Top Ten 2015

I hope you enjoy(ed) these as much as I did. Merry Christmas!


The Last Love Song: A Biography of Joan Didion by Tracy Daugherty

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

See How Small by Scott Blackwood

Erratic Facts by Kay Ryan

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo

Snobs by Julian Fellowes

The Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi by Peter M. Wayne, PhD with Mark L. Fuerst

The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2015 edited by Rebecca Skloot

Unless It Moves the Human Heart by Roger Rosenblatt


But Does It Bring You Joy?

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo sounded like just what I needed. Here’s how it’s done: You go through your entire house, category by category, and PURGE. You have only two things you must do: determine what brings you joy and find a place for it. To help you decide, take, for instance, every one of your coats, spread them out on the floor and then pick up each one, and touch it, caress, etc. to see if it makes you feel joyful. If it does, find a space for it; if not, give it away. Kondo is adamant that we follow that rule of checking every coat for the joy factor otherwise we might make the wrong choices or not enough of them.

I broke that rule right off because frankly it seemed like way too much work. But I’m bending it to suit me. First, I’m going through my house using my old purging method and deciding at a glance what goes in the yard sale, the donation bag and the garbage bag. When that’s completed and things are more manageable, I’ll use the tidying up method. I look forward to it.

Today, I called Volunteers of America for a pickup and brought in a bag of books to donate to our library.


A Funny Beach Read If Ever…

I’ve always appreciated the way Joan Rivers could turn her personal tragedies around by finding a sliver of humor in whatever came her way. It seems like her daughter Melissa has that same gift. Melissa adds her own witty comments to her Mom’s to make her new book, The Book of Joan: Tales of Mirth, Mischief, and Manipulation by Melissa Rivers a really funny book. Rather than share some of my favorite lines/stories, I’ll let you find your own given that we all don’t laugh at the same things. Trust me, you’ll find plenty.


Top Ten of 2014

These are some of the books I loved in 2014 and why:

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande for writing the most thought provoking and the most important book I’ve read in years.

Let Me Be Frank with You: A Frank Bascombe Book by Richard Ford for his masterful writing about American life.

Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham for entertaining me with her wit and wisdom—had to listen to it to hear the mischief in her voice.

The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande for showing me the importance and magic of the humble checklist.

Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant? By Roz Chast for making me see that all those maddening idiosyncrasies my parents had were actually what made them so lovable and now, so missed.

Bark by Lorrie Moore—no one does quirky better or more realistically.

Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation by Dan Fagin for inspiring me with the good people of New Jersey who made sure that no more children would die in their community as the result of chemical pollution.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion for taking me back to the sixties.

Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides for a coming-of-age story unlike anything I’ve ever read.

By the Book: Writers on Literature and the Literary Life from The New York Times Book Review edited by Pamela Paul. Otherwise I never would have known which authors, dead or alive, Jeffrey Eugenides would invite to his dinner party. Go first to page 85 for a very funny conversation among Kafka, Kundera and Joyce. Shakespeare was busy that night.

Hope your 2015 is filled with books you love!



To sit or not to sit?

We’ve all been hearing that sitting is bad for us, but would you go so far as to commit to standing for an entire month? One New Yorker did. Dan Kois stood for an entire month (except for driving, sleeping and sitting on the toilet). You can read all about it in New York Magazine’s special Health Issue that came out on June 9th. Was he any healthier? Well, he lost some weight and walked much more than before. He even wasted less time, what with standing at all those meetings, taking shorter phone calls, etc. But he came to find out that just as too much sitting is bad for us, so is too much standing. There’s back pain, the risk of stroke, varicose veins and more. Maybe it’s the up-and-down thing we all need to do more of?


So what. I think.

One of the things I like best about Arianna Huffington’s new book Thrive is the quotes. Permit me:

Sometimes people let the same problems make them miserable for years when they could just say “so what.” That’s one of my favorite things to say.—Andy Warhol

Oh, how I wish I could be more like Andy.



Top Ten Books of 2013

Here are some of the books I loved in 2013 and why:

Local Souls by Allan Gurganus—for putting the hearts and minds of real human beings on the page. It was worth the ten years I waited for another by Gurganus. As of today, it’s on my Top Ten Books of a Lifetime.

Enon by Paul Harding—for so poignantly expressing what’s it’s like to lose a 13-year-old daughter in a fatal car accident and how a father goes about finding his way back. Beautifully written, almost to the point of distraction, especially when he seeks solace in nature. Tinkers is on hold for me at our library and I plan on picking it up tonight and staying up late.

Baldwin: Early Novels and Stories by James Baldwin—I first read one of the novels, Another Country, about 40 years ago and oddly, always remembered the main character’s name, Rufus, and the way Baldwin described the summer sun coming up in Manhattan. It was every bit as good rereading it this year.

The Tennis Partner by Abraham Verghese—My love of tennis and past reads of Verghese prompted me to pick up this book. I never saw tennis quite this way, but then who other than Verghese possibly could. And, too, he covers friendship, relationships, loneliness, and more in his inimitable style.

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris—I’d rather listen to him talk then read his work; nonetheless he’s one of the best comedic writers around.

The Most of Nora Ephron by Norah Ephron—557 pages of wit, grace and brilliance!

Sister Mother Husband Dog by Delia Ephron—“We borrowed lines from each other the way other sisters borrow dresses.” Yeah, Delia’s that good. Share her memories of her sister, Nora, who died of lymphoma last year and other aspects of Delia’s life in this special book.

The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida—for making me wiser and a little sadder. Bless this wonderful child and may he continue finding joy every day of his life.

Francis & Bernard by Carlene Bauer—for her imaginative “supposings” about the lives of two great writers: Flannery O’Connor and Robert Lowell.

A Book of Common Prayer by Joan Didion—because no year would be complete without a re-read of at least one book by my all-time favorite author.

~ Chris

At the Beach with Jon Stewart

So you’re thinking Jon is at some undisclosed location shooting his film, Rosewater. Well if he is, then he can be in two places at once, because he’s sharing my beach blanket with me on the shores of Lake Erie, Huntington Beach to be exact. Anyhow, I’m really enjoying his book, Earth. Some spreads in particular, like “Psychology” in which he shares how three types of experts (?) would treat a mental disorder: a psychologist, a psychiatrist and a…stepdad. Pure Stewart. Also very funny: “Money We Didn’t Have,” “Your Changing Planet” and “Faster.” However, I’m finding precious nuggets on every spread and think you will as well. Enjoy!

~ Chris

At the Beach with Calvin Trillin

I don’t think anyone does silly better than Calvin Trillin. After laughing my way through Tepper Isn’t Going Out and his parking dilemmas in Manhattan a while back, I thought I’d take Quite Enough of Calvin Trillin to the beach. As the subtitle says, it’s Forty Years of Funny Stuff. These essays are all written in Trillin’s smooth conversational style, so it’s very real when truly hysterical ideas come up at random. (Just what you want to have happen when you’re enjoying a great day at the beach.) I particularly liked: “Publishers Lunch,” “Errands,” “Long-Term Marriage,“ and “Unhealth Food.” Do not read any of the poems. They rhyme. Seriously.

~ Chris