Another Year and a Bunch of Books

Nothing says “Happy New Year,” looking out with hope and expectation towards a brand-spanking-new calendar of virgin reading territory than my end-of-the-year book wrap. It’s become a JBE blogging tradition.

In past years, I’ve summarized the previous 12 months and the books I’ve read. This year, I’m opting to hit the highlights rather than reviewing every single book simply, because in 2014, I ended up reading 65 66 books! (You can see the complete list, here.)

This year-end synopsis offers me a chance to reflect back over the previous 12 months of reading. I also get to take note of the books I enjoyed and found benefit in reading, and offer a few of the ones that were disappointing. Keep in mind that reading and what I like to read is highly subjective.

I don’t begin my reading year with any grand plan. However, I do set a goal to end the year on the plus side of 30 books. Having done this now for more than 15 years (with many of these coming pre-blogging), it’s not unreasonable to expect to read 3-4 books per month. In fact, that’s generally been my output at the end of the year when the numbers have been tallied. Continue reading

Holiday Break

Today is the day before Christmas. It’s also Wednesday, the day after my usual Tuesday posting day on the blog. If you noticed, I didn’t have anything new up by midnight.

I’m taking a short blogging holiday.

I won’t be back with anything fresh ‘til next Tuesday—that’s when I’ll be coming at you with my end-of-the-year reading wrap. There are a boatload of books to talk about. In fact, some of my time over the next few days of downtime will be spent reading, padding my book total.

I’m thoroughly enjoying my current read, which offers a look back at those crazy days back in 1972—more to come on that front.

To readers and those just stumbling upon my site, I wish you a Merry Christmas and the Happiest of Holidays.

Merry Christmas from the Nixons--1972

Merry Christmas from the Nixons–1972

Turning 31

Mark is 31-years-old today. It’s sounds clichéd to say it, but it feels like only “yesterday” that I was driving Mary to the hospital like countless other nervous fathers-to-be before. We were living in Indiana at the time, 1,500 miles from family and familiar surroundings. To a then 21-year-old dad-in-waiting, this was terrifying. It was also one of my high-water life experiences

Young Jim and Mark

Mark at 18 months (I think).

I enjoyed being his dad. I still do. Continue reading

Santa’s Helpers

Holiday shoppers took a hit in 2013 when stormy weather right around Christmas resulted in tens of thousands of shoppers not being able to get packages to their intended destinations on time. Not only was it disastrous for shoppers, but retailers took a hit, also.

If shoppers and retailers don’t want a repeat of last year’s Christmas nightmare, package deliverer UPS surely is banking on better delivery results. The company was barraged by criticism last year when the company failed in delivering thousands of packages by Christmas Eve. Brown insists it’s well-prepared to make this a merrier Christmas in 2014, even as increased online shopping is likely to put greater strain on the company and its rivals.

Brown getting it done.

Brown getting it done.

Continue reading

The Other Direction

Going against the grain is never easy. Swimming upstream is bound to get you talked about, criticized, and maybe even hated. As writers, our job isn’t to make people comfortable—it’s to write what we know to be true (spoken as a writer who writes nonfiction).

Mark Twain was quoted as saying “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” I don’t know if he added, after reflecting—move in the other direction.

What I’ve noticed throughout my life is that the majority is often on the wrong side of history. A mere cursory reading of the subject will tell you that. Yet, many people still hate having you point that out to them. Continue reading

Get Writing

I was at a party with holiday overtones over the weekend. The hostess introduced me to another writer. We had an enjoyable discussion about writing, particularly the craft of writing. A recurring theme in our discussion was why some writers move beyond mere procrastination and actually get down to writing.

There continues to be a romanticism attached to “the writing life.” Some of this is the equivalent of what is attributed to Joyce Maynard in Salinger, about the late literary icon, and his hatred about the “artiness in writing and writerliness…tweedy types sucking on cigars on their book jackets or exquisitely sensitive-looking women in black turtlenecks.”

While Salinger became as famous for his obsessiveness and privacy as he was for his literary output, he apparently kept up more closely with the literati than we thought he did at the time, and had “little but contempt for what he sees…” of that world. Writers more famous for the pose they strike, than their writing.

Writing requires work, and sometimes slogging along in near obscurity for some period. Yet, any craft requiring creativity (and ability) must be honed.

Writers write!

Writers write!

Continue reading

Picture Talk

Pages & Pints Outline

Pages & Pints Outline

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then this one might be worth 750, or so.

It’s my talk given at Friday’s Pages & Pints at Lewiston Public Library, in a photo. Well, technically not my talk, since flip charts suck as an audio platform, but an outline of my 30-minute blast on Moxie, beer, and a few thoughts on the craft of writing (and Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft). Continue reading

Working Backwards

The path to career success for many follows a time-worn tradition. Often, it’s off to college for a degree. Nowadays, the degree must be “marketable.” And then after that, an advanced degree is almost always expected, if not immediately, then down the road once you are established at the firm. Increasingly, all those initials after your name come with a hefty price tag and mountains of debt.

I’ve never followed convention, or the traditional college track.

My own “education” seems ass backwards according to the ways of the world. The journey of reinvention I’ve been on for more than a decade began later in life. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. In fact, I’m finding that my DIY ways and quirky approach to making a living is more of an advantage than a liability. Continue reading

Writing About Maine’s Outliers

I’ve lived in Maine for all but five years of my life. After questing to find spiritual nirvana—in Indiana, of all places—our family unit returned to the Pine Tree State in 1987 and I’ve been here ever since. Sometimes I even write a book or two about some aspect of Maine’s history, trying to relate it to the present.

There are times when I don’t even know my native state. The recent influx of flatlanders and people from away now doing all the writing about the state has created a portrait of my home state that I barely recognize. Somehow, this new brand of scrivener has convinced the rest of us that we are more than the feudal serfs we’ve always been. Continue reading