Sunday, December 27, 2009

January Gill O'Neil's New Collection of Poetry: UNDERLIFE

I plan on keeping better track of the books I read in 2010.

And while it's not officially 2010, I consider this lovely book that just arrived in my mailbox as one I love--

January O'Neil's Underlife (New Voices)

and wow, what a great book! First, the book is absolutely gorgeous to hold. It's an incredible quality and has French flaps* which I love in books! But even better, the poems inside! While there were some I recognized (one even appeared in Crab Creek Review), many of these poems were new to me and how I love them.

Self-Portrait, a short poem with a great last line is one of my favorites, but I also love "The Kerning," which is in Crab Creek Review. But there are so many others-- Permanent, She's Closest to Breaking, Take Care (which has the title to the collection in it...) and oh so many others...

I definitely recommend picking this book up for your 2010 reads. It's beautiful in so many ways.

*What are French flaps?

French flaps are simply extensions of the paperback cover that fold inside the book. Not only are paperback books featuring French flaps sturdier and more attractive, but they are also useful because the flaps can be tucked back into the book to mark the reader's place.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Mini Reviews

I'm going to do some larger book reviews coming up in the next few weeks, but just wanted to let you know what I'm reading or have read lately. I've mentioned the Clooney book before, but it's because well, I'm still finishing it up and will have a full review coming soon --

Marrying George Clooney: Confessions from a Midlife Crisis
by Amy Ferris
- I'm completely hooked on this book and am almost finished with it. The author is both honest and hilarious in her look at menopause and being in her 50's. Complete candor, she has no fear to say how she's feeling, what's annoying her, odd things her husband does, and just her thoughts on life in general.

She dropped the F-bomb throughout the book, so if you're a reader who dislikes that word you'll either get used to it by page 7 or be completely annoyed and put down the book (sort of like my mum did when I suggested she watch "Pulp Fiction" - dear God, what was I thinking with that recommendation?)

Anyway, fantastic book! I plan to devote a whole blog post to it because it has some things (such as font size, photos of cats, etc) that I haven't seen with memoirs that I want to discuss.

Final thoughts-- HIGHLY RECOMMEND (while women may like this more than men, I think men with a wife 45ish and up might appreciate having a look into what craziness happens -or may happen- during menopause)


For Poetry I just finished--

Mister Skylight
by Ed Skoog- I have a full review of this book at Book of Kells.

* * *

These final three I'm reading are just my kind of books. They are all non-fiction, include some sort of studies in them, and discuss the human thought process or our human experience in them. I love the weird facts they each include and they are what a friend called "edu-tainment" - educational stuff shared in an entertaining way. These are the books where I always learn something and understand myself or the world better because of them.

These make great Christmas presents because 1) you look smart giving them 2) people feel smart receiving them 3) they are gender-neutral - both men and women love them (though if I think I had to choose what gender would prefer them, in general, I might lean towards men- though I've had a few women friends read them and enjoy them greatly)


Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School by John Medina

Okay, I love this book. It has great information (including that the brain needs an afternoon nap- I knew this!) There are 12 principles on how the brain works and how we can improve our minds. While that sounds a little self-helpy (and maybe there is that), it's intriguing to learn these ideas on how our brain functions best.

Like the other 3 books, I'm in the early chapters, but really enjoying this. (Though for some reason, I spent the week referring to it as "Brainwise" and not BRAIN RULES - which tells you a lot about why I am reading this book...)

Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions
Dan Ariely
- I'm in the early stages of this book, but already am fascinated about how companies and restaurant market us knowing how humans make choices. Even we might choose a mate in bar (clue: always go to a bar with someone who is just a little less attractive than you, if you want to be picked up!)

This is a quick summary of how the brain works and as I said, I'm still in the early chapters of this book, but already loving it.

SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance by Steven Levitt & Stephen Dubnar - This book is currently receiving pretty poor marks on Amazon, which makes sense to me as it's the follow-up book to the fabulous Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything (P.S.), a book I loved.

Had others not read Freakonomics first, I think they'd love or highly like this book, but because there is something to compare, it comes in second. I feel this would be a fair assessment so far (again, I'm still on the early chapters of this and I read one review that when the authors hit the chapters on global warming, the books goes off a cliff...), so I'll let you know.

So far though, I'm finding it quite interesting.

For Christmas gifts, start with Freakonomics and move to this for a follow-up birthday gift.

* * *

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Coming Soon - Book Reviews (A Preview of What I'm Reading...)

I'll be doing reviews on these books soon--

Marrying George Clooney: Confessions from a Midlife Crisis (Seal Press)
by Amy Ferris

***I started this last night and I am loving it...

Then, Something: Poems (Tupelo Press)
by Patricia Fargnoli

Pat is a favorite poet of mine. I've already enjoyed quite a few poems as I did the casual "browse" of the collection and so far, so good! I am looking forward to reading this cover to cover. I am pretty sure this will be on my highly recommended list.

Mister Skylight (Copper Canyon Press)
by Ed Skoog

***I have to admit, I'm not familiar with Ed's work, but I know was the poet-in-residence at Richard Hugo House, so I'm curious to see what has to offer. So more on this soon!

And I was just contacted by the folks who published Freakomics (one of my favorite books) and there's a SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance
(published by William Morrow) coming out on October 20th, 2009!

Nin Andrews recommended it to me this year, and it was a great read, so I'm looking forward to this new "Super" version.

Summer Book Reviews: What I've Been Reading

Previously posted on Book of Kells, Summer 2009

What I've Read--

Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else By Geoff Colvin -- Let me save you $18, I can summarize this book for you right here -- His theory is that people aren't born with "talent" (i.e. Tiger Woods, Mozart, Bill Gates, etc.), but were born into the right circumstances with teachers who helped them and taught them intentional practice. He talks a lot regular practicing of something vs. practicing in a focused way. Practice is not fun, but it is what makes the difference. Not talent. In the end, he concludes that anyone can be good at something but it just takes 10 years of intentional and focused practice. 10 years was the magic number in his mind with practicing with focus and intent several (or more) times a week.

It's an interesting book, but was a little too close to Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell for me. It even had some of the same examples like Bill Gates. Of course, I read Outliers first, so that may shade this review a bit.

So while I'd recommend this book if you're interested in this topic, I'd recommend OUTLIERS first.

This book still had good info and I did finish it, but I think I just read it close to Outliers. But honestly, the main idea is that it's practice not talent that matters.

* * *

Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Addiction
by David Sheff - RECOMMEND!

I've been listening to this book on my iPod and it's pretty powerful walking back through a child's life from being born into addiction to see if you can figure out how someone falls into this world. There are no answers. David Sheff does a great job of sharing this story of his son's addiction and how it hurts families and what the parent goes through.

On a personal note, my sister is/was an addict. She was out of the house when I was 4, but her dramas have stayed with us through the years even though she now lives on the other side of the country from us. She has basically become the poster child for our family on why not to use drugs. Because of what I've seen in my own family, this book is a fascinating look into addiction.

I would recommend the print version of this book vs. the audio (which I'm listening to), because the book is read by the author and while he is a pretty decent reader, when he tries to talk in the voice of a child it's somewhat annoying to me. He also has that kind of smug professor voice that gets a little tiring to listen to.

* * *

Grayson: 50 cent library late fee - and I never read it.

* * *

Zen in the Art of Writing: Releasing the Creative Genius Within You
by Ray Bradbury - HIGHLY RECOMMEND! -

Ray says it better than me, so here's a snippet:

"...if you are writing without zest, without gusto, without love, without fun, you are only half a writer. It mean you are so busy keeping one eye on the commercial market, or one year peeled for the avant-garde coterie, that you are not being yourself. You don't even know yourself. For the first thing a writer should be is --excite. He should be a thing of fevers and enthusiasms. Without such vigor, he might as well be out picking peaches or digging ditches; God knows it would be better for his health."

(Note: Ladies insert "she" for "he" in this passage.)

* * *

I have a few more books I'm working on, so more later. I hope you've had a summer of good books. I'd be open to any you'd like to recommend.

Back to Writing - Book Recommendations to be Inspired : The List for Artists

Previously published on the blog Book of Kells, September 2009:

For many of us with kids in school, when the school year begins, so does our writing.

Sometimes I swear I'm hardwired to write from September to May, to throw myself into the work then completely neglect it during summer. This is how I operated during my school years and college. I spent every summer on college on "Unemployment Row" at Greenlake with my lawn chair.

Now as an adult, I do a similar thing, except replace "Unemployment Row" with "Family Plans" and you have my life.

So I've been returning mindfully to writing first before I jump in, that I will save until September when my writing shed will have a bowl of non-pariel chocolates and I will cut blue hydrangeas to put on my desk.

If you are feeling uninspired and looking to be inspired I have a couple of book recommendations for you as autumn comes and asks us all to quiet our social plans and come inside to write...

1) Twyla Tharp's The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life

***A fantastic book by genius grant winner, Twyla Tharp. From the School Library Journal: Tharp shows how and why artists must actively seek and nurture inspiration. The dancer/choreographer draws heavily on her personal experiences to guide readers into cultivating habits that give birth to success.

Most libraries have this book and I have checked out the copy so many times I feel as if I own it. I should eventually just buy this book because it's one that inspires me and reminds me there are so many of us trying to live the creative life.

2) David Lynch's Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity

***Okay, this was a recent surprise find for me. I downloaded the audio book from the Seattle Public Library last night and it's been a treat to listen to. I think it's only 2 hours, so it's a quick read (191 pages) or listen.

I would recommend the audio version of this book. David Lynch (Twin Peaks creator among other things...) is reading it and listening to him makes it much more conversational and enjoyable. There's a huge focus on Transcendental Meditation, which he has been doing for the last 33 years (he does 20 minutes of this meditation 2 times a day and hasn't missed a meditation in 30 years).

Publisher's Weekly wasn't really impressed with this book--some of the chapters are a quick blink--but I think they missed the point of this book. It's a fun, quirky book with a unique perspective by someone who began as a visual artist then became a film-maker and is written for creative people who are working in the arts, not a self-help guide, but a series of stories about happy accidents and how doors open when you find your path.

Also, great lessons. My favorite being the painter that said, "You need 4 hours of solitude to get one good hour of painting." (For me, this can be my writing life!)

This was published in 2006 and as I said, our public library had the audio version online and they have pretty inexpensive versions on Amazon (it looks as if it must be out of print). But if you like David Lynch, get the audio version as it's nice to hear him talking in your head.

3) Hugh McLeod's Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity

****I mentioned this book a few posts ago and just wanted to bring it up again since I finished it in 2 days and enjoyed it.

For this book, I recommend the print edition especially since the author is a cartoonist and many of his drawings are included throughout the pages.

This book probably won't teach you anything you don't know as an artist/writer, but it's good reminders and enjoyable writing, plus his cartoons can be pretty funny. It's one of those books where you feel like you're having a beer with the artist/writer and he's telling you what's worked for him.

A very easy read and should be available in your local library system (I got mine from our small community library, and I tend to think if we have the book in our system, your library should as well).

4) Cecile Andrew's The Circle of Simplicity: Return to the Good Life

***I have mentioned this book before also, probably because I read it cover to cover every fall. I think it's an incredible book for those of us living a creative life and helping us get back to things that are important to us. It's not about self-imposed sacrifice, but a greater understanding that we don't *need* a lot of the stuff we have and actually the more stuff you have, the more responsibility you have (the care of it, the storage of it, etc.)

I was surprised that this book got quite a few negative reviews on Amazon because for me it's the best book on changing your choices to live a better life and slowing down.

From the Amazon review:
The Circle of Simplicity speaks to readers seeking to find greater peace and happiness by eliminating some of the clutter and distraction in their lives . . . Her book emphasizes the value of slowing down as a way to find time to reconnect with a community.

For me, it's a reminder to spend my money on things that bring me happiness - experiences not things-- a lesson that I had to relearn from my materialistic teenage years to my rushed and overworked twenty-something years when money just slid from my wallet on "convenience purchases" such as eating at the Red Tomato every day for lunch instead of bringing a bagged lunch to quick purchases that weren't really thought out-- um, the gym membership I never used, never even found time for that...

So each fall, I pull out my Circle of Simplicity and remember all the things I've forgotten over the year about living simply, which itself is a creative process. For me, it's about reconnecting with my creative life, not being the waster, the quick-buy out-of-ease person, the person I can be when I'm not paying attending or living intentionally. It's about getting back to what matters to me, family, writing, friends, experiences that make me a fuller a person.

* * *

Quickie: Womanomics Book Review



I read Womenomics: Write Your Own Rules for Success
as suggested by January

Diane Sawyer calls it: "A personal, provocative and challenging book for career women who want less guilt, more life."

While it does deal with women who are working a job outside the home, specifically the corporate world (a planet I left many moons ago), I still found it a satisfying and usable book for my own situation.

One thing I left with was that Dorothy from Oz feeling-- you've had the power all along.


Apologies to an Apple- Poetry Book Review

Previously posted on Book of Kells, 9/24/09:

Link to Read. Write. Poem. Blog tour...

Read. Write. Poem. is sponsoring a virtual book/blog tour of Maya Ganesan's wonderful book of poems, Apologies to an Apple and I am lucky enough to have the first day, September 24th, which is also Maya's 12th birthday.

Now, for most people, having a book is remarkable, but having a book and virtual book tour on your 12th birthday is even more remarkable!

And another remarkable thing? Maya has poems in our next issue of Crab Creek Review. She is the youngest poet we've ever published and in that same issue we are publishing 90 year old Madeline DeFrees, who may be the oldest poet we've published. I love that!

You might be wondering, how I learned of Maya Ganesan. A couple years ago a friend of mine asked me if I'd consider writing a blurb for a young author, "She's eleven and publishing her first book of poems." I was concerned and hesitant. She said, "Let me send you her poems and you can see for yourself." I did and I was amazed.

Maya does not write like any eleven year old (now 12!) I have ever met. Her poems offer insight and are rich with the world around her.

Some, like the poem "Sold," even offer a Rumi-like quality:

I have sold time
to whoever
would pay the price for it.

She writes to nature around her:

The sparrows have received
my invitation, it seems--

(from "Invitation")

She write to the details of life:

Ribbons, and Bibles
stolen from chapels.

I trust
every single of a thousand coastlines

(From "Requiem")

This is definitely a book you will want to check out and if you have kids, a great example of how poetry can written thoughtfully and insightfully at any age. I wrote in my blurb for her, "I am amazed by this young poet and can only imagine the wonderful things she will bring to the literary world in her future." And I do.

Happy Birthday, Maya!

Welcome to Book Harvest

I am a writer, poet, and editor who in keeping a blog of my writing life (Book of Kells), found I was doing more and more reviews of books. These reviews would come in between posts about poetry and writing and while I loved having this be part of the conversation, I wanted to create a place for the reader, the booklover, to come and see what I really loved.

So I created Book Harvest, a blog of my favorite books.

Please use it to find books for yourself as well as others. I hope during the Christmas season, this can be a good place to find books for others as gifts.

You will probably find books in the genres of memoir, creative non-fiction, non-fiction, and poetry here as those are my favorites. However, I do occasionally read fiction, but if I post a fiction book here, know I consider the very best because as a writer and editor myself, I am ridiculously picky when it comes to fiction.

I'll start by posting some past reviews I did on my Book of Kells blog. Then move forward with some of the new books I am reading.

Thanks for stopping by. If you have any questions, drop me a line.

Also, I am open to receiving review copies of books, however I cannot guarantee I will post a review of your book on this site because I am only posting reviews and links of my favorite books here. However, I will give your book a mention on my Book of Kells blog if I don't review for it here.

You can contact me at kelli (a) for more information where to send your review copies.

Thanks for stopping by.



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