What I Read (And What I Should’ve Been Reading)

On top of things I am not.

That being said, I know a brilliant twist on a topic when I see one. Kate’s take on back to school books made me smile and think, which is a reaction not to be taken lightly when reading on the interwebs. What was I assigned to read in school? And what did I read instead? Though, in my case, I did – happily, generally speaking! – do the required reading.


1996: I should’ve been reading Brave New World, and I’m almost certain I did. I have vague recollections of Soma and John the Savage, so I must’ve. Clearly dystopian wasn’t my genre even then… What did I read and love (and remember quite well)? IT by Stephen King. I eventually watched the terrifying movie as well, and now they are coming out with another.

1997: I did read and absolutely HATED Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. My severe opinion has slightly lessened over time, but I’m still definitely not a fan. This was also the year I discovered one of my grandmother’s romances and I still remember it vividly – Sweet Liar by Jude Devereaux (naive Sam, identical twin millionaires, art theft, oh my!).

1998: I remember slogging through One Hundred Years of Solitude and offsetting it with what I considered fluff at the time – Forever by Judy Blume.

2000: For what it’s worth, these years are all estimates. I believe 2000 was the year I discovered that I did, in fact, love Thomas Hardy with Return of the Native. But I didn’t find it shocking or particularly enthralling, so I picked up Go Ask AliceThis didn’t work either, as I didn’t find it shocking and the hype was kind of lost on me. Clearly my cynical nature is long running.

So, long time bookworms, did you offset school reading with leisure reading?


#30Authors: Ed Tarkington on Miss Jane by Brad Watson

_30_Authors#30Authors is an event started by
The Book Wheel that connects readers, bloggers, and authors. In it, 30 authors review their favorite recent reads on 30 blogs in 30 days. It takes place annually during the month of September and has been met with incredible support from and success in the literary community. It has also been turned into an anthology, which is currently available on Amazon and all author proceeds go to charity. Previous #30Authors contributors include Celeste Ng, Cynthia Bond, Brian Panowich, and M.O. Walsh. To see this year’s full line-up, visit The Book Wheel or follow along on Twitter @30Authors.

I am so happy to be hosting Ed Tarkington, his novel Only Love Can Break Your Heart is one of my 2016 favorites (and, quite honestly, he references Bob Dylan in a moment, so…).

Here’s his review of MISS JANE, which quickly put Brad Watson on my radar.


For me, a new work of fiction from Brad Watson inspires the kind of urgency and excitement I feel when I hear that one of my favorite bands is coming to town for the first time in years. Watson’s debut story collection, LAST DAYS OF THE DOG MEN (1997), redefined for me what was possible in writing about Southern experience. His debut novel, THE HEAVEN OF MERCURY(2002), is what you might get if you bred ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE with WISE BLOOD and GERONIMO REX. His most recent collection, ALIENS IN THE PRIME OF THEIR LIVES (2010), felt like the literary equivalent of Dylan going electric. So you can imagine how I felt when I procured an advance reader’s copy of MISS JANE, which I read straight through in two sittings and promptly read again, full of gratitude and admiration. 

MISS JANE is a deeply personal fiction, inspired by Watson’s great-aunt Mary Ellis “Jane” Clay, Miss Janewho suffered a rare genital birth defect which left her both incontinent and unable to have children. In a fine essay posted at his website, Watson explains how he became inspired to write about his great-aunt and the process he undertook to write about her experience honestly and with authority. The result of his efforts is a nuanced, emotionally charged account of how an extraordinary young woman beset at birth by tragedy fashions a rich and memorable life despite enormously adverse circumstances—most significantly, being denied the chance to experience romantic love and motherhood. 

At the center of the story, of course, is young Jane Chisholm: her journey into awareness of her own difference, her heartbreaking process of coming to terms with it, and her brave determination to live hopefully and openly. Even without her condition, Jane faces a hard lot in life. Hers is a poor farming family in Depression-era rural Mississippi. Her mother is cold and distant; her father beset with a weakness for the bootleg whiskey he makes to supplement the family income. Jane’s nurturing comes through her love of nature and her friendship with Dr. Eldred Thompson, who sees in young Jane evidence of something approaching grace. “In my opinion you live on a higher moral ground,” Dr. Thompson tells Jane. “I mean to say you are a good person.”

In MISS JANE, Brad Watson’s prose has evolved from his early style, in which the word-drunk influence of Faulkner and Barry Hannah loom large, toward a sparer voice free of adornment. He seems determined to pull back all artifice and let Jane live and breathe on the page. His depiction of hardscrabble life in rural Mississippi is deeply compassionate, transcending stereotype. Through Eldred Thompson, Watson offers fascinating insights into early twentieth century medical research as well as an endearing portrait of the all but extinct archetype of the country doctor.

MISS JANE will break your heart, but in the best possible way. It is a luminous, haunting tale that nevertheless inspires more hope than despair. Best of all, it arouses the kind of empathy we all so desperately need to nurture and enlarge our own humanity, which seems to me the greatest gift a work of fiction can give us. None of us would wish to bear Miss Jane’s burdens, but we can all learn from her limitless courage and the grace she exhibits over the course of this deeply moving novel by a writer I am convinced will endure in posterity as among the finest of his generation.

Brad Watson can be found on his websiteTwitter, and his book is available here.


Ed Tarkington’s debut novel ONLY LOVE CAN BREAK YOUR HEART was a ABA Indies Introduce selection (top 10 debuts of the publishing season), an Indie Next pick, a Book of the Month Club Main Selection, a Southern Independent Booksellers Association bestseller, and was recently long-listed for the Crook’s Corner Book Prize. A regular contributor to, his articles, essays, and stories have appeared in a variety of publications including the Nashville Scene, Memphis Commercial Appeal, Knoxville News-Sentinel, and Lit Hub. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee.

Find him on Twitter and Facebook, and find his book available here.


Loner by Teddy Wayne

lonerHe’s quiet. He’s shy. He’s insecure.

He’s David Federman, one of the most gifted students to come out of his New Jersey high school. Determined to make a fresh start at Harvard, he tries to fit in and open up to others. He reveals his talents to others. He socializes. Unfortunately, he still finds himself in a group with others just like him. Those who will never quite fit in. Then he meets Veronica Morgan Wells, a beautiful freshman from Manhattan. He knows immediately that he has to get to know her, that they are meant to be together. He starts by dating her roommate, then helping her with homework, and walking her home… David knows he’ll be out of the friend zone soon.

While David is never quite likable, he’s certainly not as he initially seems either, which is what makes Teddy Wayne’s Loner work so well. You don’t know what you are getting into, because if you did, you might not read it. As it turns out, both David and Veronica are hiding things and as the truth slowly unfolds, the darker aspects come to light. It’s enthralling – an actual page turner for me – which is rare, and it’s a different take on a campus novel than anything I’ve read recently. Except in the news*.

*The way the novel concludes is far closer to reality than I’d like. Consider yourself warned.
**Of note, I received a complementary copy of this novel in exchange for my honest opinion.


What I’m Watching, but Mostly What I’ve Watched.

Twilight Zone

Bonus entry! It doesn’t get much more classic than this…

TV is not my thing. I don’t have the patience or inclination for it. I fidget when I watch it. If I don’t, it means I’ve fallen asleep. I am a chronic abandoner of shows (sorry, The Walking Dead and Poldark). Naturally I know all sorts of pop culture references. I am on top of it.

Or not.

However, this doesn’t mean I never watch TV. It just means I have high standards, or so I like to tell myself. And when I do fall for a show, I’m quite devoted. Here’s what has worked for me…(and what I’m looking forward to).

The 100. A fantastic example of the adaptation being FAR superior to the book. Also, the future looks super female. I like it.

Gilmore Girls. I am SO excited for November.

The X-Files. Quite honestly, if you haven’t watched this, you need to take a long look in the mirror.

Stranger Things. I can’t say anything that hasn’t already been said.

Twin Peaks. And old favorite, and apparently it’s also going to be revived…?

Bloodline. A quiet, but enthralling show.

The Americans. Quite the possibly the best thing since Felicity. Which brings me to…

Felicity. Noel or Ben? (Always Ben.)

Justified. Great writing. Great acting. Based on excellent source material (the fabulous Elmore Leonard.)

Deadwood. Brilliant writing, bloody, practically Shakespearean dialogue, and cancelled far too soon.

What do you watch? Past, present, and future…


The List // September

First let’s revisit August, shall we?

  1. Swimming. Done (as seen here, fully clothed, I’m way too pregnant to post myself in actual swimwear.)
  2. Organize two closets. Done.
  3. Paint. Hahaha, nope.
  4. Monitor Craigslist like a stalker. Done, but without success.
  5. Read four books this month. Yes!
  6. Hem the curtains I bought a year ago. No, no, no. Still embarrassed, though I may take the suggestion to use iron on hem tape (thanks, Katie!).
  7. Exercise (beyond a brisk walk) twice a week. No, but with good reason. Higher intensity exercise (than say walking or swimming) is out for the remainder of my pregnancy.
  8. Create one literary mixtape. Done, it’s here.
  9. Finish watching Stranger Things. I said it was tough for me to watch tv and I really meant that. So, another big nope…
  10. Print some of my Instagram pictures (and create our family travel book). Half. I printed some new instagram pictures.
  11. Finish building my fauxdenza. YES. It’s beautiful (for Ikea).

Now onto September…

  1. Go camping in Rocky Mountain National Park. This is absolutely one of those things that reads better on paper than in actual experience, but I’m going to give it a try. I’m hoping to be pleasantly surprised.
  2. Paint. Yep, still on here.
  3. Blog once a week/Read one book a week. I fondly remember a time when this wasn’t necessary to list, but…life.
  4. Get a nursery going. I wish I didn’t care about this, but I do… I am too poor to love good design. Plus the odds of me getting it done after the baby is born are quite low…
  5. Save money. This sort of goes against number four (which still needs to happen at some point, I’m not talking an extensive nursery or anything). But I am definitely coming up to one of my sore points… Unpaid maternity leave! My maternity leave will extend over the most expensive time of the year (Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years), so I better save now.
  6. Cook at home more. I generally do, but lately I’ve been putting in a lot of extra hours at work and my kids have practice and/or lessons until 7… You get the idea. It also ties in with #5.

What is on your list?

(Image found here)

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