EL Professor Laura Bloxham On Baseball, Narrative, and Pippi Longstocking’s Hairbrush

Perhaps Dr. Laura Bloxham needs no introduction, but here’s one for good measure:

Leonard Oakland claims I was born in the Seattle Public Library.  Not true.  But I raised myself there.  I’m a graduate of Lake Washington HS (Go Kangaroos), Whitworth, and I have two graduate degrees from Washington State University.  I have taught at Whitworth and at the University of Georgia in Athens.

Laura compiled a reading list for 2012 (the list appears at the end of this post) and shared with us how the reading is going so far:

My reading this summer has largely fallen into three categories:  1) baseball literature; 2) reading group books; and 3) mysteries.

I’ve read Chad Harbach’s The Art of Fielding, a long often painful and explicit novel set on a college campus.  The baseball sections are stunning, the life lessons redemptive.  Despite my despair about half way, I was immensely pleased by the ending.  John Grisham’s Calico Joe is altogether different as a baseball book and novel.  I’m not a Grisham reader.  But I am a fan of this tight narrative.  The baseball, as in The Art of Fielding, is much more than incidental.  There’s history and nuance.  This novel also has its redemptive elements.  But no easy victories in either novel.  I have a few more baseball treasures to come this season, including R.A. Dickey’s non-fiction work.

I’m reading with two groups this summer. For four summers I’ve read classics (Dickens, Eliot) with some young women.  This summer we’ve read Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper and Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice.  The other group is some Kick Ass Women Faculty reading Kick Ass Women Characters.  We are reading whatever we want for our June-July gatherings and then in August we’re reading Thackeray’s Vanity Fair together.  So far I’ve read Pippi Longstocking (which was very kick ass once I got past her stirring the pancake mix with her hair brush) and three mysteries, Susan MacNeal’s Mr. Churchill’s Secretary, Sue Grafton’s V is for Vengeance and Jacqueline Winspear’s Elegy for Eddie. 

Okay, so categories 2 and 3 crossover.  I am a few pages short of finishing Jeffrey Deaver’s mystery The Burning Wire, featuring Lincoln Rhyme.  And the one book that stands outside all three groups is Anne Tyler’s The Beginner’s Goodbye, which is a tidy and often humorous novel about grief and recovery.

Laura’s Recommended Reading for Summer 2012 and Other Mental

Vacations (36th edition) 

                  “Where is human nature so weak as in a bookstore?”

–Henry Ward Beecher


Erik Larson, In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin (story of William Dodd, ambassador)

Jeffrey Deaver, Garden of Beasts (stand alone mystery set in 1936 Berlin)

William Deresiewicz, A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter

John Steinbeck, The Moon is Down (WWII)

Chris Cleave, Little Bee (harsh, brutal, but significant acts of giving)

P.D. James, Death Comes to Pemberely (lots of Austen in-jokes)

Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1853)

Louisa May Alcott, Little Women (well worth rereading; 1868)

Christopher Fowler, Full Dark House (Peculiar Crimes Unit mystery)

“A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say.”

–Italo Calvino


Charlotte Brontë, Villette (her last novel)

Kathryn Stockett, The Help (bestselling novel set in Jackson, MS, 1963-4)

Charles Dickens, Bleak House (one of a number of classics I’ve reread this year)

Hannah W. Foster, The Coquette (American; 1797)

Catharine Maria Sedgwick, Hope Leslie (Native American/Puritan/Gender issues; 1827)

Fanny Fern, Ruth Hall (autobiographical novel; 1855)

Harriet E. Wilson, Our Nig: Or, Sketches in the Life of a Free Black (autobiographical novel; 1959)

Rebecca Harding Davis, Life in the Iron-Mills (class struggle; 1861)

The Magazine Novels of Pauline Hopkins (African-American writer; 1901-02)

Kate Chopin, The Awakening (1899)

“If you would tell me the heart of a man, tell me not what he reads, but what he rereads.”

–François Mauriac


Louise Penny, A Trick of the Light (series)

Michael Stanley, A Carrion Death (Detective Kubu, Botswana)

Henning Mankell, The Fifth Woman (Kurt Wallander, detective)

David Ignatius, Bloodmoney (espionage)

Alexander McCall Smith, The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party (No. 1 Ladies        Detective); The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection

Diane Mott Davidson, Crunch Time (cooking/catering series in Colorado)

Janet Evanovich, Smokin’ Seventeen; Explosive Eighteen

Jo Walton, Ha’ Penny (#2 in trilogy); Half a Crown (#3)

Mark Schweizer, The Organist Wore Pumps: A Liturgical Mystery (series); The Countertenor Wore Garlic

Alan Bradley, The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag (2); A Red Herring Without Mustard (#3); I am Half-Sick of Shadows (#4)

Joanne Harris, Gentlemen and Players

Carolyn Keene, The Mystery at Lilac Inn (Nancy Drew)

Margaret Maron, Three-Day Town (links her New York and Southern series of mysteries)

“Never leave the house without a book—ever—even if you think you’re just going to the grocery store . . . .

. . . .if you’re stuck in a traffic jam or get a flat tire and you’re waiting for someone to come and help you . . . all kinds of moments in the day are reading moments.”

–Sara Nelson, “Marathon for a Reader,” Time, Dec. 16, 2003


Alfons Heck, A Child of Hitler: Germany in the Days When God Wore a Swastika

Sara Miles, Take This Bread (communion)


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