Showing posts from 2017

What I Read This Year

The vast majority of books I read this year were not published this year, but I did read several 2017 releases.  You'll notice that hardly any of the books I absolutely loved received major awards attention or adulation this year.  The hype surrounding most of the books at the tops of the critics lists were largely lost on me.  I tried reading a few of them--and I won't say which ones, as it would be bad manners to publicly put down other novelists (now if we were in private conversation that'd be another thing altogether...)--but I found them mostly unreadable, pretentious, dull, overhyped, or, most often, a combination of all four factors. So, I am only mentioning here the books I read in 2017 that I loved.   My reading list this year was largely shaped by the fact that I taught in Edinburgh for two weeks this summer, so I immersed myself in Scottish literature as much as I was able.  And it is an incredibly rich literature. The other twenty-two books I read this year ca…

Best Music of 2017

This has been a great year for music.  So much, in fact, that it's almost impossible to narrow it down to just a handful of great albums and songs.  That's why I've prepared a playlist with 75 songs--more than four and a half hours of music--over on my Spotify account for your listening pleasure. It runs the gamut from country to rock to hip hop to Americana and even some pop that might surprise you (a couple really surprised me, but they're really fine songs), but I've chosen the songs by being honest about what tunes stuck in my head, resonated with me, or moved me, whether that be by bringing a tear to my eye or making me want to dance.  They're in no particular order so I suggest putting it on shuffle and just letting the songs play. I hope you'll let me know anything that you discover on there that you end up loving.

But that list is made up of favorite songs and as we all know, albums are very different animals.  Albums are like novels.  A great albu…

The Flood, Then and Now

The March I was a year old, it rained for two weeks in the South. My mother tells me that she could never get my diapers dry because she couldn't hang them out on the clothesline (we didn't have a dryer, of course) and even when she hung them all over the house, our tiny little trailer was too damp for them to dry.  

"Everything we had in the world was in that little trailer," my mother told me last night. At the time of the flood my father had been back from Vietnam about five years and worked as a mechanic in a local gas station. My mother was a part-time assembler at the refrigerator factory in the next town over. They worked all the time. I have very few memories of them being still.  
Our trailer sat snugly between the rise of the L&N railroad track and the normally placid waters of the Little Laurel River, which was now becoming swollen and violent. In other words, there was no chance we'd make it through fourteen days of continuous rain. They watch…

Songs of Summer 2017

When I think of summer songs, I think of songs that would be good for a day out on the lake, or a long bike ride, or while enjoying my own back yard.  Songs of summer tend to be more upbeat, lighter fare.  So the larger culture's "Songs of Summer" tend to be more on the mindless, pop side...not that there's anything wrong with that. But I like something I can tap my foot to that also has a lot going on between the lines of the song and in the production as well. I couldn't resist throwing in a couple of ballads that I'm loving right now.  I wanted to pick songs that have only come out recently, too.  So below are the videos of my picks for this year's Songs of Summer, in no particular order.  Or you can just go straight to my Spotify and listen to them there.  

Shine On Me-Dan Auerbach

Should've Been You-Imelda May

Better Way-Andrew Combs


Over-Kings of Leon

Electric Love-Serena Ryder

Green Eyes-Aubrie Sellers

Hungry Ghost-Hurray for the…

Evening in America: 31 Years After the Challenger Explosion

January 28, 1986. We were out of school that day for snow. My best friend, Donna, and I were riding sleds off the strip mine across the road from my house.  My mother came out onto the porch and hollered, telling us to come in "right now". She didn't say why but her words telegraphed over the frozen air to us that something bad had happened.  I had not wanted to miss school that day because we were scheduled to watch the launch. There had been a special station set up for schools to watch via NASA and it was always exciting when the massive television was wheeled into our classroom on its metal stand.  This was a time when children were very interested in the space program and the space shuttles had made us even more interested.   There were action  figures and model kits and toys dedicated to the space missions.  We learned all about the astronauts in class. We were the children of the Cold War, still three years from the fall of the Berlin Wall, and there was national p…