I have mentioned before that I hate reading books because reading books is for dopes and staying up until 11:35 p.m. reading your Twitter feed is the way to go. But then, after a steady decline over the last decade, I realized that I read maybe four books in 2013 and felt sad. I was previously the type of person who always had my face in a book. I hid novels during English class in high school in the books we were reading for class.  I remember road trips as a kid by what books I was reading that kept me from wanting to get out of the minivan to do things. I was so well read by the time I went to college, and then PFFFTT (deflating balloon sound), here I am at four books.

2014 is the year I bring it back. I have challenged myself to read a book a month. And so far I have. I have had a couple of softballs, and was already reading the book I finished in January, but it feels good to be in that habit and I have read some good stuff this year.

January: House of Mirth by Edith Wharton. Age of Innocence is one of the books I read last year and loved it. HOM was pretty great, too. I haven’t read much from that time period (when they’re set and when she wrote them). Wharton is funny (I guess “a wit” is more appropriate) and the stories were sad and fascinating and seemed scandalously honest about things. AOI didn’t end how I thought it would, which I appreciated.

February: Also Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself by Judy Blume and New School by Dash Shaw. Blume’s book probably shouldn’t count, but it does here this year. I didn’t realize it until I reread it how much of a cultural touchstone that one is with me. I, like all girls, cite Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret? as the book from my youth, but I like this one more. New School is a year-book sized graphic novel (though novel is stretching it since it’s more pictures than words). I really liked it. It took a few nights to get through but I could see reading it again.

This is not the cover of the version I read as a child but this one has Hitler and Ethel Merman on it.

This is not the cover of the version I read as a child but this one has Hitler and Ethel Merman on it.

March: Heartburn by Nora Ephron. I took out The Most of Nora Ephron from the library and read a lot of essays and even the screenplay to When Harry Met Sally. Heartburn is like a less-intellectual Fear of Flying (which I also reread last year) and was very light and fun (plus heavy marriage stuff, but still light and fun). I’m glad I finally read her work. I also watched Silkwood since Ephron wrote the screenplay, and liked that a lot. I’m late to the Ephron party, but I’m here. She’s not, though. R.I.P.

April: Running In the Family by Michael Ondaatje. Richard picked this up for me because it’s nonfiction and touches on post-Colonialism, two things that I like in books. This is a memoir packed with poetry and assumed memories about life in Sri Lanka. Quick and interesting. Good job, associate.

May: Freakonomics by Stephen J. Dubner and Stephen Levitt. The Freakonomics podcast is one of my favorites, and I finally got to the book. A lot of the chapters have already been touched on the podcast, but still held my interest. I think about the parenting and the crime rate chapters a lot.

June: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. I can’t read this fast enough. READING IS AMAZING.

Even if I don’t meet the goal (which there is no reason why I shouldn’t) I’ve still read more books than I did the last couple of years. I’ve even been reading instead of burning through the latest season of Mad Men up on Netflix. That is an amazing show of self control.

I have mentioned before that I am not much of a reader anymore. When I was a kid I read all the time, but after I finished college the number of books I read decreased (I know this because I tracked it for years). Now I probably read about ten books a year, but I’m trying to get reading back into my daily routine like it was before. This inspired my “summer of reading.” I probably haven’t read any more than I usually would, but I think I’m not going to read less this year for once, and for a little while this summer I did put a book in my hands when I normally would have cruised on the internet.   And if 1,000 reads of a children’s books equals one novel, then I have read this adorable novel about a talking pig named Olivia.

I thought I would be a more dedicated reader if time was against me, so I checked out books from the library (I hadn’t been to my neighborhood’s location since we moved into our house, although I still have at least one book out from there from when I was in elementary school).  On my first visit, I checked out “Maus” by Art Spiegelman and “Living History” by Hillary Clinton.  I read Maus during lunch breaks, but it probably only took up a tear-soaked hour overall. I checked out Hillz’s book week after week.  What’s the point of due dates if I can just keep the book for infinity?  She is a long-winded writer (she has to have at least one sentence of bio for every person she mentions, and she knows thousands of people and they all became close friends, and subsequently, most of them died before the book was over).  I read the first half of the million-page book and then skimmed the second half, but I have to say that I love her.  We are idiots for not choosing her as our president, and I will do whatever I can for Hillz 2016.  I will argue anyone who has anything illogically negative to say about her.  Bring it.


Other books I read:

“Man Made” by Joel Stein. I like info-packed memoirs.  It’s pretty funny, a little too jokey sometimes, though.  I really liked the LAFD and turkey-hunting sections (turkeys are great source material; also the best subject in Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle”).

“Are You My Mother?” by Alison Bechdel. Not as enjoyable as “Fun Home,” but still really liked it (also I have learned to stop calling these graphic novels since they are memoirs). It’s all about her mom this time (Fun Home is about her dad), and has given me well-drawn instructions on what not to do as a mother.

I started to read “Flowers in the Attic,” but I can’t get over the prose to get very far (like with “Twilight”). Instead I’m reading “What is the What?,” which is an engrossing/devastating novel about a Sudanese refugee. I’m reading it in ten-minute installments on my lunch break. Because of the subjects (war/watching everyone die) it’s hard to enthusiastically pick up and not a good before bed read unless you like to sob to sleep, but it’s written so well that I’m sure I’ll finish it soon.  After that I want to read something classic like “Wuthering Heights” (please put your book recommendations on hold; if you want me to read something bad enough, just give me the book).

I have really enjoyed the classic kid’s books, most of which I don’t remember reading as a child. I read a lot as a young kid, though, and my parents gave me a book subscription when I was young and a book was mailed to me every month. My child reads (and has torn up) some books that we owned as kids.   When a children’s book is good it’s so good, but when it’s bad it’s so hard to read (RAINBOW FISH). I have contemplated throwing some away because she finds where we hide the ones we don’t like and then focuses on those to be read the most (the condition is never good enough to give it away). When  she rips the pages of a book I don’t like it takes me a really long time to say something to her about it.

She has some books that made me laugh out loud the first time I read them (the first Olivia and Runaway Bunny).  I also really like to read Dr. Seuss books out loud. It’s fun.

Everyone is expecting me to finish this with “But you don’t have to take my word for it.”  WELL YOU DON’T.

I didn’t think that I would have time to read after the baby was born, but that’s not been the case.  While my associate has knocked out about 100 books since we became parents, I spend my leisure time or hands-free-baby-sleeping-on-my-lap time playing with my Google phone, watching TV, or reading magazines.  Turns out that I still just don’t feel like reading.  I can’t handle literature (though I read “One Hundred Years of Solitude” while pregnant), am tired of the pop-culture essays and novels that we have sitting around, and just can’t get into anything else that I bought used over the years and never read.  I’m sure this is just a phase, and I probably still read as much as the average person, but I used to read all the time.  I have read two books since baby: “Never Let Me Go,” which I didn’t really like and had already started before baby; and “Hunger Games,” which I read in a week and loved.

Still, I think that reading is a good way to ease out of a busy day and into sleepiness.  And because I like to do stupid things, I have started reading “The Walking Dead” compendium that’s been sitting around our bookshelf for the last year.  I don’t know the history of the series, although it’s a TV show that I haven’t seen.  It’s your basic “man wakes up from a coma to find that the world has been taken over by zombies” story, and follows his journey with his family and the other survivors that they stay with.  It is the worst bedtime reading.  It’s grim, hopeless, violent, and sad.  I read for longer than I intend to because comic books/graphic novels are too easy to get absorbed in, and when I realize that I need to stop and get some sleep I’m too wired and can visualize zombies tapping at the window.  So I have to do something else for 10 minutes to calm down, like look at pictures of the baby or read through a lighter book.  And when I wake up super tired I tell myself that I need to stop reading “The Walking Dead,” but the next night I pick it up again.

I don’t have the tolerance for scary things that I used to, if I ever did.  I’m afraid that one night I’ll take the dog out and there will be a dead man slowly walking toward us and Bunk will go nuts and attack him/it with love and I will run back into the house and let the zombie kill our dog.  And then Bunk will become a zombie and I won’t let her back in the house and Richard will get mad at me.  I do find comfort that if our house was surrounded by zombies that (our alive, still inside) dog would alert us immediately and we can all stay in our attic until death/someone saves us.

So when I go into work the next day looking exhausted, my coworkers first assume that our baby is the culprit, but she never is (she gets around nine hours a night, but probably because we haven’t installed “The Walking Dead” mobile yet), and I have to explain that I was up late reading a scary comic book.

From "The Walking Dead Compendium Vol. 1"

I participated in the Monument Ave 10k yesterday, which I was worried about being able to complete, but turns out was a lot better and more enjoyable than training for it.   I guess a thing like that exists just for the benefit of feeling good about yourself (and raising money, which I didn’t do this time).  It was fun and I was proud of everyone involved.  Monument Avenue is pretty flat, but at one point I could see a stretch of road ahead of me with thousands of people running.  It was a cool sight.  A reverse-“Walking Dead.”  How could a world with fun runs be overtaken by zombies?


My interview with Chris from AdHouse books came out today on rvanews.  Richard and I interviewed him about publishing comics (he’s local, the artists are not).  I don’t do the writey thing too often these days, but it was a fun conversation and I liked having an interviewing partner.  It helped fill the gaps while I finished writing my notes.  Plus Chris gave us a stack of free comic  books.   I am most excited about the “Project: Romantic” anthology.

I got a free copy of the Richmond Times-Dispatch at the grocery store the other Sunday and it didn’t have comics in it.  While “Garfield Minus Garfield” and “Marmaduke Explained” are amazing, I miss the real thing these days.

Other than autobiographical graphic novels, I have no motivation in finding comics to read.  I will just take what Richard and Nichole hand to me.  They are both into “Fables,” and I’m reading book 5 now.  It’s about a colony of characters (any lore, fairy tale, Disney movie you can think of) who are in exile in New York City.  The Big Bad Wolf is now in human form as Bigby Wolf.  He’s a badass.  “Fables” is a lot of fun and addicting.  My associate has most of them in the collections and not the single issues, otherwise I would sneak them in with my binders at work.  I have been trying to read more now that I have the extra time, but it’s hard to read anything that’s not drawn.  I just finished “The Complete Persepolis.”  The stories are put together differently than the movie, so if you just watched the movie it’s not like you’re getting the same narrative.  I command everyone to read it. 

I’m also delighted that one in two people that we talk to when we bring up comics has any idea what either of us are talking about.  It’s like indulging in comics has been this silent excitement for everyone.  Oh, whoops?  Is that like an unspoken thing to not talk about it?  I don’t know.  Just pile on the books about growing up during wartime or in a funeral home. 

I have discovered the function on my cell phone that allows me to record my own ring tone.  My new ring tone is a recording of me singing my previous ring tone, the digi-version of Salt-N-Pepa’s “Push It.”   


I have been spreading facts about the dangers of Canadian geese.  They will: not teach their young to migrate; contaminate water sources; continue to scare me.


I have reduced the ant population in my kitchen with Raid, prayer, and my angry fingers (which is gross.  I can’t believe I roped some dude into living with me). 


Is anyone else reading Y: The Last Man?  We need to buy books 8 and 9, and although I’m sure we’ll both read the series again and again (it’s awesome!  Susan, the main character is basically Xander with a monkey), I’m tired of having to buy them.  Let’s make a deal, internet.  I will give you one cat per book.  For keeps (you keep the cats, but we can return the comics).

Also, Elizabeth and Anthony are engaged???  And Jeff Healey died!!!

I just caught the latest “For Better or for Worse” news from Nichole/read old issues of Entertainment Weekly supplied by my mom.

Nichole sent me her first text message ever. It read: “Funky jasdj dsgjkl boner adfas.” And I thought nothing of it.

Then she showed me Tuesday’s “Funky Winkerbean”:

We were scandalized. Funky pushes the limits all the time: amputees, alcoholism, cancer, and other things that aren’t funny and no one wants to read about in the morning. Now we have to deal with erections? “Rose is Rose” is right below that panel! That has a child or talking cat or something in it. Maybe it wasn’t what we thought — Nichole suggested that maybe instead he had the arm of the one-armed piano player who maybe Funky or someone who looks like Funky was seeing while her alcoholic boyfriend was in Iraq. This is pointless to discuss as I have come to realize that no one else reads or is even aware of Funky Winkerbean, which astounds me.

She then told me about a modern day “Family Circus” that her friend told her about and she was trying to find for me. I have to be honest, by “modernized” I thought she meant the normal FC but instead of talking, Billy shot lasers from his eyes. She apparently means that someone else draws a daily about family life and it’s more realistic. Oh well.

Later my “source” found the next day’s Funky.

It makes the previous strip funnier, I think.

I hate Funky Winkerbean.

What we call “from the archives,” for Susan.

I had an entire book of comics about being a bank teller but I lost them in the flood. I do still have the “poetry corner in a bag” from our gig at the music store — haikus and various rhymes and such about coworkers. Our manager removed our wall of art and it was moved to a bag. A bag of poetry.

I want something called a Waffle Court. I don’t know what it is, but I want it.

I worked all day yesterday on a brilliant comic but then came across this and don’t feel so clever anymore.

I’ll let you decide if this is the brilliant comic referenced earlier in the post.

*overheard my coworker telling someone this on the phone. Later in the day I got to say “jet skis” about fifty times. That’s about as fun as it gets for me now.

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