Posted in Poetry, Uncategorized

RIP Mary Oliver


One of my favorite poets has died.

Here is her obituary in the NY Times.

And here is my favorite poem by her–possibly my favorite poem, period:

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Posted in Audiobooks, Books, Reading, Reading Radar, Uncategorized

Reading Radar

On my radar this week:


Started the audiobook of Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. Partially because I want to start off the year with something thoughtful, partly because I have a grudge against Brene Brown that I feel like I have to get rid of. I don’t know why. Anyway, I’m having some trouble focusing on it–I had to start the introduction over, and I keep having to go back a few minutes to relisten to what I just heard–but I’m hoping it will grow on me because seriously, I need to learn how to be more vulnerable and do some greatly daring things in my life.

What I really want to be reading:


I was planning to start this one on New Year’s Eve, but then the family party I went to ended up being interesting enough that I didn’t have to hide behind my Kindle. It would be a third reread for me in about as many years, but what can I say. It’s one of my favorite YA books. I’m trying to branch out from YA–hence the Brene Brown–but I have a feeling I’ll go back to it for this one soon.

Started but not likely to finish:


The premise sounded good, but it just hasn’t grabbed me. Sorry, universe. Might try it again later in the year, when I don’t have the pressure of “it’s the new year, you must read good, important books!” hanging over my head. I’m not the only one who feels that way, right?

Posted in Uncategorized

Vic’s 2019 Reading Goals

2019 Reading GoalsWhen it came to my reading goals, I did not do very well in 2018. I had five goals and I only made one of them.

I wanted to read all of Sherman Alexie’s books — I only read one before the #metoo accusations surfaced about how he’d abused his power with female authors and while I loved The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (it made my top 10 list), there was just too much other great stuff on my TBR list to go back to his other books. I think I’ll just shelve this goal for now. I might come back to it someday but I don’t feel any great desire to right now.

I wanted to read all of the Harry Potter books. I didn’t even start one. Shelving this one, too. Sounds like a good goal for a relaxing week in a wifi-free cabin maybe and I don’t think that’s in the cards for me in 2019.

I also really wanted to read all of the books on the syllabus for David Foster Wallace’s Literary Analysis class. I still think this one’s a great idea, and I went so far as to get each of these books from the library, but I didn’t actually read a single one. I am going to read Lonesome Dove this year though, because it keeps popping up in bookstores and online for me like some kind of personal siren call. I’m on the library wait list for it right now.

The one goal I did make was to read 75 books as part of the Goodreads Reading Challenge. I had lots of ups and downs to my reading, tearing through many of them in the winter and spring but almost none in the summer, before getting back on track only in late December.

So, what’s on tap for 2019? This year I’m going to be much more reasonable with only two goals — but the book count is higher so I feel OK about it.

Vic’s 2019 Reading Goals

  1. Read 80 books: For the last three years I’ve read 75 books each year; this year I’m upping it to 80.
  1. Write a 25-word review for every book I read. Post it here and on goodreads.

That’s it! What are your reading goals for this year?

Posted in Uncategorized

Vic’s Top 10 Books Read in 2018

2018 was a GREAT year for reading. I was lagging behind my Goodreads Challenge goal of 75 books for much of the year, but a very quiet few weeks at the end of December allowed me to catch up and even read one more for a total of 76. In all I rated nine books with five full stars and 37 as four-star reads — not too shabby. There was so much good stuff to read, and my TBR pile is already enormous for this year. So much so that I’m upping my 2019 goal to 80 books.

As is now my tradition, here are the top 10 books that I read this year, in order.

10. The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer: I hated this book the first two or three times I tried to read it, but because I’ve loved so much of what Wolitzer has written before and because people kept telling me they loved it, I persisted. I’m glad I did — it does a wonderful job showing the complexity that sometimes exists in relationships between people who on the surface all believe the same thing.

9.  Factfulness by Hans Rosling: I wrote about this book earlier in my post “Combating Despair with Facts” but to reiterate, if you are feeling hopeless or pessimistic about the state of the world, this easy-to-read book will help ease your soul. Extreme poverty has halved in the last 20 years around the globe, more girls are getting educations, and fewer people are dying of preventable diseases. It’s probably the book I’ve talked the most about this year — I think it should be required reading for every world citizen.

8. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie: I have very complicated feelings about Sherman Alexie (and this was even before the whole #metoo thing) so I have avoided reading much of his work. Last year though, my book club read Alexie’s memoir about his mother and I was floored by how good it was. Long story short, I read this in an attempt to open my mind, and I am glad I did. It’s so good.

7. Belonging: A German Reckons with History and Home by Nora Krug: I’ve always wondered what it’s like the be German and saddled by all of the horrible Nazi history. German-native Nora Krug’s beautiful graphic novel tells the story of her search for home and the complex feelings she has as she researches her family’s role in WWII.

6. The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui: This gorgeous graphic novel tells the story of the author’s family’s life and eventual escape from Vietnam and the impact on the children’s lives in California many years later. Beautiful.

5. Tin Man by Sarah Winman: The content of this novel reminded me a lot of my #1 pick but this is a much more succinct snapshot. A beautiful story of missed opportunities and the pain of a first true love.

4. You & A Bike & A Road by Eleanor Davis: I discovered this book through the recommendation of a good friend and I’m so thankful. Davis’ simple drawings help tell a beautiful story about what it means to be by yourself and the joys of traveling without a structured plan.

3. Calypso by David Sedaris: You probably know David Sedaris and how laugh-out-loud funny his essays are. This is his tenth book and while they’ve all been funny and smart, this is the first time I’ve seen him tackle difficult topics — like his sister’s suicide and the approach of old age for him and his father — with such grace and depth. It’s absolutely his best so far.

2. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas: Angie Thomas is the next Toni Morrison. This YA novel tells the story of a police shooting from the perspective of 16 year-old Starr Carter and is surprisingly thoughtful about showing the story from multiple perspectives.

1. The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne: I feel like there should be a name for this kind of sweeping novel — one where the story takes you through the complete arc of a character’s life. Is there and I just don’t know it? In any case, this one is fantastic. It tells the story of Cyril Avery, starting with the day his 16-year old mother is humiliated by the parish priest and kicked out of her home for getting pregnant out of wedlock. It is a beautiful story about the unexpected places life takes you. Just gorgeous. (Although to be fair, I gave it to my mother for Christmas and she called me up to ask why I would give her such an anti-Catholic and depressing book. So it’s not for everyone. But I adored it.)


PS: What 2018 was not great for was blogging. I was inconsistent and just plain dropped off there at the end of the year. But I plan to remedy that in 2019, with much more frequent and diverse posts (fingers crossed).