Thursday, August 1, 2013

Kate Kelly

Kate Kelly is the author of some 40 books—many of them collaborations—and publisher of the website, America Comes Alive. Her latest book is You Lucky Dog! From Homeless to Famous.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Kelly's reply:
There is rarely a moment when I am not reading but much of my reading involves research and articles on whatever I’m writing about.

Audio Books

However, I have two main methods I use for reading for pleasure. One is via audio book. I listen when I’m driving or walking my dogs. (I think I have always had “scent hounds,” dogs that like to smell every blade of grass on a walk, which makes our walks very slow---and they would be agonizing if I didn’t have a book to listen to.) Audiobooks have a very important requirement---they must be well-told tales. If I stop to chat with a neighbor when walking the dogs, or encounter some sort of problem while driving, it’s important that I am able to accept an interruption but be listening to a story that has a strong enough narrative that I can assess what happened when I became distracted.

Some of my favorite audiobooks are mysteries, and I’m a huge fan of Michael Connelly. I liked him before we moved to Los Angeles, but now his mysteries are even more interesting to me since I live in the city where he sets his stories. The most recent one I listened to was The Black Box, a mystery that goes back in time to a Los Angeles where the Watts Riots were taking place. I enjoy Connelly’s characters, and he does a good job of leading you through the clues to a successful unfolding of the mystery.

Stephen King is another great storyteller whose books make for great listening. His latest, Joyland, takes place in 1973 and concerns characters at a North Carolina carnival that is struggling to stay afloat. The protagonist is a college-age boy who comes for a summer job and learns a lot about life and love and himself while puzzling through a long-ago murder at Joyland. A ghost makes just the right number of appearances to be fun without being silly.

This week I tried humor and downloaded Ellen DeGeneres’ book, Seriously, I’m Kidding. The book is quirky and fun and read by Ellen herself. I’m never around to watch her talk show so I enjoyed getting to know her via audio book, and I came away with profound respect. Never in a lecture-y tone, Ellen talks about the desirability of promptness, being loyal to yourself, and all sorts of common sense of advice, but it’s lovely hearing it voiced with humor by a well-known personality like Ellen. I know that she believes strongly in pet and animal rescue (I think her main cause is The Gentle Barn) so I was drawn to her because that is certainly a cause that is important to me.

Special Time for Leisure Reading

Since I spend many of my days at the computer reading from the web or taking notes from books or conducting interviews, I needed a way to establish a time and a “zone” for leisure reading. My husband and I finally implemented an after-dinner reading time where work-related reading is allowed only under duress!

The Son by Philipp Meyer was my most recent leisure book. The Son is a sweeping epic about several generations of landowners in Texas. I had been eagerly awaiting the release of this book because I had so loved Meyer’s first book, American Rust. (American Rust is about two high school kids whose lives are ruined by a tragic accident that occurs in their hometown, an old manufacturing town in the rust belt of western Pennsylvania.)

American Rust was a compelling, well-told-tale with characters that you couldn’t help but care about. I found The Son, written in a nonlinear fashion, to be less engaging. The time-hopping made it more difficult to get hooked into all the characters, and for me the story did not have the same power. While I wouldn’t consider it “work” reading, I did enjoy it for Meyer’s picture of Texas 100-150 years ago. He had done his research so the book did have value for me.

A Hungry Heart: A Memoir by Gordon Parks was actually work-related reading, but the book is so good it deserves mention. I was writing an article about Gordon Parks for a magazine, The Westchester Historian, and wanted to read one of his memoirs so I picked up A Hungry Heart. In addition to being a top-flight photographer, Parks was an amazing writer. He lived a fascinating life, and A Hungry Heart relates so many interesting stories: the discrimination he faced in Washington, D.C. when he first began working for the Farm Security Administration; how he got hired at Life magazine; how he infiltrated a gang in Harlem to tell their story; what happened when the family returned from his assignment in Paris; what his family life in Westchester County was like. The book is a total joy to read.

My other two recent reads were A Man and His Ship by Stephen Ujifusa and Swamplandia! by Karen Russell. A Man and His Ship is nonfiction and is the story of William Francis Gibbs (1886-1967), a man who was obsessed with ship building. He commits his entire life to learning the skills he needs and then finding the money required in order to build the largest and fastest luxury liner to cross the Atlantic Ocean. Readers are introduced to the competitive world of ship-building, and we learn that “beating the travel time” of other vessels crossing the ocean was a captain-to-captain competitive sport. In 1959 air travel began to cause serious inroads to ocean liners, and the U.S.S. United States is now in dry dock in Philadelphia. William Gibbs’ s granddaughter is trying to raise money for its conservation.

Karen Russell’s Swamplandia! fits in with my interest in reading books set in theme parks or at carnivals. Swamplandia! is a story about the Bigtree family who run an alligator-wrestling tourist attraction in Florida. Business is being lost to bigger national tourist attractions, and Swamplandia is struggling to stay afloat. The book follows the fate of father and children to a satisfying conclusion.

The best part about writing down what I have recently read is that ultimately, I turn my eyes forward and think about the next book I’ll pick up… The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.
Visit Kate Kelly's America Comes Alive website, and learn more about You Lucky Dog! From Homeless to Famous.

Read--Coffee with a Canine: Kate Kelly and Lucy.

--Marshal Zeringue