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1. Two intriguing reviews at Bookforum for Jeanette Winterson's memoir Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? and Sarah Manguso's The Broken Elegy.

2. You really need to buy the current issue of Tinhouse.

3. My latest obsession is "dark rides".

4. Errol Morris, the "thinking man's detective", at Smithsonian Magazine.

5. Sherman Alexie and some other literary hoopsters playing ball for literary scholarships. It's a feel-good story! Yea!

What I'm Reading Now:

Polar Wives by Kari Herbert. No big surprise that I was eager to read this one. Herbert is the daughter of a polar explorer and writes here about the wives of several famous men (Scott, Shackleton, Peary etc). She used a ton of letters, diaries, etc and also arranges the book by theme rather than as a series of biographical sketches. I'm loving it.

Wonder Show by Hannah Barnaby. A creepy orphanage/circus YA novel that has already surprised me with its darkness. I was thinking about this one for my May column as it has a bit of a family angle but it's much more sinister that I expected. So later this summer or even fall. I'm halfway through though and it's quite good.

Call of the Mild by Lily Raff McCaulou. Memoir about a nonhunter who learns to hunt. I'm reviewing it for Booklist so that's all I can say!

And also a collection of Jim Harrison's nonfiction. I continue to be drawn more into the lives of men who write about men and what it means to be a man. I blame all of this on working far too long in a male-dominated profession.

What I recently read:

Lincoln's Dreams by Connie Willis. As a historian the draw of Willis's take on the Civil War was impossible for me to pass by and I wasn't disappointed. Many readers seem to have struggled with this one but I thought it was perfect. The science of dreams was Willis at her geeky best and the slow unfolding story of researcher Jeff and Annie, the girl he is falling for who dreams of the war in a way that is impossible but true, kept me riveted. I especially loved the ending, every perfectly sad bit of it.

The Coldest City by Antony Johnston. A gn set in Berlin during the final days of the Cold War. Spies are dying/disappearing, there is vital intelligence that may or may not have been stolen by the Russians and the Brits send in an unassuming female spy to get to the bottom of it. My only complaint is that the spare black & white illustrations made it hard to keep all the male characters straight. But overall, an excellent thriller with a great ending.

The Birding Life. A great big huge coffee table book that includes not only discussion of great birders (from Audubon to Roger Tory Peterson) but also current ornithologists, designers who use bird motifs, folks who decorate with bird imagery (include the Hollisters) and just great photography from start to finish. Well worth the price.


Oh goodness, Lincoln's Dreams makes my cry every time -- "I have picked up a nail." Sniff.

YES. That final sentence killed me. She pulled the whole novel together right there at that moment. It was just wonderful and heartbreaking all the same time. Perfect.

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