Summer Reading List, Take Two

16 08 2009

NPR’s reading list got me thinking about the nature of summer reading. Bookworm that I am, summer has always represented a time to catch up on the books I didn’t get to read during the school year, and now it’s just as good a time as any to read all those books I’ve always wanted to read, but do so outside, soaking up the sunshine (or, as in the case of this summer, inside, listening to the rain). Anyhow, in honor of summer reading, a list or two of my own…

What I’m Reading This Summer

  1. Devil in the White City: a look back at the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, examining the man responsible for building it and the man responsible for destroying the lives of many who visited it. It’s fascinating not only for the mystery but for the grandeur of the fair and for all the “new” things introduced there (Wrigley’s gum, the Ferris Wheel…) It’s a trip back in time and a great read.
  2. In Our Time: Uplifting? No. One would hardly call this light summer reading. And yet the nature of Hemingway’s short, succinct sentences lends something to the nature of the quick summer read. The original New York Times review in 1925 credits “every syllable” as “count[ing] toward a stimulating, entrancing experience of magic.” And it is so. Not to mention, Hemingway is always a good read for the traveler because he does such a good job of evoking the true experience of Americans and natives abroad, even if the fact of it being in another time makes it seem another place altogether.
  3. Nine Stories: I know, I know, enough with the Salinger already. But the truth is, for me, there will never be enough Salinger. And these stories, with their heavy ideas and light, ironic and generally humorous tone, are the perfect summer reading, especially if you live in, are visiting, or simply love New York.
  4. I’m a Stranger Here Myself: Bill Bryson is great any time reading, but especially great subway reading because it doesn’t get much lighter than this. And yet the man is so insightful that you don’t have to feel guilty about reading “light” (like I did when I became oddly engrossed in—and simultaneously, it must be noted, horrified by—a Danielle Steel novel one summer. Bryson’s notes on returning to the U.S. after living abroad for 20 years are simply hilarious. Just be careful about reading in public. You will certainly find yourself laughing out loud.

Favorite Reading of Summers Past

  1. The Poisonwood Bible: it’s a little on the heavy side, but lovely and endearing and altogether engrossing, the tale of a family of missionaries and their experience in the Belgian Congo, as seen through the eyes of the wife and four daughters of a fierce evangelical Baptist. It’s not only a glimpse into another world, but a story of female strength and solidarity.
  2. Harry Potter…: What can I say? I’m fresh off of seeing the latest movie, and, well, they’ve gotten me through many a summer.
  3. The Human Comedy: It’s strange really, because I recall very little about the plot of this novel, except that it follows a young boy (Homer) as he delivers telegrams and struggles to survive in the small fictional town of Ithaca, CA. I do, however, recall sitting by the pool engrossed in said novel and thinking of it every time I hear the word “Ithaca.” Perhaps it is time to get reacquainted…
  4. The Great Gatsby: I know it seems like a cop out, but in my mind this remains a quintessential summer novel, possibly because of the colorful, raucous summer it portrays, but more because I can clearly recall the summer I first read it. It was the summer before heading off to college, when I realized that I’d made it all the way through high school without ever reading this classic work. Every time I see the cover, really, it takes me back to the floor of my bedroom, on a hot summer day, reading “and so we beat on…” Perhaps that was the beginning of my obsession with New York…

Summer Reading List from NPR

13 08 2009

This morning on while getting ready for work and getting my daily NPR fix, I heard children’s author Lesley Bloom give her picks on summer reading for young adults. There are some winners there, a few I’ve read and a few I now want to read. I subsequently found myself entrenched in NPR’s seemingly endless maze of book lists, and have all-to-quickly amassed a summer reading wish list of my own (even though summer is nearly over). The short list:

  1. The Photographer: a combination of graphic novel/photojournalism about a Doctors Without Borders team entering war-torn Afghanistan. Bizarre, yet fascinating.
  2. The School of Essential Ingredients: about an unlikely group of cooking students, who, the write-up assures, you’ll want to spend your lunch hour with. That line sold me.
  3. Woodsburner: historical fiction (my favorite kind of book) that re-creates the Thoreau’s historic burning of 300 acres of the Concord Woods one year prior to building his cabin on Walden Pond. It’s said to be a look at American freedom, and I’m guessing it may make an easier summer read than Walden itself.
  4. Oh! A Mystery of Mono No Aware: a travel book about the adventures of a young L.A. native in Japan, caught in the mystery quest for an ancient Japanese concept. The book itself is said to resemble a work of art, which is an added bonus.

There were many others of interest on these lists, but for brevity’s sake (and since summer is all-too-quickly coming to an end) I stop at four, and I think they pretty much run the gamut. They enlighten, provoke thought and yet can still be read on the beach or train or wherever the summer may take you. Ah, summer reading, what would we do without you?

List: Things I’ve Done in the Time I’ve Disappeared

2 06 2009

It’s been a fairly hectic month or so, and I realize I’ve neglected this blog, and, for that matter, the stilettos. My flip flops and work heels, however, have been in fully rotation over the past hectic month. A few of the simple pleasures that have kept me from my computer…

  • Lit Crawl NYC: the second New York literary pub crawl went swimmingly and was loads of fun. Of course, as organizer, I spent more time running from place to place to check in than actually listening to the readings, but I loved it nonetheless. I was also, as it turns out, photographer for the night, until my camera battery died (see photos here).
  • Reading Esquire: one of the perks (and dangers) of the new job is that I have easy access to magazines all the time and that I must know the brands and their audiences. In perusing some issues of Esquire to find ideas for this year’s gift guides, I discovered something rather surprising: my new favorite magazine just so happens to be a men’s magazine.  It’s smart and funny and simply great journalism (more later).
  • Playing tour guide: over Memorial Day weekend Mom visited with Aunty Bee, her best friend, who, incidentally, is also the friend her mother found for her, so the two mother found friends got to meet. I dragged the ladies from the tip-top of Manhattan to the tiny enclaves of Brooklyn and loved the gal time and the sharing of my city.
  • Parking: this past weekend was spent enjoying the (finally) summer weather by parking it in Central Park. On Sunday afternoon we had the distinct pleasure of arriving to the park just before the sky opened up, at which point we took “shelter” under the trees and watched as many fled and equally as many continued to toss the frisbee in the rain. Then, just as quickly, the rain stopped and the returned, more lovely than before. Ah, New York…


9 01 2009

There is something about having a major, beautiful park that makes a city fantastic. If Central Park is the epitome of this, Golden Gate Park is a close second (though I think perhaps it is on par, and getting better all the time).

Some things to do in Golden Gate Park:

  1. Stop and smell the roses (or other flower of your choice): The stunning glass-domed building, just as amazing as when it first opened in 1979, is just the beginning. Inside the Conservatory of Flowers are nearly 2,000 species of plants, each more amazing and beautiful than the next.
  2. Take Tea: The Japanese Tea Garden is one of the most-visited sights in San Francisco, and for good reason. It is a tranquil oasis within the city, for relaxation, meditation, or just a nice long stroll. All the rest is so amazing, you just have to see for yourself.
  3. Look at Art: After tea in the garden stop in the nearby de Young Fine Arts Museum. In its new modern (and eco-friendly) building since 2005, the museum still houses elements of the original 1921 museum, including the Pool of Enchantment, sphinx sculptures, and the initial palm trees,  ferns, redwood. Plus, of course, a whole lot of beautiful art.
  4. Commune with Nature: Though I’ve not yet been the newly re-opened California Academy of Sciences is a recent obsession. Here a four-story rain forest, an aquarium, a planetarium, and a natural history museum all reside under one living roof. That’s right, the entire building is sustainable, from its radiant sub-floor heating to the tippy-top of its (literally) green roof, created of native vegetation that will capture rainwater and serve as a habitat for wildlife. Incredible just doesn’t seem enough here.
  5. Eat. After all that exploring, head to the historic Beach Chalet, which combines yummy food with lovely views, both inside, where WPA frescoes capture a 1930s San Francisco, and outside, where the Pacific waves crash against Ocean Beach.

Yes, I’m Bi-Coastal

7 01 2009

I interrupt this “I Heart SF” week with a bit of New York love, or, rather, I remark on a fabulous proof that my two favorite American cities are inextricably linked, making each even more lovable. and so…

New York

I must report that this Friday evening Bohemia is back in all its glory with a celebration of, Herbert Huncke, who inspired the word “beat” of the Beat Generation and then inspired Beat greats from Kerouac to Ginsberg to Burroughs. January 9, 2009 would be Huncke’s 94th birthday, and in order to celebrate his friends, fans, and fellow writers will be gathering at Bowery Electric for a tribute to Huncke and his own lyrical and poignant writing. Show starts at 8pm but doors open at 7:30pm. It promises to be a fantastic and enlightening event.

San Francisco

It’s a New York event, yes, but the heart of the beats truly lies in San Francisco. Though Huncke and his friends all met in New York City, it was San Francisco where most of their mayhem took place, and it is still San Francisco that is a tribute to the Beats and their fabulous legacy. And so, in keeping with the week’s theme, some of the best places to keep a San Francisco Beat (pardon the pun).

  1. City Lights Booksellers. 261 Columbus Ave. It doesn’t get much more Beat than this. Not only is the store, which takes up a block of Columbus Avenue, one of the few independent bookstores left (thanks Barnes), it is truly a “Literary Landmark,” both for the alternative culture it sanctions and for its 50-plus year history of commitment to progressive ideas. It was the nation’s first all-paperback bookstore, and its three floors house a vast selection of books, including many “harder-to-find” titles as well as a poetry room. Oh, then there was this little poem called Howl, and the man who caused quite a stir by publishing it.
  2. The Beat Museum. 540 Broadway. It’s just across form City Lights and features everything from Beat letters to Kerouac bobbleheads.
  3. Vesuvio. 255 Columbus Ave. It’s in Kerouac Alley. What more needs to be said?

Monday Pennies

23 12 2008

Given the current economic downturn, we could all use all the pennies we can collect. And so, a few that mean a lot to me recently:

  • Subway friendliness: Yesterday I got to the subway station and could hear my train coming in as I went through the turnstile. I raced down the stairs behind two other women, certain I would get to the bottom only to see the train rolling out. Before reaching the platform I heard a voice saying, “She’s right there,” and when I got down saw a girl sprawled between the doors and holding them open for me. If that isn’t neighborliness, I don’t know what is.
  • New York Magazine: Last week’s issue (which I only received this weekend due to glitch with the lovely US Postal Service (namely my old post office) lists “Reasons To Love New York 2008,” two of my favorites being that  “Obama is One of Us” and that “Every Once in a While There Is Dancing in the Streets.” Also amazing is the (well-stated) claim that you have to be part masochist to make it in New York, and perhaps most outstanding is the lengths one goes to to live here.
  • New Books: I’m reading two right now: Forever, which will ultimately be a story about New York, but I’m only a few chapters in and am currently fascinated by the depth of Irish history involved (and will soon be diving into more of that) and I’m a Stranger Here Myself, Bill Bryson in all his genius, hysterical, insightful, classic.
  • Snow: Much as I hate the cold, the stuff has a magical quality to it:
  • blog-bike

    Snow flowers?

  • Trees: I know I may have overdone the Christmas thing, but these trees had to be shared:


    Reminds me of the village my mom and I make under our tree every year...

Bryant Park

Bryant Park

Across the street from Bloomingdales

Across the street from Bloomingdales

Holiday Gifting

16 12 2008

Christmas is next week and this morning, as I walked through Union Square and watched vendors setting up the Christmas Market, I realized that I have yet to even think about holiday shopping. Yes, I am that girl. But, since most people I know procrastinate too (with the exception of my crazy sister who has had her shopping done and cards out since December 1), I guess I’m ahead of the game. At least I have this list of unique ideas to inspire other procrastinators like myself:

  • Green Christmas: Since I’m going to Colorado, where my family only recently (due to much pestering by yours truly) started recycling, I’m thinking green, and so is Sistemas Forestales Ecológicos, a company based in Mexico. For a mere $14 you can give the gift of ecology, in form of a Treesmas Tree. It’s the gift that keeps on giving: for 20 years the tree you adopt for a loved one will be cared for and protected from illegal logging. If that weren’t enough, once the tree is harvested, your recipient will receive a return on your investment (the value of the volume of their tree). Perhaps a long time for turn-around, but better than a bunch of stationery.
  • Deliciousness: If you have a foodie on your list, or even if you don’t, this is an amazing gift. Nudo is an olive grove in Tuscany that lets you adopt an olive tree. Your recipient gets an adoption certificate and tree information booklet (instant gratification), followed by a spring shipment of Extra Virgin Olive Oil and then a fall shipment of flavor-infused oil. Warning: the stuff is too good to cook with—bread-dipping only. You can even choose the grove from which your tree will come. (Choose wisely; if you’re really an amazing gift-giver, your birthday gift to said recipient could be a visit to the tree itself.) And if you can’t afford the $100 (in GBP, plus shipping)  the Nudo Shop sells an array of food items separately, so you can still give the gift of a refined palate. (I’m a little obsessed.)
  • Sabon= Soap: Trees may not be your thing (though clearly they are mine), but don’t go the route of bath products unless they are truly superior. Sabon is a New York-based soap company that sells a myriad of bath and home products in luscious scents. The best part is that all hail from Israel and most are made from the vital minerals and salts of the Dead Sea. You’ve never experienced hand cream until you’ve experienced Sabon Body Butter ($11.75), a magical, melts at body temperature substance that leaves skin softer than you imagine. But my personal favorite is the Body Scrubs ($24-30), which are made with those magic salts from the Dead Sea to make your skin silky smooth. And they look pretty too.
  • Here’s to the Wanderers: If you’re a New Yorker or visiting New York before Christmas, give the gift of travel. Idlewild Books, a.k.a. my new favorite place, is a travel book store, that is not only beautiful but sells all things travel, a go-to place to pick up the guidebook along with the literature of a particular place. Or better yet: if you can’t decide, tell the smart folks there about your giftee and their trip, and they’ll take care of the rest, with a customized gift pack (hint: mention DailyCandy before 12/29 and get 25% off a pack of three or more).

Whew! A lot of word for four gift ideas. Now stop reading and get to shopping!

List: Musings on a Return to the Real World

11 12 2008

I’ve had such a long stint of silence that it seems only apprpriate to return with a list, a musing on the moving and how it made me a wreck for nearly a month. And thus, thoughts…

  • Movers are fantastic. I went with the “guy with the van” route, or, rather, two guys who ran up and down my four flights of steep stairs with heavy furniture while I sat on the sidewalk and watched the van. They also fixed my couch. All for very cheap. Go movers.
  • Cockroaches are disgusting. One of the realities of living in New York is dealing with pests. You’re not a real New Yorker until you have at least one story of the mice or cockroaches or other disgusting pests that invaded your living space. When I got into my new place I had more roommates than I’d bargained for, which made settling in tough. They are, however, gone now (fingers crossed).
  • Caulking is therapeutic. I spent the first few days in the new place caulking all the spaces between baseboard and floor (and any other hole I could find) to keep the roaches out. There was something oddly pleasant about the whole thing, even though it kept me from unpacking. But hey, if the whole writing thing doesn’t work out, at least I have my back up plan.
  • California is lovely. A trip home for Thanksgiving was a welcome reprieve to the stress of moving. No cockroaches, for one. And then there was good food, great family, and my mother to fuss over me. We took the ferry into San Francisco one day and wandered around my old haunts in North Beach. It was both a thrill and slightly upsetting to see people laying out in Washington Square in late November. Much as I love New York, I won’t lie and say it didn’t have me wanting to stay for more.
  • Christmas is coming. I finally bought my ticket to Colorado for Christmas, and miraculously waiting as long as I did seemed to have helped. It wasn’t cheap, but given I know people who paid upwards of $700 a few months ago, it makes me relieved to think that travel prices may be going down. As for that whole shopping thing, I’ve yet to do it.
  • It’s good to be back. After nearly a month of floundering in moving craziness and travel and playing catch-up, I’m finally back to normal and able to blog again on a regular schedule. Until Christmas…


2 09 2008

I have been remiss in blogging these past few weeks. And a few folks (though mostly my mother) have called me out on it. But I’m coming back around. These past few weeks have proved not a little insane, so there’s my excuse. What have I been doing? Well, here is a list of some of the highlights that have kept me from blogging:

  1. Writing. I’ve become somewhat prolific, writing weekly food bits for Maria Liberati, as well as some pieces that will appear in CBS Watch! Magazine. Woohoo!
  2. Writing. On top of actual work I’ve gotten, I’ve joined a writing group. Hello novel, or at least step one of a novel, which is actually starting it.
  3. Reading. Yes, I have actually gotten back to reading. These days I’m obsessed with If on a winter’s night a traveler, a book I’ve started several times before. It was actually the reason I discovered Italo Calvino but for some reason I read other books and never that one. Anyhow, it is brilliant and tough and absolutely gorgeous. And its philosophy on reading and the making of books is oh-so-reminiscent of all those literary theorists with whom I am infatuated.
  4. Interviewing. When it rains it pours. I’ve been on many interviews recently, ranging from The New Yorker (!) to some e-learning company where it turned out they wanted me to promote psychic courses. (Yikes.) I’d say the New Yorker was the highlight, even though it was a long shot.
  5. Getting a job. I’m now going to be a tutor at the Harlem Children’s Zone, a phenomenal organization, a great way to give back, and the ideal way for me to combine my two loves: teaching literature and writing.
  6. Planning a literary festival. Oh yes. That. It will be a post in itself, but for now, suffice to say that I’m bringing Litquake, San Francisco’s great literary festival, to New York. For one phenomenal night. (Mark September 27 on your calendars New Yorkers!)

And those are just a few of the things I’ve been doing instead of blogging. Sleep? What’s that?

Hey June

4 06 2008

Today is June 4, and I’ve finally gotten around to changing my calendar. Not because I enjoy fashionably late but simply because it’s behind my door (near the shoe rack) and I happened to forget it was there. And so, in honor of June, some assorted, random musings (in list form, of course):

  • On June: June’s photograph on my Elliot Erwitt calendar happens to be one of my all time favorites: laughing woman kisses man, as seen through the side window of a car parked on the beach. (I would go into the social commentary ramifications of said photo, but I like it too much to go there). I find it serendipitous that it’s the photo for my birthday month and was taken in my home state. June will be a good month.
  • On the letter E: I seem to gravitate toward that letter, or specifically that letter in pairs. There’s Edward Estlin Cummings (also known as E.E.) whose quirky poetry style I adore, and there’s Elliott Erwitt, whose black and white photography is hilarious, thoughtful, and all around amazing.
  • On EE 1: Cummings has been my favorite poet since since high school, when I mimicked his quirky, artistic grammatical style in a paper. The only book I have of his, 100 Selected Poems, was given to me in high school by my dear friend Rachel, who shares my love of all things quirky and artistic. The well-loved volume made the trek to New York and contains my favorite poem, “anyone lived in a pretty how town,” but not my second favorite: “One winter afternoon,” which I love for the line “(at the magical hour/when is becomes if)” (enough, even, to talk about it here in a blog about my beloved summer).
  • On EE 2: I first discovered Elliot Erwitt and his lovely photography when I stumbled upon a special exhibit of his at the Prado while traveling with my college gal pals. We were obsessed, and now I look for him every once in a while to see what he’s doing lately. There’s something incredibly uplifting about his shots. And, of course, they’re quirky and artistic.
  • On friends: Since both EEs seem to make me think of the ladies with whom I (at two very different life stages) discovered them, and since (ahem, a confession) I saw Sex and the City this weekend (the new roomie twisted my arm), an homage to girlfriends and their incredible knack for being quirky and artistic.
  • On SATC: Since I’ve now confessed to seeing it (though will still see it again on Friday), a second confession: I cried unabashedly through most of it, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to those who know me well and know that I am, on all accounts, a crier. Nevertheless, Hollywood-ized though it was, it didn’t lose those three fantastic components: girlfriends, girl power, and New York City.
  • On New York City: Since I seem to be as SATC obsessed as all those countless fans who traveled to my city to see the movie, I’ll end with movie and city. My buds at EuroCheapo had SATC fever last week too, and posted a great blog about how “Cheapo Bradshaw” might see NYC. Great tips Cheapos!
  • On shoes: Alas, the gold stilettos are sick. I just discovered that they are breaking, so it’s off to the shoe doctor. Please oh please, nice shoe miracle worker, help my gold stilettos! But today, because, it’s rainy (and hot) it’s Havaianas for me.