So Many Books, So Little Time

For some crazy, inexplicable reason, I challenged myself to read one book a week this year.

Ha!

I don’t know what I was thinking, except that I believed if others could do it—reviewers, people with full time jobs, authors in the midst of writing their own books, and book lovers all over the world—so could I.

Competition be damned! I had the opportunity and time, but often not the interest. There were times when I was so hungry to read that I devoured books like candy treats and quickly moved on to the next one. Then, there were times I simply wanted to veg out in front of Top Chef or Chopped or Private Practice or an old movie or Jimmy Kimmel Live.

Quite frankly, I don’t know how people do it! When my kids were younger, I read while waiting for the soccer practice, the piano lesson, or the tutoring session to end. I can still read up to three books simultaneously, but it takes the same time it would if I read them one at a time.

Unabridged audio books work for me. Downside: I spend far too much time in my garage waiting for a chapter to end, but that’s a good thing. (BTW: I’m too chicken to listen to the audio version of Passing Love. I’m sure it’s done well, but I’ve got my own idea of Ruby and Nicole’s voices and I’m not ready for another’s interpretation. If you listen, let me know your thoughts.) Proud to say that I’m finishing my first ebook! (Passing Love e-version 2012)The experience isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. (Still, there’s nothing prettier and more inspiring than books lined up on the shelf.)

I’m proud of my list. The language, story, and characters in some of these novels are breathtaking.

Lethal, Sandra Brown
A Gathering of Water, Bernice McFadden
The Second Time we Met, Leila Cobo
Hiroshima in the Morning, Reiko Rizzuto
Weird Sisters, Eleanor Brown
Substitute Me, Lori Tharps
Open City, Teju Cole
Those Across the River, Christopher Buehlman
Three Junes, Julia Glass
The Memory of Love, Aminatta Forna
The Lover, Marguerite Dumas
Caught, Harlen Coben
Salvage the Bones, Jesmyn Ward
Bonsai, Alejandro Zambra
The State of Wonder, Ann Patchett
The Cutting Season, Attica Locke
This is How You Lose Her, Junot Diaz
The History of Love, Nicole Krauss
Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn

What was your favorite book this year?

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What I Might Read This Summer

There was a time when I was excited to have summer finally arrive. The air smelled differently, the clock ticked louder as it inched toward 3PM and every kid in my class rushed toward the door and 90-days of freedom.

Back then, I’d spend many a day on the library floor trying to figure out which books were coming home with me. I can still feel the thrill of choosing what books to take on vacation or to curl up with on a sunny day in our backyard. It’s an excitement I’ll never lose.

Here are a few books I might try to read before September . . . so many books, so little time.

Those Across the River, Christopher Buehlman (I confess that I’ve already read this book. The author is a poet, the story is scary (no knives or chopping) and I loved it._
32 Candles, Ernessa Carter
Perfect Peace, Daniel Black
Home, Toni Morrison, only 145 pages
Zorro, or The Stories of Eva Luna, Isabel Allende
The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey, or maybe anything I haven’t read, by Walter Mosley
Whatever is on the airport bookstore shelves that I haven’t read, by Patricia Cromwell
Best American Short Stories 2011
Paris Wife, Paula McLain
Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte I’ve been working on this one for months; the type is so small.
Lush Life, Richard Price I tried this last year, and couldn’t get into it; I really like his TV show, so I plan to give it another try.
Take One Candle, Light a Room, Susan Straight, recommended by a friend; she’s supposed to be a great storyteller.

And, of course, Searching for Tina Turner or that wonderful armchair trip to Paris, Passing Love . Oh yeah, I’ve already read those.

Yes, I love the idea of that hefty stack. But please don’t hold me to reading them all, distractions and new releases are everywhere.
Let me know what you’re thinking about reading.

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Living Authentically is a Worthwhile Challenge

I know when I hit my stride.

Call it true self or authenticity. The label doesn’t matter. I know now when it feels like me—the real me.

It took a while. Perhaps at the cost of gray hair and crow’s feet. It’s been an ongoing journey, not a goal satisfied in one fell swoop. More like climbing Mt. Everest, where base camps were the solid, unchanging values that I returned to when the going got rough. When all was calm, I’d move on, ready for what came next. The goal was always the same—to be better. The plateaus and valleys either drained me or tap-danced on my soul, but when my heart soared, that’s when I knew I was near the top. That I was really me.

In my twenties and thirties, I confess that I spent little time worrying about what I now call my authentic self, that which makes me a woman of integrity, my core. The real me was concerned with external qualities: clothes, parties, and the quest for a boyfriend/husband. I didn’t think of myself as shallow. I had values. But, like a lot of women maturing into adulthood in the ‘70s, I didn’t talk about them. It was the cusp of the era of self-realization. I was becoming aware of the women springing up around me who were confident in their speech and bearing. Angela Davis stood up for Black Power. Shirley Chisholm ran for President. Nikki Giovanni, Sonya Sanchez, Maya Angelou, Alice Walker wrote the struggles and joys of black women. They were inspiring role models. Women, I believed, who wouldn’t sacrifice their beliefs to anyone else’s.

Ten years ago, my sister was writing for television. I was jealous. “If you can write,” I told her, “then so can I.” My words didn’t come out as the compliment I’d intended. What I’d meant was that she’d motivated me. She encouraged me to revisit my writing and reignite the passion I had suppressed.

And so, I read Toni Morrison and tried to write like her. I read Terry MacMillan, Connie Briscoe, Bebe Moore Campbell, and tried to write like them. I read dozens of other authors, and I wrote and I wrote. I rediscovered my passion for writing. And I hit my stride. That delicious groove of knowing that I was on the right track. Then the day came when I sat in front of my computer and, feeling my true self, I wrote like Jacqueline Luckett.

At readings, I’m often asked how I feel about the writing life. A smile always crosses my lips and I know exactly what to say: I love every minute of my chosen path from starting a story to standing in front of readers and sharing my novels with them.

Family at recent reading

Yes! I’m truly living my passion and I’m being me. It doesn’t get much better than that.

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