Turning the page

Well, folks, I did it. I challenged myself to read 70 books in 2012. Some said it couldn’t be done. Ok, they probably didn’t say that, but it makes things sound more dramatic.

I finished 112 books last  year (34,579 pages), including both hardcopy and audio books, up from 68 in 2011. I can only hope 2013 will be as kind to me, in the literature sense.

So what did I read? Well, that’s a good question.

It was a fantastic book year for me. All my favorite authors (Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Jess Walter, Jennifer Weiner, Jasper Fforde, Mark Haddon, Junot Diaz and Mitch Albom) all had new books come out.

And I, of course, read them all as soon as they were available. Some were fantastic (looking at you, Jess Walter) and some didn’t quite live up to my hopes (sorry, Carlos Ruiz Zafon).

Of course, I didn’t just stick with who I know.

Although an alarmingly large portion of my read books look like I was just sitting in a comedy club. I read books by Ellen DeGeneres, Steve Martin, Mike Birbiglia, Michael Ian Black, Michael Showalter, Rachel Dratch, Kevin Pollak, Andy Cohen, Adam Carolla, Craig Ferguson and more. I should really branch out. But I’m not going to do that. Book shame me if you want, comedy and celebrity memoirs are sort of my thing.

I did branch out into the memoir circuit a little. Mostly to other celebrities. I mean I read about food (Anthony Bourdain), flight attendants (Heather Poole) and fashion (Tim Gunn).

I did read fiction to. I went from classics like Phantom of the Opera to brand-new releases that I had to wait for for months at the library when I was too slow on the reserve button.

I also discovered some delightful authors. People whose prose I liked so I ended up checking out all the books they’ve written in the past. My newfound authors of 2012 included Sarah Bird, Dixie Cash, Alan Bradley, Liza Palmer, Catherine McKenzie and Kristina Riggle.

I went back to my youth by reading some Louis Lowry and tried so hard to read Euginedes and Franzen AGAIN because everyone raves about them. I will keep trying but I don’t know if I will ever fully love either of them.

So which books did I love?

Well, here are my top 5 books I finished this year, in the order of my brain right now, subject to change at a moment’s notice.

5. Guts by Kristen Johnston. Not what I was expecting from this actress I only knew as Sally from 3rd Rock From the Sun. It was a gripping tale of addiction and recovery, with all the details left in. It was real and inspiring and I loved it.

4. The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. A story about a forgotten and abandoned foster child who finds hope and love in the blooms around her. I loved this one for its characters and plot, as well as the information it provided about the meaning behind different flowers.

3. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. This is a dark, dark book about truly manipulative people in truly horrifying situations. It was interesting to see how horrible people can be.

2. Born Standing Up by Steve Martin. I love how Martin writes in general. I read his novel The Pleasure of My Company this year, also, and it was fantastic and hilarious. But I have to give a shout-out to his memoir, which told the story of his rise to fame, from his first job at Disneyland and through his journey as a magician-slash-musician-slash-prop comedian.

1. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter. I love Jess Walter. I have since the day I was introduced to his work. But this novel goes above and beyond. It’s a remarkable story of love across age and continents, it’s masterfully written and I can’t wait to read it again in the years to come. Have I mentioned that I really, really liked it?

Honorable mentions include: The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach, The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green and Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Green.


So many words! Here’s a nice picture of my reading life this past year, from my most recently read book to the one I read way back at the beginning of January 2012.









TILT Feb. 12, 2012

Today, I finished the book The Right Words at the Right Time. It’s a compilation of essays from actors, comedians, architects, businessmen and so on.

It’s about the words they’ve heard at some time during their lives that helped define them, their path and led to their success.

Some were sappy, some were funny, some were forgettable.

But some were quote worthy.

Here’s one from Christiane Amanpour:

People will always try to knock you in life — and knock your dreams. In a peculiar way, that’s not such a bad thing. In the end, it gives you an opportunity to prove you want it enough, and that you’re strong enough to keep going. Life isn’t supposed to be too easy.

And here’s part of Dr. Peter Doherty’s, of St. Jude’s Research Hospital, essay.

The quest for knowledge is endless and we must be tireless if we hope to improve our lives and world. If we allow setbacks and failures to stop us in our tracks then we have already lost. To our own selves we must be true, to our passions and curiosities. And it must fallow, as the night the day, that mankind will benefit.

And here’s a little something from Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

Anger, resentment, envy and self-pity are wasteful reactions. They greatly drain one’s time. They sap energy better devoted to productive endeavors. Of course it is important to be a good listener — to pay attention to teaachers, coworkers, and spouses. But it also pays, sometimes, to be a little deaf.

And from Wendy Wasserstein:

 For a comic writer whose greatest fear is not to be respected — perhaps because she’s too sweet or too funny or too chubby — when a friend turns to you and says, “I take you seriously,” it guides the rest of your life.


TILT Jan. 19, 2012

The thing I love most today is once again a book.


If so, you should probably stop reading this blog. You don’t know me at all.

This time it’s (shocker, shocker) a memoir called Notes from the Underwire by Quinn Cummings.

It was funny and delightul.

I caught myself actually laughing out loud.

And it has a health dose of snark.

Something I am never against.

Here were some of my favorite quotes:

I started walking at nine months. I started walking into things at nine months and one hour. My everyday walk resembles the frantic dart of a small excitable lizzard, and I seem to be unable to grasp the notion that inanimate objects don’t know how to get out of my way.

My life.

I had ever intention of growing up to be a gay man in the West Hollywood hills. They had gorgeous clothing, gorgeous houses, gorgeous boyfriends, and gorgeous dogs. From my bedroom I could gaze out across the canyon and observe our neighbors’ parties. Everyone seemed young and beautiful and inebriated with life.

Again, my life.

It wasn’t cute and it didn’t move the story of my life forward; it was just a random event. Had this been in a script, I would have said wearily to the writer, “Yeah, that got my attention, but what’s the point?” And the writer might say, “It’s like life.”

And I’d sigh, take a sip of tea, and say, “True. But sometimes life could use a rewrite.”





TILT Jan. 17, 2012

I have to start off my list today with Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, which I finished this morning.

Yes, I was late to work because of it.

Yes, Rikki recommended I read it 90 million years ago because she thought I would enjoy it.

She was right.

I don’t cook much. I don’t eat in high-end restaurants. I am not planning to travel the world sampling exotic delicacies of things I don’t usually consider food.

But I liked the book a lot.

I thought it was funny and a nice inside look at what it’s like to work at a restaurant.

And some nice tips for when I go out to eat.

Like, don’t order the fish on Mondays.


In other TILT news, I thought this was a nice little cartoon. Not surprisingly, from Toothpaste for Dinner.

Oh Twitter, you so scary.

In other news:

Soup, if you are too cold, I will tweet about it.

Celebrity, if you do something silly and/or great, I will tweet about it.

Day, if you are sunny, snowy or mediocre, I will tweet about it.


It’s on the books

For 2011, I challenged myself to finish reading 60 books by the time 2012 showed up.

I finished 68. More than 23,000 pages.

Some were great, some weren’t.

The five best books I read this year (not that came out this year, just that I read this year) were (as of right this very second. Ask me in 20 minutes, they’ll have changed):

5) The Help by Kathryn Stockett

4) Drama: An actor’s education by John Lithgow

3) Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

2) 11/22/63 by Stephen King

1) A shadow of the wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Honorable mentions:

Bossypants by Tina Fey, Is everyone hanging out without me? (and other concerns) by Mindy Kaling, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman, A visit from the goon squad by Jennifer Egan, Skippy Dies by Paul Murray and The book thief by Markus Zusak.

Here’s a nice display of all the books I read this year, starting from the most recent and working back.

You won’t meet anyone there

I recently finished reading The Help Kathryn Stockett. For the record, I did think it was as good as everyone says.

I’m actually pretty excited to see the movie, although I realize it will probably not be as a good.

That being said, I thought the following quote pertained to my life a bit. One of the main characters in the book is an up-and-coming writer. Her mother isn’t too fond of the idea of her getting a job at the local newspaper. This will interfere with her husband-seeking, after all.

And you will never meet anybody sitting at that typewriter, Eugenia, have some sense.

This next one just made me LOL. Keep in mind the book is set in the ’60s.

Two days later, I sit in my parent’s kitchen, waiting for dusk to fall. I give in and light another cigarette even though last night the surgeon general came on the television set and shook his finger at everybody, trying to convince us that smoking will kill us. But Mother once told me tongue kissing would turn me blind and I’m starting to think it’s all a big plot between the surgeon general and Mother to make sure no one ever has any fun.

Being a grown-up

I have friends that are currently freaking out about going to work and not having a summer vacation, etc. I’ve been in the “real world” work force for almost a year and a half. Bleck.

I thought of that when I read this passage, from Jennifer Weiner‘s new book, Then Came You.

Once you’re done with school, summer doesn’t mean what it used to. Every day was a workday, and the only way the seasons mattered was whether it was light when I left for the office and when I came home, and what I’d wear from Kimmie’s apartment to the subway. Once I was at work, time and weather disappeared. The office seemed to generate its own climate, hot and humid, the air thick with stress and gray with unhappiness.