Ring the Bells

Ring the Bells

Whether we planned to or not (and we didn’t), we ended up taking a hiatus from this blog. The Mandala Writers Circle itself is still going strong, though, and we have some exciting news to share. First, Carolyn published her book! The Protectlings at Woods Edge is a beautiful, heartwarming story; Carolyn has created memorable […]

Worth A Read: We Should All Be Feminists, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Worth A Read: We Should All Be Feminists, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The BUZZ: This pocket-sized book, all of 48 pages, has been holding its own on bestseller lists for months. It’s the transcript of Nigerian novelist Adichie’s 2012 TEDx Talk with the same title, a personal essay about what it means to be a feminist today. The GIST: As Adichie writes in her introduction, she was hesitant to […]

We Have Lift-Off

We Have Lift-Off

We stared at the television, straining to see the grainy black-and-white footage of the lunar landscape. The spaceship looked like something built with Legos, and the astronaut looked like the Michelin man, moving awkwardly on the cratered grey surface. Neil Armstrong spoke his historic words as we – my siblings and cousins and I – […]

Worth A Read: Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Worth A Read: Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates

  The BUZZ: Coates is an award-winning journalist and national correspondent for The Atlantic. This extended essay/memoir is his second book. The GIST: Written as a letter to his son, Coates explores what it means to be a black man in America today. He sees current racial violence as part of a history of assault that has […]

Is it Worth A Read?: Go Set A Watchman, by Harper Lee

Is it Worth A Read?: Go Set A Watchman, by Harper Lee

  As our faithful blog followers know, every week we post a review of a book we consider worth a read. We don’t trash books we don’t like, so there are no negative reviews here. Each book we write about is one we consider valuable, either because of the story itself or the writing, or both. […]

Worth A Read: A Dangerous Place (Maisie Dobbs Series), by Jacqueline Winspear

Worth A Read: A Dangerous Place (Maisie Dobbs Series), by Jacqueline Winspear

  The BUZZ: Released this year, this is the 11th installment in the award-winning Maisie Dobbs mystery series by Winspear. We reviewed Winspear’s first novel here. The GIST: When the series opens, Maisie Dobbs is in her 20’s, a British field nurse during WWI who is now setting up her own detective agency. She solves murders […]

Worth A Read: A Visit from the Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan

Worth A Read: A Visit from the Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan

  The BUZZ: Published in 2010, an instant bestseller. Ultimately, the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. The GIST: This novel’s center is the life of Bennie Salazar, a record executive in Manhattan, and that of his one-time assistant, Sasha. As if these two are the hub of a wheel, succeeding chapters introduce characters who are related […]

Free Your Mind

Free Your Mind

I’ve brought in reinforcements. To clarify, this particular reinforcement – my adult daughter – landed here, along with her college stuff and her future dreams, after graduation. She stumbled on Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and has been reading parts out loud to me. Kondo’s KonMari method of bringing order to your […]

Worth A Read: The Sense of An Ending, by Julian Barnes

Worth A Read: The Sense of An Ending, by Julian Barnes

The BUZZ: Winner of the 2011 Man Book Prize. Julian Barnes is a prolific and award-winning fiction and non-fiction author. The GIST: This short novel is a powerful study of the way we rewrite our memories to suit the story of our lives. Tony Webster is now retired after an ordinary life of marriage, divorce, childrearing, and […]

Worth A Read: The Children’s Crusade, by Ann Packer

Worth A Read: The Children’s Crusade, by Ann Packer

The BUZZ: A new novel by the award-winning author of The Dive From Clausen’s Pier. An Amazon best book of April 2015. The GIST: Spanning the decades from 1954 to present day, this is the story of the Blair family.  The pediatrician father buys a beautiful piece of property in what becomes Silicon Valley, and he […]

Know One Rule

Know One Rule

A few years ago, Pixar storyboard artist Emma Coats published a list of rules for storytelling, a compilation of the wisdom she’d picked up working on animated films. It’s now a widely referenced tool, finding its way into business books and TED talks and even branding webinars. Its universal appeal lies in both its casual […]

Worth A Read: Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, by Ben Fountain

Worth A Read: Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, by Ben Fountain

  The BUZZ: This debut novel won the National Critics Circle Award for Fiction and was a National Book Award finalist. The GIST: Soldier Billy Lynn and the surviving members of his Bravo squad are wrapping up their U.S. heroes tour with a stint at the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium on Thanksgiving Day. As guests of the owner, […]

Worth A Read: Me Talk Pretty One Day, by David Sedaris

Worth A Read: Me Talk Pretty One Day, by David Sedaris

The BUZZ: An oldie but a goodie, this gem from David Sedaris was published in 2000 and became an NYT bestseller, like all of Sedaris’ books. I picked it up at the library book sale and dug right in. The GIST: These twenty-eight semi-autobiographical essays are split into two parts. Part One starts with Sedaris’ failed speech […]

Worth A Read: Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, by Beth Hoffman

Worth A Read: Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, by Beth Hoffman

The BUZZ:  A debut novel that became a New York Times bestseller twelve days after it was published in 2010. The GIST:  This distinctly Southern novel tells the story of CeeCee Honeycutt, a young girl whose mother has struggled with mental illness and has recently died in a tragic accident. CeeCee has carried a heavy load […]

Return to Life, Ishmael Beah at Boston’s Symphony Hall

Return to Life, Ishmael Beah at Boston’s Symphony Hall

When Ishmael Beah strides across a stage he lights up the entire room, an irrepressible combination of intelligence and charisma. He stood at the podium at Wednesday’s Speakers Series event and his joyful presence lifted all of us a little higher. If you didn’t know his story, you might assume he is one of those lucky few who has […]

Worth A Read: H is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald

Worth A Read: H is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald

  The BUZZ: First published in the UK in 2014 where it became a bestseller and a winner of the Samuel Johnson Prize. A current NYT non-fiction bestseller. The GIST: Helen Macdonald’s father dies suddenly on a London street, and her world dissolves. With no partner, no job, and no home of her own, she […]

Worth A Read: The Girl On The Train, by Paula Hawkins

Worth A Read: The Girl On The Train, by Paula Hawkins

The BUZZ: A debut psychological thriller that is already a New York Times bestseller; Amazon Best Book of the Month for January, 2015. The GIST: Lonely and bored, Rachel rides the train to London each day, passing through the suburbs. The train stops regularly at a particular crossing, and Rachel has the chance to peer into the lives […]

Strengthen Your Core

Strengthen Your Core

If there’s a quiz floating around FaceBook, I’ve probably taken it. These colorful, simple tests catch my eye with their snappy titles: What Color is Your Aura? (violet); Which Profession Should You Be? (writer); Which Star Wars Character/Harry Potter Character/Dog Breed Would You Be? (Obi-Wan Kenobi/Prof McGonagall/yellow Lab). On and on I go, collecting these […]

Worth A Read: Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel

Worth A Read: Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel

  The BUZZ: Station Eleven was a 2014 National Book Award finalist and New York Times bestseller. This is Mandel’s fourth novel. The GIST: This ingenious story opens in the middle of a performance of King Lear and moves swiftly to the end of the world as we know it. By chapter three, a pandemic is well on its way to […]

Account for Magic

Account for Magic

When I was very young, I spent many evenings listening as my father told me and my older brother stories he invented on the spot. They were what he called his Black Jack the Pirate and the Golden Princess series, and they involved daring rescues, flying turtles, ominous birds of prey, and lots of cliffhangers. […]

Worth A Read: I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou

Worth A Read: I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou

The BUZZ:  Maya Angelou was a renowned author and poet, singer, dancer, and producer, a voice for women and blacks, and the recipient of multiple awards and honorary degrees. She published this memoir – the first of what turned out to be seven volumes – in 1969, when she was 31. The GIST:  This is the […]

Worth A Read: The Book of Unknown Americans, by Cristina Henriquez

Worth A Read: The Book of Unknown Americans, by Cristina Henriquez

The BUZZ: Appeared on numerous “best books of 2014” lists, including NPR, Amazon’s Top Ten, NYT 100 Notable Books of 2014, and the Daily Beast Novel of the Year. The GIST: The Rivera family has immigrated from Mexico to Delaware to seek help for their teenaged daughter, Mirabel, who has suffered a traumatic brain injury. The story opens with […]

Worth A Read: Simple Victories, by Anne Lamott

Worth A Read: Simple Victories, by Anne Lamott

The BUZZ: Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace was released last month and is already a bestseller and #1 in the Kindle store for essays and spirituality. This is Lamott’s 9th work of non-fiction. The GIST: This new book from Lamott – a collection of fresh essays and some old favorites – does not […]

Go With Grace

Go With Grace

When this country was not yet a country, an attorney named John Adams took an unfavorable position. He decided to defend the British soldiers who had opened fire on colonists and had killed five of them in what became known as the Boston Massacre. Adams was vilified in the press and among his peers. How […]

Worth A Read: A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman

Worth A Read: A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman

The BUZZ: This book, born out of a character a Swedish blogger first introduced on his blog, became a European sensation and is now an international bestseller. The GIST: Ove (rhymes with mover) is a curmudgeon. He’s grumpy about other people, other people’s habits, other people’s incompetence, and even other people’s choice of vehicles. He’s […]

Pause for Effect: Ken Burns at Boston’s Symphony Hall

Pause for Effect: Ken Burns at Boston’s Symphony Hall

If ever an artist was inspired by the mysteries of humanity, and in particular our American humanity, it would have to be documentarian Ken Burns. As a prolific filmmaker, Burns defined a new form of storytelling three decades ago and has been chronicling eras and events ever since. Each of his 25 epic films has […]

Worth A Read: The Other Typist, by Suzanne Rindell

Worth A Read: The Other Typist, by Suzanne Rindell

The BUZZ: A debut novel and psychological thriller; a Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year (2013). Keira Knightley has signed on to produce and star in the film version of the novel. The GIST: It’s the roaring 20’s, and young Rose Baker is not partaking of its fruits. Instead, she’s enjoying her unremarkable job […]

Hit the Road

Hit the Road

Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania.  Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina. The state signs fly past. Fog gives way to sunshine and all day long the trees seem to tumble toward the highway, green and gold, amber, red, orange. Mist kisses the mountains and the endless valleys. Cows and sheep and horses graze, […]

Worth A Read: The Dead In Their Vaulted Arches (series), by Alan Bradley

Worth A Read: The Dead In Their Vaulted Arches (series), by Alan Bradley

The BUZZ: This main character has her own fan club, but you’ve likely never heard of her. Bradley has taken an innovative approach to detective fiction, and this is the 6th book in the award-winning series. The GIST: Flavia de Luce is an 11-year-old genius living in an old English pile with her obnoxious older […]

Worth A Read: Stone Mattress, by Margaret Atwood

Worth A Read: Stone Mattress, by Margaret Atwood

The BUZZ: A book of short stories by the incomparable Atwood. She has 40 published works – fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and children’s books – to her credit to date. The GIST: These nine tales are deceptive. On the surface, they are straightforward, told in the crisp, witty, intelligent style Atwood is known for. The reader […]

Worth A Read: An Unnecessary Woman, by Rabih Alameddine

Worth A Read: An Unnecessary Woman, by Rabih Alameddine

The BUZZ: Just nominated for the 2014 National Book Award. This is the fifth novel for Alameddine and a glimpse into the history and culture of the Middle East. The GIST: A lonely elderly woman, Aaliya Saleh, narrates her tale from her decaying apartment in Beirut. She has seen very little of the world yet […]

Worth A Read: Tongues of Flame, by Mary Ward Brown

Worth A Read: Tongues of Flame, by Mary Ward Brown

The BUZZ: When this book was published in 1986, it caused a small sensation. It won the PEN/Faulkner Award for debut fiction the following year, and its celebrated, emerging author was almost 70 years old. The GIST: These short stories are distinct from each other, but all share the soul of the Deep South. Brown […]

Build the Foundations

Build the Foundations

  Typically, we publish our book reviews under a Worth A Read title because Carolyn or I have liked them enough to recommend them. From time to time, a book one of us reads is not that well written or not that interesting (or sometimes both), and it doesn’t make the cut. It’s especially frustrating […]

Worth A Read: The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown

Worth A Read: The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown

The BUZZ: This NY Times bestseller was recommended to me by four people in the same week (thanks Kim, Ann, Kerry, and Bill). I figured I had to check it out. The GIST: First, this is not a war book. It intersects with the build up of Nazi Germany, but the subject is the extraordinary […]

Worth A Read: The Silkworm, by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling)

Worth A Read: The Silkworm, by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling)

The BUZZ: This is the second installment in Galbraith/Rowling’s detective series featuring Cormoran Strike. The GIST: Six months have passed since Strike and his assistant, Robin, solved the Lulu Landry case. Now, a novelist has disappeared, and his wife has hired Strike to track him down. The hunt takes the pair into a variety of […]

Worth A Read: All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr

Worth A Read: All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr

The BUZZ:  Anthony Doerr is an acclaimed novelist and short story writer; this novel, published in May, quickly became a New York Times bestseller. The GIST:  Two parallel stories intersect in this gripping story of World War II.  Marie-Laure grows up in Paris with her father, who works at the Museum of Natural History. She […]

State Your Case

State Your Case

There are over 60 million WordPress sites and more than 200 million Tumblr blogs. More than 1.2 billion people and companies have Facebook accounts. There are 250 million registered Twitter users, and 200 million people have signed up for Instagram. Clearly, a lot of us have something to say. Never before in history has it […]

Worth A Read: The Care and Management of Lies, by Jacqueline Winspear

Worth A Read: The Care and Management of Lies, by Jacqueline Winspear

The BUZZ: Winspear is best known for her popular Maisie Dobbs mystery series, so this novel (published this month) is a rare treat. The GIST: The story opens in 1914, on the eve of Great Britain’s entry into World War I. It is an in-between time, when the innocence of life in country towns is […]

Worth A Read: So Long A Letter, by Mariama Ba

Worth A Read:  So Long A Letter, by Mariama Ba

The BUZZ: So Long A Letter was groundbreaking when it was published in 1979, and it was the first African novel to win the prestigious Noma Award. The GIST: This semi-autobiographical work takes the form of a personal letter between friends. Ramatoulaye, a recently widowed Senegalese woman, is writing to Aissatou, divorced and now living […]

Check It Out

Check It Out

Hello Mandala Writers Circle followers! Great news – we’ve redesigned our site to make it more focused on you.  Our different types of posts – book reviews, reflections on the writing life, and tips for writing – are organized so you can browse and explore what matters to you.  Plus, there’s still a page for […]

Keep It Real

Keep It Real

If you’re not looking for it, you find writing instruction in the most unlikely places. At my husband’s request, I just read a book he highly recommended, Memoirs of a Hack Mechanic. Since I’ve been recommending books to Carl all our married lives, it seemed only fair that I comply with this request. Now, this […]

Worth A Read: Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, by Maria Semple

Worth A Read: Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, by Maria Semple

  The BUZZ: Maria Semple has written for SNL, Ellen, Mad About You, and Arrested Development. This is her 2nd novel. The GIST: Bernadette Fox is well known in her community, but not in a good way. She seems aloof to the other mothers and doesn’t pull her weight at school; she’s a famous architect, […]

Feel the Love: PEN New England Song Lyrics Award, JFK Presidential Library

Feel the Love: PEN New England Song Lyrics Award, JFK Presidential Library

Kris Kristofferson ambles up to a microphone, fulfilling the impromptu request of Elvis Costello to sing us one of his songs. We have just heard Roseanne Cash sing Loving Her Was Easier (Than Anything I’ll Ever Do Again), her rich, contralto voice filling the auditorium and making Kristofferson weep. T Bone Burnett has been moved […]

Worth A Read: The Girls of Atomic City, by Denise Kiernan

Worth A Read: The Girls of Atomic City, by Denise Kiernan

The BUZZ: This New York Times and Los Angeles Times nonfiction bestseller is Denise Kiernan’s 4th in the history genre. The GIST: In 1942, a government city sprang up seemingly overnight in the Tennessee hills. It was called Oak Ridge, and its sole purpose was to purify uranium for use in an atomic bomb. Of […]

Worth A Read: The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green

Worth A Read: The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green

The BUZZ:  This book is everywhere. John Green is a hero of the Young Adult genre (search #TFIOS on Twitter and you’ll find thousands of tweets). Green started as a vlogger on YouTube and has written five previous novels. The movie opens in theaters on June 6. The GIST:  The narrator, Hazel, is a teenager […]

Worth A Read: The Warmth of Other Suns, by Isabel Wilkerson

Worth A Read: The Warmth of Other Suns, by Isabel Wilkerson

The Buzz: Wilkerson is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist. This vast historical work was one of the New York Times Book Review’s 10 Best Books of the Year. The Gist: From 1900-1970, 6 million individuals and families left the American South and restarted their lives in northern cities. This exodus of African Americans from the […]

Speak Your Truth: Margaret Atwood at Harvard’s Sanders Theatre

Speak Your Truth: Margaret Atwood at Harvard’s Sanders Theatre

On May 1, author Margaret Atwood was awarded the 2014 Harvard Arts Medal to recognize her excellence in the arts and her contributions to the public good. My good friend Mary and I were lucky ceremony attendees. Margaret Atwood is a prolific writer, having published more than 40 books, volumes of poetry, numerous plays, and […]

Worth A Read: Still Life, by Louise Penny

Worth A Read: Still Life, by Louise Penny

The BUZZ: This book is a treat for the I-don’t-read-mysteries readers among you as well as those mystery lovers looking for a new angle. It’s the first in the Three Pines series (9 books and counting), for which Penny has received numerous prestigious awards. The GIST: Still Life introduces us to the fictional village of […]

Worth A Read: The Circle, by Dave Eggers

Worth A Read: The Circle, by Dave Eggers

The BUZZ: A finalist for the National Book Award, this fast-paced novel will be of interest to anyone who has used social media. In any way. Ever. The GIST: Wide-eyed Mae Holland has been hired by the Circle, the largest, hippest, most powerful technology company in the world. The Circle’s stated mission is simple: connect […]

Worth A Read: Telex from Cuba, by Rachel Kushner

Worth A Read: Telex from Cuba, by Rachel Kushner

The BUZZ:   Telex from Cuba was a finalist for the 2008 National Book Award and a New York Times bestseller and Notable Book.  This is Kushner’s debut novel. The GIST: This novel is set in the 1950’s, in Cuba’s Oriente Province, home to American expat families running the sugar cane and nickel mining operations.  The […]

Worth a Read: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Worth a Read:  Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The BUZZ: One of The New York Times Book Review’s Ten Best Books of the Year. The GIST: Nigerian student Ifemelu comes to the U.S. to attend college and is confronted with an immigrant’s sense of dislocation and self-consciousness about her race. Far from her homeland and her boyfriend, she makes her way to Princeton […]

Make Them Laugh: Billy Collins at Boston’s Symphony Hall

Make Them Laugh:  Billy Collins at Boston’s Symphony Hall

On Wednesday night Carolyn and I (and a few friends) had the pleasure of hearing American poet Billy Collins speak at Boston’s Symphony Hall.  For me, he was the best speaker I’ve “met” at the Speakers Series, now well into its third season.  Here’s a Q&A to corral his conversation about writing and poetry. Who […]

Try Something New

Try Something New

The joy I get out of going to a museum is experiencing visual art in all of its breathtaking and jarring forms.  I am of the gaze-first-read-description-later type; I’m less interested in who created a work than in the emotions it evokes, the mental paradigms that get shifted around, and the connection I make to […]

Discover New Blogs!

Discover New Blogs!

Awards are nice, right?  And, like they say at the Oscars, just being nominated puts you in good company.  The Liebster Award periodically floats around the blogosphere and encourages all of us bloggers to bring a little attention to blogs that don’t get a lot of it.  Our good friend, Steve, at The End, nominated […]

Crack the Code

Crack the Code

Anne Lamott warned us this would happen.  In Bird by Bird, her classic book about writing (and living), she says: Becoming a writer can profoundly change your life as a reader.  One reads with a deeper appreciation and concentration, knowing how hard writing is, especially how hard it is to make it look effortless.  You […]

Mark Your Words

Mark Your Words

For reasons I will explain shortly, this week I needed to research Bartleby the Scrivener.  Herman Melville penned this story about an irritating lawyer’s clerk in 1853, a time when writers had to contend with drafty rooms, smoky fires, candlelight, and quill pens.  I can only imagine how many times Melville had to throw open […]

Hand It Over

Hand It Over

A good friend sent me the link to a TED talk by Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love) on creativity and where it comes from.  I like what Gilbert has to say about the way the idea of genius has changed over the millennia, and that what used to be considered a channeling of […]

Write A Novel

Write A Novel

As if it were that simple, right?  Just write a novel, or bake a cake, or rake the leaves.  It takes some people years, even a lifetime, to write a novel.  Plus, they would have to be “real” writers, wouldn’t they?  In the interest of shattering that myth, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) was born […]

Celebrate Good Times

Celebrate Good Times

(OK, admit it, you suddenly have that iconic 80’s anthem running through your head.) Now that we have your attention, we’re announcing a few reasons we have to celebrate: 1) Yesterday, October 24th, was the one-year anniversary of the founding of the Mandala Writer’s Circle. Carolyn and I celebrated not by having an impromptu dance […]

Find Your People

Find Your People

I have been intrigued by the reactions I get from people when I tell them I’m writing a book and a blog.  Lovely people are extremely encouraging.  They’re excited for me, and their enthusiasm shows.  “That’s so great!,” they say, “I can’t wait to read your book when it’s done.”  It is wonderful to hear […]

Leave A Clue

Leave A Clue

I’ve come to understand exactly what writer’s block is.  It’s not that I’ve run out of ideas or a desire to write in general, but simply that I have no idea what to write next.  I picture myself sitting down at my desk and just sitting.  Not writing.  It’s almost as if the path I […]

Claim Your Space

Claim Your Space

I once complained that the only reason I wasn’t a really great cook was because I had a small kitchen.  When I found a house with a large kitchen, my cooking didn’t get much better.  Instead of space, I learned, culinary skills took practice.  Now, in my galley kitchen, I make meals I’m proud of […]

Mind the Gap

Mind the Gap

Early on, Carolyn and I vowed we’d write every day.  (Or maybe every weekday.  Or maybe 3-4 days a week depending on what else we had going on.)  In any case, it seemed important to approach this writing thing as work, and if it was work then it seemed obvious that we should be doing it […]