Posts filed under READ THIS

READ THIS: Calypso

How’s your summer reading coming along? Are you logging those books? At my library, we encourage adults to join our summer reading club and set a goal to read five books during the summer months. According to my calculations, I should be reading 1.67 books per month between June and August, so I’m a little behind, but Calypso by David Sedaris is my second and that’s at least an accomplishment, right?

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I’ve been reading David Sedaris for almost two decades now, pretty much half my life, and I’m always giddy when I see a new title published. It’s a bit like having a long-overdue conversation with a friend you didn’t know you missed. There have been a few of his books I haven’t quite loved (or even liked, to be honest - Barrel Fever, I’m looking at you), but for me, his humorous observations on life, family, strangers, and just the human experience hold true and make me laugh out loud - literal LOLs. But on occasion, they have also made me cry.

David Sedaris, brother to funny lady Amy Sedaris, grew up in North Carolina before heading off across the country, and eventually across the world, to expand his horizons, all the while writing down daily thoughts and interactions (you can read 1977-2002 so far). As many places as he’s been or lived (Chicago, New York, France, and now England), he never leaves his family for long. I’ve often said if I could join a famous family, I’d want to be a Sedaris. With six children and a strong matriarch and cantankerous patriarch, there appeared to be no shortage of sibling gossip sessions, smokey laughs, fiery fights, bittersweet memories, or wild adventures among the family members. And recalling all this is what David Sedaris does best.

In this latest collection of essays, the suicide of his younger sister, Tiffany, is the string sewing the familial recollections together. Not all of the essays, but a good majority, focus on the remaining Sedaris clan coming together over the years between 2013 and the present to quietly grieve their sister and recall their childhood. They convene several times a year at the Sea Section, the beachfront property in North Carolina David bought on a whim to recapture the memories of his youth when the family would take summer vacations on Emerald Isle.

In addition to trying to make sense of Tiffany’s death, the siblings -- Lisa, David, Gretchen, Amy, and Paul -- as well as their aging father Lou, bicker about the current political climate, play menacing rounds of Sorry, and feed tumors to turtles. Um, what? There are so many quietly heartfelt realizations about family dynamics in this book, but there are also a few hilariously horrible situations sprinkled in there for good measure and feeding a tumor to a turtle is one of them. There’s also gastrointestinal distress while on a book tour. Do with that what you will.

Calypso was an immediate favorite for me. Deeply personal and moving, exploring changing family relationships as he ages himself, this book is the epitome of why I enjoy David Sedaris’ writing so much. And did I mention that I listened to the audiobook? That’s key for me with David Sedaris - there’s nothing like hearing the writer’s stories in his own distinct voice. Especially when he’s describing shopping for street fashion in Tokyo with his sister Amy. The only thing better is going to a live reading - I’ve done this several times and met him once and I can’t recommend it enough if you’re a fan.

Posted on July 1, 2018 and filed under READ THIS.

READ THIS: I’ll Be Gone In The Dark

Oh, hey, did you know that I’m a librarian? Did you know that one of the biggest myths about librarians is that they get to read all day? Man, I wish. I barely have time to read a few pages on my lunch break, let alone hours on end amidst helping patrons on the computers, attending meetings, and shuffling all the paperwork around.

But this is where audiobooks come in and save the day (yes, listening to audiobooks counts as reading - ask any librarian and you’ll get an earful, no pun intended). My library offers (free!) downloadable eBooks and audiobooks and I also have an account with Audible, so I’m well-stocked in setting the mood for my daily commute. And over the last few months, the mood has been decidedly dark. I’ve always been interested in true crime and murder, but recently I’ve fallen down what I call a “murder hole,” exclusively reading/listening to dark, gruesome tales of death, deception, and destruction. It keeps me balanced.

The last three books I’ve read have been macabre explorations of humanity: The Devil in the White City (about the 1893 World’s Fair and the murder mansion of H.H. Holmes); The Alienist (definitely read the book before watching the TNT series, if you haven’t already); and The Stranger Beside Me (true crime master Ann Rule’s exploration of the brutal mass-murderer Ted Bundy… who was also her friend).

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Needless to say, I’d been looking forward to reading Michelle McNamara’s posthumous publication on the then as-yet-to-be-identified Golden State Killer, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark. I purchased it via Audible the day it was released and I finished the almost 10-hour audiobook in less than 24 hours. That’s the equivalent of staying up all night to read a book you just can’t put down. Because staying up all night to learn about one of the most chilling and brutal serial rapist-turned-murderers in American history isn’t exactly something that lends itself to a peaceful night’s sleep anyway.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is the product of true crime writer McNamara’s obsessive search for the identity of the Golden State Killer (GSK), a moniker she coined to encompass and expand upon the previous names for the serial killer whose elusive actions terrified the state of California from 1974-1986: the East Area Rapist and/or Original Night Stalker (EAR/ONS). Sounds like a cheery fellow, eh?

McNamara, who was married to comedian Patton Oswalt, spent years researching the movements and mindsets and tracking suspects and leads in the GSK case, documenting her progress on her blog, True Crime Diary, and in various magazines. Sadly, Michelle passed away unexpectedly and never got to see her book make it off her laptop. Her research assistants (she also worked with the police for years) couldn’t let her investigations go unread and finished the book by pulling excerpts from published stories and crafting chapters from notes and drafts. And the final product is chilling.

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As if this all wasn’t enough to recommend the book on its own, in late April of this year, after more than 40 years of searching, police identified and arrested the Golden State Killer: Joseph James DeAngelo. And I have no doubt, nor could anybody who reads the book, that McNamara’s work was a driving force in solving the case. In fact, after following the news of the arrest (obsessively, I must admit), I re-listened to the entire book and felt so many emotions knowing McNamara wasn’t with us to see the GSK being brought to justice for his heinous actions. 

If you’re into true (or even fake) crime, this book is a must-read, even more so now that the identity of the GSK has been revealed. Questions and theories outlined in the book are now being answered in real time, as it were. It really is quite an extraordinary situation.

Also, you know, go to your library every once in a while. We have good stuff.

Posted on June 10, 2018 and filed under READ THIS.