BEA Alphabetically

Just returned from BookExpo 2018/Book Expo America, basically, biblio-nirvana for the bookish.  Now that my brain and heart have returned to normal waves and beats, some observations worthy to consider:


All You Can Ever Know or need to know is highly recommended by Little Fires Everywhere’s Celeste Ng. Thrilled that my ARC (Advanced Readers Copy)  was Nicole Chung’s first inscription of this interesting novel, a journey of identity. 

Barbara Kingsolver wears Naturalizers. This fact, discovered in a brief conversation with Kingsolver, an American literary treasure, solidified absolutely that my world is now complete. 


Can wait to dive into Unsheltered published by Faber & Faber.  

Drunks by Christopher M. Finan, is an historical examination of alcoholism and recovery in our country Addiction is a treatable mental illness, a fact finally here and accepted. Fiction and non-fiction books devoted to this acknowledgement continues to grow. Published by Penguin

"Every weekend, for the last 20 years, C-SPAN2 has featured Book-TV--48 hours of author interviews, readings, panels and book fairs." If this quote sounds familiar, then you'll understand my every-Saturday devotion to Book-TV biblio-journalism and why I froze up like a fangirl when I met Peter Slen. Proudly will enjoy a cuppa with my Book-TV mug for the next twenty.


Forecast themes: Activism. Korea (See A). Themed cooking-travel

"Girl" titles finally on the wane. Mostly. Thank god. 

H.R.H. royalty is still hot. Curtsey to BBC Masterpiece Victoria, The Crown and the wedding. And Corgis.


I missed Ransom Riggs. Feeling peculiar and hollow. 

Just discussed Barry Joseph's Seltzertopia  yesterday. Nu? Wishing Berhman House had the ARC availableHowever, my Jacksonville. Florida audience was bubbling for more about Barry's upcoming title. 

Yes, that's Dr. Ruth Westheimer holding Barry Joesph's  Seltzertopia  and he with her graphic novel,  Roller Coaster Grandma . 

Yes, that's Dr. Ruth Westheimer holding Barry Joesph's Seltzertopia and he with her graphic novel, Roller Coaster Grandma

Kingsolver. See literary Queen B.

Lines oh-so long and sinewyly silly for individual pub house author signings: there must be a better way.

Massage therapists. Obvious necessity for BEA 2019. Glad the survey asked!

Nick Offerman was solicited by pub house rep, proposing woodworking show host deal. NO’s courteous declined leads one to believe that this idea is already on Dutton’s drafting table.


Oblivious I was the the 10.6 miles walked within the Javitz Center in one day. 

Puffin + Penguin + Pantone = partnership with incredible potential, that, alas, needs way better press. Phaidon needs no presslift  as its beautiful books trigger biblioswoontopia.  

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Quote books. Everywhere. See Phaidon.

Roz Chast. Neurotically adorable. As only a neurotic would know.


Selznick, Brian celebrates Harry Potter's 20th. Yes, 20 wizarding years and still, no one has gotten hint: Hermoine's time-turner necklace pour moi.


Titles found, worthy of Chapter Endnotes Readers' time. From authors who are living. Robustly aerobic. See, I’m open.

Useful. Only so many book bags can one book lover employ. And then it becomes hoarding. 

Visqueen. The consistency of my brain because of the bibiloverload. 

Wishing it would rain for a month so I could sit inside and read. 

X. My phone fell on the floor during a commonly-experienced event: a freenzy over free fill-in-the-blank-biblio tchochkes. Some lovely soul spotted it and returned it to me within the world's longest 10 seconds. 

Yoku means bathing. Shinrin Yoku is a Japanese term for forest therapy, like feng shui for the outdoors, or, the maternal wisdom, "Go outside and play." Either way, Yoshifumi Miyazaki's, Shinrin Yoku The Japanese Art of Forest Bathing is a beautiful book about about the therapeutic wonders of Mother Nature. Try it. You'll like. it. 

Zero reason to complain. The crowds were full of kind, nice people. The lines, full of same. Panel discussions, interesting. Authors, gracious. A zen community, all lovers of the written word. 


This almost Ashrei or OULIPO-esque post gratefully acknowledges that Jan and Mike Molyneaux and Desiree Bailey of Jacksonville, Florida's San Marco Books and More are to be credited, thanked or blamed for unleashing my inner Laocoon behavior at Black-Friday-fueled-biblio furvor at BEA in NYC. From wherever your perch where you read this epistle, please support your local bookstore. 

I'll be discussing BEA on National Public Radio on Tuesday. Tune in to NPR's WJCT 89.9 FM First Coast Connect Book Club, 9:30 am EST. Or download the app. 

Strong Women of the Books











And you.

Join me for a discussion of recent strong women who have crossed our pages.

See below for details.

April 14. 1pm. Main Libary.

After we've explored literary strong women, join me next door at Jacksonville's MOCA for a free docent-led tour of A Dark Place of Dreams, featuring the works of artists Louise Nevelson with Chakaia Booker, Lauren Fensterstock and Kate Gilmore. 

See you soon!



Privy to the Unedited Life

What makes a diary compelling?

Why are we drawn to read the personal private observations of another?


Perhaps it is just that: personal, private, unfiltered thoughts offer a truthful, honest reading experience. Everyone wants to be that fly on the wall.


I just finished a diary by Mary Boykin Chestnut,* a book that allowed me to be that bug and fly back in time, perched on the parlor walls, in the highest of Southern societies during the Civil War. The topic of slavery in the American South is painful and incomprehensible to me. Perhaps this explains why I am drawn to the Civil War and its history.


Chestnut’s diary gave me the opportunity to see the Civil War through the lens of a female and that alone was intriguing. Mary Boykin Chestnut was:  a slave owner, a wife, a friend, a mother, a secessionist, a racist and a finely-schooled and “well-bred” South Carolinian hostess. Her entries fascinated me because her point-of-view was unalike other accounts I had read of the war. And diaries play out in real time. I knew the outcome of Ft. Sumter, McClellan’s failure to launch, Sherman’s destruction and Gettysburg’s horrendous toll. Mary takes the full impact, page by page.


Published diaries offer us the chance to read intimate observations of known events as they unfold in front of the author. Experiencing, without hindsight or analysis. Mary chronicle’s her royal personal world that begins like a grand tour and collapses almost like a “one hoss shay.”


I’ve just begun another book of recollections.  Bullwhip Days: The Slaves Remember by James Mellon. This book is not one person’s diary but a collection of 29 oral histories of former slaves, recorded as part of the WPA’s Federal Writers Project in the 1930s. The oral histories from this book were selected from over 2,000 interviews. These recollections reflect the same time period but through the opposite end of the human spectrum, the slave.



Diaries and oral histories serve as an excellent reading experience and important historical, educational and cultural primary source of life during an agonizing period in our United States.



Diary as Literary Tool


For the same reasons that true diaries fascinate us, fictional diaries offer that same pull. Below you’ll find a top-rate list of books that employ the diary style.


To explore more about Mary Chestnut:   

For an in-depth look at slavery and first-before-you-go-anywhere-else-must-see if you visit Charleston, South Carolina, check out The Old Slave Mart Museum.


To walk in the same footsteps of Mary Chestnut and learn more about plantation life for owners and slaves, visit Eliza Leach’s House at Middleton Place and do not miss the daily explanations of the house given by Middleton Place’s knowledgeable docents. Mary refers to visiting Middletown and socializes with the Middleton families.  Magnolia Plantation’s tour of its Slave Quarters offers insight as well as the preserved Drayton Hall.


The Old Slave Mart Museum also has a great wealth of books on this topic for sale in its store.


*The full book title: A Diary from Dixie: the Civil War's most celebrated journal, written 1860-1865 by the wife of James Chesnut, Jr., an aide to President Jefferson Davis and a brigadier-general in the Confederate Army




Here are some fictional diaries and diary-inspired titles for your consideration:


Diary of a Provincial Lady
by E.M. Delafield 

A wonderful series. If only I could write like Delafield!


Go Ask Alice
by Beatrice Sparks

Scared me to death. Scared me for life.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Diary of a Wimpy Kid, #1) 
by Jeff Kinney

If you have a child that hates reading, you might want to try the Wimpy Kid series

The Perks of Being a Wallflower
by Stephen Chbosky 

Flowers for Algernon
by Daniel Keyes 

Summer Reading…


by William Shakespeare 


The Woman in White
by Wilkie Collins


by Bram Stoker 


by Toni Morrison

by Chuck Palahniuk 

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
by Anne Brontë 


by Charlotte Brontë


The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

by Mark Twain


Most of the Sherlock Holmes stories

By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

“Watson” writes them as entries


And Certainly the Most Influential and Non-Fictional Diary:


The Diary of a Young Girl

by Anne Frank 


I’ll be discussing this diary in more detail in an upcoming post.


Join me tomorrow 9:30 a.m. during 89.9 FM WJCT's First Coast Connect Book Club to discuss diaries in literature.

Consider checking out a diary for your next book. You’ll be privy to shared insights and new perspectives. However, before I crack open the first page, I want to know whether the diary is fiction of truth. Why?


Go Ask Alice,


Stacey Goldring




Brief History, Horrifically Real



A Brief History of Seven Killings is a heavyweight. 

Marlon James’ 2015 Man Booker has been described as a masterpiece.
I am thinking more like a monstrous feat.

The tome is told in brilliant dialect, placing you directly in 1976 Jamaica and the convoluted  attempted murder of Reggae icon Bob Marley. 

James exposes and boldly bares the horrific poverty and violence of the tumultuous corrupted Jamaica of 20th midcentury. Frankly, I wanted to fast forward through the endless painful descriptions of brutal murder, rape and torture. Marlon intertwines a Rashomon style, allowing the reader to understand the A Brief History from a multitude of perspectives, cultural, political and personal. For those that just couldn’t get through the book because of the use of dialect and the truly grisly brutality, I suggest you listen to the audio book because it will quickly streamline your understanding and thus make the book a virtual page turner. And you can fast forward through the uncomfortable chapters that you would otherwise have to face. 

On the flip side, books like this are exactly why book club discussions are vital and important. Many books on my shelves are there because I read them for a book group. And, I am grateful I was exposed to these stories because these messages, themes and ideas expanded my understanding of the world. Before you give up or turn down a title because you “don’t read those kinds of books” or you “only read bios” or whatever your druthers, remember that book clubs offer you titles to enrich your literary and cultural landscape. If you don’t want to learn, keep reading the same old comfy thing. Nothing wrong with your favorite pair of literary jeans! Just know a whole literary wardrobe is available to you on the bookshelves of the library.

Or, you can just wait for A Brief History to show up on TV. HBO has plans to make it into a series. 



Radio Days

Discussing literature every month on the radio is an incredible privilege. For over three years, Melissa Ross, host of First Coast Connect, has invited me into the 89.9 FM WJCT's studio to talk about everything from Allende to Zora. 

This month, both great authors were mentioned on the segment, which was televised.


Lesson learned: One must be always ready for their close up. Even on the radio.