Blog Archives

What are you reading? (Betsy M., Chicago, IL)

[For the week of November 18, 2010:  Betsy M., Chicago, IL]

Betsy M., What are you reading?

Generally speaking, I am always reading either a novel or a narrative non-fiction and then researching whatever my topic dujour is.  So hold onto your shorts.  I am reading Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, If You’re Clueless About the Stock Market and Want to Know More by Seth Godin, and several books on classic cocktails.

What made you pick it up?

Well, firstly with Outlander, it’s a Scottish tale and my Mom’s side of the family is heavily Scottish so I thought it might be a fun read.  The stock market book because I work at the Chicago Board Options Exchange and people speak in acronyms around here.  It was driving me crazy not knowing what some of them mean.  Admittedly, the book was written in 2001 so it could use some updates, still thus far it has helped.  I learned about the OTC market (Over the counter) right before someone told me to put something about it in a spreadsheet, so bingo.  Also, as someone with more than one 401K and some shares in a company, I figured I might as well get a general idea about investing.  (For those who balk at this idea, it can actually be kind of a fun topic and for those of us in our 20’s and 30’s, it’s a really great idea to learn about now and invest.  We’ve got time, y’all.)  The classic cocktail books because frankly I love drinking good liquor.  Much more so than wine or beer.  Cocktails are way more glamorous, more fun, taste better and have fantastic names.  Perhaps a Rob Roy would go with my reading of Outlander.  (BTW, Potter fans…I just found a drink called a Mud and Blood.)

What was the last thing you read?

The last thing I read was Speaks the Nightbird by Robert McCammon.  (I’ve also put down The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield…just wasn’t getting into it.)  Before that was Nina Garcia’s Lookbook, a book designed to help you hone your personal style but ends up being a book about how to dress like Nina Garcia.  That said, I can’t resist any book with illustrations by Ruben Toledo.  Bombshell Manual, anyone?  He’s a genius.  I also read Sardi’s Bar Guide by Vincent Sardi (of the famed Broadway restaurant…a book that combines two of my loves) and The Essential Cocktail by Dale DeGroff.  HIGHLY recommended.

[If you’d like to be featured on “What are you reading?” shoot me an email.]


What are you reading? (Margo G., Chicago, IL)

[For the week of 11/11/11 – Margo G., Chicago, IL]

Note: The Lovely Miss Margo is a director in Chicago. Her current project, “Dream of a Common Language” is playing at the Oracle Theatre until November 18th.  Recently, Margo and some members of the Prologue Theatre Company (of which she is Artistic Director) participated in the GreyZelda Theatre Group’s Ubergarden Fundraise, where I was also in attendance.  The below is a heeeee-larious video I figured you might enjoy. Watch us all create some art, on the spot!

Margo, What are you reading? 

Currently I’m reading The Man Who was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton. Originally written in 1908, it’s a thrilling, satirical, and thoroughly hilarious spy mystery-caper. Kinda. I do love good old-fashioned British style, which I need hardly say I find creeping into my speech or writing after reading a chapter or two.

What made you pick it up?
Last winter I saw a stellar stage production of a new adaptation of the book, and that’s when I procured a copy. However, like so many of my good intentions, it found itself on the shelf, neglected. Then, last month, I attended a staged reading revival of the production, remembered how perfectly delightful it was, and took up the book again. I love seeing the source material for an adaption to get a peek at the structure of things; in this particular instance, it’s giving me a further appreciation of both the book and the play.

What was the last thing you read?
I was re-reading Adrienne Rich’s book of poems, The Dream of a Common Language. I read it for the first time a few months ago, before going into rehearsals for the play Dream of a Common Language. I wanted to come back to it with a different perspective after working on the show. It’s a really great collection, and on this revisiting I picked up several more references from it that Heather McDonald incorporated into the play. For example, McDonald takes a line verbatim from the poem Paula Becker to Clara Westhoff, which is an imagined letter written from one (real, historical) female artist to another at the turn of the Twentieth Century. A lot of the themes of the poem resonate directly with the themes of the play. I definitely got a lot out of the re-reading!


What are you reading? (Amanda B., Chicago, IL)

[For the week of November 4th, 2010: Amanda B., Chicago, IL]

Amanda B., What are you reading?

Well, currently I am juggling a multitude of books. Since, I am still a college student I have the annoying task of reading many books simultaneously and more likely than not these are books that I don’t enjoy. At present I am reading Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland for my Costume Design class. Originally, I was horrified at the idea of reading this classic text. I was terrified that it would be dull and deadly like that of Henry James, who I still can’t muster enough interest in to power through.  I was, however, pleasantly surprised by Alice in Wonderland. Carroll is delightful and I am speeding through the novel. (I also can’t wait to design the costumes!)

As for my other classes- there is only one other  that I care to mention- it is my Dramatic Lit IV class. And yes, if you haven’t guessed by now-I am a theatre major. In Dramatic Lit IV we read one play per class. Some are lovely while others are dreadful. This past Tuesday we read Ruined by Lynn Nottage which won a Pulitzer Prize in2009. All I want to say about this book is that it should win a Pulizter Prize for its content about “ruined” women in the Congo.  It is masterfully crafted and I’m sure really engaging on stage. My favorite play that I have read in this class is The Lieutenant of Inishmore by Martin McDonagh. It is a satirical play about a terrorist in Ireland who’s greatest love is his cat, Wee Thomas.  It is not for the faint of heart, but it is for people who love cats and can handle some gore. The prop list alone is hysterical including dismembered limbs, live orange cat, and so on.

My pleasure book that I am reading (when I’m not reading your blog, of course) is a memoir by Jason Mulgrew titled Everything is Wrong With Me. Jason Mulgrew originally had a blog called “Everything is wrong with me: 30, Bipolar and hungry.” It was so popular that he was asked to write a book, which he did masterfully. Apparently now, he doesn’t have a blog but a fancy official website: (fancy).The book is witty and quick. It is an easy read and has me giggling to myself. There are also fabulous humiliating pictures. I recommend it to all.

Why did you pick it up?

The first few books I am reading for class the latter I picked up because first and foremost, I love memoirs. Secondly, I have recently found out that I’m bipolar. So I thought- hey, I might as well read about all those other wonderful bipolar people.  Surprisingly there are quite a few bipolar people and a few of them have written some great books.

What was the last thing you read?

Going along the theme of bipolar memoirs the last book I read was Carrie Fisher’s Wishful Drinking recommended by you, Miss Jamie. It was a grand time and I read it in one afternoon. I now have a lot of respect for this Star Wars heroine and can’t wait to see her do her one-act when she comes to town!  …………..(So, did I beat Leonardo?)

[If you’d like to be featured on “What are you reading?” shoot me at email at ‘mail at suchabooknerd dot com.’]

What are you reading? (Robert B., Chicago, IL)

[For the week of October 28, 2010 – Robert B., Chicago, IL]

*In addition to being the man behind what I consider to be the best darn theater blog in all the interwebs, Bob is one of my all-time favorite people.  We met in high school (doing a production of “Arsenic and Old Lace,” if you must know.) He may have also been the male of honor at my wedding.  No joke.  Bob is made of win.*

What are you reading?

I have a HUGE stack of books (and a few National Enquirers — don’t
judge!) on my bedside stand that I pick through. But the one I keep
gravitating toward is “Dorothy Parker: What Fresh Hell Is This?” by
Marion Meade. She’s a fascinating and complex woman, that Ms. Parker,
and Meade has done her homework researching her life. She really was
an unhappy woman!

What made you pick it up?

My mom recommended it, and gave it to me. Forced it upon me, if
youwill. She thought it might appeal to my wry sensitiblies.

What was the last thing you read?

That would be Room by Emma Donoghue — recommended by YOU, miss Such a
Book Nerd! Loved it, and have recommended it to many others.

Whats the scariest book you’ve ever read?

Hmm! Off the top of my head, that would be “Patti LuPone: A Memoir.”
Especially the chapter where she eats newborns and decapitates a
stagehand with a baseball bat after learning she’d been fired from
“Sunset Boulevard.” A nail biter, from cover to cover!

[Gratuitous Patti. In the Broadway production of “Sweeney Todd.” Which is totally based on a book. So there, it’s relevant.]

What are you reading? (Elizabeth K., Chicago, IL)

[For the week of October 21, 2010: Elizabeth K., Chicago, IL]

1. What are you reading?

I am actually reading two books at the moment: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest and Little Bee. For the record, I often read two books at the same time. One book is on the nightstand for evening/home reading and the other is usually tucked into my work bag for the train and occasional lunch time reading.

2. What made you pick it up?

My Mom sent me Little Bee via mail. She often will send me books from her book club that she swears I’ll enjoy. Some have been great and others not so much. Mom was spot on about Little Bee. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest is part of the Millennium Trilogy; after reading the first two books, I have to finish the third. I need to know how it ends. This book (well, the whole series) takes some twists and turns you’d never expect. I picked up the first book in the series in an airport bookstore while waiting for a flight back to Michigan last Christmas. For me, some of the best reading discoveries happen in airport book shops.

3. What was the last thing you read?

Mad Men: The Illustrated World.  My husband surprised me with it at New York Comicon. I am a huge fan of the show, so I read this book in 30 minutes. I also read the NY Times style section online at lunch today. Does that count?

4. Whats the scariest book you’ve ever read?

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. Probably the creepiest, surreal, and most engaging book I’ve ever read. I had to stop reading the book at night because I was having really weird dreams. It is a wild onion of a book–lots of layers to peel away until you reach the center. It is definitely a good Halloween read  and a book that I’ve recommended to many, many people.

[If you’d like to be featured on “What are you reading?” shoot me an email.]

What are you reading? (Mavis D., Alpena, MI)

[For the week of October 14th: Mavis D., Alpena, MI]

**Confession: This fabulous lady is my Mom, and the reason I’m a reader in the first place. She reads incessantly, and is incredibly candid about she’s read.  We both can’t understand why people love Henry James.**

Mavis D., What are you reading?

I am currently reading “The Blind Assassin” by Margaret Atwood.  Just started it last night so I’m not really far enough in to love it yet, but got past the slow spot and now it’s starting to grab me.  I have a rotten cold today so the plan is to lay about in jammies tonite drinking hot herbal tea and reading it.

What made you pick it up?

I’m reading it because YOU recommended it so highly!  I liked “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Cat’s eye” by her, also.

What was the last thing you read?

I read “The Feline Mystique On the Mysterious Connection Between Women and Cats” by Clea Simon.  That is, till I got to the last chapter which is on our beloved cats death and dying.  Then I had to put it down, due to Patches’ disappearance and probable death….  I can’t read the rest of it right now.  Maybe later.

[Side note: Our family cat, Patches, has been missing for almost two months.  As she’s a farm cat, she had free reign of the outdoors.  Which should help explain the above comments.]

Whats the scariest book you’ve ever read?

“The Bone Collector” by Jeffrey Deaver is the scariest book I ever read.  Normally, I don’t go for scary books.  But I liked it and have been reading more of him.

[If you want to be featured on “What are you reading?” shoot me an email!]

What are you reading? (Aleisha E., Corpus Christi, TX)

For the week of October 7, 2010: Aleisha E., Corpus Christi, TX

1.  Aleisha, What are you reading?
I’m about halfway through Stephen King’s “Danse Macabre”.  It is King’s “Final Word” on the horror genre (specifically from 1930-1980), based mostly on his own experience and instincts.  It reads more like an interesting conversation than a study, and is as fine a piece of storytelling as any of his novels.  While some might criticize the book for being dated, I’m enjoying it all the more for the same reason.  Danse Macabre is a lovely little time capsule of observations and opinions written before SK became the phenomenon he is today. 
2. What made you pick it up? 
It’s October (tis’ the season for horror!) and I love Stephen King.  I must own at least thirty pounds of SK novels.  They are like cotton candy for my brain, and are also excellent for pressing flowers.  Really, who doesn’t want to know what makes SK tick?  
3. What was the last thing you read?
 I finally got around to reading Anne Rice’s “Violin”.  I can usually count on Madame Rice for a thrilling, sensual ride, but Violin left me disappointed.  I couldn’t connect with the self-indulgent lead character, and found myself sympathizing with the Lestat-like antagonist instead.    
4. What’s the scariest book you’ve ever read?

I can’t recall the title or author, but at some point in junior high (for a paper), I read a book about the human experimentation Nazi “doctors” performed at Auschwitz.  I’ll never forget the horrifying stories and pictures.  It changed me.  For the first time, I understood that monsters are very real.  They hide in plain view, as seemingly normal people.  Nazi Germany allowed the monsters to show themselves, and look at how many there were.  Terrifying.

[If you’d like to be featured at “What are you reading?,” shoot me an email.]

What are you reading? (Morgan M., Chicago, IL)

(For the week of September 30th, 2010 – Morgan M., Chicago, IL)

Morgan, What are you reading?

I’m currently reading Sin and the Second City by Karen Abbott, which my stepmom gave me.  This is a non-fiction book about a very seedy and fascinating underground world in the earlier part of 1900s Chicago. It’s about the Everleigh sisters who started “the most famous brothel” in American history. Minna and Ada Everleigh basically built an empire that originated from stories of young girls being abducted and forced into “white slavery”. That particular chapter of the book is super creepy. There were some raging pervs back in the day! They wanted to open a club where girls were paid handsomely, were kept healthy, fed well, treated well by their clientele, all the while being…well, whores. Admittedly, I haven’t gotten very far into the book, but the fact that this is an historical account of women who, at a time were mostly oppressed wives and daughters, took the reigns on their lives in an, albeit, unconventional way is AMAZING and surprisingly inspiring, not to mention kinda funny.

What was the last thing you read?

Technically, I just re-read Romeo & Juliet because my theatre company, Babes With Blades, is producing it next year. Besides R&J, I think the last book I read was Carnet De Voyage by Craig Thompson. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s basically a travel journal written as a graphic novel. All the drawings are in black and white, which enhanced the story for me with their simplicity. The story revolves around Craig Thompson going abroad for a book signing of his graphic novel Blankets (another fabulous read) all the while dealing with a sad break up, traveling to stunning destinations all by himself and the interesting people he meets along the way. Overall, the book just made me want to travel and start writing my own graphic novels.

[To be featured on “What are you reading?” send me an email.]

What are you reading? (Herb L., Chicago, IL)

[Note: To hear the incomparable vocal stylings of Herb (and Ms. Wynter Spears) come to Davenports Piano Bar tonight for their 8pm show – “Wynter and Herb: Friends for all Seasons.”]

(For the week of September 23, 2010: Herb L., Chicago, IL)

Herb L., What are you reading?

I am moments away from finishing The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.  It’s the story of a writer in post-WWII Britain and her correspondence with the charming folks of Guernsey, occupied by Germany during the war.  My friend insisted I read this, as she was unable to put it down on her vacation.   I’ve enjoyed it- but haven’t been bowled over. Perhaps the book was over-hyped and set my expectations too high.   It took me a while to get into it- Part One of the book found me constantly wishing I had a chart explaining characters and how they were related.  It was a bit like I was watching a ping-pong match.  Part Two has seemed to flow better for me, but also seems frantic, as if it is spiraling towards its inevitable conclusion.  I’d be interested to know how much Ms. Shaffer’s untimely passing effected this.  Barrows is the niece of Shaffer, who finished up the book after her death- hence the two authors listed.

But, I found it interesting that I enjoyed this read more when I was able to consume it in large swaths.  I think the dilemma for many urban readers is that we tend to read in small chunks- our morning bus ride, our lunch time break, and, for me, church sermons.  🙂  I wish I had a life where I could spend more evenings and Sunday afternoons reading.  And that’s the best thing I took from the book- that I need to take more uninterrupted time to do some quality reading.

What was the last thing you read?

I previously read The Night Listener by Armistead Maupin.  I actually read it because Maupin had a quote on a Starbucks cup a few years ago that put Fox News watchers’ panties in a bunch- It said “My only regret about being gay is that I repressed it for so long. I surrendered my youth to the people I feared when I could have been out there loving someone. Don’t make that mistake yourself. Life’s too damn short.”


I digress.  So, the story itself seemed like it would be interesting.  And Maupin has a style of writing somewhere between David Sedaris and Augusten Burroughs for me.  Not as clever as Sedaris, and not as cynical and dark as Burroughs.  It’s the story of a gentleman who writes stories for late-night radio.  He is sent a script for a book from a teenage boy that throws his world upside down.  It is based on a true story- but don’t research that unless you want major plot points spoiled. Maupin has a talent for not foreshadowing at every turn. I hate when an author leads you by the nose in one direction or another in books about a mystery, whether that aim is to throw you off the trail, or to offer you a big wink and a nod about what’s going on (I’m looking at you, Dan Brown).  Maupin allows your mind to wander about the possibilities. I appreciated that, but, in the end, the book fell flat.  And don’t get me started about the ending…

What are you reading? (Mollie B., Chicago, IL)

For the week of September 15, 2010: Mollie B., Chicago

Mollie B., what are you reading?

I am currently reading “Cleopatra’s Daughter” by Michelle Moran. I am only about 50 pages in right now but I am enjoying it a lot.

What made you decide to read it?

I borrowed this book from my boyfriend’s mother who had suggested it as a good read. I had been interested in the book before because I have always loved the story of Cleopatra. Not many modern-day people know that she actually had four children, one of which is the focus of this book. Kleopatra Selene is the daughter of Kleopatra VII and Mark Antony and she was brought to Rome as a spoil of war after the suicides of her parents. This book traces her journey from Alexandria in 30 BC to Rome in 25BC and how she had to make her own way out of the ashes of her parents’ ambition.

What was the last thing you read?

I recently finished reading “Still Alice” by Lisa Genova. This was a very interesting look into Alzheimer’s disease and how it can affect a person so profoundly. The protagonist, Alice, slowly loses her memory as the book goes on but finds more than she thought she would. It made me think a lot about my family and our experience with this disease and how it would affect someone like me who, like Alice, lives through my brain and language functions. A wonderful read that I would recommend to anyone wanting an honest look into a debilitating disease that is still misunderstood.

[If you want to be featured in “What are you reading?” just shoot me an email.]