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  • Nicole Hill 5:45 pm on 2016/04/07 Permalink
    Tags: babies, , Family, , , , literary names, , ,   

    The Book Nerd’s Guide to Baby Names 

    Welcome to the Book Nerd’s Guide to Life! Every other week, we convene in this safe place to discuss the unique challenges of life for people whose noses are always wedged in books. See past guides here.

    Last time we were together, we discussed how best to merge the collected works of two book nerds into one home. That was two weeks ago. For the sake of argument, let’s say your relationship has progressed dramatically since that time. We won’t ask questions. This is a safe space, after all.

    As I was saying, your relationship has progressed drastically. You are now in the market for baby names. Naturally, your inspo list derives largely from the combined bookcases your partnership has produced. But how do you decide on the right name? You and your partner both read—a lot. How do you winnow the list to something reasonable, and with options that won’t concern family and friends? (Cersei’s a compelling character, but that’s quite a bit of baggage to bestow on a newborn.)

    Just breathe. We’ll take it one step at a time.

    Divide your favorite books into three piles: new favorites, classics, and guilty pleasures. This will help you in the initial sorting process, and clarify for you the depth of your devotion to each.

    Remove the guilty pleasures pile. If you have even the slightest hesitation of bringing up your love of a book in a social situation, then you’re going to be utterly tongue-tied when it comes to explaining your child’s given name when the inevitable strangers ask—and they will ask.

    Eliminate those characters whose initials probably evade your knitting skills. If you can’t Molly Weasley the delicate symmetry of an “M” onto a sweater, then out go Matilda and Marianne. Do the letter justice or don’t do it at all.

    Strongly reconsider selecting the name of a character who meets a tragic end. I was going to say something about Old Dan and Little Ann here, but tears began welling as I typed. That’s probably going to be the same case for you, and that’s going to be a disconcerting reaction when a receptionist is just asking you to fill out forms at the dentist’s office.

    Rank the remaining characters in order by earning potential. You might as well set those kids on the right path from the start. Pip is cute and all, but it’s not the name of a CEO.

    Examine the top three names for each gender and write them over and over in a notebook. Someday a lovestruck tween is going to do this for your spawn, and the name you’ve chosen needs to look good filling up a composition book when combined with your last name. “Mrs. Zaphod Erickson” might be a dealbreaker.

    Pick your winner. Once you’ve finished the process, you should have the name of a character 1) from a book you love, 2) who makes it out alive, 3) has a good career trajectory, and 4) has a name that isn’t going to cause issues in your day to day life. Congratulations, you’ve got a bouncing baby Hermione.

    Now it’s time for a middle name. Gulp.

  • Whitney Collins 3:00 pm on 2016/03/28 Permalink
    Tags: book nerd experiments, , experiments, Family, , , , , real life,   

    Here’s What Happened When I Let My Kids Pick My Next 5 Reads 

    You may be familiar with the recent viral experiment “I Let My Boyfriend/Husband Dress Me For A Week,” wherein brave women relinquish control of their closets and let the men in their lives take the fashion reins. As you can imagine, the results have been a combination of the comical, the endearing, the smutty, and the pleasantly—sometimes jaw-droppingly—surprising.

    So this month I thought I’d take this same challenge but steer it down a literary road; instead of outfits, I’d insist on books. On top of that, I thought it might be nice (aka, beneficial to my marriage) to spare my husband the pressure of selecting said publicized reads and, as a potentially disastrous alternative, enlist my sons to the task.

    It’s important to note that my children are 4 and 9. Their idea of “quality reading” usually involves something under 50 pages that features LARGE PRINT and a back page of detachable scratch-and-sniff stickers. Granted, my fourth grader has recently completed several notable, award-winning middle-grade books for his class’s literary circle (because he was assigned to do so), but you should probably know my pre-kindergartner spent the entirety of his eight dollars at the annual school book fair on World’s Cutest Cats & Kittens in 3-D.

    So this experiment came with an element of risk. “Boys,” I explained at the bookstore. “You have to browse every section. Not just the kids’ books.” I quickly added: “And I’m not reading anything that has a corresponding cartoon on television.” These were necessary guidelines, lest I end up with five copies of SpongeBob Goes to the Doctor. (Because I have already seen that episode. Thrice. And believe me, I know more than I ever wanted to know about “The Suds.”)

    Here were the rules: George, age 9, was allowed to select two books. Mark, age 4, was allowed to select two books. The final book, they had to agree on. It will come as no surprise that this stipulation resulted in a bar room brawl between the sci-fi aisle and the kitty cat endcap. I eventually led them over to the cookbook section, where I delivered my ultimatum: “PICK SOMETHING NOW OR YOU DON’T GET CANDY.”

    So, without much further ado about nothing, here’s what we went home with:

    Gluten is my Bitch: Rants, Recipes, and Ridiculousness for the Gluten-Free, by April Peveteaux
    Gluten is my Bitch has the big ol’ B-word on its cover, which is very funny to kids who can read. “Are we buying this?!” George asked incredulously. “Really?! You’re really going to let me pick out a book with B-I-T-C-H on the front?” It also has a big picture of charred toast on the front, which is very funny to kids who can’t read. “Look!” Mark squealed. “Breakfast like you make, Mommy!”

    Superficial selection reasons aside, Gluten is my Bitch turned out to be an excellent book. Yes, we, like lots of annoying people everywhere, have discovered that the amber waves of grain are not our friends. Thankfully, none of us is celiac, but this indispensable book for the wheat-wary is written for anyone struggling with symptoms that point toward gluten intolerance, such as gastrointestinal distress, depression, anxiety, and exhaustion. (Just to name a miserable few.)

    Author Peveteaux was diagnosed with celiac as an adult. The result of her discovering she’d no longer be able to eat cupcakes and doughnuts ever again? A brief period of despair, followed by the launch of her hilarious blog, “Gluten Is My Bitch.” So honest, entertaining, and popular was her site, a book of the same name inevitably followed. And I’m so glad it has that big ol’ B-word on its cover, because otherwise I would have never encountered the LOL brilliance of Peveteaux.

    Within I found an indispensable guide to living gluten-free, complete with lots of unfiltered personal anecdotes and truly useful advice from one of the funniest and most unabashed bloggers around. Need to know how to grocery shop, parent, travel to France, or eat at a TGI Friday’s without “getting glutened”? Peveteaux’s got you covered, with great advice and more than 60 wheat-free recipes ranging from mac and cheese to Ding Dongs. Oh, yes. So, if you’re celiac, wheat intolerant/allergic, or suspecting you might be, I highly recommend you go find the book with the burnt toast and B-word on the cover. It ended up being a delightful read. Nice work, kids.

    Pax, by Sara Pennypacker
    This lovely novel was chosen without hesitation by Mark, who picked it because it has a sweet, illustrated fox on the front. But don’t be fooled; although this book has both tenderness and charming drawings by Jon Klassen in spades, it isn’t a cute, little picture book. Rather, iPax is a profound and timely novel (perfect for grades 5 and up) that tackles the devastation of war, the process of grief, and the mysterious bond between a boy and his dog. Or in this case, a boy and his fox.

    Peter and Pax have been together (and inseparable) ever since Peter rescued the fox as a kit and his father reluctantly allowed him to keep and raise him. It’s a relationship destined to bloom, as both boy and fox lost their mothers at a young age and are both desperate to find a fellow lonelyheart. But when Peter turns 12 and his father enlists in the army, the unthinkable happens: Peter’s father forces him to take Pax to the woods and release him, before Peter is sent 300 miles away to live with his grandfather. Within hours of his arrival, Peter makes the daring decision to run away. Armed with just the bare essentials, plus his baseball glove, Peter sets out to reunite with Pax no matter the risk.

    Told in chapters alternating between the brave, searching voice of Peter and the sharp, believable voice of Pax, this groundbreaking tour de force follows the unforgettable journeys of boy and fox, the dangers they face, the friends they meet, and the love that propels them forward despite the bleak landscapes of an unnamed, eerily contemporary war.

    What a special discovery in this selection. I don’t normally browse this age group for myself, but thanks to this experiment, I found an epic must-read for myself and my soon-to-be 10-year-old.

    The Happy Prince and Other Stories, by Oscar Wilde
    At my urging that he consider the classics aisle, George quickly picked out this one and set it on our growing stack. “Why this?” I asked, curious. “I dunno,” he said. “It looks good.” I found that surprising, as the Puffin version of this renowned Oscar Wilde collection is not particularly remarkable cover-wise. There’s just a gold prince crying one tear next to a small bird—no blood or gore, much less the B-word!—in sight. But my son was set on his choice, so I dove into it with delight. Partly because I’m a sucker for fairy tales, but also because (and I disclose this shamefully, as an English major) I’ve never read Oscar Wilde. Having dodged both The Importance of Being Earnest and The Picture of Dorian Gray, it seemed destined that this would come my way.

    And what a fantastic discovery it was. Wilde’s narratives are deeply imaginative, lush with vivid description, and chock full of wisdom, tragedy, and longing. The title story, “The Happy Prince,” is one of the most lovely and plaintive of the bunch. It tells the legend of a golden statue of a Prince who overlooks the poverty of a city and attempts to save its residents by enlisting a lone sparrow to strip him of his jewels and give them to the poor.

    Another favorite was a cautionary parable for the miserly, “The Selfish Giant.” It details the fate of an uncharitable giant who builds a wall to keep schoolchildren from his beautiful flower garden and orchard, only to have his property fall into a permanent winter. Expect an unexpected ending, rife with religious symbolism.

    “The Nightingale and the Rose” is one of the more melancholy yet glorious accounts of unrequited love I’ve read since Romeo and Juliet, and “The Devoted Friend” is about a fellow who is everything but that, replete with the best and worst of humanity. Each of the nine gems in this series, from “The Remarkable Rocket,” “The Young King” and “The Birthday of the Infanta” to “The Star-Child” and “The Fisherman and His Soul” is filled with delightful just desserts and evocative morals. They’re appropriate for kids, but profound enough for adults, making them a wonderful read or read-aloud guaranteed to spark lots of metaphysical discussions.

    Snuggle the Baby: An Interactive Book!, by Sara Gillingham
    Mark chose this innovative and interactive board book, probably because its 1960-style design and colors are irresistible, but maybe (just maybe) because he has a new baby cousin he isn’t particularly keen on. This great selection is perfect for kids who want to know how babies work, as well as for kids who think they don’t want to know how babies work.

    Inside, kids will find a sturdy, swaddled board baby who snaps neatly into bed, as well as a removable bottle that can be used to feed it. There’s a blanket that secures with Velcro, a lift-flap to tickle baby’s tummy, little arms that swing up to show “SO BIG!”, and most excitingly, a diaper that can be opened and closed. Mark originally chose this, I believe, to be silly (or regressive), but was soon entranced by the care of his cardboard friend. With pages on playing, moving, feeding, changing, comforting, and sleeping, this is a terrific gift book for soon-to-be big brothers and sisters—or cousins—who need to know their way around an infant, but may be intimidated by one who is actually alive.

    The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, by Stephen King
    Before I had kids, I was scared by a things both abstract and far-fetched, including Bigfoot, shark attacks, demonic hauntings, and loneliness, just to name a few. But after motherhood, my fears turned to the more concrete and probable, such as super lice, kidnappers, fourth-grade math, and knowing it would be a while before I had the luxury of being lonely again. So when George selected a Stephen King book, I breathed a sigh of relief. How nice it will be, I thought, to return to the world of bogeymen instead of domestic neuroses.

    Was I ever wrong. First off, this lesser-known King book is about a 9-year-old who gets lost in the woods. UM. THAT IS VERY LIKELY. Second of all, King has a way of writing—and spooking—that makes a case of super lice sound like a pleasant way to spend a weekend…or two.

    The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon is the story of Trisha McFarland, a young girl who tires of her squabbling brother and mother while hiking, and decides to hang back for a moment of peace on the Appalachian Trail. The next thing she knows, she’s utterly lost. Armed with a little food and her Walkman, Trisha decides to follow a river while listening to a baseball game featuring her favorite player and crush, Tom Gordon. Like all King novels, things start out relatively well for Trisha (she does have two Twinkies, a tuna sandwich, and some wilderness ideas picked up from Little House on the Prairie), but soon enough, dehydration and panic have her hallucinating. She sees familiar faces, including that of Tom Gordon, but eventually becomes so delusional she believes the God of the Lost—a wasp-faced evil creature—is hunting her down.

    Each chapter in this unconventional terror tale is represented by an inning, and by “The Bottom of the Ninth,” readers will wonder if there’s any way Trisha is getting out of this alive, or with her sanity intact. Both traditionally creepy and psychologically thrilling, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon is a King book I’d never heard of but now can’t get out of my mind. So, thanks, George. Thanks, a lot. Oh, and guess what else? I found out this book now has a POP-UP VERSION. Like anything more needed to jump off the page here? I didn’t think so, but guess what. It’s incredible, too.

    In conclusion, letting my kids pick my next five reads turned out to be astoundingly fun. I don’t think I would have chosen any of the selections on my own, but after reading them, there’s not one I wouldn’t recommend. So the next time you’re in the bookstore with your kids, you might want to let them choose something for you—you could find yourself pleasantly surprised. Plus, it’s safer than letting them go down the fashion route. You might not end up enjoying your book on baseball stats, but it’s better than having to run to Target wearing adult footie pajamas and a snorkel mask.

  • Lindsey Lewis Smithson 5:00 pm on 2016/03/18 Permalink
    Tags: , Family, , , parenting tips,   

    Let the Wild Rumpus Start! And Other Parenting Tips From Kids’ Books 

    “The days are long, but the years are short” is possibly the most honest phrase ever said about parenting. Becoming a parent is one of the best, hardest, most wonderful, and most trying jobs there is. To help get through the long days, the short years, and the temper tantrums in between, during your next story time, take a look at the messages behind your picture books; you might be surprised at just how helpful (and prescient) they are.

    “’And now,’ cried Max, ‘let the wild rumpus start!’” (Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak)
    This could be said about every single day of parenting, from those first kicks to the bladder during pregnancy, to the crayon on the walls of toddlerhood, to the tearful high school graduation. Every day is crazier than you’d planned, more fun, and more frustrating, all at the same time. Parenting is indeed a wild rumpus—and if we take it as such, then at least we’ll be more prepared for the absurdity.

    “It has been a TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY. My mom says some days are like that. Even in Australia.” (Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, by Judith Viorst and Ray Cruz)
    There will be days when no one makes it out of their pajamas, the dog spills your last precious cup of coffee, and your toddler takes magic markers to the TV screen. It happens, despite our best efforts and our most carefully laid plans. No matter how the day unfolds, it’s comforting to know that it’s normal, and everyone has been there. File it away, have a glass of wine or a cookie, and remember it’ll be okay tomorrow.

    “Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” (The Complete Tales of Winnie-The-Pooh, by A.A. Milne and Ernest H. Shepard)
    When you get down to it, we’re responsible for teaching our children how to be good, kind, responsible human beings; that is a powerful mission, and we should take the time to recognize that, and to acknowledge and appreciate our own efforts, even though we often feel like we aren’t doing enough. Maybe your kids haven’t mastered shoelaces yet, but however far along you are in this endeavor, you are a superhero.

    “I should count backwards from 5 to calm down.” (The Pizza Problem, by Jennifer Oxley and Billy Aronson)
    When things do get too crazy, take some advice from Peg and count backward, slowly. A lot can be gained from not immediately reacting to a situation, instead stepping away and taking a breather. When you jump back in, you may be surprised at how much your perspective has changed. Parenting is a marathon, not a sprint, so sometimes you need to catch your breath before pushing on.

    “The truth is grown-ups often need some extra help. Baffled and befuddled, mindless and muddled, they sometimes forget what they know.” (Julia, Child, by Kyo Maclearand Julie Morstad)
    With a focus on staying young, enjoying some freedom, and being yourself, this whole book is a gorgeous reminder to live in the moment. And, as a bonus, there are also fabulous pictures of food throughout. If we stand back and watch, we can learn a lot about how to live our best lives from our children. Also, it’s really about time the iconic Julia Child got a picture book of this quality. After all, what’s happier and more heartening to families than food?

    “If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” (The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien)
    Speaking of food and happiness, take a page from The Hobbit. It’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day grind of getting by we can forget to enjoy what we have. Instead of taking every overtime shift and letting that vacation time expire, take a day or two off to enjoy your kids, your home, and your surroundings. There’s more wealth in family and friends than we sometimes realize. Your sanity, and your children, will thank you for listening to Tolkien on this one.

    “When they’ve finished reading, Olivia’s mother gives her a kiss and says, ‘You know, you really wear me out. But I love you anyway.’” (Olivia, by Ian Falconer)
    No matter how tired, filthy, or frustrated parenting can make you feel, try to remember just how much you do love that little person. Everything may feel like chaos, and your house may actually look like the definition of chaos, but if your family is more or less happy, healthy, and safe, pat yourself on the back and move on to tomorrow.

    “Go the f**k to sleep.” (Go the F**k to Sleep, by Adam Mansbach and Ricardo Cortes)
    Sometimes the best lesson is the briefest. Everyone, get some sleep when you can. It can make all the difference.

  • Nicole Hill 4:30 pm on 2015/11/19 Permalink
    Tags: Family, , , , ,   

    The Book Nerd’s Guide to Surviving Thanksgiving (After Dinner) 

    Welcome to the Book Nerd’s Guide to Life! Every other week, we convene in this safe place to discuss the unique challenges of life for people whose noses are always wedged in books. For past guides, click here.

    One week from now, you’ll be pushing the limits of an elastic waistband while trying to drown out Uncle Fred’s opinions on the 2016 presidential race. When the family gets together, sometimes you just can’t get cranberry sauced enough. You love ’em, sure, but that doesn’t mean you’re ready to make an afternoon’s worth of unguided conversation with them.

    Once the food’s gone, all that’s left to do is hope everyone’s interested in football, or napping. But you could just curl up with a book and avoid it, right? Nah, we all know how that goes. It’s just an endless barrage of questions: what are you reading? Is it as weird as it sounds? Why are you reading? Don’t you want to play Trivial Pursuit with the rest of the cousins you never get to see?

    But we of the written word tend to be a resourceful lot. Surely there are ways to combine your family with your pathological need to read, right? Right. All you have to do is look at Thanksgiving in a new book light.

    Family wants to play a game? Find your old Authors deck.
    Remember Authors, also known as Go Fish for dweebs? Aunt Marge is just using this game to keep herself awake anyway. She might as well do it with Louisa May Alcott.

    Arts and crafts time? DIY bookmarks should do the trick.
    Clear off that kiddie table and instill in the youngsters (and your poor sad teenaged cousins) the gift of reading responsibly. There’s nothing more important for kids these days than to have their own bookmarks handy, especially if they’re going to be borrowing any of your well-cared-for books.

    Need to find an agreeable movie? Use your Netflix account.
    Surely any book nerd worth his or her salt has “Movies Based on Books” as a category of interest. No need to hide it; the number of times you’ve watched Jane Eyre adaptations is known only to you and the streaming algorithm. No judgment here.

    Dad wants to toss around the ol’ pigskin? Grab a broom.
    Look, all your pops really wants is some quality athletic bonding, and I’m sure once you explain to him the elegant rules of Quidditch, he’ll be fully on board with the change-up. He’s not going to believe you about the Snitch loophole, of course, so make sure to win with some modesty and grace.

    None of these worked? Oh, just let them nap.
    Soothe your kin as best you can. Shovel more pie down them if you must. As long as they’re asleep, you’ve got an all-access pass to distraction-free, one-on-one time with your latest book club pick. You can work on familial togetherness at Christmas.

  • Chrissie Gruebel 6:00 pm on 2014/12/18 Permalink
    Tags: Family, , , siblings   

    A Book for (Nearly) Every Kind of Sibling 

    Curtis Sittenfeld's SisterlandVery few relationships exist from day one, and part of the fun of being an adult is the fact that your siblings have become adults, too. Somehow you all magically turned into real, live human people with opinions and dreams and jobs that are all separate from each other. How people can at the same time have so many things in common—even if it’s just genetic material, that still matters a lot—and so many glaring differences is completely mind-boggling. But regardless of how often you come together to share in these similarities or differences, one thing is certain: They’re among the chosen few in this universe who knew you when. And they probably have the photos to prove it (yikes). So basically, buy them nice gifts to blackmail them into keeping said photos to themselves for the rest of eternity!

    The golden child
    Athlete. Scholar. Charming. Funny. Good-looking. Maybe due for a nervous breakdown because being perfect is hard? Then again, maybe everything stays perfect forever!

    A Short Guide to a Happy Life, by Anna Quindlen
    Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen
    American Pastoral, by Philip Roth

    Lovable screwup
    That rascal always needs $20. Or got a great job offer out in Vegas that he knows this time is gonna be the right fit. Or is bringing home yet another “The ONE” for your fam to accidentally call by the name of the last “The ONE.” Lovable screwup, you drive everyone crazy. But you keep our lives exciting, and for that, we will always adore you and want to kill you.

    The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt
    This is Where I Leave You, by Jonathan Tropper
    Wonder Boys, by Michael Chabon

    Older and wiser—always has been, always will be
    Giving advice, handing out her sweaters to be borrowed, teaching you how to throw a punch, volunteering as tribute so you don’t die in a pit—you know, older siblings who are great at being older siblings.

    Yes Please, by Amy Poehler
    The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
    A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, by Dave Eggers

    SUCH a middle child
    The pouty, attention-grabbing, fussy middle sibling grew up to become an adult who tries really hard to be the opposite of pouty, attention-grabbing, and fussy. They also ended up the problemsolver of the family. Someone has to be the tiebreaker.

    The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver
    A Separate Peace, by John Knowles
    Special Topics in Calamity Physics, by Marisha Pessl

    Everyone’s pet (aka, Beth from Little Women)
    The baby of the family doesn’t technically have to be the baby! Beths are even-tempered, gentle, and maybe in possession of a weak constitution that doesn’t necessarily bother their health (because this is 2014, and scarlet fever isn’t much of a threat). But it does make them seem fragile so EVERYONE wants to take care of them and give them pianos.

    Eleanor and Parkby Rainbow Rowell
    The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
    My Sister’s Keeperby Jodi Picoult

    The actual youngest
    Just trying really hard to make everyone see them as a real, live adult and not the small child who cut his own hair off or who spent the first five years of his life convinced he was adopted because of the lies you told him when your parents weren’t listening.

    The Family Fang, by Kevin Wilson
    To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
    Swamplandia!, by Karen Russell

    Whoa. He turned into your dad
    He recently started sighing just like your dad, and now you know what the next 20 years of his life is gonna look like. Feel free to keep this knowledge to yourself (or don’t—your call).

    The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
    The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown
    Friday Night Lights, by H.G. Bissinger

    She’s making jewelry now
    Your artsy, free-spirited sibling who used to be a slam poet/dog groomer/cupcake baker, but is now really into pottery, essential oils, and vintage skateboards.

    No One Belongs Here More Than You, by Miranda July
    White Oleander, by Janet Fitch
    The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho

    Moved to the city and fell off the face of the Earth
    You haven’t seen this sibling in a year or more. They say they’re just really busy. Work has been crazy. Everything’s nuts! Have they mentioned how busy they are? And though they come through when it counts, most of the time it’ll take months to get a text or email back. If you ever hear back.

    The Interestings, by Meg Wolitzer
    Bright Lights, Big City, by Jay McInerney
    Half Empty, by David Rakoff

    Very into motherhood
    Your sister is a mom now, and speaks often about how you can’t really understand what unconditional love, fear, worry, pride, being in tune with your body, being out of tune with your body, and pure exhaustion truly feel like until you have kids of your own. No offense.

    Marley and Me, by John Grogan
    The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd
    The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan

    Lives with your parents because he’s “taking care of them”
    And by “taking care of them,” he means occasionally mowing the lawn while eating their groceries, driving their car, and watching their HBO. This situation works best if your parents love being parents and miss having people around the house.

    Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
    The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Díaz
    The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, by Michael Chabon

    Glue that’s holding everything together
    Insists on family holidays. Insists on taking a million pictures at every event. Insists on talking to you once a week. Insists on passing along news even when it’s news you asked her not to mention but she did anyway because all aggrieved parties should really just work it out already.

    Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, by Rebecca Wells
    Winter’s Bone, by Daniel Woodrell
    Hiding in Plain Sight, by Nuruddin Farah

    World traveler
    Whether he’s doing Doctors Without Borders in the Middle East or is just in Australia for no discernible reason, he will always come home for the holidays (if your life is anything like this Folgers commercial).

    Notes from a Small Island, by Bill Bryson
    NW, by Zadie Smith
    The Hobbit, by J. R. R. Tolkien

    A mystery hiding inside an enigma, decorated with tiny riddles written in Sanskrit
    You share blood. You share parents. You shared a pretty similar growing-up experience. But this sibling is a locked vault and nothing can get through. You know nothing of their personal life. Do they have a personal life? You are not convinced.

    A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole
    The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss
    The Blind Assassin, by Margaret Atwood

    MADE. IT. BIG.
    You kind of can’t believe your sibling got this far in the world considering the fact they used to speak only in Ace Ventura quotes, but now they have a beach house and a Porsche. At some point, all the “stuff” might annoy you, but don’t even think about that right now. Just enjoy the jet ski.

    The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
    The Wolf of Wall Street, by Jordan Belfort
    Anything by John Grisham

    Your best friend
    If anyone wants to find the two of you at a family event, odds are you’ve retreated to your secret location to sneak cigarettes, drink from a flask, or just laugh about how hilariously clueless the rest of your family is.

    Running with Scissors, by Augusten Burroughs
    Sh*t My Dad Says, by Justin Halpern
    Franny and Zooey, by J.D. Salinger

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