Friday, September 30, 2011
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Saturday, September 24, 2011
Friday, September 23, 2011
An Accidental Sportswriter: A Memoir by Robert Lipsyte
I’ll say it once again: I am no sports fan.
But sports writing sometimes just gets to me. It’s often just so beautiful.
So the title of this book kind of grabbed me, and then I saw something in a review about the book’s description of an “encounter” with Mickey Mantle.
So it was no longer a choice—I had to place a hold.
And, like the best books, the thing I went in for wasn’t even the very best it had to offer.
It has descriptions of covering Muhammad Ali back when he was still Cassius Clay—when Clay beat Sonny Liston, here’s Lipsyte: “I began thinking of a lede. Then Liston sat down on his stool and wouldn’t get up, and it was over. Clay capered on the ring apron, yelling at the press, ‘Eat your words!’ And then it was my turn, minutes to deadline, banging out a paragraph on my little Olivetti, ripping out the page, handing it to the telegrapher at my side…” (p. 67)
Man, that’s exciting. (I’m a total sucker for stories of journalists under tight deadline.)
In between the anecdotes, there’s also a very real, very personal analysis of what it means to be a sportswriter. It’s more complex and interesting than it appears at first glance. For example, was Lipsyte right or wrong to point out—right after Mickey Mantle’s death—that Mantle probably jumped ahead in line for a new kidney, even though he was dying of cancer and should not have received a kidney at all?
People want to think well of their heroes, but what if their heroes are doing crappy things? What’s a sportswriter to do?
So this is a fine memoir. It’s personal in the best ways—Lipsyte’s describing his own journey, and it includes some great moments.
One of my favorite parts was when he was assigned to cover NASCAR for the New York Times. All it took was a ride around the track with Mark Martin, and Lipsyte was hooked. He became a NASCAR junkie, and he wanted to drive one of them cars. So it got all arranged so he could drive a Petty car around the track a few times. It’s perfectly wonderful to read how the staid sportswriter turned into an animal behind the wheel. He writes that as he drove his rental car later that evening, he was feeling calm. “… I felt amused at and offended by road hogs, ragers, and show-offs. They couldn’t get to me anymore. I had driven at speed.” (pp. 193-194) That just makes me smile.
So I love the deadpan wording, and I also love the way he describes how he learned that driving a race car is not as simple as pressing your foot to the floor and turning left.
The book’s final chapter, about his dad, is re-readable. This is just a lovely book. When I read the last page, I stood up and just tried not to cry.
Thursday, September 22, 2011
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close
Here’s some seriously high praise: This book reminded me of Laurie Colwin’s writing. And I love Laurie Colwin. The characters here are a little less quirky than Colwin’s, but they’re still charming.
So yes, this is a novel about young women in
Each chapter could be read as a short story, since each has its own arc. But the whole thing also hangs together beautifully, because the main characters’ friendship ties the story lines together.
It’s two parts Laurie Colwin, one part The Best of Everything, one part Sex and the City, and three parts all its own thing.
I was well pleased.
Friday, September 16, 2011
This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman
This book, along with Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn, cured me of my recent non-reading bout.
Both of them—could not put down. (I love it when that happens.)
This Beautiful Life has a house of cards on the cover, and that was a smart choice. Things start out lovely for Liz, her husband Richard, and their kids Jake and
Because their beautiful life? House of cards!!
(And seriously, isn’t it that way for everyone? Things are going along swimmingly, and then disease or some crap strikes and it all goes to hell. I’m just saying.)
Anyway, this book reminded me of Testimony by Anita Shreve (though Testimony was much more unsettling).
This Beautiful Life does the multiple viewpoints thing I like/dislike in equal parts—starting with Liz, then Jake, then Richard.
Multiple viewpoints—I like this technique because it shows you the same episode from different perspectives, and that’s interesting. I dislike this technique because when the viewpoint changes, I always feel wrenched away from the character I’ve just been hanging out with. There’s a tiny bit of whiplash and I feel a bit irritated for a page or two until I settle back in.
This is one of those books you can just sink into on a Saturday. I just kinda wish I’d saved it for the Read-a-Thon, since it’s one of those rare books that I read nearly straight through.
The world of blogging is continually changing. Share 3 things you are essential tried and true practices for every blogger and 1-3 new trends or tools you’ve adapted recently or would like to in the future.
OK, I'm no expert, so this is pretty basic stuff. Here goes...
1. Read other blogs and comment on them!
2. Write posts in advance, and schedule them. Then if you go on vacation or get the flu or have exciting plans, you don’t have to worry about the blog staying up to date, because that thing is on auto-pilot.
3. Under-promise and over-deliver. Actually, this is one of my general life credos. What it means for blogging: Set a blogging schedule and stick to it. If you want to post more often, do it.
New trends or tools:
Yeah, so these trends and tools ain’t new. They’re just things I’m liking.
Thanks to everyone who's stopped by this week. It's wonderful to meet you and visit your blogs, too!
Thursday, September 15, 2011
Today's Book Blogger Appreciation Week topic:
Book bloggers blog because we love reading. Has book blogging changed the way you read? Have you discovered books you never would have apart from book blogging? How has book blogging affected your book acquisition habits? Have you made new connections with other readers because of book blogging? Choose any one of these topics and share your thoughts today!
Pretty much, I’m the same old book geek I’ve always been.
The main thing book blogging has done is made me more aware of the patterns in my reading. (“Wow—I’m reading nothing but journalist memoirs these days!”)
And reading others blogs definitely has alerted me to books I wouldn’t’ve read otherwise. Thanks to Bybee for writing about The Best of Everything and thanks to
And sometimes reading another blogger's review gives me the OK to skip a book I wanted to skip anyway, even though everyone else on the earth is reading it.
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
I know the smart and efficient thing to do is to use an RSS reader, but I don’t wanna. Here’s why: I like actually visiting the blogs on my blogroll so I can have the full experience of visiting those blogs. I like to see the background and the colors and the design. I like to feel like I’m there.
So, usually the thing I do is visit each blog on my blogroll once a week. And once I’m at those other blogs, I’ll occasionally click on a blog on their blogroll to check it out.
And I’m trying to comment whenever I have something to say, instead of introverting about it and writing nothing.
And whenever someone comments on my blog, I pop over to their blog to check it out. I’ve discovered some great blogs that way.
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Shanyn of Chick Loves Lit has an amazing young adult book blog, and I had the good fortune to interview her!
1. On your blog, you write about young adult books. As a teen, what books did you like to read?
I was very fortunate to live near a library most of my childhood. We moved several times but we always were very close to our town's library. This allowed me to read a
2. What book have you re-read the most times? (How many times?)
I have a confession: I'm not a re-reader. So I guess the books I've reread the most are The Babysitter's Club, but only because I once tried to read the entire series in a summer (just a few years ago).
3. What are your top 5 favorite books of all time?
Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling - easily always my top. The rest change and shift, but for now:
Amy & Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson
Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers
Divergent by Veronica Roth
The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney (I had a lot of trouble with this last one, many books were fighting for this spot!)
4. I love your Fun Five Interviews. How do you think of the questions? What is your favorite answer you’ve received from an author?
The questions stem from my time as staff at a summer camp. I met hundreds of kids every week and found I had the most fun when I asked kids random questions - and I also learned a lot more than if I were to ask traditional things. I try to change the Who/What/Where/When/Why/How for each question, and then just go from there. There are days I don't feel the Fun Five magic, so I just wait until I'm feeling it before sending out questions :)
My favorite answer? This one is really hard because I've had so many authors on - I think the count is over 50 now! I always love when we get stories from the authors - it lets us see their personality. I recently had Kendare Blake (author of Anna Dressed in Blood) on, and I loved this question/answer:
For this question, I am going to invent a new spokesperson for Frosted Flakes. As you know, Frosted Flakes is delicious. And Tony the Tiger has done it justice for years. But he just isn’t brand specific enough. So, I give to you, his niece, Miss Tonya Tigress. Preliminary sketches portray her as slinky and sassy, with four inch spiked claws and bleached out stripes. She’s also a tad on the skinny side. Tonya spends most of her time finding new boys to buy her more diamonds, which she wears constantly. That’s right folks, she’s frosted. And flaky. She would be voiced by….Hannah
5. Speaking of Fun Five… You asked Ron Koertge this question, and now I’m asking you: Tell us a weird fact about yourself.
You're turning my own Fun Five on me! :) A weird fact... hmmmm. I actually just revealed this in a vlog for Interrobang YA, but I really really love reality TV. These past few weeks I've been watching full seasons of Survivor so that I can say I've seen every season. I'm not sure why I love it so much, but I do.
Monday, September 12, 2011
One time on vacation: The Right Stuff (Tom Wolfe)
Weekends at my house are: Keeping the House (Ellen Baker)
My superhero secret identity is: Bossypants (Tina Fey)
You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry because: True Grit (Charles Portis)
I’d win a gold medal in: Forbidden Falls (Robyn Carr)
I’d pay good money for: This Beautiful Life (Helen Schulman)
If I were President, I would: Flourish (Martin Seligman)
When I don’t have good books, I am: Packing for Mars (Mary Roach)
Loud talkers at the movie theater should be: Gone with the Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
For me, the bloggers who provide the greatest sense of community feel like “people in my neighborhood.”
“Hi, neighbor. Glad to be with you.” I mean, really, Could it get any more comforting than that?
(Seriously: When I read The World According to Mister Rogers, I had to keep putting it down because I kept getting weepy. He’s just so kind, I can hardly stand it.)
So, here are some of my neighbors:
Bybee of Naked Without Books! – who regularly makes me laugh at her own posts and also at her comments here. And sometimes she writes something that just makes a person feel happy and sad all at once. And really, there’s nothing better than that. Bybee—so glad you’re my neighbor.
Citizen Reader – who reads and blogs about nonfiction like no one else on the planet. She’s smart and funny and frank. And she’s a darn nice person! (I got to meet her in real life, so I know it’s true.)
Kim of Sophisticated Dorkiness – who always delights me with what she’s writing. I swing by her place, and I know I’m going to read something fun and interesting.
Sunday, September 11, 2011
Friday, September 9, 2011
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
I was told I would love this book. Sometimes I get nervous when told such things, but I had this on good authority, from a smart librarian who has a sense of my reading tastes.
The woman was right.
I also now understand why she’s chosen it for a book discussion. Because it’s filled with moments that make you want to get another person’s reaction.
Here’s what: The narrator, Camille, is flawed. And as you read on, the flaws continue to accumulate. And the story just gets grimmer and grimmer. Now that’s fascinating.
Camille is a reporter who is sent back to her
And we learn why Camille’s been away for years upon years: Her family is messed up like you wouldn’t even believe. And she’s living with her freaky family as she investigates the story.
And the whole thing is vaguely Southern gothic, even though it’s only as far south as Missouri (and that’s next door to Iowa, so really—we’re not talking Spanish moss-infused scenery here, but it’s got a northern Southern feel to it). It’s also got that returning-to-your-tiny-hometown stuff going on.
This thing’s a thriller in all the best ways. It’s unsettling and kinda disturbing but not in the way that makes you startled at your own shadow. (I always appreciate writers who can balance that fine line. For me, anyway, it’s a fine line. I’m skittish.)
A darn smart book that keeps you guessing.
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Mental Foodie is on the BBAW awards short list for nonfiction, so I popped over there earlier to check out the blog. And her latest post is about a site, Typealyzer, that applies Myers-Briggs personality types to blogs.
So I just had to check out my blog’s personality. (How could I not?)
And guys? My blog is exactly the opposite of my actual personality type!
Yes, I am an INTJ in real life. And my blog’s an ESFP.
I really don’t know quite what to think about this. It’s a bit strange. Especially since a couple of longtime friends have said that the blog sounds like me.
Here's the official scoop from Typealyzer:
"The analysis indicates that the author of http://unrulyreader.blogspot.com is of the type:
ESFP - The Performers
They enjoy work that makes them able to help other people in a concrete and visible way. They tend to avoid conflicts and rarely initiate confrontation - qualities that can make it hard for them in management positions."
Sunday, September 4, 2011
Friday, September 2, 2011
Truth Be Told: Off the Record about Favorite Guests, Memorable Moments, Funniest Jokes, and a Half Century of Asking Questions by Larry King
Despite the things I didn’t love about this book, I liked it plenty.
I’ll lead with the negatives: This is not a well-thought-out memoir. (It wasn't meant to be.) This is a collection of anecdotes, strung together rather loosely. Probably it should have been called Stories I Tell My Friends.
But still I liked it. And I’m not even a big Larry King fan. (If I’m in a cable TV environment [oh, hotel rooms!] I’m watching junk like HGTV and What Not to Wear and those scary-intense shows about wedding planning. So I haven’t actually watched Larry King so very often.)
But the guy’s met darn near everyone interesting and important, and he tells great stories about them.
For example -- I like envisioning Larry King and Colin Powell leading off the dancing every year at Ben Bradlee’s big soiree. That’s excellent stuff. Who’da thunk?
My favorite part of the book, though, is this: I like the way he writes about his life’s work. Turns out, I’m a complete sucker for books about people’s work, when they really, really love their work.
Here’s a sentence from page 1, when he’s describing how conscious he is of time: “When you’ve repeatedly got to slide into a commercial break, you understand exactly how long five seconds lasts.”
He also tells a hilarious story about his first radio job and his first time on the air, when he completely froze up and ended up playing the theme song 3 times to cover his silence when “the station manager kicked open the control room door and screamed: ‘This is a communications business!’” (p. 3)
I love that. I love it because it’s fabulous that the guy kicked in the door and screamed exactly that, and I love it because it shows that even a Great once was a scared kid. It’s wonderfully human, and you gotta like that.
So yes, I didn’t love this book, but I liked it plenty.
And then The Onion told me what truly was involved in a Larry King interview, from the other side of the table...
NASA Simulator Prepares Astronauts For Rigors Of An Interview With Larry King