It’s hard enough for us parents to find time to read, let alone to decide what to read. Head to the library and it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the stacks upon stacks of interesting-sounding titles (who can blame us for judging a book by its cover?). Just keeping up with book lists can seem like a chore. That’s why we here at LiveMom are introducing you to local authors, who will be giving you the skinny on what’s on their reading lists…because who better than a writer to turn you on to new and interesting books?!
Jan Bozarth is best known for her songs and soulful fantasy fiction for young girls. Her six book series, The Fairy Godmother Academy, published by Yearling/Random House, is beloved by girls and women worldwide. She has composed songs for television, games, and musical theatre for thirty years and occasionally performs with her long-time collaborators in the Austin area and around the country. This year she is singing and writing from a different place. Her recent battle with breast cancer has resulted in new writing for adult women. She is currently producing a multi media book, The Joy Quotient, twelve short stories and formulas for finding, losing, and creating joy.
Jan’s book reviews are about books that were integral to her healing and mind/body re-calibration. She mixes best-loved poetry. biographies of favorite artists, and prose. Jan lives and writes in Austin and Marfa. She remains inspired and humbled.
Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers by Anne Lamott
She is my favorite writer at the moment. If you read anything she writes, including this book, you feel better for it. It’s not self help, it’s brutal prose that cuts through- a sharp knife, no blood, an elegant scar to remind you that pain can be useful. Think of her as your long-time friend with a glass of wine in hand catching up on a deck overlooking some body of water. She writes in a conversational style that will burn up an afternoon. In this small book she hands out what appears to be simple advice about faith, prayer and humility. You trust her so you leave this book on your coffee table in case you need to read it again which you will because life happens and you’ll need her honesty.
I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen by Sylvie Simmons
I have been a fan of Leonard’s since I was a young teen pining away for poets instead of rock stars. Canadians were cool in a European meets American way. Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell were my heroes then because they were multi-faceted artists, painters, poets, AND songwriters at a time when that was not even a thing yet. He is my kind of bad boy in his dark, sexy, funny, smart, take-no-prisoners narcissist way. All that said, this newest biography leaves no stone unturned. It’s the conversation you want to have about a beloved with all its truth and grit. The book reveals not only his tortured poetic soul, but his real financial struggle to make it as a songwriter even though he was a completely untrained musician. You can forgive his transgressions because you want to know why…why he is how he is… what makes a guy like this tick. The book takes you on his long artistic and personal journey from Montreal to New York, London, the Greek island of Hydra, Nashville, LA. You have a back-stage pass to become witness to The Newport Folk Festival, the clubs in Greenwich Village and the concerts from the Isle of Wight to Japan. He was often high but always brilliant, never disappointing when it came to his “words” and simple but elegant style. He did not try to fit in with the Beats or the Hippies. He was impeccably dressed, more like a professor than a rock star. He held nothing back, especially not his appetite for women and his passion for being a truly great poet. From his start as upper-class Jewish child growing up in Montreal to his deep dive into sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll during the sixties with other luminaries like Joni, Dylan, Hendrix, Joplin, Leonard Cohen was and still is the real deal.
Just when you think you understand love, you read Rumi. Then you know you haven’t even begun to understand all the facets of loving. This is a book to give away to a friend, a lover, a husband, an older or younger person learning to mine the depths of the heart. In the West we focus mainly on erotic or romantic love, but Rumi illuminates divine and platonic love, making those just as alluring. Rumi makes you see the world in a beautiful way. Coleman Barks brilliantly translates the medieval poet and spiritual genius of Persia ( Afghanistan) for English speaking audiences.
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Rumi from Soul, Heart and Body One Morning
Bossypants by Tina Fey
“I went to the security guard at the elevator and I heard myself say, ‘I’m here to see Lorne Michaels.’ I couldn’t believe the words that were coming out of my mouth. ‘I’m here to see Lorne Michaels.’ I was living one of my dreams. This must be how people feel when they really do go to school naked by accident.”
Hilarious, partly self-deprecating partly self-exalting account of the “cost-free techniques for raising an achievement-oriented, obedient, drug-free, virgin adult.” These things include “Calamity, Praise, Local Theater, flat feet and a Strong Father Figure/Fear Thereof.” Tina goes through each of the stages of her life detailing the awkwardness, exhilaration and lessons learned (the hard way) in how to rise in career, manage and work with people, modern love, motherhood, etc.
“I know why you bought this book. Or should I say, I know why you borrowed this book from that woman at your office. You want to know my secret beauty regimen.”
“I moved to Chicago in 1992 to study improv and it was everything I wanted it to be. It was like a cult. People ate, slept, and definitely drank improv. They worked at crappy day jobs just to hand over their money for improv classes. Eager young people in khakis and polo shirts were willing to do whatever teachers like Del Close and Martin de Maat told them to. In retrospect, it may actually have been a cult.”
Raised in small town Pennsylvania outside of Philadelphia; The scar on her face is from being slashed in the face by a stranger in the alley behind her house while in Kindergarten; she can always tell a lot about a person by if, how and when they ask her about her scar; learned about her period from pamphlets given to her from her mom; Dad, Don Fey, was a total badass. Well-dressed, savvy man who made even Lorne Michaels cower upon first meet; spent a year working in a really rough YMCA in Evanston before joining Second City Comedy Club; toured with Second City with Amy Poehler; respects the hell out of Amy Poehler; moved to NYC to work on Saturday Night Live; married her husband, whom she calls Barry/Lee/Rod ‘for legal reasons’ (who’s real name is Jeff), who is afraid to fly; had a daughter. Everything she writes is funny but she is a real person too.
Benedictus: A Book of Blessings by John O’Donohue
I like ceremony, prayers, altars and moments of acknowledgement. The quintessential Irish writer, O’Donohue, brings this kind of reverence into my home in a visceral way with his Book of Blessings. He writes blessings for all kinds of moments- beginnings, desires, thresholds, homecomings, states of heart, callings, endings. I need this. You might too. Think about it. Don’t you need an Irish brogue to speak to your heart?
For the Artist at the Start of the Day
by John O’Donohue
May your imagination know
the grace of perfect danger
to reach beyond imitation,
And the wheel of repetition,
Deep into the call of all
The unfinished and unresolved.
Looking for more ideas on what to read? Take a look at our past Reading Mama Recommendations here.
*This post contains affiliate links.