Saturday, May 31, 2008

Back in the Swing of Things

I know I haven't posted in a while, but that probably has something to do with the fact that I hadn't read a book since the end of the 52 books in 52 weeks series. Yes, I said "hadn't." I finished a book, two books actually. I started reading one and got sidetracked by the other -- and finished them both within a day of each other.

Are they significant choices? Maybe. The first I finished was Nora Robert's The Hollow, the follow up to book 21 of 52. I picked it up while food shopping at the Jersey shore. I'd brought half a dozen books with me, hoping to jarr my reading mind back open while spending six days away from home. But when I saw that book in the supermarket isle, I couldn't say no. It was an easy (and sometimes silly) way to get back into things.

The second is Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto. My food education is progressing since reading The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, book 40 of 52. I'm more conscious of what's in my food and where it came from. Last night, my aunt asked me how much peppers were at the farmer's market. I said I didn't know -- the peppers had been shipped in from North Carolina, so I didn't buy them. "Why?" The look on her face was almost horror. I've had to temper myself in spreading 'the good word.' People have been used to having nutritionism shoved down their throats, and information based on now unproven studies (e.g. 'fat is bad,' which is nonsense) that it's hard to do a wake up call in one conversation. I've gotten into food debates with folks who get angry for suggeting that things they've known all their lives are wrong. If it's wrong, then why is this country so overweight?

If you need a good rule of thumb, remember this: If your great grandmother would not recognize it as food, don't eat it. And, yes, that knocks skim milk and any kind of Weight Watcher's engineered food off the list.

Anyway...enough of my high horse. I'm glad to be back into reading. I still don't know what'll happen with this blog. But thank you to everyone who requested an e-copy of it. I hope you got some summer reading suggestion. I don't have a to-read list yet outside of what I have due to review next week. So we'll see where this reading thing takes me.

On another note, click here to read my article on Amy Hill Hearth, which ran in today's St. Pete Times. She wrote books 30 and 31 of this series.

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Friday, May 16, 2008

In the Philadelphia Inquirer

Two articles of note in today's Philadelphia Inquirer:

My write up of the Philadelphia Library Book Festival.

My suggestions for summer beach reads. Ths books were numbers 45 of 52, 49 of 52, 35 of 52, 50 of 52, and one not included on this list

I'm off to Cape May today for my father's wedding. I'm packing two books. I hope to get some quality reading time in before the ceremony today. We'll see!

Remember, if you'd like to reviews in order from 1 to 52 in a word document, just email me at jenmiller27 [at] gmail [dot] com!

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Someone's Been Reading my Blog...

...because this showed up in the mail today:



I can't even tell you how excited I am about this bag. I must take it down the shore with me this weekend. Click here to read what the fuss is all about.

Still haven't read anything since I ended the series. I don't know if it's book overdose or making a major push for my shore book -- probably a little bit of both!

Remember, if you'd like to reviews in order from 1 to 52 in a word document, just email me at jenmiller27 [at] gmail [dot] com!

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Monday, May 12, 2008

What I've Been Doing

Thanks to everyone who commented and emailed me about ending the blog series. It's nice to know that people enjoyed it. As someone said to me, "You should either write something worth reading or do something worth reading about," and your support makes me think that I managed to do that.

So what have I been doing since finishing the 52nd book? A lot, actually. I haven't read a book! I tried -- even dipped into a few -- but they couldn't keep my attention. I don't think it's because of the material, but because I need a break.

What I have done is sorted through all the magazines I didn't get to because I had my nose burried in a book. I forgot how much I enjoy reading magazines (and not stuff like Cosmo and Maxim -- I'm talking Portfolio, Metropolitan Home and National Geographic Traveler), and how many ideas for articles I get from reading magazines.

I've also been planning my book launch party, and finishing up a lot of work that I need to get done before June 1. Today I'm headed down the shore on assignment from both the Philadelphia Inquirer and New York Times, and to pick up seashells. It's a cold, windy day, which means the conditions should be perfect for shells on the beach.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do with this book blog series yet. A few people have mentioned book, and I've thought about it. I read through some of the earlier blog entries this weekend, and I can see how much has changed in the last seven months. Who knows. Maybe there is nothing to do with it because I did it -- I wrote about it and shared it and hopefully entertained you. I learned a lot about myself, and what could be better than that?

Remember, if you'd like to reviews in order from 1 to 52 in a word document, just email me at jenmiller27 [at] gmail [dot] com!

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Friday, May 9, 2008

Giving it All Away

I went through the blog today and put the reviews in order -- 1 to 52 -- in a word document. If anyone wants it, drop me a line at jenmiller27 [at] gmail [dot] com.

Why give it away for free? Because it's already free online :-) But I realize that some people might want to be able to read it all in order without the clicking, or print it out and carry it with them.

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Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Book 52 of 52: Heirloom: Notes from an Accidential Tomato Farmer

I don't want Tim Stark's Heirloom: Notes from an Accidental Tomato Farmer to get short shift in this post since it's the last one. But it's a beautiful book and, really, the perfect cap to this series. It's sat on my 'to read' list since I got the galley, but I kept putting it aside. For all I worried about picking the right book as book 52, it was there all along.

I started this project because I got dumped. Or at least that was the final factor that pushed me into trying something new. Now that I'm looking back over the series, there's a lot of things that rolled into me making the decision to challening myself to read 52 books in 52 weeks.

I'd only been seeing the guy for a few months, but that break up (which I wrote about in my review of book 7 of 52) was another reminder that I had failed...again. I had tried to pick myself up off the ground after a major, heart wrenching, spirit crushing breakup that happened in March. I tried to start something new with someone else, and I had failed...again. It didn't help that the guy (well, both of them) dumped me. It was a big, bad blow that came at a bad time.

I started the blog soon after I turned in the manuscript for my book, which was just published last month. I was depressed, almost hung over from working on the book so intently for so long. I was at a loss for what to do next. I wasn't working that much (which is bad when you're a freelancer), I was seriously thinking about getting a conventional job. I had a mortgage that I couldn't afford, and not because of the subprime mortgage mess, but because the work just wasn't coming in. I hadn't run (and by that I mean seriously on-a-schedule run) since July, and I was looking it. Things were stalled all over my life, and I needed something to get me going.

This is what I wrote in my first post: "I was just dumped for the second time this year -- for the third time in the last 12 months. Even aside from the dumping thing, it's been a pretty crappy year: my grandfather died, my grandmother moved into an assisted living facility, my income took a dip, and I'm tired. Just...tired. I need something, and I think this might be it. And where did I find inspiration to take on such a project? Through a book, of course."

That book was book 1 of 52, Julie Powell's Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen. I'd been meaning to read it since it came out, but could never find the time. Staring the blog gave me the time -- and permission -- to read that and a lot of books that I normally would have put in the "I can't read it because I can't sell anything about it" category.

Of course I ended up writing about it, and book 20 of 52, Ruth Reichl's Comfort Me with Apples: More Adventures at the Table, another "I can't sell this" book. Here's what I wrote then: "I would also like to point out that I picked up my copy of Comfort Me with Apples for $1 at the Haddonfield Library Book Sale, the same book sale where I had a book reviewer crisis. I wanted to read this book since I'd finished Tender at the Bone, but knew that I couldn't turn it into a sell-able review since it wasn't a new book. I almost didn't buy it, but I figured I could spare the $1. The result? I'm writing about it anyway, but instead of for a review, for an assigned essay. And isn't that a nice way to cap off the year? Well, a fast, good run would be perfect right about now, but I'll have to be patient at least in that portion of my life."

By taking me out of that "I can't read it because I can't sell it" zone, this blog has lifted my work to another level. I read about stuff I never would have read about before. Books like Follow the Story: How to Write Successful Nonfiction (book 27 of 52), The Trap: Selling Out to Stay Afloat in Winner-Take-All America (book 37 of 52) and The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals(book 40 of 52) have changed the way I work, the way I eat, the way I think and the way I live.

For example: I got an email today from Liz Claman, anchor at Fox Business Network, about a piece I wrote about her for Park Place Magazine. It was a very flattering letter and one she also sent to my editors. I had done the initial interview over the phone, but after reading Follow the Story, I knew something was missing to make it a really interesting interview. So I asked Liz if she'd like to go running (she had scolosis as a kid and was told she'd never run, but she ran the New York Marathon anyway). What a difference that run made. Here's the article. Could you imagine that piece without it and just a phone interview?

And that whole experience of being told to read Follow the Story: How to Write Successful Nonfiction has changed the way I approach everything I write. Plus, writing about reading the book forced me to look at problems I was having with my career, and with my post-book depression. Without the blog, I never would have taken a look at what was wrong with me and then made decisions about how to make it right. That's the beauty of the blog. It forced me not just to read but to think about what I read, process it, and put it into a form that other people would hopefully enjoy reading. And that's where the change came: processing what had just happened.

It wasn't just the 'big books' where that was important. It was in silly books took, like Sweet Valley Twins(book 44 of 52), Wired (book 5 of 52) even The Threesome Handbook: A Practical Guide to SLEEPING WITH THREE(book 9 of 52). They brought back memories and stories about my relationship with reading (though not the threesome book -- though that one gets me hits on this blog from some very interesting keyword combinations).

So why was Heirloom: Notes from an Accidental Tomato Farmer the perfect cap to this series? Because it pulls together so much information that I learned in these books, and it also intersects with some stuff going on in my non0-reading life, mainly that I've been seeing someone who's really into food. He's a former vegan (got turned back by brownies -- who can blame him?) who cooks for me whenever he's here, and teaching me how to cook, too. I'm seeing food in new ways through his eyes, and some of his lessons about cooking and preparing and local foods is illuminated in Omnivore's Dilemma. When I read what Stark had to say about oils prices and food, I got it because I've read Omnivore's Dilemma. When he wrote about the ridiculousness of midwest farmres and how they're enslaved by growning corn, I got it -- again because of Omnivore's Dilemma. When he wrote about why farmers are outpriced of their farms because, I got it because I read The Trap. And when he wrote about what a struggle writing can be, I got it, not just because of Follow the Story but because I'd been there, too.

I can't even tell you how many times the books and this blog came to mind: The Importance of Music to Girls (book 42 of 52) while dancing at the matt pond PA concert; The First Campaign: Globalization, the Web, and the Race for the White House(book 6 of 52) when I signed up for Twitter; The Wisdom of Donkeys: Finding Tranquility in a Chaotic World (book 29 of 52) anytime someone made a comment about a donkey and To Cork or Not To Cork: Tradition, Romance, Science, and the Battle for the Wine Bottle (book 16 of 52) every time I opened a bottle of wine including tonight when I gave up trying -- yes, gave up -- opening a bottle with a plastic cork. I just talked about Of a Feather: A Brief History of American Birding (book 4 of 52) at my book chat last night. It has given me idea for articles I never would have thought of (like this one for USAirways Magazine) and lead me down paths that have expanded my work horizion. I've done my first book reviews for a major women's magazine, review more books for the St. Pete Times and, yes, have seen some extra money coming in. It has forced me to look at issues I have within my self that has produced the most personal piece of writing I've put together so far that came about when I sat down to think about why I run (book 41 of 52), a piece that has changed me even if it never sells. In the process, I put the demon of that horrible breakup, and my own issues surrouding it, to bed. It took me 52 books and over a year (from that first dumping) to realize that he was in the wrong, and that if I'm not pretty enough for him, that the problem isn't with me but with him.

I've always known that I learned from reading, but I never realized how much until I wrote about it on this blog. So if you ever say you're too tired/busy/stressed to read, I implore you -- yes, implore you -- to get off the computer, turn off the radio and turn off the TV and give it a go. I've gone days without watching TV because I was reading for this series, and you know what? I didn't miss it. Not one bit.

I started the blog on October 17, 2007. Obviously, it didn't take me 52 weeks, so I'm not sure what I will do now. I kept thinking that I'd keep going and keep writing about what I'm reading, but I have to admit that I'm tired. Blogging takes a lot of time and effort, and I'm running full steam ahead on my shore blog because it's promoting my book. So I might take a break, I might keep posting. We'll see....

On another note, thank you to everyone who has been following along. Your comments and emails have kept me going when I thought I was typing into the great unknown. It wouldn't have happened with out.

**UPDATE** I got a great suggestion of listing all the books from the series. So here they are, linked to their reviews:

The Beginning
1. Julie & Julia by Julie Powell
2. The Four Man Plan: A Romantic Science by Cindy Lu
3. Spanking Shakespeare by Jake Wizner
4. Of a Feather: A Brief History of American Birding by Scott Weidensaul
5. Wired by Liz Maverick
6. The First Campaign: Globalization, the Web, and the Race for the White House by Garrett M. Graff
7. Smart Girls Like Me by Diane Vadino
8. How to Become a Famous Writer Before You're Dead by Ariel Gore
9. The Threesome Handbook: A Practical Guide to Sleeping with Three by Vicki Vantoch
10. Salty Dogs by Jean M. Fogle
11. Oh the Humanity! by Jason Roeder
12. Not Tonight, Mr. Right by Kate Taylor
13. Plug Your Book Online: Book Marketing for Authors by Steve Weber
14. Helping Me Help Myself by Beth Lisick
15. Office Mate: The Employee Hadnbook for Finding -- and Managing -- Romance on the Job by Stephanie Losee and Helaine Olen
16. To Cork or Not to Cork: Tradition, Romance, Science, and the Battle for the Win Bottle by George M. Taber
17. Sneaker Wars: The Enemy Brothers Who Founded Adidas and Puma by Barbara Smit
18. Ellington Boulevard: A Novel in A-Flat by Adam Langer
19. Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips
20. Comfort Me with Apples by Ruth Reichl
21. Blood Brothers by Nora Roberts
22. A Selection of Pieces from The New Yorker, The Talk of the Town
23. The Pocket Idiot's Guide to Getting Girls by Lisa Altalida
24. Rules of the Game by Neil Strauss
25. This Book Will Get You Laid by E. Dickens
26. Design Flaws of the Human Condition by Paul Schmidtberger
27. Follow the Story: How to Write Successful Nonfiction by James B. Stewart
28. A Short History of the American Stomach by Frederick Kaufman
29. The Wisdom of Donkeys by Andy Merrifield
30. Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years by Amy Hill Hearth
31. "Strong Medicine" Speaks: A Native American Elder Has Her Say by Amy Hill Hearth
32. Things I've Learned from Women Who've Dumped Me
33. Lee Miller: A Life by Carolyn Burke
34. The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett
35. He Loves Me, He Loves me Not by Trish Ryan
36. The Wonder Spot by Melissa Bank
37. The Trap: Selling Out to Stay Afloat in Winner-Take-All America by Daniel Brook
38. Why Johnny Hates Sports by Fred Engh
38. A Summer Affair by Elin Hilderbrand
39. Dogface by Jeff Garigliano
40. Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan
41. First Marathons: Personal Encounters with the 26.2-Mile Monster
42. The Importance of Music to Girls by Lavinia Greenlaw
43. Quiet, Please: Dispatches from a Public Librarian by Scott Douglas
44. Sweet Valley Twins: Teacher's Pet by Francine Pascal
45. LoveHampton by Sherri Rifkin
46. ?
47. ?
48. ?
49. Up Until Now by William Shatner
50. The Scandal Plan or: How to Win the Presidency by Cheating on Your Wife by Bill Folman
51. The Book Stops Here: A Mobile Library Mystery by Ian Sansom
52. Heirloom: Notes from an Accidential Tomato Farmer by Tim Stark

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I'm Done

I'm done. I just finished book 52 of 52. I tried to write the review, but there's too many thoughts winging through my head. So I'm going to process and write up my report later. Until then, here's a picture of the series:

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Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Win a Free Copy of My Book!

Sorry for the relatively blogging silence. I'm in the thick of promoting my book, so time for reading has been cut short (though I'm really enjoying book 52 of 52).

But I did want to let you know that you can win a free copy of my book! I was interviewed over at K.C.'s Write For You about guide book writing. Ask a question in the comments section of Kerri's blog by 5pm CST today and you're entered to win!

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Monday, May 5, 2008

Interview: Trish Ryan

I interviewed Trish Ryan, author of He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not (book 35 of 52) on my shore blog -- check it out here.

So far (and there's only one book left in this series), the events surrounding me finishing Trish's book have been the most comical, even if I didn't think of it at the time. I think about it every time I see my likes-to-have-sex-to-bad-techno neighbors. They've been relatively quiet as of late. Either they're fighting again (there was one incident where the guy brought home balloons, which was followed by about 20 seconds of techno, then nothing), or they read the blog. Based on how they'd been acting lately, I'd go with the former.

Read more at trishryanonline.blogspot.com.

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Saturday, May 3, 2008

Weekend Wandering: Mobile Library

In honor of book 51 of 52, which is about a mobile library (though I doubt it's not as nice as this one):

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