#3: My Nightstand

The parade of birthdays through my life has left in its path a sprinkling of confetti-colored pairs of reading glasses. I need them readily at hand in all the places I spend time – on the coffee table near the bay window in my sun-drenched living room, on the kitchen island, on the end table beside the chair where I watch TV, and in the car. I have a pair in every purse. Well, let’s be honest, that would be in my one current purse which, much to the consternation of my more fashion forward friends and family, I persist in carrying for every occasion and through every season, often year after year. I browse airport kiosks, funky gift shops, and even Whole Foods for ever more playful frames as the magnification numbers climb steadily higher – 1.00, 1.50, 2.00 and soon 2.50. “A privilege of being on the right side of the grass” I remind myself.

The cheery frames perch on top of all sorts of reading material throughout my house: my journal, the most recent Sunday New York Times, a stack of catalogs, my grocery list, a recipe I printed out from epicurious.com, the latest edition of O Magazine, and any number of books I’m currently reading. Books are everywhere, even stuffed into my purse and the pocket behind the passenger seat of my car. The current favorites always migrate to where they’ll get my most focused attention, the place of honor, my nightstand.

These days, in addition to printed books, I also have an iPad with three different apps for reading and my iPhone with audio books from Audible.com and iTunes. I suppose most people have just one book going at any given time but that would not be me. Familiar aphorisms become popular for a reason and none is truer than “So many books, so little time.”

Whenever I’m catching up with a friend, a question I always ask is “What are you reading?” I follow lots of literary blogs and websites and am an avid reader of all manner of lists touting exciting new works of fiction and non-fiction alike. Cathy Langer, the lead book buyer extraordinaire at our local world-class indie bookstore, The Tattered Cover, has never steered me wrong. A visit with her also means we get to catch up on what’s happened in our lives since we both worked on the now sadly discontinued Rocky Mountain Book Festival. Yeah, I’m a little obsessed with what’s new and wonderful in the publishing world.

Over the years, my friends and family have lovingly tolerated my spirited and often embarrassingly lengthy touts of my latest favorite book. Some have actually sought out my recommendations. So it seems natural to let you all in on the fun and include here a list of the books I’m high on right now. We may get into sharing favorite catalogs, cookbooks and magazines later, but for now, check out the books in My Nightstand in the right-hand margin of this page. If you click on the title, you will be linked to its listing on the Tattered Cover’s online site. You can have that little gem on its way to you with just a couple more clicks.

Here are some brief enticements for you to head over there and start clicking:

“Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” by Cheryl Strayed – After her mother died quickly of cancer when Cheryl was only 22, all four wheels came off. Overwhelmed by her grief, she veered off into a perfect storm of bad decisions around sex, alcohol, drugs and the trajectory of her life. Without ever spending one night backpacking, she undertakes a 1,100-mile, solo hike with an 80-lb pack and boots a size too small in an attempt to take back her life. This masterful storyteller recounts her odyssey with unblinking honesty in a voice that convinces you she’s your new best friend. This is one of the hottest books out there and deservedly so – it’s going to be bigger than “Eat, Pray, Love” not only because it’s better written by several orders of magnitude but because you can feel Cheryl’s irresistible heart beating powerfully on every page.

“Contents May Have Shifted” by Pam Houston – I have been a huge fan of Pam’s since “Cowboys Are My Weakness.” I was privileged to take a workshop from her at a secluded retreat center in the Rockies many years ago and I’ve been faithfully using several of her writing techniques ever since. We are both travelers at our core and this latest book takes us along on her journeys from Texas to Tibet in 144 tiny jewels of brave, insightful, well-crafted prose. Her voice has developed a beautiful patina over time but her stories still spark with the frisson of exciting adventures and the clear ping of truth.

“When Women Were Birds: Fifty-four Variations on Voice” by Terry Tempest Williams – This book was just published two days ago and although I don’t have it in hand yet, I can unconditionally recommend it. I have known and loved my dear friend Terry for decades and have been following this book’s journey through her Twitter feeds. Beginning with becoming the caretaker of her mother’s journals after her death, which many of you will remember from “Refuge,” Terry explores the character, power and meaning of women’s voices.  Her actual voice is so special you might want to wait until the audio book is published, which I know she has already recorded. As usual with her work, I’ll undoubtedly have it in several versions.

There are more, so many more, but now it’s your turn. What’s on your nightstand?

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2 Responses to #3: My Nightstand

  1. Nancy says:

    Random thoughts from reading your blog: First I LOVE getting book recommendations. It often takes me months and months to act on them but just the knowing what to look for makes me happy. Second, it’s such small things that make me both miss my mom and smile at her memory. Your glasses everywhere, that’s a Classic Mom Memory!!!
    The Naysayer: Never occurred to me that it could be a HE. hmmmm. Nope. It’s me–all female and the me at about 5th grade and beyond. For years now I have been working on returning to the ME of age 5 or 6. Joyous without judgmental awareness…a work STILL in progress, but so much closer than I used to be. 🙂 Travel frees me up to be whomever I want to be, much like play does for a 5 year old. Ahhhhh play. Let’s go outside.


  2. ON my nightstand are my copy of Wild (read it last weekend in preparation for dinner/workshop this weekend – hope to see you there!); “Catcher in the Rye,” which I’m gradually reading out loud to my husband who NEVER READ IT (!); my Nook with “Jane Eyre” that I’m reading aloud to my daughter; some books about memoir writing to try to motivate myself; “As I Lay Dying,” which I have been intending to re-read since a workshop with Bill Henderson at Lighthouse Writers Litfest last year; a collection of Flannery O’Connor stories that I pick up in a desultory fashion; “Descanso for my Father” by Harrison Candelaria Fletcher (also recently read, published last month); and the doors of the nightstand are slightly ajar because I keep stuffing the teetering stacks of books inside. A couple I am eager to start on are “Ten Thousand Saints” by Eleanor Henderson (?) and an Iris Murdoch book I just found at Goodwill (can’t remember the title, but her work always haunts me afterward).

    I think we share a problem.


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