Willem de Kooning

I get asked so often to publish a list of what I’m reading. People tell me to make a discussion board. Make a Facebook group. Have an online book club. I don’t do that because I worry I’d feel pressure to be a reader of substance.

And I’m not. Here’s what I’m reading.

1. Tabloids
My reading list would start with the Enquirer. I have surveyed all the supermarket newsstand material and I think the Enquirer does the best reporting. I read Us Magazine for reports on the Royal Family because those of us in the know understand that Will and Kate’s baby means more than mere tabloid fodder.

But also tabloids are a diet mechanism, because if I need to feel better about my life and I don’t want to be fat later, the only thing left is reading about other people getting fat. Or doing some similarly ruinous thing to their life.

2. Children’s books.
Our house has basically nothing in it. This is what everyone says the first time they visit. And I’m constantly throwing stuff out. Except children’s books. It used to be that I could tell myself I’m saving them for my kids, but I can tell you with certainty that they are not into my collection of Maira Kalman books. We have picture books all over the house. They are first editions. I shouldn’t let the cat scratch them. I should put them in the garage. I should donate them to a library. (Actually, there’s a book in my stack about a woman who donates her stacks to a library.)

But I need them. People who were abused as kids often self-soothe by doing things they loved as children. I sucked my thumb until I was in my mid-twenties. So that I’m still reading picture books that I’ve read a million times actually feels high functioning.

3. Melissa’s links.
I have to work pretty hard to live on a farm without missing what’s happening in the world beyond. I used to read the New York Times and force myself to read stuff I don’t care about. It’s a great way to teach yourself to synthesize disparate ideas. But I can’t do that anymore because the Times won’t deliver to me. They won’t even deliver three days late.

So I had to rethink how I get a wide range of information and that’s when I started reading what Melissa sends like my life depends on it. There is no way to predict what will be there. Here’s a sampling:

Here’s a link to show you why Boston is racist and what the stereotypes are of other cities you love to hate—or just didn’t have the right information to hate.

Here’s a link about how the Abstract Expressionist art movement in the US was actually promoted by the CIA because the loose, emotional art seemed like an effective propaganda tool against the Soviet Union’s rigid Socialist Realism.

Here’s a link to a Myers-Briggs distribution chart that shows, among other things, why women like Melissa who are INTJs look completely out of step with the rest of the world but always send great links.

4. Food delivery web sites.
I’m in Seattle right now. By day I’m the mother of a cellist who cuts out on lessons to bike the Burke-Gillman trail. By night I’m an explorer of online food delivery sites. We don’t have food delivery web sites in rural Wisconsin. Actually, we don’t have food delivery.

Tonight I ordered from Eat 24. It was good. It was miraculous, really. That’s what the local Internet feels like when you live on a farm. I tried to convince my son o do Open Table  just so I could say I did it. Actually, it’s not that I had to convince my son to use an online reservation system. I had to convince him to commit to going out to dinner instead of going biking.

The new tourism: For people who live in rural America, traveling across the country city by city is not about visiting local attractions but rather about experiencing the local Internet.

5. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.
I am reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao because my editor is. Well, he was. He suggested that we do a reading group but I couldn’t keep up. Although I think it’s not that I can’t keep up, it’s that I don’t do well with assigned reading. For example, I waited until my junior year of high school to read all the books assigned sophomore year. Just so I knew I was reading them by choice.

A week ago, I did the webinar Reach Your Goals by Blogging. Melissa and I did it together. She’s the moderator and I talk over her. She’s also the recorder of the session. Because in my mind I am building an online learning empire so I want to sell the courses as downloadable recordings.

But on the third night of the webinar it turned out that the recording thing didn’t record. So I was going to just redo that evening of the webinar, tirades and all. Though maybe different tirades because I do all the webinars largely unscripted so they are more authentic. But then we still had to figure out what to do because we couldn’t reproduce the Q&A session during the second half.

“We should have a special guest,” I said.

Melissa said, “Can you ask Seth Godin?”

She always says this. Like, Seth and I are roommates or something. “No. Of course Seth will not do that.”

“Why do you always yell at me when I suggest Seth? He did one with you. Why won’t he do another?”

“Because he hates me because I hate his stupid school reform ideas.

“You flatter yourself to think Seth has enough focus on you to hate you.”

“You flatter me to think Seth would even take my call.”

Melissa says, “I have to go.”

This is Melissa-talk for “I am practicing having good boundaries and you suck.”

I call her five seconds later and say, “Jay can do it. He’s the surprise guest.”

“Don’t say his name. It’s better if you always say, ‘my editor.’ It’s like the fake twitter accounts, if you reveal it, there’s no mystery.”

“There’s always mystery with me. Like, how will I sell downloads of webinars when I admit that they are unscripted and I don’t have the real recordings? It’s a mystery. What sort of person will click buy? Will Penelope’s family starve? Will Melissa get fired for all her technical errors?”


“Just kidding.”

We call Jay. Jay does the webinar with no notice, from a conference room at his day job, which is both brave and fun.

Jay sends me links as well. The difference between the links Jay shares and the ones Melissa shares is that Jay is intent on being useful. (“Maybe you can fit this link into a post about baby boomers.”) Whereas Melissa sends anything that’s fun and interesting.

But I share the best links from both of them. So really, we are all in a book club together. It’s just there are no books and there’s no club. It’s just my blog posts, peppered with links from those two and all of you. And maybe that’s why I feel like I am not a very good reader. Because the one at book club meetings who cleans the house and makes the sandwiches always gets away with not reading as much as the guests do.