Archives for posts with tag: Mary McCarthy

Three years ago, today, I decided to start writing my first book. On that April Fool’s Day, I thought I was writing a collection essays, but it turned out to be a memoir. Since then, I’ve written—and re-written—something that I believe finally adds up to a manuscript. Getting it published will be an entirely different story.

However, on this anniversary that I hold dear, I find myself looking back and cataloging the books that have literally altered the course of my life. Starting with the first book that inspired me to write back beyond the margins, here are a few of the books, listed in the year I read them, that beckoned me to the page in the hopes of adding to the cultural conversation of books.

1994: The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne

1995: Prozac Nation, Elizabeth Wurtzel

Asking RWE why at 17

1996: Emerson’s Essays, Ralph Waldo Emerson

1997: Giovanni’s Room, James Baldwin

1998: My Name is Asher Lev, Chaim Potok


1999: Notes from a Small Island, Bill Bryson

1999: Notes from a Small Island, Bill Bryson

Starring Bill Bryson during Study Abroad

2000: The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, Anne Fadiman

2001: In Cold Blood, Truman Capote

2002: Middlesex, Jeffery Eugenides


2003: A Heartbreaking Work of a Staggering Genius, Dave Eggers

2004: Journal, Annabel Clark and Lynn Redgrave

2005: Jesus Land, Julia Scheeres

Commiserating with Jesus Land

2005: Jesus Land, Julia Scheeres

2006: On Writing, Stephen King

2007: Take the Cannoli, Sarah Vowell

2008: Holidays on Ice, David Sedaris

2009: The Situation and the Story, Vivian Gornick

2010: Boys of My Youth, Jo Ann Beard

2011: The Commitment, Dan Savage

2012: Virgin, Hanne Blank

Learning from the historian, Hanne Blank

Learning from the historian, Hanne Blank

2013: Memories of a Catholic Girlhood, Mary McCarthy

2014: Don’t Cry, Mary Gaitskill. Or, Cut me Loose, Leah Vincent. I’m in the middle of reading both right now and couldn’t possibly decide.


What’s the best book you’ve read this year?

The Stack

The Stack

It happened. For the first time since I’ve foregone a nightstand with a stack of books for simply a stack of books as a nightstand, I accidentally knocked it over.

“No!” I screamed.

Melinda bolted upright. “What’s wrong?” she asked with immediate and serious concern, as if expecting to hear I’d received a text with tragic news, found a bedbug, or spilled coffee on our all-white bedding.

“My stack!”

The couple dozen books careened and then hit the floor with an awful crash. The titles I’d taken care to sort in a precarious yet specific order were scattered, sprawling indecently, across the hardwood floor in various states of un-read. Pencils that once marked places rolled away. Spines broke. Pages crumpled. Authors who should never touch were spooning. All systems were destroyed.

“Oh no,” Melinda said with a gasp and then ducked behind the iPad. To stifle a smile?? She lives with that 3-foot tall tower of tomes beside my half of the headboard, because she loves me. However, Melinda has ceased expecting it to ever dwindle down to one and then poof! disappear. The moment I finish reading one book; another (or three) instantly replaces it.

Some do linger. I’ve been in the middle of Siberia for months. At Home is just such a nice base. I’ve been waiting for the right moment to reread Stonewall, which came on Monday. Thanks Mr. President! No, wait. Dune (Melinda’s favorite sci-fi story) is next. It is. This time, I promise. But give me a break, some, such as 352-pages of Savage sex advice, just take minute. Yet, others hardly leave my hands long enough to rest upon the top of the teetering pile. And a moment ago, they were all stacked accordingly.

I knelt down to assess the damage. Picking through the wreckage, I discovered a book that I’d intended to give as a gift years ago, but thought I had lost it. How did it end up in my stack? How could I have overlooked it? It was a slim, quiet, beautiful book that could have only been made in Cambodia. Yet, here it was—found—with serendipitous timing. For the first time in ages, I’m seeing the person for whom I’d bought the book on Saturday. What a gift! In so many ways, books surprise me.

Has one surprised you lately?

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