Category Archives: Listing

2012 concerts

  1. Birmingham Mountain Radio anniversary party, Workplay, Jan. 6
  2. Punch Brothers with Loudon Wainwright III, Alys Stephens Center, Jan. 28
  3. Mike Doughty concert, reading and q&a, WorkPlay, Feb. 10
  4. Lee Bains III & the Glory Fires, Bama Theater, Tuscaloosa, March 23
  5. Great Book of John and Lauren-Michael Sellers, Relax by the Tracks at Railroad Park, April 12
  6. Sharon Van Etten with Flock of Dimes, Bottletree, April 22
  7. Punch Brothers, Cannery Ballroom, Nashville, April 30
  8. The Head and the Heart, Birmingham Mountain Radio in-studio session, May 5
  9. Todd Simpson and Mojo Child and Gip Gibson, Relax by the Tracks at Railroad Park, May 10
  10. Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires, Alys Stephens Center, June 16
  11. Ringo Starr and His All-Star Band, Tuscaloosa Amphitheater, July 3
  12. Josh Ritter and the Royal City Band, WorkPlay, July 29
  13. War Jacket, WorkPlay, Aug. 4
  14. The Great Book of John, Preston Lovinggood and The Grenadines, Communicating Vessels, Aug. 10
  15. Robert Plant and the Sensational Shape Shifters with Hayes Carll, Alabama Theatre, Aug. 12
  16. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, WorkPlay, Aug. 17
  17. Azure Ray with SoKo, Bottletree, Sept. 4
  18. The Secret Sisters with Dillion Hodges, Vulcan AfterTunes, Sept. 22
  19. Alabama Symphony Orchestra, Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5, Alys Stephens Center, Oct. 6
  20. Jason Isbell with Andrew Combs, Vulcan AfterTunes, Oct. 21
  21. Neil Young with Alabama Shakes, Tuscaloosa Amphitheater, Oct. 25
  22. A Charlie Brown Christmas performed by Jeffrey Butzer and T.T. Mahony, with Jeffrey Butzer & the Bicycle Eaters and Chad Shivers & The Silent Knights performing “The Ventures’ Christmas Album,” Bottletree, Dec. 21

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2011 concerts

    1. 30A Songwriters Festival, including Katie Rogers, Roy Schneider, Mike Whitty, Jon Black, Dannica Lowery, Melanie Hammet, Carmel Mikol, Erick Baker, Keegan Dewitt, Lauren Lucas, Rachel Loy, Jeremy Lister, Callaghan, Dar Williams, Angel Snow and Shawn Mullins, Scenic Highway 30A, Fla., Jan. 14-16
    2. Sanders Bohlke, Gum Creek Killers and the Great Book of John, Bottletree Cafe, Feb. 4
    3. Josh Ritter, Terminal Five, New York City, Feb. 12
    4. Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles, Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Center, March 2
    5. Colin Hay, WorkPlay, March 5
    6. The Civil Wars with the Gum Creek Killers, Standard Deluxe, Waverly, March 25
    7. The Avett Brothers with Band of Horses, Tuscaloosa Amphitheater, Tuscaloosa, April 1
    8. The Great Book of John and K. Taylor and the Twerps, Bottletree, April 2
    9. Guster, WorkPlay, April 4
    10. Jason Isbell with Doc Dailey, Shoals Theater, Florence, April 8
    11. Jason Isbell with Maria Taylor, Zydeco, April 9
    12. Jonny Lang, Alys Stephens Center, April 23
    13. New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival: The Avett Brothers, Mumford & Sons, Jon Cleary, George Porter Jr. and Runnin’ Pardners, New Orleans Fairgrounds, April 29
    14. Dead Confederate plays Neil Young’s Tonight’s the Night, with Lee Bains III and the Glory Fires, Bottletree, May 7
    15. Secret Stages: The Sunshine Factory, Howlies, The Bear, Model Citizen, 13ghosts, Noot d’Noot, Vulture Whale, Dylan LeBlanc, Kovacs & The Polar Bear, The Great Book of John and The Green Seed, downtown Birmingham, May 14
    16. Hangout Music Festival: Umphrey’s McGee, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, My Morning Jacket, Widespread Panic (one song), Dead Confederate, Foo Fighters cover set, Primus, Avett Brothers, Flaming Lips (a few songs), Motorhead, Foo Fighters (three songs), Old Crow Medicine Show, Drive-By Truckers, Girl Talk, The Black Keys (a few songs), Justin Townes Earle (a few songs), Paul Simon, Gulf Shores, May 20-22
    17. Pine Hill Haints, Bottletree, May 27
    18. Black Jacket Symphony and Alabama Symphony Orchestra present Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Alabama Theatre, June 3
    19. Joe Purdy with the Milk Carton Kids, WorkPlay, June 9
    20. Mumford & Sons with Matthew and the Atlas and the Low Anthem, Fox Theatre, Atlanta, June 12
    21. Bama Rising, including Alabama, Blind Boys of Alabama, Rodney Atkins, Luke Bryan, Sheryl Crow, Bo Bice, Taylor Hicks, Kellie Pickler, Dierks Bentley, Sara Evans, Little Big Town, Montgomery Gentry, Martina McBride, David Nail, Jake Owen, Brad Paisley, Darius Rucker and Ashton Shepherd, BJCC, June 14
    22. David Mayfield Parade with Joel Madison Blount, WorkPlay, June 22
    23. David Gray with Lisa O’Neill, Fox Theatre, Atlanta, June 28
    24. U2, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tenn., July 2
    25. O.A.R., Soja and Kelley James, Sloss Furnaces, July 17
    26. Josh Ritter, Mountain Session at Boutwell Studio, July 24
    27. Josh Ritter with Yellowbirds, Alys Stephens Center, July 24
    28. Beth Wood, Jesse Terry, James Casto and Matt Blanchard, Eddie’s Attic, Atlanta, Aug. 5
    29. Justin Townes Earle, Alys Stephens Center, Aug. 11
    30. Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings, WorkPlay, Aug. 12
    31. Tonal Vision, Birmingham Arts and Music Festival, Stillwater Pub, Aug. 13
    32. Ben Folds, Alys Stephens Center, Aug. 20
    33. Patty Griffin, Alys Stephens Center, Oct. 7
    34. Stranded: A Day of Desert Island Music, Bottletree, Nov. 17
    35. Maria Taylor with Dead Fingers, Bottletree, Nov. 24
    36. Cedric Burnside, Gip’s Place, Dec. 17
    37. Dead Fingers, Monarchs, The Great Book of John and The Magic Math, Avondale Villa, Dec. 23
    38. Black Jacket Symphony presents U2′s The Joshua Tree, WorkPlay, Dec. 30

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The sails of memory rip open in silence

Songbook, Nick Hornby’s collection of essays about music, is one of my favorite books. But I disagree with him on one thing: I don’t think associating favorite songs with a specific memory weakens the song’s power. “Life is Beautiful” takes me to fall 2008 (even though, yes, it came out years earlier) and the months I spent listening to little besides Ryan Adams’ Cold Roses. It still elicits a certain emotional response that’s difficult to describe, or explain, because I think it’s far from Ryan’s best work but it still gets me every time. “Raining at Sunset” reminds me most strongly of the day I decided not to go on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ, but it is also a song I turn to when I need to calm down. “The End” now takes me back to seeing Paul McCartney play in Nashville earlier this year, but it’s also my favorite song from my favorite album, and it captures my attention to the point that I can’t accomplish much when it’s playing. It demands my everything.

Maybe age is a factor; Hornby mentions songs that carry you through different stages of life, and he’s experienced more of those than I have. (As I near 30, I think I can look back and reflect on all I’ve learned during my adulthood. But I’m not so naive that I don’t realize there’s so much left to experience.)

For now, at least, songs take me back to the time when I initially heard them, and the events for which they served as soundtrack. Because my work allows me to spend so much time acquiring and listening to new music, each year develops a soundtrack of its own. Check back with me in 10 years and we’ll see if these songs have endured. My guess is that even as these songs become associated with different events, they’ll still bring me back to 2010.

Five from 10: Carla Jean Whitley (from Birmingham Box Set, the Birmingham magazine music blog)

And when I thought about why this should be so, why so few of the songs that are important to me come burdened with associative feelings or sensations, it occurred to me that the answer was obvious: If you love a song, love it enough for it to accompany you throughout the different stages of your life, then any specific memory is rubbed away by use. … One can only presume that the people who say that their very favorite record of all time reminds them of their honeymoon in Corsica, or of their family Chihuahua, don’t actually like music very much. –Nick Hornby, Songbook, “Your Love is the Place Where I Come From”

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I closed my eyes, I kept on swimming

My reading habits are a reflection of my interior life. An average year sees 80-plus books pass through it. But the past few years have been busier, more exhausting than usual. Where I normally begin reading as soon as I get home, and spend an hour or so with a book before sleep, I’ve found myself returning home later and too often so exhausted that I need someone to tell me a story rather than engaging it myself. (Thank God for This American Life and The Moth.)

And so, recent years have been down years for reading. In 2009, I read 62 books. With seven days to go, I’m only at 50 books for this year.

As we enter the last week of 2010, I’m reflecting on the 12 months that are drawing to an end and dreaming about what I hope to accomplish in the 12 ahead. Invariably, that look back includes a variety of lists: the concerts I attended, the funniest things people said, the books I’ve read, my favorite albums of the year. And though earlier this week I spent two hours on a blog entry about those albums (to be posted Dec. 31 on Birmingham Box Set), I’ve never made a list of the books I most enjoyed.

I read fewer books this year, but I revisited some great ones. Songbook by Nick Hornby, Here is New York by E.B. White, Looking for Alaska by John Green, When Harry Met Sally by Nora Ephron and See You in a Hundred Years by Logan Ward kept me company this fall. (I can’t tell you why–because I don’t know–but I particularly craved the company of familiar pages during the autumn.)

Three of the best books I read for the first time in 2010 came with similarly strong recommendations, at the hands of friends and family. I deliberated over which Billy Collins collection to purchase when he read at Hoover Library’s Southern Voices conference in February. I’d just finished Ballistics and The Trouble with Poetry, both of which I’d borrowed from the library, but felt I needed to own one of his books as a memento of the reading. (If you don’t think a poetry reading can bring you near to tears and make you laugh, you haven’t heard Collins.) My friend and book columnist Susan Swagler recommended Sailing Alone Around the Room. Collins’ carefully worded observations on everyday life kept me company for the better part of the year. Several of my favorite poems filled the final pages, which made this especially satisfying to complete.

The problem with slim books is sometimes they’re finished all too quickly, and that was the case with How Reading Changed My Life by Anna Quindlen. I read this essay collection during the day after my birthday party, where I received it as a gift from the Donlon family. It immediately found a place on the shelf among my favorite, most-trusted books. It will be a book I turn to time and again, and I loved it so much that I gave my mother a copy for Christmas.

My sister gave me a copy of The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University by Kevin Roose, because she wanted to know what I thought of it. Roose left Brown University for a semester to attend Liberty University, one of America’s most conservative Christian colleges. Though my college experience was in many ways different from what Roose experienced at Liberty–I attended Florida State, after all–some of his encounters reminded me of my own campus ministry experiences. Roose’s conclusions weren’t revolutionary. He learned that Liberty kids struggle with many of the same challenges as his friends back at Brown, and Roose found himself enjoying prayer so much that he continued the ritual when he returned to Brown. But those lessons were revolutionary to him. I’ve often wished I could tell my college-age self to take a more complete view of herself (primarily) and those around her. It seems that’s exactly what Roose’s experiment taught him.

William Zinsser’s account of his writing life was a simple pleasure. But it affected me so strongly that as soon as I completed Writing Places: The Life Journey of a Writer and Teacher, I took out pen and paper and wrote him a thank-you note. (Perhaps because I hope to have so many stories to tell after a long career doing the same?) I was delighted, though not surprised, when a reply arrived in my mailbox weeks later.

I am surprised, however, to realize only one novel found its way to the books I most enjoyed in 2010. An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin is a compelling depiction of New York’s art world, as seen through the experiences of a young art dealer and her art writer friend. Martin writes beautifully of the paintings and art objects that populate the story, and the plot itself was so engrossing that it made me late to work the morning I finished. I only had 20 pages to go, and I just had to complete them. It had been a long time since a book made me tardy.

Although the powers-that-be may prefer that I arrive at the office promptly at 8 a.m., I hope 2011 brings many more books that make me struggle to leave the house. I hope 2011 brings many more books, period. My to-read list grows and grows.

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2010 Concerts

  1. 30A Songwriters Festival including Shawn Mullins, Nicole Witt, Pete Sallis, Chas Sandford, Brian White, Rodney Crowell, Chely Wright, Ballog!, Dread Clampitt, Sam Bush, Susanna Hoffs, Evan McHugh, Gary Louris, Beaches of South Walton, Fla., Jan. 15-17
  2. Love You Live including The Enemy Lovers, Will Hoge, Preston Lovinggood and Matthew Mayfield, WorkPlay, Feb. 17
  3. Punch Brothers, Montgomery Performing Arts Center, Feb.25
  4. Over the Rhine with Jon Black, WorkPlay, March 9
  5. The Civil Wars, WorkPlay, March 19
  6. David Gray, Atlanta Civic Center, April 10
  7. Paint the Town Red including The Hearts, Sharrif Simmons, Todd Simpson and Mojo Child, The Enemey Lovers and Matthew Mayfield, Downtown Birmingham loft district, April 17
  8. Hangout Festival, including Alison Krauss, Ray LaMontagne, Guster, Michael Franti, Ben Harper, Trey Anastasio, AA Bondy, Brett Dennen and the Zac Brown Band, Gulf Shores, May 15-17
  9. Alabama Symphony Orchestra Classical Mystery Tour, Alabama Theatre, May 28
  10. Act of Congress and Three On A String with the ASO, Alabama Theatre, June 3
  11. Green Leaves Listening Party, Urban Standard, July 10
  12. Imaginary Planes/Sunny So Brite/Great Book of John, Bottletree, July 16
  13. Jon Black, Bottletree, July 20
  14. Paul McCartney, Bridgestone Arena, July 26
  15. Black Jacket Symphony presents the Rolling Stones Let It Bleed, WorkPlay, Aug. 13
  16. Birmingham Arts and Music Festival including Grey Haven, Green Seed, Delicate Cutters, Green Leaves and Vasa, downtown Birmingham, Aug. 20-21
  17. Delicate Cutters Listening Party, Urban Standard, Aug. 21
  18. Jon Black Listening Party, Urban Standard, Oct. 16
  19. Rosanne Cash, Alys Stephens Center, Oct. 23
  20. Mumford and Sons with King Charles and Cadillac Sky, Buckhead Theater, Atlanta, Nov. 8
  21. Punch Brothers with Michael Tolcher, WorkPlay, Nov. 17
  22. Through the Sparks with Sunny So Brite, Bottletree, Nov. 27
  23. Black Jacket Symphony presents AC/DC’s Back in Black, WorkPlay, Dec. 17

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I wasn’t ready to go, I’m never ready to go

I’m intense. I know this about myself, and most of the time I’ll freely admit it. Lately that’s manifested itself in the lists I make, trying to capture order in my little life. Birmingham bucket list (so far only the Zoo, because that’s what I was discussing when I started the list). Activities I belong to (DISCO, MORE, RMC, EOL). Activities I’m taking a break from (CG, PTTR). My essential friends (I’ll leave that one to the imagination). My 30th birthday party guest list (that’s still in process–the party’s not till July).

But today, my intensity showed up in the serious thought I gave to cleaning my office. I’ve worked in journalism for five and a half years, and I believe I still have files for every story I’ve written in that time. (If you figure an average of four stories a week during my year and a half of newspaper writing, an average of 10 stories a month during my first two and a half years of magazine writing and an average closer to five stories a month over the past year and a half, that’s easily 700 stories. And I’m not even counting blog posts–for which, mercifully, I’ve mostly avoided filing away physical notes.)

None of the friends I’ve surveyed have an exact system for determining when they should let go of these reams of paper. Yes, I’m looking for a precise methodology, because that’s what I do. And of course many of my friends are also in media, because we understand each other’s insanity. (Or because we’re too incestuous to make friends outside our industry. I’m not sure. My grad school professors worried about us.) So lacking rhyme or reason for both discarding and retaining files, today I opened a drawer and pulled everything out.

One year of files filled two trash cans.

Though I’m still worried that I was too quick to toss things, it mostly felt good to let go of the past, and of the clutter. My office is a bit of a cave. We’ve got two cubicles jammed in there, and I only have three full file drawers. My 2010 folders have been crammed between magazines atop the extra filing cabinet I rescued from storage, and I don’t have a suitable place for a guest to sit. It’s all very orderly, but I often feel like the stacks of paper are closing in on me. I won’t take meetings in there; the extra chair I keep handy is primarily so a coworker can fill me in on the previous night’s dates.

So as much as it worried me, and as much discussion as it prompted, today was a milestone. I let go of a little control and gained some freedom in return.

And then I rushed home to blog about it. Maybe that (and the fact that I have semi-colon artwork–awesome semi-colon artwork–in my office) is indicative of how much control I could stand to relinquish.


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Top 10 albums of 2009

Originally posted on Birmingham Box Set

Every year I find myself going through phases with different albums. There are songs that show up on every playlist I make, others that bring me back to a specific moment. I think that’s one of the captivating powers of music, and for me, it’s also why it’s so fun to reflect on a year of music. I know there are dozens of albums I’ll fall in love with in 2010, some that I’ve already begun to review and can’t wait for you to hear. But these are 10 albums that will always bring me back to 2009.

  • Lisa Hannigan – Sea Sew
    During a ski trip last winter, I was immersed in this long-anticipated album from Damien Rice’s former side woman. Hannigan lived up to my high hopes with a beautifully crafted album that instantly takes me back to the ski slopes-appropriate for what sounds to me like a very wintry album.
  • Loney Dear – Dear John
    Dear John
    is a similarly seasonal-sounding album, and I’ve returned to it often as temperatures have dropped this month. Emil Svanagnen layers instruments and vocals so densely that I’m still discovering more about these songs, nearly a year later.
  • The Decemberists – The Hazards of Love
    Hands down, this is my favorite album of 2009. I received a review copy in mid-January, and was still so excited about this rock musical that I was chattering incessantly about it when friends finally got their hands on it after its March release. The already-large band combined with Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond), Becky Stark (Lavender Diamond) and Jim James (My Morning Jacket)  to create an epic album and, with Worden and Stark, one of the best live shows I’ve seen.
  • Maria Taylor – Ladyluck
    I was late to the Maria Taylor game, as I didn’t discover her songwriting until her second solo release in 2007. But this Birmingham-bred musician is captivating with each release, and I often find “Time Lapse Lifeline” playing in my head. Incidentally, Taylor was also one of my more memorable interviews this year. I’ve got to like a musician who admits that getting nervous onstage helps keep her from crying during very personal songs.
  • Derek Webb – Stockholm Syndrome
    Derek Webb has been one of my favorites through the years, beginning when he was one of the principle songwriters of Caedmon’s Call and continuing as he’s moved through a number of genres. His latest, Stockholm Syndrome, is sonically a complete departure from his past work, but Webb’s lyrics continue to challenge me.
  • Iron and Wine – Around the Well
    Collections of rarities and unreleased tracks are generally not thrilling for anyone but the biggest fans of a band. But Iron and Wine is an exception, and this two-disc collection plays almost as well as a carefully thought-out album.
  • The Beatles – Stereo Box Set (remastered)
    It’s the Beatles and it was worth every penny. Do I really have to expand on that?
  • The Avett Brothers – I and Love and You
    The Avett Brothers have generated a well-deserved buzz over the years, and it reached a crescendo with their major-label debut this fall. I and Love and You is a beautiful collection of songs, combining the band’s raw energy and musicality. Their live show is also great, as anyone who caught their set at Sloss Furnaces would attest.
  • The Duke and the King – Nothing Gold Can Stay
    Although the songs were largely born of a difficult time in band member Simone Felice’s life, on this album pain is tinged with hope.
  • Fink – Sort of Revolution
    I listen to a lot of different types of music-not everything, to be sure, but a variety-but mellow folk music tends to be what I listen to the most. Fink made an impression on me by combining some of those sounds with a groovy, lounge vibe. (Though I’m not including him on this list, Robert Glasper was also a contender for the same reason.)

Other contenders: Great Lake Swimmers, Sara Watkins, Robert Glasper, A Fine Frenzy, Dave Rawlings Machine.

Earlier this month, I surveyed my Twitter followers for their favorite albums of the year and received some great recommendations:

bhamboxset: Working on my top albums of 2009 post and would love to include reader picks. What’s your favorite? 4:05 PM Dec 11th from TweetDeck

mattplanet:@bhamboxset tough one…Kings of Leon would have to be up there…I’ll get back to you. 4:07 PM Dec 11th from TweetDeck in reply to bhamboxset

coflegel:@bhamboxset vulture whale, reigning sound, bondy, eels, deep dark woods, spiral stairs 4:27 PM Dec 11th from web in reply to bhamboxset

wchandlerparker:@bhamboxset fun., Passion Pit, The Damnwells, Sarah Siskind, Derek Webb, Imogen Heap, Manchester Orchestra were some of my faves… 4:44 PM Dec 11th from Echofon in reply to bhamboxset

Julie100178:@bhamboxset I like Brandi Carlisle’s Give Up the Ghost. 4:54 PM Dec 11th from TweetDeck in reply to bhamboxset

clayconner:@bhamboxset fav 2009 album: Bondy’s “When the Devil’s Loose” 8:44 PM Dec 11th from Tweetie in reply to bhamboxset

jamieparris:@bhamboxset The Low Anthem’s Oh My God Charlie Darwin and Andrew Bird’s Noble Beast 9:59 PM Dec 11th from TweetDeck

spitballarmy:@bhamboxset Farrar/Gibbard’s “One Fast Move…;” Dawn Landes’ “Sweetheart Rodeo;” Damnwells’ “One Last Century;” GLSwimmers’ “Lost Channels” 8:51 AM Dec 12th from TweetDeck in reply to bhamboxset

kristenmstewart:@bhamboxset Noble Beast, I & Love & You, Veckatimest, One Last Century, When the Devil’s Loose, No Line on the Horizon… 1:48 PM Dec 12th from Tweetie in reply to bhamboxset

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It’s not as if it’s a matter of will

The plan was simple. One year, no book buying (save for a three book exception, meant to stave off the seductive appeal of the forbidden). After filling my backseat with purchases from one book sale, I thought I needed a break from book buying. Otherwise I may never get caught up on my book reading.

That worked well for a time. I bought my first book at Square Books in Oxford, Miss., a place that begged for just such an exception. The Paris Review Interviews Vol. 1 is the perfect souvenir for this literary town. Weeks later, exception two came into play: The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway, on sale at Seattle’s Elliot Bay Books.

Then there was last night. Yes, last night brought book three. And four. And five. All the way up to 12. And I don’t feel a bit bad about it.

Technically, I fell off this particular wagon months back. I spotted three hardback copies of John Green’s Looking for Alaska on a sale table, and I couldn’t leave them lying there. I purchased all three, confident that I could find them homes. (I already owned two copies of the book, myself.)

But that didn’t count, not really. The books weren’t for me, after all. Neither was the hardback copy of Corduroy, purchased for a friend’s daughter’s birthday last month. By those rules, one of the books I bought last night doesn’t count either. When I saw a $3 hardback copy of a Charles Schulz biography, I knew my 16-year-old brother had to have it.

So then I’m only at 11 books for the year. Is that better?

This is what happened: It’s been a busy summer, one full of change. I haven’t been reading much as a result (a very strange circumstance, indeed). When a friend emailed yesterday, asking if I wanted to go to another library book sale, I said yes. I was ready for a little rule-breaking. (The fact that this counts as rebellion in my world is likely indicative of how big a nerd I am.)

We met at her house for a glass and a half of wine then headed out, hoping for a couple of good buys. Though I exhibited a fair amount of discretion, I still took home 10 books totaling $15. I broke the rules, and my only regret is not knowing which book to read first.

  1. Downtown Owl by Chuck Klosterman (The only Klosterman I didn’t own.)
  2. The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank (Often referenced as the original chick lit, and known for its author’s huge advance. I’m curious.)
  3. A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
  4. The Reason for God by Timothy Keller
  5. My Losing Season by Pat Conroy
  6. Proof by David Auburn
  7. The Little, Brown Handbook (Buying a 1986 handbook from a publisher I admire surely marks me as a full-fledged word nerd. Even more so if I read it. But it seems like a handy reference, doesn’t it?)
  8. That’s What I Like (About the South) Edited by George Garrett and Paul Ruffin
  9. Schulz and Peanuts by David Michalies
  10. Southern Living 1981 Annual Recipes (My mother bought me a copy of this book in 1981, the year I was born. I lost my original copy in the midst of too many moves and have been hunting another since. The discovery was made even better when I realized the book was only $1!)


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Stranded in a fog of words

On Jan. 3, I filled my iPod.

I didn’t see that milestone coming. When I finally bought an iPod two years ago, I intentionally purchased a model I thought large enough for my ever-growing music collection, but not so large that its capacity would go to waste. I expected the device to break before I ever needed more than 30GB.

When I added the albums that pushed my music collection over that 30GB mark, of course I panicked. “I need a new iPod!” I thought. “Do I have money to bump up to the next size? What am I going to do?”

I quickly came to my senses and realized I was being ridiculous. I love being able to carry every album I own everywhere I go, but I don’t listen to all 17.7 days worth of music. I would be scared to count how many of those 6,352 songs I’ve not listened to even once. So maybe the problem isn’t that my iPod is too small, I concluded. Maybe I’m the problem.

I cleared enough music off my computer to ensure my iPod and iTunes would sync, and in the weeks since I’ve continued the spring cleaning. I only listen to one track from Amy LaVere’s album; though so many people loved it, it never really clicked with me. Off it goes. I load albums I’m sent for review, but if they don’t make the cut? Delete. 

The following weekend I applied the same mentality to my apartment. I have more clothes than I need, and so many that I don’t wear. My trunk was quickly overflowing with bags earmarked for Goodwill. My bathroom was next on the list. I had developed a tidy collection of samples: shampoos, lotions and anti-aging creams (lots and lots of anti-aging creams). Just because I might need this cream someday doesn’t mean I need to store it today (besides, by the time someday rolls around, the cream would have expired). I bagged them up and took them into work, where my coworkers quickly claimed the products and put them to use.

It felt good, this cleansing ritual. And it’s ongoing; I’ve got clothes I’ve set aside, waiting a few days to see if I really can part with them. If I don’t wear it, why do I own it? And I’ve continued to edit my iTunes as new music comes in.

But there’s one area of my life where I can’t seem to break the hoarding cycle. Books.

Last weekend was the Friends of Emmet O’Neal Library Book Sale, and I certainly did my part to support the library. By the end of the weekend I had bagged up 80 books: 35 for one of my best friends, 44 for me and a crossword puzzle book for my grandfather.

And I’m unashamed. It’ll take me a while to read all of those books, especially combined with my already-lengthy to read list. And OK, I’ve instituted a book buying fast: I am not allowed to buy books again until Feb. 22, 2010 (or next year’s Emmet O’Neal book sale, whichever comes first). I need to read through some of what I already own, and no doubt I’ll continue to acquire more freebies. (I’ve got a knack for it, well, a knack and Paperback Swap.) I’m allowing myself three exceptions, because you just never know when something fabulous will be published. I hope to have read at least a significant chunk of this year’s book sale purchases by this time next year.

Even so, books are one thing that I just can’t get enough of.

Book Sale Bargain Day Finds:

  1. Beowulf translated by Burton Raffel
  2. Travels with Barley: A Journey through Beer Culture in America by Ken Wells
  3. The Archivist by Martha Cooley (OK, I totally bought this book based on its cover.)
  4. The Best American Magazine Writing 2002 
  5. Name All the Animals by Alison Smith
  6. On Writing Well by William Zinsser
  7. The Best American Essays 1990 edited by Justin Kaplan
  8. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  9. I Feel Bad about My Neck by Nora Ephron (OK, I’m too young for this book. But I like Nora Ephron.)
  10. Watership Down by Richard Adams (My book club read this a few months ago. I … didn’t.)
  11. Peace Like a River by Leif Enger (See above.)
  12. Stern Men by Elizabeth Gilbert
  13. The Reivers by William Faulkner
  14. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
  15. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
  16. Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
  17. The Case of the Missing Books by Ian Sansom (Again I must confess: I bought it because of the cover. It has a date due card on it. And it talks about books.)
  18. The Summer of the Great-Grandmother by Madeleine L’Engle (Because I have friends who OBSESS over her work)
  19. Before Columbus Foundation Fiction Anthology edited by Ishmael Reed
  20. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
  21. Still Life with Woodpecker by Tom Robbins
  22. Reading Rooms: America’s Foremost Writers Celebrate Our Public Libraries with Stories, Essays, Poems and Memoirs edited by Susan Allen Toth and John Coughlan
  23. Sister Age by MFK Fisher
  24. Ray in Reverse by Daniel Wallace (Because I dig Daniel Wallace)
  25. The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
  26. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt
  27. Leaving Home by Garrison Keillor (I have, um, never read or even really listened to Garrison Keillor.)


Filed under Autobiography, Listing, Reading

My fingers wrap around your words

Tonight I broke into a little dance when I left the library.

Sadly, that’s not an entirely unusual thing; I think it’s becoming an annual tradition. The occasion? The Friends of Emmet O’Neal Library Book Sale.

Last year was my first visit to the sale, and the trip resulted in the purchase of 36 books for $7. I’ve been talking about the event ever since.

My strategy this year was to begin with the Friends Preview Party on Thursday night, then return on Sunday for last-minute bargains. With my fellow bibliophile Monica in tow, I wrote my check to become a Friends member, grabbed a book tote and faced the books.

I intended to use today only for books that were absolute must-haves. I’d already snagged a few while volunteering with the Friends group over the past month, and I knew there would be plenty of classics left on Sunday. I’m running out of shelving space in my tiny apartment, and frankly I haven’t finished reading all of last year’s purchases. (Perhaps I should tally that number!) 

$54 later, I was set for the night. There was only one book in my stack that I questioned its must-have value, but it was a $2 purchase–so why not?

  1. Downtown Birmingham Architectural and Historial Walking Tour Guide by Marjorie White, the Birmingham Historical Society
  2. The Art of Eating by MFK Fisher (includes Serve it Forth, Consider the Oyster, How to Cook a Wolf, The Gastronomical Me and An Alphabet for Gourmets) (one of the big finds of the evening! Can’t believe I only paid $2 for this)
  3. Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
  4. Big Fish by Daniel Wallace (yes I’ve read it, but I didn’t own it)
  5. Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook by Alice Waters (this is the other big find!!!)
  6. Wayside School is Falling Down by Louis Sachar (I loved these books as a child!)
  7. A Thin Difference by Frank Turner Hollon (have read two of his books, big fan, plus he’s a Bama boy)
  8. The God File by Frank Turner Hollon
  9. Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein (for $2. SERIOUSLY.)
  10. The New York Times Large Print Big Book of Easy Crosswords (for my grandfather!)
  11. Endless Feasts: Sixty Years of Writing from Gourmet edited by Ruth Reichl
  12. Early Days in Birmingham: A Printing of the Original Papers of the Pioneers Club whose Members were Eye-Witnesses to the Events of the Founding of the City (I just thought that was too cute to pass on! I love Birmingham history.)
  13. Somebody Told Me: The Newspaper Stories of Rick Bragg
  14. Leaving Birmingham by Paul Hemphill (one I’d been hunting for two years!)
  15. The Prince of Frogtown by Rick Bragg
  16. Gilead by Marylynne Robinson
  17. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman
  18. Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi


Filed under Hittin' the books, Listing, Reading