Old Favorites: Georgia Nicolson

Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging (Confessions of Georgia Nicolson, #1)On the Bright Side, I'm Now the Girlfriend of a Sex God (Confessions of Georgia Nicolson, #2)Knocked Out by My Nunga-Nungas (Confessions of Georgia Nicolson, #3)Dancing in My Nuddy-Pants (Confessions of Georgia Nicolson, #4)Away Laughing on a Fast Camel (Confessions of Georgia Nicolson, #5)Then He Ate My Boy Entrancers (Confessions of Georgia Nicolson, #6)  Startled by His Furry Shorts (Confessions of Georgia Nicolson, #7)Love Is a Many Trousered Thing (Confessions of Georgia Nicolson, #8)Stop in the Name of Pants! (Confessions of Georgia Nicolson, #9)Are These My Basoomas I See Before Me? (Confessions of Georgia Nicolson, #10)

Whenever I can’t decide what to read next, or whenever I just need a break from reading new things, I always go back to one of my favorite series: the Georgia Nicolson books by Louise Rennison.

Georgia is a British teen who hates her wide nose, her pimples (lurking lurkers), her embarrassing father (an utter madman), Stalag 14 (her school), and Slim (the Oberfuhrer who runs the school).

But Georgia loves her cat Angus (part mad housecat, part Scottish wildcat who spends his time mocking the neighbors’ prat poodle), her toddler sister Libby (who is sweet but smells a little hamsterish), the Love God (an older boy in a band), and the Italian Stallion (an even sexier boy in a band who speaks limited English and has a scooter). Oh, and snogging. Georgia loves to snog, but only if she has just the amount of makeup on so that she appears to not be wearing makeup.

She tolerates her friend Jas (obsessed with her fringe, nature walks, and her boyfriend Tom, a legume heir), Dave the Laugh (who may or may not be in love with Georgia and vice versa), and her basoomas (inherited from her free-spirited mother whose unapologetic middle- agedness is truly a cross for Georgia to bear).

I’ve read all of the books in the series at least twice. No matter what kind of slump I’m in (reading or otherwise), a few hours with Georgia cheers me right up. I’m sad Rennison died in 2016. I’d love to spend time with Georgia in her adult years. I’d like to think she’s still a loon on loon tablets.



Rereading With Audiobooks

For years, I tried never to reread anything. My logic was that there are too many books out there that I haven’t read. I just don’t have time to reread. I’ve recently changed my mind about that. Some of my best reading experiences have been rereads. I’ve also discovered that the only way I like audiobooks is if I’m listening to something I already read and remember well. It’s a lovely experience hearing a beloved book come to life.

Here are two audiobooks that I listen to about once a year:

Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld
Prep may be in my top five books of all time. I know some people hated it because the main character, Lee Fiora, is such an anxiety-ridden mess whose own self-absorption is the very thing that keeps her from succeeding in her academic life, her family life, and her social life. I totally relate to Lee. Nothing makes you more self-absorbed than an anxiety disorder. That feeling that everyone is watching you–and judging you–is so pervasive that everyday living is excruciating.

I like the audiobook version because the reader sounds young and confused, exactly as I imagine Lee. I like the catharsis at the end, when we fast-forward to Lee’s adulthood, and I am reminded that anxiety doesn’t have to be a death sentence. It’s just an obstacle.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt
A group of clever college students study Greek, drink hard liquor, read the classics, and wax philosophic. Also, they murder their classmate.

Yet the novel isn’t a  murder mystery. It’s a dark and twisted tale about how far people will go to save themselves.

I listen to the audiobook because I love the novel, but I have to admit that Donna Tartt would not be my pick for a reader on this one. Her Mississippi accent gets in the way of fully performing New England blue bloods. The narrator of the novel, Richard, is from California, but Tartt makes him sound a little like Jeff Sessions. Go with it.

Books That Take Time to Love (or Appreciate)

Have you ever read a book that you initially didn’t like–or even hated–and then you later realized your initial opinion was all wrong?

It happens to me fairly regularly. I think that’s because I’m a slow thinker. One of my wonderful colleagues once told me there are two kinds of thinkers: microwaves and crock-pots. She identifies as the latter; that is, someone who needs to simmer for a long period of time. It takes longer, but it’s so much richer. Microwaves can zap for thirty seconds and walk away with something fully cooked, but that food is never as good.

Here’s a list of four books that I initially didn’t like, until I put the crock-pot on simmer for a few years until my ideas were fully cooked.

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
I read this for the first time in college and thought it was boring. I later re-read it, just for fun, and realized I was totally wrong. My initial response was complete disdain for the wife, O-Lan, because I wanted her to stand up for herself. Only after simmering did I realize that O-Lan’s selflessness is the only power she has. As a younger reader, I often fell into the trap of judging characters by second-wave feminist values.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
I read this in high school and it totally went over my head. I think that’s because, without even realizing it, I bought into the American Dream, that old canard that largely exists to serve the hegemony. I read it again in college and got closer to understanding. I read it yet again for a book club a few years ago and finally got something: This is the Great American Novel because it captures the essence of an empty culture that has built itself on false exceptionalism and gross consumption. And like most novels of its time, its attitude toward women and its toxic masculinity is on full display.

Everything Bad is Good for YouEverything Bad Is Good for You by Steven Johnson
Johnson’s argument is basically that TV (and other forms of entertainment that we’ve long considered mindless) is getting more and more challenging, both in terms of the critical thinking required and in terms of the narrative structure. I had trouble fully buying that argument until I taught a short class on pop culture where we used Johnson’s methods to analyze TV and video games from the 70s/80s and from recent years. Johnson is right: Pop culture as a whole is way smarter and far more rewarding. There’s still plenty of dumb stuff out there if you want it, but pop culture isn’t a wasteland.

Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor Forever Amber
I unfairly dismissed this as a romance novel. (Not that there’s anything wrong with romance novels. Just that I categorized it as one that didn’t have much substance.) I was wrong. This is a fantastic historical novel about Restoration England. I read it twice and then gave a copy to my grandmother who told me that she’d read it years ago, back when it was released in 1944. It was considered a “sexy” novel back then, but it’s as good of a history lesson about the time period as you’ll ever get. Now I want to read it again.