Search results for: aryn kyle

Boys and Girls Like You and Me: Stories by Aryn Kyle

Snap 2014-05-28 at 19.25.34Around May 21ish I learned it was Short Story Month. As a sucker for just about anything book related, I decided I would fit a collection in before month’s end, in between book club, Book Bingo, Snotty Literati and all the other book commitments I have made. Somehow, some way, I would do it. But what would I read?

Fortunately, the speed at which I purchase books far exceeds the speed at which I read them, so there’s always something on hand. Enter, Aryn Kyle’s collection, Boys and Girls Like You and Me. I picked up a mint-condition, used copy of it at a favorite independent book store a few years ago for a steal and I remembered liking her debut novel that my book club had read a few years back. So that made things easy. It also didn’t hurt that this collection features written stories of women and girls messily making their way through life and love. And before you start doing the math and thinking that women/girls + drama + love + sex = dumbed down, porny, chick lit. You are wrong. Try again.

Boys and Girls Like You and Me features 11 stories, all of which tackle topics we have all faced: love, loss, betrayal, despair. Rather than being overdramatic, Kyle shares the awkwardness, pain, and humor that so many relationships experience, wether involving a parent and child, friends, siblings, lovers, or even acquaintances. In the collection’s opener, “Brides”, Grace loses her virginity and her best friend Dilly after the friendship of convenience experiences an irrevocable breach of trust.

The first man I slept with kept his eyes closed the whole time. We did it in a prop room of my high school theater on the leather sofa my parents had donated to help me get a part in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. It would have been better if my mother could have sewn costumes or if my father could have built scenery. But since my mother didn’t sew and and my father said he would rather drive a nail through his tongue than building cardboard shrubbery, they gave the theater department two hundred dollars and the sofa we’d kept in the garage since our dog chewed through the arm rest. And voila. Townsperson Number. I had a line too: Somebody get the pastor!

Grace and Dilly aren’t boiled down to catty caricatures, rather they make choices that girls their age make. While they may not be the choices all high school girls would make, they are highly probable ones and certainly not out of character.

Kyle captures character well, presenting each stories’ protagonist with perspective changing moment. For 12-year old Tommy, the heart of “Captain’s Club”, it’s the night he sees an uncommon Blood Red Moon while on an unlikely Spring Break cruise and his first time away from home.

But when, at last, Tommy began to cry, it was not because of fear or loneliness or disappointment, but because there was so much beauty, too much beauty for his small body to hold, because some people, most people–his mother and sisters and sweet, pretty, Tree, who would never, ever love him, people he had not yet met and strangers he would never know, his father–would live their whole lives and never see this moon, because here he was, only twelve, and already he had seen it.

My favorite of the collection is the title story. Haven’t we all stayed too long in a job that didn’t challenge us, with a partner who couldn’t appreciate us, in a house that wasn’t right for us? And how did we break out of that funk? When it has been my rut, it has always been a break in the monotony or drama or whatever through which a sliver of light illuminated something completely unexpected. That’s what happens when the unnamed protagonist, who is in a dead-end relationship with a married man, working in a job where she writes term papers for students, living in a shitty apartment’s life changes when she meets Iris.

The girl working the register is the teenage vampire from my apartment building, and when I set the movie on the counter, she looks down without touching it. She is pale and razor-thin, with dark, frightening eye makeup and dyed black hair that falls over her face like a hood. “Have you seen this move?” she asks, and I say that I have. “This movie’s fucked-up.”

She runs one hand through her hair, and when it lifts away from her face, I realize that she’s younger than I thought–fourteen, fifteen at most. This surprises me because I have more than once seen her drunk outside the apartment building kissing her boyfriend and, on one occasion, puking in the bushes.

When she pushes the video across the counter at me, her nails are short and jagged, her cuticles raw. I should make sure to return the the movie by Friday, she tells me. The late fees here are ridiculous.

The video is not returned on time, fees are racked up and the two seemingly different characters’ lives become shockingly similar. Much to the dismay of the narrator, she is forced into a situation where she must help Iris. It’s this moment, the break in the chaos that shakes things up, breaks up the chaos and changes her perspective and trajectory.

This is a solid debut collection, and one where each of the stories has a clear beginning, middle, and end. This genre is a tough one and tough to do well. Kyle has proven in her first attempt that she’s a talented storyteller and one I hope we see more from in the future.

AMENDMENT! So, when you purchase faster than you read and you read all the live long day, you don’t even catch that you already read a short story collection this month! Thankfully, both were delights; even though I forgot about the other one. Read my review of the other one. It really was good. Promise.

A Decade of Great Reading

Snotty Literati’s Best of the Decade

As crazy as it might be, we will try to identify the Best Books of the Decade.  

So many books are published every year. This “canon” has been promulgated throughout history. It is, thankfully, morphing to include more diversity. In truth, we all miss reading plenty fabulous books. Today, we ask—humbly, cautiously, hesitantly—what books should readers not miss. Before we go for it, we need to admit that we might miss awesome books. However, these are the books that we hope you don’t miss . . .

To make these lists, the books have to stand some test of time. We continue to think about them in some way or another.

Best Fiction of the Decade

Lara’s Picks

  1. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  2. News of the World by Paulette Jiles
  3. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
  4. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
  5. Little Bee by Chris Cleave
  6. State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
  7. Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf
  8. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
  9. There There by Tommy Orange
  10. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain

Jennifer’s Picks (Um, I thought and thought—and I had to do more than ten.)

  1. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  2. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
  3. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  4. The Neopolitian Quartet by Elena Ferrante (I’m immediately cheating, but I really can’t distinguish one from the other anyway; they totally blend and run into one another.)
  5. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain
  6. Busy Monsters by William Giraldi
  7. The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson
  8. Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli
  9. of Speculation by Jenny Offill
  10. State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
  11. Home by Marilynne Robinson
  12. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
  13. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Best Nonfiction (Non-Memoir) of the Decade

Now, we are not big readers of nonfiction. However, if you are like us mega-fiction readers, you might like the nonfiction we like.

Jennifer’s Picks

  1. We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  2. American Audacity by William Giraldi
  3. Them: Why We Hate Each Other – and How to Heal by Ben Sasse
  4. Theft By Finding: Diaries (1977-2002) by David Sedaris – pub this decade despite being older
  5. Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson

Lara’s Picks

  1. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  2. The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care by T.R. Reid
  3. Columbine by Dave Cullen
  4. Unbroken by Laura Hillendbrand
  5. Bad Blood by John Carreyrou

Best Memoirs of the Decade

We love us a good memoir. Whether by a celebrity or regular person, it’s always interesting to learn someone’s story, their world, in their own words.

Lara’s Picks

  1. Let’s Take the Long Way Home by Gail Caldwell
  2. Dear America: Notes of An Undocumented Citizen by Jose Antonio Vargas
  3. March Books 1-3 by Representative John Lewis (a must-read trio of graphic memoirs)
  4. The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Strapani (another graphic memoir)
  5. The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan
  6. Becoming by Michelle Obama
  7. A Three Dog Life by Abigail Thomas
  8. Educated by Tara Westover
  9. One More Theory About Happiness by Paul Guest

 Jennifer’s Picks

  1. You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie
  2. Lab Girl by Hope Jahren
  3. The Recovering by Leslie Jamison (I love The Empathy Exams and Make It Scream, Make It Burn too)
  4. Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood
  5. Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
  6. Calypso by David Sedaris
  7. Just Kids by Patti Smith
  8. Educated by Tara Westover

Best Young Adult Books of the Decade

We are hit or miss when it comes to YA. We aren’t super into vampires and dystopia, but we have a cult classic on our lists. We lean more to the more literary, realistic, character-driven YA. If you do too, there’s a lot to pick from here!

Jennifer’s Picks (I’m not a huge fan of YA, so listen to Lara.)

  1. The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins (ended in 2010)
  2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (I’m listing this twice; I, personally, wouldn’t call it YA—but most people do.)

 Lara’s Picks (clearly, I read way more YA than Jennifer does):

  1. The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins
  2. Wonder by R.J. Palacio
  3. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
  4. Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum
  5. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
  6. If Jack’s In Love by Stephen Wetta
  7. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Best Short Story Collections of the Decade

Short stories often get the short end of the stick. Here are some worth your time.

Lara’s Picks

  1. Boys and Girls Like You and Me by Aryn Kyle
  2. One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories by B.J. Novak
  3. The Freak Chronicles by Jennifer Spiegel (yep, the same one I write with)
  4. This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett
  5. Single, Carefree, Mellow by Katherine Heiny

Jennifer’s Picks (Isn’t Lara nice?)

  1. Blasphemy: New and Selected Stories by Sherman Alexie
  2. The Other Language by Francesca Marciano
  3. One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories by B.J. Novak

(I’ve read many, many others that are good – but I’m deliberately being picky, so our readers don’t miss these.)

Best Audiobooks of the Decade

The science is out! Audiobooks are as much reading as reading is reading. But the narrator(s) can make or break your listening experience. Here’s our list of surefire bets!

Jennifer’s Picks (I think I like audiobooks narrated by the author best – just to hear how they read their own prose. I still listen to other narrators.)

  1. You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie
  2. Lab Girl by Hope Jahren
  3. The Recovering by Leslie Jamison (I love The Empathy Exams and Make It Scream, Make It Burn too)
  4. Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood
  5. Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli
  6. Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
  7. Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology by Leah Remini
  8. Calypso by David Sedaris
  9. Theft By Finding: Diaries (1977-2002) by David Sedaris – pub this decade despite being older
  10. Just Kids by Patti Smith

Lara’s Picks

  1. Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli (narrated by the author)
  2. Born a Crime by Trevor Noah (narrated by the author)
  3. The Nix by Nathan Hill
  4. My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
  5. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  6. The Power by Naomi Alderman
  7. You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie
  8. The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer
  9. Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache Series 1 – 14.
  10. The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell

If you have made it this far, we are grateful and surprised. You have enough to read or listen to for the next decade. If you read any of the above (or have already done so), let us know what you think in the comments.

Until next time… Happy reading, Snotties!


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By |December 27th, 2019||2 Comments

2016 Summer Book Recs

Book Your Summer with These Great Reads

Kick back poolside or at the beach, swing lazily in a hammock, or snuggle up on cozy couch and grab one of these books. This isn’t the list Bill Gates would recommend. But that’s okay; this one is better.

So you want some family drama to escape your own?


Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg
A home explosion leaves Alice Reid’s lover, daughter, and her daughter’s fiancé dead on the eve before the wedding. Devastated and directionless, Alice hits the road in attempt to find meaning while those she leaves behind attempt to understand.

The Girls by Emma Cline
Evie Boyd leaves her broken family for a different kind of dysfunction—a cult. Cline’s debut hearkens back to Manson family days and you won’t be able to put this book down. Promise.

So you like to escape with historical fiction?


All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doer
It’s 1940 in Paris. A young, blind Marie-Laure and her father flee home to escape the Nazis. Meanwhile in Germany, Werner, an expert at building and fixing radios, gets recruited into the Hitler Youth Academy. Gorgeous prose brings these two together in a most astonishing way.

Green Island by Shawna Yang Ryan
It’s 1947 in Taiwan. Dr. Tsai delivers his youngest daughter only to be captured weeks later by Chinese Nationalists and imprisoned on Green Island. The decades long drama spanning two continents covers the love, isolation, betrayal, and survival across two generations of the Tsai family.

So you like to read YA while on holiday?


Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
What is there to do in 1986 when you are 16 and living in Omaha, Nebraska? Not a whole lot, actually. Eleanor Douglas has flaming red hair, a full figure, and an eclectic sense of style. Park Sheridan is half Korean and short for his age. He’s also more inspired by comics and alternative music than his father’s love of taekwondo. At the outset, the pair is an unlikely match. But after school bus bullying leaves Eleanor without a seat, Park acquiesces and scoots over, keeping his ear buds firmly in place. As the days progress, Eleanor begins sneaking peeks as Park reads his comics, and a complicated friendship forms. The two share mix tapes, uncomfortable feelings, and first love in a book that captures teenage crushing and conflict perfectly.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Cadence Sinclair has spent every summer on her grandparents’ private island near Martha’s Vineyard. Reuniting each year with her cousins, Johnny and Mirren, and family friend Gat, the fearsome foursome comes to be known as The Liars. But summer 15 proves eventful,l and Cadence is involved in a horrible accident, leaving her with severe migraines, a tainted memory, and unable to return for summer 16. It’s the following summer that the horrifying truth is revealed.

 So you like books that will break your heart but keep you reading?

Gut WrenchingMe Before You by JoJo Moyes
Sweet and quirky Louisa Clark is out of work and unaware of her potential. Arrogant and wealthy Will Traynor is a former playboy and adventure-seeking, hot-shot executive struggling to live life as a quadriplegic after a shocking motorcycle accident. Louisa reluctantly signs on as Will’s daytime caregiver and companion as a means for employment. She quickly finds herself overwhelmed but intrigued by the stubborn and sarcastic Will. He is miserable; she is persistent. Together, they make an unconventional pair in this gut-wrenching love story.

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
Jude, JB, Willem, and Malcolm meet in college and create unique bond that spans four decades. This friendship feels as tight as a close-knit family, but it is not without strain and heartache. Jude is the glue that holds the four together, despite his inability (or is it unwillingness?) to truly share himself and the unimaginable trauma he experienced as a child. This trauma has recurring impacts on the four as they navigate their lives and it tests their friendship in ways they could have never imagined. Heart-wrenching, maddening, and completely compelling, you won’t want to put it down.  

So you’re more into classics but still want to read something relevant?


To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Don’t let the hoopla around Go Set A Watchman fool you. If you are going to read a book by Harper Lee, it must be her classic, To Kill a Mockingbird. It has stood the test of time and proves itself as relevant today as it did when it was originally published in 1960.

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
If you missed it as a kid or if it’s been fifteen-twenty years, now is the time. Holden Caulfield is the adolescent/innocent abroad in Manhattan in a no-doubt tamer era. But his angst is still poignant, and so very touching. You’ll be laughing and maybe even crying some at his attempts to find just a little peace and understanding.

So you want a highly readable non-fiction book in which you’ll learn something and still be entertained?

Non-Fiction A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles by Mary Elizabeth Williams
First, it’s Mary Elizabeth. Second, it’s a game-changer. Third, it’s best—tongue-in-cheek—when writers get cancer since they write better. Williams was a young mom of two girls when she was diagnosed with Stage Four melanoma. What follows is a medical miracle, and Williams talks love, family, friendship, and science. Real science. Made accessible to the likes of non-science types. It’s amazing, and the ramifications will touch many. Plus, she includes a nice and important shout-out to Gilda Radner.

This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett
This collection of essays reads like fiction because that’s how good Patchett is. Reading this will teach you that non-fiction doesn’t have to cover history or require heavy lifting. Instead, in the right hands, stories of life, love, marriages (both bad and good), art, and dogs can keep you turning pages.

So you don’t have time to commit to a full-blown novel? 

StoriesSingle Carefree and Mellow: Stories by Katherine Heiny.
If you don’t want the commitment of a hefty novel, pick up this collection of stories that will have you cringe at the characters bad choices while reveling in the great writing.

Boys and Girls Like You and Me: Stories by Aryn Kyle
Looks like chick-lit. Sounds like chick-lit. So much better than the typical chick-lit.


That should keep you busy for a bit. Chime in and let us know your thoughts on these or any other great reads you pick up over the summer.

Happy Reading, Snotties!

By |May 31st, 2016||6 Comments

A Story A Day…

Short Story MonthWant to up your reading game but don’t have a lot of time? Are you a sucker for a challenge? Well, we have a treat for you! May is National Short Story Month and the perfect time to make a major dent in your reading by knocking out just one story a day!

“But I don’t really like short stories.” – Lara, about a million years ago.

Sound familiar? If you like reading, you can find a short story collection—or maybe even two—that you will like. Promise. And to help you find one, we are sharing some of our favorite collections (and single stories) for you to check out.

If you want to get social about it, join us on Instagram and post any images from your Story-a-Day-in-May adventure with the following hashtags: #StoryADayInMay #SnottyLiteratiStoryChallenge. We hope to see you there! Now for the gems, in no particular order.

Lara’s Pick: The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
The best war stories you will read. And by “best,” I mean hardest and most sobering. These stories should be required reading.

Jennifer’s Pick: The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien.
I hate to copy you. These linked stories are also a philosophy on storytelling, a how-to in good-writing. They’re amazing.

Lara’s Pick: One More Thing by B.J. Novak
This really clever collection has one of my most favoritest stories of all time. And it’s super short. So short, I can show you:

Child: “Why does carrot cake have the best icing?”
Mom: “Because it needs the best icing. “

Jennifer’s Pick: One More Thing by B.J. Novak
Obviously, you know what the first two books you read need to be. This guy writes smart prose that’s delish.

Lara’s Pick: Come to Me by Amy Bloom
I read this years ago and it was one of the first collections I remember enjoying. Uncomfortable subject matter. Feels a bit voyeuristic.

Jennifer’s Pick: Anything by Lorrie Moore.
I feel like Lorrie Moore taught me how to use the exclamation point. She’s one of the few writers who really knows how to write in second person. And I fell to my knees when I first read “People Like That Are The Only People Here.”

Lara’s Pick: Cowboys Are My Weakness by Pam Houston
I’ve never been a Marlboro Man kind of gal, but Houston’s collection had me wanting to trade in city life for quiet spot under a big sky with the strong, rugged, and silent type.

 Jennifer’s Pick: CivilWarLand in Bad Decline by George Saunders
Come to the Master.

Lara’s Pick: Boys and Girls Like You and Me by Aryn Kyle
Looks like chick-lit. Sounds like chick-lit. So much better than the typical chick-lit.

Jennifer’s Pick: Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson
Is it a novel or a story cycle? Whatever it is, it’s quiet—like still, deep waters. I keep wondering why no one’s made it into a movie.

Lara’s Pick: The Freak Chronicles by Jennifer Spiegel
I am allowed to recommend Jennifer’s collection, but she is not. My biggest problem with many short stories is their lack of closure. This collection will take you across the globe and back, with beautifully written prose, and a whole bunch of closure.

Jennifer’s Pick: Drown by Junot Diaz
I’d read anything he wrote.

Lara’s Pick: Single, Carefree, Mellow by Katherine Heiny
I have friends who don’t like books because the characters weren’t ethical or repeatedly made bad choices. If you can get past that and just enjoy the writing, check out this collection.

Jennifer’s Pick: The Other Language by Francesca Marciano
I feel, slightly (since I don’t know her at all), like Francesca and I grew up together. Rules of the Wild was her novel when we were young and free in Africa. This is when we’ve arrived at womanhood, mature and wise. Still so damn beautiful.

Lara: The Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
Rarely do I agree with the Pulitzers. This time, I did. Lahiri’s debut collection grabbed the top literary prize and exposed me to life on the other side of the world.

Jennifer’s Pick: Try out some hit singles. “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” by J.D. Salinger, “Hills Like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemingway, “The Country Husband” by John Cheever, “Good Country People” by Flannery O’Connor, “A & P” by John Updike, and “Girl” by Jamaica Kincaid.

Surely, after all of that you can round up thirty-one stories to read in May. And if you do, we’d love to hear about your experience! Follow us on Instagram! @OneLitChick and @JenniferSpiegel. And, remember the hashtags! #AStoryADayInMay #SnottyLiteratiStoryChallenge

Happy reading!

By |April 24th, 2016||0 Comments

Book Bingo 2014

The 2014 Book Bingo Finale! Dorks at Large

For the second year in a row, Lara and Jennifer played “Book Bingo.” You might remember how it works from last year’s game. We read, over the course of one year, books that meet the requirements of 24 categories. Just so you know, we do this with other people. We aren’t the only total book nerds. But we admit that it meets certain latent and non-latent needs. And props to Lara for actually completing her card this year.

BBingo2014Today, as we kiss the year goodbye, we thought we’d review how the game was for us (check out the card we used on the right). So this is how we happily met the book bingo requirements (you call it OCD; we call it intellectual stimulation):

You can follow the links to either individual book reviews or Snotty Literati book reviews where applicable.

An Author’s Debut Novel
Jennifer: Magnificent Vibration by Rick Springfield
Lara: The Dog Stars by Peter Heller

A Current New York Times Bestseller
J: One More Thing by BJ Novak
L:  The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

A Book of Nonfiction
J: Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup
L: Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us by Seth Godin

A Play
J: The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
L: 4000 Miles by Amy Herzog

A Fellow Book Bingo’s Favorite
J: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
L: Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

A Classic (widely read, at least thirty years old)
J: Miss Lonelyhearts by Nathaneal West
L: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

A Book with a Color in the Title
J: Red Moon by Benjamin Percy
L: Sky of Red Poppies by Zohreh Ghahremani

A Book That Has Been Made Into A Movie
J: This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper
L: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

A Short Story Collection (originally, An Anthology, the group agreed short stories would count)
J: The Other Language by Francesca Marciano
L: Boys and Girls Like You and Me by Aryn Kyle

A Graphic Novel
J and L: MAUS  I and II by Art Spiegelman

A Book Recommended by a Family Member
J: The Secret Thoughts of and Unlikely Convert by Rosario Champagne Butterfield
L: The Last Night at the Ritz by Elizabeth Savage

A Book of Poetry
J: Little Oblivion by Susan Allspaw
L: erotic poems by e.e. cummings

A Book by an Author You Have Read Before
J: Bark by Lorrie Moore
L: Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

A Memoir
J and L: This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett

A Book in Translation
J and L: The Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vásquez

A Book with a Number on the Cover or in the Title
J: Worst. Person. Ever. by Douglas Coupland
L: One More Thing by BJ Novak

A Book Outside of Your Comfort Zone
J: Fighting for Flight by JB Salsbury
L: A Highly Unlikely Scenario, or a Neetsa Peetsa Employee’s Guide to Saving the World

An Award-winning Book
J and L: The Good Lord Bird by James McBride

A Book You’ve Been Meaning to Read
J: The Circle by Dave Eggers
L: Wonder by RJ Palacio

A Book of Comedy/Humor
J: Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris
L: Someone Will Be With You Shortly: Notes from a Perfectly Imperfect Life by Lisa Kogan

A Young Adult Novel
J: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
L: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

A Book You Chose Because of the Cover
J and L: The Swan Gondola by Timothy Schaffert

A Book About the Entertainment Industry (fiction or nonfiction)
J and L: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? And Other Concerns by Mindy Kaling

A Self Help Book
J: The Object of My Affection is in My Reflection by Rokelle Lerner
L: It’s Just a F***ing Date by Greg Behrendt and Amiira Ruotola-Behrendt

Now, the Much-anticipated Q and A…

Which book surprised you the most?

Lara: I am going to have to say Wonder. It’s a book written for middle-schoolers that I read with my son. I thought it would be good. I had no idea it would be fantastic. As I wrote in my Best of 2014 round-up, it’s the story of what can happen when you value people for who they are, not for what they look like or how they are different. It’s a book that shows how similar we truly are despite the differences that make us unique and, ultimately, special… While considered juvenile fiction, Wonder is a book for all ages.

Jennifer: All the good ones, right? It’s surprising to love them so much? But maybe not. I wasn’t surprised that I loved Lorrie Moore, Francesca Marciano, or James McBride; I would’ve been surprised to not love them. Maybe it’s the bad books that are most surprising. I thought I’d love Douglas Coupland’s new book, because I’ve always thought of him as a compatriot of sorts.  Hip, nerdy types with a love of art, urbanity, irony, and the coolness of the uncool? But this book was awful. It makes me sad to say this about a book written by the author of one of my favorite books of all time (Generation X).

Which book was the most disappointing?

Lara: Hands down, it would have to be erotic poems by e.e. cummings. I love him. Well, let me say, I love his poem i carry your heart. I adore it. Even though it has now been in a ton of movies and is tattooed on hundreds of girls’ ribcages. I love it. I probably shouldn’t judge a poet on one poem but I did, and I had really high hopes for this collection, which was lackluster at best.

Jennifer:  See the above. Coupland. (I think you should give e.e. cummings another chance.)

Which book did you have the hardest time with?

Lara:I am not into science fiction at all, so I really struggled with Rachel Cantor’s A Highly Unlikely Scenario. I wasn’t able to connect with the characters. The title is a mouthful. Whenever I read sci-fi (which I only seem to do for Book Bingo), I am hopeful the book will be the one that helps me turn the corner and become a fan. Alas, I am still waiting.

Jennifer:  Well, in a good way, I found Shakespeare pretty tough. I have to admit to being Shakespeare-phobic, which is lousy since I’m an English teacher and all. I’ve managed to avoid Shakespeare a lot in life; however, I was required to teach it to a bunch of high schoolers, so I bit the bullet. I read it slowly, with notes, twice. (Can you believe that?) I watched the film version with Al Pacino. And I finally got it!

What made your out-of-comfort zone book out of your comfort zone?

Jennifer: Well, we know I’m the snottier of the two of us. It’s well documented. Besides my proclivities for strictly defined literary fiction, I also tend to get a little whacky when it comes to chick-lit. Having written a book called Love Slave, I’ve become super adept at saying, very loudly, “It’s literary fiction, damn it!” So there are many, many genres that are out-of-my-comfort-zone.

I chose Salsbury because we know one another, she’s really pretty successful, and she’s a bit of a self-publishing goddess—writing what I think she’d call “contemporary romance.” I hadn’t read her stuff, so I tried it out. (I think she tried out my book too; I don’t think it worked out for either of us.) I kinda felt—I don’t want her to hate me—that it was more Fifty Shades-ish than I like.  When I think of contemporary romance, I think of Ann Patchett and her husband, and their most excellent road trip they took in an RV. Wasn’t that the sweetest, most romantic thing, ever? I think of Lila and Ames in Marilynne Robinson’s latest novel, Lila—which was very sexy, in my opinion. Sizzling. Last year, for this category, I read The Hunger Games—which I ate up. Like I’m wearing Cinna t-shirts now. Next year, I’m thinking Stephen King.

Lara: I think I am too much of a realist to appreciate sci-fi.

Your self-help book: should we be worried?

Lara: You should be worried. The state of dating today is utterly depressing. Let’s just say I thought 20-year old frat boys were a problem. They are worse when they are in their forties.

Jennifer: I told my husband he could pick the book I’d read for this category, knowing perfectly well he believes I’m saddled with a host of personal psychoses. For a while, he joked about making me read some kind of How To Please Your Man book. Minimally, I expected a treatise on taming my Type A Beast. But we both kinda let it drop. Then, I wanted to read this book on Narcissism, because it fit in with my novel-in-progress, and my hairdresser—who is also a drug counselor working on an MA in psychiatry or something like that—recommended it. So, I read Lerner, though it’s not really very self-helpish.

What have you learned from book bingo?

Lara: I’ve learned that I like having a little direction with regard to my reading, without being told exactly what to read. The structure, combined with the freedom of choice, is a perfect blend. I also love checking things off—and Book Bingo gives me that sense of accomplishment.

Jennifer: I’ve learned that it’s good—actually, it’s great—to read widely, diversely. I know that it’s benefited me tremendously to read books I just normally wouldn’t, ranging from YA to poetry, from Shakespeare to nonfiction. I’ve valued the opportunity to look outside of my own limited tastes.

Name some books you wish you read in 2014, but didn’t get to.

Jennifer Lara
All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran
The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
Euphoria by Lily King Landline by Rainbow Rowell
The Heaven of Animals by David James Poissant The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan
Revolution by Russell Brand Some Luck by Jane Smiley
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Thirty Girls by Susan Minot Choose Your Own Autobiography by
The Unamericans by Molly Antopol Neil Patrick Harris



By |December 30th, 2014||0 Comments

What I Read in 2014

Best BooksThe Best, The Worst, The Rest


  • I had a goal of reading 36 books this year and complete my Book Bingo Card. However, I am being pressured to complete this post before year’s end. I intend to complete my Book Bingo Card by December 31, but will fall short of my total reading goal. I realize this is a total first world problem.
  • Not all of these books were published in 2014; they are just the books I read during 2014.
  • I wrote reviews for some these books, mainly joint reviews with my snobby reading friend Jennifer Spiegel (under our stage name: Snotty Literati). Whenever there’s a review, I include the link. Whenever there’s not, I don’t.
  • I would love your thoughts on any of my thoughts. I would also love your thoughts on any books you think I should read. I am all about the thoughts. I want them. I am greedy for them.

Now, on to What I Read in 2014…

The 10 Best Books I Read in 2014

1. Wonder by R.J. Palacio (2012). Not only is this my favorite book of the year, it goes into my list of all-time favorites. It’s the story of what can happen when you value people for who they are, not what they look like or how they are different. It’s a book that shows how similar we truly are despite the differences that make us unique and, ultimately, special. I probably also love it because my son read it too and announced it was his favorite book. While considered juvenile fiction, Wonder is a book for all ages.

2. This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett (2014). My love for this woman and her way with words is well-documented. This collection of essays is geared for writers, but I encourage anyone who enjoys good storytelling or wants a different perspective on how to be good at something to read this book.

3. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (2013). If you ever felt misunderstood, different, an outcast, or even normal angst during your adolescence, then Rowell is your gal. She writes with humor and grace about the awkward beauty of growing up and urgency and total everythingness of falling in love. Add to that the backdrop of the 80s and you have YA perfection.

4. The Good Lord Bird by James McBride (2013). Earning The National Book Award for Fiction, The Good Lord Bird is a humorous and provocative historical novel chronicling Abolitionist John Brown and his storming of Harper’s Ferry. McBride creates a motley crew, while throwing in some well-known members of the anti-slave movement. A truly great read.

5. The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty (2013). The title and pink flowers on the cover scream beach read, chick lit, and maybe even Lifetime movie. But trust me—this is lit for the clever and witty chick. Like you. The chick reading this column right now. Moriarty has architected a smart story that follows three disparate storylines that all converge in a way that will take you by surprise. If you liked Where’d You Go, Bernadette then add The Husband’s Secret to your reading queue and pop it up to the top. Oh, and if you haven’t read Bernadette yet… what are you waiting for?

6. Boys and Girls Like You and Me by Aryn Kyle (2010). The problem with so many short stories is their structure, or lack thereof. They often don’t wrap up very tidily and I find myself asking if I missed something. So imagine my delight when I come across a collection of stories that each has a clear beginning, middle, and end. And they are interesting, a little weird (in a good way), and really well written. That’s this collection. Check it out. Amazon has only one copy left.

7. What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty (2012). More clever chick lit from Moriarty, and this was actually written before Hubby. I read both of her books for my book club and we all enjoyed this one (but Hubby was better). Nonetheless, a breeze of a read with highly engaging characters that will keep you turning the pages.

8. Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal (2005). I would have never even heard of this book, let alone picked up this gem of a book were it not for my Book Bingo group and a little square that required us to read a fellow player’s favorite. As much as I want to write as eloquently as Ann Patchett, I would be happy to write as creatively, succinctly, and resonantly as Rosenthal does here in her memoir formatted like an encyclopedia.

9. The Complete Maus I and II by Art Spiegelman (1986, 1992). This is the only graphic novel to make my list and the only graphic novel to ever receive a special citation from the folks at Pulitzer. The artist and storyteller is the son of a Holocaust survivor who uses the comic book medium to tell of his father’s harrowing experiences and their subsequent, challenging relationship.

10. The Last Night at the Ritz by Elizabeth Savage (1973). It’s 1960s Boston, and an unnamed and unreliable narrator walks us through a history of martini lunches, affairs of the heart, betrayals of friendship, books, and feminism as she celebrates her birthday at the Ritz with her dearest friend. Lush sentences about books, boys, and booze make this a highly enjoyable read. The

Honorable Mentions
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
The Swan Gondola by Timothy Schaffert
The Home Place by Carrie La Seur
Sky of Red Poppies by Zohreh Ghahremani
The Weight of Water by Anita Shreve Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

The Book I Should Have Read by Now
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

The Book I Read for a Second Time (and Enjoyed as Much as I Did the First Time)
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

The Books I Wanted to Like More than I Did
The Dog Stars by Peter Heller
The Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vasquez

The Book I Should Be Embarrassed to Have Read But Am Not (Okay, I Kind of Am…)
It’s Just a F***ING Date by Greg Behrendt and Amiira Ruotola-Behrendt 4 stars

The Binge-Reading-Instant-Gratification-Total-Crack-Candy-Crushers (aka Totally Empty Afterward)
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

The Book that Is On So Many ‘Best Of’ Lists… But not Mine
Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeymi

The Bad
Beautiful Bodies by Laura Shaine Cunningham
Erotic Poems by e.e. cummings
A Highly Unlikely Scenario, Or a Neetsa Pizza Employee’s Guide to Saving the World by Rachel Cantor

That’s all I’ve got! Peace, love, and books! See you next year!

By |December 16th, 2014|2014|7 Comments