Non-Required Reading: Julia’s List pt. 2

If you’re just joining us…today’s post is a continuation of my friend Julia’s favorite books she read in high school when she wasn’t being assigned. You can read the first part here. She joked on Facebook last week that her list explains “how she got so weird.” While I don’t agree that she’s weird, the coolest part of this project for me has been tracing certain things about the people I know now back to the things they loved as teenagers. And voracious reading is definitely something Julia have in common, this is still just part 2 of 3…

The Sword in the Stone by T.H. White (also one of my favorites)

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Also recommended by Charlie.  

The Giver by Lois Lowry

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Julia’s Note: I know it was on Kristin’s list, but it was the only thing that made me okay with the idea of graduating from high school.


Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson

Julia’s Note: Really good historical fiction.

The Hot Zone by Richard Preston

Julia’s Note: Really good, pretty gross, about the Ebola virus. But trust me, it’s great. Also I think the only non-fiction on my list.

I think it might be the first non-fiction on any one’s list so far…I’m not sure what that says about us…

Eva by Peter Dickinson

Julia’s Note: Sci-fi novel about a girl whose body is badly injured in an accident, so her doctors transplant her consciousness into the body of a chimpanzee. Kinda freaky, but really good.

Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle


The Dragonriders of Pern series by Anne McCaffery

 Julia’s Note: I was really, really into fantasy books about dragons.

The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis

Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor (I had completely forgotten about this book, but I also loved it.)

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

Somehow I never put together before that The Giver and Number the Stars were written by the same person. See how educational this series has been? I’d love to see what your list could teach me…send it to

Classics from the Queue: Kissing Jessica Stein

So I haven’t technically lied about seeing this. I just had never seen it all the way through, because the first time I tried to watch it I was way too young to get it, and unfortunately chose to watch it with my mom. We got about 25 minutes in before she declared it ‘weird,’ and mercifully ended my discomfort by turning it off. (Which is kind of amazing, we are not the kind of people who give up on movies.) So I didn’t really think much of this movie until one of my best friends in college said that she related to it more than any other movie.

And then Jennifer Westfeldt’s Friends with Kids came out last year and was so perfect that I decided I must have missed something in Kissing Jessica Stein. And I was right. This movie is weird, and I don’t need to sit down with my mom and watch it anytime soon, but it’s also really delightful. Though I don’t think I can see myself ever following in Jessica’s footsteps, dating a woman to get over her despair over the horrible men she keeps meeting, the way the story unfolds is way more believable than I remembered it being.

I don’t think I’m alone in relating to Jennifer Westfeldt’s point of view, which comes through so strongly in her movies but I’m having a hard time thinking of the words to describe it. Her movies, this one included, are filled with so many little moments that seem unremarkable but are perfect little encapsulations of how I feel about something. Like the shot of Jessica trying to meditate, taking one breath and then checking the clock, frustrated that time doesn’t seem to be moving – or the sequence where she has to run back into her apartment before work because she forgot to take out her curlers. Simple, seemingly meaningless moments make her work so close to perfect for me.

Word a Week Challenge: Worker

Wow I was digging for this week’s word, “Worker,” these aren’t necessarily my favorite pictures I’ve ever taken, but they’re the only ones that even remotely fit the theme. And it was way too gross out here in Chicago last night to go explore and take some more.

worst job ever at Toyota Park home of the Chicago Fire (if you can't tell that spandex suit covers his face)

worst job ever at Toyota Park home of the Chicago Fire (if you can’t tell that spandex suit covers his face)


Videoagrapher at Dan and Alyssa's wedding, Newport, CA

Videographer at Dan and Alyssa’s wedding, Newport, CA

May Day Haymarket reenactment spectator, Chicago, IL

May Day Haymarket reenactment spectator, Chicago, IL


Staff at Ryan Field, Evanston, IL

Staff at Ryan Field, Evanston, IL

Northwestern foodservice staff member at Northwestern Living Wage Rally, Evanston, IL

Northwestern food service staff member at Northwestern Living Wage Rally, Evanston, IL


Non-Required Reading List: Julia’s List pt.1

So my friend Julia is amazing. (You may recognize her name from a ton of the coolest Weekly Adventures cataloged on this blog.) She is a fellow former Northwestern English Major and current legal assistant in Chicago. She sent me a wonderfully long list of her favorite books from middle and high school. I was going to edit it down, but I then I decided if these books were important to her, it’s definitely for me to decide which ones should be recommended. But more than 35 books (yep), is a bit much for one blog post, so instead I’ve broken it up into a few posts. Here we go:

The Twentieth Wife by Indu Sundatesan


The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer


Listening to Catnip by Camille Smith

Julia’s note: It’s about a cat psychiatrist [he’s a cat, too], and it’s weirdly hilarious.

Protector of the Small series by Tamora Pierce (and anything else by her)

Julia’s Note: Kickass heroines

Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede

Julia’s Note: Also kick ass heroine.

Redwall series by Brian Jacques

Deryni novels by Katherine Kurtz

Julia’s Note: Slightly sexier fantasy novels, similarly kick ass heroines


Timeline by Michael Crichton

Julia’s Note: Far better than the movie.

Chronicles of Chrestomanci by Diana Wynne Jones

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

Julia’s Note: The length is intimidating, but it’s very readable.

I can’t speak to that, but I can say that Jules is a wonderful person to watch the Jim Cavieziel movie with.

Stay tuned for rest of her list!

As always I would love to read/share your list of favorite reads from your teen years. It doesn’t have to be this exhaustive of a list (though that’s welcome as well!) e-mail your picks to

Weekly Adventure: Quartets from ShawChicago at the Ruth Page Arts Center

I love a Sunday matinée, especially when the ticket is free from Goldstar. It makes me feel like I’ve had a productive afternoon without requiring me to do anything more than sit in a chair and listen to people talk. I had never heard of ShawChicago before yesterday, but apparently they are a company known for their staged readings.

Readings are inherently a tough sell. Why would I want to pay full price to watch people stand behind music stands and read from a binder? Especially when there’s no music? Well because sometimes it’s the only way that a certain play is going to be produced. One Acts, though when well done probably the most satisfying theatrical form, are also tough, from a production point of view. (How many to put together? What order? Etc.)

So ShawChicago had set a pretty tough bar for themselves with a collection of readings of J.M. Barrie’s non-Peter Pan one acts. And though my attention did waver a bit, it’s inevitable when there aren’t set pieces to distract my modern American eyes, I did enjoy the show. This is a testament to the enduring strength of Barrie’s writing: Rosalind, a clever indictment of the unfair expectations of female actors (they must jump from 29 to 60 there are no roles in between), could have been written last year (unforuntately). The other things that captivated me were the performances; especially Gary Alexander and Barbara Zahora, their energy made the reading seem like a real show.

Word a Week Challenge: Dawn

The word this week is “Dawn” – I like to sleep. So I only have one actual picture of dawn, of Venice after a ridiculous night train from Rome:

View from the train station, 6AM Venice, Italy

View from the train station, 6AM Venice, Italy

I’ve been awake at dawn at other times in my life, but usually for boring things like an early flight or studying in college. And one time, for a royal wedding. This is what dawn looked like in my college apartment that day:

Will and Kate (aka Quinn and Julia), in Evanston, IL

Will and Kate (aka Quinn and Julia), in Evanston, IL

Classics from the Queue: Broadcast News

This post contains spoilers – but this movie came out in 1987 so I doubt anyone can really get upset with me about that.

You know how sometimes you watch the first five minutes of a movie and you find yourself saying (in my case often out loud) “yes, I am so in.” That is the feeling I had as I watched a young man, who it turns out is playing a young Albert Brooks, scream “you’ll never know the pleasure of constructing an elegant sentence” at the backs of the jocks who have just finished beating him up. For the most part Broadcast News lived up to its brilliant opening, and the hype of the various recommendations its received from everyone from my high school English teacher to a random guy I went on an awful date with.

Writer/director James L. Brooks had an unfortunately prescient view of the devolution of national news into infotainment, but I don’t really want to go into that. Because what this movie is, beyond simply hilarious (though it is full of wonderful quips and the sequence where Joan Cusack runs a tape through the crazed newsroom and down a hall into a water fountain made me literally laugh out loud), is the most realistic portrayal of fraught friendship and an actual (as opposed to a soap opera) love triangle. Neither, William Hurt’s beautiful idiot Tom Grunick or Albert Brooks’s Albert-Brooksian Aaron Altman, are pure villain or hero. Sure I have my preference (it’s Albert Brooks if you haven’t met me), but you can see why Jane (Holly Hunter) feels pulled all over (not just two ways there’s also her career and herself – which is so rare to see in a “romantic comedy.”) Also allowing her to end up with neither? So refreshing.

Side note: I love William Hurt. And literally everyone else involved in The Big Chill. But I totally believe Albert Brooks when he says that Hurt might be the devil. He makes a good case.

Also I now have a new standard for if I am a mess. I will officially consider myself stable as long as I am crying less than Holly Hunter in Broadcast News.

Weekly Adventure: Billy Collins at the Francis Parker School

So if you read that headline and thought, “But wait Kath, you don’t have any association with the Parker School, how did you end up at their event last night?” Well then you and Billy Collins had the same question for me, but whatever, because I may have crashed a high school parent’s night, but I got to see Billy Collins read “Nostalgia” last night, so I don’t really care.

For those of you who don’t know, Billy Collins is a poet. He was Poet Laureate of the US from 2001-2003, and he is widely considered one of the funniest and most “accessible” contemporary poets working today. But don’t read “accessible” to mean stupid or simple, as he said last night he just doesn’t “like to get too far ahead of his reader.”

I didn’t get any pictures or video of Mr. Collins (though I must say he looks very good for someone who admitted that he was ‘older than Cheerios’ during his reading.) But he did sign my copy of The Trouble with Poetry and Other Poems which I then reread in one sitting on the bus home. He writes with such warmth that returning to his work is like sneaking under a duvet.

And here’s a video of him reading one of my favorite poems:

And here’s an even more adorable video of a three-year old reading another of my favorite poems:

Non-Required Reading: Alyssa’s List

I had to stop myself from writing “Lys’s list” because it was fun to say. Alyssa was a classics major at Northwestern, so naturally she works with me sorting data for a logistics company. Her favorite books in high school definitely have more to do with the classics than her current role as a transponster:

Roma (and the Roma sub Rosa series) by Steven Saylor

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller


Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides


The Pelican Brief by John Grisham

Apparently she started reading this in seventh grade, then lectured her mother about how it was inappropriate, and then picked it back up in high school. I think that’s adorable. She also recommends pretty much everything else by Grisham.

Anything by Mary Higgins Clark (I chose this cover from her choices because I remember listening to the audio book of this in a car with my parents – I had nightmares, but it definitely sticks with you.)


Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara


Imperium by Robert Harris

Pompeii by Robert Harris


I got a few more lists this week, but I’m always looking to read more. E-mail me yours at

Ten Songs To Tide You Over

Sorry I won't be here the rest of the week - I'm hanging out with these guys

Sorry I won’t be here the rest of the week – I’m hanging out with these guys

So my parents arrive in town in a couple of hours, so I’m taking the rest of the week off. Here’s some music to keep you company while I’m not blogging to keep you occupied:

Learn What it’s Like to Say No – Lydia Loveless

Have I mentioned yet that I love her? Because I do, and you should too. And her hilariously coiffed husband/bass player.

I’ll Be Fine by Clairy Browne & the Bangin’ Rackettes

I forgot to make a note of where I heard this, but enjoy the fun anyway! [Edit: I remember – it’s the theme song to Please Like Me which is an amazing new Australian TV show you should all Google.]

Out Loud by Dispatch

I recently rediscovered a lot of my YouTube faves – including this cover of this song, by cast members of Next to Normal. And that reminded me of junior year of college when my friend Madison and I would play this song while pregaming and confuse the rest of our friends.

Love Lust by King Charles

I saw this guy open for Mumford & Sons a few years ago, and this week’s photo post made me think about that night which was awesome. Try keeping this song out of your head – and if you are successful please tell me how you did it.

Loca by Shakira

The Voice is back! The Voice is back! And Shakira is adorable, and not insane. A refreshing change.

Colder Weather by Zac Brown Band

A guy on The Voice sang this, and he was good, but not as good as my love ZB. I love this song.

Romance by Wild Flag

For some reason the sun (finally) coming out this week, made me think of this song.

Basket Case by Green Day

Sorry Julia, but I still love this band. Confessions of a Music Snob featured this song, and I awkwardly danced to it at my desk.

The Bad Years by Kerrigan & Lowdermilk

Because it’s a little too real, but always wonderful.