What We Talk About When We Talk About Non-Fiction


Oh, you weak beautiful people, who give up with such grace.  What you need is someone to take hold you – gently, with love, and hand your life back to you.

                        –Tennesse Williams


Now that we’ve had the big hoe-down with fiction (and GAWD you people are good readers), I thought we should do the same with non-fiction.  As you can imagine, I read a huge number of memoirs as blurb requests; some of them are so squalid I feel as if the solution is to run my head over with my own car tires.  Some are the opposite.  In general, though, squalid rules the day, and people love it.  God bless them.

Before I begin, though, I had a list of my favorite gay fiction and it got buried under the ever-lovin’ crap on my desk – the same desk that violently heaved me away from it and caused me to seize like a mystic on the floor!  Just for reference.

The world would be a shadowy and angsty, ugly, factory-like building and we would all be wage slaves without our gay brethren and sistern.  Let us now sing or hum a bit of hallelujah for Oscar Wilde.  Thank you, Oscar.

Thank you, humane and funny and smart-as-a-sharpity whip, Robert Rodi.  You fill the world with joy and great ideas, and you are in all ways the definition of a good man.  For my blog babies, here a short list of his wonderful work:

Kept Boy

Fag Hag

Closet Case

Drag Queen

(What They Did To) Princess Paragon

Bitch Goddess (a minor masterpiece)

When You Were Me 

Robert also had a long career as a writer for comic books, which is cooler than anything I’ve ever done.  But I don’t know anything about comics, so I’ll have to ask him to drop in and explain that to us. 

I have a gay-girl crush on Stephen MacCauley, who wrote what has remained one of my favorite, nearly sleight-of-hand beautiful lines:  “Having recently turned 40, and more recently, 44 . . . .”  Pick up his Alternatives To Sex, The Man in the House, The Object of My Affection, True Enough, The Easy Way Out.

I adore Lisa Alther, David Leavitt, Alice Walker, James Baldwin.  Randall Kenan is so important I hesitate to categorize him in any way, except I’m pretty sure he’d never have sex with me; ergo, he’s gay.  I love you, Randall.

Truman Capote.  Truman Capote.  Tennessee Williams.  Christopher Isherwood.  W.H. Auden (although this is NOT the poetry post!), Albert Albee – born on my birthday.  Roland Barthes.  Quentin Crisp.  Michele Foucault.  Stephen Fry.  Frederica Garcia Lorca.  Noel Coward.  Paul Monette.  Frank O’Hara.  Maurice Sendak.  Gore Vidal.  Dorothy Allison.  Elizabeth Bishop (still not the poetry post, but she will reappear, you betcha).  Rita Mae Brown.  Willa Cather.  Angela Davis.  Audre Lord.  Mary Oliver.  Sappho (sigh).  Gertrude Stein.  Alice B. Toklas.  Jeannette Winterson (be still my latent homo heart).  Beaudelaire, Walt Whitman.  Jean Cocteau, Hart Crane, E.M. Forster, Andre Gide, Patricia Highsmith, D.H. Lawrence.  W. Somerset Maugham.  Evelyn Waugh.  Tony Kushner.  Armistead Maupin.  Adrienne Rich.  Susan Sontag.

*     *    *

Now to non-fiction.  This is by no means an exhaustive list, because quite frankly, I’m exhausted.  But I prefer your contributions anyway. 

For The Time Being, Annie Dillard

Into the Wild, Jon Krakauer

Miss American Pie, Margaret Sartor (I can’t recommend this memoir highly enough)

Goat, Brad Land

The Circus Fire, Stewart O’Nan

Auto de Fay, Fay Weldon

Dominion, Matthew Scully

Vows, Peter Manseau

Change Me Into Zeus’s Daughter, Barbara Robinette Moss

Boy With Loaded Gun, Lewis Nordan

Savage Beauty:  The Life of  Edna St. Vincent Millay, by Nancy Milford (this may be the  single best literary biography I’ve ever read)

Regarding the Pain of Others, Susan Sontag

Everything by James Hillman.  I don’t know any other way to say it.

Last Train to Memphis, and Careless Love, by Peter Guralnick

The Undertaker, Thomas Lynch

Among the Thugs, Bill Buford

This is a scant list, obviously, and one I expect all of you to contribute to heavily.  But I will add a few of the books that fall under the category Haven Is Waving Her Freak Umbrella Without Shame.  I ADORE memoirs of drug and alcohol abuse.  Oh, how they please me.  Some of these are moving and literary, others are WOW, just WOW Motley Crue.

A Drinking Life:  Pete Hamill (so good)

Drinking:  A Love Story, by Carolyn Knapp

How To Stop Time:  Heroin from A to Z, Ann Marlowe

The Dirt, Motley Crue

The Heroin Diaries, Nikki Sixx

The Basketball Diaries, Jim Carroll

To Hell and Partway Back, Marilyn Manson

Dry, Augusten Burroughs

More, Now, Again, Elizabeth Wurtzel

Candy, Luke Davies

I just looked at addiction memoirs on amazon and realized there are approximately 642 I haven’t read and I wish I had them RIGHT HERE RIGHT NOW.   All my books look stupid.  I’m going to eat some cake.

Read this book.  Make recommendations.  Poetry is next!  In the meantime, you’re all just as precious as a dew on the whiskers of the Easter Bunny.

Published in: on September 25, 2008 at 10:36 pm  Comments (185)  


  1. Mantrapped Fay Weldon
    Tweak Nic Sheff
    Blue Highways William Least Heat Moon
    Master of the Senate Robert Caro
    The Path To Power Robert Caro
    Means of Ascent Robert Caro
    Sido and My Mother’s House Colette
    Sister Age MFK Fisher
    How To Eat A Wolf MFK Fisher
    Self Consciousness John Updike
    Alien Nation Quentin Crisp
    anything by Simon Doonan
    anything by Amy Sedaris
    Gore Vidal’s Lincoln
    Giovanni’s Room James Baldwin
    A Life Of Colette Judith Thurman

  2. Oh…there you are.

    Ditto for me on Haven’s list.
    Double ditto with Suzanne’s.

    To that I would add right off the top of my head:

    Soul of a New Machine, Tracy Kidder
    Ike: An American Here, Michael Korda
    Undaunted Courage, Stephen Ambrose (does the say no bad stuff apply to him, too?)
    Carl Sandburg’s Life of Lincoln
    The Right Stuff, Tom Wolfe (or anything else by this national treasure of a writer)
    The Longest Day, Cornelius Ryan
    The Life of Josiah Henson, Formerly a Slave, Now an Inhabitant of Canada, as Narrated by Himself (1849-this work inspired Harriett Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin.)
    Black Like Me, John Howard Griffin
    Any by John McPhee
    Any by Susan Neville
    Any by Scott Russell Sanders
    Any by David McCollough
    Proust Was a Neuroscientist by Jonah Leher
    The Sea Around Us, by Rachel Carson (She gained her fame and changed the world with Silent Spring, but she gained her literary voice with the book I referenced.)
    A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson
    A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking
    The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby

  3. I even had it written down and failed to enter what I consider a stellar achievement in non-fiction, and one I would encourage everyone to buy FROM THEIR LOCAL INDEPENDENT RETAIL OUTLET:

    Red House, by Sarah Messer

    Scott Russell Sanders is a fellow Hoosier and a man of almost endless grace and compassion. But I’m planning a spirituality post, so he’ll show up there, along with our fellow Blog Baby J. Brent Bill, Friend Extraordinare, as well as a great friend.

  4. ….
    anything at all by Joan Didion, and I mean, anything. You can cut right to the chase with her latest work, We Tell Ourselves Stories to Live.
    Black Elk Speaks, as told to John Neihardt
    The Maine Woods, by H.D. Thoreau (I lived up there for a few years of my life.)
    Bitter Lemons, Laurence Durrell

  5. Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy

    And my first nonfiction book that I knowingly stole from the Memphis Public Library: Loose Change by Sara Davidson.

  6. Albert Speer: His Battle With Truth, Gitta Sereny
    The Human Condition and Eichmann in Jerusalem, Hannah Arendt
    Hitler’s Willing Executioners, Daniel Jonah Goldhagen
    The Survivor: An Anatomy of Life in the Death Camps, Terrence Des Pres
    Hasidic Tales of the Holocaust, Yaffa Eliach
    Maus I and Maus II, Art Spiegelman
    The Sunflower, Simon Wiesenthal
    Approaches to Auschwitz: The Holocaust and its Legacy, Richard L. Rubenstein and John K. Roth
    The Holocaust: A History of the Jews of Europe During the Second World War,
    Martin Gilbert
    A Child of the Holocaust, Jack Kuper
    Upon The Head of the Goat, A Childhood in Hungary, 1939-1944, Aranka Siegel
    The Night Trilogy, Elie Wiesel
    The Holocaust Chronicles, A History in Words and Pictures, with many, many contributors and editors.

  7. Oh, Mrs. G., I loved Autobiography of a Face. Just loved it.

  8. with those holocaust books, we must add, the pianist

  9. George, for three years I worked in a large bookstore, and when Bill Bryson’s In A Sunburned Country came out I bought it and took it with me on my dinner break in the Starbucks cafeteria. Oh, those . . . what would you call those days. Retail, I suppose. At any rate, I had my problematic soup, my burnt coffee, my cinnamon scone, and I got to the section where Bryson attempts to swim in the Australian ocean. He’s fat, pale, can’t see without his glasses, is repeatedly swept under by the vicious riptides, is nearly stung to death by a stingray, and all the while his Australian hosts are photographing him because they’ve never seen such a human specimen. He decides to drown with some sang froid. Needless to say, I first was chuckling, then had my face buried in my napkin, and finally had to flee the cafeteria and hide in the breakroom, utterly hysterical.

  10. I have so many holocaust books I didn’t know where to begin or end. I was an undergraduate fellow in Holocaust Studies, and then did another year of study in seminary. I reached the saturation point, the place where I simply couldn’t take anymore in. It was bad for my mental health, which is, you know, full of holes and propped up on stilts as it is.

  11. Autobiography of a Face- amazing. I can only think back a few monthes, so..
    An Exact Replica of a figment of My Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken
    One Drop by Bliss Broyard
    The Glass Castle- Jeannette Walls
    A Wolf at the Table
    The Soul’s Code by Hillman
    Writing Down the Bones , Natalie Goldberg

  12. I’m off to bed, my Literary Dears. Please continue without me. I look forward to long, erudite lists in the morning. Barring that, I would like some unrestrained nonsense. Thanks.

  13. Caryl, I’ve never heard of this book by Elizabeth McCracken and I ADORE her. I swear, that half-a-brain of mine is singing a lonesome tune. I’ll look for it right away. Did I have a life before this blog? Yes, yes I did. It involved Vitamin Water and popcorn.

  14. As I’ve said before, our lovely hostess is at the top of the list, mostly because I was just so SURPRISED. Your book was just not what I was expecting at all in the very best way.

    I loooove the Little House Books, even though I know they are technically historical fiction. I watch the TV show on occasion, partly to admire the beautiful cinematography but mostly just to get really PISSY about how much they got wrong. And I pretty much love any books like that, the lovely family portraits that are super old-fashioned yet very real. I can’t wait till my daughter is older…we are going to hit all the museums and cook out of the Little House cookbook and wear sun bonnets and make butter together. Ohhh yesssss.

    I loved The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio…I heard it on tape, read by the author. Story of a mother who kept her family from starving by winning jingle writing contests in the 1960s.

    Two-Part Invention: The Story of a Marriage by Madeline L’Engle. I’ve heard that it’s a very rosy picture of a not so rosy marriage but it’s beautiful and funny.

    I loved Running with Scissors. I can’t wait to read A Wolf At the Table.

    Sybil…that book is ROUGH. Wow.

    Life Among the Savages and Raising Demons by Shirley Jackson…that woman is everything I could ever hope to be. A write from home mom with four kids in rickety old house who manages to stay sharp, wicked, and witty. Every time I have a kid a piece of my brain falls out so I don’t know how she managed it.

    My first realization about Erma Bombeck was that she was making it all up. Then I realized she wasn’t. Then I realized it was half and half. She taught me so much about how to exaggerate the mundane for the sake of comedy.

    Intermission by Anne Baxter: Who knew that hussy in sea foam green groaning “Oh Moses, Moses” and tormenting that hottie Yul Brynner could write?? I found her book a thrift store…it’s about leaving Hollywood to marry a cattle rancher in Australia and living in the bush. It’s a great story, and I was impressed by her writing ability.

    Cash by Johnny Cash. My favorite story is about the little boy who told everyone Johnny Cash was going to church with him. Must read for any atheist. Explain THAT ONE.

    I pretty love any Hollywood memoir type thing…it’s a terrible weakness, I mean, I have even read My Life in High Heels by Loni Anderson. I’m not reccomending it at all, it’s basically a list of men she slept with.

    But…I really enjoyed Call Me Anna by Patty Duke…it’s just chock full of interesting stuff. I know she just talked into a tape recorder and had it edited but she can tell a good story.

    Elvis and Me by Priscilla Presley…I read that book approximately 1,047 times by the time I was in the 8th grade. I bought my copy at GRACELAND.

    All Phillip Yancey makes me feel less alone as a Christian who thinks all those weird, you know, human thoughts.

    Any books about crime/murder, strange facts, circuses (especially old “freak shows”), mummification, forensics, strange phenomena, etc.

    Ok, so a lot of my stuff isn’t so literary. It’s a good thing I read fast, or this growing list all you smarties are providing would probably make me give up reading forever.

  15. The book by Elizabeth McCracken was just released- I had it on hold with Amazon and it shipped two weeks ago. Its the story of her first pregnancy in France which ended with a still birth, and how she went on to have another baby born beautiful and healthy-named Gus no less! a year later. You will never feel the same about miscarriage or still birth again,especially if you haven’t experienced it first hand. I wanted to call every woman in my life who has and tell her I was sorry if I didn’t understand the depth of loss she felt. Beautiful book.

  16. Zippy, Get Up Off the Couch and Dry – those 3 got me here.

    Others of importance to me have been:

    The Best Day the Worst Day – Life with Jane Kenyon
    by Donald Hall. I just love Donald Hall

    What the Stones Remember – A Life Rediscovered
    by Patrick Lane
    this is a recovery book. I read it at least a good year before I got sober. It helped me along the way.

  17. She Got Up off the Couch*
    Jesus Land-Julia Scheeres
    The Ride of Our Lives-Mike Leonard
    The Invisible Wall-The-Harry Bernstein
    Riding With Dead People-Monica Holloway
    Name All the Animals-Alison Smith
    The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid-Bill Bryson
    Running with Scissors*
    Chewing Gum in Holy Water-Mario Valentini
    The Glass Castle-Jeannette Walls
    Angela’s Ashes-Frank McCourt
    My Lobotomy-Howard Dully

  18. Kate, I shall go out and get the Elizabeth McCracken today. I’ve loved all her other books. And don’t feel badly about loving crime, circus, hollywood, and weirdo biographies; I ADORE true crime. I read a book about the San Francisco dog-mauling trial TWICE. And one of my favorite writers on the planet is James Ellroy. My Dark Places is a first-rate memoir.

  19. Dee — is that Mother Dee? I forget. Whichever Dee you be, Alison Smith is a friend of mine and I blurbed Name All The Animals. I found it such a delicate and haunting book, a beautiful and subtle rumination on loss. Alison is, additionally, one of the kindest people on earth.

    I read only an excerpt of My Lobotomy but I couldn’t bear it. Anyone who knew me growing up knows there is a Certain Someone (not my sister THIS TIME) who would have loooved to have me strapped me to a table and my brains scrambled with a knitting needle. What a profound horror.

  20. Baudelaire was gay? It’s been years since I read any B. scholarship; is this something new? I loved Helter Skelter, Edie, and George Plimpton’s Capote bio.–these are the first three that come to mind.

  21. Anything at all by BILL BRYSON!! Especially ‘A Walk In The Woods’. We love all his books.

  22. Elizabeth McCracken was not me, but that’s cool, I’ll check it out too.

    How could I forget Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver? For a week afterwards I couldn’t grocery shop…I’d just push my cart weakly through the store and weep “Why…Why…??”

  23. The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl by Timothy Egan — a can’t-put-it-down book that could be seen as scarily relevant.

    Ditto on Bryson – just read his Shakespeare book, which makes other Shakespeare biographies look silly

  24. Funny that the first 3 on Haven’s list are ones I would have chosen. I purchased “American Pie” for my daughter but I read it first. Now she has “Savage Beauty” and I intend to read that when she’s finished with it. I’ll definitely find “Red House”. I’d like to add one that has some resonance in the current political climate plus it’s funny and though provoking at the same time: “Slaves in the Family” by Edward Ball. “Zippy” and “She Got Up Off the Couch” go without saying but I’ll plug ’em anyway.

  25. i realize that i must repeat myself, having accidentally posted two of my favorites in the fiction post. so, again i say, Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art by Madeleine L’Engle. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard. These two changed my life profoundly.

    also: War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning by Chris Hedges. And to defend that title, I give you these quotes:

    “As long as we think abstractly, as long as we find in patriotism and the exuberance of war our fulfillment, we will never understand those who do battle against us, or how we are perceived by them, or finally those who do battle for us and how we should respond to it all. We will never discover who we are. We will fail to confront the capacity we all have for violence. And we will court our own extermination. By accepting the facile cliche that the battle under way against terrorism is a battle against evil, by easily branding those who fight us as the barbarians, we, like them, refuse to acknowledge our own culpability. We ignore real injustices that have led many of those arrayed against us to their rage and despair.”

    “To survive as human beings is possible only through love. And, when [Death] is ascendant, the instinct must be to reach out to those we love, to see in them all the divinity, pity, and pathos of the human. And to recognize love in the lives of others – even those with whom we are in conflict – love that is like our own. It does not mean we will avoid war or death. It does not mean that we as distinct individuals will survive. But love, in its mystery, has its own power. It alone gives us meaning that endures. It alone allows us to embrace and cherish life. Love has power both to resist in our nature what we know we must resist, and to affirm what we know we must affirm. And love, as the poets remind us, is eternal.”

    i will probably be back with more.

  26. I just walked in the house and said to John, “Tell me some of your favorite memoirs.” He’s a constant reader, and when he’s making pots he listens to books on CD. He said, “Oh, yours, by far.” I said, “Very sweet. Not so helpful, but sweet.”

    Here are some of the favorites I was able to find on my own:

    Naturally, all of Augusten’s books are at the top of my list, and I believe Suzanne can attest that no one on this planet read Split as many times as I did. I’m quite certain I read it more often than her editor or her agent.

    Without reservation I recommend:

    Girls of Tender Age, by Mary-Ann Tirone Smith

    Ex Libris, by Anne Fadiman

    Secrets in the Dark, by Frederick Buechner

    Family Romance, A Love Story, by John Lanchester

    Giving Up The Ghost, by Hilary Mantel

    Sleeping Arrangements, by Laura Shane Cunningham

    Double Down, by Frederick and Steven Barthelme

    The Kiss, by Katherine Harrison

  27. Amanda, those quotations from Chris Hedges are just breathtaking. I think I was actually holding my breath while reading them. I’ve hesitated to read that book, even though I’ve picked it up many times, because I knew it would cut right through me. Turns out I was right — but still. I should man up.

  28. Two favorite gays I forgot to list:

    Wake Up, Sir! by Jonathan Ames

    Everything ever written or spoken by David Rakoff. Oh how we love David Rakoff.

  29. Be still my heart! Haven Kimmel has a blog! And accepts comments! ‘Tis a great day indeed!

    I DO have a contribution to the discussion at hand:

    “American Girl” and “Manhattan When I Was Young,” both by Mary Cantwell…until I discovered “Zippy,” these were my favorite books and I have read both of them countless times. Cantwell grew up in Bristol, Rhode Island with her parents, grandparents and sister 1930’s–1940’s. She had an Ivy League education, then ended up in New York working for Mademoiselle magazine. Eventually she became the first woman to serve on the Editorial Board of the New York Times. I wish I was a better writer so that I could better convey the magic of her words…they are simply delicious and were a revelation to me 15 years ago when I first read them.

    Thanks for this blog; this is my first comment, indeed my first time here, but it won’t be my last!

  30. If I wait long enough, HK will list *all* of my favorites, but what the heck…

    Diane Ackerman!
    Tracy Kidder, Mountains Beyond Mountains
    Anne Fadiman, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down
    Oliver Sacks, Uncle Tungsten (plus case books)
    Atul Gawande, Complications
    Jonathan Weiner, My Brother’s Keeper
    Michael Pollan, The Omnivore’s Dilemma
    Eric Schlosser, Fast Food Nation
    Richard Preston, The Wild Trees
    Iris Chang, The Rape of Nanking
    Jonathan Spence, The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci
    Karl Popper, Objective Knowledge
    Manseau & Charlet’s Killing the Buddha
    Stephen King, On Writing
    Azar Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran
    David Brudnoy, Life is not a Dress Rehearsal

  31. I just realized that I neglected to mention that both of the Cantwell books are memoirs…perhaps that goes without saying, but I wanted to add it anyway. I will go so far as to say that if you liked “Zippy” and “Couch” you would also like the two I listed. Thanks…I’ll try to do better next time!

  32. For any of you interested in Sylvia Plath, and by interested I mean clinically obsessed, here is a list of the biographies I own — all of which I recommend. Even the one I’ll denote with an asterisk (because it has a scandalous and unproven premise) is worth reading for other, more rational elements. I’m not including the poetry or short stories themselves, just the biographies and critical studies. Sixteen-year-old girls, take note:

    Letters Home, SP

    The Journals of Sylvia Plath

    Sylvia Plath, The Woman and the Work, by Edward Butscher

    Sylvia Plath: A Biography, by Linda Wager Martin (this is first-rate)

    *This Rough Magic, by Paul Alexander

    The Death and Life of Sylvia Plath, by Ronald Hayman

    Chapters in a Mythology, by Judith Kroll

    The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, by Janet Malcolm

    The Haunting of Sylvia Plath, by Jacqueline Rose

    Bitter Fame, by Anne Stevenson

    Sylvia Plath: Method and Madness (forget the author)

    And finally, these two. They’re both extremely important and offer new insight and new information:

    Lover of Unreason: Assia Wevill, Sylvia Plath’s Rival and Ted Hughes’s Doomed Love, by Yehuda Koren and Eliat Negen

    Her Husband, by Diane Middlebrooke

    The story of Assia Wevill simply wasn’t told for thirty years, I presume because Hughes was still alive and wouldn’t allow it. TH was having an affair with Assia, and in fact was in Spain or some sunny clime when Plath was enduring the coldest winter in London’s recorded history, trying to push a pram with two babies in it up and down icy sidewalks and stairs, unable to work and in desperate straits. After Plath’s suicide, Hughes married Wevill and they had a daughter together. When that child was three (I think) Assia too gassed herself, but killed the child, too. An astonishing tragedy.

  33. JohnM., I love so many of those! Good work. Here are a few more I missed:

    On The Natural History of Destruction, W.G. Sebald
    Up In The Old Hotel, Joseph Mitchell
    Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder, Lawrence Weschler
    The Last American Man, Elizabeth Gilbert

    Three by Garrett Keizer:
    Help, The Original Human Dilemma
    The Enigma of Anger, Essays on a Sometimes Deadly Sin
    A Dresser of Sycamore Trees (the subtitle to this is something like The Search For A Vocation, and it concerns his attempts to discern whether he was called to be a minister). He’s a helluva writer.

  34. CarolInKansas — welcome! The book you mentioned sounds wonderful — I’ll order it today. Thanks for joining us.

  35. ooohhhh i loved The Last American Man. also must admit to loving Eat, Pray, Love

  36. Gawd, you all are making me feel like a pathetic reader. I have so any books on my to-be-read list already, I don’t know If I”l ever be able to read them before I die.

    I feel like I haven’t read much of any non-fiction that wasn’t required reading.

    Except all of Augusten’s and I’m working on Haven’s.
    Did anyone mention A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers, or Lucky by Alice Siebold?

    Meeting Faith: The Forst Journals of a Black Buddist by Faith Adiele

    Couldn’t Keep It to Myself: Wally Lamb and the Women of York Correctional Institution

    I know there are a lot more but my brain seems to erase things I want to remember at the speed of light.

    This gay girl would like you define, “gay-girl crush,” is that sort of like the adoration and love I felt for my gay friend Ryan, but didn’t necessarily want to sleep with him? We always thought we could have been married in another life. heh.


    Amanda, I have printed those Chris Hedges quotations out and will put them next to last week’s Stafford poem in a hallowed spot in my cubicle — next to the Ben Hogan picture. My office is a scant three miles from the White House, and once again, a “leader” in panic mode. I often wonder what the world would be like if we had leaders who were made truly fearless and wise by their understanding of the love Hedges describes.

    HAVEN: Holocaust non-fiction hollows out my core and fills it back up with a darkness and light that I truly do not understand. Two books: I read Maus I-II before covering the 1993 dedication of the Holocaust Museum in DC. I toured it with a married couple from Indianapolis who had survived several death camps. What an incredible story they had. For me, the most harrowing accounts are not necessarily the narratives of survivors and perpetrators, but the official records kept by clerks and administrators of the death camps.

    Of concentration camps, when I was trying to get my mind around Gitmo, I did a lot studying of primary documents on the treatment of Civil War prisoners and the policy toward Indians. The Bureau of Indian Affairs has a trove of official records. I would like to recommend a book that, for me, answered the question that any form of human atrocity can be processed into a banal routine if it is done efficiently and on a large enough scale as to create logistical issues that have to be solved in a collective approach of policy and resource management. A book about the Japanese-American relocation in WWII that supports this is called Keeper of the Concentration Camps: and can be found right here.


  38. I really, really liked Eat, Pray, Love, too.

    A non-fiction book by Stephen King that I truly love is his commentary, On Writing.

  39. Killing Yourself to Live — Chuck Klosterman. Or anything by him, really.

    The Glass Castle — Jeanette Walls.

    Me — Katharine Hepburn.

    Wonderland: A Year in the Life of an American High School — Michael Bamberger.

    Songbook — Nick Hornby.

    Most any literary biographies and/or collections of letters. I’m slightly obsessed. (And Haven, thank you so much for the list of Plath biographies.)

    And DUH anything by Haven or Augusten. Suzanne, I am ashamed to say that I haven’t read anything of yours yet, but I’ve got some on their way to me right now.

    Is it bad that these lists stress me out as much as make my soul sing? I always forget about 2187304968094 of my favorites and then feel like I’m not as up to par as the rest of you geniuses.

  40. How did I forget Dave Eggers’ A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius? Or Mary Karr? See, I told you…

  41. (omigod…I am NEVER going to get any work done now!)

    Thanks for the welcome, Haven…I am SO glad to be here!

    I too recommend “A Heartbreaking Work…”

    Add me to the list of pathetic readers…oh my, I had no idea I was so far behind!

    Although I could have missed it, I don’t recall mention in the above lists of another favorite of mine, “Nickel and Dimed; On Not Getting By in America” by Barbara Ehrenrich (sp?) Fascinating read.

  42. …a beautiful, beautiful little book that I read in the dead of winter each year is Spring in Washington by Louis J. Halle. Nature writing and gentle, but incisive, free-form philosophy at its finest. I picked up a first edition of the this 1947 classic for 35 cents in the used section at the former Compass Rose Bookstore in Orleans, Mass.

  43. Let me propose this: There are certain great writers who appear here — and one who doesn’t — whose own works of staggering genius have created our little community, so they are automatically, uh, er, say …”grandfathered” in these lists of national treasures. We can all agree on that.

    I am going to take Wolf at the Table and Infinite Jest with me this weekend.

  44. Kimberly, darlin’, the closest I’ve ever gotten to genius are the people on this blog.

    George, Scott is bringing over the Chris Hedges book tonight. I’ll let you now if I’ve got the resiliency to read it.

    I agree with you that the machinery and the executors of The Final Solution are at least as soul-crushing as the victims themselves, in that their behavior leaves us with a question about humanity akin to a black hole. If one looks at that hole too long, all is lost. Out goes the floor from beneath us, and we too might well be walking corpses. After years of thorough and patient study I knew on one day that I was done — I’d taken in all I could. Well, that and I had begun to exhibit pathological behaviors, at least internally. All day, every day, I was making a plan for how I would save my children if the Germans arrived. Imagine how tiresome that becomes.

  45. AAUUGHH! I had both The Liar’s Club and Cherry on my list, then forgot to transcribe them. Mary Kerr, we salute thee fer sure.

  46. OK, off the top of my head:

    David Rakoff for sure, and i especially loved FRAUD
    DEVIL in the WHITE CITY by Erik Larson
    A ROOM of ONE’S OWN by Virginia Woolf
    DESERT SOLITAIRE by Edward Abbey
    THE SECOND WORLD WAR by Winston Churchill…actually, i just adore Winston Churchill. when my son was born, he was so chubby in the cheeks that we called him Winston for a while. went to the Churchill museum in london and was blown away. this guy was a nut, but i tend to lean towards nuts. this is my favorite Churchill quote: “Lady Nancy Astor: Winston, if you were my husband, I’d poison your tea.
    Churchill: Nancy, if I were your husband, I’d drink it.”

    but i digress…
    THE DIARY of a YOUNG GIRL by Anne Frank

    i love everything Augusten writes, but DRY really whacked me upside the head. WOLF made me cry. SCISSORS blew my mind as i was in awe that this could be real. i think Augusten Burroughs has the unique ability to “show” his readers, not just “tell” them. emotions pour out of me throughout all his books.

    and of course, ZIPPY was wonderful. i think the part that made me laugh the hardest was when she jumps off her bike (before it is stopped), lets the bike fall and basically hip checks the old lady mowing her lawn to do a “good” deed. hysterical.

    i’m leaving out tons, but like i said, this is first blush and my faves just jump out

  47. Mentioned already: McPhee (a god), Bryson, Kidder, Ackerman, Dillard.

    Probably mentioned: Didion, E.B. White (essays and letters).

    Others (I tend to read non-fiction like a lot of people read mystery series: gobble up anything at all by Author X and then sit around twiddling my thumbs for the next one): Bruce Chatwin and also Jean Shepherd (yes, I know: not-always-nonfiction); Pauline Kael’s movie reviews; William L. Shirer; John Cheever’s letters…

    I like to think of myself as a fiction writer. But when I was setting up my blog, in the “Pantheon” portion of the blogroll, I kept coming up with non-fiction authors. Finally had to stop or it would have become embarrassing.

  48. Since it was Augusten Burroughs’ work and Haven’s work that led me to this website like a trail of delicious, fragrant breadcrumbs, I’d be an asshole (I’m allowed to say that, right?) if I didn’t shove aside my hideous e-shyness to join the party and add:

    Running in the Family–Michael Ondaatje
    Lying–Lauren Slater
    Truth and Beauty–Ann Patchett
    The Afterlife–Donald Antrim
    Safekeeping–Abigail Thomas
    A Three Dog Life–Abigail Thomas
    Heaven’s Coast–Mark Doty
    Another Bullshit Night In Suck City–Nick Flynn
    The Bill From My Father–Bernard Cooper
    Daughter of the Queen of Sheba–Jackie Lyden
    Without A Map–Meredith Hall

    plus the fictive (is that even a word?) but autobiographically derived (uh, allegedly):

    Trash–Dorothy Allison
    Why Did I Ever–Mary Robison
    The Memory Room–Mary Rakow
    True Tales From The Mekong Delta (one of the stories in Squandering the Blue)–Kate Braverman

    OK, I could do this all day. And that wouldn’t be pretty for any of us. Thanks for letting me play.

  49. Yes! yes, yes to Jean Shepherd. Haven: I can relate. I was on the police beat for more than four years. I once estimated that I had written some aspect or another of some 400 murders. I knew that I had to get off the beat after covering the death of a woman who had been stabbed something like 40 times and the investigator told me the knife went to the hilt on most of the thrusts. When I realized that I reacted to that information by attempting to build a logical time-frame of how long it would take to do such a crime, I knew I was done, over, quitsville, no mas, see-you-later-alligator.

  50. Thank you Amanda for mentioning War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning by Chris Hedges – a tremendous book. On the related topic of righteous outrage:

    Philip Gourevitch – We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families

    Jonothan Kozol – Savage Inequalities, Amazing Grace

    Rajiv Chandrasekaran – Imperial Life in the Emerald City

    H. already mentioned The Circus Fire by Stewart O’Nan, but it bears a second mention. It is about the great Hartford circus fire in 1944. 8,000 people were inside the circus tent when it caught fire (it had been waterproofed w/ paraffin and white gasoline). The book is extraordinary. Extraordinary.

    There is probably no living author who does more with language than William H. Gass. He is playing an entirely different game on an entirely different planet. Haven can now insert hilarious details regarding M. Gass.

  51. Shanna, to begin with, I’ve never met another person who loved Kate Braverman the way I do. God, she’s wicked good. So you definitely get the piece of cake with the extra icing. And I forgot entirely about The Afterlife, by Donald Antrim (I’ve lent it to someone) but I thought it was just first rate. Astonishing. And I want the Lauren Slater and The Bill From My Father books RIGHT NOW. I’m going to call John and find out where he is, then make him go to the Regulator. That’s not wrong, is it?

  52. I HAVE AN IDEA. I wonder if it’s possible to do something of a headcount and have our own book club? Is that insane?

  53. The Regulator doesn’t DELIVER books to your house, after all you’ve done for them?

    Book club! Look out, Oprah!

  54. A great, great idea. Totally count me in.

  55. I’ve been looking for a book club. Count me in.

  56. So Scott was not only the founder of The Hall Farm Center for the Arts, but also the Brattleboro Literary Festival, where Augusten and I read together last year. He ran it for, what, S.? Eight years, seven? As you can imagine, he met every writer you could name. I believe some years included the dead. [An aside: this had an interesting effect on him, OR this is just his deepest nature and so he was drawn to the work — he is never, ever starstruck. When we first met I’d say, “Have you met . . . John Updike?!?” And he’d casually say, “He was here last year.” He’s an astonishingly sanguine person.] Now as it happens, he DOES love him some William Gass. Oh, he does. Love love love William Gass. Imagine how thrilled he was to go pick him up at the airport, knowing he’d have two hours with him in the car.

    Except he got there and in the William Gass holding area there was only Mrs. William Gass. Scott was very unclear what to do. Mrs. Gass was her husband’s age, with long white hair and an unfortunate uterine bulge, the kind we all develop if we’re lucky enough to live so long. I believe she was also carrying a bag and perhaps sported a jaunty cap. Scott approached her to ask about her husband, and when she spoke she had the voice of a man! And she was possibly delusional, because she made statements as if she thought SHE were William Gass himself, and not his bride!

    Scott was on the verge of saying the thing, the one ruinous, calamitous thing, when he realized that William Gass is his own wife.

    The End.

  57. That’s it. We’re doing it, we’re forming a book club. Let’s put our heads together and figure out how to organize the thing.

    p.s. Do recall that my head is particularly faulty. But my intentions are good.

  58. book club! yessssssssssssssssssss.


  60. I must nap now. Y’all put on your thinking caps and talk amongst yourselves, and when I get up I’ll do some organization, too. I’m actually highly organized, even if my IQ is currently too low to allow me to have a driver’s license.

    OOOO, my sister! She’s great at this sort of thing! And smart, unlike me!

  61. I’m in if you have one, Haven. That is, if I ever have a minute of my life available once I start reading all these fabu books I’ve been missing all these years. This is a LOT (sorry George) to keep up with.

    Would we all read the same book at the same time, ending by a specified date, then discuss? Fun!

    Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl
    Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley
    MAUS I and II
    Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel
    Glass Castle
    Dry (my fave Aug B. book)
    My Lobotomy
    On Writing

    Just re-read She Got Up Off The Couch. I’m so touched by it. Haven, may I have your mother? What a hero.

  62. How about Haven picks the first book which we all read at the same time by an end date, then discuss here. On the end date blog discussion could be dedicated to discussion of that book. Then Haven picks a person to choose the second book. We discuss the second book here for the determined day’s blog jus like we did with the first. Then the second person picks the third person, etc. With maybe two or three weeks given for reading, depending on the length of the book?

  63. Mmmmm, cake. Absolute YES to book club.

  64. I would love to be in Haven’s book club. Yipee! I have never been in a book club before. Hmm. I might be getting in over my head. Oh, what the heck!

  65. yes! yes! yes! book club!!!! everyone’s ideas so far seem perfectly logical. pick book, read by [insert date], discuss till the comes come home. repeat.

  66. Hello!
    I’m new here – but I’ve been lurking for a bit, drawn in by Haven’s wonderful books.
    My picks for nonfiction/memoir are naturally topped by Zippy and She Got Up Off the Couch. I also loved Glass Castle (Walls).
    One I haven’t seen listed but just floored me was Strange Piece of Paradise, by Terri Jentz. When I was a kid in Oregon I remember hearing about her – she and a friend were attempting to ride their bikes across the country. Before they could get out of Oregon, they were both attacked with an ax and run over by a stranger in a truck while they were sleeping (camped) in a park. The story is not just gratuitously about the attack, as shocking as it was. It is the story of her survival, physically and mentally, and about her return to Redmond, where she discovers that everyone there knows who attacked them, and are all terrified of the man. She encounters him herself several times. (He is never prosecuted.) Very much about society’s devaluing of women, and the oddities of the justice system. Powerful.

    Nice to be here 🙂

  67. What happens if somebody in the book club doesn’t like the book? Should they refrain from participating? Haven, you said “the only review I could write would be for a book about which I felt unqualified admiration and support.” Just curious.

  68. I have a name for the group: Zippy’s Book Club. One way we could do book selection is for Delonda or Melinda to decide what gets read.

  69. Jodi, I knew you’d be the very sharp knife in the drawer who would remember that. I don’t mean it to apply to any discussion of a book; I did genuinely mean a gratuitous attack in the press, particularly one that might harm a writer’s career. In this case I don’t think we’d be choosing books simply to destroy them — we’d choose books we wanted to understand better, and get other takes on.

    Are most people inclined toward paperbacks, or does it matter? Is it just as easy to get hardcovers at your library? And absolutely George, I think Mom and Melinda should have an early say, but both of them have very demanding jobs, so at least at the outset I should probably get the ball rolling.

  70. in answer to the question, paperback or hardback does not matter to me.

  71. For the love of sweet corn, a BOOK CLUB MODERATED BY HV?

    I don’t ‘member who said it – but Ms. HV – you should definitely pick the first book, give us a deadline to procure it & read it and then on that date, post a few questions for discussion. Preferably on a weekend or in the evenings when most of us can join the “discussion”.

    I just might succumb, right here, at my desk.

  72. Book club: instant panic! I tend to have four-five books always in the TBR pile. And yet this seems SUCH a good damn group of people with whom to tackle something like this… I have an idea — how about if I just tell everybody what the next book is? {kidding!}

    Seriously, though, whether I can commit upfront or not, some suggestions:

    (1) Agree on a list of several books right up front, so that you can post a schedule of upcoming titles. This way, those of us who DO have TBR stacks can opt with some advance notice to participate (or not), depending on whim and size of the stack.

    (2) Somebody said something about “having” to read every book selected. I’d hope that wouldn’t be the case.

    (3) Somebody else suggested rotating responsibility for selecting titles. Great idea. You might even want to let the “guest selector” kick off the discussion by sending to HK (or whoever the Club Prez is) a, umm, kickoff post that can be just copied-n-pasted.

    (4) Technical considerations: If you do it here at HK’s blog, you may find the other conversations suffering (just ’cause of commenter burnout). But if you set up a new blog or forum, you risk pulling people away from the other conversations.

    I was going to say something else but I forget what it was. I’m listening to Ry Cooder’s Bop Till You Drop again, after something like 15 years — had forgotten how good it is, and am very distracted by its goodness.

  73. I’d love a book club, I have a hard time finding good books, not just popular books. Did someone say CAKE, can we have cake with the books, not the person, the yummy thing.
    How do you guys remember things so well. My brain only has limited ram.

    Name all of the Animals- I lost my brother too, I felt like I finally had someone that could understand.

    Skeletons on the Sahara- A shipwreck in the 1800’s

    Eat, Pray,Love- She was trying to find her soul in India, and all I could think of the Italian boys and food.

    Mary’s Way- Home steading in Wyoming

    Wide Open Spaces- Ranching in MT

    Gladiatrix- Archaeology dig in London about a female galdiator

    Camile Claudel- The life of a sculptor

    Dog heroes of Sept 11

    Leaving a trace

    Angela’s Ashes

    Yann Arthus-Bertrand- Photography
    Most of his stuff is out of print, very hard to find.

    Time to stop and do my house wrangler duties, Susan G

  74. I am in! I’ve already said it, let the kids raise themselves, Mama needs to read. In fact the 16 year old can join. I like the idea of Haven picking the first book and then moving forward picks the next person to pick a book etc.

  75. I will do whatever Haven says.

    And, whatever George says after Haven.

  76. Remembering Garrett : one family’s battle with a child’s depression , Gordan H. Smith

    A lot of the books I listed aren’t literary greats, but I like stories about real people.

  77. An online book club? I am SO there!

    And I just remembered a couple more…can’t believe I forgot these:

    “All Over But the Shoutin'” and “Ava’s Man” by Rick Bragg

  78. Well – heck, I work today and look what happens…..

    I misinformed on an earlier comment as I still have a garage filled with unpacked books and can’t double check meself…

    Lucky is from Ann Sebold
    Limbo by A MANETTE ANSEY

    the both changed my life, I have gratitude I never knew was there for the sacred in everyday

    Truth & Beauy – Ann Patchett

    ALL kimmel/burroughs – duh…..

    will add more after the kids are home from school ruckus . . .

    my lists are growing, growing, growing and that was after 2 bookstore trips today….dang it…..I’ll need 41 more years to finish this glowing list….

  79. Hi Linda and Vicky, I am/was intimidated too. All of these bright, wonderful writers, and (I’m not worthy of her), Ms Haven. I figured ,what the hay, I have talents too, just not in writing. I’m only famous for being the German Shepherd lady in my neighborhood.Vicky I’m from Oregon too.God the book was scary, but the reality of the guy roaming loose, even scarier
    I’m supposed to be working, but don’t want to..
    Susan g
    PS only my two cents, lets not get tooanal about book club rules, lets keep it light and fun.Beat me if you can catch me.

  80. I concur on lots of the above listed! One, that I read this year that I enjoyed much more than I ever imagined was Lucky Man by Michael J Fox. I didn’t realize he had alcohol issues and it dicusses his therapy sessions as well. So maybe this is why I enjoyed it? I too ( like Haven) love stories dealing with drugs, eating disorders, mental illness-aggggh, I can’t get enough!:) Ha!
    Another good one- Wasted by Marya Hornbacher
    Oh she has another good one about her bipolar called Madness
    Moose-A Memoir of Fat Camp by Stephanie Klein

  81. Oh and I couldn’t agree more with Ms. Haven on Dirt-Motley Crue. I was delighted/horrified/and just plain euphoric with this book. For weeks I told anyone who would listen my new found trivia from this book! The story alone with the 2 girls, hotel, and calling home to their mother can gather a whole crowd around me at a party while I tell it!!

  82. BOOK CLUB??!! I’m going all woozy, just thinking of it. — as far as paper- vs. hardback — clothbound at the library tends to back up — Split is a one-month wait right now, even with 18 copies (and to buy is to risk falling over from the mere thought of moving the hundreds of square feet of essential books already resident).

    Other than the DIY flavor — photography, glassmaking, jewelry technique, gardening, wood/metalworking, cookbooks — and graphic design/branding stuff, it’s a shallow dip from here re: most non-fiction. As I didn’t read the text carefully in the fiction post, I cited memoirs there (I am certainly going to hell, as we are reminded in Solace, which if I’d gotten this far then, would have been at the TOP of the favorites along with Cider House and Wicked. WHAT textured, lovely, layered writing, WHAT a book).

    LOVED Zippy and SGUOTC, all of Augusten’s books, esp. Dry and Wolf (his website is what brought me here initially, praise the day), and Suzanne is one of my favorite writers, even only having read Otherwise Engaged: her Sabrina project is absolutely entrancing, insightful, moving. And I want to memorize great tracts of David Rakoff’s Don’t Get Too Comfortable. Bird by Bird/Anne Lamott. Assassination Vacation/Sarah Vowell. Talk to the Hand: The Utter Bloody Rudeness of the World Today/Lynne Truss. Malcolm Gladwell, esp. Blink. Anything by Judith Martin. All that pop neuroscience stuff, esp. The Body Has a Mind of Its Own/Sandra Blakeslee.

    The Firefox series. (Did you know every mammal has enough brains to tan their own hide?) The Hidden Messages in Water/Masaru Emoto. Under the Banner of Heaven/Jon Krakauer.

    Knowing first-hand how well dogs respond to being listened to, I love all those books about animal spirit and communication — Behaving as if the God in All Life Mattered/Machaelle Small Wright, Kinship With All Life/J. Allen Boone.

    A rousing seconding of Animal Vegetable Mineral, Eat Pray Love, and Fun Home.

    Having read this post, I’m overwhelmed at where to start. And chagrined at how little non-fiction I’ve read outside of bios and memoirs, reference or self-help. I’m so grateful to everyone who posted for their guidance.

  83. Vicky: REDMOND??!! As in, home of Microsoft? as in, 8 miles from here?

  84. I also love memoirs about abuse and addiction issues, but I’ve never heard someone else say that, publically, so I feel better. Or not. I’m working on a memoir myself, so this is my favorite genre to read. There are a few I can’t think of, but anyway, at the top of my list are:

    She Got Up Off the Couch by Haven Kimmel
    A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel
    Grace Eventually (and all memoirs)by Anne Lamott
    The Liar’s Club and Cherry by Mary Karr
    Finding My Voice by Diane Rehm
    Between Panic and Desire by Dinty Moore
    Forever Fat by Lee Gutkind
    Passing For Thin by Frances Kuffel
    The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
    A Special Education by Dana Buchman
    Trail of Crumbs by Kim Sunee
    eat, pray, love by Elizabeth Gilbert

  85. Book Club? Sign me up!

    I’d love to bring the cake!

  86. This is what I love about this blog & Ms. HV suffering us fools to post incoherent babblings. (except for George & Suzanne, of course – they neither babble nor are fools)

    Carrie said in a post, sort of casually threw this nugget out there: “The Firefox series. (Did you know every mammal has enough brains to tan their own hide?)”


    I love it! This sort of random brilliance is what makes my day.


  87. Charles R Jackson wrote
    It was also made in to a exellent movie the 40’s
    Ray Millard and Phillip Terry
    (My last name is Terry I wonder)

    It was a exellent book and a fun movie to watch especially with a friend or two and bottle of Grey Goose. I think this movie gave AA a boost in public awareness.

    The “Michigan Murders” is a tru Crime story
    it was really good. For me especially because my mom was on the jury for this convicted serial killer John Norman Collins when I was like 8 years old.

    I said this before but the “Maximum Drive” series by James Patterson is easy fun reading

  88. I am so a babbling fool — just ask my wife, she’ll be glad to confirm.

  89. I’m a sucker for memoirs which have some regional connections to places I love–

    Dakota: A Spiritual Geography by Kathleen Norris
    Praying For Sheetrock by Melissa Fay Green
    Salvation on Sand Mountain by Dennis Covington

    and (what the heck)
    Third and Indiana by Steve Lopez–a novel that captures some of the neighborhoods of my fair city Philadelphia spot on
    Montana 1948 by Larry Watson
    and anything by Cormac McCarthy

    Any writer who captures the truth about a place that I carry in my bones gets my vote. (Which explains my devotion to all those books about small-town Indiana–thanks, Haven– and why I breathed a sigh of relief and gratitude that when reading Zippy aloud to my daughter, she too laughed so hard SHE FELL OFF THE COUCH and we had to be shushed because the four-year-old couldn’t get to sleep. I believe that she has certain midwestern tendencies and affinities despite being born and raised on the scrappy side of the eastern elite.)

    These book lists remind me that I need to quit my job, be taken in and be supported by some intentional community, and spend the rest of my natural life reading. The idea of a book club makes my head spin.

  90. While we’re at it, might we consider a thread for “Iodine”? I’d like to get to the bottom of the clues that title each chapter, and what happened to Candy’s babies (geeze, Haven, I asked you a dead baby question at Earlham re: The Used House box-in-the-attic-containing-baby-bones. What’s up with these mysterious dead babies?), among other things.

  91. I’ve missed a lot this week. I am ALL for a book club. Name the book! I just started reading The Group by Mary McCarthy.

    I’m tired so I’ll make my non-fiction short.

    KIMMEL, of course! Truman Capote, John Berendt, Amy Sedaris, David Sedaris, and Augusten. I could name others but it’s been a terribly long and tiring week full of hospitals.

    Suzanne – I’m going to order your books! I just bought Angie (from this very blog) Split today for her birthday. She’s currently recovering from a not so pretty surgery and she cannot wait to read it.

    Oh, Haven. I found that hat we chatted about. It’s currently en route to my house. I can’t wait to send it to you!

  92. Steiner, I own every one of those books you mentioned.

    Okay, let’s establish some parameters:

    1. No one needs to read anything they choose not to.

    2. The discussions should be critical or analytical, but should not include phrases such as ‘big suck-ball,’ ‘clearly she got beaten by the ugly stick,’ ‘should have stuck with knitting.’

    3. For bigger books we’ll allow a month, and whomever is leading should be making notes in order to guide the conversation with questions.

    4. For small, dense books we’ll take two weeks. This is quite a sacrifice on my part, as I generally read a book in a day. We’ll establish the conversation day at the same time the title is announced.

    5. Let’s be mindful to choose paperbacks that people can either afford to buy or aren’t backed up in the library system.

    I would like to brazenly propose, as our first title, A Prayer for Owen Meany. That way those of you who have not experienced its holy wonder will be given the chance, and those who were saved by it can be saved all over again. It’s available both in mass market and in trade paperback — I would recommend the trade, because the print is bigger.

    Please discuss.

  93. “Technical considerations: If you do it here at HK’s blog, you may find the other conversations suffering (just ’cause of commenter burnout). But if you set up a new blog or forum, you risk pulling people away from the other conversations.”

    My suggestion was that the person who chose the book would choose a date about 2-3 weeks in the future to give us time to read it, then on that date a blog entry would be posted regarding that book. All comments about that book would be posted to that blog entry only, rather than spilling over into other entries.

    Some options: 1) Haven could start the discussion by posting the name of the book on that date, with a reminder that comments to that entry should be about that book, or 2) the person whose turn it was (who recommended the book) could send Haven a blog entry for her to post to get the discussion started. Another option would be 3) for Haven to let the “chooser” know she’s going to post that book’s entry, and then the chooser could quickly post the first comment to get the discussion started.

  94. I have two alternative titles: Jincy Willett’s Winner of the National Book Award, or Wicked by Gregory Maguire. Okay, NOW discuss.

  95. Sorry about the cross-post, Haven. It’s hard to comment here without being beat to the punch.

  96. I agree with Polly that until our book discussion day we should continue with regular posts, and pretend the whole book club thing isn’t happening. Very wise.

  97. If we do it that way, those “book club” days are going to be great. Imagine how stimulating it would be to hear all these bright folks’ opinions on good books. My brain is salivating just thinking about it.

  98. I would like very much for Haven to choose the book and lead the discussion. This is Haven’s blog, and I think it’s her privilege. Who among us is better qualified? I came here for her point of view, and the beer.

  99. Ilove addiction memoirs, too! My latest is “The Night of the Gun.” You should check it out.

  100. Haven: I am an English teacher instead of a professional reader in part because
    i needed somewhere else to keep some of the books which were threatening to depose my children in the house: last night at Back to School Night, one parent commented, “Your room is like being in a big living room.” If it weren’t for the 33 desks, I could move in a couch…

  101. I think Jodi has a point, as everything Haven has suggested reading thus far has been spot on. That said, I am in regardless of the “rules”. Maybe Jodi, George and Suzanne can be on the board of amazing ideas?

  102. Hey, Brandon? Hospitals? Are you okay?

    Somebunny got himself a Stumpy! I was victorious at last! At soon as it arrives I’ll ship it on to you.


  103. Owen Meany!! OWEN, OWEN, OWEN! i am freaking out about this one. I THINK WE SHOULD START THERE

  104. I would read what ever everyone else does, but I always planned on reading “Wicked” and just forgot.

  105. Haven,

    Several weeks ago I created a forum and invited people to come chat on it, but no one wanted to talk to me. It’s set up and waiting for people to use. I’ll be more than happy to turn it over to you for the book club – if you want.


    Or, just leave it on your blog comments if it’s easier. 🙂

  106. Gah, all three please!!

  107. I am totally in…I just got “A Prayer for Owen Meany” today…winced at the ALL CAPS…took a deep and am enthralled! What was I thinking when I walk away from it almost 20 years ago?!? But I’m up for any book that Haven suggests. I’m a reader,not a writer, so I’m anxious to “run with the faster horses” and continue to think about books and authors that I love (or am coming to love) and have you,oh so articulate ones, help me verbalize why I love them.

  108. For me, it’s like going to the video store; when faced with making a decision or finding my favorite anything, I blank out. However, I was able to remember a semi-recent addiction memoir I recently read:Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction (Readers Circle) by David Sheff.

    OY. Since this was from the perspective of a parent and since I have children on the cusp of teenagerdom, this scared the crap out of me, but I also enjoyed reading it. I’d like to read Tweak: Growing up on Methanphedomines by Nic Sheff, the son from the first book, to compare perspectives.

  109. I take back every kind thing I ever said about you! Evil! Evil! Evil! You picked Owen Meany just because of me. Admit it! Darn you!

    ok… i still love you.


  110. (see what happens when you work all day and then have to drive 4 hours so your daughter can visit her adopted auntie stacy for the weekend?)

    Oh, my head! Too many books, not enough time. And when/how did I get so far behind on my Stephen King?

  111. oh: GARLIC and SAPPHIRES by Ruth Reichl, that is another memoir i love.

    so, OWEN? i have already begun my re-read, even found my original–which is in rough shape–but it is so fun/odd/interesting to look at what i have written during different phases of life when i was reading it.

    i will survive if another book is picked, but i will champion this one relentlessly. i might even be willing to cut off a finger, although i would absolutely not be psyched about it.

  112. Ok, I am down for Owen. Might be the only way I will ever get past the caps and read it. Leavin’ on a jet plane for Miami in two hours. I will catch up later.

  113. Miami? Better take a belt. We don’t want any repeats of pants falling to the floor.

  114. Hello Haven & Bloggers,

    Would you be so kind as to recommend lesbian literature that is appropriate for a 19-year-old girl?

    By “appropriate” I mean that sexuality is just background noise; there are just good stories where a girl does great things and goes home to her girlfriend. My 19-year-old is very sensitive, but she is my flower. She is an English major and loves to read.

    Thanks in advance.

  115. Barbara Kingsolver’s poetry: “Another America,” especially “The Monster’s Belly.” Sublime.

  116. Oh hello, sweet angel child. Thank you for the hommage à blog — it brightened a weary week.

    WHEN YOU WERE ME is currently the only one of my books in print, so if anyone’s so inclined, that’d be the place to start. (I mean, I still get royalties for that one, so. Ahem.)

    As for my comics work: most of it was dreary work-for-hire stuff. I mean, I wrote a miniseries about Spider-Man’s villains. I ask you. (I know you took great delight in my accepting that assignment to write about a lesbian vampire in ancient Egypt, but I can’t diss that one ’cause it turned out to be such unhealthy fun.) The thing is, when you’re trying to make a living as a writer, you do what you must. I have even done advertising. Yes. I have. Please don’t judge me.

    But my comics career did allow me two glorious years writing CODENAME: KNOCKOUT, my own personal creation from my own human brain, about a busty secret agent and her gay sidekick Go-Go. And nine splendid months working on THE CROSSOVERS, another of my own inventions, which chronicled the workings of a family in which dad is a super-hero, mom’s a vampire slayer, big sister’s a warrior princess, and little brother’s an alien abductee. The publisher went under after 9 issues and sold everything to Disney, who has buried it deeper than Walt’s deep freeze. I mourn those characters like they were actually my own living kin.

    As long as I’m here I may as well add my hosannahs to the Lit Hit List. I’ll make it easy and just saw Dawn Powell, Dawn Powell, Dawn Powell. Dawn Powell about a hundred times over.

    Oh, and Cathie Pelletier. (Start with THE FUNERAL MAKERS.)

  117. okay WELCOME TO OUR COUNTRY by lauren slater. anything by lauren slater

    THE SECRET LIFE OF EVA BRAUN was mesmerising, haven. read it twice one weekend.

  118. i’ll say it again: “the prince of frogtown” “All Over But the Shoutin’” and “Ava’s Man” by Rick Bragg .

    the first few pages of the Prince of Frogtown are among the finest and most soulful pages i have ever read. it crushed my skull into BITS.

  119. Robert is so right about Cathie Pelletier. They are sublime. His novels and comics are little pieces of God’s love on this planet. As Robert himself is. If I had a real live brother (or perhaps even a real live rib) he would be it. Him, and Christopher. And Augusten. And Jeffrey. And Timmy. I do love me some gays. I love you, Robert!

    Sine_30, I have lots of gay literature — let me go inside and see what I can find.

    All right. Let’s do this thing:


    To be discussed three weeks hence: October 18th. Is that too long for some people? I read really really fast, but I know some people who have to move their lips (Scott) and it takes them longer. Please vote on the date.

    I’ll be preparing questions, and if there are any you want to ask, please feel free to jump right in during the conversation.

    If you are on a limited budget and can’t afford a copy, please e-mail me privately at my webmaster’s address – hkwebmaster@mac.com – and I’ll send you a copy. Don’t think twice about it.

    Did this seem reasonable?

  120. “Lucky Man by Michael J Fox. I didn’t realize he had alcohol issues and it dicusses his therapy sessions as well. So maybe this is why I enjoyed it?”

    michael j fox gave me work just as i was about to lose everything, including my mind; my son was two, we were alone, i longed for death the way others long for love. michael j fox sent a lincoln town car to my home and basically carried me like a baby to nyc and la and had his producer TEACH ME how to write a screenplay for television, told me that Otherwise Engaged was his favorite novel, and saved my life. he is kind, intellectually sound, beautiful and brighter than sun on snow. i just don;t know how he can be that good in this world, but he does it every day without flinching. his body has betrayed him and yet he works tirelessly for others. he is a hero, to me.

  121. Is there any advantage to dividing the book into sections, and as we read Part I, discussing it, etc.? By the time I get to the end of a book, I may overlook things I found important in the beginning. I’ll probably be overwhelmed with how much I’ve thought about the book if I don’t discuss it until I’ve finished it. Haven …?

  122. Well great. Now I have even more books to add to my already long list of books to read. I have already read Autobiography of a Face (so moving,) Dry (loved it,) and Drinking, A love Story. I tell everyone I know to read your books of course. And I recently read Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, which made me want to grow stuff.

  123. oh, the Zippy Book Club is perfect and necessary. i have owen meany already waiting for me at the library. (i agree: book club choices should not hinge on hardcover vs paperback. it will also encourage readers top use the library. the library in oakland, ca was my second home when my first home was hit by borderline poverty. libraries are the church of the soul.)


  124. i am also a fast reader, but Oct 18 sounds reasonable. i am thrilled that OWEN is the book! i might read it a couple times as i am already half way through. my fridays are WILD. staying home with the fam and reading. i used to be socially a lot “cooler”, but i am finding i prefer books to many people. did i just admit that?

  125. After my AA meeting this morning I stopped at Davis-Kidd to pick up my copy of A Prayer for Owen Meany. I almost had heart failure when there were no copies of it in the John Irving section in fiction. I searched and searched and was so relieved to find several copies in a section of 20th Century Classics. ha! What a cruel trick to play on people though.

    But, I still need to finish Something Rising this afternoon so here I go…

  126. I know the synopsis of OWEN MEANY, but am reading the book for the first time. Already in the first two pages I’m thinking, “Hmmm … Owen is covered in granite dust, making him translucent, granite being the stuff of tombstones. Is this equivalent to the myrrh that was offered at the Nativity?” Here’s my point: I’m gonna have Too Much Stuff in my head (and sketched in my book) by October 18th. Some of us are RE-reading this book, for cryin’ out loud! Could we have a blog dedicated to OWEN MEANY now? It could keep the excitement going that many have already expressed. Haven, if this is a bad idea, just say the word and I HAVE NEVER BLOGGED THIS.

  127. PRIVATE TO JJ: All taken care of.

    Now Jodi V. of the SharpKnife (I defy you to find a knife sharper than mine — it’s a switchblade of carbon steel and it will MESS YOU UP), the only reason not to discuss it as we go is because the ending is the most sublime in all literature. Of course I am prone to hyperbole. What do others think?

    Would you like me to see if I can wrangle Irving into joining us on the 18th? No promises, but I can tell him the most attractive among us (Suzanne, George, Scott) would be willing to have sex with him.

  128. I’m de-lurking for the specific purpose of getting in on this book club, and also because I have sporadically grown more hands just to give you multiple thumbs up on getting Irving to join in.


  129. Regarding your comment, Haven, “…the only reason not to discuss it as we go is because the ending is the most sublime in all literature,” I always read the ending of a book first. You read it right — I read the ending first. I know I’m in the vast minority, but not doing so would be like planning a trip to Orlando, Florida, without knowing a thing about the place, and refusing to learn about it before your journey. You spend much time and effort getting to Orlando, jump off the plane with your sweaters and snow skis, and as you’re melting in the sunshine, think, “This isn’t what I hoped for. All that time and excitement — wasted.”

    So many books, so little time. If I give hours of my life to an author’s efforts, I make sure I know where I’m headed. Knowing how it ends doesn’t make savoring the author’s literary talent any less for me.

    I’ve read the ending of OWEN MEANY. Several times.

  130. This is from John Crowley’s website, written by a fan who attended Thursday night’s reading by Crowley and Marilynne Robinson at the 92nd Street “Y”:

    Crowley read a selection from his upcoming novel Four Freedoms, which is slated for publication in June of 2009. It’s one of his historicals: not a work of fantasy or speculative whatever, but something more firmly rooted in the real history of America in the 20th century.”

  131. Oh, I could never read the ending first. Chocolate cake with chocolate frosting (especially a real home made one like my mom would make, bless her heart, she helped me become the husky woman I am)is my most favorite thing in the world. But, with my addictive personality, I would say I am only going to eat a bite before supper but then I would end up eating the whole freakin thing and I would be so stuffed and sleepy I would fall fast asleep and never have salad or soup or the rest of the wonderful meal that was prepared. In short, I would probably say, “oh, so that’s how it ends” and that would be that.

  132. this morning i saw barack obama live and in person. this afternoon i read that haven kimmel is definitely having a book club and john irving might swing by. my head. IS EXPLODING.

  133. ps – i cannot wait to read this book. will be the first time for me.

  134. My first time, too, Amanda!! This is all very exciting.

  135. it’s Zippy’s Book Saloon. i await her instructions, no matter what. i am a very loyal soldier.

  136. OT? has anyone read sue monk kidd’s The Mermaid Chair? it slew me dead.

  137. I too am a first-timer to Owen Meany, and John Irving in general. I am TOO excited. Seriously. Just ordered my copy. Oh, and if it matters, the 18th would be absolutely perfect — right now I’m in rehearsals for four hours a day on top of my classes, but my musical ends on the 12th, so that’ll give me just enough time! (Too long of an explanation for something that doesn’t really matter in the first place, but I babble when I’m excited, and right now I am positively GIDDY with excitement.)

  138. Suzanne, I am also a casualty of The Mermaid Chair. Brilliance. I started and finished reading it in the bath. The same bath. I was very shriveled and cold, but there was no way I was going to put that thing down.

  139. Ms. SharpeKnife: intrepid you! That logic has always seemed unassailable to me, yet (spoiler alert), if I’d read the last 3 pages of Infinite Jest first, I’d never have started the book. There are books I’ve felt like I went to Orlando with skiis, and then gotten to the end, and found the entire book sliding into meaning, profoundly so. And there are books like the Solace of Leaving Early, which move me and make me ache with longing and make me laugh (“the moment passed”) and make me wish I were better read throughout, and then the last 30 pages have me in tears, the last two lines sobbing. But not sure if they’d have opened that thing up in me if I’d read them first.

    It’s an interesting question, isn’t it?

    Haven: I’m so down with the Owen Meany, and so glad you chose it. Having Irving join would be just gravy; reading your and George’s and Suzanne’s and Jodi’s (and so many others’) responses is the pull for me. This blog has become such an oasis (people who are all there! who are present!) and with the recommendations from the last couple posts … El Dorado? Mecca? Xanadu? You pick.

  140. God, Suzanne, The Mermaid Chair. Devoured it in one night, un-put-downable. Glad I didn’t start it in the bath.

  141. Let me remind you that I’m more than happy to send copies to any who don’t have any.

  142. I got my copy from my mother, the librarian (such a great thing to have) and I want to start reading it now but I have to hang out with that guy I’m married to!

  143. I picked up a copy of “Owen Meany” at my trusty library just this afternoon…words fail my attempt to describe my elation at this particular turn of (literary) events.

    Now, if someone here could just figure out a way to add about 12 hours to each day (all to be spent in relaxing, enjoyable pursuits only) for the next three weeks, I would have it made.

  144. RE: Stumpy. YAY!! That is SO exciting. I won the bid on that hat – I can’t wait to send it to you! You are the best! By the way how are you?

    RE: Hospitals. Two people quite close to me had surgery this week. One had complications from a scheduled surgery. The other is recovering from an unexpected major surgery. Both will be fine, thankfully!

    I’m all for Owen Meany! I LOVE John Irving! Garp changed my life. I need to run out to the Book Loft tomorrow to get a copy.

    Did anyone mention Alice Sebold?

    Susan G: You MUST read Wicked and Son of a Witch. Gregory Maguire is a phenomenal writer.

  145. Bee Season was also a joy of a story
    oh, the elegant, Shaker-like simplicity of her work. i sing the praise of sue monk kid.

  146. Suzanne, no Bee Season ever. She not only insulted me repeatedly when I attended her reading as a gesture of support, and took her out for a very expensive dinner, she called our mutual editor and said, in response to “What about that Haven Kimmel?” “Who cares? What about that John Svara?” She made a pass at my husband. As you know, I make it a rule not to insult other writers, but screw her and the hipster stripey tights she rode in on.

  147. Brandon, I’m much better. I’m still having problems with my memory, but I think that will improve. I haven’t gotten back the results of the last brain scans, but as soon as I’m assigned a neuroscientist I’ll know more. Thank you, angel.

    As soon as Stumpy arrives he’ll be winging his way to you!


  148. Wait… I have a hunch that suzanne meant The Secret Life of Bees (one of my top 5 most well written ever) when she wrote Bee Season? Just a guess?

  149. I still listen to Frank Sinatra’ even though he was a thug and a brawler, I still love [insert name here]’s acting though s/he he was a drug addict. I cannot use Gill Sans since I learned Eric Gill incested his children, and Woody Allen’s just become unwatchable to me since Soon-Yi.

    A woman who tries to snake another woman’s man is detestable. Growing up feminist made me always see that as archaic behavior; how disheartening it is not. And insults? incomprehensible. What could she possibly find to insult?

    Thankfully, I have a new long list of other books to read and admire.

  150. are you sincere about irving? are you saying this in earnest? oh. my. god. literally

    if it is possible to get him in blog attendance, i’ll do whatever it takes. i will find taxidermied anything you want. anything. name it. cow? too big? what about, i dunno, a gecko–just to hit the little part of the spectrum. must it have been hairy in life?

  151. Haven,

    Please excuse this long post.

    (1) I’m honored you’re going to look into lesbian literature for my daughter. I know you’re busy and that makes your offer all the more important. (‘Given quickly is twice given’) For my part I’m going to take my girl to Northampton (MA) or Harvard Square bookstores so she can recalibrate whatever ‘Normal’ is.

    (2) My real name is Paul; I use sine_30 because I’m a Mathematics Teacher. You may call me either, but you’ve gotta admit, sine_30 is way cool.

    Thanks Again

  152. Gracious. I certainly can work up a judgmental, self-righteous head of steam when I am moved to outrage by hearing of a kindness met with evil. Friends’ failings (short of murder or abuse or felony) I meet with equanimity; what’s so different about artists? I’m not sure why I feel the need to require my beauty be unadulterated.

    I came back to ask if anyone had read Three Cups of Tea; re-read the above and couldn’t let it stand without postscript. Still, friend or stranger, let us be clear that what you described was thoroughly bad behavior. I hope her hipster stripey tights fall down.

  153. OH MY GOD. i DID mean the secret lives of bees! as to the maker of passes to married men of women i love? well, shoot. she’s dead to me. she doesn’t exist.

  154. Brandon, so sorry to hear about your friends who are in the hospital. Prayers go out to them. I am happy to report that my daughter’s boyfriend, Chance, went home on Friday. He will be home from school for 2 more weeks, which is like a year in academic high school time. But, he will be ok and that is the important thing. He can’t carry anything heavy for 8 weeks and since the backpacks these kids carry around these days weigh about 400 pounds each he will have an elevator pass (daughter is psyched!) and an army of friends accompanying him to carry stuff (and squish into said elevator with him)

  155. Linda,

    Thank you for the prayers! One of the two is our friend Angie from this very blog. I gave her Split by our Suzanne to read while she’s recovering.

    I’m glad your daughter’s boyfriend is on the road to recovery! He’s lucky to have such a caring girlfriend, 2nd Mom (you) and friends willing to help. I would wither and die without my friends.

  156. Suzanne,
    What a lovely story about Michael J Fox. It just warms my heart to hear that people are as wonderful as I hope them to be. Also, I picked up a copy Of Otherwise Engaged yesterday at my local bookstore. That along with Prozac Nation, The Momma Cass story, and Number the Stars ( one of my favorites frolm childhood) will be my entertainment this week!

  157. amy,bless you.

  158. well. FINALLY we can all relax about Chance. YAY.

    i was ready to break out the authentic voodoo….

  159. Haven,

    On September 27, 2008 Haven Said:

    “Sine_30, I have lots of gay literature — let me go inside and see what I can find.”

    On September 28 sine_30 says: DUH! How could’ve I missed this? The Used World is _perfect_. Now the trick is to get my daughter to read a book that Dad recommends. Maybe I’ll forbid her to read it!

  160. Holy Moly –

    Basically one canNOT skip a day or two on this blog or it will take hours to catch up . . . bad me . . .

    Book Club! Hooray, and it might be our side entrance onto Oprah??? Hum??

    Have started a second read of OWEN MEANY myself – so love the selection. 18th is good for me . . . I average 1 book per day as well, or I read about 5 at a time (trading location, one on each floor, etc) and switch genre to lighten a mood, etc.

    I pick up extra copies of favorite books at Goodwill, last Friday they had 4 copies of Owen Meany at 1.29 per book . . . about a month after the Oprah deadlines there will be a sea of her selections available there.

    Hardback is my preferred because it is easier to read in bed – but it doesn’t matter. Even though GEORGE seems to think I have library fees, I don’t use the library much anymore because I cannot FLAG or highlight in their copies. Visa is happy, my husband is not.

    I like the idea that Haven chooses the next “chooser”, or we could vote on recommendations in categories Fiction/Poetry/Memoir/etc. Top votes wins (unlike our voting system).

    Bliss, bliss, I am very thankful for insomnia or I would never get any reading done.

  161. Found some of my boxed up books yesterday, here is a partial list of suggested non-fiction (even though I am late in the game, I refuse to give up):

    Zippy/GUPC – Kimmel

    Everything Burroughs – AWAT egads, I’m still recovering

    Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (Barbara Kingsolver)

    A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering
    Genius – Dave Eggers

    Angela’s Ashes/’Tis/Teacher Man – Frank McCourt

    The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath

    Gift from the Sea – Anne Morrow Lindbergh (read at my wedding)

    I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou

    Traveling Mercies/Plan B – Anne Lamott

    A Moveable Feast – Ernest Hemingway

    Books – by Larry McMurtry

    Walden – Henry David Thoreau

    Night – Elie Wiesel

    All Creatures Great and Small – James Heriot (I think, can’t find it)

    Girl Interrupted – Susanna Kaysen

    The Pilgrimage – A Contemporary Quest for Ancient Wisdom – Paulo Coelho


    A Midwife’s Tale (a diary) – Laurel Thatcher Ulrich on Martha Ballard

    Truth & Beauty – Ann Patchett

    Gathering Blue (Lois Lowry & K. Borowitz)

    A Walk Across America (Peter Jenkins)

    The Water is Wide (Pat Conroy)

    The Agony & The Ecstasy/Lust for Life/(Irving Stone)(is that non-fiction???

    Savage Beauty (on Vincent Millay) by Nancy Milford

    Down Came the Rain – Brooke Shields (been there, done that)


    Paula – Isabel Allende

    The Lives of the Artists – Giorgio Vasari

    Cash – Johnny Cash

    Hidden in the Shadow of the Masters – Ruth Butler (on artists’ wives)

    84 Charing Cross Road – Helene Hanff

    The Sum of Our Days – Isabel Allende

    Diary of Frida Kahlo – Kahlo/Fuentes/Lowe

    Fear & Loathing in America- Outlaw Journalist (Hunter Thompson)

    Journals – Kurt Cobain

    Story of My Life – Helen Keller

    The Meaning of Everything – S. Winchester (story of the Dictionary)

    PuddNHead Wilson – Mark Twain

    The Secret Life of Houdini – Wlm. Kalush & L. Sloman

    John Lennon – Philip Norman

    My Losing Season – Pat Conroy

    Mockingbird (on Harper Lee) – Charles Shields

    The Road to Monticello – K. Hayes (on Thomas Jefferson)

    Wild Swans/Mao – Chuang ____ (sorry, can’t find these books anywhere, loaned them out?)

    The Pianist – Wladyslaw Szpilman

    Becoming Jane Austen – Jon Spence

    Mark Twain – Ron Powers

    Out of Africa/Shadows on the Grass – Isak Dinesen

    There is a River (about Edgar Cayce) by Thomas Sugrue

    Opposite of Fate – Amy Tan

    Leonardo’s Notebooks – da Vinci & H. Anna Suh

    Moments of Being – Virginia Woolf

    Private Lives of the Impressionists – Sue Roe

    The Camino – Journey of the Spirit – Shirley MacLaine

    Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath – Plath/Kukil

    One Writer’s Beginnings by Eudora Welty

    John Lennon in His Own Write – J. Lennon

    Dust Tracks on a Road by Zora Neale Hurston

    Mosaic – Amy Grant

    Henry & June A Journal of Love from Diary of Anais Nin – A. Nin

    U2 by U2 – U2 & McCormick

    Beatrix Potter , Life in Nature (Linda Lear)

    Confessions – Jean-jacques Rousseau

    In Pharoah’s Army – by Tobias Wolff

    Frida by Hayden Herrera

    Laura Ingalls Wilder/A Writer’s Life by Pamela Smith Hill

    Bridge Across Forever & ALL – Richard Bach

    Capote – Gerald Clarke

    Anchored in Love (on June Carter Cash) by John Carter Cash

    Boundaries by Maya Lin

    Diaries of Frankz Kafka – Kafka

    The Habit of Being – Flannery O’Connor

    Diane Arbus by Patricia Bosworth

    Nothing if Not Critical by Robert Hughes

    Blackbird – Jennifer Lauck

    God Said Ha! By Julia Sweeney

    Mommie Dearest by Christina Crawford

    Portrait of an Artist on Georgia O’Keefe by Laurie Lisle

    Living to Tell the Tale by Gabrial Garcia Marquez

    Goya by Robert Hughes

    Mary Shelly by Muriel Spark

    Stieglitz by Sue Davidson Lowe

    Dylan Thomas by George Tremlett

    Boy Called IT/plus all the related memoirs by DAVE PELZER (not for finesse, but for sincerity and openness). He breaks my heart and then lifts it up in turn.

    Wrapped in Rainbows on Zora N. Hurston by Elizabeth Robeson***

    Art Lover: A Bio of Peggy Guggenheim by Anton Gil

    Out of this Century: Confessions of an Art Addict by Peggy Guggenheim

    those are just a few . . . really . . . I went through this whole biography phase at one time – one at a time I ready everything at the Carnegie Library under bios….(it was not a large library in todays standards).

    re Club – did anybody read The Ladies of the Club – I tried twice and once I got to Chapter 3, it never went down ’til I finished….I liked how each selection had a moderator/facilitator and that person does some research . . .

    Um – listen, I will gladly sleep with John Irving as well!

    Anything for art (I refer to ALL forms of art when I say art).

  162. Private to JimShue: You and I might form our own talk group for OWEN MEANY. I’m not getting into it, either. I’m over halfway through it and am putting it back on the shelf. I read the reviews, I’ve read the synopsis, I’ve read the ending, I’ve taken copious notes on the symbolism of names, events, being armless … Maybe another time, huh? Let’s plan something else, Jim — with MUSIC and DANCING and lots of LAUGHTER. We can meet at the “Get a Life, John Wheelwright” Bar and Grill. Are you in?

  163. Upon reflection, I don’t think the bee book was all that great. I liked her stuff in Guideposts much better.

  164. Hold it…are we talking about Bee Season or the Secret Life of Bees. If it is the latter then not the former then what I said earlier doesn’t really apply, but if we are talking about the latter and not the former then what I am saying now doesn’t make sense either.

  165. OK Jodi. Just found my copy of APFOM… I have to give it a chance first, but you’re on! We’re on! (I had to Google JOHN WHEELWRIGHT, it’s been so long since I’ve looked at a single page of that book.)

    Haven: I’m giving APFOM another chance. I’ve owned it for at least 17 years now. But this is going to interrupt my reading of Little, Big. I’m halfway through it and find myself just wandering around with my hand on my forehead trying to find lost things. (I have no idea what things I’m looking for.)

    George: Glad you made it back. Any pants mishaps in the Miami Airport? And seriously, what you have to say about A Wolf at the Table is dead on. I don’t know if I would have the courage that A.B. did to put to print the those things, that story.

  166. I was floored by his honesty and candor…the book was about one way a person acquires courage.

    I am still in Miami. No pants mishaps, yet. I learned a lesson from Miz Haven and kept my maternity clothing at home.

    Hope things are good in good ol’ Indiana. I am trying to clear my schedule to be down there for a bicycle ride (Hilly Hundred) in October.

  167. I’m very late in the game here, but hey, I’m on a different time clock – Australia’s – so I thought I’d list some of my favourite aussie non-fiction for ya…

    ‘Dreamtime Alice’ and ‘Velocity’ by Mandy Sayer (I love her, love her, love her, love her. Her prose, I would lay down and die for, sigh..)

    ‘The Twelfth of Never’ and ‘Shooting the Moon’ by Louis Nowra (Mandy Sayer’s hubby. What a couple. He’s pretty fabulous too)

    ‘Aunts Up the Cross’ by Robin Daltin (this is a perfect gem of a book that very much reminds me of ‘Zippy’ despite being set in vastly different landscapes on opposite sides of the world. Delightful!)

    ‘At the Cross’ by Jon Rose (Tales of the great Drag and Drain Ball in the 40’s – back when being homo was illegal in Oz – the frocks, the magic, the mayhem. You get the idea.)

    ‘Candy’ by Luke Davies (Best damn portrayl of life on heroin that I’ve read to date, although ‘Junky’ and ‘Queer’ by William Burroughs are timeless and beautifully written too.)

    ‘Razor’ by Larry Writer (This is fascinating and a lot of fun as it details the long running fued between the notorious Madame, Tilly Devine and Sly Grog Queen, Kate Leigh who battled for years to rule the underworld of inner-city Sydney from the 1920’s onwards with their razor gang men..yummy stuff, if ya like that sorta thang.)

    ‘Rage’ by Germaine Greer (What can I say about this little tome…it’s vital. It canvasses new and different theories about the origin of rage. A must read.)

    Thanks to you all for making my head crazy with lists of books to read, everyone is sooo well read here! I hope you find some goodies in this lil contribution too.

  168. TEX –

    Welcome to the party and GREAT list . . .

    LINDA: they are going to bar me from the customer service desks at BAM, Borders & Davis/Kidd (who, by the way Linda, cannot organize their books for sh*#!) – they found Wild Swans in the “women’s” section many years ago, what – it could be anywhere but there – autobio, memoirs, bio, history, china, politics, you could only put it in women’s studies if you found it with a dart (god love Davis/Kidd, though – but search via the web and have them pull it for you – they will actually pull my art journals and books for me and have them in a bag – all I have to do is PAY . . .).

  169. Cheers sherfick!

    I must add “The Monkey and the Dragon” to the list by Linda Jaivin.
    (A bloody brilliant book. Jaivin is originally a Yank from the east coast of America..at a time that it was considered highly unusual – the early 70’s – she decided to move to Beijing and become Chinese. After many years she moved into my neighborhood in Sydney, Australia, whence she decided to become an Aussie.)

  170. …which is how I can finagle her onto my list.

  171. Well, at least Tex had the excuse of being on the other side of the world. I am in Kansas, a far less exotic place. I’ve been a lurker for some time and have just been so limited in my computer time that I could only hop on and read a few posts before I had to get off again. I felt like a person with a verbal processing issue at a cocktail party of VERY clever people who only thought of something to say three conversations later. I felt STOLID. That is my least favorite word and now I feel even more so because in spite of the fact that this conversation is winding down, I love books so much (though I’m not remotely as well read as most of you) that I am going to be the party guest who stands by the door and says, “Oh yes, I like goat cheese too” and “I once went to that art museum” as you shining jewels file out. Thankfully I am ok with being that person in a way I didn’t used to be.

    An aside to Robert – There is no shame in advertising unless you shill for something you despise. I do a bit of acting and had to wrestle with feeling embarrassed about being in some cheesy local commercials. Then I realized that people in this world do all kinds of things to pay the bills and I should thank my lucky stars that what I had to do wasn’t nearly as hard as what some of them had to do.

    Ok, here is the ridiculously…I’m sorry, RIDICULOUSLY long list. It covers all past and future book discussions and renders me capable of just listening in on any sub-species you might present in the future.

    Eugene O’Neil, Long Day’s Journey into Night and Moon for the Misbegotten
    Yasmina Reza, The Unexpected Man
    Warren Leight, Sideman

    Ruth Reichl, Tender at the Bone, Comfort Me with Apples, Garlic & Sapphires
    Laura Shane Cunningham, Sleeping Arrangements
    Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickel & Dimed (I cannot shop at Walmart after reading this book)
    Annie Lamott, Bird by Bird (essential for writers and wannabe writers!), Operating
    Instructions (the journal of her son Sam’s first year)
    Stephen King, On Writing (another book for wannabes like me—I’ve read it 3 times
    because I feel like I’ve been invited to dinner at his house when I do. One of those was
    the audio version which he did himself and then it was like we went on a ROAD TRIP
    Nathan McCall, Makes Me Wanna Holler (someone said, If you want to know what it
    feels like to be a young black male in this country, read this book. It is harsh in so
    many ways and McCall cuts no one slack, least of all himself.
    Helene Hanff, 84 Charing Cross Road (I, like Miss Hanff at the time, have never been to England, but I got to be a time traveler to post-war New York AND London with the most clever and well read tour guide in history)
    Rick Atkinson, The Long Gray Line (a story of the West Point class of ’66 which will
    break your heart with almost every chapter)

    Books I Loved as a Child and Still Love Today
    LM Montgomery, The Anne Books and The Blue Castle
    PL Travers, All of the Mary Poppins
    Beverly Cleary, The Ramona Books (Of course I had to re-read them to my children and
    then I was stunned at the amount of serious real-life and gut busting humor in them)
    Betty Brock, No Flying in the House

    The Great Escape
    Jan Karon, All of the Mitford books
    Alexander McCall Smith, The #1 Ladies Detective Agency books

    Jane Austen, Any, but mostly P&P
    Howard Owen, Littlejohn
    Terry Kay, To Dance with the White Dog
    Walker Percy, The 2nd Coming and Love Among the Ruins
    John Steinbeck, Cannery Row
    Leif Enger, Peace Like a River
    Fitzgerald, Tender is the Night
    Tom Wolfe, Bonfire of the Vanities (I read that book when I was living in Kansas City, I
    think, before we moved to New York and when I got there I remember looking around
    occasionally and thinking, “Whew, I know you.”)
    Tom Clancy (just stop right there, oh you who are about to start typing), The Cardinal of
    the Kremlin-I have even RE-READ this book. While Jack Ryan does grate on me, the
    true hero, Colonel Filitov just lived and breathed before my eyes.
    Laura Esquivel, Like Water for Chocolate

    Laughter is a gift from God, a holy thing, a hand reaching down a well saying, “We’re coming! We’ll be there soon. Don’t worry we won’t leave you.”
    Haven Kimmel, Zippy (After I read the first time I did a read-aloud with my kids not long
    after we’d endured a pretty traumatic several months. Like the Balm of Gilead this was)
    PG Wodehouse, The Mating Game (This was my “Christmas” book one year, the book I
    took on the subway with me so I wouldn’t hate shopping but look forward to it and one
    day while I was eating lunch at Nathan’s I FRIGHTENED people because I was
    laughing so hard)
    Donald Westlake, Trust Me on This

    Books Which Became Beloved Friends and which now reside in my head
    Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast
    Tim O’Brien, Going After Cacciato and The Things They Carried
    Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume
    Salinger, Franny & Zooey
    Chaim Potok, The Chosen and My Name is Asher Lev
    Mark Helprin, The Winter’s Tale
    Willa Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop
    Alan Paton, Cry the Beloved Country
    Michael Chabon, Kavalier & Clay
    Wallace Stegner, Crossing to Safety
    Sue Monk Kid, The Secret Life of Bees (I gave it to my mother, my sisters, my kids, a
    friend who is an 88 year old black woman—everyone stayed up late to finish that book)
    Haven Kimmel, She Got Off the Couch (A book I just re-read again when courage was
    John Irving, The Cider House Rules
    David James Duncan, The Brothers K

  172. Kate, you, too, have read 84 Charing Cross Road – bless you! It is lovely.

    I admit to enjoying the Secret Life of Bees, but I am willing to block that if this is the “Bee Seasons” book Haven has mentioned . . . I’m withholding ditching my copy until I hear the final verdict. I will throw it away, it will not even be honored by the Goodwill Box, and I will forever more turn that author’s books backwards in every book store I go in . . . this is the same thing I do to all Thomas Kincaide prints at Walmart. It is the ultimate “diss.”

  173. oh dear, I’m worried about Haven

    Are you o.k???

    Will have in my meditations today . . .

  174. Sherfick, no the book that Haven mentioned is actually called The Bee Season. I was glad to hear what she had to say because I read it years ago with my book group and despised the hours handed over to such inanity.

    Yes, I love 84 CCR and that was why I had to share my list–because it is so fun to recognize each other when we love the same things. I went back over your list too and found some I had missed Tobias Wolff–In Pharoah’s Army and Amy Grant’s book, Mosaic. I’ve read a ton of books about Vietnam and while O’Brien will always be my fave, that is a very good one. And Amy is just so real.

  175. Kate – yippee, I’ve worried about the Bee Season confusion . . .

    Heavily into Sawtelle (I am neutral on it, waiting to be wowed) right now and about 1/2 way through Owen Meany for a re-read (not to mention re-reading USED WORLD/Kimmel) . . .

    I love reading . . . so glad you have joined the blogging . . . I added some of the books you mentioned that I hadn’t come across [acrost – tee/hee 🙂 ] . . . that is the best thing, getting recommendations from real book worms.

  176. Hello!

    I’m a big fan of Paulo Coelho! You will love this! He’s the first best-selling
    author to be distributing for free his works on his blog:

    Have a nice day!


  177. aart –

    that will be so awesome, I LOVE coelho, too – another blog, what will I do, when will I work . . . ?

    welcome to the “club?” – I think we are an official club now – does anybody need a logo, we can order badges and hats and everything . . . I know, a BOOK BAG!!! and get imprinted pens/highlighters/etc.

    Oh my god, I just thought maybe I can get a signed copy of the next Kimmel novel or poetry tome, if we order it from the NC independent store, or (if Linda, Jules & I get our way), Haven comes back to Davis Kidd in Nashville.

    I will have a dinner party . . . sleep over here . . . I can fit, like 6-8 more people here . . .

  178. badges, hats, a BOOK BAG?!!! yes! yes! yes! super cool t shirts?

  179. steph –

    yippee, somebody else is excited about products, too . . . we could do it at red bubble . com – you upload images/art and then can order it on objects/tshirts, etc. I know how to do print ready photoshopping – Haven could have her creatures speaking words of wisdom???

    would love to spend some money on something unique and just to make people think, huh???

  180. Have you noticed that Augusten has a tee shirt with his dogs on it available for purchase on his website? I thought that was quite clever.

  181. Linda- yes I sooo am going to order Augusten’s Bentley/Cow shirt! I recently had the pleasure of meeting Augusten after a reading of his in Sydney and he was wearing the coolest t-shirt.

    Sherfick- Love the idea of Haven’s critters with speech bubbles of wise words. I want THAT bookbag!

  182. I loved, loved The Undertaking by Thomas Lyunch that you mentioned. The next favorite is Population: 485: Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren at a Time
    by Michael Perry.

  183. Tex- do you live in Sydney?

  184. Hello, all! I’ve been lurking for some time, enjoying all your wit, humor, and good natured interactions, and it was news of the Zippy book club that drew me in – finally! Haven, I am thrilled to have this avenue for contacting you, and I adore that you are so available to us! I don’t know if you remember, but we met last year at Earlham when you read and spoke. I was the gal with the hives – ha-ha! I was so over the moon to be in the same room with you and meet you, I don’t even remember the details – or the name! – of the event, but the photo is forever enshrined on my myspace page! You and your mother were positively delightful, and I am a forever fan of BOTH of you. Your books have moved me beyond words, and I look forward to reading Iodine very soon! Oh, and A Prayer for Owen Meaney! 🙂

  185. hello it is test. WinRAR provides the full RAR and ZIP file support, can decompress CAB, GZIP, ACE and other archive formats.

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