A Virtual Colloquy - What are YOU reading?!

Category: New Reads Page 1 of 13

Draft No 4 – On The Writing Process

Diving into Draft No 4 – On the Writing Process by John McPhee this morning. I’m pretty sure books about reading and writing are my favorite!

“NEXT!”

Sometimes I wonder if I move on to new books too quickly. Maybe I should linger a bit? Take my time? Spend some quality time digesting the little gem so that I may fully incorporate all its goodness?

Nah! Who’s got time for that?!

I think I’ll stick to my system. I read, I make notes, I blog, I move on. Blogging this way has helped me make more connections between books though, so that makes me happy. I’m still longing to make connections with actual people over books, but that will come someday. I must be patient. I’ve laid my traps with plenty of bait. Now we wait.

Draft No. 4 book cover on gardening tools.

This morning I picked up, Draft No 4 – On the Writing Process by John McPhee. I’m very excited about this one. Thomas C. Foster mentioned it in his book How to Read Nonfiction Like a Professor which I read back in December. When I was browsing Barnes & Noble (swoons at the memory), I found it and brought it home with me.

Ok…I wasn’t exactly browsing. It was more like a deliberate search for books I already had on my handy dandy wish list, but I went there with the intention of browsing and maybe picking up some nice new novels.

Any who…

The back of the book says, “a master class in the writer’s craft.” Yes, please! In lieu of actually being in a writing class, this will do nicely. One of my deepest, darkest desires…shut up…is to take a real class. You know, with people. But I was too insecure and shy to move forward on that idea BCB (that’s before covid bullshit) and now…forget it. The virus scares me a mere fraction of how much people do, so I’m steering clear of the herd until it settles.

But I can read a book! Right?! So here I am. This one looks fun.

Have you read it? Have you ever taken a writing class? Do you know of any online ones that are good? What about writer’s groups? I’ve been thinking about joining one of those for a long time, but haven’t gotten up the nerve.

If you’d like to read this with me, you can find Draft No. 4 at Thriftbooks.com. If you do read it (or you have already), leave me a comment. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Mr. Feynman’s book “Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman!”

The Mr. Feynman book cover on the couch with the dog.

“Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman!” is another used book from the 2020 book stash! Yay for free books!

I love memoirs and biographies, so I saved it based on that and because it sounded familiar, like I should know the title. I don’t know why and since I’ve looked it up a little before I started reading it, I still don’t see why it sounds familiar to me.

On my quick internet search, I found out that he is relatively famous, a Nobel Prize winning theoretical physicist. Maybe I’ve heard the name in a movie or tv show?

It doesn’t matter. Like I said, I love memoirs and biographies, so that’s why I picked it up. I learn so much by reading about other people’s lives. It’s an addiction. No matter who they are, famous or not, and from any corner of the earth, short or long, reading memoir is like living multiple lives.

Reading history, I learn the framework of the past, the who, what, when and where. Reading historical fiction helps me get some perspective, adds details, the skin, hair, and nails to the skeleton framework of time.

Reading memoir, I step into a person’s thoughts and begin to add the muscles and tendons to that skeleton.

Everyone on this planet has their own personal perspective. If we could see the world through everyone else eyes and thoughts, instead of just our own, we’d have a better idea of what the world really looked like. Life would become far more multi-dimensional and less flat!

That’s why I read memoir and biography, to experience more than one life a time.

This one looks like it’s going to be fun. The man worked with Einstein! And if we learned anything from “The Big Bang Theory,” it’s that theoretical physicists are fun people to learn from.

Do you know of Richard Feynman? If you’d like to read it, you can find “Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman!” at Thriftbooks.com. I’d love to know what you thought of the book. Make a comment and we’ll talk!


At the end of each month I send out a newsletter where I describe all my juicy immediate afterthoughts about the books I read that month, along with various other hilarious tidbits, and a few links to my favorite posts.

It’s a special, once-a-month edition that only those who opt-in through my email list receive. If you want to be part of the club, subscribe by entering your email below!

Grendel by John Gardner

Written in 1972 and apparently made into an animated movie, but it’s new to me! The story of Grendel by John Gardner through the monster’s eyes.

Grendel by John Gardner book cover on a desert background.

Judged a book by its cover, you did. -Yoda

That’s exactly what I did, Yoda. I know the basic story of Grendel. Something about a monster that comes to the hall each year and attacks the warriors inside. They always try to keep it out but it always wins. It’s from Beowulf, which I read a million years ago, probably in a English Literature class.

I picked Grendel by John Gardner out of my friend’s book hoard simply because of the cover. The creature looks so sad, not so horrific and mean like other renditions of it. I wanted to find out why.

Thirty pages into it this morning and I see why. This is its story. The book isn’t about the monster from someone else’s point of view. It’s told from the monster’s point of view. Why does it do this? What motivates its monstrous behavior toward the human world? I was sucked in this morning, already feeling sorry for it, wondering what will happen.

I looked up the book title and found (of course) a Wikipedia article about Grendel. I didn’t want to read too much of it for fear of spoilers, so I quickly moved over to the John Gardner’s Wikipedia article and read some there. It looks like he created a bit of controversy back in the 70’s, but who didn’t? I found that he had also written a few books on writing that were popular, and you know how much I love books about reading and writing! I’ll be adding those titles to my wish list.

Do you know this author? Sometimes I feel like I’m late in the game. I find something new and exciting, coming running in to share it, and everyone else just looks at me like I stepped out of time machine from the past. If you’ve read it, or want to read it with me, shoot over some comments. I’d love to hear your thoughts!


At the end of each month I send out a newsletter where I describe all my juicy immediate afterthoughts about the books I read that month, along with various other hilarious tidbits, and a few links to my favorite posts.

It’s a special, once-a-month edition that only those who opt-in through my email list receive. If you want to be part of the club, subscribe by entering your email below!

“The Gods Themselves” by Isaac Asimov

Isaac Asimov book cover on a desert background.
“The Gods Themselves” by Isaac Asimov

I saw an Isaac Asimov book in that massive pile of books to be re-homed, and immediately picked it up. I have loved him ever since I read the Foundation books a few years ago. His sci-fi is unparalleled.

Do you like sci-fi books? If someone asked me, I’d say I’m not that much of a fan, but I do love the old classics. I love Star Trek. I’ve seen them all. I’ve read Dune and several Heinlein books. And the old movies? Love them!

But I’m not a sci-fi fanatic. I know people who are WAY more into it than I am. Maybe just an enthusiast?

Now I’m sitting here wondering if you could put people into personality classes by what book genres they love most. What kind of people like Fantasy? Romance? Historical Fiction? YA? Modern? Dystopian? It would be fun to work that out like a zodiac of sorts. Maybe I will! (adds idea to the list)

I especially love classic (AKA old) sci-fi because, even though the science is sometimes laughable (run this report up to the bridge!), the human struggle is still there, still relevant to our own time. Asimov has a great way of writing the science so well, that even I can follow along. Maybe someone who understood more science and math would think it was a deal breaker, but I can imagine what his worlds would look like, how things work.

And then there’s the underlying part of sci-fi, humanity. This book was written in 1972, so power supply is the focus. That’s what I love about sci-fi. You can see what people were worrying about when the book was written. If you know some history, sci-fi is even better to read. It’s fun to see what they predicted wrong, what became a non-issue and what we are still working on.

Here’s my favorite line from the first few pages.

“My facts are correct. And since they are, how can I be wrong?”

Craziest thing ever? Yesterday morning, while I was doing the dishes, I stopped and wrote this in my journal.

“We don’t all come to the same conclusions with the same information. There are infinite variables. It’s not math, it’s predicting the future. Even if we did come to same conclusion, it may not be at the same time. We need to give each other more space to grow.”

It’s an idea I was planning on spending some time on in the coming weeks. A few hours later, I need a break from the housework, so I randomly picked up a new novel out of my TBR pile to start reading. “Hmm…sci-fi sounds like fun right now.” Within a few pages, that idea boomerangs back to me from the universe.

And that’s what I love about the way I read. It’s like life. Follow your instincts, keep an open mind and an open heart, let go of attachment to outcomes, and see what happens. Not very science-minded, but it works for me.

Have you read any Asimov? Tell me what you think in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.

You can find “The Gods Themselves” by Isaac Asimov at Thirftbooks.com if you want to read with me!


At the end of each month I send out a newsletter where I describe all my juicy immediate afterthoughts about the books I read that month, along with various other hilarious tidbits, and a few links to my favorite posts.

It’s a special, once-a-month edition that only those who opt-in through my email list receive. If you want to be part of the club, subscribe by entering your email below!

“Wild Mind” by Natalie Goldberg

"Wild Mind" book cover on a the bed background.
“Wild Mind – Living The Writer’s Life” by Natalie Goldberg

“Wild Mind” looks to be a Zen book about writing! …swoons… We should be living the same way this author tells us how to find our writing inside of us and let it out for others to experience.

Pulled this down from the overflowing TBR stack yesterday morning and was immediately sucked in. How does a book find just the person that needs it? That’s what I want to know! Wow!

From the very first pages of the book…

“The mind is raw, full of energy, alive and hungry. It does not think in the way we were brought up to think – well-mannered, congenial.”

“When you are done with it, you know the author better. That’s all a reader really wants…”

Strange…isn’t that why author’s write? To explain themselves, their thinking, their desires, to you and to themselves as well. To share another point of view in the world, in the hopes of connecting with another human.

When you read, is that what you get from the article, essay, or novel?

When you write, do you find yourself thinking more clearly about who you are and what you want out of this life?

I’m looking forward to reading this. The chapters are short and there are “Try this:” pages to work through. I think I’ll take my time reading and work on creating some new habits.

I’ve never read anything by Natalie Goldberg. I didn’t go looking for this book. I just saw a book about writing with the word “wild mind” on the cover and was pulled to it. I listen to those voices that speak quietly to my heart now more than I ever have. I’m only fifteen pages into this book and I’m glad I did!

Have you read this book? I’d love to hear your thoughts. You can find “Wild Mind” by Natalie Goldberg at Thriftbooks.


At the end of each month I send out a newsletter where I describe all my juicy immediate afterthoughts about the books I read that month, along with various other hilarious tidbits, and a few links to my favorite posts.

It’s a special, once-a-month edition that only those who opt-in through my email list receive. If you want to be part of the club, subscribe by entering your email below!

“A Man Without a Country” by Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut book cover on a desert planter background.
Old Books Smell Good

I’m not a fan of Vonnegut. I know! Everyone likes him! But I find him funny in a negative way, not an uplifting one. Like…we’re all going to die, everyone is horrible, ha ha…kind of way. It makes me sad. And, according to my astrological sign, that’s intolerable to me.

And it is, really! That’s what’s so strange to me. I know not why, but I looked it up yesterday. My squirrel brain was overly active, so I decided to let it run free and follow it, much like I’m doing right now.

I’ve always been fascinated by horoscopes but a little skeptical, but then something comes up that is so right, and I think, “The stars know me!” Yesterday was one of those days. I swung all the way from “This is ALL SO much bullshit!” to “I’m basing every decision from here on out on what my stars tell me!” in a matter of minutes.

Where was I?

Oh, yes!

Kurt Vonnegut makes me sad, so I make him go away. But his stories are good, I’ll admit that. This book, specifically, is another one I picked out of the redistribution library back in December, “What Did My Blog Accomplish in 2020?” Why did I pick up a book by an author I’ve already read but don’t enjoy? Because I’ve heard of it and if I’ve heard of it and haven’t read it, it goes in the TBR pile!

So here I am reading it, laughing, and then then thinking, “Geez, Kurt. Way to be a downer.” I don’t always agree with him. Our politics are different and so are our personalities and outlooks. I’m giving it a chance because even if we have NOTHING in common, I can still find something to enjoy about a book by another human that lived on this earth.

Do you like Kurt Vonnegut? Have you read his books? Watched the movies? You can find his books at Thriftbooks.com! Leave me a comment and tell me what you think! Hell, leave me a comment and tell me what your sign is. I’m a Sagittarius, but you probably already know that.


At the end of each month I send out a newsletter where I describe all my juicy immediate afterthoughts about the books I read that month, along with various other hilarious tidbits, and a few links to my favorite posts.

It’s a special, once-a-month edition that only those who opt-in through my email list receive. If you want to be part of the club, subscribe by entering your email below!

“Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell

Blink book cover on a desert background.

I’ve been looking forward to reading “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell since I pulled it, and a couple of its brothers, out of my friend’s personal library redistribution project back in December. I redistributed those babies directly to the top of my TBR pile! If you’re curious, I wrote a bit about that adventure at the beginning of January, “What Did My Book Blog Accomplish in 2020?”

The first book I read by Malcolm Gladwell was “Talking to Strangers” and it was far more than I expected the book to be. “Enlightening” doesn’t begin to explain it. He writes about complicated human behavior in a way that makes you feel like you’re discovering it yourself. You know you’re being led somewhere, but you don’t know where. When you begin to arrive, you feel like you’re the smartest kid for finding it. And at the end of the book, you’ve incorporated what he’s said into your thinking without feeling like you were hit over the head and dragged there.

The subtitle to this one is, “The Power of Thinking Without Thinking.” It looks into all those snap judgements that we make, why we make them, and how can we harness that understanding. Those unconscious decisions we make so many times a day aren’t useless!

I’m only a chapter in this morning and I’m already thinking, “Whoa…THAT’S what’s happening!” It’s already confirming a few things for me, like why it was a good idea for me to stop watching the news and leave social media. It’s made me think about how I get my best writing done. And made me begin to rethink a few things that I’ve taken for granted.

“All that from the first 80 pages, Michelle? Really?”

Yes! He sets things up in an amazing way, expands on them over the bulk of the book, and then brings them all together in fascinating and useful way at the end. Like the Stephen King of psychology books!

Intrigued? You know you are! You can read more about Malcolm Gladwell and his books at his website. And if you decide to read the book, leave me a comment! As usual, I’ll be posting some quotes from the book along with my thoughts in the coming weeks. Be sure to subscribe to get them!


At the end of each month I send out a newsletter where I describe all my juicy immediate afterthoughts about the books I read that month, along with various other hilarious tidbits, and a few links to my favorite posts.

It’s a special, once-a-month edition that only those who opt-in through my email list receive. If you want to be part of the club, subscribe by entering your email below!

“The Invisible Life of Addie Larue”

The Invisible Life of Addie Larue book cover on desert junk pile.
Even a Junk Pile can be Pretty

A big giant “Thank You!” goes to The Orang-utan Librarian for bringing “The Invisible Life of Addie Larue” by V.E. Schwab to my attention. When I read the review I immediately added it to my wish list right and then…magically…I happened across a Barnes & Noble that was…wait for it…OPEN and I wandered inside.

The Starbucks wasn’t open, so it wasn’t perfect, but it was damn close so I’m not going to quibble over details.

I took a deep breath as I walked in the door and began wandering around. Civilization.

Like I’ve said before, I try not to buy books on a whim. There are just too many books to read in this world to just jump in willy-nilly. Besides, my resources (time and money) are not infinite. As I browsed the shelves cautiously, like an animal that hasn’t eaten in so long that it’s forgotten what food is, I remembered the wish list on my phone and got it out.

I got three books that day, all from the list, and “The Invisible Life of Addie Larue” was the first cover I recognized and picked up.

I wouldn’t have got it from the title, but reading the review I was instantly reminded of Beauty and the Beast. “Far off places, a daring swordfight, a prince in disguise!” The book is about none of those things, but it is magical, involves a girl wanting more than her village and a bookstore. I’m SO in!

I’ll be attempting to savor this book, but I bet I’ll wolf it down like tacos with ketchup, so I’m sure you’ll be hearing about it within the next few weeks. As always, I’ll be adding my first thoughts about the book in my monthly email newsletter, which you can only enjoy if you sign up for it at the link below!

” The Philosophy of Peace”

Philosophy of Peace book cover at a fireplace.

I picked up “The Philosophy of Peace” by John Somerville to read next. I wanted to end the month on a non-fiction note and decided this title had a nice positive ring to it. Since this book was picked up out of the pile of books I adopted from a friend, I really have nothing else to go on other than the title, so I did a quick search of the “interwebs” before I started to read it and found very little other than the book for sale across the web. Strange.

From the book itself, I see it has a copywrite of 1949. The dedication says,

Philosophy of Peace dedication.

So far so good, I suppose. We haven’t had another thing called a World War since, but we have been constantly at war all over the world, so there’s that.

There’s an inscription inside as well, and you know how much I love that.

Philosophy of Peace inscription by someone who gave the book as a gift.

I love this. Where are Mr. & Mrs. Martin Haisler and Edward W. Gray now? Why did he give this book to them? The book was published in 1949. What was it like in Hollywood, Florida then? What did they do for a living? How old were they?

If I could make a law, I’d say you have to write something in any book you read about who you are and why you are reading it or why you’re giving it. In fact, I’ve been giving books as gifts for years and from now on, instead of ordering them sent, I’m going to buy them, write a note inside and then send it personally. Time traveling again!

In search of more information about the book and author, I went directly to Wikipedia and they don’t have a page on this author. Amazon has the book listed under a used book seller with no details. The only thing I found was an obituary from the LA Times from 1994.

I’m sitting down with this, the day my youngest baby leaves the nest, with a cup of coffee and finding out what I can. Maybe it’s simply no longer relevant? That happens.

You can find “The Philosophy of Peace,” a revised edition with introductory letters from Einstein and Mann, at Thriftbooks. I’d love to see that book and compare it to my original version. If you decide to read it, let me know in the comments!

I’ve written a few posts about quotes and ideas that I found interesting as I read. Please go over and give them a read. You may find yourself wanting to read the book too…or just come argue with me.
Open and Honest Discussion of Any Ideology is the Best Cure
Can This Cardinal Rule Apply to Any Discussion?


At the end of each month I send out a newsletter where I describe all my juicy immediate afterthoughts about the books I read that month, along with various other hilarious tidbits, and a few links to my favorite posts.

It’s a special, once-a-month edition that only those who opt-in through my email list receive. If you want to be part of the club, subscribe by entering your email below!

“The Secret Life of Dust” by Hannah Holmes

"The Secret Life of Dust" book cover on the desert floor.
“The Secret Life of Dust” by Hannah Holmes, surround by…dust!

“The Secret Life of Dust” called to me from the pile every time I walked by. I told it I would read it soon, it was next in line, be patient. As soon as I finished my last book, I picked it up and put it on my desk. I could tell right away it was happy to be there.

What do I know about this book? Nothing really. I liked the cover. I assumed it was about science when  I picked it up out of my friend’s donated library.

“From the Cosmos to the Kitchen Counter, the Big Consequences of Little Things”

Sounds intriguing, doesn’t it?

I sat down to add it to my reading journal and couldn’t decide what genre to put it under. Non-fiction, sure. But is it science, history, sociology? I looked it up on Goodreads but that didn’t help.

Goodreads genre list.
Not Helpful

I love categories and counting things. How am I supposed to mark this?! I guess it’s just another lesson in not putting things in boxes. Life doesn’t work that way, I’m told. I’m reminded of it every time I try to put things in order, no matter what part of my life I’m working on.

Kitchen things are used in the garage. Education comes from everywhere. Family can be found in anyone. And meaning can be made of clouds…which are only there because of dust.

You see what my brain did there? Pretty clever, I think.

I started reading first thing this morning. And the first chapters are about space dust. Now I want desperately for someone to go out there “Star Trek” style and confirm humanity’s observations. What’s out there? Who’s out there? Is there another planet full of beings looking out in our direction and wondering, “What is that strange blue/green glow?”

Want to read more of my thoughts on this book?
Weird Science: A Kangaroo Rat’s Unhappy Flight
I’m Always in Awe of Humanity’s Insignificance – Just Dust in the Wind

Have you read this book? Want to read along with me? Go get The Secret Life of Dust and leave me a comment about your thoughts on it. I can’t wait to hear from you!


At the end of each month I send out a newsletter where I describe all my juicy immediate afterthoughts about the books I read that month, along with various other hilarious tidbits, and a few links to my favorite posts.

It’s a special, once-a-month edition that only those who opt-in through my email list receive. If you want to be part of the club, subscribe by entering your email below!

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