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Made list of them on Letterbxd. Are we friends on Letterbxd?




This year I read 31 books. I've made a short list of my favorite 5. Bear in mind I don't often read new books so I won't say this is my "Top 5 of 2017" but instead my "Top 5 Books Read in 2017"

In reverse order then:

5. The March Trilogy by John Lewis, Andrew Ayon & Nate Powell (2017)

A three-volume graphic memoir of Congressman John Lewis from his youth in Alabama to his work as a young man in the early days of the Civil Rights Movement. It would be difficult to boff this story as John Lewis has led one of the great lives of the 20th Century but he and his collaborators have done something, in stark, almost-worldess black & white, bold, epic and beautiful.

This book won the National Book Award in 2017 for Young People's Literature. With good reason.


4. The Odd Woman & The City by Vivian Gornick. (2015)

I was only familiar with Ms. Gornick's name and her legendary standing as a critic and intellectual of the Second Wave Feminist movement until I picked up her short memoir/essay collection which came in 2015. I was unaware of how sure and effortless her prose is, how conversationally perfect, how she seems, despite being pointed at times like a marvelous traveling companion.

This book is about her late-in-life friendship with a man named Leonard, her own relationship with New York City having grown up there nearly 80 years ago and gone to school there in the early Eisenhower era.

Read if you simply love a writer at the very top of her game even after being at it for a good 40 years.


3. Animals Strike Curious Poses by Elena Passarello (2017)

One of my favorite writers new essay collection about famous animals throughout human history (including Jumbo the Elephant and the Starlings that colonized America) is funny, sweet, sad and ridiculously smart. It's fair to say that if you love animals you would be missing out not to read this book because you will never see them the same way again.


2. Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit (2005)

A short, indispensable essay collection that should be required reading by anyone who considers themselves of a left-leaning political persuasion. In it, Rebecca Solnit simply argues that to be progressive and to be cynical is a stupid self-defeating contradiction and to be politically conscious and humorless is an argument against being politically conscious in the first place.

The first must-read book of these insane political times.


1. Bluets by Maggie Nelson (2009)

The kind of book where you say "OMG!" on every 3rd page. A mediation on both the color blue and having your heart broken, Maggie Nelson is so smart, so gifted and so good at what she does that I immediately spent the rest of the year binging on her books, one after the other in a spirit of reading ecstasy and joy.







If the road trip is among our most American movie format genres, "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" allows itself almost none of its gifts: the road here doesn't lead to freedom but vulnerability, Del and Neal don't chose the journey but it instead holds them captive. If Thanksgiving is among not only our most American holidays but also our most deliberate — the whole country travels to a designated place for a traditional meal at a designated time — "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" is rather a story about chance, about a friendship born when two people hiding inside their skin are brought out of it by being stranded with one another.

Read the rest in Salon




"If you can't be funny, be interesting" -- Harold Ross, founder of The New Yorker (via The Writers Almanac





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"War doesn't decide who is right, only who is left."





"The adventure itself will create beautiful things..." 


-- Jon Anderson 




"“One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.”


-- Annie Dillard (via The Writers Almanac

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Dear friends, 

I'll be back out on the road for the second half of the Brat Pack America Tour this winter and spring.

If you're nearby, come out and have a Fruit Roll Up with me!




Denver (Thurs., Jan. 19th. 7pm) 

Tattered Cover Bookstore Historic Lodo (1628 16th Street at Wynkoop Downtown)


Miami (Sun., Jan. 22nd, 4 pm) 

Books and Books Coral Gables (265 Aragon Ave,  Coral Gables


New York (Manhattan. Wed., Jan 25th, 7 PM) 

The Strand Bookstore (828 Broadway at 12th

In conversation with Jason Diamond, followed by a screening. 15$ 





Menlo Park, CA (Wed. Feb. 1, 7:30 pm) 

Kepler's Books (1010 El Camino Real


Phoenix, AZ (Thurs. Feb. 2, 7pm) 

Changing Hands Bookstore Downtown (300 W. Camelback Rd at 3rd Ave)  


Albuquerque, NM (Wed., Feb. 8, 4:30, 6:30, 8:30) 

Guild Cinema (3405 Central Ave NE at Tulane Dr.

Three screenings of The Breakfast Club with onstage conversation between. Books for sale


Portland, OR (Sat. Feb 11, 9:30 AM) 

Hotel Benson (309 SW Broadway

Onstage interview with Washington Post book critic Ron Charles


Brooklyn, NY (Tues, Feb 21st, 7 PM) 

WORD Brooklyn (126 Franklin at Milton St. Greenpoint

In conversation with authors Virginia Heffernan and Clive Thompson about technology and nostalgia. 


Corte Madera, CA (Thurs. Feb 23rd, 7 PM) 

Book Passage (51 Tamal Vista, Blvd.





Cincinnati, OH (Tues. March 7th 2pm)

Speaking at University of Cincinnati's Clermont College, Claremont College Art Gallery. 


Northbrook, IL (Thurs. March 9th) 

Northbrook Public Library 


Austin, TX. (Sun. March, 12th) 

SXSW Film Panel (not open to the public) 


Louisville, KY (Thurs., March 16th) 

Carmichael's Bookstore




Livermore, CA  

Livermore Public Library (1188 S. Livermore Ave.)




Walnut Creek, CA

Walnut Creek Public Library (1644 N. Broadway



See you on the highways and byways of Brat Pack America. And keep going where we don't need roads! 




Each year, I make a playlist of 50 songs I heard for the very first time that year (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 editions). They don't have to be new songs, just new to me. Beginning around mid December, I listen over again to every song I discovered that year (usually between 400-500 although in 2016, it was 798) and whittle it down to 50 for your listening pleasure. 

Idea is not to be a compendium of new releases or a greatest hits of my favorites but rather a musical mosaic of that year in music. If I have done my job, I can look at the list and see my year captured in song. If I have done my job, you look at this list and say "Wow! This is all over the place." If you love everything here or even hate most of it, I have had a timid, mediocre year as a student and explorer of music. 

Listening: Start at the beginning. Give a song 20 seconds. If it ain't grabbing you, skip to the next one. You will not hurt my feelings in doing so. If you like where a song is going, keep listening. The goal is never for you to fall in love but to want a second date with new songs and artists. 

Listen in good health, enjoy. And here's to a sonically rich 2017.





5 Great Movies From/Seen First in 2016: 

Group of Irish teenagers in 1980s Dublin start a band to impress girls. Think The Commitments in high school. If you think Stranger Things was the best use of the 1980s this year in pop culture, think again. 

Documentary about a 50 year-old New Yorker obsessed with trains and buses who keeps posing as an MTA driver and getting arrested for it. Big-hearted, sad, fascinating. One of the best documentaries I've seen in a very long time. 

Alison Brie and Jason Sudeikis in a romantic comedy that miraculously transcends being about blandly attractive white people and their issues. Accepting that both Nora Ephron and Carrie Fisher are irreplaceable, this is the closest I've seen to a 21st century When Harry Met Sally

True story of three black women working at NASA in the 1960s and were instrumental in first Apollo space of the1960s. No joke, this portrait of unknown, modern day heroism makes you proud to be an American. If there's justice, has Oscar written all over it. 

1984 concert documentary of the Talking Heads at the height of their fame on tour for their breakthrough "Speaking in Tongues" album. I can't claim to know this band or their music very well but their use of stagecraft and effects the way they make this not just a concert but a great show and a great movie, well you must see for yourself.  

Directed by Johnathan Demme, just a few years before he won an Oscar for Silence of the Lambs