In honor of Martin Luther King Jr Day

Today we’re visiting Martin Luther King Jr’s birth home and Ebenezer Baptist Church… and we’re going there in the summertime.

Last July, the Dear Man and I visited Atlanta, and one of the best things we did was visit Martin Luther King Jr’s childhood home and the church down the street.

And I gotta say: Wow. It was a remarkable experience.

As we approached Ebenezer Baptist Church (the Ebenezer Baptist Church!) I felt like I needed to pinch myself. It felt like we were walking on sacred ground.

It looks just how it looked in all the photos I saw when I was growing up.

 

And the church is now part of the Martin Luther King Jr National Historic Site, so it’s preserved basically as an historic site and no longer functions as a working church.

So it feels kind of frozen in time.

(Speaking of time… this is the clock that’s viewable from the pulpit, and I found it completely captivating. This is the clock he would have seen while preaching!)

 

So we got to sit in the pews…

 

…and sit in the fellowship hall on the lower level. (For whatever reason, this also was completely overstimulating. I kept tapping the Dear Man on the arm and saying, “We get to see the fellowship hall!)

 

And then, down the street about two blocks: the house where MLK Jr was born.

 

It’s a lovely house, and it made me happy to think of the young preacher’s son spending his first years there.

And then we visited the gift shop next door and I bought a copy of The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr., which I haven’t read yet because I own it. (Anyone else suffer from this malady? The library books get first attention, because: due dates. So the books I own: utterly ignored).

But it’s on my 2017 TBR, and that reading experience is gonna happen. I’m looking forward to it.

And this year, as we think of Dr. King on this day, I feel especially fortunate to have stood where he walked and where he talked.

If you ever have the opportunity to visit, my friends… I highly recommend it.

 

Bookish Advent calendar

Last year I described the amazing Advent calendar tradition my friend developed, and I’m glad to report the tradition’s going strong.

To recap…

My friend, who is a wickedly talented artist, felted this Advent calendar (which I like to leave on the wall year-round, but she chastises me for doing that, which I rather like: it’s part of our shtick).

 

And then she fills it each year with quotes, mostly from books.

And I give her a collection of daily quotes for Advent, too.

And then… this additional step, which caps it all off:

We met earlier this week to discuss which quotes were our favorites.

My favorites that were given unto me:

 

There are darknesses in life and there are lights, and you are one of the lights, the light of all lights.

– Bram Stoker, Dracula

 

No one hits the bullseye with the first arrow.

– Sybil, Downton Abbey, S1, E4

 

The secret of getting ahead is getting started.

– Agatha Christie

 

I mean seriously… Aren’t those good?

 

And here are my friend’s favorites:

 

Ever since happiness heard your name, it has been running through the streets trying to find you.

– Hafiz of Persia

 

One of the advantages of being disorderly is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries.

– A.A. Milne

 

 

Never let a good crisis go to waste.

– Winston Churchill

 

 

So… I’ve already begun compiling her quotes for next year, which has me doing things like checking out the printed book of an audiobook I’m reading, so I can capture the quote that I think she’ll like.

It’s like reading with a purpose, all year long. I like it so very much.

 

Neil Gaiman: the true story

 

The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction by Neil Gaiman

3 words: wise, impassioned, bookish

Two minutes into listening to this audiobook, I got a little verklempt.

And really, this should not surprise us, cuz when Neil Gaiman writes about the importance of books and reading and libraries, it’s powerful stuff. And when a person listens to him reading those words aloud… holy Toledo, people.

Get out the tissues, my fellow readers.

So this book starts out with essays and speeches about the power of books. And then there are oodles of other topics: graphic novels, introductions to the works of various fantasy authors, and creativity.

And while I thought I might bog down during the introduction to the work of H.P. Lovecraft, I found that I just kept learning new things.

And then I started to curse Neil Gaiman, because I kept adding books to my already too huge TBR. Books like The 13 Clocks by James Thurber. And Dogsbody by Diana Wynne Jones.

And then, toward the end of the book, there’s his famous “Make Good Art” commencement address.

It made me want to make good art.

 

 

So, if you’re anything of a Neil Gaiman reader, and especially if you’re a Neil Gaiman devotee, this book is rather a treat.

And if you’re an audiobook listener, I highly recommend the audio version, cuz Gaiman reads it himself and he’s seriously skilled at the narrator thing.

What’s the best author-narrated audiobook you’ve listened to?

All you can read: The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat

The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat by Edward Kelsey Moore

 

3 words: warm, gently funny, engaging

 

When I think of how I would describe the plot of this book (three lifelong friends, in middle age, each facing a tough challenge), I realize we better start with the tone.

 

Otherwise, this book sounds like it might be depressing (because: cancer, a cheating husband, and alcoholism — these things are not jolly).

 

It’s the tone of the book that keeps it light in a way that sometimes made me smile. This book is warm and witty and focused on friendship.

 

So when life gets messy and the tough stuff comes along for each of the main characters, the author’s writing style lets us know it’ll be OK, even if the ending isn’t perfectly happy.

 

The women were called “The Supremes” in their youth, because they were a group of three lovely African-American girls who hung out at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat after school.

 

And four decades later, they still meet there once a week.

 

The coziness of the restaurant adds to the comfortable feeling of this book, and the social commentary adds some serious humor. (The stories of a young woman planning an over-the-top wedding made me nearly laugh out loud.)

 

And there’s some wonderful quirkiness, including the fact that Odette was born in a tree.

 

The story of these women’s friendship has stayed with me during the weeks since I finished reading this book. I’m really glad I got to spend some time in their company.

 

What book characters have you enjoyed hanging out with lately?

Unruly Reader: Year in Review

Hello, 2017!

We’re gonna start the new year with a glance back at 2016…

 

The Excitement | The biggest reading news of 2016: This is the year the Dear Man became a reader for reals. I asked if I could take partial credit, and he said yes. But I gotta say: this was all him. He’s been reading up a storm and buying books and suggesting visits to the bookstore (be still, my heart!) and expanding his home library. Meanwhile, I try to refrain from quivering with joy. (Just did some serious quivering)

 

 

The Social | At BEA and the book bloggers convention, I met actual book bloggers in person! And even cooler, we’ve stayed in touch. I’m pretty sure I offered to host our next gathering, so: stay tuned for posts about intensive house-cleaning efforts.

 

 

The Post | Bybee of Blue-Hearted Bookworm set me up with extra special book mail… twice. (Have I mentioned lately that I’m super lucky to know such good people?)

 

 

 

The Numbers | I finished 97 books this year. Not my all-time record, but an increase compared with recent years. The reader is back.

 

The Platform | Hello, WordPress!

 

The Travel | Iceland! We went to there!

 

The Foods | Back on the homefront, the Dear Man and I visited our 52nd pizza place. And it was all festive.

 

The Miraculous | The Cubs won the World Series (!!!!) and it’s still sinking in.

(photo credit: the Dear Man’s dear sister)

 

I’m curious: What were the highlights of your year?

Unruly Reader — the new web address

Greetings from the WordPress trenches!

 

I continue to toil away at the WordPress conversion, and today’s big switch is this:

We’ve got ourselves a new URL here, my friends.

 

So, if you’re kind enough to include Unruly Reader on your blogroll (thank you, good people!) here’s the new address:

unrulyreader.com

 

Ain’t it pretty?

 

Speaking of pretty and blogs…

Here’s a photo of one of the fabulous gifts the Dear Man gave me for Christmas…

It’s a mug with my blog logo on it!!!

Lucky blogger? Absolutely YES.

Currently… WordPress conversion

We’re right in the middle of the holiday season (Happy holidays, everyone!) …so what better time to convert a blog from Blogger to WordPress, right?

It’s not like there’s anything else going on.

It actually wasn’t supposed to be like this. But I just finished a WordPress class, and part 2 begins in mid-January, and I wanted a WordPress site up and running so I could tinker with it. I learn better that way.

And then one day I thought, “I’ll set up web hosting this evening and then move my blog over at a convenient time.” [nods head with satisfaction]

But various things led to my transferring it that very night, and man did it ever look ugly.

(If you stopped by last week, you know what I’m talking about. [If you’re here right now, you know what I’m talking about.])

So: my free time (when not wrapping gifts and making holiday preparations) has been gobbled up by the WordPress Learning Curve.

Thank goodness I took that class, or I’d be completely lost.

But still, guys? I’m still pretty lost.

 

So… here’s my Big Ask:

Bloggers using WordPress… What tips can you offer me?

What plugins are essential for my happiness and well-being?

If you see weird things on my blog that are ridiculously easy fixes, please tell me about it.

If you’ve got WordPress hacks, I am all ears.

 

Thank you, my friends.

Best Books of 2016 – new to me

It’s that wonderful time of year, guys… the year-end “best” lists.

I love this time of year. 

 

Earlier in the week, I posted my list of the best books of 2016, published in 2016.

 

Today we’re looking at the best books I read in 2016 that were published earlier.

 

Here are my favorites…

 

Best Fiction

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

 

Best Nonfiction

Quiet by Susan Cain

 

Best Mystery

Stillwater by Melissa Lenhardt

 

 

Best YA Fiction

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

 

Best Children’s Fiction

Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright

 

Best Biography

Being Nixon by Evan Thomas

 

Best Memoir

My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor

 

Best Self-Improvement Book

Getting Things Done by David Allen

 

Best Fantasy

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

 

Best Essay Collection

Hidden America by Jeanne Marie Laskas

 

Best Book I Won’t Finish Until Next Year

Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

 

 

So, dear readers… what were your favorite books of the year? 

Best books of 2016

It’s time for #libfaves16 on Twitter, my friends, and that means making some hard choices.
The idea is to list your top 10 favorite books that were published in 2016.
And then rank them.
This is difficult.
So I basically went with my gut.
A Gentleman in Moscow was this year’s clear winner, but the other rankings could shuffle around if you asked me on a different day. But the top 5 would remain the top 5.
Here goes…
Gracious, engaging, triumphant

 

Personal, informative, domestic

 

Introspective, unflinching, surprising
Lyrical, brutal, magical realism

 

Exuberant, collaborative, insider info
Unflinching, personal, troubling

 

7. The Clancys of Queens by Tara Clancy
Sharp, conversational, unexpected

 

Rollicking, informative, conversational

 

Lyrical, poignant, personal

 

10. The Murder of Mary Russell by Laurie R. King
Layered, innovative, historical

Her hard-working honor

My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor
3 words: smart, introspective, revealing
I’m in serious audiobook withdrawal these days. I just finished listening to Sonia Sotomayor’s marvelous memoir, and I completely fell into it.
Way back in my pre-blogging days, I read Lazy B: Growing up on a Cattle Ranch in the American Southwest by Sandra Day O’Connor and H. Alan Day, and it had a similar effect. Though, as I recall that book, it focused primarily on Sandra Day O’Connor’s youth.
Sotomayor’s book covers her childhood, but it also brings her story into her middle adult years, concluding shortly after she became a judge. And, as in Jill Ker Conway’s first two books (The Road from Coorain and True North), I loved reading about the arc of her life and education. I’m a total sucker for that kind of story.
But the thing I loved most about Sotomayor’s memoir was her honesty. And also her humanity.
Here she is, having risen from a childhood in the projects to a seat on the high court, and she’s comfortable enough with herself to reveal the self-doubt she feels whenever she tackles something new. It makes her so relatable, even though her extraordinary work ethic makes her seem super-human.
And she describes how those two things go hand in hand: her insecurity about her ability to perform well drives her to work even harder to make sure she’s prepared.
It’s a heck of an effective formula.
When I read reviews of this book earlier, I focused on the hard parts: her alcoholic father’s death when she was young, her childhood diagnosis of diabetes, and her family’s financial hardship. And I thought: sad.
And she’s candid about all of these things, but people, she turns them into a triumph.
And she’s so darn likeable while she’s doing so. Oh my gosh.
Thank you — very much! — to JoAnn of Lakeside Musing for recommending this book in her Nonfiction November Supreme Court reading list. Your suggestion spurred me to read this book, and I am seriously hugely grateful.
So my friends… What’s the most inspiring true story you’ve read this year?