What Are You Reading And Where?

I was having a cup of coffee with a friend who was telling me about his travel plans, and also about what he was reading. This led me to muse on where we read as well as what. Putting the question up for crowd sourcing led to great answers! I’m going to share them in a set of ongoing posts.


Janet Brennan: Anne Hillerman, Song of the Lion. Read several chapters each night.

Isabel Winson-Sagan: 2nd sex on the couch with a tiny dog

Michelle Holland: The Museum of Extraordinary Things, Alice Hoffman. Listening to the audio tape on my commute from Chimayo to teaching every weekday at Los Alamos High School. I’ve been listening to novels rather than the news for the past four months or so.

Judith Sherman Russell: Space operas sitting in the car waiting.

Hannah Duggan: Saga Vol. 2, in my bedroom.

JenMarie Macdonald: The Neapolitan Quartet next to my napping babe

Wednesday Nelena Sorokin: Half a Yellow Sun, in my bedroom.

Nate Maxson: Disgrace by Coatzee. On the bus.

Maternal Mitochondria–what are we reading?

A blog contributor recently asked me to post what our collaborative duo (me and daughter Isabel) are reading. Here goes, in no particular order:

A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr.–dystopian Future

Scheherazade Goes West: Different Cultures, Different Harems by Fatema Mernissi–feminist art criticism and memoir

Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay–says it all!

Las Madrinas: Life Among My Mothers by Ana Consuelo Matiella–memoir of the border and feminine Mexican archetypes

The Art of the Russian Matryoshk by Rett Ertl and Rick Hibberd–we love nesting dolls and all they imply


My Second Hand Books

I got a request from a reader to re-blog this–so enjoy! It’s from 2010 but still holds true.

Dear Diary: Second Hand Books
Posted on February 6, 2010 by Miriam Sagan

A friend and I were recently in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. We went into the Black Cat Bookstore and discovered a local author with an interesting book. We each bought one, and complimented her. She immediately told us everything wrong with the book.
“Just say thank you,” I told her. Bossy advice, I know, but still good advice. And advice I was given many years ago.
My first book of poetry had come out. My sister-in-law Suzi was dancing in dinner theater in Connecticut. A fellow dancer said she liked my book. I was so stunned I basically told her that wasn’t possible.
Suzi took me aside. “Say thank you,” she instructed me. I have been ever since.
We stopped in Albuquerque on the way home. My friend, a well-known writer, asked the bookstore owner if the store had any books of hers. The owner recognized her and was pleased when she signed books. “Do you have any books by Miriam Sagan?” my friend asked. “Sometimes,” the owner replied and I was duly introduced.
Who has sold my books back? It is disconcerting. I see a letterpress limited edition inscribed something like “To Becky and Paul, thanks for the wonderful day at the ranch and the great lunch. Love, Miriam.” Who are these people? Ranch? Lunch? If it was so great, why can’t I place them and why didn’t they keep my book?
I once got a note from Australia. Someone had bought a book of mine in a second hand store. He liked the book, but wanted to know about the affectionate inscription. Who was it inscribed to? Why had she sold it?
Maybe I am just too gushy. I feel bad if I don’t find my books on the shelf and bad if I do. Next time I give you a book, just say thank you.

Little Libraries

When the world feels chaotic


and I don’t know what to do with myself


I feel better if I give some books away…


I’d been hearing about this little library right outside the Farmer’s Market Building, but in an amazing case of serendipity I came across another one en route


right on Alameda, east of Delgado.


Thanks to whoever is putting these up!

Monday Feature: A web of hand-me-downs by Michaela Kahn

A web of hand-me-downs –

 Earlier this week I got a text from a friend of mine, someone I’ve known since Middle School, about a song she thought I’d like. She recommended the whole album, actually, but steered me to Ane Brun’s YouTube music video for her song, “Do You Remember.” It’s a great song – very strange and simultaneously sad (the lyrics) and yet happy (the music). The video itself is like its own universe, sort of Steampunk meets the the Dust Bowl.

 The exchange got me thinking about all the art that has been passed on to me over the years by friends, family, teachers, even strangers.

 There’s my step-sister, so much more worldly-wise than I at thirteen, who made a whole 90- minute video tape of various MTV videos she thought I needed to know (being MTV-less, myself). Another friend introduced me to most of the Pop music that I am still listening to today. There’s an Uncle (in-law) who introduced me to the Le Mystere des voix Bulgares and the movie Duck Soup. My husband introduced me to Wim Wenders movies, Miles Davis, and the paintings of Leonora Carrington (no wonder I fell in love).

 For literature, there is another list of great books and poems that have been passed on to me by others. Whether it’s the teacher who told me to read Gregory Bateson or the stranger at the Boulder Public Library who told me to read his book of poetry, “Tony the Bricklayer.” But with literature I’m more often the one trying to pass along favorites. Over the years I have passed on the names of dozens of writers and works to friends, colleagues, family, strangers. I become part of their web of hand-me-down art.

All this thinking about where the art and music in my life comes prompted me to look a little deeper into my experience of this passed-on art. I realized that when I listen to a favorite song, one that was shared by a friend, my own memories and emotions surrounding the song are also layered with memories of the person who gave it to me. It’s richer for having that connection. It got me wondering whether, in some ways, this is an essential part of what art is all about –that intricate web of interconnections that develops between the people who love it.

Thoughts on Reading by Karma Tenzing Wangchuk

No way i can narrow this down, to one book or one time in my life. nor can i bring up one technical book on writing as a craft that strongly influenced me. but words in print definitely had impact.

was it some now-forgotten book of nursery rhymes my mother read to me when i was two or three that got me started? the new yorker cartoons of james thurber and charles addams, which a nextdoor neighbor, lucy hill, introduced me to, along with ‘alice in wonderland’ and ‘through the looking glass’?

i’m sure sid ziff’s sports columns for the los angeles times, that i read as a child at the breakfast table, had something to do with my eventually becoming a journalist. and i know for sure that thomas wolfe’s novels ‘look homeward, angel’ and ‘of time and the river,’ which i devoured [a wolfean word] as a fledgling writer when i was 14, had a lot to do with my initial ‘serious’ efforts in prose, as a high schooler.

in college, r.h. blyth and harold g. henderson’s books of japanese haiku got me going in haiku, almost 50 years ago now. and, much later, in greece, odysseas elytis’s poetry collection ‘little mariner’ recharged my by-then low battery in poetry and haikai.

guess part of what i’m saying is that for me, books on writing haven’t been much of an influence or necessity. but books have–and spoken word, as in a parent’s handed-down rhymes [‘one little piggy. . .’] and reading aloud of grimm’s fairy tales or what-have-you. i could write a book on this.