Tag Archives: featured

741.5 : Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood is one of the most important writers of the modern era, period. Her dark dystopian visions have made for incredibly entertaining and jarring fiction. There is more to her than dark science fiction however, she is a very accomplished poet, environmentalist, and in 2008 even wrote the libretto to an opera.

Yep, She’s Awesome.

But it turns out, she’s always been a comic book writer at heart.

In a PREVIEWS world Exclusive interview that was conducted at the Dark Horse Comics booth for this year’s San Diego Comic Con Atwood said, “I started with drawing comics when I was a very, very young person. Only later did I become a novelist.”

Pictured: Atwood’s reaction to getting to write a comic book.

Her first professional attempt at comic book fame is entitled Angel Catbird. It’s about a scientist who, through a freak lab accident (of course) has his genes spliced with those of an owl and a cat. The resulting super hero can, “see both sides of the complex cat/bird relationship.” If you couldn’t tell, there is a fair amount of tongue-in-cheek humor to this graphic novel while also raising awareness of environmental  issues, especially rare and migratory bird conservation.

Environmental activism has been a hallmark of Atwood’s fiction and her personal life for decades. Recently, Margaret Atwood won the 2016 PEN Pinter Prize for her political and environmental activism. Angel Catbird  is being published by Dark Horse Books in tandem with Keep Cats Safe and Save Bird Lives, www.catsandbirds.ca, an initiative led by Nature Canada, the oldest conservation charity in the country.

Margaret Atwood will be visiting Traverse City on October 20, 2016 as part of the National Writers Series and will be discussing her new novel Hag-Seed, a modern re-telling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. I would highly recommend getting tickets for this event as she is a literary and cultural icon. It doesn’t get much better than Margaret Atwood.

3 to 5 Questions: Kathleen Stocking

Kathleen Stocking; writer, teacher, traveler, and Northern Michigan native. Her life is a collection of amazing experiences in incredible places. She has been a  teacher to hardened criminals and vulnerable children around the globe and she shares her experiences in her autobiographical books. Lake Country: A Series of Journeys, Letters from Leelanau, and her latest The Long Arc of the Universe detail in essay form her experiences and the people in her life. Her life is moving, inspiring, and surprisingly familiar. Although she travels the world and makes an effort to see and experience as much as possible, Northern Michigan has always kept her “grounded.”

How did you start your literary journey? Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?

Not sure how to answer this because I think that, at least in my case, I didn’t start my literary journey, as such, but it was more that it started me, or maybe the way to say that is that it was “in me” and after a while I recognized it. At that point, maybe when I was about nine or ten years old, I began to see that this desire to express in words, a deep need to do so, is what was called being a writer.

You’ve been to and seen some incredible things. Where do you find the strength to face so much human suffering?

Well, a lot of people have more strength than I have to face a lot of human suffering: Doctors without Borders comes to mind, people working in refugee camps. People who work in hospitals, schools, prisons in this country and all across the world.  A neonatal intensive care nurse, how does she do her job, day after day? And, of course, soldiers and policemen.  Somehow, in each person there must be inner reserves of strength, maybe from a good childhood where they were loved and they know it, or they find that helping others is its own reward, that they are doing something to make things better, and that makes them feel good and gives them the strength to continue doing the work. And for the writer, someone with a lot of curiosity like me, there’s always the chance to understand something difficult. But, that said, people need to have a break from ceaseless trouble and I found that by returning to my home in Lake Leelanau from time to time, I could rest and build up my reserves, and go out again.

What was the best teaching moment you’ve ever had?

The child in the homeless shelter who didn’t speak for weeks and weeks, because of trauma, and then one day wrote the most beautiful poem about a star in the night sky. I’ve never forgotten it.

Who is your favorite author?

There’s more than one. Here are a few: Shakespeare, Nabokov, Walt Whitman, D. H. Lawrence, Marguerite Duras, James Baldwin, Jim Harrison. I admire writers who have an intuitive sense of the way images and events in nature create emotions. I admire writers who have moral courage.

Have you ever considered writing fiction?

All the time. But fiction takes more time than I’ve ever had.  I would like to write a mystery and put in it all the things I had to leave out of the nonfiction. In nonfiction you can’t use certain material because it might put someone in harm’s way or sometimes, even though you know something to be true, you can’t write about it because you don’t have corroborating evidence or a second witness. But in a fictional mystery story I could talk about the things I left out.

What book is on your bed stand right now? (What are you reading right now?)

I’m reading, “The Story of America,” by Jill Lepore. She’s so logical and witty and her research is extensive.  It’s wonderful. Nonfiction. I read, “The South,” by Paul Theroux a while ago and it was great.

With which Dewey Decimal number or section do you identify? (your books rest squarely in the 900s – 910, 917, and 977.)

I love the whole library and at different times have read a lot of fiction: Somerset Maugham, Mark Twain, Thomas Wolfe, John Steinbeck, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Gorky, Ibsen, Malraux, V. S. Naipaul. Many, too many to name.

Terrible Treasures: Virgin Heat

I was casually making a display of books where the main characters are anthropomorphized cats (a surprising amount of books) when Amy Barritt, our Special Collections Librarian and Archivist, popped up with this little terrible treasure.

Why wasn’t this brought to my attention before?!


Now, Virgin Heat does not count as a book with a cat main character, as far as I know, but it does count as a hilarious and slightly disturbing book cover. The photo above, snagged from our online catalog, doesn’t really do it justice.


The cat on this cover is not mentioned in the book jacket or in any of the reviews I found. Why is he ringed in fire? Why are the fleshy pink parts of the corners of his eyes so lovingly detailed?

Honestly, if it weren’t for the title of this book it probably would just be dismissed as another cat on a book cover, nothing to write home (or blog) about. But Virgin Heat sounds just gross, like a catholic nun unable to stop herself from grinding on virulent males. It happens to also be the title of a self published Amazon.com erotic series, which makes way more sense.

This book however is not about sexless women lusting to breed, but about a prude daughter of an imprisoned mobster and her attempts to find love with the man who betrayed her father. The book garnered four stars on www.goodreads.com which is high for the notoriously picky and opinionated site. Furthermore, Laurence Shames is actually a relatively popular author with most of his books filed under comedy/suspense and mostly taking place in Key West, Florida. For some reason though, he likes weird animals on his book covers.



The old adage remains true, you can’t judge a book by its’ cover.

PBF: August – The Zone of Death or How to get away with murder.

Sounds SCARY doesn’t it? Well… it is.

Not to be confused with the Death Zone – a section of Mt. Everest 8,000 feet above sea level where breathing becomes nearly impossible and many climbers succumb to the elements – the Zone of Death is right here in America.  Specifically, it’s a fifty square mile section of Yellowstone National Park.

The interesting legal conundrum was explained in 2004 by Michigan State University law professor Brian Kalt’s article titled, “The Perfect Crime.” Kalt explains that in 1872 Congress created Yellowstone National Park – the world’s first national park – as a federal enclave which would not be subject to state law. Technically, there weren’t any states in the area at the time anyhow.  In 1889 and 1890 Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho became states but Yellowstone was put exclusively into the State of Wyoming’s federal district. Even today it is the only federal district in the country to cross state lines.



This is a problem.

Why? How well do you know your constitution? Article III of the Constitution says that federal criminal trials need to be held in the state where the crime was committed. On top of that, the Sixth Amendment states that a defendant has a right to a trial by jurors who live in the same state and district as said crime.

Follow all that?

In the Wyoming federal district residing inside the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park there is a population of zero. It’s actually one of the most remote areas of the park, lacking even a road leading to or through that area. With no ability to create a federal jury and no state jurisdiction, there would be no way of actually prosecuting a crime, if one were to occur in this lawless no-man’s land. Minor offenses that do not require the formation of jury could still be prosecuted, but anything big enough to require the judgement of peers is off the table.

And no one seems interested in fixing the problem.

I’m shocked that Congress won’t act, SHOCKED. Well, not that shocked.”

The attitude seems to be that the area is so remote and inhospitable- bears, wolves, and biting insects, oh my! – that it probably won’t ever be an issue.


We’ll see.

Frankly,  the ‘we’ll deal with it when we have to’ mentality is pretty prevalent on this issue. I originally debated posting on this topic as I am not too keen on helping people commit serious crimes, but you have to admit, it sounds like a total pain in the butt to pull off and I’m definitely not the first author to bring this to readers attention. You can read a fictionalized account of a murder being committed in the Zone of Death in C.J. Box’s award winning mystery Free Fire.  Brian Kalt was even a consultant on the book so it’s as accurate as it can be while also being fiction!


3 to 5 Questions : Judith Hartley



Judith A. Hartley, a poet enjoying her senior years in Traverse City, lives with fibromyalgia and can barely get around anymore, but she is a tough woman who still manages to create beautiful poetry. Interviewing her brought me to tears with her gut wrenching honesty about poetry, humanity, and her struggles with mental illness and loneliness while discussing her work.

Judith uses a free form style for most poems but can be found to play with more structured verse throughout her works. She deals with topics like death, love, longing, and spirituality.  She also works some quirk and humor into her poetry which makes it easier to relate to her and her verse. She wrote, “my poetry is born from a deep need to find the divine in the everyday experiences of a good life.” Her poetry flows straight from her heart. She said in our interview that without poetry in her life, she wouldn’t still be here today. Each poem is a life preserver.

TADL carries three of her poetry collections; The Winged Life, Wise Child, and Behind My Curtain.


How did you start writing poetry?

I started writing when I was 22; I think it was a broken heart. When you are young with unrequited love, you know, you’re dating and it doesn’t work out. I had a son in my teenage years, I had a teenage marriage that didn’t last very long. So at 22 my son [Scott] was five years old and I was looking for a good job to support both of us. I found a secretarial job at GM and it paid good money so I took it and I worked there 4 ½ years and I made good money but I didn’t stay there because I was a round peg in a square hole! I wasn’t suited for GM, I was a poet! I was trying to go to college and raise my son and occasional go out on a date and it was all too much. My son always came first. After a while Scott started crying when I went out. I asked him if I could go out when he was asleep but he said he wanted me with him all the time so I stopped dating and stopped going to college. That’s when I started writing poetry; there was a lot of stress and depression in my life which plagued me for many years. They [doctors] tried so many medications on me and they didn’t work. I was in and out of mental wards for many years and my mother had to take over raising Scott because I wasn’t stable enough to raise him. In the mean time I was taking jobs and struggling and paying my mother to take care of Scott. I kept writing and eventually went back to school. I was on a special program through Lyndon Johnson called New Frontiers, a program for patients with mental illness and drug addiction, and it paid for my education and even my textbooks. I worked 20 hours a week and went to school 20 hours a week. I did graduate from Oakland University with a BA in English with a concentration in Psychology and Sociology, it took me 10 years! I just kept persevering.

Then I got a good job with the state of Michigan as an interviewer of people with disabilities who were trying to get help with finding jobs. It was a wonderful work. I really liked working with people who had disabilities, especially depression because I knew what to ask and how to help them cope. We really need to remove the stigma surrounding mental illness in this country, people think that mentally ill people are violent but they are not. Most of the people I worked with, people with schizophrenia or bi-polar disorder, were simply afraid.

About that time they transfer me up to Traverse City. I was originally working in the Pontiac area but I was having dreams of water and rocks, I knew I was going somewhere special. Poets are prophets they say! I went up to TC by myself, didn’t know anyone, and I loved it. I was driving around and wondered why people didn’t have smiles on their faces! They should be smiling all the time, it’s so beautiful! The landscape brought me to tears. I worked at a rehab for about 8 years.  I retired to focus on writing and devote all of my attention to poetry. So here I am, retired and doing exactly what I wanted to do.

Which poets have influenced you?

Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman. I t’s funny, they are so opposite, Whitman goes on and on and Dickinson is so succinct. Also Wallace Stevens cause you have to think with him and he’s very deep. I didn’t like Robert Frost too much.

How has your poetry changed over the years?

I don’t think it has changed much at all. I just thought about my son, you know how mothers brag about their sons. When he was nine months old I was worried because he hadn’t walked yet and then at a year old he just popped up and started walking. I was very professional, I didn’t wobble around or feel my way, I just started and I was top grade. I don’t think I’ve changed much, I don’t really. I was in my 30s and that’s when I was having serious depression and that was when I was writing the most. I went to a psychologist at some point and he said the best way to cope with anything is to create something. So I was staying stable by creating poems. It was then that I produced the most and the best poems.

What type of books do you read? What books are on your nightstand right now?

I like deep books and I like spiritual books. I read spiritual books mostly and I am a student of the bible. When there was nothing else there was always the Lord.  And Non-fiction, I’m not a patient anymore with fiction. I don’t like stories, I want the truth! I’m between books now! Someone gave me a book about ice skaters, it’s about Russian Ice skaters and that was interesting. I like biographies and autobiographies. I like people who have overcome odds, like Marie Curie and Helen Keller. I like strong woman, and strong men too, people who are heroes and heroines. I’ve done that since I was a small child. I’ve always looked for the people who succeeded despite handicaps.

If you were a Dewey Decimal Number, which would you be and why?

Between 100 and 200 because those are the ones that I studied in university and that’s where my brain my goes, that is my mental position.

July PBF: Emily’s Island or the Dickinson-Gilligan Connection

Emily Dickinson, the name is synonymous for intellectualism and poetry. Dickinson most often employs the ballad stanza, a traditional form of poetry that is divided into quatrains, using tetrameter for the first and third lines and trimeter for the second and fourth, while rhyming the second and fourth lines (ABCB). Dickinson played with punctuation from time to time as her nearly 2,000 poems are all similar in stanza structure.

In short this predictable use of meter and rhyme means that almost all of Emily Dickinson’s poems can be sung to the tune of the Gilligan’s Island theme song.

gilliganwtfPictured: Not a synonym for intellectualism and poetry. 

Go on, try it yourself! here is the Gilligan’s Island Theme Song….

Now, sing one of  Dickinson’s most famous poems to the tune. Let’s pick ‘There is no Frigate like a book.’

There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away,
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry –

This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll –
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears a Human soul.

Here it is sung by a high school student on youtube:

Weird, right? Apparently there are other songs that her poetry melds well with, Amazing Grace for instance, but that’s no fun. Gilligan’s Island is so beautifully irreverent. Now you’ll never be able to read one of her poems without singing it again. Try it out at a bar and watch all your literary friends freak out at how the queen of misanthropic poetry ended up mashing with a 1960’s screw ball sitcom theme song.


3 to 5 Questions: Mardi Jo Link

3 to 5 Questions for Authors:

In Which A Librarian asks a Talented Author a Small Number of Questions

Mardi Jo Link started her publishing career with true crime titles like When Evil Came to Good Hart, Isadore’s Secret, and Wicked Takes the Witness Stand. In 2013,  this Michigan native switched to biographical material. Her memoir, Bootstrapper: From Broke to Badass On a Northern Michigan Farm, was an Indie Next pick, has been optioned for film, and received significant national attention. Her latest book, The Drummond Girls: A Story of Fierce Friendship Beyond Time and Chance, tells the story about how her eight best friends met and how they now take yearly trips to Drummond Island and will be out in paperback this August. Mardi’s books are uniquely North Michigan and are filled with so much humor and heart (yes, even the true crime books) that they are hard to put down. Her books have been wildly popular in Michigan as well as all over the country. We met for coffee and breakfast at Brew in order for me to ask her a small number of questions.

I love both your true crime books and your memoirs, why did you choose to stop writing true crime?

After publishing my first books I was looking for an agent to take my career to the next level. In the meantime I had also published some essays about my life as a single parent and the agent who was most interested in my work suggested I write a memoir. So, I had the unexpected opportunity to turn the spotlight on my own life. Bootstrapper was the result.

Bootstrapper gets very detailed about life on the farm and the difficult time you went through keeping everything running on top of raising three boys! What was the most difficult part for you and what is your favorite farm animal?

I’d say the most difficult thing is the relentless string of issues that arose during that difficult year. There was always something to be fixed or something going wrong. I’d say my favorite animal is definitely horses though I was surprised at how interesting chickens are!

In Drummond Girls, the eight of you become friends at Peegeo’s Food and Sprits (some of you as employees and some of you as regulars at the bar). What was/is your favorite thing to order there?

Vodka Soda and deep fried cauliflower! Yum! Today I’m partial to their Veggie Sub.

In interest of Fine Print tradition, I’ve gotta ask, if you were a dewey decimal number, what number and why?

My answer, at least today, is American Colonial History (973) because I have been conducting research on my own family tree for my next book. I’m researching specifically the Penn’s Creek Massacre and two young German girls a Delaware Indian raiding party captured and then raised when their parents settled on Indian land. I’m not sure what form the book will take, and to help me figure that out for the first time I’m doing something called “blogging your book.” Which just means blogging about the writing and research process. You can find it at  “A string around my finger.

Dysfunctional Families

“I think a dysfunctional family is any family with more than one person in it.”

Mary Karr (who has a new book out called The Art of Memoir)

Scheduling holiday plans, drawing names for gift exchanges, tracking down a regulation size casserole dish for your squash. All of it’s good family fun, but only in retrospect. If our faces really did freeze that way when we made snotty faces like our moms said, most of us would be walking around with our eyes permanently rolled into the backs of our heads this time of year, from the group texting arguments alone.

But, as the above quote from the wise Mary Karr illustrates, we all have crazy families. You might even be the crazy one in yours! Think about it: that was “a look” your sister gave your mom when you suggested everyone pitch in to buy a water buffalo for a struggling family instead of exchanging gifts (which is totally a thing you can do).

So instead of messaging your brother to complain, but then accidentally messaging the brother you were complaining about, make some hot dip and settle in to the couch with these movies and books about families that are (maybe?) even more dysfunctional than yours. You can also check out last year’s post, It’s All Relative, for how to cope with your specific family issues by…that’s right, reading!



Arcadia by Lauren Groff: If you’ve been on the holds list FOREVER waiting for Groff’s new Fates and Furies, her previous novel about the family that grows from a group of 12 who start a commune in New York in the 1970s ought to hold you over. And if you like it and you want more like it, watch the documentary Surfwise, the documentary of a real life family of surfers who lived in an RV and got weird.

An Almost Perfect Moment by Binnie Kirshenbaum: Every relationship between a teenage girl and her mother is dysfunctional at one point. Do I recommend this book a lot? Whatever, it’s so good and quirky and heartwarming and cringe-worthy. If you’d read it already, I’d stop talking about it. Another great book in this wheelhouse: Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple.

Byron In Love: A Short Daring Life by Edna O’Brien: This biography of the famed poet Lord Byron tends toward the illegal side of dysfunction. I’m talking about incest and drinking wine out of skulls, the latter of which maybe isn’t illegal but frowned upon.

Landline by Rainbow Rowell: If you hate the sound your partner makes when they chew turkey, just imagine that they’re away for the holidays and the only way you can talk to them is on your old landline phone and they will be 22 again. Or just lock yourself in the bathroom and read this excellent book.

ANYTHING by David Sedaris: Sedaris is the king of hilarious and peculiar families. Read it all but ESPECIALLY Holidays on Ice, this time of year. Actually, read it out loud with your own peculiar family.

Family Matters by Selected Shorts: This is an audiobook of feel good short stories, all dealing with “colorful episodes in the lives of families”. It’s read by various authors. My favorite is “The Loudest Voice” by Grace Paley, read by Linda Lavin.

Flying Troutmans by Miriam Toews: A friend sold me on this sweet book by telling me it was the Little Miss Sunshine of novels, and she was right because she’s a helluva librarian. A troubled quirky fam on a wild road trip.

The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson: Sure your parents do annoying things, but have you ever suspected them of faking their own deaths for some epic performance art? This novel has recently been turned into a film starring Christopher Walken, Nicole Kidman, and Jason Bateman.

The Position by Meg Wolitzer: More embarassing parents! Wolitzer consistently provides premises for her books that are interesting; and I always think she’s not going to be able to keep the momentum, but she always does. This one is about the aftermath of a family whose parents wrote a Joy of Sex type book in the freewheelin’ 70s.



Four Christmases: I tuned into this movie expecting some straight up cheesy hi-jinx, and I got it, but it also hit, like, reeeeal close to home.

Home for the Holidays: This is my favorite FAVORITE holiday movie (tied with It’s A Wonderful Life). Besides my obsession with Holly Hunter mentioned in previous posts, I love this movie because everyone is so annoying and/or maddening in the truest ways. It’s a rare Thanksgiving movie, instead of a Christmas movie. Robert Downey Jr. is amazing and has the best lines. It cracks me up and then I’m always sobbing by the end. GET THIS MOVIE!

Lars and the Real Girl: I’m not positive that my family would react as wholesome-ly if someone brought home a sex doll that they pretended was a real person, but I bet if it was Ryan Gosling, we’d be pretty forgiving. This is a sweet winter cozy flick.

Moonstruck: Mouthy Italian families, love triangle with brothers. On one hand Nicholas Cage, but on the other, CHER!

Parenthood: Not the TV show, but the Steve Martin movie with Keanu Reeves playing pretty much himself and a song about diarrhea that you won’t be able to get out of your head for the next fifteen years.

Royal Tenenbaums: Obvi.

The Station Agent: This is a tender little movie and no one in it is actually family, but they form a familial bond, while each of them deal with loss in their separate lives. Bobby Cannavale is about the cutest thing ever in this film. If him and Holly Hunter would make a film I would probably pass out.

What About Bob: There were other Bill Murray flicks I could have put on this list, but let’s just get to the point. WAB is the choicest. You’ll feel good. You’ll feel great. You’ll feel wonderful after watching this.




Creepin’ At the Library

It’s Halloween time! Here in the Midwest that means taco night, sweaters under costumes, and creepin’ around the library looking for spooky stories.

What’s hiding in the next aisle?

You just never know.

Here’s are Traverse Area District Library staff’s creepiest recommendations. Find them today before Halloween is over and your creepy creeping around the stacks becomes suspicious instead of festive.

Julie K:  “The book Helter Skelter creeped me out so badly in high school.  I was reading it while babysitting and had to call my parents to come over I was so scared.”

Aaron: For a new movie-Jenifer Kent’s The Babadook Modern horror classic! Old movies: Dario Argento’s Suspiria. High brow Ero horror… deeply spooky! And Tobe Hooper’s classic Texas Chainsaw Massacre is the least gory and most genuinely terrifyingly movie you will ever love!

Mary: The Hot Zone by Richard Preston…. some things are better left unknown!

Kathryn: Crooked Tree by Robert Charles Wilson. The U.P. and deranged bears. (U.P. is the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for those non-Michiganders.

Bruce: Twitter for Dummies scares the hell out of me.

Karen P.: Oldie, but kept me from opening my closet door for years: Wait Until Dark with Audrey Hepburn.

Christopher: Game of Thrones. It was wonderful and interesting and then the violence just kept ramping up till I couldn’t watch.

Julie: Stephen King’s IT.  Clowns and spiders should not appear together.  EVER!

Also, Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark.  Little hairy creatures that only come out in dark rooms and tried to drag you to the cellar into a chimney that was, what I truly believe today, the gateway to Hell.    Still sleep with lights on when alone, and avoid basements whenever possible. Famous line :  in a whisper:  “We want you, we want you”!  Scarred me for life.

Jill: Without a doubt, Milton Berle creeps me out more than most anyone.  Mostly it’s the eyebrows and the lopsided grin, or maybe it’s his obnoxious demeanor.

Sarah: Nothing creeps me out like American Horror Story even though I continue to watch season after season. The show has gotten into some weird stuff over the years, but rubber suits and candy bowls made out of skulls can scar a person for life.

Gail: Psycho still makes me cringe just thinking about the sounds and the blood going down the drain.

Matt: The 1981 film, Clash of the TitansStop-motion animation of  monsters from Greek mythology may seem hokey now, but back in the day: kinda creepy!

Amy: The Pilo Family Circus. An awesome indie book. Totally recommend it!

Bill: Don’t Blink. Don’t. Even. Blink.

Now, are we creepin’ or are we creepin’? Bam.

Happy Halloween everyone!








Homecoming Reads

I love parades.I looove parades. Let me say it with feeling. I LOVE PARAAAAAAAAAAAAADES!!!

Let me say it with a GIF:

Parades are the best. They are like, “Hey, sorry it’s too cold to go to the beach now, but how about some free candy and an awesome marching band version of an old Michael Jackson song?”

And I’m like, “That sounds good. Throw in a float and we’ve got a deal.”

And then the parade is like, “Ok, but you’re probably going to run into someone you went to high school with.”

And THAT is when I started thinking: parade season is a great time to read a Homecoming Read! That is, a book about going back home, back in time. A book that might make you remember what it’s like to be a teenager living in a dead-end town or a big city with its arms wide open.

Hey guess what?: the public library has those! Here are few suggestions. Come get one! Holding one of these books will make you look super smart while you are standing on the side of the street waiting for people to throw Tootsie Rolls at you.


Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler: Boyhood friends who grew up together in Wisconsin and a woman, once a girl, who has impacted all four of their lives at one point or another. A wonderful novel about place and the place where you come from. A bestseller and partly inspired by the life of the author’s real-life hometown friend, Justin Vernon of Bon Iver fame.

Say Nice Things About Detroit by Scott Lasser: David retreats to his hometown of Detroit, twenty five years after he left. Can he put his life back together? Can Detroit?

Life Sentences by Laura Lippman: A woman goes back to her hometown to investigate the story of an old classmate who is in jail for a heartbreaking and terrible crime. She only wants a tale to tell for her new novel. But as she digs deeper into the life of this classmate, she pulls up the dirt of her own past as well.

Two Guys from Verona: A Novel of Suburbia by James Kaplan: Two old friends meet back up at their 25th high school reunion. Both lead very different lives and each feels sorry for the other. It gets good and dark.

Maybe In Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid: What if you actually had married your high school boyfriend? What if you hadn’t? Reid tells both stories, one next to other, in this exploration of love and fate and time.

Local Girls by Caroline Zancan: Girlfriends who grew up together in a “one-horse” Florida town spend their restless summer nights at the local bar, where one night they run into a celebrity. Funny, relatable, and exciting.


The Fever by Megan Abbott: Get back the feeling of being a teenager while simultaneously celebrating Halloween by freaking yourself out in The Fever. Jodi Picoult called this a “panic attack of a novel”. Then get your mean girl on reading another stellar Abbott novel, Dare Me.

Ghost World by Daniel Clowes: The author says his graphic novel is  about “the lives of two recent high school graduates from the advantaged perch of a constant and (mostly) undetectable eavesdropper, with the shaky detachment of a scientist who has grown fond of the prize microbes in his petri dish.” I say it’s a engaging story about the complexities of teen friendship. Also a movie.

Rocket Boys by Homer Hickman: This memoir about Hickman’s 1960s youth in coal country was turned into the movie, October Sky. Hickman grew up to be a NASA Engineer. So now he’s a rocket scientist AND a bestselling author. But you’re probably doing ok, too.

Carrie by Stephen King: Let’s hope you’re not reliving any high school memories when you read this book. Unless you were unfortunate enough to be a teenager named Carrie in 1974.

An Almost Perfect Moment by Binnie Kirshenbaum: “For all of her loveliness, Valentine was a spaz.” This is one of my favorites. A teenager in between girlhood and womanhood in 1970s Brooklyn. High school teacher crushes, mah-jongg, heart, it’s all there.

Fear Street series by R.L. Stine: If you really want to remember what it was like to be a teen, read something you actually read when you were that young. I still can’t apply red lipstick without checking to see if someone put a needle in it (What up, Silent Night, supah chiller).