May 2018 Reading List

Below are the books I read in May in the order I read them…a lot of feminist books, a few by African Americans and, yeah, I’m fired up and ready to “make trouble”. Starting with dusting off my own story on domestic violence and living in the Deaf community.

Click here to read my April Booklist
Click here to read my March Booklist
Click here to read my February Booklist
Click here to read my January Booklist

My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem – Wrote a big ol’ entry on this already.
Christine Lahti’s memoir – Enjoyed it. Not sure why I chose to read it but it had a blurb from Steinem. There was one chapter about her brother’s physical abuse of her that SO incredibly mirrored my own –like, it sincerely could have been ripped from the pages of Burn Down the Ground– that I’m compelled to reach out to her and commiserate. It’s comforting to know that there is someone out there who so totally understands what you went through.
It’s Up to the Women by Eleanor Roosevelt – It’s dated, obviously, but remarkably on point with some current day issues like equal pay for equal work which is disheartening.
Slave in the White House – Biography about Paul Jennings who penned the first memoir of a slave who actually lived and worked in the White House. This book is not to be confused with his actual memoir. Learned a lot about James Madison and Dolley (not a fan, overall) and her treatment of slaves including Sukey.
Only Girl in the World – Memoir. Pretty intense account of her life basically imprisoned by her mentally ill, abusive, weird as hell Dad.
Earning It: Hard-Won Lessons from Trailblazing Women at the Top of the Business World by Joann Lublin – Joann was an editor at the Wall Street Journal and a lot of the women are leaders of major corporations and very, very rich. I would’ve liked hearing from some more charitable folks who head up non-profits and social services
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates – Framed as a letter to his son, Coates speaks of what it is to be black in America and inhabiting a black body.
Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay – Wow. I related to this a little too much when it came to sexual assault and how she downplayed it in the aftermath. The long aftereffects and how that manifested for her with eating and weight issues. It gave me some food for thought (no pun intended) on someday sharing my #MeToo stories.

Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower by Brittany Cooper – Smart. Informative. She’s a rising star and feminist. I enjoyed meeting her and chatting with her after our gig during which we shared the stage with the authors of Oslo (Tony Award for best play) and Call Me By Your Name (a few Oscar nominations). So much so that I asked Christian to join me at SoHo House to hear her speak again. She’s got superpowers, indeed.

The Mother of All Questions by Rebecca Solnit – More smartness from a feminist. I’m still educating myself and feeling pretty damned angry and powerless and powerful and hopeful all at once.

Not That Bad – Edited by Roxane Gay – A collection of stories by sexual assault victims. I added this after being inspired by Gay to maybe share my #MeToo story. I stopped reading very soon into it. Tried picking it up again for a few more essays. I dunno that I’ll revisit this one. It’s heavy. And triggering.
The Immortalists by Chloe – Lovely read. Literary Fiction. Not something that will stick with me for forever but I enjoyed it. Can’t say that I’d recommend it over other literary fiction (I don’t read much of that genre) as time is short, man. Maybe read something that has more lasting impact? I feel bad typing that as it was a lovely read. I just know that I will have forgotten most of it very soon.
Make Trouble: Standing Up, Speaking Out, and Finding the Courage to Lead – I did not know much about Cecile before reading this book. I’m a big fan of Cecile’s late mom, Governor Ann Richards –I even threw a party for her once in NYC!– and, of course, I support Planned Parenthood and women’s rights. This book is *extremely* inspiring about both Ann and Cecile’s commitment to serving and women.

#Kambri2018Booklist

 

 

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Gloria Steinem’s “My Life on the Road”

I finished Gloria Steinem’s book “My Life on the Road” from the NYPL earlier this week and have purchased a copy to own so that I may underline, dog-ear and highlight for reference with abandon. Rather than lump it in with my May booklist, I wanted to share my thoughts now.

I wish I’d read it sooner, because part way through her book, came this quote:

“One of the saddest things I hear as I travel is “I don’t know enough to be a feminist.” Or even “I’m not smart enough to be a feminist.” It breaks my heart.”

That could’ve been me saying that to her. I wish I’d been more secure in my place as a feminist in this world. I was afraid of looking stupid or, worse, jeopardizing my career when I was so young, supporting myself and had no family to fall back on. I accomplished many things in spite of my upbringing and lack of formal education that fly in the face of the white male system –becoming an Assistant Vice President of a bank at age 25 collecting on $1M+loans to name a few– and yet I still doubted myself because I didn’t go to college or know enough about the history of feminism. Instead of rabble rousing, I learned to play golf. No, really. I did. I shot par for a hot minute.

After reading this book, I see that I knew a lot more than I realized. I highly recommend it. While you might expect it to be a memoir, it’s instead a very interesting crash course in the women’s lib movement of the 70s, the Deaf President Now protests at Gallaudet in the late 80s, the plight of Native Americans, how the US Constitution is modeled on the Iroquois Confederacy and so much more.

I’m going through some sort of seismic shift in my frame of mind thanks to cancer and politics and mid-life. I wonder what positive and lasting contributions or change I can make. What rabble rousing is there for me to do when almost 100% of my time is devoted to QED? But in the question is my answer: QED is the change and contribution I made. I built the space for comedy and art, of course, but also to have a platform for events like the recent Bystander Intervention training, Planned Parenthood fundraisers, election coverage, etc. Perhaps QED can be my little feminist flag planted in this great big world. Maybe there is more TBD.

I feel like there is more to do and this book poured gas on my feminist pilot light. The flame that has been at a slow burn just got turned up.

So, yeah, this is a must read for my book reading friends. I’ll even carry it at QED to recommend and hand sell to anyone who browses the shelves.

Other quotes that I bookmarked:

“When humans are ranked instead of linked, everyone loses.”

“Voting isn’t the most we can do, but it is the least.”

“In truth, we don’t know which of our acts in the present will shape the future. But we have to behave as if everything we do matters. Because it might.”

“If you do anything people care about, people will take care of you.”

#Kambri2018Booklist

April 2018 Reading List

Below are the books I read in April in the order I read them…

Click here to read my March Booklist
Click here to read my February Booklist
Click here to read my January Booklist

Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man by Bill Clegg (Memoir) – Written about his crack cocaine addition which is troubling enough. But the rapidity of the downward spiral from having everything (his own literary agency, gobs of money, rich and famous friends and clients) to nearly losing everything, including his life, is jarring.  The Nancy Reagan and “just say no” to drug ad campaigns of the 80s about the dangers of cocaine scared the heck out of me and, it seems, for good reason. Yikes. The author haunted the Meatpacking District around the same time I was and stayed holed up in the same hotels (the Gansevoort and Maritime) where we housed comedians who were headlining at the comedy club Comix. I’ve a feeling Mr. Clegg and I crossed paths. So I enjoyed reading about the area, remembering what it was like in the early and mid-aughts. He’s definitely a privileged white male and so avoided jail even though he was openly scoring drugs on the streets and was able to get help, forgiveness and the support of his friends and family. He counts his blessings as he should. Wowzer.

Dead People Suck by Laurie Kilmartin (Memoir / Humor) Laurie is a friend of mine and former officemate of my husband’s back when they wrote for “Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn”. We sell her book at QED and had a book signing for her after a show which is a yet another wonderful bonus QED brings to the table. I was laughing then ugly crying then laughing all within the first chapter. Towards the end, my emotions stabilized and it was an honest, funny, saucy take on a difficult and personal topic. Even the chapter titles had me guffawing with a head-nodding, yep, this will happen. Gah! Example: “Are You An Old Man With Daughters? Please Shred Your Porn.” Not for the sensitive or conservative but they should read it anyway to help lighten the load.

Thank You for Coming to Hattiesburg by Todd Barry (Memoir / Travelogue) – I’ve known and worked with Todd since the early aughts so, of course, I will read anything he writes. This is actually more of a travelogue with the angle of living as a road comic at some of the smaller theaters and clubs. That means a lot of commentary on local coffee shops, dining options and sights to see. If you’re familiar with his fake bravado, stylistic comedy and deadpan cadence, I think you’ll really enjoy it. It’s quick and breezy read. There’s not a tremendous amount of “inside baseball” with comedy club jargon so the average person can still read and enjoy. Nothing major happens, though, so if you’re looking for a rollicking tale of life on the road and don’t know who Todd is, you might not laugh as much as I did. But I did laugh. A lot. Once so suddenly and loudly while standing outside that a man jumped…SPRANG sideways with both feet. “Sorry!” I smiled. “Todd Barry made me do it.” #SorryNotSorry

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn (Mystery) – Loved, loved, loved. I read the review in either EW or Elle magazines and decided to give it a whirl. The synopsis of the book, which I’ve pasted below, sums it up perfectly and won’t spoil it. It’s one of the better mystery / suspense novels I’ve ever read. The main character struggles with drinking much like “Girl on the Train” and that redundant struggle of “Okay, today I”m not going to drink until 5PM,” or “No drinking today, period,” can be maddening. Oh, the grip alcohol has on people. Sugar is the devil, man.


Anna Fox lives alone—a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors.

Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother, their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble—and its shocking secrets are laid bare.

What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one—and nothing—is what it seems.

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks (Fiction / Suspense?) – Unlike “Woman in the Window,” the synopsis of this book does it a disservice. The book-flap bills as some sort of suspense, so I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. And while there are some surprises throughout, I think it is mistyped. It is, however, wonderfully written and a great snapshot of how people treat each other when they’re hurting and angry. In this case the three main people are a divorced couple and the woman who came between them. Some people apparently *do* find it suspenseful. But my going into it thinking that it was some sort of big mystery like the “Woman in the Window” kind of spoiled that for me. In fact, I think I read the review in the same article as WitW as a roundup of hot mysteries or some such. I wish I’d cleansed my palate between the last book and this one with a history or comedy or hadn’t read the synopsis. Alas, I did not. Again, it’s wonderfully written prose with fully fleshed out, complex characters which makes it well worth the read.
Team of Rivals : The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin (Non-Fiction) Highly recommended by my friend Eileen Moushey and others. A great book about Lincoln’s genius in appointing his rivals for the Republication nomination of 1860 (William H. Seward, Salmon P. Chase, and Edward Bates) and later Edwin M. Stanton as Secretary of War. This book is like a mini-biography of all five men and includes a human perspective behind all the political drama.
1776 (Non-Fiction) – It actually covers the time including some of 1775 and 1777. It’s not all encompassing about the Revolutionary War or the Declaration of Independence. Rather it’s a very detailed account of the conditions, the strategies, the battles during this specific time period. General Washington is definitely a lot more flawed and inexperienced than I had ever known about before this read. I enjoyed the British perspective and General Howe and his redcoats. I also learned more about General Nathaniel Green and Henry Knox both of whom, for whatever reason, have not really factored in to any of my prior reads. How is that? Strange. And, hot damn, now I need to read an entire book about the crossing of the Delaware.
The Cyanide Canary: A True Story of Injustice by Robert Dugoni – (True Crime / Non-Fiction) – Based on true events in the mid-90s that resulted in a 20 yr old kid being exposed to toxic levels of cyanide. These were the early days of the Environmental Protection Agency and a time when I was an AVP of a bank and collecting large sums of money owed from commercial debtors, many of whom were complaining about the new EPA laws destroying their livelihoods. It’s really a long case study, look-see into the investigation that spanned many years and the trial of a “white collar” criminal. As many trials go, there is some repetition with testimony, etc.  It is well written and engaging so  you’ll get a really great case study and trial recap, the history of the EPA and the push / pull between the EPA and corporations and capitalism in America. 
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank – I’ve never read this start to finish. Given our current political climate I thought I should. Bless you, Anne.
Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions by Gloria Steinem – Essays originally published in ’83 with some updates provided in ’95 when it was reissued. The one main essay that takes up a large chunk of the book is about Steinem’s infamous stint of going “undercover” as a Playboy Bunny in the 60s. I’d known about it, of course, but had never read the essay in full and it’s worthy of a read as is “Ruth’s Song (Because She Could Not Sing It)” about Steinem’s mother. It covered important distinctions between pornography and erotica and, well, the whole thing felt very 2018, sadly.
American Fire: : Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land by Monica Hesse (Non-fiction / true crime) – An excellent book, especially for the true crime fan.  But it is so well written and engaging and the real-life characters and drama are so compelling, I’d recommend it to anyone. It makes no difference that you, dear reader, are aware of the final outcome from the onset. It is well worth the read. Hesse is a phenomenal writer and has gained a fan in me.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman – (Fiction) – So, so, so good. I fell in love with Eleanor, Raymond and the whole lot. Eleanor is somewhere on the spectrum
and/or has suffered some sort of childhood trauma and so has difficulties with social interactions. She lives an extraordinarily lonely life until the new I.T. guy Raymond comes along. It’s a lovely read. I found myself sobbing a few times during not particularly sad parts…just from the ache of love I felt for Eleanor and the longing of wanting her to be happy. It’s being turned into a movie which I’ll surely watch, but I’m so, so glad I read the book.
TO READ
Queued up or on hold at the library in no particular order for APRIL are the books below. Some of these I’ve had on hold for a super long time. Others I just came across as recommended to me because I had read such and such. I like to rotate the genre so that I’m reading something super highbrow and educational, a memoir, mystery or some sort of fiction and, on occasion, a silly comedy or self help book.
My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem
True Stories From an Unreliable Eyewitness by Christine Lahti
The Universe Has Your Back by Gabrielle Bernstein
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
Benjamin Franklin by Walter Isaacson
The Good Girls Revolt by Lynn Povich
The Only Girl in the World by Maude Julien
The Emperor of Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee
Washington by Ron Chernow
Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. by Ron Chernow
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Stronger by Jeff Bauman
Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t Pretty by Diane Keaton
I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb
Still Writing by Dani Shapiro
Signs of Life by Natalie Taylor
The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz
#Kambri2018Booklist

March 2018 Reading List

Okay, as I’ve said, I don’t really review books. I rely on the good readers at Goodreads.com and the top Amazon reviews when I am looking for them. Plus, I would never document my reading list if I set out to give a proper review. I’d want to put in more thought and time in crafting a synopsis without spoilers, etc. Caveat out of the way, here are the books I read in March in the order I read them, except for the Andrew Jackson bio which I put at the bottom because it got loooonnnng…

1) Text Me When You Get Home by Kayleen Schaefer — This book appealed to me as I’ve been trying to be a better friend post-QED and post-cancer. It’s a mix of memoir and a history of female friendships in pop culture like the movie “Beaches” and TV shows like “Girls”, “Parks & Rec” and the movie “Bridesmaids”.  Since it references lots of shows and comedians I watch or know, I felt like it would be relevant to me and QED. I enjoyed it.

2) The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg — This is my 2nd Flagg novel and, man, she can bring some characters to LIFE. Small southern towns and the people who live in them are her specialty, that’s for sure. This was parts family secrets and mystery mixed in with a historical fiction. Flash backs to WWII era included women pilots called WASPS and wing walkers. Fun stuff, especially in the revitalized feminist movement. . Flagg is gay and clearly a feminist, and so I love her well-rounded, nuanced women characters.

One thing about the two Flagg books, she crams a LOT in. I felt like the book was winding up and could’ve ended when lo! The main character goes through a lot more. It’s almost *too* much. Like she could drop the last couple of chapters and make a sequel! But it is all satisfying, fun, light, gave me a little introspection on what defines family and how we self-identify. Plus I loved that the main character Sookie has a bit of a re-birth in her later years. As I am decidedly middle-aged, I have wondered what relevance I have left in my chosen field of work. The answer I found is to keep creating as Sookie did, surprising herself with some success as an entrepreneur when she was at least my mother’s age.

3) American Lion by Jon Meacham review at the bottom
4) You Don’t Look Your Age…and Other Fairy Tales by Sheila Nevins – I definitely needed to follow up the Jackson bio with something lighter. Enter this collection of essays, musings, stories by a famed HBO documentarian about herself and others. A couple were take it or leave it and a few others had me sobbing openly in public. Granted, my Tamoxifen chemopill hormone drug was kicking in, but still…

 

5) The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson – I really liked this and sell it at QED. As soon as I was done, I put a bookmark reminder to read it again. It could be a companion piece to “Happier…” written Tal Ben-Shahar 10 years ago. Manson talks directly about some of the exact same stuff (“happiness isn’t found on the mountain peak, it’s found in the climb on the way to the top”…that kind of stuff.) It isn’t ground breaking or anything. He said things in ways that resonated to me, and I was in the mood to receive the message, I guess. I understand he might not be for everyone with the cursing and the bragging about banging so many hot chicks but I dug it. One part that I needed to hear was related to commitment as I’ve struggled with my love / hate relationship with New York that teeters on hate most days. From his book:

There are some experiences that you can have only when you’ve lived in the same place for five years, when you’ve been with the same person for over a decade, when you’ve been working on the same skill or craft for half your lifetime. Now that I’m in my thirties, I can finally recognize that commitment, in its own way, offers a wealth of opportunity and experiences that would otherwise never be available to me, no matter where I went or what I did.

I could not have built QED if not for the fact that I had devoted 14 years of my life to this city and, even more specifically, staying in Queens. Now I’m 18 years into my commitment. While NYC and I need couples therapy on days where the weather is awful and my makeup falls on the bathroom floor because we don’t have a counter (WHO DOESN’T HAVE A COUNTER IN THEIR BATHROOM? A NEW YORKER!), we are in it now for the long-haul. Starting over doesn’t feel reasonable or even fun, really, after the initial shine of discovering new places wears off. Hell, I can have that shine by exploring parts of NYC itself or traveling. So, NYC, in the words of Huey Lewis & The News, I guess “I’m happy to be stuck with you.”

6) I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara — Michelle was a true crime writer and Patton Oswalt’s late wife. He urged her researchers to help finish the book she was working on when she suddenly passed. I love a good mystery and true crime and strangely this very prolific serial rapist turned serial killer monster man has somehow not been big news over the decades. Michelle sought to correct that and dubbed him the Golden State Killer. It doesn’t have the satisfaction of discovery at the end…this is and will likely remain an unsolved case unless all the DNA Facebook identity 1984-ish data collection flushes him out. Some of the facts and cases all start to boggle the mind and run together, but it’s captivating and worth a read if you are a true crime fan.

7) Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink — Geared towards corporate or entrepreneurial-type readers on what drives us and employees. Most everything I learned was in the synopsis:

… the three elements of true motivation:
*Autonomy—the desire to direct our own lives
*Mastery—the urge to get better and better at something that matters
*Purpose—the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves

More importantly, I was reminded that happiness is owning and working at QED. Thank the gods I will never have a round table conference call about Y2K or some other dumb shit.

8) Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich – A dystopian novel that was so gorgeous and frightening and memorable –think The Handmaid’s Tale without the rape but with all the forfeiting of control over our reproductive rights– but the ending was so abrupt and unfulfilling. I think I would read it anyway knowing that going in, but dang it bummed me out to see the last page. I flipped back and forth wondering if I’d skipped something by mistake. I didn’t. :-/

9) Book That Shall Remain Unnamed by Hardcore religious zealot who would love women to stay in the kitchen  — It was the only thing available at the library so figured what the heck. It’s geared towards entrepreneurs who haven’t yet started their business. A 30-day plan that, honestly saying as someone who dreamed up and created QED from scratch from the logo, website, etc., is not very realistic. He’s a start-up consultant, though, so my guess is this is just a giant commercial for his start-up consulting business. It’s very quick and I skimmed through a lot since it didn’t pertain to me (like how to build a following and brand before launch). He made some references to God but not so much that it was distracting or took away from the work that one puts in to starting a business.
One thing I got from it was about making a very strong effort to control my mornings so that my day can fall in line, too. I agreed so much with this and that’s what made my radiation treatment so challenging. It pushed the limits on my time and mornings were so hectic and stressful with Mom being here in my only private, quiet space while trying to manage the house, QED, dogs and life. But then I made the mistake of looking him up to properly quote him about the mornings. He’s a crazy conservative bible thumper who definitely isn’t pro-woman so fuck him and his dumb book and his ridiculous views on everything from Halloween, how women should dress and child care.

5) American Lion by Jon Meacham – After reading, I found out it’s being turned into an HBO miniseries. I definitely will watch it. HBO’s “John Adams” series was remarkable. I’ve watched it three times, once with the little historical pop-ups on the special features (we own the DVD box set). You should watch it if you haven’t.

Okay, the book… I started this one then stopped mid-way through the 2nd chapter because, man, there was a LOT going on. I wanted to table it until I could really absorb it. His childhood and family was wrought with drama.  I did learn about the Nullification Crisis and how Jackson helped keep the Union together, stalling the Civil War by some 30 yrs. But I feel like there’s a better biography that would cover his life as well as his presidency.

Jackson’s campaigns and presidential terms were shrouded by mudslinging and a dumb fucking scandal dubbed the Petticoat Affair. It made me hate his niece Emily Donelson (wife to his nephew / aide, Andrew Donaldson) as she was behind the ostracizing of Secretary of War John Eaton and his wife Peggy O’Neal. It was all so disgusting and DRAWN out the book felt like the last 30 years of The goddamned Young and the Restless. The scandal actually resulted in Jackson basically getting rid of almost his entire cabinet. Wow. This and other things were Trump-like, so I’m left feeling exhausted.

I think I want to study American History like, for real. Or, I don’t know…learn more than just from reading these biographies. I can’t get enough but I also might be having a mid-life, post-cancer, existential crisis. History repeating itself is embarrassing and baffling. I feel impotent in America’s rapidly downward spiral. Boy. Maybe I should lay off the historical biographies for a bit until Trump is impeached.

I transcribed a few passages from this book that I want to keep with me for a bit longer. One, re: Henry Clay, who lost to Jackson during his reelection:

“Believing himself smarter and sounder than Jackson, Clay suffered from a terrible case of over-confidence. ‘The campaign is over and I think we have won the victory,’ Clay said privately on Saturday, July 31, 1832.

His certitude kept him from seeing and thus combatting the roots of Jackson’s appeal. He thought Jackson a bullying despot and could not fathom apparently why anyone other than the mindless Jackson partisans might see things differently.”

God, does this sound familiar.

Random fact I discovered while simultaneously doing some ancestry research: Henry Clay’s son Theodore was institutionalized in the same insane asylum in as my mom’s great uncle and a whole bunch of bodies are buried there. So, that’s gonna be a fun mystery to dig up. Heh.

TO READ
Queued up or on hold at the library in no particular order for APRIL are the books below. Some of these I’ve had on hold for a super long time. Others I just came across as recommended to me because I had read such and such. I like to rotate the genre so that I’m reading something super highbrow and educational, a memoir, mystery or some sort of fiction and, on occasion, a silly comedy or self help book.
Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man by Bill Clegg
The Universe Has Your Back by Gabrielle Bernstein
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks
Benjamin Franklin by Walter Isaacson
The Cyanide Canary by Robert Dugoni
The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn
The Good Girls Revolt by Lynn Povich
The Only Girl in the World by Maude Julien
The Emperor of Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee
Washington by Ron Chernow
Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. by Ron Chernow
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Stronger by Jeff Bauman
Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t Pretty by Diane Keaton
I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb
Still Writing by Dani Shapiro
Signs of Life by Natalie Taylor
The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz
#Kambri2018Booklist

February 2018 Reading List

My February Booklist is complete with nine books!
I’m not really good at quickly reviewing books. I enjoy and trust Amazon and GoodReads.com reviews for that. This is really more for myself. And with that, FEBRUARY books listed in the order that I read them.
1) A Beautiful, Terrible Thing by Jen Waite (Memoir) – I heard about this book via The Astoria Bookshop and a local bookclub who needed a space to meet and FaceTime with the author. They used QED for the meeting so I overheard a lot of the discussion and was intrigued. The events are set in Portland, ME and Astoria, NY –the author and her now ex-husband opened a restaurant near my apartment that I’ve eaten at, in fact. So it felt a little gossipy and salacious to hear about how she found out he was cheating on her just a few weeks after she gave birth, but not overly so. I enjoyed it and was fascinated by the psychopath / sociopath exploration since I’m pretty sure My Jailed Deaf Dad is one or the other or some combination. It was a quick and easy read which I finished in one day.
2) White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg (Non-Fiction) – Not so quick and easy at almost 500 pages of dense history, I felt like I was trudging through it a few times. But it’s an interesting exploration of race and class in the USA. Toward the end as the author approached modern times, I felt like it rushed over things. Given today’s #BLM movement* and the issues of race and class disparity being at the forefront lately, it’s worth a read even if it’s a bit heavy.
3) I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman (ESSAY COLLECTION) and Wallflower at the Orgy, (ARTICLE COLLECTION) by Nora Ephron – I got on a Nora Ephron kick. She’s funny and inspiring and both books are arranged in bite-sized chunks so they’re easy to pick up. For this reason, I read the former title for a 2nd time. The latter was a collection of articles and interviews she’d published some decades earlier but I found them to be very interesting and not dated at all, particularly the Mike Nichols interview which I later looked up to transcribe and share with my husband. I followed up the books by watching the HBO documentary Everything is Copy and Ephron’s 1996 commencement speech at Wellesley College. It’s particularly relevant and timely with the #MeToo movement.*  Please watch it.
5) Present over Perfect by Shauna Niequist (Self Help) – I’m not sure how this got on my list–I think it was recommended by my library app because of another book. It was the only thing available at the library on my wishlist when I finished my Ephron binge, so I figured what the heck. It’s self-help with some god stuff thrown in. It’s not too heavy on the religion so I kept with it and felt like I got something out of it. It is as the title suggests about being present in the moment and not sweating over being perfect with Pinterest or Insta-worthy homes, clothes, moments…just be. It’s repetitive the way a lot of self help books are which makes it a fast read. The author has a lake house, speaking gigs that take her around the country (world?) and a jet setter life, so I’m guessing the average person won’t be able to relate to some of her examples. For me, her family seems really close and lovely which really made me sad since I definitely don’t have that and never will. But I treated it like a seminar that I was signed up for by my bank: as long as I leave having learned one thing it will be worth it. And it was.
6) Kingdom Come by Jane Jensen (Fiction – Mystery) – I’ve been getting back into mysteries in the last few years and have started to venture out to other authors. This one was recommended by my library. It was set in Amish country in rural PA. I used to live near and visit the area a lot back in Ohio, so the bucolic setting and familiar characters had me hooked right away. The romance was a little icky/schmaltzy but not a big part of the overall story so I was still interested and thought it was decent enough to read her follow up.
7) In the Land of Milk and Honey by Jane Jensen (Fiction – Mystery) – By the same author as #6. Also set in Amish country and, I dunno, I’m glad I read both but I probably won’t read more of her stuff. Again she inserted a romance that was awkward and, in this case, completely unbelievable (Briefly: As a detective works on a mass murder serial killer case, some guy on the case that she doesn’t even know puts pressure on her to ditch her main squeeze and run away with him. What?! So bizarre and uncomfortable.) Also, she uses metaphors like “shaking like a leaf on a tree” and “floating like shit in a toilet” (not joking) and so I think I’m done with this series.
8) I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (Memoir) – A classic for a reason. Don’t know why I never read before now. Really glad I did. It sure made me uncomfortable at times, for the right reasons.
9) Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan (Historical Fiction) – Set in Brooklyn during WWII, it follows a Rosie the Riveter type with a little bit of a mystery thrown in. I loved it.

*Hmmm…sensing a trend here that everything old is new again. Sigh.

TO READ
Queued up or on hold at the library in no particular order for MARCH are the books below. Some of these I’ve had on hold for a super long time. Others I just came across as recommended to me because I had read such and such. I like to rotate the genre so that I’m reading something super highbrow and educational, a memoir, mystery or some sort of fiction and, on occasion, a silly comedy or self help book.
The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg
The Universe Has Your Back by Gabrielle Bernstein
American Lion by Jon Meacham
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks
Benjamin Franklin by Walter Isaacson
The Cyanide Canary by Robert Dugoni
Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich
The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn
The Good Girls Revolt by Lynn Povich
The Only Girl in the World by Maude Julien
The Emperor of Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee
Washington by Ron Chernow
Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. by Ron Chernow
Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man by Bill Clegg
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Stronger by Jeff Bauman
Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t Pretty by Diane Keaton
I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb
Still Writing by Dani Shapiro
Signs of Life by Natalie Taylor
You Don’t Look Your Age by Sheila Nevins
The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz
#Kambri2018Booklist

January 2018 Reading List

Now that Mom is gone and radiation is done, I’m back to my books! Oh, books, how I’ve missed thee!

As a treat for myself, –’cause I love to organize my books, ya know– I’m going to try to chronicle my books for 2018. If I do it, then maybe I can piece together my 2017 reading list from my library history.

My January Booklist is in the bag with six great books that gave me pleasure and/or inspiration. They were:

1) Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande (NON-FICTION) – Started this in December but then my loan expired and I had to get on the waitlist for it. Grr. A really straightforward discussion about end-of-life care for the elderly and those with terminal illnesses. I’ve told many people over the years about the documentary “How to Die in Oregon” which centers around assisted suicide. It’s a beautiful and moving film. I remain baffled at how Oregon remains the only US state with legal assisted suicide. Anyway, this book only *briefly* touches on assisted suicide and is all about assisted *living. How can we improve the quality of life for people who are at the end of life? The doctor talks very frankly about death and dying in ways I’ve grown used to during this whole sickness saga. There is no cure-all solution offered. We’re all gonna die eventually so, sometimes rather than following the lead of pharmaceutical and healthcare system to “fight” a disease at all costs (both literal and figurative) for futile cases, families and doctors can learn how to better manage the quality of life with the knowledge that the definition of “quality” is different for each of us. I learned a lot from this, so thanks to whomever here on FB recommended it to me. I can’t remember!

2) Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven by Fannie Flagg (FICTION) – My sister-in-law posted something about this some time ago. I hadn’t heard of it or Flagg, or so I thought. Duh! That’s the woman who wrote Fried Green Tomatoes! AND she was on Match Game. Get outta town. So I checked it out. It was cute, grabbed my attention right away, and I thought it was gonna get a little preachy when it started talking Bible stuff but, not only did it not, it had some twists and turns that were just…what?! I did NOT see that coming. I enjoyed it (and LOVE Fried Green Tomatoes enough that I put Flagg’s book The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion on hold to enjoy in spring or summer maybe.

3) The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish (MEMOIR) – I’d never heard of her before she was on SNL. I actually didn’t see the episode but wondered how I hadn’t heard of her given the pretty big platform of SNL. I should get with the program. So when I saw her book while browsing my library app, I snagged it. Oh my god, she is *ridiculous* and I loved it. Jaw dropping, head shaking and guffawing mixed with some “Mmm hmmm!” and “Preach it!” Holy smokes she had it rough growing up, too. So throw in a few “Bless your hearts”. I’m also gonna grab a copy or two to sell at QED. Funny, honest and bold.

4) Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meacham (NON-FICTION) – Only two chapters in and I’m already, “What the heck are you doing with your life?!” ETA: Sigh. I love him. I found myself getting choked up as the end neared and then full on sobbed after his death, his funeral, etc. What an incredibly brilliant and beautiful man. Ahhh, why did he have to be a slave owner and have children with one of his slaves? Fuck. I spent time afterward, reading up on his views on religion and his book, “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth” (a book literally ripped from the pages of the Bible. All the good stuff that Jesus taught minus all the myth and magic) and found out it’s currently on display at the Smithsonian until mid-June. I hope to see it before it’s put away again.

5) Happier by Tal Ben-Shahar (SELF HELP) – a slim little gem recommended by my friend Lauren that I finished in a jiffy. I am going to go through it again, this time doing the little exercises throughout. I generally already know or subscribe to many of his concepts, but it was nice to hear them again. Especially now after my cancer bout has me feeling down and asking the Universe, “What is the point?” I just looked it up to confirm his name and see that it was published in 2007 and there is now a book of his called Even Happier. Maybe I’ll check that out instead of re-reading this one.

6) Stinker Lets Loose! by Mike Sacks (FICTION / HUMOR) – The concept — the novelization of a long lost 70s trucker genre comedy film– is comedy gold and goddamned brilliant. It captures that weird window of time when movies like Smoky and the Bandit and Every Which Way but Loose were big hits. It’s so unpoliticially correct and delightfully ridiculous. I’m jealous I didn’t think of this and am so excited to see all the buzz Mike is getting via the live reads and such. It’s absurd and smart all at once and has so many tiny, perfect, rich details that reading it is like mining for comedy diamonds.

#Kambri2018Booklist

DIY Shower Steamers a/k/a Vapor Discs

Mom and I whipped together these wonderful little shower steamers to give to all my favorite special snowflakes for the holidays. Instructions below the photo gallery.

I love a good bath bomb, but I know lots of folks who don’t like baths and taking one seems more labor intensive. An alternate is to the bomb is this little vapor disc or shower steamer. As the fizzy disc dissolves in your steamy shower, it releases the wonderful aromas of an essential oil blend of your choosing. For the gifts I made, I chose a therapeutic blend for congestion and stuffy noses.

I make my steamers in batches of 12 at a time using the recipe below. To make fewer
I like to make these individually rather than a large batch of just one scent, that way I can use them for whatever use I want or give them away as personalized gifts. This is why the essential oil blends below, are to drop directly onto the dry/cooled shower steamer discs, rather than mix into the mix. I like to use silicon molds and mini muffin pans to make these in all sorts of shapes! Many blogs talk about using muffin liners, but you do not have to use them! If the mixture is not fully dried/hard, it will not come out of the pan or it will crumble out in pieces. All you have to do is allow the mixture to dry for a few more hours, and then turn the pan upside down over a cloth. Knock on the bottom of each of the muffin cups, to help release them from their cup.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups baking soda
  • 1 cup citric acid
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 3-5 Tbsp. filtered water (depends on humidity levels in your home)
  • essential oils (use whatever scents float your boat and blends for your needs.(2 per disc if you’re making a smaller batch or experimenting with blends)
  • I used a blend for congestion and stuffy noses:
    • 1 tsp eucalyptus essential oil
    • 1 tsp drops lavender essential oil (2 per disc)
    • 1 tsp drops peppermint essential oil (2 per disc)
    • 1 tsp drops rosemary essential oil (2 per disc)

DIRECTIONS

    1. In a bowl, combine baking soda, citric acid, and cornstarch mixing until no lumps are present and then add and mix in essential oils*.
    2. Add water to the bowl, 1 tablespoon at a time. Add your tablespoons until the mix sticks together and packs like a snowball. It will seem dry but packing it will be easy and possible. You can add powder if you worry it’s too wet. My mix took 4 tablespoons. Any more and it will make the fizz bubble up and you don’t want that.
    3. Once you have the snowball consistency, pack it down into the mold and compacting it into place.
    4. Leave the molds out until dry. They will come out of the pretty  easily. If they are still wet, they will not come out without coming apart.

* If you’re making a smaller batch or want to have a few different types you can add essential oil drops after they’re dried by directly dropping 2 drops of each oil on top of the steamers. If giving as a gift, store in a nifty jar, such as a mason jar.

TO USE: 

Adjust shower to desired temperature. Open pouch and place tablet on the floor of the shower away from the drain, where a steady stream of water will continually release comforting vapors from the tablet into the air.You can sprinkle a little bit on the steamer to get it started, but it will fizz away too quickly if you put it directly under the water stream. Sit in your steamy shower, breathing in the awesome aromatherapy benefits of the blend you chose to use!

 

DIY Crate Coffee Table

Mom & I made a coffee table out of crates and boredom. We crafted a cheap, easy, functional and practical table in about an hour and a half total. Here’s what you need if you want to make one, too:

All done! Now to fill it with records and books!

SUPPLIES
* 4 x Crates ($40 w/o a coupon, plus tax, but Michaels *always* has coupons.)
* 1 x Base (Plywood about 3/4″ thick, cut to 27.5″ square. $27 for a 4’x4’x3/4″ panel. I used the extra for making shelves on another project. You might be able to get smaller panels for cheaper but you need to cover the entire base.)
* 4 x Casters (2″ or 3″ swivel – I got these for $14 total after tax.)
* Stain (About $4 or $5 for 8oz or $8 for a quart. It only needed one coat, but we got a quart as we had other projects.)
* 16 screws for casters (Cost = pennies! I used ones I had around the house)
* 16 nails or screws to attach crates to the base (Same as above)
* Optional – 4 corner braces

TOOLS
* Drill or screw driver to screw in casters to the base.
* Hammer, drill or screw driver to attach crates to the base.
* Paint brush & paper towels for stain (Same as above, but $4 tops)
* Jigsaw or saw if you don’t have the plywood pre-cut at the lumber store. I have a jigsaw and love any chance to use it, so…

INSTRUCTIONS
* Screw in the 4 casters 2″ in on all sides.
* Stain all 4 crates inside and out and the top and sides of the base.
* Position crates on top of the base and affix them with a couple of screws or nails and THAT IS IT!
ETA: We added 4 corner braces inside the empty center to hold a square “shelf” (I just cut a little square from the leftover plywood) to hold a vase, pinecones, Christmas ornaments or any other decorations we want. Fun!

Jalapeno Lime Cilantro Marinade

I found this recipe for a tasty jalapeño lime cilantro marinade but can’t find the source. Saving here for future use. Good for 4 chicken breasts. Ingredients:

  • 2 limes, juice and zest or 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon – ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • 1 jalapeno, finely diced (optional)

Cover Girl

“Change is good for the soul,” Mom texted me a few days ago. She was talking about table runners, but she’s right. Change is good, except for pennies. Seriously, why do they still even make those?

In the spirit of change being good, I pitched myself for a makeover for First For Women (think Cosmo for the menopausal). I actually quite like my beachy shoulder-length waves but I’ve been rocking that look for a couple of years now. Opening QED nearly killed me, and I’m finally back to feeling like myself and fitting comfortably into all my old clothes. It’s time for a new look and the pictures that come with it.

The good people at First For Women are kind and efficient and graciously gave my pitch the nod. Today was the day and I had to set an alarm and commute to lower Manhattan during rush hour. I do not miss that one iota.

Cate The editors chose this pic of Cate Blanchett as the inspiration for my makeover. I haven’t had my hair this short since that brat Laura gave me lice in 2nd grade and my inspiration was Dorothy Hamill. Even when 1/3 of my head was shaved to remove skin cancer, I managed to keep it shoulder length.

I emerged with a super short, chic haircut by Sho (a “ninja” as his co-workers call him, thanks to his deft scissoring skills) at James Corbett Studio. I scream, “I’M RICH, BIATCH!” Like a cross between Ruth Madoff and a Fox News anchor but not, you know, an asshole. Cate Blanchett better watch out or else I’ll, umm, be her stand in?

It makes me look and feel younger which is what that whole makeover thing is supposed to do. The cut was followed by a little boost of color to my naturally dirty blonde hair and makeup by Berta Camal. She’s a lovely talent who loves animals and gardening. As if all that weren’t enough, I got to play in front of Eric McNatt’s camera. The pics he let me preview were a knockout. I hope they pick one I love and that I can keep some to use.

Neck pillowI’m ever grateful they said yes to my pitch. What a great day. Now I’m going to wrap my hair in silk and sleep sitting up like those weirdos on planes using these things that look like elephant skin, so I can save this beautiful blowout till tomorrow when people I know will actually *see* me!

Keep your eyes peeled for the September 7th issue of First For Women next to the batteries, candy and horoscope scrolls at your local grocery checkout line!