The Most Memorable & Influential Books in the Life of Kat B.

A little less than a year ago, at a friend’s suggestion and my push, a book club was formed. It contains 75% of everyone I know in Wilmington. The other 25% of people I know are probably all coworkers. I’m pretty enamored with our book club which we call The Bookplates. We are dorky enough to have a name and a Twitter account, albeit a rarely used one. This is the sort of book club where wine actually comes second to discussing the book (it’s a close second) and so far every member has read the entire book each time (with rare exceptions).

In the eight months we’ve been meeting we’ve read:

The Paying Guests- Sarah Waters

The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls- Anton Disclafani

*The Land of Love and Drowning- Tiphanie Yanique

*A Little Life- Hanya Yanagihara

*Fates and Furies- Lauren Groff

How to be Both- Ali Smith

Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl- Carrie Brownstein

Under the Udala Trees- Chinelo Okparanta

*My favorites thus far.

For January’s book club we were asked to bring a list of five books to share with one another. We could give the list any theme we wanted. Some were based on books of their youth, some were books they thought about a lot- it varied. I pondered my list for several days and asked the advice of multiple friends. Slowly my list became “The Most Memorable and Influential Books in the Life of Kat B.” I excel at titles.

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These are somewhat in chronological order.

Little Women- Louisa May Alcott

Growing up I owned a hardback version with a soft, blue, faux leather cover. Throughout the book were illustrations of important scenes in the March family’s life. Each picture was preceded by a fine piece of tissue paper. It was most likely some sort of Barnes and Noble edition but I treated like a first edition. It was sacred. Sometimes I would trace the drawings onto a piece of paper and pretend I was Amy March. Other times I would write stories and pretend I was Jo March. These girls were in a world that didn’t encourage them to be creative but they would not be stifled.

Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang- Joyce Carol Oates

If you need a writer to get obsessed with, pick Joyce Carol Oates. She’s written so many novels/novellas/short stories/plays/essays in her life that you will never run out of material. It is impossible. For six+ years I rarely read anything but Oates and it all started with Foxfire. I was sixteen working at the performing arts theater in Winston-Salem and a coworker, much cooler and older than I, gave me her copy. She let me keep it and I’ve probably read it ten or more times. It was a book about passion, anger, belonging and the fierceness of young women. I think I’m done reading and collecting Joyce Carol Oates books, but Foxfire will always be at the top of my book list.

Confederates in the Attic- Tony Horwitz

Stop what you’re doing. Read this book. If you live in the South or are interested in the South, you must read it. This book is as laugh out loud funny as it is totally disturbing. Tony Horwitz travels around to different states in the Confederacy trying to determine why the Civil War is still so important to Southerners. I was concerned when I first started this book that it would leave me feeling ashamed to be a Southerner. Not a chance. Southerners are complicated and generous with their crazy flags flying high. Also, as the book shows Southerners are not all alike, contrary to popular belief.

The Power of One- Bryce Courtenay

I can’t explain exactly why this book made my list. It’s just the kind of compelling story that never leaves you. It’s the story of Peekay, a white boy in South Africa, whose life shows us the Apartheid, South African culture, boxing and his coming of age. It’s a book I would recommend to anyone, especially someone who hasn’t been reading much and needs a compelling story to motivate them to read more. This will do the trick.

Wild- Cheryl Strayed

I’ve met a lot of people who hated Wild but when I read it, quickly and without stopping, I felt like the book had become a permanent part of me. It’s words and story stand out clearly in my mind and when I reflect on it, I first feel the story somewhere within me behind my sternum, near my heart. It is not a tale I have experienced but it’s something I read and thought, “Oh yes, I could see this happening to me or someone like me.” It also pulls me outside. No, I don’t want to lose all my toenails nor venture into the woods with an improperly packed bag and not nearly enough camping knowledge. I do; however, want to experience the meditation of a solo hike in the woods.

And so this is me, if I were a list of books.

Beer Tour of Wilmington: Le Catalan

Sometimes on rare occasions I make wild and crazy suggestions like, “Instead of drinking tonight, let’s take a walk.” This is always met with enthusiasm for making our lifestyles more healthy but when five o’clock rolls around…we have a problem. We want to be healthier, exercise more and still have a glass of wine.

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In this situation, just walk to the wine. Wilmington’s downtown river walk is perfect for this. From my work’s parking lot, it’s not quite a mile along the water to Le Catalan. In the evening if the humidity is kind and the breeze generous, it’s a really pleasant scenic trip. I try to spend as much time as I can near downtown’s best feature.

I wasn’t sure what to expect at Le Catalan. I’m always skeptical of restaurants on the river as it is a prime spot for tourists. Will it be overpriced and less than tasty? Le Catalan was exactly what the doctor ordered. With the sun setting and the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge in view, the outdoor patio was perfect. A little warm at times before the sun finally dropped below the tree line but the dining area is covered so it’s not intolerable, but there’s an indoor area for those who prefer not to sweat a little.

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The wine wasn’t cheap but the prices were comparable to anywhere else in town. More importantly the server was knowledgable but didn’t scoff when we couldn’t pronounce anything correctly. Lots of pointing.

The only downside of the evening is we had worn our workout clothes to what turned out to be a very cute cafe. In addition as we were finishing up our glasses, a 5k was going on and the participants passed us. They and we were all in our company’s workout gear which made us look like enormous slackers. On the other hand wine enabled us to cheer very enthusiastically.

Beer Tour of Wilmington: Wilmington Wine

Um, beer tour got a little confused and ended up a wine night instead. If you’re going to have this happen, Wilmington Wine is the best place for it. You might not see it at first glance. It’s nestled in with all the cutie antique and art stores on Castle St. We stopped by on a Friday just as the free wine tasting began (as it does every Friday). It was pretty packed in the tasting area so we sampled for only a short while before heading to the back porch to drink our wine in the cool shade.

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My favorite part of the wine tasting (other than the free part) is the atmosphere. Everyone is incredibly friendly and chatty in the shop, making room for one another and making suggestions. It felt very welcoming, but when you’re ready to dive into a deep and meaningful conversation with your companions the patio outside is cute and shaded.

This is one of my favorite places to share a bottle of wine. There’s not many places you share a $10 bottle of wine at the establishment. When you bring a friend with you (or more) it is very reasonable.

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This was my second time at Wilmington Wine and I can’t say enough good things about it!

Detox Out

Detox Out

The detox/cleanse lasted 10 days. I broke when I was taken out to lunch by my boss and my boss’s boss. Alaskan boy was so jealous he declared the detox over and we celebrated with wine and pizza. I will not miss reading labels, although I do hope that we incorporate the good things we learned into our everyday meals. That was the point right?

Inspiration Station

Side Note: I truly feel and have felt for some time that any word that ends with ‘tion’ should be followed by the word “station”.Example: Exploration Station, Inspiration Station, Hydration Station, etc. This might not be an admirable habit but it is one I can’t shake.

When a new project is started, the starter often needs to be inspired. He or she needs a muse or those parts of life commonly referred to as “the little things” to keep a mind in focus.

With this theme in mind I have the last 24 hours basically ignoring my pursuit of employment while dedicating myself to all things inspiring and joyful. I kicked this off last night with a viewing of Dead Poet’s Society… on VHS.  Nothing like Robin Williams spouting poetry to adolescent boys to stir the soul.

Today started off with a call from Nelli from Madrid. A little telephone TLC always sets the heart at ease. (Also this was made possible not by Skype which does not accept the 3G network as a form of wi-fi but Viper which lets iPhone users make calls for free, around the world! All you have to have is 3G or wi-fi. Easy peasy.)

I followed this with some yoga today. Thank you Dido at Castle Hill Fitness.Making the body feel good is definitely step number 1 to inspiration.

I finished my day of starting a blog, doing yoga and hanging out with Frank Two with a little gastronomical experimentation. I took some beef stew meat  (courtesy of H-E-B groceries), and started cooking it with garlic and onion. I added some kale, cooked it down with some lemon juice and seasoned it with salt, pepper and chili powder. As soon as I put it in my bowl  I added some goat cheese crumbles. Might not be the best recipe ever but for someone who needed a little iron and to get rid of the wilting kale in the fridge: perfection. Oh, this meal is not complete without a glass of red wine, must be on sale for sake of wallet. Done and done.