top 10 books I read in 2013

top 10 books

I’m on track to read 29 books this year. Maybe a few more if I can sneak them in before the clock strikes 12. Not a huge amount–I do have a day job, which is coincidentally also reading–but I’ll take it. My top 10 favorite books this year, in no particular order, are:

Saga
Written by Brian K. Vaughn and illustrated by Fiona Staples, Saga was the first comic book I’ve read, and, man, was it a great introduction. The characters are sharp and funny, the art is gorgeous and modern, and the story focuses on relationships–that just happen to be during a war in space. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to try out graphic novels but isn’t sure of making the jump. It convinced me to dive into the medium, and I’m so glad it did…  [see saga related posts here]

The Sandman  
…because then I picked up Sandman. Neil Gaiman’s epic is a tremendously fun journey that I’m still reading–two volumes left to go. It’s not too late to pick this up. In fact, now might be a great time to get started because there are reports Joseph Gordon-Levitt wants to make it into a movie.  [see sandman related posts here]

Where’d You Go Bernadette (Kindle here)
Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple was a delight. It’s a funny, touching look at a family’s relationship with a struggling woman who disappears for a while–like I’m sure we’d all like to sometimes. It’s a compilation of (fictional) letters and documents that Bernadette’s daughter puts together to try to track her down, but it reads like a charming story from beginning to end.  [see bernadette related posts here]

The Gift of Fear (Kindle here)
I recommend this book to everyone. It is a brilliant read and it helps me understand and feel better about fears that I and most women (and men!) face every day. Each chapter showed me new ways to look at fears, process them, and live safer. It focuses on women’s safety but can be helpful for anyone–it has chapters on the workplace and schools, as well as regular scary places like parking garages. Gavin De Becker also shines a light on men’s actions that can be scary without them realizing it, which can promote more understanding and safer lives for everyone. Seriously, read this book.

Boy’s Life (Kindle here)
Boy’s Life, by Robert McCammon, was possibly the best book I read this year. (But…so is this whole list.) It encapsulates feelings and the imagination of childhood and could connect with even the most hardened adult. I live as a grown up in a big city now, but reading about Cory’s life in a small southern town still resonates.  [see boy’s life related posts here]

The Revolution was Televised (Kindle here)
I have loved getting more into television. I am devouring show after show–most recently Orphan Black–and Alan Sepinwall’s book on some of the best shows from the past decade (or so) was excellent. Even for the shows I haven’t seen, hearing his analysis gave me a fuller picture of the medium and more appreciation for the storytelling that I am able to watch. He is passionate about the subject, and hearing his views on show after show was like talking to my friends about great shows I just saw–and that’s one of my favorite parts of watching TV.

Joyland
Stephen King is one of my favorite authors, and Joyland was not as scary as the thrillers he is usually known for. But that doesn’t mean it’s any less quality. To me, Joyland was a perfect summer read about a young man’s summer love–with an amusement park. It has enough love and mystery to keep things interesting, but it’s not too scary or saccharine.

Never Let Me Go (Kindle here)
This novel, by Kazuo Ishiguro, is technically about a strange boarding school and a twisted reality I’m thankful we don’t live in. But it’s more about basic humanity than almost anything else I’ve read this year. This book touches on what makes us human and the importance of basic decency, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. Its first-person narration was easy to read and felt so real and true to the young woman Kathy C. that I was shocked to remember it was written by a man.  [see never let me go related posts here]

Under the Dome (Kindle here)
Stephen King again. And a story about a small town again, like Boy’s Life, but this time in the Northeast. Although King often uses scary monsters in his books, the true horrors are what we face in real life: jealousy, anger, substance abuse, insecurity, power. These terrors can take hold of anyone, and they invade a small town that finds itself trapped under a dome.  [see under the dome related posts here]

Salvage the Bones (Kindle here)
Salvage the Bones, by Jesmyn Ward, was not what I was expecting. I heard this was a book about Hurricane Katrina, but the hurricane doesn’t make an appearance until the memorable closing scenes. This story follows a poor family as it prepares for a storm no one could prepare for while Esch, the only girl in the family with three brothers, faces a storm of her own. It’s touching and heartbreaking, and though they live a life very different from my own, Esch’s emotions are all recognizable.

(These books are my own choices, and I’m not paid for them. I am part of the Amazon affiliate program, so if you buy through my links I’ll receive a teeny bit of money for it.)

God bless you, but… (embroidery no. 12)

embroidery rae's days

When a dome falls over your entire town, cutting you off from the rest of the world, things can get a little stressful. One of my favorite parts of the book (and show!) was watching how people handled that stress–whether it was admirable or terrifying.

This embroidery is from Under the Dome and, well, has language that’s a little NSFW. Click through the jump if swear words won’t offend.

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under the dome: emergency kits

emergency pack rae's days

I have a friend who is always prepared. She has the band-aids, the directions, and the back-up plans. I’d like to have her in my corner if ever I see a disaster like a giant dome falling over my town. Which is something I think a lot about. Not just a dome–any kind of disaster. What would I do? How would millions of people get out of New York City when most don’t have cars? But seriously, if someone could tell me it would ease a lot of anxiety.

During Hurricane Sandy, and a few other storms we’ve had to button down our hatches for, I knew what I would need to grab to get out of the city if I needed to evacuate. Luckily, we had warnings for those storms, and I knew would eventually pass. In Stephen King’s worlds, it’s almost never that easy. As we saw in Under the Dome on Monday night, you have to be ready for every kind of disaster. Even–especially– for the one’s you’d never see coming.

So, basically, I should have made an emergency kit a long time ago. What would you need? Let’s start with the basics.

  • flashlight (with batteries)
  • bottled water
  • first aid kit
  • canned food/snacks
  • cat food
  • #fatcat’s carrier
  • swiss army knife
  • thermal blanket
  • maybe some different weather prep depending on your area
  • an extra phone charger probably couldn’t hurt (like this super cool solar charger!)

emergency kit

If you’re in Stephen King’s world, though, you might need some different things.

  • a Geiger counter, in case you run into radiation
  • a stake or cross, for any vampires in your small town
  • a current newspaper from your town, so in case you wander into any other worlds or time travel so you will know which world you came from and what day it was there
  • probably some penicillin, unless you are allergic to it like I am
  • a tranquilizer dart or two for any large, crazy animals. or people.
  • mayyybe think about keeping some extra propane tanks on hand
  • if you have guns handed down to you from your father and your father’s father and his father’s father, you should probably bring those, too

Anything else? What am I missing?

Also, I just read this thing on the Internet (because of course I did) about how if you are in a house and electricity went out and you don’t have water, you should check the freezer for ice cubes. Those will be safe to drink. Any other tips, figurative boy scouts of the world?

This is the one of a few Under the Dome related posts this week. Check back later for more, and you can see other posts here:

tv: under the dome (ep. 1)

Our world is getting smaller all the time. We’re more connected than ever–I was just in a meeting with colleagues from Paris, London, and Tokyo. They called in and participated in a meeting in New York. I took a vacation with my family, and we came from all over the country to meet in one place–in Florida, where none of us live.

That’s what makes Under the Dome so scary. When a dome falls over the town of Chester’s Mill, the world shrinks to the size of the town, and those who are inside lose their connections to the outside. Angie likens it to a fishbowl, but at least fish can be fed from the outside.

They can see through the dome, which almost makes it worse (but allows us to see some killer explosions). [SPOILERS] When Duke falls because of an exploded pacemaker, the U.S. military is bustling around just outside the dome’s boundary. They have the equipment to help, and the communication to get to a doctor, but they don’t even notice Duke go down. Linda is left alone with the dead sheriff, looking at all those resources just beyond her reach. (And it’s not like they could have helped him anyway.)

Duke dying was a twist, even though he dies in the book in the same fashion. The show has departed from the book in some cool ways, and because Duke was around for so long in the premiere, I thought they might have spared him. Or at least waited a few episodes. But his death, the only one so far of a character we’ve come to know a little bit, changes the game and raises the stakes. Now who will run the police force that Big Jim is so ready to increase? And what was Duke trying to tell Linda about the town?

A lot of Chester’s Mill is familiar to me, but these characters’ backgrounds and families are different from the book. This world looks just as interesting as the one I’ve read about though, and I can’t wait to see where these new mysteries take us. (Like why was Barbie burying Julia’s husband?!)

They’ve certainly taken us to some creepy places so far. The show, like many of King’s novels, did a good job of letting dread creep in, with images like a neatly halved cow and a messy arm that’s missing a hand. The seizures and repeated phrases (a technique King uses often) added a sense of doom as well. Junior, Big Jim’s clearly troubled son, went from creepy to campy and back again. But when he was creepy, he was really creepy.

I can’t wait to see more of Chester’s Mill, and to spend time with these off-kilter characters. The variations from the book will keep me on my toes, and so far the adaptations are smart and interesting. Hopefully you’ll keep watching with me–after all, we’re all in this together.

This is the first of a few Under the Dome related posts this week. Check back later for more, and you can see other posts here:

Under the Dome airs on CBS on Mondays at 10 p.m. Eastern. you can download the first episode from Amazon on June 28, I’ll update with the link when it posts. EDIT: The first episode is available!

trapped (or, reading under the dome)

under the dome

I’m almost finished with Under the Dome (Kindle version here). In it, a town called Chester’s Mill in Maine gets trapped under, well, a dome that’s exactly the shape of the town. No one can get in and no one can get out. This town is left to its own devices as it tries to keep order and figure out how to survive cut off from the rest of the world. Because it’s Stephen King, there’s also a lot of murder and some sci-fi thrown in, and I am having a blast reading it.

But it also terrifies me. And I don’t mean just getting a little jumpy. I mean the concept of being cut off from everything else really truly scares me.

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my to-read list

Well, I finished Middlesex over the weekend, on the plane (Kindle version here). I don’t want to talk too much about it yet because I’m saving all my good discussion for Family Book Club. Don’t forget you have until the end of the month to read it to participate! But now what do I read?

under the dome

I started Under the Dome because it was already on my Kindle. You guys know I love Stephen King, and so far I’m really enjoying it. I am only about 10% into it, and so far most of the characters I have met have died, but King does a really great job introducing people and making me care about them before he kills them off. And I have a good picture of the town in my head. As you can maybe guess from the title, a large dome drops down over a Maine town and encloses everyone inside. The dome is invisible, but you can feel it. This reminded me of something someone said in real life book club about Safe As Houses: The author could really make you see an invisible church. I feel that way about this invisible dome, too. I’m pretty into it so far, but it seems less urgent than all the other awesome books I want to read. [paperback, kindle]

lean in sheryl sandberg

I’ve also heard great things about Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. It’s come out recently and has been all over the internet. Plus, I’ve gotten recommendations from friends. I’m really into reading about people talking about feminism and women in the workplace. Especially since I am a woman in the workplace. [hardcover, kindle]

in cold blood

In Cold Blood is this month’s book club book. I started this book a few years ago but gave up because I had a nightmare. So I’m excited to reread it as a more mature (??) adult who doesn’t get scared by detailed stories of real-life brutal murders. Also, I just talked to my dad, who is from Kansas, and he remembers when it happened. Exciting! [paperback, ebook, from Word]

the revolution was televised

I didn’t grow up watching much TV. I mean, sure, I watched the Disney channel, but it wasn’t until I got older that I realized the incredible storytelling of serial dramas. So I’ve made up for it, plus some. This book covers The Sopranos, Oz, The Wire, Deadwood, The Shield, Lost, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, 24, Battlestar Galactica, Friday Night Lights, Mad Men, and Breaking Bad, and how they changed TV. I just want to finish watching The Sopranos and Buffy before I pick it up, but I’m just about done with both of those series. [paperback, kindle]

Which book should I do first?!

(I bought these books on my own and am not being paid to write about them. But I am a part of the Amazon Affiliates program, so if you buy it through my links on Amazon, I’ll receive a little bit of money for it. I am not affiliated with Word; I’m just a fan.)