Reading Challenge month 14 ~ A book by a female author


If you’d been here yesterday, you would have read a different post. We would have been listening to Burt Bacharach tunes and I’d have bored you with dim memories of my early childhood, listening to my parents play songs like “Wishin’ and Hopin’” and “Walk On By” in a Pennsylvania living room. Also the snow was falling and it was getting dark.

But those words vanished into the ether just as I pressed “Preview” and so today we start over and you get The Guess Who singing “These Eyes” and H munching potato chips and the dog and cat fighting over the dog bed in front of the fire.

I’m trying hard to think about how to tell you about this book, because I’m still not sure I understand all that I felt when I read it, except that it was one of those too-rare cases of my parceling out the final chapters very slowly in an effort to stave off coming to the end.

A brief summary: Lucy Barton is in the hospital for a number of weeks, suffering an unexplained infection after a routine appendectomy. She has a husband and two children, but they only briefly, shyly, distantly appear in the story. Her mother, from whom she’s been estranged ever since Lucy left home, suddenly appears in the hospital and stays for five days, barely sleeping, sometimes barely talking and sometimes telling stories of the people from Lucy’s childhood. And then, suddenly, her mother leaves.

Most of the time, we’re in Lucy’s mind. It’s not exactly stream of consciousness, but you do get the sense that you’re riding the wave of Lucy’s thoughts without any way to know which shore you’ll land on. You learn she’s lonely and always has been. That she came from “nothing” and she’ll never be able to shake that. That she falls in love with nearly anyone who shows her kindness (her doctor, for instance). That’s she’s a writer (this book we’re reading, in fact, is her first book).

Lucy is sick. Then Lucy gets well. Lucy’s mother arrives, then leaves. Nothing happens, but there’s a growing sense of something maybe about to happen (I always think of it as the “The Remains of the Day Feeling,” where everyone in the story is so buttoned up that you hardly know they’re breathing, but underneath hearts are beating oh so very quickly), not so much a storm approaching, but a gentle rain on the verge of misting down over everyone. Lucy will begin to live her life, to write, to tell her one story.

My story is nothing like Lucy’s, but I felt a kinship with her. Her wondering, her questioning, her self-doubt, her need to be close but often feeling far from people around her. The way she loves her family. The way she loves words. The way life keeps on surprising and even delighting her even in that hospital room.

My Name is Lucy Barton is a delicate thing. I’m aware it’s not for everyone. It’s a fragile egg and I feel that if I try too hard to open it up to you I’ll fracture it beyond recognition. You’ll have to hold it, warm and perfect, in your own hands.

I’ll give you the last words of her story. They don’t give anything away, but, in a way, they tell it all.

“At times these days I think of the way the sun would set on the farmland around our small house in the autumn. A view of the horizon, the whole entire circle of it, if you turned, the sun setting behind you, the sky in front becoming pink and soft, then slightly blue again, as though it could not stop going on in its beauty, then the land closest to the setting sun would get dark, almost black against the orange line of horizon, but if you turn around, the land is still available to the eye with such softness, the few trees, the quiet fields of cover crops already turned, and the sky lingering, lingering, then finally dark. As though the soul can be quiet for those moments.

All life amazes me.”

Our books for this month:

Did you read something wonderful this month? Tell us please!

The category for the coming month is:


We’ll reveal the next category somewhere around the middle of April.

This post is part of our multi-year reading challenge. We’d love to have you join us for the whole challenge or any portion. Take a look at the checklist to see the current category (in green). We’ll announce the next category in the middle of next month.

Reading Challenge month 13 ~ A mystery or thriller


Hello. MM here, stepping in to write this month’s summary of the Reading Challenge.

This month’s selection was A Mystery or Thriller, perhaps partly because of our schedule: it was a dark and stormy end of the semester and finals were on the horizon, and H. is a happy and well-versed fan of Ngaio Marsh—in a pinch, she could fall back on that; and we’ve all read Doyle, one can always revisit Holmes. R also thought she might reopen the Case of Agatha Christie Books she loved way back in those murky dark trees closed together back there behind us at the vanishing point into the deep past, the creaky gate, the unknowable, uncertain almost certainly suspect and threatening, the vaguely sinister and definitely mysterious…1970’s.

But as it happened, fate held a different…fate… in store for us, when a seemingly innocent trip to the local book supermarket took a strange turn, just past Christian Romance Fiction, and led us, unsuspectingly and perhaps inevitably, to the subset of the Mystery section that was dedicated to… “Genre Mysteries”—shelves of whodunits involving cats, dogs, tea, antiques, what have you, whole series of mysteries related to particular special interests readers might have. We thought this sort of thing started and ended with the “The Cat Who…” series by Lilian Jackson Braun, from 20 or more years ago—but evidently Lilian was enough of a success that she’s spawned a subgenre, which I think we can all agree can only be called…copycat crimes.

Some are obviously tongue in cheek, others more serious. Most are potboilers (where does that term even come from), but evidently even those are divisible into two categories—one, books where people are trying to do their best, and shooting for literary merit or at least sales, doing the best they can do. Others are cranked out (that’s the only term that applies) by more “serious” writers looking for some fun or even an outlet for silliness, and maybe snap up some quick sales on the side while watching that Pulitzer Prize receding into a spinning vortex like the poster for Vertigo when you stared at it too hard.

What a discovery. What a lot of fun.

We’ll leave it up to you to discover the awful secret of which category _your_ pick falls into, should you venture into this section of your local Books A Million. Ours by the way still has the masking tape around it in the parking lot from where it dropped dead, as a Borders store, early one morning years ago, and don’t tell me nobody saw anything. West Lebanon is worse than Cannery Row: drugstores everywhere the cops can’t—or won’t— shut down; Supercuts is nothing but a clip joint, and I don’t want to know what Family Dollar does a dollar at a time to feed its kids. But nobody saw a thing when Borders went down. OK, if that’s the way you want to play it.

Anyway, our eventual lineup back at the station looked something like this:

“Rubbed Out – A Memphis BBQ Mystery”, by Riley Adams (Mine)
“Antiques Roadkill – A Trash-n-Treasures Mystery”, by Barbara Allen (H)
“Fillet of Murder: A Deep Fried Mystery”, by Linda Reilly (R)

And yes, as an added fillip, as if the authors (or publishers) were hedging their bets, these books all have recipes at the back, for some of the foods that show up over the course of the very mysterious journey they lead you on. Unsatisfied with whodunit? Maybe some pineapple casserole or bbq loaf will make you feel a little better, like that first shot of rotgut in the morning —just take it from me, and don’t use Mystery Meat, in either recipe.

Did you read a mystery this month? We’d love to hear about it!

The category for the coming month is:

A book by a female author

We’ll reveal the next category somewhere around the middle of March.

This post is part of our multi-year reading challenge. We’d love to have you join us for the whole challenge or any portion. Take a look at the checklist to see the current category (in green). We’ll announce the next category in the middle of next month.

Reading Challenge month 12 ~ A funny book

LB Collection

Writing a funny book has to be one of the most difficult tasks a person can undertake. Maybe it’s just me, but when was the last time that a book made you laugh out loud? (I’m talking about a book that intended to make you laugh; I laughed while reading a few books lately that weren’t at all meant to be funny.)

There are a few writers out there that make me smile when I read them (David Sedaris comes to mind), but so few that I’m going to stop here with a list of one.

There are shelves of humor books, comedians publishing “hilarious” memoirs every month. I’ve thumbed through a few; they make me grimace.

What’s wrong with me? Am I humorless?

This time of year, I’m so desperate to be amused, I laugh at squirrel antics on the bird feeder. I want to laugh. I want to laugh until my sides hurt and my eyes are leaking and I can’t breathe. Is there no printed balm for this longing?

For my 50th, I was given a funny book about tuning 50. You can tell it was meant to be funny because it had a photo of a giant pair of pink “granny panties” on the front cover.

Get it?

Hah hah hah.

Nope. Not funny.

What was funny was I took it along with me on our winter visit to see family, where we got sick and found ourselves upchucking all night long into the hotel waste baskets. Hilarious!

So after 12 hours of that, I’m lying in bed and exhausted and looking for any small thing that might brighten the day. I reach for that pink-pantsed book. The author was really trying to make me laugh, and the more she did her verbal backflips and nudge-nudge wink-winks, the more I despised her. (Yes, Monty Python makes me laugh, as does Blackadder.)

I ended up watching Grease on TV, which wasn’t particularly funny, but it did take my mind off things.

I left that book at a rest area somewhere on the New York thruway, near the vending machines. (Picturing that almost makes me laugh.) Good luck, book. I hope you make someone else cry tears of laughter.

And so I figured my days of laughing at books were over, until M set down a stack of old Lynda Barry comic books on the table next to me. Old friends. I opened the cover of one tentatively, worrying that I’d grown immune to their charms.

No way, no how.

A few pages in and I was laughing. The out loud kind of laughing. The kind of laughing where you stop just long enough to read the line out loud to someone else so they can laugh, too.

For instance, in the very first comic of The Fun House, we meet Miss Bevens, the substitute teacher who has “fake teeth that flipped around.” Okay, that’s kinda funny, but then…”Everyone got at least minus 8 on that math test.”

Yes! That’s funny. I’m laughing even as I type it. Even after rereading it about 12 times. It’s not even the picture that makes me laugh. It’s the phrasing. The image. How could you not be distracted from your math test with that spectacle going on?

Minus 8

Or how about poor Marcie, just a “regular girl with a regular amount of friends.” Again, it’s that perfect phrasing.

A regular amount of friends

And you know those times when you have “hobo feelings”?


Lynda Barry just has that ear. She channels childhood so well I’m always surprised when I remember she’s a grownup. She blows the dust off of memories that I thought were long gone (late nights running the neighborhood, suffering bad substitute teachers, enduring film strips, feeling full of pride over a bicycle with a banana seat and streamers). Her memories aren’t identical to mine, but they’re so close in feeling that they pluck strings that make me laugh in recognition.

She’s not just funny. She’s got a great handle on childhood terror, worry, and wistful nostalgia. Some awful things happen to kids. And some very mundane things. She captures it all with pointed detail. The “ganged up” desks, the comfort of a classroom in the middle of the storm when you’re working on a project, the record player playing hat one “art period song”…  Oh, art period! 50 minutes when you were forced to play with clay.

This Vase, part 1

This Vase, part 2

And that’s what makes the funny all that more funny. It can’t be laughs all the time. But every now and then it can be perfect. So perfect you can’t even blink.


Our books for this month:

So… did you read something laugh-out-loud funny? Something you can recommend to this ol’ grinch? Please do tell!

The category for the coming month is:

A mystery or thriller

We’ll reveal the next category somewhere around February 13.

This post is part of our multi-year reading challenge. We’d love to have you join us for the whole challenge or any portion. Take a look at the checklist to see the current category (in green). We’ll announce the next category in the middle of next month.

Reading Challenge month 11 – A play

I don’t know why this post is so late because I read my play weeks ago and so there’s no good excuse for the delay.

I can’t blame Hanukkah, which passed quietly and beautifully, with friends, with latkes, with brisket, with the growing glow every night, the plastic blue dreidel hidden in a new spot every night (and H having less and less trouble finding it year after year).

I can’t blame the weather, which has been crazily mild. No shoveling cars free, no breaking ice out of goat water buckets, no digging gates free, no stomping trails with snowshoes, no roof clearing. No me swearing and shivering and announcing plans to move to Italy.

I can’t blame work, or the internet, or a busy schedule, or my unfocused mind, or Republican candidate debates, or El Niño, or my sprained ankle, or the books I want to read and the movies I want to watch, or the window I catch myself staring out of, counting birds, wasting time.

No, my only excuse is that I don’t know how to talk about this play, Uncle Vanya, without sounding like a gibbering idiot. I’m afraid to write anything here because nothing I can say will do it justice.

Nothing I can write will properly convey the feelings it stirs up in me of envy (Chekov’s exact-yet-conversational, perfect writing), wonder (the breadth of subjects covered, the emotions, details and concrete gestures packed into so few words), despair (the sad desperation of Vanya, of Sonya, of Yelena), hope (in Sonya’s final speech; in Waffles’ acceptance; in Marina’s pragmatic outlook, make the tea, feed the chickens, offer a little vodka).

Wistfulness, in the filmed version, from the shake of jingle bells, conjuring the snow, departure, the beginning of a long row of days.

It’s not enough to say how much I love this play. How reading it (or watching the filmed version of it) it has become a yearly delight for me in the last 15 or so years.

I don’t know how to tell you how, every time I begin it again, I somehow lose touch with how, by the end, I will be in tears, the kind of tears made of deep sadness blended with deep hope.

Of the tenderness I feel toward the play and its people, and its author.

I don’t know how to tell you, except to tell you… read it. See it. Read it.


Our books for this month:

  • H ~ Much Ado About Nothing, by William Shakespeare
  • M ~ A Winter’s Tale, by William Shakespeare
  • R ~ Uncle Vanya, by Anton Chekhov (translated by Annie Baker)

And you? Did you read a play? Tell us what you thought of it.

The category for the coming month is:

See you back here in the new year… January 11, 2016!

This post is part of our multi-year reading challenge. We’d love to have you join us for the whole challenge or any portion. Take a look at the checklist to see the current category (in green). We’ll announce the next category in the middle of next month.

Reading Challenge month 10 ~ A book of short stories

If on a winter's night a traveler

Technically, yes, If on a winter’s night a traveler is a novel. But it’s a novel stitched together from 10 distinct stories, beginnings of other novels, interleaved with a narrative—humorous, experimental, mysterious, and at times confounding—that’s meant as a scaffold to support the whole.

So let’s call them short stories and, besides, who’s going to tell me what I can and cannot read for my very own reading challenge?


This is a book about books, about reading, and about readers. I read it years ago, as a much younger reader, so many years ago that I couldn’t remember a thing about it, only that vague sense of it being a book I admired, one to keep, one to box and unbox, unshelve and shelve, carry from apartment to house, from year to year.

So I put my reading glasses on (something I didn’t require during that earlier reading) and read the first lines of Chapter 1:

You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino’s new novel, If on a winter’s night a traveler. Relax. Concentrate. Dispel every other thought. Let the world around you fade.

Oddly comforting, that. The author and I both acknowledging that I am, in fact, reading his book. He then advises the reader (me?) to tell the household that I don’t want to be disturbed (“I’m reading!”), to find a comfortable position, to adjust the light, to “try to forsee now everything that might make [me] interrupt [my] reading.”

A good beginning. And then I turn the page and there’s a new beginning:

The novel begins in a railway station, a locomotive huffs, steam from a piston covers the opening of the chapter, a cloud of smoke hides part of the first paragraph. In the odor of the station there is a passing whiff of station cafe odor. There is someone looking through the befogged glass, he opens the glass door of the bar, everything is misty inside, too, as if seen by nearsighted eyes, or eyes irritated by coal dust. The pages of the book are clouded like windows of an old train, the cloud of smoke rests on the sentences.

Can I tell you how much I love that? (You knew I would.)

And just as I begin to get really caught up in the mysterious world of the misty train station, the chapter ends (but the story was left hanging in the air, like the fog), and there’s the narrative again about the reader (is it me, or is there suddenly another reader? I can’t exactly tell), and then the next chapter begins:

An odor of frying wafts at the opening of the page, of onion, in fact, onion being fried, a bit scorched, because in the onion there are veins that turn violet and then brown and especially the edge, the margin, of each little sliver of onion becomes black before golden…

And what becomes of the train station, and the mysterious stranger, and the empty suitcase? In their place is Brigd in her kitchen, kneading ground meat into flour moistened with egg, and very soon I forget about the train station and want to know what happens to Brigd.

And of course just at that point is when her story abruptly ends.

And so it goes.

I have to admit to you (there’s no point in writing here if I’m not going to be honest) that I started to resent those intermediary, narrative chapters. I wanted only the fresh beginnings, the feeling of being dropped into an unfamiliar country and just starting to learn the language and then, again, another new country, another language.

It was a feeling of floating upward on an ever -rising series of notes, a mobius strip of a story that constantly ascends, never repeats, never goes anywhere and never ends.

But of course, it’s a physical book and it has a physical limit. 260 pages in fact. And how it ends? With a beginning, of course.


Our books for this month:

We’d love to hear what you read this month!

The category for the coming month is:


See you back here on December 14!

This post is part of our multi-year reading challenge. We’d love to have you join us for the whole challenge or any portion. Take a look at the checklist to see the current category (in green). We’ll announce the next category in the middle of next month.

Reading Challenge month 9 ~ A graphic novel


I first heard of Nimona when M told H about this web comic that she might like about a shape shifting girl and two scientist-knights.

But I didn’t give Nimona much thought. Not then.

Each Thursday, when a fresh panel was released online, H and M would talk it over in excited tones, wondering what would happen next, reviewing the clues in the panel, speculating on meanings and gestures, the things said and unsaid, shown and unshown.

I didn’t love Nimona. Not yet.

I fell in love with Nimona so gradually I didn’t notice it was happening.

At first, she was just a name. Then she was a weekly anticipation. Then she was a story. A girl. A world. A weekly presence who brought laughter, worry, fear, “the feels”, speculation.

Then she was a book.

Nimona is a girl. We think.

She has a murky past. She may be a monster. She may be a dragon. She may be a kid.

She’s two dimensional, ink on paper, and somehow fully dimensioned.

I fell in love with her hair.
Her not-slender body.
Her wit.
Her honesty disguised in lies.
Her shape shifting.
Her vulnerability.
Her fierceness.
Her smarts.
Her sense of humor.
Her not taking the easy way.
Her small self.
Her large self.
Her strength.

I fell in love with the way she could walk into a world…
and then just walk away, after the important work was done.

I fell in love with her heart.

But, truly, I fell first for that tiny, delicate, insistent, pointed finger tapping on the door. Right then, I had the sense that she’d be wonderful, that she’d enter her own story and blow the doors off the place.



Our books for this month:

We’d love to hear what you read this month!

The category for the coming month is: A book of short stories

Since I’m posting late (again) this month, let’s set the next book due on November 14. See you then!

This post is part of our multi-year reading challenge. We’d love to have you join us for the whole challenge or any portion. Take a look at the checklist to see the current category (in green). We’ll announce the next category on the 11th (more or less) of each month.

Reading Challenge month 8 ~ A book based on a true story

Elizabeth, uncirculated

Here it is the 14th and I’m supposed to be writing my thoughts about this month’s book (which, truthfully, I haven’t finished, though I am enjoying it), but I find myself distracted and impatient—and now days late.

You know how it goes.

I started with thoughts of Queen Elizabeth II, who last week passed Victoria’s record for longest reigning British head of state, but my thoughts are scattering like tadpoles.

For instance.

What did the Queen have for breakfast this morning? I had a slice of apple cake and a cup of “Tardis Tea” while I checked my morning work email. If I were having breakfast with the Queen, I think I might have tried to slip the corgis a chunk of apple. After all, they sit there so quietly, begging so sweetly with their golden eyes. Does the Queen ever slip a bit of roast beef under the dinner table to their waiting, gentle jaws?

I don’t really approve of feeding table scraps to pets, and yet it’s nearly irresistible because it’s such a joy to give that much pleasure to another creature. Last week I made some camelid cookies (I know!) for our neighbors’ new trio of alpacas. We visited them on Saturday and held the treats out on open, flat palms. The least-shy of the alpacas slowly came forward to sniff the offering, then gently glided away.

Oh well. We ate the offered cookies ourselves.

Would the Queen eat an Alpaca-sniffed cookie? I like to think so. The book I’m reading contains great details about palace furnishings, ladies’ evening attire, crown jewels, order of accession, personality quirks, alliances and and antagonisms, but not nearly enough about their pets.

Edward VII (Elizabeth’s great grandfather) loved a little fox terrier named Caesar. I’ve seen a photo of Caesar walking at the head of his master’s funeral procession (reportedly incensing Kaiser Wilhelm II, who was not accorded such honor).

Queen Mary (Elizabeth’s grandmother, and the subject of the book I’m still reading) doesn’t seem like the type to love a dog. She barely seemed to love her own children. It was a different time, I know, but I find it hard imagining her proffering a cookie to an alpaca or kissing a goat on the lips.

But she was only human. She did all the things a human being can and must do. The book doesn’t need to tell me that she had afternoon cravings for something crunchy and salty. That she looking around the house some days and thought, “What a mess.” That she had to trim her fingernails, rub her sore feet, or be surprised by a new grey hair. That she woke up on a Monday morning with a sigh and a sense of heaviness, but was restored by that first cup of tea and slice of apple cake. That she looked at that book she hadn’t finished yet and thought, “Well, maybe I’ll just skim the middle chapters.”


Our books for month 8:

Did you read (or attempt to read!) a true story this month? Please leave a comment telling us about it!

The category for the coming month is:


We’ll see you back here on October 11!

This post is part of our multi-year reading challenge. We’d love to have you join us for the whole challenge or any portion. Take a look at the checklist to see the current category (in green). We’ll announce the next category on the 11th of each month.

Reading Challenge month 7 ~ A book based entirely on its cover


Maybe it was the title. Maybe it was the background colors. Maybe it was the way the title appeared in a doubled, hurried font. I can’t explain it, but I kept seeing this book’s cover and I couldn’t get it out of my mind.

It’s strange, isn’t it? The artwork, such as it is, is mostly just words. Lettering. There’s the suggestion of landscape—a darkening blue sky, a blurr of trees, a dark mass of land, and perhaps at the bottom, train tracks—but that’s all smeared behind the book’s title. What could be so compelling?

Maybe it was the hint of the train ride (you know how I am about trains)? The view through the window as we speed by an unfamiliar landscape. Maybe it gave me an impression of summer adventure where all you have is the pack on your back and a train ticket in your hand.

It niggled at me. I’d see it on a bookshop shelf or in an article about current books, or on a website and I’d wonder about it. I didn’t know anything about the story or its author. I felt somewhat annoyed by its insistence, but I couldn’t get it out of my head.

Eventually, I succumbed to its come-hither whispers and went looking for it at our local bookshop. I couldn’t remember the author, so I scanned the shelves in the fiction section knowing it would make itself known. But it didn’t.

I turned to my right, my eyes flew across the “Mystery” shelves and there it was, smirking at me.

A mystery. Why was I surprised?

I bought it knowing nothing more about it than its cover, its title, and its price. I took it home, set it on the counter, and let it simmer there for a bit. It was no less beguiling in my own home.

I read a few pages to get a taste, and I rapidly fell into its charms: a summer page-turner with enough spine-tingly mystery to make you want to stay up late to find out what happens next.

I immediately distrusted the narrator. I knew exactly what sort of ride I was in for, and I couldn’t put it down.

It’s a story narrated by multiple, perhaps unreliable characters. It’s about knowing versus imagining. Fiction and non-fiction. It’s about glimpses and what you know and what you don’t know and what happens when you observe the world from the speed of a train. Or what happens when the speed of your own life insects the speed of another’s.

The Girl on the Train is not my usual type of book, and I doubt I would have picked it up if not for the cover, but I’m glad I read it, and I give full credit to the cover’s designer, who knows about the seductive power of a speeding train, the glimpse of a blurry landscape through a window, and a book in your hand as the train gallops down the tracks.

Our books for month 7:

We’d love to know what you read this month. Please leave a comment telling us about it!

The category for the coming month is:


We’ll see you back here on September 11!

This post is part of our multi-year reading challenge. We’d love to have you join us for the whole challenge or any portion. Take a look at the checklist to see the current category (in green). We’ll announce the next category on the 11th of each month.

Reading Challenge month 6 ~ A book your mom loves


Stumped, I tell you. I was stumped.

Mom loved to read. We all did. That was plain as day. My growing up houses had overflowing bookshelves and stacks of reading material on kitchen counter tops, desks, and bed side tables. Mom always had a half-devoured book by her chair and a to-be-read shelf in the bedroom. We exchanged books through the mail in regular shipments between Florida and Vermont. “This one’s worth reading,” she’d say. “Have you read the latest Khaled Hosseini?”

But one she particularly loved? A treasured book? A favorite book?

I skrinched my brain hard to think of one and felt so deeply sad that I didn’t know. Isn’t that something you should know about your own mother?

I could make an educated guess. She had favorite authors: Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro, Carl Hiassen. As a kid she loved dog and horse books: The Black Stallion, Black Beauty, Lad a Dog.

Then I remembered Paddle-to-the-Sea, a book she had given Hyla years ago. I mean, she gave Hyla books all the time, but those were ones she found in her travels that she thought would appeal to Hyla’s interests. This one was one she’d also had as a child.

A loved book.

Paddle-to-the-Sea is the story of a little wooden canoe carved by a boy in the Canadian wilderness, just northwest of Lake Superior. He sets the canoe (and its carved paddler) onto a snow-covered hill near his home and waits for spring. When the melt begins, Paddle slides down the hill into a river that feeds the lake, and so begins his journey through the great lakes and out to the sea.

He follows the river, the waves, the currents, the storms, the waterfalls, the locks. We follow along.

Paddle doesn’t speak. He doesn’t have thoughts that we’re aware of. It’s always clear that he’s a something—not a someone—and yet I developed such a fondness for Paddle. I was rooting for him all the way. I worried for him when he was temporarily trapped in a beaver pond, or approaching the blade of a river-side saw mill.

It’s a short book. I read it in half-an-hour in a dwindling afternoon in July. I read it with a voice in my head. A voice something like my own, reading her child a story on some long gone July afternoon.

A story is a current. A story is a voice. A story is a wave, a journey, a seeking. A story is a memory and a thread. A story is the way someone’s love is joined to someone else.

I’ve got a cat on my shoulder as I type this. And my own girl on the porch swing. She’s deep in her own book on a perfect summer afternoon. What’s her favorite book?

I’ll go ask.


Our books for month 6:

We’d love to know what you read this month. Please leave a comment telling us about it!

The category for the coming month is:


We’ll see you back here on August 11!

This post is part of our multi-year reading challenge. We’d love to have you join us for the whole challenge or any portion. Take a look at the checklist to see the current category (in green). We’ll announce the next category on the 9th of each month.