses musicians as his examples most of the time: so, say you are playing a piece on the piano and at one point you make the same mistake every time you get to that point. Lane Arye would tell you to emphasize it, and see how that works. It’s hard to describe, but at any rate, I highly recommend it to help with any times you feel blocked creatively. Cool book.
  30. The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac – 5 – And the best book to end the year as well. Zen, poetic travel-adventures had by Jack Kerouac and his other poetic and adventuresome pals. It doesn’t really have a plot, but it is such a wild and lovely book, it doesn’t need one! I know it’s probably not for everyone, but I loved it.
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Posted by on January 4, 2012 in Books and Literature, Life Pursuits


A Tip off the Natalie Goldberg Iceberg

It was a most tragic thing that I should second guess my life’s purpose the day before I left.  I therefore left behind the physical manifestations of my actual life’s purpose and took with me some other things that I sort of like, but aren’t ever worth taking when traveling around one’s country.

The day before yesterday I shipped those things back home; but I figured it was pointless to ask my family to ship to me, c/o my good friend Rachel, my books which I was originally going to take with me: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy books, On the Road by Jack Kerouac, and most importantly, Wild Mind by Natalie Goldberg.

These books were  meant to inspire my fiction and freewriting which I was planning on accomplishing during the month of November, 20 days of which I will be spending in the land known as “not in the comforts of my home where all of my writing resources always are no matter what.”  But, in case you missed the part where I thought for a bit that I would do something a little less pleasant but a little more useful than NaNoWriMo… I don’t have them with me, because it seemed silly.

And we all know the saddest part is that I am actually traveling with absolutely NO Natalie Goldberg along to inspire me.  I have to live off of my own whims.  I don’t even know how I’ve made it this far, or how I have 8,884 words in my NaNoWriMo novel right now.  There must be some miracle at work here.  And I can’t even find anything of hers online.  She needs a blog.  Just for me, a desperate woman stranded with nothing but a laptop and her own notebook full of mediocre writings.

For those of you who don’t know, Natalie Goldberg is basically the coolest person alive.  She writes, and then she writes about writing.  She’s a Zen Buddhist whose main focus is freewriting.  Freewriting, which Google Chrome says is not a real word, is when you just start writing and you write about whatever comes out.  Some friends thank me for slightly more illustratively renaming this process “word vomit.”  I should probably patent that term, but since I am poor, I’ll just hope that some kind people give me credit if they use the term themselves, and I’ll leave everyone to go about their normal lives and not worry about me showing up at their back screen doors with a pick axe and a rather resentful looking snarl across my lips, distant eyes spelling out an urge to mutilate anyone who has ever done me wrong.  Don’t worry.  Those same friends who praise my “word vomit” creation?  Yeah, those friends.  They will also inform you that I am much too nice to do anything even remotely close to even looking menacing and murderous.  So forget about it…. sigh…

In my desperation, I was able to find some of her quotes online… one of which just put me to shame: “Life is not orderly. No matter how we try to make life so, right in the middle of it we die, lose a leg, fall in love, drop a jar of applesauce.”  Okay, fine, Natalie Goldberg.  I get it.  Life can’t be perfect and I should keep writing anyway, whether you are here to help me or not!

But NOW I am all inspired by all these Natalie Goldberg quotes about writing.

“When you are present, the world is truly alive.”

“Sometimes when you think you are done, it is just the edge of beginning. Probably that’s why we decide we’re done. It’s getting too scary. We are touching down onto something real. It is beyond the point when you think you are done that often something strong comes out.”

“Talk when you talk, walk when you walk, and die when you die.”

“First thoughts have tremendous energy. The internal censor usually squelches them, so we live in the realm of second and third thoughts, thoughts on thought, twice and three times removed from the direct connection of the first fresh flash.”

“There is no security, no assurance that because we wrote something good two months ago, we will do it again. Actually, every time we begin, we wonder how we ever did it before.”

Quite so, Natalie Goldberg… quite so.  Please, keep being amazing – and I hope to meet you one day very soon!

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Posted by on November 6, 2010 in Books and Literature, Inspiration, Writing


My Favorite Place in the World

Today, I discovered another floor in Powell’s books.

I didn’t know it was there.

It was.

I was floored.

GET IT???  I seriously didn’t even mean to make that pun.  My cleverness lies solely in my unconscious.

Powell’s doesn’t lie – it is a “city of books” quite literally.  Right now I am sitting in the café, thinking about how I should just start my book already, and wondering if that is allowed, and feeling inspired, having a strange urge to play Settlers of Catan, and wanting to drink coffee even though I know I’ve already had a couple of cups today and I probably should…………… just wait till I finish my Green Machine drink before moving on.  Of course.

I already spent money here, too, on books that I probably won’t be able to fit into my backpack.  But then I can just mail them to myself at home, I suppose.  I bought The Bone Man’s Daughter by Ted Dekker, since I am guaranteed not to be bored while reading anything by him; a planner called “The 2011 Calendar of Bunny Suicides” (I think of myself as an animal lover… and I am, I swear!!  I just have a morbid sense of humor); and, for the sake of book research since I have officially decided to do InFoWriMo (WHATEVER), Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin, and 300 Best Jobs Without a Four-Year Degree.  No guarantees how helpful either of those will be, but I think they will at least provide some authoritative quotes for my book.

I was just thinking about my title I chose for this entry.  The thing is, that is NOT exactly true; I have a lot of places that I really like in this world.  BUT Powell’s, and Portland in general, are one of them.  Especially in the fall.  Everything is so deliciously gloomy here I am simply overcome with delight.  And a great want of coffee.

The great thing about this place is…. well, most everything.  But mostly it just makes me want to write and read, and those are very important thing.  And it revitalizes me in general.  There is just something about being revitalized that I find absolutely wonderful.

Every time I come here I think of taking a picture of the inside so the folks back home or just anybody who hasn’t ever been here can understand my infatuation with this store.  But facts are, it is just so big that no one photograph can adequately capture its vastness.  And if I took a picture of every Vantage Point of Hugeness, then everyone would look at them in sequence and think “well, that makes it look like a normal bookstore.”


So, I have simply concluded that the only option is to shamelessly promote it without hope for reward – because it will be a reward in itself when one day someone comes up to me and says, “You know that store in Portland, Powell’s?  Well, I finally went there per your seven hundred recommendations, and you are right – it is AMAZING and I want to LIVE THERE.”

You’re welcome.

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Posted by on October 30, 2010 in Books and Literature, Travel



On Sunday, Robert and I went to my favorite bookstore ever (aside from Powell’s, of course, but that’s on the other side of the country), The Reader’s Corner, and I discovered, for the very first time, this little collection of bookmarks from used bookstores around the country!  It was very awesome, especially since I have been meaning to start such a collection for myself.  The problem is, I end up actually using the bookmarks, and then they get worn and tattered and finally bio-degrade and don’t exist anymore except in my heart.
Which means only one thing: get TWO bookmarks whenever I make purchases at used bookstores.  How do I do this?  Why, make two separate purchases of course!  And wear a mustache while making one of the purchases so the cashier, if it is the same person, doesn’t recognize me and think to his or herself, “Why, that person already bought something.  I don’t need to give her another bookmark.”  Which is really not very nice, considering… I mean, if I buy two books, naturally I would be needing two bookmarks, wouldn’t I?
That cashier is very silly.
What surprised me is that the Reader’s Corner did not have a bookmark from Powell’s!  Powell’s Books, for anybody who doesn’t know, is located in Portland, Oregon, and is the biggest bookstore in the world.
It is now my mission to go to Powell’s the next time I am in Oregon and get a bookmark for the Reader’s Corner there.  And a couple more for me.  =D
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Posted by on October 7, 2010 in Books and Literature


Libraries with chandeliers!

At the Maritime Museum in Beaufort, they had an entire nautical library, complete with a loft and chandelier.  I’ve decided it is one of the many reasons, aside from the pirate store and the ocean, why I want to live in Beaufort for a while.  Bed & Breakfast work-trade, perhaps?  
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Posted by on September 15, 2010 in Books and Literature, Inspiration, Travel


Beach Books

The beach!  The beach!

Every year I pick a book to read while at the beach.  I can only remember a few… in ‘07 I read the last Harry Potter book; in ‘08 I (regrettably) read Twilight; in ‘09 I read The Kite Runner and some of The Thirteenth Tale; and this year, I am reading as much as I can of my Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, as seen in the foreground.  In the background is my little brother Robert and the sand castle that he made.
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Posted by on September 11, 2010 in Books and Literature

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