From the shelf: “Endurance”

Let me tell you about the most amazing thing I’ve read: Shackleton’s voyage is unbelievable. It’s 1914, and Shackleton wants to be the first person to completely cross Antarctica. He collects a crew, some scientists, a photographer, an artist, and a bunch of husky dogs and starts his journey to the South Pole. They attempt to sail through the Wedell Sea off the coast of Antarctica, but before they reach land their ship gets trapped between huge ice floes, each many feet thick. They wait and wait for the ice to break apart but instead pressure mounts and begins crushing their boat. Soon they find themselves living on a mass of floating ice with no ship, no radio, and no hope of rescue. They must find their own way to survive and their own way back to civilization.

My perfect Pan gave this perfect book to me for Christmas. The writing is a delight, and the story is simply incredible. I had to keep reminding myself it wasn’t fiction. I had so much fun reading this book–when I finished, I was tempted to turn back to page one and start all over again!

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Friends don’t let friends run marathons alone

There’s something especially wonderful about being around old friends. You slip into a version of yourself that is so comfortable and understood. I hung out with a bunch of people I’ve known a very long time (and a few I feel like I’ve known a long time) in March. They came for the LA Marathon, which Zach and three of them ran.


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Second read: “Slaughterhouse-Five”

Slaughterhouse-Five is the first book I read by Vonnegut, and I read it as a junior in high school. My English teacher assigned it, and I thought she was the coolest teacher in the world. We read about war, about bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki, about abortion. I’d never had a class like hers. She had a little bookshelf behind her desk that I borrowed from for the next two years. I think Anthem and Youth in Revolt were two of her books I read.

I loved rereading S-5. I forgot that Kurt is one of the characters in the story. I remembered the line “Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time” but forgot that it’s the first sentence of chapter two instead of chapter one’s. I forgot how horrific the firebombing of Dresden was, even though I knew that was a main part of the book. And I forgot why the alternate title is The Children’s Crusade: A Duty Dance with Death.

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Winter blues

It seems very unfair to me that I’m here in Los Angeles where it’s warm and sunny when I want to be somewhere that’s cold and wintry and that so many people who are in cold and wintry places would rather be somewhere warm and sunny.

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From the shelf: “The Buried Giant”

The Buried Giant is another ARC I got at work. I’d been curious about Kazuo Ishiguro for a while, and wanted to read something by him. His most famous books are The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go. NLMG is what I’d particularly wanted to read. Then this free copy of his new book showed up at work, so I read it instead.

It’s probably not his best work. Actually I heard from an interview that his wife told him never to let anyone read this book. It’s not as bad as that, but it’s very strange. It’s pure fantasy to begin with, which took me by surprise. An elderly couple living in a village in England decide to visit their son in another village. There’s a lot of walking and plodding along. The husband always calls his wife “princess,” which I found a little annoying. The story’s set in King Arthur’s days, and there are a dragon and knights. Saxons. The story is also about this strange mist that clouds people’s memories. It’s about the strength of love and fears of the past.

There are definitely some good parts, but they’re mostly at the end. Not knowing whether these good parts were coming, I took a break and read three other books. I thought about not finishing TBG, but I couldn’t get the story out of my head. I thought some of the themes and ideas were good and worth thinking about, but the story’s execution seemed half baked. So I was surprised when I learned Ishiguro’d been working on this book for, I think it was, 15 years. I still want to read one of his other books. (Even though Jeff Bezos likes him–yuck!)

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From the shelf: “Ashes in My Mouth, Sand in My Shoes”

I can’t recall whether I’ve talked about ARCs (advance reader’s copies, also known as previews) before, and I’m too lazy to check. ARCs are these magical books that are sent to bookstores and authors and I don’t know who else by publishers trying to get attention for books coming out soon. Tons are sent to the bookstore I work at. Publishers hope we read and like the books and then order the books for the store. ARCs are most often previews of novels by first-time authors. Nonfiction is rarer than fiction, and books by well-established authors are rarest of all. Per Petterson is a well-established author. He’s even a prize winner. He’s Norwegian.

This book I picked up is an ARC of a collection of stories coming out this April. (It’s actually the first book he published, but it’s only now been translated and released in English.) Although the cover says it’s stories, AiMMSiMS reads more like a novella. It’s only 118 small pages, and the main character in each story is the same young boy Arvid. Arvid is perfect. He’s small, he still wets the bed, he’s called “Death Diver,” he’s proud, and he’s scared. He believes in a certain kind of magic but knows not to examine it too closely. He believes in his dad. His world is fragile but easy-peasy to jump into.

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From the shelf: “Yes Please”

My beautiful friend Celeste gave me this book, and it was a really good gift. Amy Poehler is bomb, and she writes like a rockstar. (But not actually like a rockstar but like a writer.) She’s so incredibly funny and cool. Celeste, I mean. And, yes, Amy too.

Anyway, Yes Please is good. It makes for such a fun reading experience. A lot of it is about Amy and the things she’s done and the choices she’s made. Part of it though is about the reader and thinking about your own life and family and what you want and how you want to live. And this happens in a nonjudgmental, non-pushy way. She isn’t trying to tell you what to do, and it’s not a self-help book, but it is kind of an encouraging book. She does this mostly by telling stories about her own life, so it’s still mostly about her. Duh.

Part of it also is random humorous stuff. For example, she has a chapter called “My Books on Divorce” that’s several book titles and summaries she’s made up that have to do with how much divorce sucks when you have kids. She does not get into details about what led to her own divorce. Although it could be juicy, some things should probably stay private.

She also talks about her friendship with Tina Fey (best comedy duo) and her friendship with Seth Meyers, who wrote a chapter for her book. Mostly it’s really fun. Two thumbs up!

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