Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Spring Things (+ a Give-Away!)

Miriam Klein Stahl's illustrations are sublime.
Rad American Women A-Z. Can I be proud without sounding like someone’s disgusting old paternalistic grandpa? Because I am. Twenty years ago, the outrageous Kate Schatz was a student of mine at UC Santa Cruz—in both my creative writing class, and in my section of Wendy Brown’s life-changing Feminist Theory class. And look! Look what she’s doing! Feminist writing! Right? This book is buoyant, brilliant, gorgeous, badass, heroic, and totally, unapologetically rad. Just the very fact of it, in my house, makes me happy every day—to say nothing of all the times I walk past Birdy intently reading about Temple Grandin or Dolores Huerta or Angela Davis. 

Angela Davis, who was teaching at Santa Cruz when Kate and I were students there. Was it a constant thrill to glimpse her on the wooded walkways of that campus? Guess.
Yes, it is a (brilliantly) illustrated alphabet book—but make no mistake. This is a book for boys and girls of any age, including grown-ups. It is my new go-to baby gift, as well as my new go-to teenager gift. If you want to win a copy of this book, leave a comment here. I’m going to use some of our Amazon credit (generated from this blog’s holiday shopping) to send the book out to three happy readers. But please don’t let the give-away stop you from ordering a copy, either from Amazon or, preferably, directly from City Lights. (OMG: It is currently out of stock. HOW RAD IS THAT? Pre-order it, okay?)


Our friend Maya, modeling.
More bragging. Our dear friend Ava (known to long-time readers variously as “Ben’s best friend, Ava” or “Nicole’s daughter, Ava” or “Birdy’s idol, Ava”) has opened an Etsy shop. Currently on offer: t-shirts printed with two of her incredible designs. These are stunning. Plus, when she is crazy-famous one day, you can produce your thread-bare Ava original, and blow people away. Don't you want to support a young artist, and be wicked cool at the same time?

A few other things. These three books, all written, suspiciously enough, by middle-aged white mothers (?), are among the best I've read, despite my current lack of imagination. 



All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews. When my friend Ali was dying, and I couldn't bear to read anything that wasn't perfectly crushing and hopeful, this book was perfectly crushing and hopeful. And also just so funny and kind-hearted and profoundly human (maybe because Toews is Canadian?). We love, we try hard, we are deeply flawed. It's a novel, but is almost exactly autobiographical, so brace yourself. And "All My Puny Sorrows" is taken from a Coleridge poem, of all perfect things. Oh, really. I only envy you for not having read it yet.


Man at the Helm by Nina Stibbe. Also perfection, in a different way: a crazily funny, irreverent find-Mom-a-husband story told by a completely delightful English 9-year-old. It sounds YA-ish (not that there's anything wrong with it!) but it is actually comically full of sex and drinking and darkness and depression, and in the Venn diagram of "pleasure" and "reading," the circles would overlap completely, and it would be this book. There was not a single page from which I didn't want to read aloud (and I only stopped myself because every time I said, "Oh my god, listen to this," Michael, putting down the paper, would sigh) If you haven't read Love, Nina yet, her nanny memoirs, read that too.


Single, Carefree, Mellow by Katherine Heiny. I just finished this last night, even though I tried and tried to make it last longer, but wolfed it down instead, and then lay around feeling full and kind of greedy and sad because it was all gone. Don't let "stories" throw you if you're not a story person: the voice is continuous, and it reads like a novel. A novel that is mostly about women having sex with men who are mostly not the men they should be having sex with. It is so funny and good-natured and true: there is passion and tedium, like in real life, and, in my favorite story, a child's birthday party that is so profoundly stressful and boring that I wondered if it wasn't, perhaps, the very best representation I'd ever read of parenting. 

Now I need a new book. I welcome your thoughts below, even if you're not entering the give-away! Speaking of: enter by Monday April 6th at noon, winners announced soon after.

xo

p.s. One last recommendation: this documentary. It blew us all away, kids and grown-ups.

96 comments:

  1. Please, please pick me for the book! I have a dear childhood friend who is an Iraq war vet and a social worker and really into art -- and just rad. She's about to have her first baby, solo. This would be perfect for her.

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  2. Jessica R.12:04 PM

    I would love to win a copy of the Rad Women A-Z! And my recommendation for your next book would be A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihari. I just finished it and it was amazing! Not always pleasant to read but so moving. Thank you!

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  3. The book looks amazing! I would love to give it to one of my favorite little girls and her rad mama. Thanks for the chance.

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  4. Former Women's Studies grad (and longtime Ben and Birdy fan), currently trying to raise two feminist boys. We need this book in our house! :)

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  5. Christina1:17 PM

    I would so love to win this book to share with my 10 year old and 4 year old sons!

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  6. Power to middle-aged white mothers, may we all write such fabulous books, and power to rad women in general. I can't find my way into a novel that really grabs me, but I am enjoying Andrea Barrett's short story collection "Ship Fever" and I loved Heather Ross's memoir "How to Catch a Frog" and even though it's and embarassingly cliche earthy/crafty/mommyblogger thing to have even read it, it was wonderful.

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  7. Have ordered several copies of Rad American Women. So cool. And have heard great things about Single, Carefree, Mellow (3 things I most decidedly am not).

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  8. Read Everland. So good. And David Lodges memoirs, which make me plan to read all his books again. (and Lucky Jim and Pictures from and Institution too, which I've never, to my shame, read.)

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  9. I am not entering the contest because I've already won one, but wanted to recommend The Madwoman in the Volvo, by Sandra Tsing Loh. It's about perimenopause. I laughed a lot.

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  10. We have a request in to the library for this book, but would love to own a copy! Huge thanks to the author for writing it.

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  11. Betsy3:52 PM

    Rad American Women sounds like the perfect gift for my friend Justine's baby book shower! Thank you for offering it!

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  12. Where Have You Gone Bernadette -- fabulously funny. Also, A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki (funny and heartrending at once.) Would love a copy of the book.

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  13. I have newborn twin daughters who NEED that ABC book, but surely I will buy a copy even if I win one!

    I loved Marilynne Robinson's latest from the world of Gilead: Lila.

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  14. This blog makes me feel not quite so panicked about my kids growing up. I think because your kids are doing such cool, creative things and I guess if kids have to grow up at least they can become people you actually want to hang out with. :)

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  15. Melanie4:31 PM

    I would love to have any book you love. :) Thanks for your blog posts, I look forward to each and every one.

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  16. I just came from a blog post about how harmful and anti-feminist fairy tales are, so reading about this book was a lovely balance to my day. I have a 4-year-old rad girl-in-training and I am actively building her a library of feminist books (recently added was Rosie Revere, Engineer). We'd love this book!

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  17. I would love Rad American Women for my nine year old and seven year old! And City Lights -- we spent a lot of time there the last time we were in SF. So much good stuff!

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  18. Ooo, me! I've got an 8-year-old gal and 10-year-old guy who would love this. And I would love them reading it to me.

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  19. dale in denver4:41 PM

    Mother of 3 male feminists needs reinforcements, especially for the oldest. He's 13. Hormones have hit him. Hormones have hit the girls around him. Hormones have hit his friends. Not many of them are considering much beyond what is under the undergarments these days. Help me. Please.

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  20. I would love to win this book! I work at UCSC!

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  21. Sorry if this is a duplicate. Would love book for my daughters. Currently reading Unbroken and it's so gripping.

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  22. This book sounds perfect for us! And thanks for all the excellent recommendations through the years.

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  23. Catherine, thank you for the fantastic suggestions! My 10-year-old son is a wild adventurer at heart, and the documentary sounds like the perfect inspiration to show him: hooray, he doesn't have to grow up to work in an office, but can forge any path.

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  24. I would LOVE to win this book as the mother of a 12 year old girl who struggles with self esteem and a 10 year old boy who admires women and history. :)
    Thanks for the great reading recommendations!

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  25. Elizabeth6:28 PM

    Want book! Recommend two picture books for adults: Here by Richard McGuire and My Favorite Things by Maira Kalman.

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  26. Anonymous6:28 PM

    Thank you for this opportunity! And for the reading suggestions. Here's hoping spring is treating us all well enough. ardis

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  27. I'm also not entering because I've already won, but I love it when you do recommendations! I'm going to buy the rad women book now, and the others will probably be soon, too. Have you read Department of Speculation by Jenny Offill? I loved it. It's short (which is both good and bad-easy to get through, over too soon), and it's definitely a book that made me feel compelled to keep reading lines out loud to anyone who would listen.

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  28. Anonymous6:38 PM

    I have a soon to be thirteen year old niece who would appreciate this book.
    Have you read Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein?

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  29. I can't believe it, book recs. Thank you thank you thank you. It's funny, I picked up that Miriam Towes book at the library and stared at it and almost got it but didn't, now I totally WILL per your rec. The other two look fabulous. I trust your recommendations so much so thanks again. The ABC book also looks so good. I am buying IT, (rather than the Girls Guide to being a Goddess) for Julia who is Birdie's age. Julia who is about to turn TWELVE. Sheesh.

    It's my dream to suggest something you might dig since it's usually you doing that for me. I'll get on that. I was just looking hopelessly at my bookshelf trying to figure out what I had that hadn't been recommended by you. I think maybe at some point there will need to be a long list of all the ones you've ever suggested. Then, an inventory for my own personal library will be accurately represented.

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  30. Beth Kopp7:58 PM

    I'll join the group eager to share this with our kids. You have never steered me wrong, and I am so thankful for that.

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  31. Happy day! Book recommendations! And this A-Z book of rad women looks amazing- would love to share it with my kids :)

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  32. Would love to use that book in my teaching...or maybe to give to one of several colleagues doing feminist research...or maybe to educate my sons....or maybe just to love and enjoy myself.

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  33. Ooh, I'd love to win! I want to believe I'd gift the book to one of my nieces, but I might be selfish and put it on the shelf of books they read when they come visit me. A recommendation for you: I'm only a couple of chapters into "A Tale for the Time Being," but I can already tell Ruth Ozeki is a new favorite author. And I loved "Salvage the Bones" by Jesmyn Ward.

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  34. Ooh, I'd love to win! I want to believe I'd gift the book to one of my nieces, but I might be selfish and put it on the shelf of books they read when they come visit me. A recommendation for you: I'm only a couple of chapters into "A Tale for the Time Being," but I can already tell Ruth Ozeki is a new favorite author. And I loved "Salvage the Bones" by Jesmyn Ward.

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  35. Have you read The Miniaturist? Or Day of Honey? And here's wonderful, thought-provoking YA: Hate List.

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  36. I'd love to win that for my 2 awesome girls and I!

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  37. I'm about 20 pages into 'Waiting for Birdy' and 40 weeks into my second pregnancy. Just regretting that I didn't crack the cover sooner; now it hurts to laugh! I would love a copy of Rad Women - I'll enjoy it now, and it can grace our bookshelves until my son(s) are old enough to thumb through it themselves.

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  38. Count me in! And Thanks for the recommendations!

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  39. Love the book and cant wait to try some of the other recommendations. I recommend Let's Pretend this Never Happened by Jenny Lawson and she has new book coming out called Furiously Happy. Her books cover sad things but are also very fun and funny. I think you might like Landline by Rainbow Rowell. She usually writes YA but this is not that.

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  40. Allyson1:48 AM

    Rad Women looks amazing. And thanks for the book recommendations-- you haven't steered me wrong yet!

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  41. not entering the competition as i am in faraway germany, but i´d like to reccommend The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and eleanor and park,just started reading the latter and already love it. best from windy and cold berlin, anja

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  42. What an awesome book. I am going to have to add it to my upper elementary school's library collection! Always looking for ways to expand young people's horizons and world view...
    As for book recommendations for you here are 5: All the Light We Cannot See was a breath-taking novel - I love WWII historical fiction and this one was wonderful. FanGirl and Eleanor and Park are 2 outstanding YA titles by Rainbow Rowell that I wished I could have savored, but just read again to enjoy it; The Rosie Project by Graeme Simison (and there is a new sequel, but I am not positive of the title) - a lighthearted look at love through the eyes of a man. I don't want to give too much away.

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  43. I think my 11yo gi needs some Rad Women in her life. Well, she has me ... :).

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  44. I'd love the book (mom of two boys who need more Rad Women in their lives) but I also wanted to recommend "This is Where I Leave You." It was made into a movie but don't let that scare you away. The book was so so funny (I laughed out loud so often my husband was laughing too) and it was a beautiful book about family and the crazy ties that bind us.

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  45. Oh wow... I know Katherine Heiny. Or, knew her, anyhow... we met in a playgroup when our oldest kids were little, and we remained good friends through the births of our second children. We lost touch when their family moved out of the country, and, by the time they moved back, our lives and kids had moved in different directions (as lives and kids will do). I had no idea that she'd published a book until I just read your review! Kudos to her, and I'd love to read it. If her writing reflects her personality, it will be quirky, honest, insightful, and hilarious. Thanks for the heads' up. I'd like to be entered in the contest, as well. There are several of us around here that could use some feminist inspiration! :) As for recommendations, City of Thieves is the best book our book club has read recently. I'd recommend that one.

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  46. tracyp9:27 AM

    Not related to your recommendations (but Miram Toews...always a good bet). The 100-year-old Man who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson. Laugh out loud funny. Even though there is an emerging trend toward fiction about naughty old people, this one is the best (IMHO). if you like Wes Anderson movies (Fantastic Mr. Fox, Grand Budapest Hotel) you'll like this.

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  47. I am trying my best to raise three rad women and would love to share this book with them!

    I don't have any book recommendations because I haven't had much reading time lately, but when I do I'm checking out All My Puny Sorrows because that cover looks amazing!

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  48. Jeanne10:25 AM

    I have a 14 year old who doesn't understand the struggles that women have had since she doesn't see gender inequality right now in her very sheltered life. I would love for her to read this book.

    I am reading The Invention of Wings" by Sue Monk Kidd...was this one of your recommendations? If so, thanks I am loving it....also a pre-civil war account of the struggles of women--slave or free

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  49. I need this book. I have an 11 year old feminist at home, and a newborn feminist - not to mention myself. We would adore this book!

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  50. Anonymous11:55 AM

    Hey, I took a great class from Wendy Brown at Williams! Maybe spring 1985? I forget if she was there before Santa Cruz, or after, or if she was back and forth for a bit. Political Thinking About Women--which, as she pointed out, was basically Feminism 101. I remember her and the class and the readings very well. She was great. I still remember her phrase, "Now, let's unpack this a little" and use it when I teach HS :)

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  51. Would love to give this to my niece when she turns 16 in a few months. What better way to start her on her path to adulthood than with these excellent role models?

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  52. Well, I'd love to win, but I'd feel bad because I won a giveaway in the past. So, I wanted only to add that I really never read fiction. I have no boundaries apparently and I end up finding it more stressful than pleasant. Happily, I love non-fiction. All that said, I do read fiction when you recommend it!

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  53. I can't tell you how excited I would be to win this for my library - it would be the perfect addition! I was so glad this past month when they devoured my Womens' History Month display, and this would be a phenomenal new addition. Plus we got a new catalog system that features all the "new" books on the home page, so I can't keep them on the shelves. So much fun in the library this year...

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    1. Not sure why my comment posted twice. Technology hates me this week.

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  55. My 4 year old and 9 month old girls need this in their library! It's gorgeous!

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  56. Would love this - both for the content and so I can read it to my kids then proudly display it in my office!

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  57. I would love to win - love your suggestions
    Planning to watch film next week on spring break
    As a mom to an 11 year old about to head off into that scary world of middle school...this might be just what she needs!
    Two suggestions
    We should all be feminists
    Gift from the sea
    Both contemplative, easy reads, loved both

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  58. Such a bad-ass giveaway!

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  59. Emily S.8:59 PM

    I love your book recommendations! Will place my holds at the library now. But do please enter me in the giveaway. My daughter and I would really dig reading that book. Thank you!

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    1. Would love love this book! First for me and then for my high school graduating niece

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  61. I am a chimichurri loving first grade teacher who collects alphabet books and tries to expand the minds and hearts of her students!! I would love to add this book to my collection for so many reasons. This book would be perfect for both the girls and the boys in my class!! Please, consider donating this book to the kids in 1-0! But no worries, I have it on order! P.S. Thanks again for the chimichurri post!!

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  62. My 12-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter want this, even if they don't realize it yet. And you should read Mountain Lion by Jean Stafford and Offshore by Penelope Fitzgerald. You really should!

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  63. Diane1:16 PM

    This book looks fantastic!

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  64. Thank you for the great book recommendations! I have a budding feminist writer at home myself and would love a copy of that book :)

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  65. Thank you for the great book recommendations! I have a budding feminist writer at home myself and would love a copy of that book :)

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  66. Would love this!

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  67. Linda S5:58 PM

    I recommend "Soldiers of Salamis" by Javier Cercas and "the Angel of Galilea" by Laura Restrepo. Also "Red April" by Santiago Roncagliolo. All good reads. I'm definitely giving the Rad Women book to an upcoming bat mitzvah girl I know; thanks for the tip!

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  68. I'd love to win, but since I've already won once I promise, should I be so lucky again, to make sure my sons read this one.

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  69. I'd love to win! What an awesome idea for a book.

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  70. I love everything in this post and I want it all. Xo.

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  71. I know a girl about to be a teen who would really enjoy that book.

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  72. Love, love, love book recommendations with perfect timing. A million thanks.

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  73. I know just who I want to give that book to...after I read it myself! Thank you, as always, for your great book recommendations.

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  74. Wonderful! Can't wait to share with my kids!

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  75. Would love to win the book for myself and my preteen daughter! :-)

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  76. maxanyamom9:54 PM

    Please throw my name in the hat! My dear neighbor's daughter turns 1 this month...and I've been struggling to figure out the perfect gift for her!

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  77. My daughters and I would love that - sounds wonderful!
    Much Appreciated :)
    Michelle

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  78. Under the wire to win that fabulous book! Now let's see....I don't know how she does it? Not sure if you would love it- but I so did. Except for the end. But the little working/parenting bits. Me before you- maybe you already read that- along the lines of All my puny sorrows.I'm listening to The invention of wings right now. And now I need to go back and write down other suggestions you were given! Cheers!

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  79. I'd love the rad book, please! Because it's rad.

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  80. I'd love that book! :)

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  81. Anonymous11:27 AM

    Big Little Lies was amazing. Totally recommend it for its wit, depth, and how-is-this-going-to-end?! storyline.

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  82. Have I recommended Thrown by Kerry Howley of the Atlantic, Paris Review, etc.? It's, uh, a little different, but clever.

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  83. This is fabulous! Thanks for telling us about it!!

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  84. Anonymous6:00 PM

    Is it too late for the giveaway?!?!! Oh dear oh dear. Thanks for the book recs, I've already requested all of them from the library. And will buy the exciting women A-Z for all the young 'uns in my life. ~kj

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  85. Oh I would love this book

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  86. Anonymous3:52 PM

    Oh happy day! I love your book recommendations and was just thinking I needed to check in and see if there were any new ones...yay! And a book giveaway? It's going to be a great day indeed.
    Favorite book that I've read so far this year is All the Light We Cannot See and favorite Netflix movie is Song of the Sea.... Beautiful children's movie that makes me cry every time we watch it!
    -Susannah
    smarais@comcast.net

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  87. I have been eying "Rad American Women". I love that title and I feel like the word "rad" isn't used enough. Btw, your blog is rad.

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  88. Laura Crosslin11:36 AM

    Ooh, looks amazing!

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    1. Anonymous11:36 AM

      my email is lauracrosslin@gmail.com by the way

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  89. Anonymous4:30 PM

    Would Ava do a give-away of her incredible T-shirts? That would be amazing!

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  90. Carolyn Eckert6:26 PM

    Hi Catherine! love your book suggestions...and one maybe for you...have you read Station Eleven yet? I can't get it out of my head, but my head is very post apocalyptical lately...

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  91. Anonymous1:46 PM

    Carry the One, Carol Anshaw -- great read

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