Spring Road Trips : N'Awlins, Y'All

My three sons at Court of Two Sisters : Note to self, all-you-can-eat jazz buffet a really good idea with hungry kids

Call me crazy, but I took my three teens ( 2 I gave birth to, one just lives at my house all the time) to New Orleans for spring break this year. Travelling with teenagers brings its own special joys and difficulties . They are an odd mixture of "I hate you ! I hate this! Aw, mom, do we HAVE to ?" and yet loving every minute of whatever you are making them do......on this particular trip, I got to experience the kids : a) checking out , and getting checked out by other teens ( girls, natch) every where they went , b) eating pretty much everything that wasn't nailed down, c)watching them smile surreptitiously when they thought I wasn't looking, d) the sight of them taking the hotel bedspreads, tying them on like Superman capes, tying toilet paper around their heads and poking out eye holes like Zorro, and jumping up and down on the hotel beds.
New Orleans at spring break is full of people from all over the world. The weather is perfect, with warm spring breezes, soft balmy sunshine, and cool evenings. In the Garden District all the parks are blooming and full of beautiful flowers. We saw families with kids of all ages revelling in the lovely spring weather, groups of drunken frat boys, bridesmaid parties and weddings every where we went, school groups from all over America, participants in several different conventions ( a teachers convention, a medical convention) tourists from France, Germany, Japan, and Russia. It was a hootenanny.
GFT loves New Orleans; like Tennessee Williams, I consider it my adopted ancestral home. I have been numerous times, and taken pretty much every man that has been a significant part of my life. (Or at least tried to; humorous anecdote from days long past about drunkenly trying to hide in airplane restroom, on flight from Kansas City to Houston, continuing to New Orleans, with one of said boyfriends......). It is a city I never grow tired of. I love sharing it with family and friends, revisiting old fave hang-outs, as well as discovering fun new things to do.

Tomster enjoying cafe au lait and beignets at Cafe du Monde late one night

New Orleans, like Paris, is a movable feast. I'm sure it's possible to get a bad meal here, but so far I have been lucky and avoided this fate. There are literally 1000's of wonderful restaurants to chose from...I always say, a trip to New Orleans is essentially a hop from one great meal to the next, with a few little sight-seeing events scattered in-between. Just enough to walk off the last meal, and get hungry again for the next. Cajun food, soul food, seafood, BBQ, Po-Boys, fine Creole cuisine, incredible desserts, fried chicken, gumbo, catfish, red beans and rice. You name it, it's here. Mostly I stick to places I've eaten before, or recommendations from friends. I have a few old haunts I always pay homage to, such as Johnny's PoBoys, Arnaud's, Galatoires, Antoines, Brennans, Acme Oyster House, Camilla Grill, or Cafe du Monde, but was introduced to several new ( to me) different great spots when I joined my college alumni group at a bowl game there a few years back.

There is always the obligatory stroll down Bourbon Street. I was surprised to see entire families taking in this Disney-like version of American sin and pulchritude - ma, pa, granny and grandpa too, jr and the tots - all walking in stately fashion down the middle of the street, babies in strollers, as drunken revellers carried on all around them. Not to mention the strip joint barkers, prostitutes, cross-dressers, drunken frat boys and /or sailors, people tossing mardi gras beads off the balconies at college girls with their shirts held open to encourage them, con artists, street musicians, pick-pockets, cops on horses, tour guides, you name it, they are all there. I try to pay my respects to the swinging legs, a Bourbon Street icon that has been a part of the scene as long as I can remember. This year, I couldn't find them, but maybe I didn't look hard enough.

DK and Stallion watch Jackson Square roll by on the riverboat cruise

There are many other fun cultural and educational things to do in NOLA beside just eating or hitting the bars and getting drunk on Bourbon street. New Orleans has so many different faces, with enough variety to please anyone. (One of these days, my mom and I are going to go and just visit plantation homes up and down the Mississippi River outside of town. I have been to some of them, but not all, and I think that would be a fun trip all on its own. Most years, I pay homage to Oak Alley at a minimum, just to commune with the trees.) This trip I concentrated on family and kid friendly places. An afternoon spent on a steamboat , travelling the mighty Mississippi was a grand adventure for all of us.

The Big Easy

An interesting and fun thing to do with kids in New Orleans is visit the Audubon complex at the Riverwalk ( easy walking distance, about 5-10 min, from the French Quarter, along the river), which houses an aquarium, an IMAX theater, and block away, an Insectarium. We wanted to make it to the WWII museum, a few blocks further, which is run as a branch of the Smithsonian, but ran out of time on this trip. We'll just have to come back and do it next time !
I wouldn't recommend this for very young children, but for teens and tween who play music or are interested in music, a Preservation Hall jazz concert can be quite enjoyable. My son Will was a drummer in a jazz band for years at school, his friend Dan was a trumpet player, and younger son Tom still plays violin - so this was fun for them. It ranks right up there on my own personal list of "1000 Places to Visit" in one's lifetime. On St Peters St, between Bourbon and Royal. Note : Show starts at 8:00 nightly, but get in line by 6:30 or you won't get a seat. Tickets are cash only, no credit cards (handy ATM next door.) This tiny venue only holds about 40-50 people at a time.

One of the new things we tried on this trip was a history-tall tales-ghost-stories walking tour. These are quite popular now in the French Quarter; some are run in the daytime but many are in the evening. We were tired and cranky when we started but by the time we were finished, we realized the time just flew and we really enjoyed it. A break halfway through to get ice cream and libations in "Pirates Alley" was just the ticket to keep us going. (Google "New Orleans walking tours, there are many diff ones available.)

Upon a friend's recommendation, we visited the insectarium. About 15 minutes into this great little branch of the Audubon complex, I was feeling kinda queasy ( was it the hordes of squealing two year olds ? or the exhibits of roaches, maggots, snakes, crocodiles -really, they are not insects - beetles and pupae ? hard to say which was worse.... ) and muttering to myself, "why the hell did I ever decide to do this ? I don't even like insects !" Then we came to the butterfly room - a lovely Japanese temple with koy pond and every kind of beautiful butterfly you can imagine, all flying around freely, landing on people's head's or clothing. It was tres charming, and I loved it.

My 3 sons at Preservation Hall- the band we saw this time was highly interactive, and roused the audience into a joyous sing-a-long. You know how I hate that kind of stuff, but this one was fun.
With all the fun things there are to do in this city, we barely scratched the surface. Did not make it over to the Audubon Zoo, plantation row , the Camilla Grill, the Garden District, the cemetery, WW2 Museum, the swamp tour, Tupitinas or Tulane this trip. We'll just have to go back.

Fun Things to Do With Kids in New Orleans

1)Audubon zoo now has an aquarium, insectarium, and IMAX and all that stuff

2)Ride the riverboat (Eat there if you want, or not. We did it in the afternoon, then ate elsewhere)

3)Ride the trolley car ( around $1 each way - catch it near Jax Brewery. Takes you all the way to cemetery and back) . Cheap thrills.

4)Go to Preservation Hall and listen to jazz music (concerts are in the eves only, get there 1+ hour early to line up outside to get a seat- the line is long and starts early and it is first come, first serve- only room for 20-30 in that little tiny room) Those old guys are really awesome to watch- everyone should do this once in their lives

5)Jackson Square, Cathedral. Some great shops there , on your left as you stand and face the river (back to the cathedral, garden in front of you). Rick always buys hot sauce at that hot sauce shop there.

6)1 day side trip– tour plantation homes up and down Mississippi river . My personal fave is Oak Alley, you can pick up brochures with maps for the others while at Oak Alley.

7)Eat at lots of wonderful restaurants: NOLA has the best dining in the world ! Too many to list all; I prefer to avoid the chain restaurants . Mostly I looked for less expensive places to take my kids, with one big splurge meal for the trip. Some of my personal faves :
a)Brennans for breakfast ( order eggs huichard and bananas foster ! they set the ice cream on fire at your table and it’s super cool to watch ! ) tres $$$$ expensive but worth it ! cheaper at breakfast than dinner…if you want a big splurge for dinner, my personal fave is Antoine’s, I went there on a high school trip and have loved it ever since, but Commander’s Palace, Arnaud’s or Galatoires are the top oldies and goodies
b)Central Grocery – get a muffaletta for lunch (big round po boy sandwich with olives – if you don’t like olives, you won’t like this ) . Johnny's also has a variety of poboys, like a sub sandwich (with and without olives) and other stuff, etc
c)Café du Monde for breakfast or late night ( beignets and coffee)
d)Brunch ( breakfast /lunch) at Court of Two Sisters- not to be missed, all you can eat buffet -everything from build your own omelets to gumbo to all the shrimp you can eat
e)Arnaud's Oyster House- right around the corner from the main Arnaud's, and shares the same kitchen, but is much lower priced-red beans and rice, gumbo, poboys, fried shrimp
e)Lots of folk swear by K-Paul’s, Gautreau’s, Bon Ton’s , Maspero’s, although I have not been there
f)Popeyes if you want cheap spicy fried chicken, although we have one here in Denton now, it is not so exotic
g)One night, just to get away from the hordes of people on Bourbon St, we popped in to Bourbon House ( looks like a bar) on the corner and just ordered bread pudding and coffee…it was the best I’ve ever had . I never even liked it till I ate it that time (tastes sort like a cinnamon roll as a desert ? )
h)Camilla Grill – out near Tulane, wonderful breakfasts

The things to eat in NOLA are : red beans and rice, friend chicken, gumbo, jamblaya, seafood esp shrimp and crawfish

8)Stay in a hotel in the French Quarter ( go to expedia or orbitz and look for deals on rooms there –I like to stay away from Bourbon St, it’s too noisy- so pick a hotel a block or so away, check where the hotel you want is located before you book it).That way you can park your car and forget about it, and walk everywhere you need to go.

9)French Quarter - walk around, look at stuff, shop –be sure to find the many voodoo shops , Jax Brewery, etc, buy souvenirs. Everyone needs to walk down Bourbon Street at night once in their life- I made my kids pose by the swinging legs ….when you see it, you will know. Don’t look at the posters of naked girls too closely……

10)check out Tulane - eat at Camilla Grill ( wonderful breakfast) while in the Garden District neighborhood

11)There is a newish WW2 museum there that I hear is wonderful but I have not seen it yet

12)Tour the garden district – it is lovely in the springtime

13)Take voodoo tour of the cemeteries

14)You can swing by Natchez or Vicksburg and see those historic towns if you have time

When I Am an Old Woman, I Will Not Wear Purple With YOU

There is a popular poem that is floating around Hallmark card stores and the blog-o-sphere, inspiring a woman's movement all over the globe. It goes something like this :

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick the flowers in other people's gardens . . .
But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

While I generally live my life so as to celebrate the ideas of this poem - non conformity, joie de vivre, who cares what the neighbors think ? live for today- I can't help but notice that this little ditty has somehow inspired groups of women all over the place to form clubs, dress alike in the manner suggested by the poem, and get together to celebrate their "individuality" by ALL DOING THE EXACT SAME THING. I do have many girlfriend groups I spend time with, and whose very existence makes my life a delight, and I am generally FOR any sort of "sistah" bonding or socializing in any form. And yet...seeing groups like the one above, which I saw at a museum in New Orleans this weekend, strikes me as somehow missing the point : The poem is a homage to enjoy one's own uniqueness, and does not urge its adherents to conformity. Any conformity. Even the conformity of being in a cool girl friends group that all wears the same outfit and goes about together, doing the same wacky things in the same way with each other, in the uniform of the club. Great example of irony, here.


happy saint patRICK'S DAY !

Saint Patrick's Day is The National Holiday O' Rick, aka the hubster.
I wasn't born an Irishman, but I married one as soon as I could........Even in this little outpost of civilization on the prairie, we prepare for weeks, sometimes months, to celebrate this day in a properly festive manner. A schedule must be followed for this day, and each activity has its own special part. You see, I married an Irishman......and this day may be one of the most important in his entire yearly calendar. In the early years of marriage, celebrating this day was all quite foreign to me, (GFT claims Germany and England as her ancestor's homelands, with a touch of France and Native American thrown in for spice), and I often jumbled up what was required of me to do. However, with the passage of time, I have embraced hubster's traditions, and now see myself as a special envoy of Irishness wherever I go. *
The first step, naturally, is to wear green all day. I remember as a little child not getting this one right some years, it was all quite random to me, and I probably forgot completely about it or else didn't even own green clothing, and there was always some annoying kid at school who would pinch me repeatedly (I mean, come on ! Isn't once enough ? Doesn't that "count" ? What's up with this every 5 seconds crap ? ) because I had nothing green on. (I always tried to say I was wearing green underwear, but that kid wasn't buying it. Did I look like the kind of kid who even owned green underwear ? I don't think so.) Holidays in my spartan Presbyterian childhood were rarely celebrated at all...some years, my mom even found cooking for Christmas, Easter or Thanksgiving dinners to be too much of a pain; she was always busy ironing ( just what, I am not certain, as she strongly disliked either entertaining or going out - so just what was it that she wanted to get the wrinkles out of ? curtains?) and we simply foraged for ourselves in the pantry, eating leftovers or soup or whatever was handy. So the entire concept of wearing a special ensemble just for this day was completely foreign to me.
Now, of course, this is not the case. I have an entire wardrobe of green items - heavy long sleeve sweatshirts, sweaters, turtlenecks and coats from when we lived in the northeast ...... lightweight t-shirts for this semi-tropical paradise we now call home. Green socks, hats, suspenders, and various accessories such as pins, blinking shamrock necklaces, silly leprechaun hats, buttons that say "Kiss Me I'm Irish", or "Let's Play Hide the Leprechaun", green antennae, silly wigs, giant bow ties, etc. Wearing a green shirt on St Paddy's Day is quite an art . You have to find something as close to Kelly green as you can, yet it still needs to be a shade that looks good on you. Not everyone can wear green. GFT needs a blue-ish hue, as things that are too yellow make me look sallow. Yet one must be careful - teal, forest green, mint, or lime green are really "iffy" choices, and smack of half-hearted attempts.
All these clothing requirements mean that one must, at some point, shop especially for St Patrick's Day, and this was where the ritual "exchanging O' the gifts" got started. St Patrick's Day merchandise only appears in stores for a brief moment in the retail season - often sandwiched in quickly between Valentine's Day and Easter paraphernalia. Blink twice and it's gone - either all bought up, or consigned to back shelf "clearance" areas. Hubster is a difficult enough person to shop for, as it is. He doesn't collect golf clubs, rare editions, or sports cars. Most things he wants, such as CDs or sporting goods equipment, he buys for himself whenever the whim strikes him. So it's handy to have a theme he collects , and this is a ready made opportunity. For hubster , you see, has turned our game room into "Rick's Irish Pub", (he was inspired when we bought this house, for this room has carpeting almost exactly the same as the carpeting found in our old college hangout, aka Willy's Pub....lord knows how much time we all spent looking at that nasty carpet, the pattern is forever indelibly ingrained on our subconsciouses -it's a 60's style pattern in green and gold and matches the pool table, et al), and hubster never ceases to fill it with both beer-themed art and Irish memorabilia. It is a classic bastion of male tasteless fantasy. I advise any wife to allow her husband just such a room in the house, for then all that decorative "art" that he brings home from gas stations, dumpster diving, Spencer's Gifts and garage sales can then be gathered into this one safe space. To further this incredible collection hubster has, I often shop for St Paddy's Day themed items, such as beer mugs, Guinness posters, Irish nick-knacks, leprechaun dolls , you name it, he's got it - and give them to him . It makes him happy, and makes up for the sometimes difficult task of finding something he wants for XMAS or his birthday.
It goes without saying that you can't spend St Paddy's Day without listening to Irish music. In the early years, we often took in a parade or two, depending on where we lived and if there was a good one nearby. These often happen on the Saturday before the actual day, and so barely count as part of the celebration. Parades and the obligatory bar-hopping are just not enough to sate the musical requirements of the man. Hubster absolutely MUST listen to "The Unicorn Song" at least 3 or 4 times throughout the day, once an hour would be better, or he doesn't feel as if he's experienced the true "Irishman in a bar" moment. He does have several CD mixes he has put together over the years, modern Celtic bands mixed with traditional stuff, which he floats through the massive sound system that not only connects every room in our home, but wafts out into the backyard, as well. I'm sure the neighbors appreciate it. This mix plays in our home all day long, for HOURS without any one song repeating.
The day culminates with an evening spent in the closest thing we can find to an Irish type pub, depending on where we live at any given moment. In the early years, I tried to get into the spirit of the day and cook an Irish meal, but after a few valiant attempts, hubster admitted that he really doesn't care for traditional Irish foods. So much for that one. Now we simply go out, eat whatever bar food strikes our fancy, and raise a glass to Saint Patrick. It is a tradition I keep wherever I am ; for example, last year I found myself in Paris on St Paddy's. Fortunately, there are some wonderfully authentic Irish bars in Paris, so my companions and I managed to celebrate appropriately, even in the land of Frenchmen. I have in fact celebrated March 17 all over the world, and sampled some of the great traditions of cities with vibrant Irish populations such as New York, Boston, San Francisco . It must be noted that drinking green beer does not count as authentic if it is lite beer. Guinness, as the ads used to say, "is good for you", and a much stouter choice. 'Beannachtam na Feile Padraig!'Happy St. Patrick's Day!
Check out my fave north Texas Irish Celtic band, the Killdares

*The envoy part : Today it just so happened that I was at the dentist's for my six month teeth cleaning. Now, my dentist is a very kind man, and a wonderful dentist. He is, however, a member of one of those large fundamentalist faiths which treat Denton as "ground zero" in their plan to evangelize the hordes of impressionable college students that fill this town. As I walked into his office and climbed into the chair, he said to me, "I see you are wearing green. I admit I've never really understood what all the fuss is about. What is the big celebration for ? Who is Saint Patrick ? Why is he associated with Ireland ? Why is he so important ? What do shamrocks and leprechauns and all that other stuff have to do with it ? " Well, it just so happens that GFT knew all the answers, having read Thomas Cahill's How the Irish Saved Civilization and taught in a parochial school. I know all about saints' days and who the various saints are, what they are associated with, the history of Christianity, and why the ecclesiastical year is divided up the way it is. (I am also a student of world mythology, and know a fair amount of Celtic traditions as well. ) What is amazing to me is that other purportedly Christian faiths.......don't.

History of Saint Patrick's Day


Spring Comes to North Texas

Spring is a fickle mistress, taunting us for weeks with her "come here, come here, go away, go away" flirtations. People think of Texas as being a hot dry country and so it is; we have been in an overall drought for years. People get so excited when it rains around here , they post news of it on their facebook pages. South Texas is much like Florida or California in terms of overall climate, gently melding from winter to summer and back again with little differentiation. Yet in north Texas we do have 4 distinct seasons. Summer may be the longest one, but that does not mean we don't long for spring to come, just the same. Every year that I can remember, we've had a period of unseasonably warm weather in late February. Everyone puts away their winter clothes, pulls out the lawn furniture, and starts planting flowers. Inevitably, we get one last hideous cold snap that seems to catch people by surprise, year after year. In 2008 we had 6-8 inches of snow on March 8. This year the last cold snap was not as drastic; just a week long period of sleeting rain and gray skies. Temps in the high 30's. Bone chilling, raw and damp. It is still miserable enough to make my joints start to ache, and force me to dig out my coat and golashes one more time.
Through all this, one glimmer of hope remains. Bright little pansies may make a brave show through most of the winter, often surviving even a severe ice storm . Tulips, irises and jonquils can suddenly pop up in yards around this time as well. But the one thing that I know heralds the spring is the blooming of the redbud tree. Denton fancies itself the "Redbud Capital of the World" or somesuch, and for years had a little festival that city fathers tried valiantly to time to line up with the actual blooming of said trees. They chased the persnickety blooms all over the calendar, often changing the festival dates forward or back, as global warming would have it, and often not coinciding with their namesake at all. Yet the redbuds bloom on- each year around this time, give or take a week. Their bright pink color stands out amidst the gray green of other shrubs whose time has not yet come, and promise that soon it will be warm and sunny enough to truly enjoy being outside.


Literary Salon

Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Love , Pray

GFT spends a fair amount of time reading books; it is no secret, she is an English teacher and has been an avid reader all her life. This new wrinkle to a lifetime of generally avoiding whatever I should be doing by burying my head in a book, (as a child, I carried reading material with me everywhere to fill those odd minutes, whether it be swim lessons or class time; went to the local library once a week and checked out the max, which was 20, every time; actually saved up my lunch money to buy paperbacks from the book cart at my school library instead of getting the ice cream sandwich each day; have been known to pack more books than clothing for an extended trip; was always the lone mom with a book in my lap at my sons' soccer games; have read the Bible so many times I've lost count, most often while sitting in the pew at church trying to tune out some dreadful sermon resounding all around me; to this day I keep an emergency book to read in almost all locations, incl my car), is to commune with other readers in a variety of situations.

People are often amazed when they hear that I am in two, yes, count 'em, two ! book clubs - at the same time ! One at work, and one at home in the neighborhood. Please remember, a book club isn't just about the book - it's also about the socialization, the food & wine, the pleasure of the experience of coming together with friends who like books. We talk about the book, but we also talk about other things. This isn't the only reading that I do, oh no.......Of course, I also read and re-read for work ( skim each novel one more time right before I teach it), read books not assigned by my book clubs just for fun, keep a running list of titles on amazon - generally things I hear reviewed on NPR or rec by a friend - and pick off a half dozen things to buy each month on payday, have subscriptions to dozens of magazines ( frequently given to me by well-meaning relatives ) , read at least 3 newspapers a day ( local small town one, one for the major metropolis nearby, and a national one), not to mention the countless hours wasted each day surfing the net, reading various things too random to mention.

As if two book clubs weren't enough ( fortunately, their lists tend to overlap some, and I don't feel compelled to read 100% of their selections), I have found a wonderfully addictive new time-waster, the "author talk". People who are lucky enough to live in NYC or LA have had access to these type of events forever. People who live in a fly-over state don't always get those options. Fortunately for GFT, the Dallas Museum of Art has this wonderful program called "Arts and Letters Live", which brings noted authors to town.


Through this venue, I been able to hear some of my favorite current authors talk about their published works, books that are in progress, heard them read from their selections, and listened to them ramble on and on and " talk piffle" ( in the immortal words of Dorothy Sayers.) It is always interesting to see and listen to an author and how s/he approaches such an event as "the author talk". Some are self-conscious, some are self-deprecating, some are unusually thoughtful, some are surprisingly witty, some are kinda dull, some use the event as a chance to sell an upcoming work, or push a particular cause they believe in. Over the most recent few years, I have gotten to "see" ( hear) :

1) Khaled Hosseini -The Kite Runner, 1000 Sacred Suns -mild mannered, articulate, thoughtfully intelligent, soft-spoken.
2)Marjane Satrapi-Persepolis - amazingly fluent and funny and interesting, esp considering that English is her 5th language ( so she said)
3)Tracy Chevalier - Girl With a Pearl Earring - interesting how she gets the ideas for her novels
4)Wally Lamb-I Know This Much is True, The Hour I First Believed - very thoughtful, quiet, deeply spiritual
5)Elizabeth Gilbert - Eat, Love, Pray - long rambling stream-of-consciousness, but delightful to listen to, and you come away feeling like you've just had the best therapy session of your life
6)Ian McEwan - Atonement, Amsterdam -surprisingly witty in a droll British way

An evening dedicated to going to hear an author talk usually takes the form of a "girl's night out" for me, and involves meeting up with a friend or friends, having dinner, drinks, etc. For Elizabeth Gilbert's event I went with 4 friends that make up a rather eclectic group : one is a science teacher ( 50ish), one a hairstylist (30ish), one a physical therapist (60ish), and myself, another teacher(40ish). What we share in common are: wild wacky sense of humor, fashion as we each interpret it, love of good food and wine, an interest in world cultures and alternative religions. (At various points, we have also shared a therapist and some of our favorite nightclubs, but I digress.) We had a fabulous evening, eating Vietnamese food and then going to the symphony hall, along with 1200 other like-minded (99% women) people, to hear Ms Gilbert share her warmth, humor, and wisdom with us. It reminded me that a teeny tiny little part of me celebrates the goddess, the communal teachings of all womankind. For I can't have helped but notice at these events that the majority of the people there are women, and I have often asked myself, why ? The Kite Runner is a masculine story line, with male characters in a middle eastern country. Amsterdam focuses primarily on male characters and the world of politics, being a sort of modern-day remake of Julius Caesar. It isn't as if all the books I like are written by, about, and for women. I live in a home full of men, all of whom are currently enthralled with reading : The Count of Monte Cristo, the Watchmen, anything by John Krakauer. Whatever the reason, I celebrate these experiences, and have decided that this, the cult of books, is my new religion.

Ian McEwan

The "BBC" Book List

Those who are in the know will recognize this photo as one of GFT and one of her oldest "bookie" friends, in front of a famous bookstore in Paris where American writers hung out in the 1920's. It is even rumored that once, while broke, Hemingway slept upstairs.

Pretend not to notice that : a)GFT has been too busy with work, life, and other things to post any original blog writings lately, and b)GFT constantly refers to herself in the 3rd person, much as Caesar does in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, which is supposed to demonstrate to the audience/reader how meglomaniacal and annoying J.C. has become, and explain why Brutus simply must join the assassins and kill Caesar now !

Supposedly, the "BBC" believes most people will have only read 6 of the 100 books here. I don't believe it for a moment, but I thought it would be fun to see how many of these I'd read. Place an X next to all the books you've read ( I've added a T for ones I've taught ) and see if you can prove the "BBC" wrong!
  • 1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen (X,T) ATF stands for "all time fave"
  • 2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien (X)
  • 3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte (X,T) ATF
  • 4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling (X)
  • 5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee ( X,T) ATF
  • 6 The Bible (X,T) generally while avoiding listening to the sermon in church
  • 7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte (X)
  • 8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell (X)
  • 9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman ()
  • 10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens (X)
  • 11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott ( X)
  • 12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy (X)
  • 13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller (X)
  • 14 Complete Works of Shakespeare (X) once power-read 30 in a 24 hour long cram session
  • 15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier (X) ATF
  • 16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien (X)
  • 17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk ( )
  • 18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger (X)
  • 19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger ( )
  • 20 Middlemarch - George Eliot ( )
  • 21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell ( X,T) ATF
  • 22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald (X,T) ATF
  • 23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens (X)
  • 24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy (X) first time was in 5th grade
  • 25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams (X)
  • 26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh (X ) ATF
  • 27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky ( X)
  • 28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck (X,T)
  • 29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll (X,T)
  • 30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame (X)
  • 31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy (X)
  • 32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens (X)
  • 33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis (X)
  • 34 Emma - Jane Austen (X,T) ATF
  • 35 Persuasion - Jane Austen ( X) ATF
  • 36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis (X)
  • 37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini (X,T ) ATF
  • 38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres ( )
  • 39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden ( X)
  • 40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne (X)
  • 41 Animal Farm - George Orwell (X,T)
  • 42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown (X)
  • 43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez (X)
  • 44 A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving (X)
  • 45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins (X) also liked The Moonstone
  • 46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery ( X)
  • 47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy ( )
  • 48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood (X) scary but prescient
  • 49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding (X,T)
  • 50 Atonement - Ian McEwan ( X) ATF
  • 51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel (X) boring
  • 52 Dune - Frank Herbert (X)
  • 53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons (X)
  • 54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen (X,T) ATF
  • 55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth ( )
  • 56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon ( )
  • 57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens (X,T)
  • 58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley (X)
  • 59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon (X)
  • 60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez ( X)
  • 61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck (X,T)
  • 62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov ( X)
  • 63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt ( X)
  • 64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold ( )
  • 65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas (X) my son loves this one
  • 66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac (X )
  • 67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy (X)
  • 68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding ( X) ATF
  • 69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie ( ) on my list
  • 70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville ( X)
  • 71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens (X)
  • 72 Dracula - Bram Stoker (X)
  • 73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett (X)
  • 74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson (X)
  • 75 Ulysses - James Joyce (X ) surprisingly iteresting
  • 76 The Inferno - Dante (X)
  • 77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome ( )
  • 78 Germinal - Emile Zola ( )
  • 79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray ( )
  • 80 Possession - AS Byatt (X ) ATF
  • 81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens (X,T)
  • 82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell ( )
  • 83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker (X,T)
  • 84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro (X )
  • 85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert (X)
  • 86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry (X ) ATF
  • 87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White (X)
  • 88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom ( ) hell no and never plan to, either
  • 89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (X)
  • 90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton ( )
  • 91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad (X,T)
  • 92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery (X)
  • 93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks (X)
  • 94 Watership Down - Richard Adams (X)
  • 95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole (X)
  • 96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute (X ) ATF
  • 97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas (X)
  • 98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare (X,T)
  • 99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl (X)
  • 100. Les Miserables-Victor Hugo (X)