Category: Special (page 2 of 2)

(Dog) Food: How to make Alligators!

alligatorsAt the beginning of this year, I made the decision to stick with book-themed posts rather than make my random deviations into food and photography, and, well, I’m breaking that rule here because I want to Share the Wealth.

Alligators are Zelda’s very favorite treat. She pricks up her ears every time she hears the word, and she’ll willingly walk into her kennel and sit down to enjoy one of these tasty treats. I make them twice a month, or so. One batch makes around 85, but they disappear very quickly. I like that I know what’s in them and that they don’t contain soylent dog or some equally unappetizing substance. Sure, lots of people disapprove of feeding dogs wheat, but Zelda enjoys it, and I don’t think it’s much worse for her than it is for humans (have you read Wheat Belly?).

So here goes: How to Make Alligators!

You’ll need all of 4 ingredients. You probably have them in your kitchen right now.

2 cups wheat flour (don’t substitute all-purpose)
1 cup oats
1-1/4 cups hot water
1/3 cup peanut butter

Preheat your oven to 350. In a medium bowl, mix up the oats and wheat flour:

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Then, get your peanut butter and dump it in the bottom of another bowl (I use a stand mixer, but a spoon will probably work).

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Pour in your hot tap water and mix it until it’s reasonably blended. It’ll look kind of gross.

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Next, pour in the dry ingredients and mix it all up. You’ll get a nice, thick dough.

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Roll it out to 1/4- or 1/8-inch thick and cut it into the shapes of your choosing. I use an alligator cookie cutter my stepmother gave me several years ago. If you absolutely hate cookie cutters, roll it out and cut it into squares with a pizza cutter. Your dog won’t mind.

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Put your squares or alligators or mustaches or whatever on a cookie sheet and bake them for about 25 minutes.

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They come out of the oven looking almost exactly like they did going in.

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Once they’re cool, store them in an airtight container or freeze them. They’ll probably last forever in either case since no perishable ingredients are involved.

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Zelda loves them – except when I try to capture said love on video. Then, she’s totally nonchalant.

Easy, eh?

Two Years with the Beetus: Some Observations

As of today, I’ve officially had type 1 diabetes for two years. I say “officially” because it was a few months longer than that, of course: I got thirsty, peed a lot, lost weight, lost most of my hair, etc, etc, etc. But now it’s been two years, and I have some things to say about it.

I planned to do exactly this last year, but I guess I never got around to it. My first instinct on my “diaversary,” as it’s called, was to eat a cupcake. I bought a pair of running shoes instead, thinking I was well enough to get back into it. Except that’s not gonna happen, apparently. I’ll get to that.

It’s certainly been an interesting two years. I guess I can say my life is Back Together at this point, if only because I’m still employed and it looks like I’ll FINALLY get that master’s degree in December. As I said, last year, I celebrated with a pair of shoes because I wanted to Conquer the Beetus or the like. This year, I edged more toward the cupcake: I bolused for 100 carbs and ate a burger and some froyo. That’s more carbs than I’ve had in a sitting since all of this started. It didn’t even kill me.

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Anyway. Here’s a List of Things I’ve Learned over the past two years:

Most doctors don’t know what they’re doing or don’t care. Diabetes, at least, is an art, not a science, and I’ll run this damn thing myself, thank you very much. (I’m not going to rehash the part about where the hospital internist told me that I probably had type 2 at the beginning because I learned pretty quickly that that was pure bullsh*t.) At my last endocrinologist appointment, the doctor “suggested” that I lower my nighttime basals (even though I told her I had just lowered myself the night before), then, after she left the room, had the nurse watch me do it. Which is funny because I can just change them back myself once she’s not looking. She’s not the Basal Police. Just to see what would happen, I didn’t change said basal rate back, and the next morning I woke up with a blood sugar of 160. I felt crappy and had a hell of a time getting it down because waking up with high blood sugar makes you high for most of the day. So I changed the basal rate back. Things like that make me hate doctors. There’s also the crazy stomach problems I suffered with for over a year. I went to a gastroenterologist and had a colonoscopy and endoscopy, neither of which turned up anything. I hated traveling, and I stayed home from lots of social events because of what my stomach was doing. Turns out that I was just eating too much fat for my body to process because my pancreas doesn’t produce enough enzymes to digest fat properly. Guess who figured that one out and then fixed the problem? ME. Not a doctor. I dislike doctors now.

Distractions are fantastic. One of my favorite things about Zelda is that she keeps me occupied with something other than my blood sugar. I’ve been running it higher to deal with her without worrying about lows, and I feel better because of that. My A1c went up a tiny bit, but oh well. (That’s another thing with doctors. My A1c should not be treated like a report card. Ugh.) I like having to make plans around Zelda rather than around my blood sugar, and focusing on something that generally makes me happy is much more healthy for everyone.

My life can be pretty normal. Humans can get used to anything, and I think I’ve gotten pretty used to having to run my pancreas manually. I have some of the best technology available, and it’s easy enough with all I’ve learned over the past two years. I’m now an expert carb-counter, and I’m confident enough that I’ll make an educated guess on the carb count of whatever I want to eat – within reason. I have yet to eat Pad Thai again.

I have fantastic friends. For a long time, I was afraid to eat food when I didn’t know the exact carb count, and my friends have tried so hard to help! They carb-counted their own recipes for parties! That amazes me. I should also mention the husband‘s infinite patience here, but I think I’ve talked about that before.

It’s not a huge deal. If I miscalculate, I won’t die. I might feel crappy for a while, but my blood sugar will level back out eventually. Which means I shouldn’t be afraid to eat what I want (again, within reason) at local restaurants that don’t post nutrition information. And that’s what I’ve been doing for several months now: I discovered that food from chain restaurants (and not even fast food – I haven’t touched that stuff in forever) is packed with added sugars and fat, and it tears up my stomach. I do much better eating at local restaurants despite having to guess on carb counts.

It’s a learning process. Just because I think something works doesn’t mean that it’s the best choice. When I was first diagnosed, I thought (and was told) that low-carb was the answer, so I started eating nuts and cheese. I LOVE nuts and cheese and ate too much of both. I gained more weight than I should have. I hit 175, which was unacceptable, and started counting calories – and immediately stopped eating almost any of either of those things because of the crazy calorie count. That’s when I noticed that my stomach problem stopped. Yep. I also have to figure out how to eat lots of food without skyrocketing. There’s a bolus setting on my pump called dual wave that gives me a chunk of insulin up front, then the rest of it over a period of hours. At first, I didn’t eat pizza or pasta at all because they’re difficult to get right, but then I figured out this magical dual wave. But it’s a juggling process because I have to choose the percentage up front and then how long to let it continue. I make lots of lists. I’ve also changed breakfasts several times, trying not to spike. For a long time, my go-to was oatmeal, first plain with stevia, which drove me low. I moved on to packaged gluten-free (which is the best oatmeal), but that spiked me badly, so I make regular oatmeal with cinnamon and one carefully-measured teaspoon of sugar. That wasn’t so bad. But then I discovered English muffins, and so on and so on. Learning process.

I figure that if I could get through the first year, I could get through all of them, and this second one has only gotten easier. The rest of my body has gotten more into line and everything has generally settled down. I still won’t eat All of the Things, but I’ll eat Most of Them and be happy with that since I’m more likely to keep my limbs and vision if I behave. It’s really not so bad, after all.

Once more unto the breach.

What I *might* read in 2014

Sweeping pine needles into fun shapes: a post-Christmas tradition.

Sweeping pine needles into fun shapes: a post-Christmas tradition.

The holidays are over, our ginormous Christmas tree is no more, and my life is settling down into its more normal patterns. Shortly before the new year, I wrote my grand post about what I’d read in 2013, and I thought it might be fun to continue that with what I might read in 2014. I make no promises because I tend to read like I watch movies on Netflix: if it looks good and the timing is right, I’ll read it instantly. If it’s not available, I might reserve it at the library, though by the time I get it, I’ve usually lost interest. I guess that’s what e-books (and working in a library) have done to me. All this means that I’m not good at making to-be-read lists and sticking with them.

That said, I’m putting in a little effort this year: I’ve joined the Roof Beam Reader’s 2014 TBR Challenge. I’ve already posted about that, though, so I won’t repeat myself. So there’s twelve that I’ll probably read. I’m off to a good start, anyway, with The Master and Margarita. Anyway.

So beyond those twelve books, I guess this is a list of what I’d like to read this year, though I probably won’t get through most of these books because of my apparent reading-choice ADD. Here we go, in no particular order:

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, by Haruki Murakami. According to The Guardian, the English translation will be released sometime this year. As Murakami is one of my favorite authors, I can’t wait to read this one.

The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt. It’s all over the internet, and it looks interesting.

Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon. So many people have suggested I read this book. It’s high on my list, but I’m waiting until I’ve read…

A Dance with Dragons, by George R.R. Martin. I’m not sure how I’ve lasted so long, though it probably has something to do with there not being another Song of Ice and Fire book to pick up after I finish it.

The Girl Who Fell beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There, by Catherynne M. Valente, because I loved The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making so much.

Wolves of the Calla, and possibly Song of Susannah and The Dark Tower by Stephen King. While I’m on the subject of various series, let me add this one to the pile. I’ve read the first four of the Dark Tower series, so the rest of them are on the horizon. I’m certainly choosing more long books for 2014.

The Golem and the Jinni, by Helene Wecker. Another word-of-internet winner.

Doomed, by Chuck Palahniuk. I read (and generally liked) Damned after I’d won Doomed in a drawing. Doomed is still sitting on my bookshelf, waiting patiently. I’ll get to it eventually.

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, by Barbara Demick. North Korea fascinates me, and I’ve heard that this is a good book.

The Childhood of Jesus, by J.M. Coetzee. It’s been on my list since before it came out, but there I’ve read reviews on both sides, and I’m not sure how much I’ll like it once I get into it. I liked Disgrace, but it was a little sappy.

Jesus’ Son, by Denis Johnson. Here’s another one that friends have recommended. I saw the movie years ago and loved it. I’m bad at picking up short story collections, though.

Discworld novel, or two, by Terry Pratchett. Because I love them. I’m slowly reading them chronologically, and next up is Reaper Man.

A Tale of Two Cities or Great Expectations. The former was the first book I read after I graduated college and is one of my favorites, and I tried to read the latter a couple years ago, but failed. Holiday time is Dickens time, so one of these will probably happen next December.

And that’s all I can think of at the moment. It’s funny how most of the books I want to read are fantasy, though most of the books I actually read are not. We’ll see what happens this year. I make no promises.

Also: Somehow, I neglected to post a photo of a certain orange kitteh on his TENTH birthday! I can’t believe he’s ten.

And, finally, thanks to Palmer for the pine needles photo and the awesome sweeping skillz!

2013: The Year in Books

Here we are, at the end of 2013.  It’s time for my Grand Book List, which I skipped last year (as I skipped reading for the most part, but that’s a long story). I’ve read more this year than I have in the past several. It’s possibly the most I’ve ever read. I’m not quite sure how it happened since I have a job, and such. Palmer says reading is a waste of time and a way for unhappy people to forget that they’re unhappy, but I don’t think it is. I’ve had a good year, all told. There is, of course, the Elephant in the Room, which makes everything difficult, but I’ve been dealing with it long enough, now, that it’s not that big of a deal. Reading does help me forget about that, sometimes, which is both good and bad. But I digress. Here, by the way, is an excellent article from Slate about the psychological and moral benefits of reading. So there.

For the past three years, I’ve set a quota for myself: 50 books. I started because, at the end of 2010, I realized that I’d only read about twenty books, which seemed ridiculous. I thought that if I set a goal, I could get my reading back on track. And I did! I squeezed in at the wire, but I did, and I was very proud of myself. In 2012, I set the same goal, but I didn’t even get close. I blame the Elephant – I was sick, my vision was blurry, and I was exhausted. After July of 2012, my world stopped for a while. This January, I decided I could no longer use ye olde Elephant as an excuse, so I jumped in for another fifty. If you pay any attention to my blog, you’ll know that I easily surpassed that number this year. I’m not sure why or how, especially since so many of thee books I read were huge.

Which leads me to a title for 2013: The Year of Long Books. Until this year, I hardly read books over three or four hundred pages because I didn’t think I could get through them. Jumping into A Game of Thrones and getting hooked cured me of that, I think, and I think I’ve decided that I love long books the best because I can get more into them without feeling rushed. That’s not always easy to do with this quota, though.

So here’s my list. Yes, it’s long. I’ll use the same system I used for my 2010 and 2011 lists: Bold means I really liked it, and italics means I really disliked it. If it’s neither of those, it was good enough.

So there you have it. I read some pretty good books this year. But which one is the best? In 2010, the prize went to David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, and in 2011, One Hundred Years of Solitude won. Last year, there was no winner, as, well, you know. Elephant. What could I possibly have chosen this year? Drumroll please…

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Yep, Stoner. If you read this blog regularly, you probably saw it coming. Stoner is the best, most amazing novel I’ve read in years. It’s perfect on just about every level. I was crying and entirely speechless by the end of it. Oh, so good.

But Stoner wasn’t the only good novel I read this year, so I’m adding a couple of runners-up. I liked these novels almost as much, though they weren’t quite as mind-blowing as our winner.

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First, there’s Orlando, which is hilarious and fantastic and addictive. I want to read it again. After some reflection, it definitely wins my top spot in the list of Virginia Woolf‘s novels. I know that a Discworld novel, of all things, probably doesn’t fit in too well, but I absolutely adored Eric, and I can’t help myself. It’s definitely my favorite Discworld novel so far. There’s also The Ocean at the End of the Lane, which is no my favorite of Neil Gaiman‘s because it’s an overwhelming fairytale that I couldn’t quite have understood when I was a child. This one qualifies as mind-blowing, too. I’ll make myself stop there, though I’m having a hard time not adding more.

2013 was definitely a good reading year. So many books make for so many interesting experiences, most of them good. Next year, I’ll do the same, and it’ll be especially pleasant because my super-awesome husband made me a library out of what had been a storage-bedroom in our house. It’s beautiful, but I still need to clean up a bit and hang art before I post official photos. I’ll be spending lots of 2014 curled up in my papasan, feet propped up and reading. I can’t wait.

Merry Christmas!

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Okay, I haven’t finished my book, so this isn’t a review because I don’t have anything to review yet. In my defense, Bleak House is an especially looooong book, and somehow Dickens doesn’t read as quickly as George R.R. Martin. I’ll probably finish by the end of the year. (I guess now’s the time to write my big end-of-the-year post, anyway. Which I skipped last year. I know.)

So. Since it’s taking me a long time to read this behemoth, and I haven’t posted in a while, I figured I’d offer a Christmas update (in the last half-hour before Doctor Who makes me cry. But that’s neither here nor there). So here goes. And since this post will be mostly photos (and thus very long), I’ll add a Read More here… Continue reading

I’m joining the 2014 TBR Pile Challenge. Yay Reading Things!

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Wait, you say. Lindsay doesn’t participate in anything, especially when it’s book-related. Book clubs? Bah! Comments? Hellz, no. Reading other people’s blogs? Only when looking for similar (often unpopular) opinions.

Well, in 2014, I want to change that, if only a little bit. I think that the reason I’ve kept this blog for so long is that I write it so selfishly: I started writing in earnest when I realized that I never remember what I’ve read for very long. You know, the time I got halfway through Franny and Zooey before realizing that I’d read it less than a year before? Yeah. It really started after Katrina, when I really got into digital preservation of memories, especially photos, since they can easily be lost. Remembering what I’d read came shortly after, but that was before the days of Goodreads, so I think I started with AllConsuming or, possibly, Shelfari. When I finally switched to Goodreads, I think I transferred all of that there. But the hurricane happened in 2005, and I didn’t start writing about every book I read until 2011. That’s a lot of years, and sometimes I forget what I have and haven’t written about.

Anyway. My blog is very insular because I generally don’t participate in the book-blogosphere since I’m only really writing for myself (except I’m explaining all of this to you, and you aren’t me, so…). In 2014, I’ll give it a whirl. In the beginning, at least. I think I found a good place to start: Roof Beam Reader‘s 2014 TBR Pile Challenge, which aims to help me get through some of the books that have been languishing on my to-be-read list for a while. Here are the basic rules: I have to choose twelve books (and two alternates, in case I can’t get through a couple of them) that have been on my tbr pile for at least a year, which means that they couldn’t have been published in 2013. I have more than enough books like that to fill such a list, so here goes:

  1. The Master and Margarita (Bulgakov)
  2. Under the Net (Murdoch)
  3. The Shadow of the Wind (Zafón)
  4. The Children of Men (P.D. James)
  5. The Ambassadors (Henry James)
  6. The Slynx (Tolstaya)
  7. Still Life with Woodpecker (Robbins)
  8. Pedro Páramo (Rulfo)
  9. Demons (Dostoyevsky)
  10. Ragtime (Doctorow)
  11. Wicked (Maguire)
  12. The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories (Clarke)

And the alternates:

  1. Warlock (Hall)
  2. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Riggs)

We’ll see how I do with these. They’ve all been on my list for a while, but, for whatever reason, I haven’t gotten around to reading them. I’ve been careful not to choose all long books, and I haven’t chosen books I know I’ll read like Wolves of the Calla or Dances with Dragons because I’d have read them anyway. What will be most challenging to me is planned reading: I’m the Netflix type. After I finish a book, I like to pick up whatever strikes my fancy at that very instant. Working in a library definitely helps, but you can get your hands on almost anything pretty quickly with an internet connection.

I own physical copies of the vast majority of these books, and if I don’t, they’ve been sitting on my Kindle or Nook for at least a year. I think what I’ll do, though, is put them all in one place: the sparkly new iPad Mini my awesome husband is giving me for Christmas. Tracking down digital copies of most of these shouldn’t be a challenge – and I have no qualms about not paying for a digital copy of a physical book I paid for. Paying once is enough, and at some point, I have paid for every one of the books listed above. Yay, Calibre (which organizes, converts, and transfers to various reading devices. You’re on your own for downloads).

I’ll also mention that I found the Most Awesome iOS eBook Reader Ever: Marvin. I wanted a wireless way to transfer non-Kindle books from my Macbook to my iPad, and somehow I ran across their website. It’s the most powerful reader app I’ve seen. As far as I know, the Kindle reader app only opens books you’ve bought from Amazon, and you have to plug in to transfer books you haven’t purchased from Apple into iBooks. Not cool. With Marvin, all you have to do is link it to your Dropbox account, and all of the epub books you have stored there show up on the screen, ready to download. And it even syncs your pages between devices! Better yet, it’ll sync with Calibre, which boggles my mind. End of gush.

So there’s my plan. I’ll stick with the 50, but at least twelve of those will be books from my tbr list, specifically the list above. I’m pretty sure I can do it with just a little reading discipline, especially since I’ll have most or all of them right in front of me in my handy-dandy Marvin app.

I can’t wait to start!

Fear Street, y’all. I’ve got a story.

rlstineI figured that since today is R.L. Stine‘s 70th birthday, I’d revisit what is quite possibly my favorite series ever. (Okay, as I said that, I thought about Harry Potter, but are they really in the same league? I’ll qualify my statement: Fear Street was my favorite series when I was the proper age to be reading it. There.) I don’t know what happened to my vast collection of those books, but I do have one: a copy of The Knife that I found in a box of giveaway books when I was teaching in Coushatta. I didn’t read it (though I’m sure I read it when I was a kid), but it’s sitting on a bookshelf at my house, and I smile every time I see it.

I don’t remember any of them clearly, though I remember the covers of a few like The Wrong Number, Broken Hearts, and Silent Night.

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And do I have a Fear Street story:

I was twelve or thirteen and was in the Denver airport by myself. I’d been skiing at Aspen with my family, but I had to leave early to get back to school after Christmas break. My dad had decided that I was old enough – and had flown enough – to make my way through the airport, find my gate, and get on the plane. I would have done all of those things successfully if not for R.L. Stine.

I went up to the ticket counter, got my boarding pass, and got through security. I made it to my gate and sat down, facing away from the gate itself, but well within earshot of any announcements. There would be a bit of a wait, so I started reading. I wish I remember which Fear Street book it was. No headphones were involved – I thought I was being smart about this alone-in-the-airport thing. I read for a while, and when I looked up and around toward the announcement board by the gate, my plane’s boarding time was gone. I have no idea how long I’d been reading. I stood up, grabbed my backpack, and rushed to the gate, only to find out that the plane had just left.

I thought my dad would kill me.

I went to the nearest pay phone (it was the early ’90s!) and called my dad. He wasn’t quite as angry as I thought he would be. He told me to go back to the ticket counter. When I’d been there the first time, a really nice lady had helped me. I was just over the age that I’d have to be escorted everywhere, and I’d been kind of proud of doing it on my own. She told me that if I had any problems to come straight back to her. Instead, I stood in the long line, praying that I ended up with someone else because I was so embarrassed. After waiting quite a while, I ended up back in front of her because that’s always the way things go. She told me that the next plane out was 6 hours later and that I’d have to land in New Orleans instead of Shreveport, which was fine because I could stay with my sister for the night. She also asked if I had money for a meal and gave me a voucher when I explained that I’d spent all of my money on a Denver Broncos sweatshirt for my cat. (I’ve never been a Broncos fan…)

After that ordeal, I ate, found my new gate, and sat right in front of it, facing it this time, and stared forward until it opened, hardly blinking. I made it onto that plane and eventually got home.

These days, it appears, R.L. Stine is better known for his Goosebumps series, which was aimed at kids younger than I was at the time. I don’t think I read any of those, and I wasn’t a fan of the TV series, though I can’t help but post that ubiquitous meme photo here:

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I stand by Fear Street.

This series made up the bulk of my reading between ages 11 and 14, which is funny because I don’t read anything like them anymore. I don’t like horror novels, and I generally don’t like pop fiction series (Game of Thrones is a notable exception, of course. And Hunger Games. I’ll shut up now.). I must have read other books around that time, but I don’t remember any of them. Before Fear Street was The Baby-Sitters Club, and before that was…what?

My parents tell me that I read a lot.

This nostalgia-fest almost makes me want to dive back in, but I know that would be a mistake. I loved Fear Street so much when I was a kid, but I bet I’d lose my fondness for them if I read them again. They make a good story, though.

And happy birthday, R.L. Stine!

Update: R.L. Stine is bringing Fear Street back for Halloween 2014!

Centenary Book Sale Day!

I look forward to it all year: the Centenary Book Bazaar is by far the best book sale in Shreveport. If you’ve only been to the library’s, you’re missing out! My general rule is $20 and one ginormous bag, but rules are made to be broken, right? I was still too sick to enjoy last year’s book sale, so I sat it out. This year, I gave myself permission to make up for the lost book deals, so I took TWO bags and my usual $20 bill, but I also took my checkbook. Always be prepared. Winter is coming. And so on.

People line up for hours to be first to get into this thing, and that’s dedication considering it’s usually 100 degrees outside at this time of the year. In fact, I followed an ambulance, lights and sirens blaring, into the parking lot. I assume someone had fainted. They offer bottles of water for $1, and I heard rumors of ice cream. It started at 4pm, and I showed up at 3:45 because while I love this book sale, I’m not willing to bake before it (and there’s the little matter of insulin in my pocket). I was dripping sweat by the time I got in, anyway.

The line didn’t seem as long this year as it had been in the past. Maybe it was exceptionally hot? What’s funny is that there are two line options: one out in the sun and one in the shade. And the sunny one is always longer! Ridiculous. I, of course, chose the shaded route. Two roads diverged in a wood, and so on.

As usual, it was packed. Rows and rows of tables lined with people wheeling around suitcases and other fun things to trip over. I just poked at people with my bag.

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I was mildly disappointed this time: they have multiple tables of paperback fiction, and one is something like “Paperback Treasures” and is usually covered in nice trade paperbacks of books I like to read. Somehow, that table was covered with mass markets this year.

I spent about half an hour nosing around and filling up one big bag plus a couple. I only go for the tables of decent contemporary fiction, “literature,” and school book lists because if it’s true, I’ll never get around to reading it. And this year, I found some gems! And a much larger pile of books that have been on my radar for a while.

What did I get, you ask? Here’s the list! (I usually link books and authors to Goodreads, but I’m far too lazy to do that with all of these, so I’m only linking within this blog. Just so you know.)

  1. A Russian Journal by Steinbeck. I’d never heard of this one, but I love its author.
  2. Adam Bede by George Eliot. It’s been on my radar for a while, and I really liked Silas Marner.
  3. Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol. I’ve been meaning to read it.
  4. Officers and Gentlemen by Evelyn Waugh. Waugh is highlarious.
  5. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. I tried reading a few years ago and failed, but I think I’ll try again soon.
  6. Labrynths by Jorge Luis Borges. I love Borges. I’ve read Labyrinths, but it was a borrowed copy, and I wanted to own it.
  7. Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata. Goodreads keeps telling me I’ll like it.
  8. Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev. I haven’t read Turgenev, but I’ve been meaning to.
  9. Diary of a Madman and Other Stories by Nikolai Gogol. It was the Book Sale of Russians. There was a pile.
  10. A two-volume set of The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoyevsky. I love Crime and Punishment, and I bet I’ll love this one, too.
  11. The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor. I think she’s my favorite short story writer. This was a FIND.
  12. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco. Another one I’ve been meaning to read.
  13. Anna Karenina by Tolstoy. Another Russian and another reading list fulfillment.
  14. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry. Everyone tells me it’s good! And Cormac McCarthy has won me over to westerns.
  15. A two-volume set of Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Novels and Stories by Arthur Conan Doyle. I’ve never read it because I hate mysteries, but I know I should.
  16. The Children of Men by P.D. James. Another attempt and failure. I’m not sure why. It’s different than the movie, and I think I liked it as far as I got into it. That was several years ago.
  17. 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. I read it last year and reviewed it on this blog. I own it on Kindle, and I bought a nice hardback version for all of $3.
  18. The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway. If you ever read this blog, you know how much I love Hemingway. I haven’t read many of his short stories. This is also another one I own on Kindle but wanted the actual book.

And I could have sworn there was one more! I’m going by the recent history list in my cataloging software, Delicious Library. Maybe I miscounted yesterday. All told, I spent $23.50. I think I got a pretty awesome deal. The winners, of course, are the Flannery O’Connor and Hemingway collections. A nice page with a list of all of my fiction and a few other things is here. I even updated it today!

As I said: best book sale. If I ever say I’m bored, point me toward my bookshelves. Speaking of which, all of these books created quite a pile, and I had to do some pretty serious rearranging of my already limited space. I need more shelves!

Finally, a round of applause for my Very Helpful Helper, Shakespeare, who walked back and forth over my keyboard countless times just while I was writing this blog post.

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Stephen King and the American Way?

stephenkingI’m not a huge fan of Stephen King, but he fascinates me. Not in the same way that Hemingway does, a way that makes me want to devour anything he ever produced, but in a sort of admiration from afar. Lydia Kiesling, in an essay on The Millions called “Everything I Know about America I Learned from Stephen King,” points out in King’s novels a deep examination of American culture, viewed through its small towns: “I think Stephen King books manage to appeal both to people who have experienced the tyranny and joy of the small town, as well as people who have known rootlessness in its many forms (not, of course, that the two are mutually exclusive).” Through the horror, Stephen King’s novels still embrace the American Dream and all of the other American Ideals we find in less popular but more respected authors. “Literary” authors.

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t put King in the literary pile; in my head, he’s firmly stationed in the horror or terror pile (check out this sort-of-related video about creepieness), the Genre Pile From Which Few Good Books Come. Okay, that’s not true. I can name lots of legitimately good fantasy novels, but I’ve said before that I’m not a fan of horror.

So I guess the point here is that maybe there’s more value to Stephen King than meets the eye – or that has met my eye, so far. I’ve read a few of his novels, and the best, by far, was The Shining. Then there are a few of the Dark Tower novels, which I’ll probably revisit, and the absolutely terrible The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. I’ve talked recently about hating Salem’s Lot. But, since I consider King a genre author, I’ve always thought of every book except The Shining, which I read when I was a teenager, as pure entertainment value, and I didn’t find much of it particularly entertaining. I didn’t bother looking beneath the surface, as it seems I’ve been trained to do in a snobbish way.

What’s funny is that saying all of this doesn’t make me want to pick up another King novel, except that now I’m curious to see what Kiesling means about this grand vision of The American Way. Something just seems wrong with reading Stephen King crictically (with the exception of “The Man in the Black Suit,” is it? The short story that’s strikingly parallel to “Young Goodman Brown?”). I can see bits of it in the townspeople in Salem’s Lot, but I’m not sure about the more fantastic novels like The Dark Tower series – of which I’ve read three*-and-a-half* novels and just now might have to finish the fourth, though for this purpose I think I’d get more out of reading The Stand or It.

Special post: Bookshelves!

One of my favorite things to do when I go to someone’s house is to look at his or her books. I automatically drift toward the bookshelf, and, quite often, I can tell if I’ll like a new person based on the books she owns. (What I’ve found is that people with bookshelves in their living rooms tend to like the same kinds of books that I do – but that probably has something to do with my not visiting people I haven’t already decided I like. Then, there are people like my mother, who have bookshelves full of Christian self-help books, but with A Confederacy of Dunces stuck in the middle.)

Here’s what I’m getting at: For years, I’ve used a Mac app called Delicious Library to catalog my books. As I’m sure you can imagine, I’ve amassed a lot. Except after a while, I always let it go – buy books or weed books without noting them since that means more work than I’m willing to do before I’ve forgotten all about it. Well, Delicious Monster finally released a new version of the software, and there’s a handy iPhone companion app that scans books directly into Delicious Library, taking out most of the work. Of course, I have lots of books without barcodes, so I had to enter them manually, but it didn’t take long. I think I can handle that much if it means I’ll stop buying duplicate books. I’m really bad about that: at one point, I had three copies of The Poisonwood Bible, and I haven’t even read it.

Along with the neat scanning feature, Delicious Library also publishes shelves to the internet. Sadly, the pages are a bit clunky and there’s no search box, but it requires almost no work on my part, and it’s pretty enough. So far, I’ve only cataloged fiction, but that includes some non-fiction Kindle books and some plain ol’ nonfiction that has been on my fiction shelf from the beginning. So don’t post a nasty comment telling me that Walden is not fiction. I know it isn’t. It’s just there, and it’s probably not moving since it’s been there so long.

Anyway, if you’re interested on what I have on my bookshelves (the fiction ones, at least), click here and check them out. As I said, ignore the bulk: I would have done it differently, but I’m not willing to put that much work into it. It’s still pretty awesome if you think about it.

I think I’ll do poetry next. Somehow, most of my books aren’t fiction, even though that’s almost always what I read. I have a bunch of academic stuff from college (I have degrees in English and philosophy) that I’m seriously considering getting rid of and a bunch of random nonfiction books that are just taking up space. I should probably tackle that stuff, too, before we move, because that’ll mean we have to transfer fewer boxes – and books are heavy.

Re-cataloging my books is a good experience: I hadn’t given my bookshelves much attention for a couple of years, and I’d forgotten about some of what I have. And then there are the duplicates. I hope that this time I’ll make myself keep up with it so I can stop wasting money and space.

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