A Canadian, a former math teacher, a Chinese Harvard grad, and a blond girl walk into a book club...

The first book I ever read alone, front to cover, was the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I was four. I am not kidding.

Around age seven (my daughter's age as of yesterday, GO SAY HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY BABY) I discovered Erma Bombeck, and life became good. Gooder. The goodest.

When I was in junior high school, I was the official school reader. I read *every* new book that came into the library, and then wrote one 3X5 index card review on the book. The librarian kept those on file - sorted by genre, by me - for popular kids with a life who wanted a book but needed crutches suggestions. I got beat up a lot. 

All of that reading and getting beat up made me a very angsty young person indeed, who over time discovered the likes of Louis Carroll, Douglas Coupland, Chuck Palanuik, and John Irving. And I haven't really needed anything since. 

I tell you all of that to show you my in-case-of-fire book pile. 

There are a few books missing from that pile (my Alice is Wonderland books, to name more-than-one-but-less-than-734) but that is the actual 'separate-17-years-of-marital-pulp-assets' pile, photo taken while he was smoking so he wouldn't yell at me for taking pictures of fucking EVERYTHING, JESUS SHANNON.

(Audre Lorde said everything can be used except what is wasteful,  and she wasn't kidding.)

So I got stuck in a 20-year long book rut. I re-read the exact same books over and over and over again. I always thought it was bizarre that my mother could read you the entire introduction to the Hitchhiker's Guide without needing to be in the same room as the book, and now? Yeah. Ask me any line of any poem in UndersongWe all become our parents. 

It's really hard to get me to read something new. You pretty much have to sell me on really whacked storyline or whackeder presentation, or be the Cactus-Fish family. My books are some of the best friends I have, and I just this second realized that I'm not all that different than I was at 13. Wider, to be certain, but not too different. 

For me, it isn't even always so much the story as it is the book, which is why I always said you'd have to pay me to use an e-reader. You can't smell an e-reader and if you can, you're reading the wrong kinds of things on it, perv. You can't scribble notes in an e-reader that you hope your friends/kids will read one day, if your highlighter lasts that long. 

Except you can scribble notes in an e-reader that you hope your friends/kids will read one day. Except someone did offer to pay me to use an e-reader. And that leads me to the whole bunch of brand new books I'm reading on The Copia's social e-reader over the next few months with a few of my best friends - Doug, Jim, and Tanis. Because they're way more fun to drink with than Maslow's Principals of Abnormal Psychology, that's why. 

We have this little social group book club thing (see children? reading gets you into clubs with ridiculously hot, smart people, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise) and we've each chosen one book that all four of us have to read in a month's time. We have wildly varied tastes in books, to say the very least. This is going to be so much fun. 

We'll be reading together and leaving each other notes in the margins through the Copia app for iPad, Android, and desktop. Will I love it? Time will tell. Jim says it's like live-tweeting a book! but I hope it's more like having actual conversations with actual people. Which are probably the same thing now, huh? Get off my dewey decimal system. 

You can totally follow along with us. There's the main group of Copia Parents, but we have a sub-group called, of course, "Tanis, Doug, Jim, and Shannon Do Books," because I made the group and I am a 12 year old boy. You probably need a Copia account to join our group and follow along, but that's cool because A) accounts are free and B) each of us are giving away 10 books to our readers to help get you started. You could chose your own book, or you could chose the books we're reading and read with us.  

We're staring our book club with Doug's pick, Telegraph Avenue, because he said we were and we do what he says. I'm thinking about choosing Bastard Out of Carolina, because Lesbian Dad says I have to read it and she has impeccable taste in literature and wingtips. I also kind of want to read Brains, A Zombie Memoir, recommended by my boss' partner, but I also-also want to read Orphans of the Living, recommended to me by Ilina Das Ewan, who is wiser than she is beautiful, which is equally awesome and terrifying. 

This is why you never ask the Pisces to go first. 

What I want to know is what you'd like to read. Leave a comment telling me the book you can't stop reading, and then the title of a book you'd like to read that you never have before, and next week I'll randomly choose 10 winners of those books. My (rapidly growing) Copia library is right here, if you want to cherry-pick book ideas or mock me for being so incredibly lame. 

Fine Lines

Disclaimer: This social eReader program I'll be working with over the next few months is launching this weekend, and they asked me to write about the launch. Instead, I decided to write something niceish about my mom. However, they're having a Mother's Day sale with 50% off all ebooks so if you didn't get your mom/baby momma a gift, A) you suck and B) you can get her a nice, inexpensive book through their social eReader here


When I became a mother 14 years ago, I stopped having the black and red film-grained Robert Rodriguez style dream about murdering my own mother. I stopped dreaming about getting caught in a mudslide engulfing the home I lived in with both of my parents until I was six once I stood in the field where that house once stood

Time gave me the ability to dream my way through most of the after-shocks of our life together. Twenty Mother's Days later, I'm almost not angry anymore. Twenty Mother's Days later, I can think about her and not feel hate or confusion or sadness, and thanks to the wonder of blogging, I can look back just four short years and see how far I have come with this.

Twenty Mother's Days later, I can remember things about her that were beautiful.  

I remember the sweetly salted heady scent of the sides of her breast, the space between where her nightgown ended and her flesh began, where I would tuck myself into her soft, ivory rolls and listen to her read us stories, her voice so beautiful the words on the pages rolled off her lips like a song. 

My mother didn't let us read children's books - she said they insulted our intelligence. She also thought a whole lot of them were demonic and/or homosexual, which in her tragically broken mind were equally dangerous threats. Instead we read the Bible, which isn't the least bit traumatic to children oh no, and - here's the one thing that woman did so very right - she read us her books. 

She would read to us whenever she was sane enough to. Twenty years ago, I couldn't have remembered this. I think I only do now because I still read her books. 

If she'd read me a Golden Books Grover story, I would have long ago forgotten this. Instead, she read me The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and The History of Physics, over and over again until I could read those books myself, alone in my room, from memory. For her, it was just the choice to read us clever, intellectual things, but for me, it was begin gifted the one perfect, unbroken piece of her to keep forever, untarnished and alive on the pages of those books. 

There's a fine line between genius and insanity; my mother is living proof of that. 

Because of her genius, I've always read my kids my favorite books, from the time they were babes in arms: Alice in Wonderland, The Phantom Tollbooth, World War Z, and of course, The Hitchhiker's Guide. Because of her insanity, I got to discover Shel Silverstein with my kids, and Robert Munsch and Maurice Sendack and everything in between. So that worked out okay.

My kids have never, and will never, meet my mother. I will never see her again, so long as we both shall live. The only way I can ever give them a piece of her is to share this gift she gave me with them, and so when we can, we snuggle up on the couch, me just soft and round enough for them to sink into, them still just small enough to fit under the fold of my arm, and we read together. 

And somehow, oddly, she's there with us. And I'm okay with that.