Top Ten Books

Distilling all the books I have read into a top ten list is a challenge. But this is the challenge I have presented myself. In the process of making this list, I was tempted more than once to make it a top twelve, or fifteen, or… well, you get the picture. I love this list. It is a balance of fiction and nonfiction, and it represents my lifetime in books. I decided to arrange it not in order of preference, but in the order in which I read them (to the best of my memory).

My Side Of The Mountain by Jean Craighead George

My_Side_of_the_MountainThis book about a boy named Sam who tires of his cramped life in New York City and runs away from home, where he learns that he needs to find a balance between spending time alone in nature and being with the family and friends he loves. I identified with Sam’s struggle, as I loved to roam the woods behind my house. But I also enjoyed coming back to see what my loved ones were up to while I was gone.

A Separate Peace by John Knowles

34b6e893e7a06387e97e5110.LMy next favorite book comes from high school required summer reading. It is a story of the friendship and rivalry between two prep school friends. Writing any more about it might give up the plot, so I’ll just say I think teenagers, especially boys, will find much to identify with in this book.

Transcendentalist writers


I cheated a little here by picking a movement, and not a single book. Transcendentalists beliefs of being true to yourself instead of following others, and relying on your instict/intuition instead of knowledge have a lot of appeal to me. Though I do love to learn, and value knowledge, I strive to live as simple and natural a life as possible and practical. Raplph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau are two of my favorite Transcendentalist writers.

On Writing by Stephen King

200px-OnwritingI am a fan of King’s work, having read probably eighty percent of his bibliography. His Dark Tower cycle of stories is phenomenal. I envy his imagination and writing ability. So, I immediately bought his book on writing when it came out. He tells of his love of writing and gives advice about style and the business side of writing. I recommend it to any fan of writing and/or of King himself.

Iron John By Robert Bly

200px-Iron_JohnIron John (or Iron Hans) was originally a Grimm fairytale. In 1990, Robert Bly wrote this book, which started a men’s movement. Bly uses Jungian psychology, and various myths, legends, folklores, and fairy tales throughout the book. He believes that the fairy tale of a boy maturing into adulthood with the help of the wild man contains lessons modern man can find useful to help him be his best.

Eats, Shoots, & Leaves by Lynne Truss

eats-shoots-and-leaves1I am a grammar geek. I love everything about writing: from first draft to final edit. Word choice, puncuation- I love it all. This book by Lynne Truss is a cheeky guide to proper punctuation that is as hilarious as it is informative.

Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder

61CJwhOP78LSophie’s World is a book about a young girl who begins receiving letters from a mysterious man. In each letter is a philosophy lesson. The elements of mystery and the learning of philosophy make this an interesting read.

On The Road by Jack Kerouac

9780670063260I was surprised how much I liked this book. Kerouac’s story about road trip, adventure, and living life to its fullest is a wonderful book that everyone should experience. I got caught up in the poetic musicality of the book and the heart of the Beat movement.

Quiet by Susan Cain

quiet_bookIntroverts make up a third to a half of the people you are around every day. I am one of that number. Yet, it seems like introverts are undervalued today. Everyone loves the happy, gregarious people among us. But Cain puts forth an Introvert’s manifesto, explaining the many benefits of our temperment; and, yes, the drawbacks, too. Reading this book was to discovery myself on every page. Read this book to understand yourself, or a quiet, reserved loved one.

the perks of being a wallflower by stephen chbosky

perks-of-being-a-wallflowerThis is the story of Charlie, an introvert and high school freshman. The story is told in letters written by Charlie to an unknown recipient. Charlie says this recipient is the only person he can trust. We follow Charlie as he struggles with the complicated issues of friendship, unrequited love, and putting his past behind him. Perhaps the most important lesson Charlie learns is to live his life, and not just react to events in his life.

So, there you have it. This is my top ten favorite books at this moment. This list will probably change in the near future. But these books will always be among my favorites. What do you think of this list? What books would make your top ten? I’d love to hear as I am always looking for new books to read.

Ability Therapy by Sarah Mueller

My book review of Ability Therapy by Sarah Mueller for La Literati

Everything I Never Told You

Ability Therapy , published in 2013 by Abbey Press, is a book by Sarah Mueller that encourages those of us with disabilities, whether physical or mental, to keep a positive attitude. In her book, Sarah also dispenses wisdom regarding how to help people without disabilities understand, relate to, and help us. Statistics tell us that one in five people have a physical disability, so the book serves as a gentle reminder that if you yourself do not have a physical disability, odds are that someone you know does.

Ability Therapy is arranged in thirty-six concise chapters, each with an accompanying picture drawn by R.W. Alley. The illustrations are elves in various situations that match the discussion of each chapter. This is an unique and whimsical idea that makes you smile as you read. The style of the book is perfect for several reasons. It is a short book that is…

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World Wide Web

This post is inspired by two friends who shared their experiences of finding and learning their way around the Internet. My introduction to the Internet was 1997, while I was a college undergraduate. My family already had computers with word processing and games. So I was already comfortable with computers.

Do you remember the Encarta encyclopedia? I remember getting lost for hours reading about all kinds of topics on the Encarta cds. For me, the internet was like one big cd-rom with all of that information on it. This is one of the things that is so great about the Internet. I am a curious person, so the ability to read about and research any topic I want is wonderful. Also, by the time I was in college I had friends who were living and/or studying all across the country. Getting my first email address enabled me to stay in more frequent touch with friends and family members who lived in all these different places. To this day, along with standard mail, email is my preferred method of keeping in touch with family and friends I don’t see often.

In my experience, people can be skeptical about referring to those you know online as friends. The idea is that you can’t really know someone unless you have met them physically. I disagree, and point to the old practice of pen pals as evidence to the contrary. But I digress…

After email, the next significant way to connect with people is the groups and web forums that sprung up. If it’s a hobby, there is a group about it somewhere on the Internet. I have been a member of a few. And some people I have met from these groups, forums, and social networks have become close friends. One such friend is Tosha. I happened on her page on Myspace and could tell we had a lot in common. Roughly nine years have passed since then, and she is now one of my dearest friends. We talk often since we recently started a podcast called La Literati. She is a fellow bookworm, writer, and introvert; the wise sister I never had. Her quick wit and generous heart are among the many qualities I love about her. We are alike in too many ways to relate here, but different enough to keep each other on our toes. I look forward to our friendship and La Literati partnership for a long time to come.

Then there is my friend, Anna. I met her through a writer and mutual friend, also from Myspace. As an aside, it’s strange talking about Myspace so much because I haven’t even logged in for years. My page is probably gone by now. But back to Anna. She was much younger than I. But she experienced so many hardships during her life. Despite these hardships, over the four years I knew her she filled me and everyone who knew her with love, joy, and the fruits of her creativity. Her poems and stories made you laugh, cry, and feel proud to call her friend. Anna is no longer with us. But I am thankful that the internet allowed us to connect for the time that it did.

Truth is, I could have talked about so many more people in this post. We hear about the dark, dangerous potential on the news often. But it is also able to enrich our lives in wonderful ways. I am thankful for all of the friends I have met because of the World Wide Web.


La Literati

A while ago, my dear friend Tosha asked me if I might want to host a podcast with her about books and writing. She and I are always reading, writing, and talking about those subjects. One of the things I miss most about not working in a bookstore is the chance to talk about books and writing with lots of different people. And Tosha and I both know lots of cool creative types. Tosha wrote about it here, and I reblogged it. But I thought this was a good time for a reminder. 🙂

A part of me was scared of the idea, though. Being an introvert, I am much more comfortable sitting back and listening while letting others do all the talking. But, truth be told, I couldn’t turn down the chance to team up with my friend and do this. We consider this our way of helping the writers, bloggers, and publishers we know get more attention. We had our first show last night with best-selling author Mara Purl as our first guest. And it was so much fun. I look forward to many interesting conversations in the future. We hope you will join us! Below are links to our page on Blog Talk Radio, where you will be able to listen to any of our shows, and our Facebook page. We would love for you to take a look as you have the chance.


Five Favorite Words

Some time ago I was tagged in a note on Facebook where everyone was supposed to share five of their favorite words. I was thinking yesterday about that note and how much I love words. I thought it would be a fun thing to find out other people’s favorite words. Here are five that came to my mind:

Genuflect- To be servilely obedient or respectful.

Corollary- Something that naturally follows or results from another thing.

Verisimilitude- The quality of seeming real.

Limerick- A popular form of short, humorous verse, often nonsensical and frequently ribald.

Doppelganger- Someone who looks like someone else.

What about you? I’d love to hear some of your favorite words. (All definitions above came from the Merriam-Webster dictionary).


Attention all Writers and Bibliophiles

Everything I Never Told You

Uh huh, yes, I’m talking to you, OK, well, not talking, but,you know.what I mean.  In addition to Chit Chat Chicks Live which if you haven’t checked out, you really should. (we bring you laughter, snark and some pretty amazing guests)…I’ve started a new podcast with my dear friend James Dennard   If you enjoy books, are handy with a pen and paper, then La Literati might be the show for you. This is our way of giving back to all our writers friends, who’s words inspire and transform us. Folks like you.  We’d appreciate it, if you would like our Facebook page. We’re so needy! We’re booking poets and authors now. Feel free, to get in touch. Please, see, links after description and a little info on James and myself.

Show Description

La Literati is a monthly show about poetry, books and the authors who inspire. We strive…

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Under the Radar

“He kind of flies under the radar”.

This phrase, and words with similar meaning, have been used to describe me many times. Sometimes the speaker is talking to me; sometimes it’s a conversation when I am not present. When I hear someone say this of me, I smile.

I smile because those who “fly under the radar” can plan and work without attention; without people trying to get a sneak peek or influence their creative process or result. Then they emerge when the work of creation is done and shake things up. Those who need to be the center of attention can have their spotlight. I’ll let people notice me on my own terms.

Yeah, that’s my style.

Fit to Write

The idea for this post came from this WordPress writing challenge:

The fragile nature of health is something I have been aware of from a very early age. The first angle I will approach health from is the physical. I have a physical disability- Spina Bifida that has required me to have eight surgeries and scores of doctor visits and tests through the years. I have been fortunate, though, in that all of my surgeries took place before my fifteenth birthday. I still visit doctors regularly to try and stay as healthy as possible. Despite being required to deal with many physical and cognitive issues stemming from Spina Bifida, I have enjoyed a far greater quality of life than my doctors expected for me. This is in no small part due to all of my doctors, family, and friends, who help me keep a positive outlook and focus on what I can do instead of the negative.

As I alluded to just now, I pay attention to my emotional health as well. I am an introvert. Though I love people and spending time with family and friends, I require significant amounts of time alone. The activities I enjoy most are solitary in nature: reading, writing, listening to music. I have found that when I don’t have enough time by myself I more quickly become stressed. Taking a short walk around the neighborhood, and the aforementioned activities, are things that keep me content and happy.


The post in the link at the beginning talks about self-acceptanance and becoming my best. This is the final and toughest struggle for emotional health for me. But after a lot of struggle with my limitations, I can say that I have come to terms with all of that. My goal is to continue doing what I can to better myself and see what good things will happen.


The Stable Song

I had to share a new favorite song (again). I first heard this song several months ago and fell in love with it from the first time I played it. I came back to it a few days ago and It has been on an almost constant loop on my computer and in my head. Every now and then I come across a song that resonates with me in all the right ways. This is one of those special songs. The instrumentation is very minimalistic: a guitar, upright bass, violin, and banjo are the instruments I hear. The song lives in between genres, in my opinion. But it is probably best categorized as folk. And Isakov’s voice is very distinctive and perfect for this song. I believe this will be his signature song, if it isn’t already.

And the story of the song is wonderful. It can be interpreted several different ways, as all good art can. I watched a live version where Isakov says that when he is asked what the song is about, his reply is that it is a poem about everything. But, to me, it is a story of a man who wants to create music that is beautiful in a clean, technical way. He struggles to find his muse and create something that is beautiful in that one narrow definition of beauty. After much struggle, he is unsuccessful and rebels against the whole creative process. He abandons it for a time.

After an undetermined period of time to live and experience life, he comes back and now knows that to create the best art he can, he needs to be true to himself. He learns that there is beauty in imperfection and the dirty stuff of life. I love this song for the music and the artist’s voice. But the lesson is one that I am in the process of learning. I feel that I have something creative in me that wants to come out. I believe I know the general form, but I am still searching for specifics. So I identify with the person in the song who is struggling in that way. This is one of the main reasons I started this blog. Writing is the focus of my creative efforts, as it is something I have loved to do from a very young age.

Whether you have heard this song or not, if you take a few minutes to listen and follow along with the lyrics below I hope you enjoy.

The Stable Song

remember when our songs where just like prayers.
like gospel hymns that you called in the air.
come down come down sweet reverance,
unto my simple house and ring…
and ring.

ring like silver, ring like gold
ring out those ghosts on the ohio
ring like clear day wedding bells
were we the belly of the beast or the sword that fell…we’ll never tell.

come to me clear and cold on some sea
watch the world spinning some machine

now i’ve been crazy couldn’t you tell
i threw stones at the stars, but the whole sky fell
now i’m covered up in straw, belly up on the table
well and sang and drank, and passed in the stable.

that tall grass grows high and brown,
well i dragged you straight in the muddy ground
and you sent me back to where i roam
well i cursed and i cried, but now i know…now i know

and i ran back to that hollow again
the moon was just a sliver back then
and i ached for my heart like some tin man
when it came oh it beat and it boiled and it rang..its ringing

ring like crazy, ring like hell
turn me back into that wild haired gale
ring like silver, ring like gold
turn these diamonds straight back into coal.

Lyrics Graphic
gregory alan isakov 2013


From the 007 movie “Skyfall”:
Eve: [watches Bond shave] Cut-throat razor. How very traditional.
James Bond: Well, I like to do some things the old-fashioned way.
Eve: Sometimes the old ways are best.



Since I was young, I have been interested in men’s grooming. Also, I have been a fan of facial hair since I can remember. My dad wore a mustache for around thirty years, and I still hold out hope that he will grow it back (though I know it is very unlikely). I had to be clean-shaven throughout high school and looked forward to the day that I could experiment with my own facial hair. Since I graduated from high school I have spent more time with some style of facial hair than I have being clean-shaven. I like the look and feel of having facial hair. But I enjoy changing it around. I frequently go from full beard to goatee and mustache and back again depending on my mood.

In order to keep my facial hair looking neat I enjoy using a method of shaving that was most common in my grandfathers’ generation- the double edge razor. I enjoy it because it is better for the environment than the plastic catridges you throw away. It is more economical, as DE blades are much less expensive per shave than cartridges. And lastly, it’s just cool to use a sturdy piece of craftsmanship that my grandfather used than Gillette’s latest and greatest disposable shaving system. The startup cost can seem a bit expensive. But once you get those out of the way, you see the savings. The biggest advantage is you don’t have to keep buying the expensive cartridges. A word of warning: it can become a hobby. Below I have listed examples of the tools of the trade. These are products I use and enjoy. But I have multiples of all of these: razor, blade, brush, soap, cream, aftershave. For me, it is a way to treat myself.

Before getting to the specific tools of the trade I wanted to recommend a website for anyone interested in researching old fashioned wetshaving. The best web forum for anyone interested is You can find all sorts of helpful information and reviews here. Disclaimer: I am a moderator on the site. Also, the downside of getting into this way of shaving is that many of these products must be purchased online. There is limited space on the shelves of physical stores, so they carry what is most commonly used.

As I mentioined earlier, I am ending this post with a few examples of products I use when I shave. What do you all use for shaving? Do any of these products look familiar?

DE razor

Edwin Jagger DE89- this razor is made in England and is a good razor for the beginner or seasoned razor.


DE blades

Personna Platinum blades- there are many different blades. This is one popular brand that I use.



Semogue Owners Club boar hair shaving brush- Brushes most commonly come in boar and badger hair. I prefer boar and this Semogue is my favorite brush.



Proraso soap- Proraso is a traditional Italian soft soap that I love to use in the warm weather, as it contains menthol for a cooling affect.



Pinaud Clubman aftershave splash- This classic American aftershave has been in my cabinet since I started shaving. Every barber who has ever cut my hair has used Clubman in either the splash or talc form following a haircut.