Feeling Fine and Bloggy

Do you dream of being rich and famous? Do you want your name to be known all over the world? Do you want people to hang on your every word and fall at your feet?

Image from paxtonholley's flickr account.

Well, writing a book blog is not a way to fulfill all those narcissistic desires. However, it is darned fun to do, and you have the chance to meet with folks who geek out over books as badly as you do. You swap recommendations like you once did Garbage Pail Kid cards, discover authors you might never have had the privilege of reading otherwise, and you’re compelled to spend time even more time in bookstores and combing your own shelves looking for unique books to up your blogging cred.

This week, the geniuses at The Broke & The Bookish thought outside the box and asked us to list our Top Ten Tips For New Book Bloggers. I’ve only been posting book blog posts for a few months, but here are some tips and tricks I’ve picked up in that short stretch of time.

1. Use Goodreads—I had an account on this page for a long time before I really put it to good use. Now, I can’t imagine how I ever kept track of my reading habits without it. If you’re like me, you skim a book in the store but don’t have the money to buy it, so you put it down and promptly forget the author and/or title. With Goodreads, you can put it on your “to read” list (which can be sub-categorized into lists you design). Download the free app, and you can add books instantly using information or by scanning bar codes with your smart phone. When the time comes for a new list or selecting a new read, you’ve got plenty to choose from. There’s also a reading challenge you can enter and a bevy of widgets to use on your blog!

2. Incorporate images, videos, and photos—Books are about words, sure, but when it comes to blogs, sometimes a few visuals can go a long way and help your words be more engaging. For instance, one book list I did recently was about books you’d recommend to people who say they don’t like to read. Rather than pick ten books, I chose one central theme—my husband (who doesn’t like to read). Being a good sport, he was willing to pose for photographs to go along with the blog, which made it fun for me to write and for my readers to see. I highly recommend an account on Photobucket or a similar site to keep your photos and images safe and orderly. Three great blogs that do this almost exclusively with Microsoft Paint are Hyperbole and a Half, Fathertrek and Live, Nerd, Repeat. I laughed so hard at Hyperbole and a Half’s post “The Year Kenny Loggins Ruined Christmas” I almost hyperventilated.

3. With lists, always write a short paragraph about each work—Whenever I do my top ten lists like this one, I always try to give my half dozen readers more than a sentence or two. If you recommend a book and only tell people, “It was really good. I enjoyed it so much!”, you’re not really giving them much to go on. Tell them about the engaging characters, the airtight plot, or the highlights that made it enjoyable (or awful) for you. Authors only make money if folks read their work, so I make sure to tell people about books I stumble across that are worth the read by showing why I enjoyed them.

4. Read book blogs others have written for ideas—Not only do you find great books to read, but you can also can borrow other bloggers’ ideas for your own future book posts. For instance, I’m always inspired by the posts I read over on Never Done It That Way Before and The Warden’s Walk. As a teacher, I lived by the C.A.S.E. model (Copy And Steal Everything). You don’t always have to spend all your energy dreaming up new ideas; use that time to craft your own version of theirs. Trust me, they’ll take yours and return the favor in kind.

Image from http://aptdesignonline.com

5. Write honest reviews for the books you read— When it comes to book reviews, honesty is indeed the best policy. I can say with 99.9999999999999% certainty that no one is paying you for your writing. Therefore, if you didn’t enjoy a book, tell your fellow readers why. You could save them some heartache and cash! For instance, everyone I knew waxed poetic about Eragon, comparing it to Lord of the Rings (not even close) and other fantasy classics. I was sorely disappointed by Mr. Paolini’s work, and I was out the cost of a hardback book because no one was willing to be frank. If more folks who disliked it had come out, and folks who had been on the fence had been more honest, I could have saved myself the time and trouble of reading it.

6. Vary your diet—Writing a book blog is a great way to make you read outside your “comfort zone.” If you tend to read only fiction, use the blog as a reason to explore memoirs or even something like graphic novels. You can choose books that are on the same topic you enjoy but that explore it from a new angle. For instance, if you normally love CSI-type fiction, you could broaden your horizons and go for the classics (Sherlock Holmes) or non-fiction (Stiff: Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach). Biographies about famous criminals, detectives, and mysteries are also great.

Image from goodreads.com

7. Explore the edges—You don’t just have to write about books. You can explore anything and everything beautiful and bookish. For instance, maybe you want to talk about great places to sit and enjoy a book in your area. You can do a how-to blog that teaches readers how to make handmade bookmarks. You can write profiles about your favorite local bookshops or even local authors. I highly recommend the blog For the Love of Bookshops if you’re looking for a good place to start. You can even write reviews of films based on books you’ve read.

8. Write consistently—One thing that’s great about The Broke & The Bookish meme “Top Ten Tuesdays” is that it happens each and every week. That means I’m guaranteed a writing topic at least once a week. Typically, I get at least one new follower or reader per book blog, and every little bit of notoriety helps. I don’t have to exhaust my brain thinking of a topic, only the books I want to put on that list. If I can’t think of anything, I do skip that week or make up my own, but doing these posts has compelled me to blog more consistently, and not just about books.

9. Don’t give away too much in your reviews!—Yeah, I know this contradicts what I told you back at number three on this list, but there’s a slight difference. I once had a professor who said that a book is like a virtuous girl; it doesn’t give everything up on the first date. He also advised that an essay (or, in this case, a blog) should be like a girl’s skirt—long enough to fully cover the topic but also short enough to be interesting. (He really isn’t a creeper. These two quotes weren’t so odd when they were in context.) Suffice it to say, you shouldn’t rob your readers of their fun by telling them too much before they read the book. I know how you feel; you’re excited and want someone to talk to about this amazing read. You’ll just have to wait. Telling someone about the plot twist in the middle (even if you don’t tell what it is) robs them of the surprise. Sometimes, the moment when a book slaps you in the face like is the best part.

Image from http://blogs.edweek.org

10. You have a personality. Use it!—Sure, you’re writing about things that other people have penned, but there’s no caveat that says you can exercise your writing chops when you’re talking about books. I try to write in such a way that my voice comes through. What I say is important, but how I say it is also key. People like people who are like them, so finding new word nerd friends and devoted followers means you have to show them the goods. If you’re humorous, let that come through. If you have a great vocab, use it to your advantage. Teach people, engage them on a personal level. You’ll find that you are also a writer who is worth reading. Who knows? Someone may be blogging about one of your books one day!

Joey Chesnut Ain’t Got Nothing On Me!

This book blog topic makes me want to cry a little because, well, I rarely have the time to do it anymore. Yes, yes–adulthood can truly stink up the joint sometimes. The big blue meanies over at The Broke & The Bookish have asked us to share our list of “The Top Ten Books to Read in a Day.”

There is something wonderful about staying in your pajamas all day long, curled up under a cozy blanket (which is even better when the rain is pouring down outside), getting lost in the pages of a book with a mug of tea or hot cocoa steaming on the bedside table. Here are ten books that I remember completing in a day (or just a tad over), and you can see by reading over it that I’m not choosy when it comes to gorging myself on words like it’s some literary variation on the Nathan’s International Hot Dog Eating Contest!

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins—I did read this one over the better part of an afternoon and evening. It’s quite simply the best book of the trilogy. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that had they trimmed Mockingjay and tagged it onto the back of this one, the entire series would have been much better for it. Full of action, drama, and true surprises, this is one book I can’t wait to see make the transition to film!

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig—I am embarrassed to say I read this book. (In fact, I guiltily gobbled it and two or three other books in the series down like a binge eater, crying in shame and shoveling it down at the same time.) My only excuse was that I was going through a Scarlet Pimpernel kick at the time, and this book provided access to the world in an obtuse sort of way. I mean, Sir Percy was an ancillary character in the first book. Essentially, this is chick romance/action at it’s best and worst, and until an intervention took place, I was entrenched in it.

The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 1) by Lemony Snicket—I’m not ashamed to have read this book, or any of the twelve others in the series. If you’ve not read the Lemony Snicket books, you’re really missing out. Daniel Handler has a wicked sense of humor, and his knack for storytelling is off the charts. This was “kid” fiction written with adults in mind. The books were fun to collect, like little pocket-sized crime novels with uneven pages and old-school illustrations. Just fun, fun reads. My friends and I used to wait until the new ones came out and host parties where we’d take turns reading using Tim Curry’s voice from the audiobooks (which are FABULOUS if you’ve never heard them.)
 
Frankenstein: Prodigal Son by Dean Koontz—The series took a weird turn or two that I wasn’t expecting, and I wasn’t totally thrilled with the ending. However, the first book in the Frankenstein series by Dean Koontz was fabulous! It totally changed up the monster narrative we all know and love. The “creature” renames himself Deucalion and devotes his long (if not eternal) life to destroying the master who built him and who is, several hundred years later, as power hungry and maniacal as ever. Set in New Orleans with two wise-cracking cops, this was a fun and wild read I tore through in one day on a particularly long car trip. 
 
Common Sense by Thomas Paine—I don’t know about you, but if I’d read this work sooner in my life, I might have been much better off. It is truly an amazing work, one that riled a sleeping collection of colonies and made them a national force. It’s an example of great writing as well as how words are indeed more powerful than the sword. Paine is really an uncredited founding father, and you’d do yourself a favor reading the work where amazing quotes like this reside:
 
“Society in every state is a blessing, but government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one; for when we suffer or are exposed to the same miseries by a government, which we might expect in a country without government, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer.”
 
Superman: Red Son by Mark Millar—My graphic novel inclusion for this list is an alternate-universe three-issue series that explored a simple idea—what if Superman’s capsule had landed on a collective farm in Soviet Russia instead of the Heartland of America? What would have been different in the DC universe (and the world at large) if he fought not for “truth, justice, and the American way” but “as the Champion of the common worker who fights a never-ending battle for Stalin, socialism, and the international expansion of the Warsaw Pact.” A fascinating read with great art and a tight narrative.
 
Cry to Heaven by Anne Rice—I read this when I was living on my own in a crappy efficient apartment during my first semester in college. I curled up in my Murphy Bed and read until the sun came up. I was so fascinated with the concept of the Italian opera starts know as the castrati that I did hours of research (the old fashioned way—with books, a card catalog, stacks, and microfiche!! There were fewer academic wimps back in the day.) I wrote my ENG 1101 research paper on them and argued that they had played a larger role in the development of Italian opera than had previously been recognized. My professor said it was a welcome change from the papers on legalizing pot, gun control, and animal testing.
 
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern—I was hooked by this one and read it in just a shade over a day. There was something magical about it, something otherworldly that just sucked me in. I was like the circus devotees, and I wanted to spend my life finding it and spending time within it. Morgenstern may not be the best writer in the world, but she’s a darned good one who isn’t afraid to color outside the lines to create compelling characters and an engaging story that, despite being impossible, makes you wish it was altogether real.
 
Passing by Nella Larsen—I read this one in grad school and loved it. We were supposed to read it over a two week period, dividing it in half, but I couldn’t wait. This one tells the story of Clare and Irene, two African American girls who were friends but lost touch after Clare’s father died. She went on to live with her two white aunts who let her “pass” for while and marry a white man who also happens to be a raving racist. Irene lives in Harlem and is committed to fighting for the cause of equality. The books is wonderfully ambiguous and lets readers interpret the actions in whatever way they choose. I wouldn’t want to rob you of the joy of it by telling you what I thought. Go pick it up!
 
The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicles, Day 1) by Patrick Rothfuss—I’m putting this here. It took me longer than a day because it comes in just a bit under 700 pages in length. I’m a very quick reader, but even I had to take a break and sleep a little rather than risk choking myself on this tome. If you enjoy fantasy novels, I cannot recommend this one highly enough. I shot through it and book two, The Wise Man’s Fear, in under a week and regretted it terribly because I now have to wait until 2013 to see how the story ends. Rothfuss places readers in a world that is both recognizable and altogether foreign and crafts a tight plot free of holes. Kvothe for President in 2012. That’s all I have to say about that. 🙂
 
**For the record, I have no clue why the font on this post went “straight to plaid” as they said in Spaceballs—single spaced and italicized. What I do know is that I’m too lazy to do what it takes to fix it.** 
 
How about you all? What books did you indulge in for a full twenty-four hours? Is there a book you’ve been wanting to lock yourself in an attic with dripping candles and an apple to read?
 

Books I’d Fake the Plague to Read

For this Tuesday’s Top Ten List, The Broke & The Bookish folks are asking us to be unproductive citizens by listing our “Spring Fever Book Lists” otherwise known as the “Top Ten Books I’d Play Hooky With.” Like Skyline Chili, I decided to go three different ways with this one! After all, why indulge in literary “what ifs” if you can’t glut yourself every portion of the fantasy!? So, without further ado, here are the books I’d be willing to pull a Ferris Bueller for in order to have more time to read.

Books Due Out This Spring

Insurgent by Veronica Roth—I hate to admit it, but I enjoyed Divergent, the first book in this series. It’s a lot like The Hunger Games, another dystopian teen novel, but for some reason, those always serve as nice time fillers for me. Easy reads that are purely escapist romps for me, I usually don’t turn one down—especially if it involves a trilogy and possible film deals.

Bitterblue by Kristen Cashore—Another teen book I’m embarrassed to say I’m looking forward to. The other two in this series, Graceling and Fire, were actually very well written. They were a little too mature for teen readers in my opinion, but good nonetheless. This one goes back to the original story in Graceling to complete the tale of the young princess Bitterblue and her gifted companions.

The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King—If you want to know how excited I am about this book, I’d rate it somewhere between “I’m about to pee my pants” and “Shia LeBouf is tied up in the soundproof room. Here’s your crowbar.” Seriously, I’ve been longing for a new Dark Tower book for some time, but I never thought he’d actually go back and revisit the universe, much less go for material in Roland’s past like he did with my favorite book, Wizard and Glass. I can’t wait to spend a day reading this one cover to cover.

Popular Books I’ve Been Wanting to Read But Haven’t

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness—This is one of those books everyone talked about but I never went in on for some reason. I don’t have a good reason as to why. Scholarship, magic, intrigue, vampires, and all that—you think I would have been instantly sold. But no, I held back. I should make up for this egregious oversight before the second book comes out.

Fall of Giants by Ken Follett—I know it makes me a nerd sicko, but I love it when I see a book is so large it could double as a doorstop at Fort Knox. This book is one of those. Granted, most of Mr. Follett’s books are large enough to serve as blunt force weapons, but this one is extra beefy. Even in the paperback form, it’s cumbersome and contains a daunting grand total of five interconnected story lines. Books or boys–if it’s complicated, I’m in. 🙂 This one should make due for a long car ride or vacation book….if I ever get a vacation that is.

The Winter King by Bernard Cornwell—I need something to fill in the gap now that the long wait for new books by Patrick Rothfuss and George R.R. Martin has begun. This is the first of three beautiful, five-hundred-page novels I can use to scratch my itch for sword fights, epic drama, and world building. Plus, it’s about King Arthur. Bonus!

Classic Works I’ve Never Read

To Have and Have Not by Ernest Hemingway—I watched the Bogey and Bacall film version of this last week (and I’ve started to feel that I want to be Lauren Bacall when I grow up. So amazing…) I bought this book when I was at the Hemingway House in Key West a few years ago, put it on the shelf, and forgot all about it. I think a little “spring cleaning” is in order to get books like this one read.

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins—I loved The Woman in White, and this one is another popular detective piece from an author who spins a good yarn. If you like murder mysteries centered on a a giant diamond and all other manner of cloak and dagger goodness, I’m thinking this one might fit the bill.

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez—For some reason, I could never bring myself to read this. I know it’s a great book; I’ve heard it from more than one reader I trust. For some reason, however, I just don’t know if I can stand 200 pages of lovers separated by time and custom. I suppose I should just wait until we get a nice spring downpour, curl up with it and some Goobers, and just be done with it.

Completely Random Pick

Nerd Do Well: A Small Boy’s Journey to Becoming a Big Kid by Simon Pegg—Of all the genres I frequent, biographies and autobiographies are the least popular. When I do read them, I’m  the “egghead” type and normally choose presidents, random moments in history, or other books that might help me win at a game of Trivial Pursuit. I rarely read them books about celebrities who are still alive…much less so if they were written by the celebrity him or herself. However, I really like Simon Pegg; I have since Shaun of the Dead. And I was thrilled to see him getting bigger and better parts in films like Star Trek and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. This is his “life story” as it were, focused mainly on how a “funny kid” used what he loved to become who he is today. I’m thinking this might be a fun pick in a category I don’t often visit.

Everything’s Better With Dogs…and Bacon

Ooooh, a challenge this week to be sure! The Broke & the Bookish has tasked bloggers to select a top ten list in any genre we choose. Anything from biographies to graphic novels is fair game. Basically any list is fair game so long as the ten works are in the same sphere.

I thought about romances, swashbucklers, books made into films, fantasy, and any and every other kind of list out there, but all of them led me to the same twenty or so books. Naturally, I couldn’t turn in pablum for this week’s list, so I thought I’d try something different. Ladies and gents, I give you my top ten list for this week…

The Top Ten Books Featuring an Animal


Watchers 
by Dean Koontz—You have to love a book featuring a Golden Retriever that can talk and is being followed by an evil genetically enhanced monster who seeks to destroy him! I bet I’ve read this book five times in my life, and it still makes me giggle in places. Many of the dog’s lines are classics, and our family passes them around like candy corn at Halloween.


The Metamorphosis
by Franz Kafka—“As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a giant insect.” One of the best opening lines in fiction. He has a family who treats him like garbage, and when they’re asked to care for him the way he had for them, they show that they are the true low-life vermin. Such a heartbreaking piece…

Animal Farm by George Orwell—The first time I read this, I nearly lost my mind when Boxer died in the harness for a dream that was never intended for reality. Part political commentary, part Juvenalian satire—Orwell’s brilliant use of anthropomorphism is still unparalleled by any other work of fiction. It takes a harsh look at fascism in a way that makes it immediately accessible to younger readers.


Watership Down by Richard Adams—I’ll have to admit that I’ve never read this one in its entirety. However, I have taught snippets of it in creative writing classes and AP Literature test prep courses. It is quite literally on EVERY “animal book” list out there, confirming what I already know. I’ll likely be diving into this one before the month is out. (Hey! This will help me meet my “three classics quote” for the year!!!)
 

The Lion, the Witch, and Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis—I cannot tell you how many times I got in trouble for reading books from this series underneath my desk when I should have been learning unessential stuff. You know…like math and geography. I hold Lewis responsible for my inability to complete algebraic equations or to find Ghana on a map. However, I can tell you anything you want to know about fauns, satyrs, centaurs, and any and all talking “normal” critters.
 


Flowers for Algernon
by Daniel Keyes—I actually read this one for the first time a few years ago before I taught it to middle schoolers. It’s a sad work to be sure, but man can it generate a great discussion about genetic manipulation, the right to life, individually, being made the way God intended, and other important topics. The students who read it with me were deeply emotionally impacted by this work; it made them more kind to others and more cognizant of how they treated people.


Cujo
by Stephen King—I’ll be the first to say that Stephen King’s epic works (The Stand, Cell, The Dark Tower), the ones that are vast in scope are my favorite. However, they are not the most terrifying of his works. The small scale horror pieces, usually the ones that could plausibly take place, are the most unnerving. I’m thinking works like this one (normally gentle giant dog turned hound of hell), Misery (crazed fan controls you in total isolation), and The Shining (father hits rock bottom with alcohol in a nearly abandoned hotel) are truly gut wrenching.


Old Possum’s Book of Practical 
Cats by T.S. Eliot—There’s something so appealing about this little tome. Perhaps it’s because most of Eliot’s work is heavy and ponderous, caught up in the darker half of humanity, but the rhyming whimsy of this piece always makes me smile. It was Eliot who told us, “The naming of cats is a difficult matter, / it isn’t just one of your holiday games; / You may think at first I’m as mad as a hatter / when I tell you a cat must have three different names.”


Black Beauty
by Anna Sewell—Every girl, for some inexplicable reason, goes through a horse phase. For some, the period only lasts a few months while others try to learn how to draw them as well as ride them as well as collect Breyer figures. (Guess which category I fell into?) This one was unlike all other horse books at the time because the pony in question gets to tell you about how it feels–how nice a nosebag of oats is and how hard life in front of a cart really is. For some reason, I adored this book as a little girl, but I doubt I’d feel the same about it as a grumpy thirty-something. 🙂


The Glass Menagerie 
by Tennessee Williams—Who says inanimate animals can’t qualify a book for this list? The fragile crystal collection is poor Laura’s only source of friendship and understanding. Like her favorite unicorn, she doesn’t quite fit with the rest. The symbolism of this play makes it like that little shelf of knick knacks–perfectly balanced, breathtaking, and multifaceted.

Oooh! Oooh! Pick Me!!!

This week, The Broke and the Bookish want bloggers to discuss our “Top Ten Favorite Covers.” We could make this genre specific or do whatever we wanted to with it, so I decided to take a turn in my local B&N…just to look and not to buy. (Shocking, I know!) I went through every section, scanning the shelves and snapping photos when I saw ones that caught my eye. I haven’t read any of these books, but the covers were all intriguing enough to make me give them a shot.

The Meaning of Wife: A Provocative Look at Women and Marriage in the Twenty-First Century by Anne Kingston—I love the clever (albeit not terribly subtle) cover. The cheerful “something blue” cover and white script font and gaudy diamond solitaire and band scream wedding, but the ring in combination with the gesture make it obvious this book isn’t concerned with “happily ever after.”

Wired for Culture: Origins of the Human Social Mind by Mark Pagel—I do not ascribe to the theory of evolution, so this book really isn’t of interest to me. However, I do like the cleverness of the cover. The combination of a DNA strand and the western world’s most recognizable greeting makes for a compelling statement.

Pure by Julianna Baggott—Unlike the other books featured in the teen fiction section, this one wasn’t covered in sparkles, Gothic font, and a pale-skinned beauty. However, it is a dystopian novel, it is black, and the title is only one word long. This one is about a world post “detonations” where those inside the dome, the “Pures,” are unmarked while those outside are mutated and deformed. I like the clever use of the dirty dome and the butterfly that seems to jump off the dark page. It’s a simple cover, but effective.

H.P. Lovecraft Goes to the Movies: The Classic Stories That Inspired the Classic Horror Films by H.P. Lovecraft—A cool collection of stories such as “The Colour Out of Space,” “The Dunwich Horror,” “Pickman’s Model,” “Cool Air,” and “The Call of Cthulhu” as well as historical background on the author as well as the people who captured them on film. I love the grittiness of this cover as well as the blending of Cthulu tentacles and film.

A Wolf at the Table: A Memoir of My Father by Augusten Burroughs—Rather than the strange humor of Running With Scissors, this one is about the author’s unloving, drunken father and what life was like both loving and hating him. I love the stark color contrast on this one as well as the use of the fork as a representation of the menacing father figure. The dinner table, normally the epitome of “family,” is turned into something entirely different with only a few bent tines.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami—This one is apparently a republished work with several other options for a cover, but I was drawn to this one for some reason. The protagonist ends up in a netherworld beneath the streets of Tokyo. The “strange yet familiar” image–inverted and hollowed–is oddly disconcerting but beautiful.

The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady by Elizabeth Stuckey-French—A woman who was given a radioactive cocktail by a doctor plots his demise only to find out that he has Alzheimer’s Disease and that his family, more broken than she ever was, needs her help. I love the sixties color and font scheme of this, the perfect “little woman” in the center, and the lemon-fresh scent of murder it exudes. It looks like something straight out of a horror double feature. Too cute!

MWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend by Rachel Bertsche—This non-fiction read is about being a married gal on a search for a new girlfriend to spend time with. Apparently, she went on 52 “friend dates” to write this book and find that special someone. Interesting. I like the colorful layout of this, the Google+ circle of friends imagery that makes it look as if many of the women she met overlap. It gives off an overall positive vibe, leading me to believe it’s a fun read.

Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce—A teen fiction read, a little heavy on the drama for me, but I liked the concept behind this cover. The two sisters, Scarlett and Rosie, are two halves of the same whole. However, Scarlett was attacked by a werewolf and lost her eye to it. Now, they hunt wolves, but Rosie wants something more. The intermixing of red and black, not being able to tell where one sister or the wolf begins, is very clever. It’s an eye-catching cover that might get me to dip my toe in the pond to see if the writing was good enough.

The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout—Apparently 1 in 25 (4%) of Americans are sociopaths. That means they have no sense of empathy and will hurt people or animals without feeling a smidgen of guilt. I swear I worked for a sociopath once, so this might prove to be an interesting read for me. The slightly off-kilter blocks of text is a little disorienting, and the eyes are both engaging and disconcerting. All three are looking right at you, daring you to try to figure out which one of them would stab you in the heart with a spoon and not feel badly about it. Without the mouths, it’s hard to tell the difference between a smile and a smirk. Very busy, but a very effective cover.

Insert Mood Music Here

Another gauntlet has been hurled by the staff at The Broke and the Bookish! I decided to pick it up and answer the challenge. Therefore, I give you my list of “The Top Ten Books I’d Give A Theme Song To and Why…”

1. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby—“My Body is a Cage” (Peter Gabriel’s Cover). It is a heartbreaking book, but one that is rich and rewarding all the same. It forces you to sit down and truly contemplate not only what is said but how arduous the saying was. Gabriel’s version of Arcade Fire’s hit song is a perfect match.

2. Hamlet by William Shakespeare—“Weapon of Choice” by Fatboy Slim. Hamlet’s always waffling between options in this play, and his indecision leads to his downfall and that of several of the other characters. For a protagonist who ponders the choice between “To be, or not to be,” the greatest weapon is choice. Plus, I love this song and awesome video!

3. Anthem by Ayn Rand—“That’s Not My Name” by The Ting Tings. Granted, it’s a little too peppy for the content of the novel, but the main characters are named “Equality 7-2521” and “Liberty 5-3000” but choose new monikers for themselves–“Prometheus” and “Gaea” respectively. Since they search for identities not defined by a collectivist society, this little ditty just seemed to fit.

4. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James—“Where Is My Mind” by The Pixies. Ah, the delightful madness that is The Turn of the Screw. Specters that may or may not be there, an empty house, and a half-cracked governess who’s convinced her pupils are more than they seem.

5. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas—“Paint It Black” by the Rolling Stones. What better song for a man who’s so broken and controlled by a burning need for revenge? “I see a red door, and I want to paint it black” is the perfect summation of how Edmond Dantés feels about his love for Mercédès Mondego.

6. Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier—“Cold” by Annie Lennox. For some reason, I adored this book. Perhaps it’s the bristling sexual tension caused the forbidden love between people who share the same vision of the world but not the same social rank in it…or perhaps it’s because Colin Firth played the male lead in the movie version. Maybe both. 🙂 The same tension is in Annie Lennox’s ballad, and it includes many references to color and sensations.

7. Lord of the Flies by William Golding—“Goodbye Blue Skies” by Pink Floyd. Whether it is war or two tribes of boys on a desert island, we’re always far too willing and ready to tear one another apart, aren’t we? I thought something from The Wall was a fitting choice considering the schoolboy elements of the movie, “Another Brick in the Wall” being the most obvious musical connection.

8. Twilight by Stephanie Meyer—“I Honestly Love You” by Olivia Newton-John. I can think of no better song for this piece of literary tripe than this vapid little ballad. And to quote Forrest Gump, “That’s all I have to say about that.”

9. Cane by Jean Toomer—“Strange Fruit” by Billie Holliday. There’s a lot to this book for sure. Half of the stories are set in the South, half in the North. The final story, “Kabnis,” combines the two by bringing a black northerner face to face with his Southern heritage in, of all things, a root cellar. Beautifully structured and far ahead of its time–we’re just now beginning to understand this short but powerful work. It pairs well with Holliday’s pained voice singing of lynchings and the “Strange Fruit” that Southern trees grew at the time.

10. The Collector by John Fowles—“To Wish Impossible Things” by The Cure. For those of you expecting something like The French Lieutenant’s Woman, look elsewhere. This book is a far departure from this author’s more well-known work. A young college student is kidnapped by an obsessive would-be lover and kept much like a butterfly pinned to a board–forever on display in a prison she can neither see out of nor escape. It’s a amazingly tense read, one it’s easy to put yourself in the middle of and experience what it would be like to be completely at the mercy of another. I think this song from The Cure would work well—for what she could have been had he never “collected” her and what he could have been had he never given into his darker urges.

Bug Out Books

I’m married to a nature boy, and I’m not talking about Ric Flair. Nope, my great white hunter is into all things outdoors. Hunting (including field dressing), horticulture, marksmanship, carpentry, beekeeping, raising livestock—you name it, he’s into it. Recently, he’s been watching shows like Best DefenseThe Colony, and this new gem from the National Geographic Channel–Doomsday Preppers. Have you seen this show!? The camera crew goes out to visit different groups, families, and individuals who are preparing for the end of the world by stockpiling weapons and food, creating impregnable fortresses for themselves, learning to live off of weeds and sticks, and coming up with creative ways of generating power using pig poop and recycling their own pee for drinking water. Honestly, I’m not kidding. The couple in Texas they featured in the first episode have built their retirement home using eight steel cargo containers and have packed away 55,000+ pounds of food in it to date!

These people all go above and beyond and are totally prepared for, as REM put it, “the end of the world as we know it.” When the time comes, they can either bug out (which is a military slang term that means “leave a position because it has been compromised by the enemy”) or dig in deeply and ride out the wave of chaos until it ebbs. Then they creep out like roaches covered in Twinkie filling to rule over the smoldering remains of the planet.

So what does all this gloom and doom have to do with a book list? Well, the creative and amazing staff of The Broke and the Bookish have asked bloggers to list “Top Ten Books I’d Quickly Save In the Event of a Natural Disaster.” Hence, I give you my list of what I call “Bug Out Books.”

For a bibliophile, choosing one’s favorite books is a bit like being asked to choose between your children. Do you go for the ones you’ve read countless times, the old standbys, or do you select a wider range of texts to cover all your bases? If you can only have these books for the foreseeable future, are they going to be enough to keep you entertained and stop you from throwing yourself off a cliff into the abyss of despair!? That’s a lot to ask of some paper and typeset letters. However, I have endeavored to select ten for your reading entertainment.

Book number one would have to be my copy of The Holy Bible. I received it as a gift from my grandparents in 2004, and I have been adding my own notes and spiritual observations to it ever since. It is a record of my Christian walk, but–more importantly–it would be the best bulwark against despair I know of.

Are you all tired of me mentioning Jane Eyre yet? I feel like I talk about this novel every other book list. However, when the world doesn’t make sense or seems cruelly unfair, this book helps. Evil is punished, good is rewarded, wrongs are set right, and realistic happy endings are managed. It’s part feminist criticism, part love story, and part fairy tale with a down-to-earth protagonist who is a true “everywoman.”

Technically, Lord of the Rings is a single book, and it’s one that I could read time and again because of the great narrative as well as the good memories I have associated with it. Yes, that is a leather bound copy of it and The Hobbit you see there beside the hardback copy of The Simarillion. And, yes, the bookends holding them up are miniature versions of the Argonath. I also have a Gandalf/Frodo bookend set on another shelf. I’m that huge a Tolkien geek.

Oh, a bonus reason for taking Lord of the Rings? It has a fully sized, pull out map!!! How freaking awesome is that!?

I’d have to have at least one of my literary anthologies. The Norton is the obvious choice, but I gave my copy of it away to a friend whose apartment burned down—destroying her entire library. It was a fate too hideous to imagine, so I was happy to give her a few of my babies, even my precious Norton. I’d likely go with the Bedford as an acceptable substitute if I couldn’t somehow fit both the first volume of British lit and the volume of American lit in my bag.

Not only is Alas, Babylon the one book Wayne has read in his adult life, it is also a book about…you guessed it…a nuclear war! The characters in it are trying to survive in a small town in Florida after bombs drop. There is a ton of practical advice in this one about smoking meat, canning food, making necessary items, and proper bartering techniques. It’s a fantastic fictional field guide. What could be better?

I’d need something to remind me of how beautiful nature was before the end of the world. Who better than Mr. Frost? This is a collection of all eleven of his published books of poetry–everything from “A Boundless Moment” to “Wind and Window Flower.”

The Greater Journey made the list for two reasons. One, I have yet to read it. And, two, it’s autographed. I also have books autographed by Ernest Gaines, Margaret Atwood, Adrienne Rich, and Randall Kenan as well as autographed book jackets from Stephen King and Dean Koontz.

I won a copy of each of Mr. McCullough’s books from the publisher last year, and this one came with his signature in it. (At the risk of sounding like Rex from Toy Story, “In permanent ink, too!”

Once again, a need for order is resolved in Pride and Prejudice, so it would be one of the few books that could calm me down. When you’re bugging out or digging in, it would be nice to read about characters in a world where their biggest problems are their marriageability and what dress to wear to a ball. I am fully aware that I’m oversimplifying Mrs. Austen’s great novel, but you know what I mean, right?

If a pack of marauding Vikings couldn’t totally eradicate this Beowulf, I see no reason why a little nuclear fall out or complete meltdown of the power grid and/or financial system should either…at least not while I’m around to stop it. Otherwise, how else would the world remember Grendel, his mother, or the great epic hero himself?

I know I’ve mentioned this book before, but it fits in this list as well. For some reason, I like to read themed books. If I’m going to the beach, I want to read a book that has something to do with water while I’m either there or travelling to and fro. Heading to France? I simply must read The Hunchback of Notre Dame. A train trip means Murder on the Orient Express. Roland is a man on a quest, a pilgrim without a goal other than the Dark Tower, so with a long, uncertain journey in front of me, this would be the perfect themed read.