summer reading list

One of my favorite parts of other peoples blogs is getting recommendations for great books. I read obsessively, but am picky – so I’m always eager to find firsthand reviews.

If I had to pick a book to recommend to someone it would take me forever, I could never choose. But here are a few good ones I’ve read in recent years and can vouch for with certainty. The descriptions are courtesy of Amazon.

1. Loving FrankHoran’s ambitious first novel is a fictionalization of the life of Mamah Borthwick Cheney, best known as the woman who wrecked Frank Lloyd Wright’s first marriage. Despite the title, this is not a romance, but a portrayal of an independent, educated woman at odds with the restrictions of the early 20th century.
2. I Know this Much is TrueWhat if you were a 40-year-old housepainter, horrifically abused, emotionally unavailable, and your identical twin was a paranoid schizophrenic who believed in public self-mutilation? You’d either be a guest on the Jerry Springer Show or Dominick Birdsey, the antihero, narrator, and bad-juju magnet of I Know This Much Is True.
3. The Art of Racing in the RainIf you’ve ever wondered what your dog is thinking, Stein’s third novel offers an answer. Enzo is a lab terrier mix plucked from a farm outside Seattle to ride shotgun with race car driver Denny Swift as he pursues success on the track and off.
4. Middlesex“I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.” And so begins Middlesex, the mesmerizing saga of a near-mythic Greek American family and the “roller-coaster ride of a single gene through time.”
5. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering GeniusBut on to the true story. At the age of 22, Eggers became both an orphan and a “single mother” when his parents died within five months of one another of unrelated cancers. In the ensuing sibling division of labor, Dave is appointed unofficial guardian of his 8-year-old brother, Christopher.
6. Living Biblically – Jacobs, a New York Jewish agnostic, decides to follow the laws and rules of the Bible, beginning with the Old Testament, for one year.
7. BlinkBlink is about the first two seconds of looking–the decisive glance that knows in an instant. Gladwell, the best-selling author of The Tipping Point, campaigns for snap judgments and mind reading with a gift for translating research into splendid storytelling.
8. Moloka’iCompellingly original in its conceit, Brennert’s sweeping debut novel tracks the grim struggle of a Hawaiian woman who contracts leprosy as a child in Honolulu during the 1890s and is deported to the island of Moloka’i, where she grows to adulthood at the quarantined settlement of Kalaupapa.
9. The Book ThiefDeath himself narrates the World War II-era story of Liesel Meminger from the time she is taken, at age nine, to live in Molching, Germany, with a foster family in a working-class neighborhood of tough kids, acid-tongued mothers, and loving fathers who earn their living by the work of their hands. The child arrives having just stolen her first book–although she has not yet learned how to read–and her foster father uses it, The Gravediggers Handbook, to lull her to sleep when shes roused by regular nightmares about her younger brothers death.
10. My Sister’s KeeperThe difficult choices a family must make when a child is diagnosed with a serious disease are explored with pathos and understanding in this 11th novel by Picoult. The author, who has taken on such controversial subjects as euthanasia, teen suicide and sterilization laws, turns her gaze on genetic planning, the prospect of creating babies for health purposes and the ethical and moral fallout that results.


how to say ‘i don’t know’

When your work involves communicating to thousands of people, chances are you will never have all the answers. No matter how much you prepare, you can’t possibly satisfy every potential question. There will always be things that you simply don’t know at the time, or aren’t at liberty to discuss.

It’s a scary situation to be faced with questions you can’t answer, especially when you know that the information you’re communicating is controversial or troublesome. Learning how to say I don’t know (without sounding like a jerk) is a valuable skill.

Because you can’t just say you don’t know. That’s scary and vague and doesn’t help anyone. The minute you tell people that you don’t know, they’ll begin hypothesizing every possible outcome.

And you can’t say no comment. No comment translates roughly to, “It’s bad, but I can’t articulate it without getting slammed by an attorney.”

So it’s tricky. But possible. You have to learn to sandwich anything you don’t know with what you do know, and what that means for those impacted. You also have to let people know when you will tell them what you currently can’t disclose.

There’s also a certain humility required for anyone to take your message seriously. Be honest, be humble and be you.

I started writing this post with a mental reference to work. But I think this approach applies to all communication, in and out of the workplace.

Unless you’re a doctor – I imagine then you’d have to make any assumptions a little more quantitative.

reality show ideas

I don’t have cable, so if any of these already exist, I’m simply unaware of them. In fact, my lack of cable is probably the only reason why I have time to blog, bake, exercise…

1. 16 and Eggnant: Remember that home ec project where teenagers had to babysit an egg to prepare for parenthood? Make it happen. On TV.

2. Social Smack Down: Contestants must gain the most connections on a given networking site within a set time frame. Millennials have a handicap of only being able to text blindfolded.

3. Interviews Gone Wild: Feature candid footage of the worst interviews across all companies. Like the person who wears Tevas, or talks to himself. Not that I’ve ever seen that happen.

4. The Intern: Like Boiling Point only you’re putting up with insanely menial tasks for college credit. I was once asked to sit in the floor of a closet and fold t-shirts for four hours at a time, thanks #KISS-FM.

5. Return Round Up: You have to get a store to accept the return of a ludicrous item that wasn’t purchased at said store. Like, a garden hose at Victoria’s Secret. Or a dog at a shoe store.

6. Hold, Please: How long can you stay on the phone with a customer service rep? Ever seen the Seinfeld episode where Kramer puts the cable guy on hold?
7. Reality Now: A reality show about reality shows. And people trying to think of new ones. Like a hall of mirrors…

8. IKEA: You have to live in IKEA for a full year. You create a home in the store and eat only Swedish meatballs and schnitzel. The prize is (obviously) a fully furnished home.

9. Living Biblically: If you haven’t read the book, you should. I think it’d make a fascinating show. Especially when he throws stones at adulterers.

10. Celebrity PR: Take the most screwed up celebrities (cough, Charlie Sheen, cough, Lindsey Lohan) and watch as the world’s finest PR practitioners are challenged with revamping their images.

Anybody have ideas?

it’s hard out here for a…writer?

The world has become so batshit crazy that I fear it’s ruining the field of journalism.

It wasn’t that long ago that I sat in a news writing class at the Cronkite School. But back then we wrote stories about seemingly real things. You know – war, politics, the price of commodities…

Now, it seems people of the journalistic persuasion are forced to write about things so absurd they seems shameful to cover.

Check the following list of stories from

Ten bucks to whoever figures out the last time the words ‘sexting’ and ‘Amish’ were used in a headline together.


be quiet, george

I don’t know who George is, but he shouldn’t have virtually talked back to me before 6 a.m. There are certain things you don’t do.

I used to moderate a corporate Facebook page and have spent hours crafting responses and getting legal approval before responding to these types of comments. So – I probably should have more discretion.

But when hold time is more than an hour, social media can be the best way to get a response. Unfortunately for me, when tornadoes strike the midwest there are too many thousands of people complaining to airlines for me to get any resolution at all.

What never ceases to amaze me is the protection people feel when communicating through the internet. We say and do things that would be unheard of in face-to-face interactions. And with no sense of true anonymity; since George’s profile is public, I took a gander and he seems like a decent guy, albeit a little sassy.

Moral of the story? Don’t book a flight to Bentonville, Arkansas in the middle of June. The odds are not in your favor. And don’t underestimate the breadth of any comments on social sites; George is now forever emblazoned in this blog as a guy who annoyed me.

And for heaven’s sake make your Facebook profile private.

when i’m confined to a cubicle…

I’ve recently come to the conclusion that humans being confined in cubicles is strikingly similar to dogs being put into crates.

In both cases, we’re given enough room to turn around and lay down, but have limited visibility and mobility. I leave my dogs snacks in their crates, and leave myself snacks in my desk drawers.

Although the nature of the cubicle environment facilitates bathroom breaks in a superior fashion than a crate.

Today, while trying to get a document to stop auto-translating itself into Spanish, I momentarily lost myself in an office-themed daydream. What if certain Microsoft Word functions could be used in human interactions?

My tops picks would be:

Order/Send to Back
To be used when an annoying person approaches you and you’d rather send them away. Far, far away.

Should go without saying – can be applied to any human error. Particularly useful when emails are sent with typos or to the wrong audience.

Reply All
When a Facebook update isn’t enough and you need everyone to know something. Like, “Please send your wedding RSVP back immediately, it’s pre-stamped it, you slackers.”

When things get bad and you need a safety net.

Yes, thanks for remembering! That’s exactly what I was trying to spell!

When you’re feeling sassy.

When you’re feeling VERY ANGRY.

It’s embarrassing that I think about these things.