|Compiled by Marianne Lonsdale|
|Here’s Part Two of our favorite reads of 2014. This eclectic list includes literary fiction, memoir, short story collections, and a children’s book. We have a tie for books receiving the most votes (a young adult book and a novel). Add your favorites and thoughts in the comments below!|
|Favorites of Joanne Hartman|
|The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt is hefty, almost 800-pages, but I couldn’t put it down as I was magically transported, along with main character Theo, to New York City, Las Vegas, and Amsterdam. I think that Stephen King said it best in his review in The New York Times: “The Goldfinch is a triumph with a brave theme running through it: art may addict, but art also saves us . . . Donna Tartt has delivered an extraordinary work of fiction. That said, don’t drop it on your foot.”|
|Little Failure by Gary Shteyngart is a sweetly tender memoir about the immigrant experience, coming-of-age, and becoming a writer. I loved his novel Super Sad True Love Story so was curious to discover more about this smart and witty author with the impossible-to-spell last name. [Read More...]|
|Compiled by Marianne Lonsdale
In addition to writing, our members are avid readers. Here’s a list of some of our favorite reads during 2014. (Stay tuned for Part Two of our favorites, which will post soon – what book do you think showed up as the favorite of three of our members?)
Favorites of Vicki DeArmon
A dystopian novel that sidesteps the usual horror and despair of the genre as it follows a troop of roving Shakespearean actors and symphony musicians who put art above survival in a world stripped of the amenities of 21st century life. Shortlisted for the National Book Award. Beautifully told.
Captivating with its distinct joyful voice, it follows a Zimbabwean girl from her life among her band of friends – young toughs whose play incorporates the political upheaval around them – to her immigration to America and the alienation that follows.
|It all started in 1996 with a 7-inch ceramic plate that read “Cookies for Santa” along the rim. My older sister Padrin had been the one to spot the advertisement for it in the Thanksgiving newspaper late that afternoon.
“Jo-Ann Fabrics is giving away a free gift to the first 100 shoppers tomorrow,” Padrin had announced to no one in particular.
I don’t know if she said it excitedly or just as a passing observation. What matters was that just 10 hours later, my mom, my sister, and I were standing in a line of about 15 people outside the Jo-Ann Fabric store in Edina at 6am as a store employee handed us each a 7-inch “Cookies for Santa” ceramic plate. [Read More...]
With Black Friday approaching, there is a familiar sense of panic. One, I am always so busy with work this time of year that Christmas gift shopping is the last thing on my mind. Two, I am the worst gift buyer for the people I love. I admit it, I suck. Just ask my husband about the brown suede coat debacle of 2006. “It’s brown… and it’s suede… when have you ever seen me wear anything brown… or suede?” Uggh.
Now I rely on tools such as the Amazon Wish List to guide my gift buying. Ever since my son was able to log on to a computer and talk about what he wants for Christmas, I would happily reply, “Add it to the Wish List!” Now, I realize that I created a 12-year-old monster. Whenever he receives a non-sanctioned, unlisted gift from us, there is a lot of confusion on his part as to why the clear divergence from his wishes and the implication that his parents aren’t that bright. Uggh.
This year, I am determined to find a meaningful Christmas gift for him, something that he will fondly remember when he is an adult. [Read More...]
|Ranked-choice voting to choose Oakland’s mayor debuted in 2010. I was initially sold because this method eliminates the need for run-off elections, and in theory opens the field to a more diverse slate of candidates. Second elections often have low voter turn-out and cost a bundle. But when none of my choices landed in the top three in 2010 I doubted the method. Voters choose up to three candidates in order of preference. If a candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, he or she is elected. But if there’s no majority, then an elimination process begins. The candidate who received the fewest first-ranked votes is eliminated. Next, each vote cast for that candidate is transferred to the voter’s next-ranked choice. This continues until one candidate receives a majority. The math is tough to follow. [Read More...]|
|I am a white, middle class, English speaking woman raised by traditional Christian parents. The only times I have felt like I didn’t fit in were when I travelled to foreign countries, and when I was pregnant and couldn’t drink at a wedding where everyone else was blasted. For the last two weeks of this October, however, I felt like an outsider.Did I develop a disgusting boil? Or have a minor stroke that altered my speech? Did I come to a new realization about my sexuality or political affiliation? No, it is something I have always known about myself, but in the last weeks I was forced to hide my true feelings, out of fear that my view of the subject would not be tolerated by the supposedly liberal Bay Area community. No, I am not Republican or homophobe: The truth is, I’ve always found baseball dull and I had absolutely no interest in the Giants World Series drama. [Read More...]|
|Thank you Ian. Your fishnets, platform heels and pearls made me feel like a teenager again. I needed an escape from my sugar coated Halloweens of the last seven years. My children have just recently graduated from fluffy animal costumes into Transformers and Princesses. These days I am adding sparkles to costumes and trying to figure out how to explain the difference between taking candy from strangers every other day and taking candy from strangers on Halloween. They are adorable and I like kiddy Halloween, but I miss the days where Halloween was mine to enjoy.
I happen to like the dark and twisty side of the day. I spent my high school days watching horror movies, reading Stephen King, and watching the Rocky Horror Picture Show. I am a fan of ghost stories, I read about vampires (yes, even the teenage love story ones). I am enrolled in a class about writing paranormal fiction so that I can create my own creepy characters. I like my Halloween to be spooky! [Read More...]
|My husband and I are political junkies—or at least we were until we had to stop following the news to preserve our mental health. Still, we consider voting a duty, not a privilege. So when our eldest daughter turned 18 in 2006, I wrapped her birthday presents in voter registration forms.
Even then, back in the days when hope was ascendant and our fervor less dampened, voting was complicated. For Emma’s first election, we sat down together at the dining room table piled high with Voter Guides, newspaper clippings and endorsements, and a small forest’s worth of glossy political ads. The lesson commenced.
“It’s pretty impossible to be well informed about all the issues and candidates,” I instructed. “So one strategy is to follow the recommendations of people you trust. Or compare all the editorial endorsements of various newspapers and average them out.” [Read More...]
|“Love you,” Áine would say whenever it was time to part ways, either at gymnastics class when our daughters finished practicing or after one of our impromptu dinners at her house or mine. The words were always accompanied by a hug.
The first time Áine (pronounced On ya) said the words was after my family spent a wonderful afternoon at her mother’s farm, shooting bows and arrows, the four kids eating Mac n’ Cheese and then getting so wet playing that we had to borrow some of Arabella’s clothes, Áine’s daughter.Not an overly emotional person with new acquaintances, I thought it was a bit unusual that day, as we were leaving, when Áine yelled from the porch with a wave, “Love you guys!” I quickly learned that to her friends, it was her usual parting phrase, and she meant it. [Read More...]
|Book Review by Janine Kovac:
Ready For Air: A Journey through Premature Motherhood by Kate Hopper
The memoir Ready For Air: A Journey through Premature Motherhood, by Minneapolis-based author and writing teacher Kate Hopper, sat on my bedside for weeks before I had the courage to open it. Truthfully, I was afraid of what I’d read. My three-month NICU stay with my micro-preemie twins was harrowing enough and I didn’t want to read something that would provoke my own painful and scary NICU memories. The mere thought of it made my stomach twist.
But my curiosity got the better of me. I knew Kate Hopper through her online writing class Motherhood and Words and through her book Use Your Words: A Writing Guide for Mothers. She had exercises with titles such as “Writing the Hard Stuff” and “What Shapes Us: Reflection and Place.” I wanted to know—how did someone who designed those lessons apply them to her own writing? [Read More...]