10 Memoirs That Explore the Mother-Daughter Relationship (in remembrance of Debbie Reynolds & Carrie Fisher)

Shortly after the deaths of Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds on subsequent days, Susan Dominus examined the strained relationship between this mother and daughter in the New York Times: Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher, a Mother-Daughter Act for the Ages. Dominus writes:

There is something about celebrity mother-daughter acts like the one lived by Ms. Fisher and Ms. Reynolds that capture the imagination in a way that famous father-sons simply do not.

I’d say we can leave out the words celebrity and famous. Even the most ordinary mother-daughter relationship is archetypal, fraught with push-pull, attract-repel, love-hate, bond-reject, up-down, engage-disengage, support-undermine dynamics.

The HBO documentary Bright Lights, first aired on January 7, 2017, further reveals the intertwining lives of Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds.

And here are 10 memoirs that focus on the relationship between mothers and their daughters:

Fierce Attachments by Vivian Gornick

Returning to My Mother’s House by Gail Straub

Don’t Call Me Mother by Linda Joy Myers

The Liars’ Club by Mary Karr

Then Again by Diane Keaton

Blue Nights by Joan Didion

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson

Traveling with Pomegranates: A Mother-Daughter Story by Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor

Mother Daughter Me: A Memoir by Katie Hafner

We’ll Always Have Paris: A Mother/Daughter Memoir by Jennifer Coburn

 

© 2017 by Mary Daniels Brown

National Book Critics Circle: National Book Critics Circle Announces Finalists for 2016 Awards – Critical Mass Blog

The National Book Critics Circle, founded at the Algonquin Round Table in 1974, honors outstanding writing and fosters a national conversation about reading, criticism and literature.

Source: National Book Critics Circle: National Book Critics Circle Announces Finalists for 2016 Awards – Critical Mass Blog

6 Books About Martin Luther King, Jr. for Readers of All Ages | TIME

In honor of the civil rights leader‘s birthday, here are five books on his life and legacy for readers of all ages.

Source: 6 Books About Martin Luther King, Jr. for Readers of All Ages | TIME

Last Week’s Links

He Fixes Cracked Spines, Without an Understudy

A wonderful story about Donald Vass, who cares for damanged books for the King County Public Library system near Seattle, WA. At age 57, Voss is approaching retirement age, but there’s no one to take his place.

NOT MY SHERLOCK

There was a lot of discussion on my Facebook feed about how bad the first episode of the new season of BBC’s drama Sherlock was. I don’t watch the show, so I can’t comment. Here, dedicated Holmes fan Brittany Cavallaro discusses how the making of a series from a canon of self-contained stories affects the way the persona of Sherlock Holmes is presented.

Sherlock’s New World Order

Josephine Livingstone uses that first of the season’s Sherlock episode as a springboard to a larger discussion of the role of detective fiction in society:

Murder mystery detectives usually live on the outskirts of society, or they pass unnoticed (Miss Marple, Father Brown) under the noses of authority. But that very outsider status depends on a stability at the middle of society. That stability is now wobbling. For as long as Sherlock can winkingly engage with its own tradition without becoming an absurd relic of a time of lost safety, it will succeed in helping its viewers escape their lives. But if it continues to overreach, to act out its plots on the global stage, the show will fall apart.

Considering the Novel in the Age of Obama

Christian Lorentzen looks at fiction as it represents the cultural times of various American presidents.

What will we mean when someday we refer to Obama Lit? I think we’ll be discussing novels about authenticity, or about “problems of authenticity.” What does that mean? After the Bush years, sheer knowingness and artifice that called attention to itself had come to seem flimsy foundations for the novel. Authenticity succeeded storytelling abundance as the prime value of fiction, which meant that artifice now required plausible deniability. The new problems for the novelist became, therefore, how to be authentic (or how to create an authentic character) and how to achieve “authenticity effects” (or how to make artifice seem as true or truer than the real).

According to Lorentzen, four types of books have sprung from “four strategies of approaching the problem of authenticity”:

  1. autofiction, “narratives that appear to do away with much of fiction’s familiar scaffolding”
  2. fables of meritocracy, “often satiric”
  3. historical novels set in the near past
  4. narratives that “have placed the experience of trauma — rape, pedophilia, homophobic abuse, incarceration, the horrors of war — at their center”

This is a long read, but it’s well worth the time and effort required for the analysis of several recent novels within this framework.

Meryl Streep’s 10 Best Book-Based Movie Roles

In honor of Meryl Streep’s anti-Trump speech, here’s a look at her best book-based movies:

  1. Kramer vs. Kramer
  2. The French Lieutenant’s Woman
  3. Sophie’s Choice
  4. Out of Africa
  5. Ironweed
  6. Postcards from the Edge
  7. The Bridges of Madison County
  8. Adaptation
  9. The Devil Wears Prada
  10. Julie and Julia

I’ve seen eight of these films.

What About You?

How many of these have you seen?

 

© 2017 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Video Games Are Changing the Hero

Videogame heroes take up a larger amount of people’s imaginations today than they ever have before. In the cultural economy they are as big a force as the heroes in books and movies. But as relatively new as videogame heroes are, some still question their ability to impact us on the level of more traditional art.

Jon Irwin argues that the hero’s story in a video game is not static, locked in, as it is when we read a book or watch film. Rather, when we take on the hero’s persona while playing a video game, the hero’s story plays out according to the decisions we make along the way. He backs up his point with references to scientific studies.

There’s an interesting point to contemplate here: in a video game we don’t merely observe a character, we become the character. How does this changed perspective affect the way we understand the significance of the hero’s story?

Reading Etiquettes for Dummies

What I am going to tell you is the correct way to read

I’m always a little suspicious of any title telling you what you must or should do. Nonetheless, Naina does have some good advice for anyone whose New Year resolution is to start a reading program.

However, most of you reading this blog will already be avid readers, with your own ways of approaching reading. I’m curious to hear:

What is your reaction to Naina’s directives? Do you use any of these approaches, and do they work for you? Let us know in the comments.

Fahrenheit Zero: 7 of the Best Novels Set in the Depths of Winter

As yet another snowstorm blankets the Northeast, settle in for a reading adventure with one of these “novels that explore winter in all of its forms, from the tragic to the comic, and from the terrifying to the transcendental.”

Farewell to the reader in chief

In the San Francisco Chronicle John McMurtrie bids a fond farewell to President Obama, who “has been an exemplary ambassador for literature, a leader who has championed reading as a way to open our eyes to the world, to nurture understanding, to see ourselves in others.”

McMurtrie also takes a look at our next President-Elect Trump, who “claims he doesn’t have the time to read.” McMurtrie ends with a call to action for writers and other artists:

there is no reason that these coming years cannot be a time in which writers, and all artists, create meaningful works, works that celebrate the true wealth of the world in all its diversity of peoples and cultures and experiences, works that question and provoke.

What Doctors Can Learn From Looking at Art

Medical schools and hospitals are beginning to include the reading of literature in their training programs for physicians. Here Dhruv Khullar, M.D., explains why:

Therein lies the significance of learning through art: It is subtle and indirect, yet it ingrains insights deep within your consciousness. You feel and know even before you can think or speak.

 

© 2017 by Mary Daniels Brown

Books, Movies & TV to Look for in 2017

Now that we’ve finished up with lists of the best books of 2016, it’s time to start thinking about the best books to read in 2017.

Spring 2017 Announcements: All Our Coverage

Publishers Weekly has us covered with a look at the following categories of books:

  • Art, Architecture, & Photography
  • Business & Economics
  • Comics & Graphic Novels
  • Cooking & Food
  • Essays & Literary Criticism
  • History
  • Lifestyle
  • Literary Fiction
  • Memoirs & Biographies
  • Mysteries & Thrillers
  • Poetry
  • Politics & Current Events
  • Romance & Erotica
  • Science
  • SF, Fantasy, & Horror
2017’s Most Anticipated Movie Adaptations

The movie industry has obliged our curiosity and anticipation with a schedule heavy on book- and fact-based stories that run from animated family films to thrillers and comedies, sequels and continuations, comic books and biopics, war films and romance. There are two gigantic Stephen King adaptations on the docket, and sci-fi/fantasy fans with a literary bent have three eagerly awaited films coming this year.

5 Nonfiction Books We’re Excited to Read in 2017

If you’re into current affairs, true crime, science, or history, we think you’ll love these soon-to-be-released books.

What You’ll Be Reading in 2017

John Williams of The New York Times point out some books, both fiction and nonfiction, he’s looking forward to in 2017.

Which Books Are Coming to TV in 2017?

Ian McShane & Neil Gaiman, Amy Adams & Gillian Flynn, Elizabeth Moss & Margaret Atwood —TV is about to have a very literary year.

25 of the Most Exciting Book Releases for 2017

Vulture has the news for you on upcoming book releases.

Most Anticipated: The Great 2017 Book Preview

From The Millions:

Books from no fewer than four Millions staffers? It’s a feast. We hope the following list of 80-something upcoming books peps you up for the (first half of the) new year. You’ll notice that we’ve re-combined our fiction and nonfiction lists, emphasizing fiction as in the past.

The 25 Most Anticipated Books by Women for 2017

From Elle:

Phew, 2016. We can’t remember ever being so happy to see a year end, even as the next brings only uncertainty. There is one thing we know for sure, though: Misogyny has had far too big a public platform, in these past few months especially. So we’re kicking off the new year with a preview of extraordinary books by women, with an eye to how women live, imagine, and think across the globe. Now, more than ever, we need compelling fiction to widen the bounds of our empathy and imaginations, and strong women’s voices to guide us.

 

© 2017 by Mary Daniels Brown

Reading Challenges for 2017

I’ve set out my own reading plan for 2017, but if you’d prefer a challenge with specific category descriptions to guide you, here are several. Many of these challenges offer discussion groups either on their own web sites or through Facebook pages, so you’ll be getting a book group as well as book recommendations.

Here are several challenges to get you started in your search for the right one for you. If you don’t find anything appealing here, do a web search for “reading challenge 2017.” You’ll find lots of entries, some for specific interests (e.g., Christian reading challenge, European reading challenge).

BOOK RIOT’S 2017 READ HARDER CHALLENGE

For this well-known challenge “there are 24 tasks, averaging to two per month over the course of the next 12 months. You may count one book for multiple tasks, or read one book per task.” The purpose is to achieve “a perspective shift – but one for which you’ll only be accountable to yourself.” You can download a printable PDF of the challenge tasks.

The 2017 Reading Challenge

From Modern Mrs. Darcy, who describes this as a “choose-your-own-adventure reading challenge.” She offers two focused challenges, “reading for fun” and “reading for growth.”

Take the 2017 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge

POPSUGAR offers “40 book prompts to help diversify and expand your reading in the new year, PLUS an “advanced” section with 12 books for hardcore readers who complete the challenge before the year is over.” The challenge consists of “a variety of ideas to mix up your reading choices, not specific book titles.” Examples of categories are “a book set in the wilderness” and “a novel set during wartime.”

There’s a printable list you can download and use to check off categories as you complete them.

2017 Reading Challenge

This challenge from Better World Books aims to get you “to try different kinds of books.” There’s a PDF checklist to download to keep track of your progress. And the Better World Books blog will be posting recommended books for each challenge category throughout the year, just in case you have trouble coming up with titles on your own.

Retellings Reading Challenge 2017

This challenge from the U.K. asks you to read retellings of stories such as classics, children’s classics, fairy tales, myths, legends, folk tales, well known people’s lives.

Reading Challenge

This Pinterest board links to many reading challenges from several years.

The WeAreTeachers 2017 Reading Challenge

This challenge asks you “to read at least one book from one of these categories every month.” There’s no indication that you must be a teacher to participate.

The 2017 reading challenge

This challenge, from Justina Wooten of Anythink Wright Farms of the Rangeview Library District in Colorado, might suit you if the 40+-category challenges are too much to take on. This one lists a different category of book for each month in 2017.

 

© 2017 by Mary Daniels Brown

When picking up my next book, it’s always hard for me to resist reaching for another juicy novel. Even though I often buy nonfiction books that I want to read, I usually give in to the urge to read more fiction. And even though I concentrate on fiction, I read mostly traditional novels. I’d like to reacquaint myself with other forms of fiction as well.

In an effort to be a more well-rounded reader—and to cull my TBR shelves—in 2017, I’m laying out a plan to get myself to broaden my reading by choosing books in four categories. I’m also assigning each category a month when I’ll dedicate my reading to it. Here are the categories and the books in the category that I already own.

(1) Memoirs (January)

  • H Is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald
  • When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
  • Heart Earth by Ivan Doig
  • Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan
  • The Journal Keeper by Phyllis Theroux

(2) Short Stories (March)

  • Dear Life by Alice Munro
  • Tenth of December by George Saunders
  • Thirteen Ways of Looking: A Novella and Three Stories by Colum McCann
  • The Stories of Jane Gardam by Jane Gardam
  • The Collected Short Stories of Conrad Aiken

(3) General Nonfiction (July)

  • Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
  • Wired to Connect by Amy Banks with Leigh Ann Hirschman
  • Redirect: Changing the Stories We Live By by Timothy D. Wilson
  • On Friendship by Alexander Nehamas
  • The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr

(4) Essays (October)

  • In Pieces: An Anthology of Fragmentary Writing ed. by Olivia Dresher
  • Rocket and Lightship: Essays on Literature and Ideas by Adam Kirsch
  • The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison

I’m not promising to read all the books in each category during that month, but I’m going to try to choose most of the month’s reading from the list.

This will be a real experiment for me, as I’ve never set up a year-long reading plan before.

How About You?

How do you choose the next book to read? Do you have some kind of plan, either formal or informal, or do you go with whatever book seems to be calling to you?

 

© 2017 by Mary Daniels Brown

Of the 42 books I read in 2016, these are the top 15 (listed alphabetically by author):

Cook, Thomas H. The Chatham School Affair
du Maurier, Daphne. Rebecca
French, Tana. Broken Harbor
Haruf, Kent. Our Souls at Night
Hawley, Noah. Before the Fall
Knowles, John. A Separate Peace
Plath, Sylvia The Bell Jar
Stedman, M.L. The Light Between Oceans
Strout, Elizabeth. My Name is Lucy Barton
Yanagihara, Hanya. A Little Life

Honorable Mention

Connelly, Michael. The Wrong Side of Goodbye
Galbraith, Robert. Career of Evil
King, Stephen. 11/22/63
Sweeney, Cynthia D’Aprix. The Nest
Updike, John. Of the Farm

How About You?

What were the best books you read in 2016?

 

© 2017 by Mary Daniels Brown

My Year in Reading: 2016

gr-challengeI challenged myself on Goodreads to read 40 books in 2016, and I exceeded that goal by two. Of those 42 books, some were ebooks and some were unabridged audiobooks. For those books I included in my records the number of pages in the most current print edition, and arrived at the grand total of pages I read in 2016:

15,158

Of the 42 books I read, only two were nonfiction. I always read more fiction than nonfiction, but I don’t recall a previous year when I read only two nonfiction books. That’s a shortcoming I’ll have to correct when I set up my reading plan for 2017.

What About You?

How did your reading go in 2016? Let us know in the comments.

 

© 2017 by Mary Daniels Brown