Reading Roundup – because reading is better than a spa day

Last week I went to one of those do-it-yourself spas, the kind where you stand in a tanning machine, lay on a massage bed or put product on your face and sit under a LED facial hood.  It was a bit of a let-down, especially since I’m very fair-skinned and don’t want a tan in November.  I’d purchased a week worth of services via Groupon but after my second visit decided that lounging on my sofa with a good book is far more relaxing and rejuvenating than going to the spa.

So, on Friday, when I’d originally planned to do another facial and bake in the sauna pod, I stayed home and read a chunk of Ann Packer’s “Dive from Clausen’s Pier”.  Last night I finished it.

I’d discovered Packer when I read “Swim Back to Me”, her collection of stories, this summer.  In both books she tackles tough, emotionally charged issues like death, disability, grief, love and the complexity of choosing what is right for oneself.  Infused with compassion, Packer’s writing shows the subtleties of relationships with moving and exquisite detail.  Her characters are so palpably real, you worry and cheer for them the way you would a dear friend.

I’ve read a lot of great books this year and hope to highlight more of them in future blog posts.  For now, here are two other books I’ve enjoyed reading in 2011:

  • “Leaving Van Gogh” by Carol Wallace.  I read this book because I was browsing agent websites in search of a new read that hadn’t been reviewed in all the major magazines.  While perusing the authors on Emma Sweeney’s website, Sara Gruen’s agent, I discovered Wallace.  (A quick note on Sara – she used to be a technical writer, so she’s kind of my hero.)  Wallace’s book was fascinating historical fiction that made me stop and Google Van Gogh several times so I could see some of the paintings she described so beautifully.  What a difficult undertaking to use only words and capture the emotion, creativity and sensory experience of art.  She stimulated all my senses without my ever leaving the living room.  And as a one-time declared psychology major, I also found the mental health and historical psychology intriguing.  When I finished, I felt as though I’d learned something.
  • “The Earth, My Butt and Other Big, Round Things” by Carolyn Mackler.  I read this YA book because it was on a 100 most banned books list and the title cracked me up.  I really enjoyed it and recommended the book to my 15 year-old daughter.  Mackler deftly and appropriately handled subjects like teen sexuality and the parent/teenager relationship.  This book is a wonderful way to open a dialogue with teens, to talk about the stuff that’s going on in their lives.  Frankly, I think it’s ridiculous that there are people who’ve gotten it banned from their school libraries.  They must want their world to taste like lemon-scented Lysol spray – the kind you use when you want to cover up the fact that you haven’t cleaned the house.  Yeah.  I’m totally against banning books.
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