Best of 2010 – Books, & So Much More…

What a year! I went from being pregnant to being a mom. We moved from a 350 sq ft studio (that ladder to the bed was getting rough at 8 months pregnant!) to a 3 bedroom townhome.  Instead of our annual river trip, we enjoyed an extended east coast family trip: Our “raft” was my father in law’s Honda Fit. Instead of a tent, we set up the pack ‘n play at every new house. Our cooler was full of breast milk bottles rather than Tecate, limes and Tequila.

Oh yeah, and I got a Kindle for Christmas (let’s just let that confession slide… more on that in a future post.)

As I recently wrote in an article for Women’s Adventure Magazine, so much has changed since our daughter Maggie arrived and there’s just no way to mirror my former life… nor is that even a priority. It’s not about not being able to. I simply don’t want to. There are other things I’d rather do, most of which involve my daughter.

Reading – both alone and with Maggie – has remained one of my must-haves. While I’m usually a total book snob, I had to forego a good deal of more serious picks in favor of light chick lit and easy reading this year. For example: I tried Abraham Verghese’s Cutting for Stone, but at 7 months pregnant, those horrendous labor scenes didn’t sit well. Once Maggie was born, my reading (surprisingly!) didn’t ebb as much as I expected, but my newfound “mommy brain” couldn’t quite handle the intense, thought provoking nonfiction or biting, dark fiction that I’m typically drawn to. Now don’t get me wrong; this reading year certainly wasn’t a bust! In compiling my Top 10 list, though, I just noticed a bit of a bias towards lighter fare.

And of course, in honor of Miss Maggie, I thought it was also appropriate to include a Top 10 Board Book list. (While I had a say in the board book voting, these were vetted by my blossoming seven-month old reader. No, she’s not reading yet, but she is turning the pages!)

**2010 TOP 10**

For those new to my annual list, note that these are not necessarily new books that were released in 2010; they’re just books that I read this year. So, in no particular order…

Let the Great World Spin (Colum McCann) –The story takes place in New York City, 1974, opening with a man walking on a wire between the World Trade Center Towers. Hands down one of the best works of fiction I’ve read in years: the characters are rich, bold and gritty; the writing is impressive (yet never got in the way of the storytelling flow), and McCann offers brilliant commentary on our post-9/11 world without writing directly about it. This would make for a great book club selection.

Room (Emma Donoghue) – I first discovered this on the RJ Julia Top 10 list and polished it off in just a couple of days. As a new mom, I didn’t think I’d want to read about a woman who was kidnapped and trapped in a room with her son. But once I started, I couldn’t put it down – it was one of those books I wanted to get up and read when I woke up in the middle of the night. What makes this such a stand-out novel is the narrator: you’re bound to fall in love with five-year-old Jack’s voice, approach to life and perspective of the world.

Half Broke Horses (Jeannette Walls) – After The Glass Castle, I’ll read anything from Jeannette Walls. This “true-life novel” is based on the hardscrabble life of Jeannette’s grandmother, Lily Casey Smith, who’s tough as nails. (This is a quickie read.)

One Day (David Nicholls) – I love British writers… what a fresh perspective from the same ole! This novel follows Emma and Dexter on a single day – July 30th – over the course of two decades. Each chapter leaves you wanting more… but you’re left hanging… until the next year’s chapter comes along and you get a sense of what’s filled the time between. Friendship, family, passion, pain, love… it’s all the usual suspects for a drama, just rejiggered with a fresh unique backdrop.  (I just read that this is already being made into a film… if it were 10 years ago, they could’ve just cut and pasted the cast of Bridget Jones.)

A Widow for One Year (John Irving) – I tired of John Irving for awhile, but this novel won me over again. I love his multi-generational stories, his writing, his hubris-filled characters. In this case, the autobiographical references make it that much more appealing.

American Wife (Curtis Sittenfeld) – I fell in love with Curtis Sittenfeld after reading Prep, but wasn’t interested in American Wife since it was loosely based on Laura Bush. I did finally pick it up and the likeness isn’t lost (especially towards the end.) However, the character development, storytelling and sharp writing make it absolutely worth reading. I cannot wait for her next book…

Three Day Road (Joseph Boyden) – when I was up in Whistler for the 2010 Paralympics, I found a gem of an indie bookstore called Armchair Books. When I asked the owner for his recommendations of books by Canadian authors, he immediately pointed me to this novel of WWI. I wasn’t in the mood to read about trench warfare (can one ever be in the mood to read about war??), but I’m so glad I followed his lead – this is a good pick for both men and women.


The Source of All Things (Tracy Ross) – I just reviewed this for the Spring 2011 issue of Women’s Adventure Magazine – it’s one of the best memoirs I’ve read in a long time. Keep an eye out for this one (available until March 2011.) I’ll also be doing a Q&A with Tracy for the WAM site and am working on setting up a book signing with Tracy at The Next Page, so stay tuned!

Tara, Maggie & Signe

Faery Tale: One Woman’s Search for Enchantment in a Modern World (Signe Pike) – I stumbled on this book by accident, but I was meant to read it. It’s as simple as that. The author, Signe Pike, leaves her Manhattan career as a book editor to journey to England, Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man in search of faeries. (OK, stay with me here…!) But this gorgeous memoir-slash-travelogue isn’t just about searching for fearies; it’s about the childlike wonder of things we may not be able to see or prove… about connecting with the earth, people, places… about believing something bigger than ourselves. You don’t have to believe in faeries to appreciate this book; all you need is an open mind. Signe has such a fresh voice, her writing is exquisite and witty, and she doesn’t take herself too seriously. What more can you ask for? Best of all, in the perfect serendipitous kismet that the story is built on, Signe happened to be in Summit County, Colo. this month on a ski vacation. Our last-minute book signing brought in nearly 40 people and we were enamored with Signe’s charm, warmth and energy!

Steinbrenner: The Last Lion of Baseball (Bill Madden) – for baseball fans only. A great insider look into the bigger than life personality that was Steinbrenner, including of course the whole Billy Martin fiasco (I guess that should be fiascos, plural), the business of baseball, and what made George tick. Disclaimer: I am a Yankees fan. And yes, this is my first public admission of such a fact since I may be the only Red-Sox-fan-turned-Yankees-fan out there. Go ahead and stick that right up there with my passive Kindle confession ( :

Born to Run (Christopher McDougall) – I walked by this book so many times in different bookstores, thinking it was only for intense runners, ultramarathoners and the like. I was absolutely wrong and so glad I finally picked it up. Diane (who used to own Hamlet’s Bookshoppe in Breckenridge, Colo.) summed it up best, writing “it is about so many things… running, leadership, guts, passion, business, elite athletes, fascinating characters…” If you’ve ever run – and I’m talking about ever, even if the last time was playing tag when you were six – this is worth checking out.

2010 Board Books Top 10

Since Maggie loves to eat everything, our motto is “First we read the book, then we eat the book.” You should see all the chewed up corners of the covers! For those of you with kiddos – or anyone looking for a good baby gift – hope this list offers some good suggestions.

Jamberry (Bruce Degen) – we were turned on to this fun rhyming book from cousin Noah. This was the first book Maggie started to actually pay attention to. She loves the page where the bear and the boy go over the waterfall with their berries… wheeeeeee!

Haiku Baby (Betsy Snyder) – beautiful book all around: the words, the pictures, the kanji on each page, the sentiment. What a fun way to introduce haiku and poetry. (But what’s a hippo doing on top of a mountain??)

The Going to Bed Book (Sandra Boynton)– I may be one of the few moms who’s not a fan of Sandra Boynton. Hey! Wake Up! tells the rabbit he’s too small for basketball and the elephant he’s “too big to use the swings… you should go do big guy things.” Really, how can you already limit and discourage kids, let alone infants? However, I do like The Going to Bed Book – as does Maggie. This is the first book we read when we’re getting ready for bed and as soon as we start, she settles into nighty-night time.

Bear Snores On (Karma Wilson) – a favorite for after naptime. Great sounds throughout, including plenty of snores, a burp, a sigh and a sneeze. Also appropriate since when Maggie was first born, I’d wake up in the middle of the night not to her cries… but to Joe’s snoring! (One of those things that’s funny only in hindsight…)

Big Red Barn (Margaret Wise Brown) – I had never read this until a friend gave it to us as a gift. We used to read this every morning when we came downstairs. We’ve since learned that daddy does much better animal sounds. Speaking of which…

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? (Bill Martin, Eric Carle) – a classic of course that has caught Maggie’s attention since our east coast trip. Most fun to enjoy together with daddy – I read the book and he jazzes it up with animal sounds. I’m even impressed with his teacher (think Charlie Brown, wah wah wah wah) and children voices!

I’ll See You in the Morning (Mike Jolley) – my all-time favorite bedtime book, which I’ve bought for almost every friend who’s had a baby. This is part of our bedtime ritual, and far better than Goodnight Moon. This is a real gem that still hasn’t reached the popularity it deserves.

Can You See a Little Bear? (James Mayhew, Jackie Morris) – love the international flair of this one. Gorgeous illustrations that  I probably appreciate more than Maggie at this point.

Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb (Al Perkins) – Best rhyming and repetitive rhythm book I know. Plus, we love all the drumming in it!

Little Green (Keith Baker) – what’s not to love about a hummingbird zipping and dipping and curly-cueing around your yard? And Maggie especially likes this one because there is so much turquoise in the pictures (she gravitates towards toys and books that are bright blue – I know, who knew that kiddos this little had color preferences?!!)

There’s nothing quite like a baby to keep you smiling and keep you on your toes! Maggie’s taught me so much already, but most of all, to keep things in perspective. And with that sentiment…

…as we head into 2011, here’s wishing everyone lots of quality reading time, many adventures and happy, healthy days ahead!


Where in the World Is Rita?

Thanks to Rita Gelman for making time over her Thanksgiving holiday to do a book signing at The Next Page.

Everyone always loves meeting our favorite nomad and hearing her stories from Tales of a Female Nomad: Living Large in the World. She also has a new anthology out, Female Nomad & Friends: Tales of Breaking Free & Breaking Bread around the World. If you’re ever in the mood for some armchair travel and a little inspiration about connecting with people and cultures, then check these out.

Here’s a blog I wrote for Women’s Adventure Magazine about the inspiration that Tales offered me: Where in the World is Rita?

In 1987, author Rita Gelman was stifled by the day-to-day L.A. grind. So, she did what some women can only fantasize about: became a nomad and started circling the globe. Mexico, Thailand, Israel, India, Bali… The list goes on and continues growing as 73-year old Rita still doesn’t have a permanent address. Read more…

Rita with my daughter Maggie

Winter Book Reviews

Check out the winter issue of Women’s Adventure Magazine for my latest book reviews.


I loved Sarahlee Lawrence’s memoir, River House, but I’m even more excited for my spring line-up, including two of the best memoirs I’ve ever read: The Source of All Things, by Tracy Ross, and Faery Tale: One Woman’s Search for Enchantment in a Modern World, by Signe Pike. Stay tuned….