Book Report

I read several books a week. Before you get all disbelieving on me, let me say I read several fluff books a week. I read for pleasure. Lots of Mystery, Sci-fi, Romance, Gardening, and DIY books. I read in bed, in the tub, and even in the shower. (Don’t ask me how I do that, because it will remind Mr. GG about our water bill). And I do have plenty of time. I am unemployed. Or retired – one of those things – it depends on what day it is.

Books are critical to my wellbeing. I have always read. When I was little, I used to wedge myself between a chair and a wall register in our living room and read for hours. Sure, I blocked the heat, and my mom couldn’t find me when it was time for chores, but I stayed warm and acquired a pretty impressive vocabulary. I got a new Nancy Drew for every holiday. Geez, do I wish I had held on to those. I read my way through the entire section of fairy tales in our small town library. I read 1940s romances where the heroine was always jaunty and gay and patriotic and said things like, “I’m free, white and 21”, or “there’s a nigger in the woodpile”, when what she really meant was one of the minor characters was a Nazi spy. I read Nero Wolfe, and Conan Doyle. I snitched my folks’ Ian Fleming books. I read cookbooks. I read all the condensed book of the month Reader’s Digest books. I first learned about the Collyer Brothers in those books. One momentous day I found a 1920s book on Tantric Sex that belonged to my grandmother. I totally didn’t get it, but the part about clinging together until your skin glowed fascinated me. I was addicted to Tom Swift and the Hardy Boys. Does anybody else remember Thomas Costain? Or Elizabeth Goudge?

If I ever win the lottery, I am going to donate zillions of dollars to the public library of every town I’ve ever lived in. Books have kept me sane through some interesting times. And say what you may about Andrew Carnegie being a robber baron, in my book, he gets a pass for building all those libraries (“in my book”. Hah, get it? Get it? Hah).

Anyway, if you too, want to indulge in some good stories, I can help you out. I’m going to start you out easy. Maybe break things into categories. You’re bound to find something to read among the following.

First of all, I think everybody should read “The Crossroads Cafe” by Deborah Smith. I have given so many copies of this away, that they should give me bulk discounts. It’s got everything – romance, humor, tragedy, poignancy. You feel good after you read it.

Mysteries
Where to start? Probably not the hard core police procedurals or forensic pathology stuff. Though I find them fascinating. But to ease you into things, how about P.M. Carlson? She writes about a single mother deputy in Indiana. Or Sarah Graves – she peppers her down east stories with home repair tips. George C. Chesbro’s hero, Mongo, is a retired circus dwarf turned University professor, who uses his wit and acrobatic skills to solve arcane, weird metaphysical mysteries. He wrote “The Golden Child”, which somebody turned into an Eddie Murphy movie. David Handler has several books that are wonderful – I especially like the Mitch and Desiree series. Margaret Maron writes about a judge in the south. Please read “Bootlegger’s Daughter”. It is the start of a wonderful series, and you fall in love with the characters. Ooooh, ooh, I almost forgot Kerry Greenwood. She writes a series with heroine Phryne Fisher, a flapper in Australia who acquires a Chinese lover and 2 orphaned girls in the course of her stories. And Phyne wears incredible clothes, eats food that makes you want to put the book down and cook, and does this all with period panache and suspense. One of my all time favorites is the Jane Whitefield set – about a Seneca Indian woman who “disappears” people – relocating them to new lives. If you ever want to vanish under the radar, this series would help you figure some stuff out, but the stories are totally engrossing and I would put these high on my “must read” list. Thomas Perry, the author, also wrote “The Butcher’s Boy”.

Sci-Fi/Fantasy
I’m a sucker for time travel. And alternate history. If this appeals, try “Time and Again” by Jack Finney. A government project trains people to condition themselves to previous times, so they can self-hypnotize their way back. This books has actual period photos of New York, to illustrate where the hero was at various times. This is a keeper.
I also love S. M. Sterling. He has 2 interconnected series about what happens when all the electricity and automatic stuff in the world stops working, and people have to use and adapt older technologies. There’s lots of technical stuff in these books, and a good dose of Celtic Wicca.
My all time favorite fantasy is an older book called “The Witches of Karres”, by James Schmidt. I can’t believe Disney hasn’t turned this into a movie yet.

Romance
Well, I’m addicted to this stuff, and there are so many sub-categories that they write books about the sub categories. But for an all purpose, clever, funny, literate read, try anything by Jennifer Crusie. I especially like “Fast Women”, “Man Hunting”, and “Welcome to Temptation”, which has one of the best lines of our time. Early in their relationship, the hero says to the heroine, “Let me give you an orgasm you don’t have to work for”. Read the book if you want to see how that works out for them.

Gardening
Ann Lovejoy. Her books have pictures, stories, suggestions and plant lists. Because of her, I started growing brugmansias, really cool plants, and not too hard to take care of, either. Her stuff is geared towards the Pacific Northwest, but the writing is superb, funny, down to earth, and engrossing. You’ll be perusing seed catalogs in no time.

Cookbooks
Well, currently my favorite is “The Pioneer Woman Cooks”, by Ree Drummond. So far everything I’ve made has earned a permanent place in my repertoire. She has a blog, and is pretty famous, and a lot of her recipes are on her blog, with pictures. Try the recipe for chocolate sheet cake. If you haunt thrift stores, you can sometimes find “Cookery for 1 or 2”, by Barbara Swain. That’s where I got my Melba Sauce recipe.

That should give you enough to start out with. Why don’t you head on over to Amazon.com and read reviews of some of these books. Or get online and place them on reserve at your local library. That’s what I do. By the way, I wouldn’t recommend reading in the shower – it takes years to develop that skill. If you must, until you are proficient, it is best to only read paperbacks from the thrift store. That way you don’t have to spend a lot of money at the library, buying waterlogged books you have ruined. Just another helpful hint culled from my life experience. You’re welcome.

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