Tag Archives: Booker Prize

Tips For Adulthood: Five Books That Are Worth Re-Reading

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood. Further to yesterday’s post about the pleasures of re-reading as an adult, I thought I’d make some suggestions about books that I think are worth a second read (or a first if you haven’t gotten to them yet!):

1. I Don’t Know How She Does It by Allison Pearson. Although some see this book as fanning the flames of the Mommy Wars (more on that tomorrow), I thought it was a terrifically funny – and moving – portrait of the over-stressed working mom. See yesterday for more on that one.

2. Disgrace by J. M. Coetzee. This is, in my opinion, a masterpiece and one of the very few novels I’ve read more than once (three times actually). It provides a stark, haunting portrait of a middle-aged man coping with disillusionment (both personal and professional), longing,  fatherhood, and masculinity…all set against the backdrop of a post-apartheid South Africa. Again, not everyone’s cup of tea – many people can’t stand the notoriously aloof Coetzee – but I discovered new layers of meaning with each additional read. I don’t always agree with the choices for Booker Prize, but this time I did (Winner: 1999).

3. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. It’s hard to believe that this is the only book that Lee ever wrote. I wouldn’t necessarily have chosen to re-read it – feeling I’d done my duty back in 9th grade when it was assigned in every freshman English class in the United States – but I re-read it in one of my book groups and was really glad that I did. In addition to all of the usual themes of childhood, race relations and the morality of violence, this book offers a glorious peek into the Depression-era American South.

4. We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver – This one may be more familiar to British readers, even though it is set in America.  It tells the story of a mother coming to terms with her psychopathic son. Like Disgrace, this is a pretty dark tale, so brace yourself before reading. I’ve only read it once but feel like it demands a second read.

5. Anything by Jane Austen.


I am always drawn to the Stuff White People Like website, where the authors make fun of (upscale) white culture. Check out today’s entry on the Vespa Scooter.

Image: Jane Austen’s EMMA by Allie via Flickr under a Creative Commons Website.

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Lost in Translation: Trouser Tenting, Anyone?

I think we can all agree that the Queen’s English is the English of grown ups.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my New Jersey roots as much as the next guy. But there’s no question that if you want to sound really evolved, you need to get with the (Old) Jersey.

And for the most part, I think I’ve been pretty successful at mastering the subtle differences  – not just in accent, but in terminology – across the Atlantic divide.

I now dutifully refer to my daughter’s bathing suit as her “swim costume” (despite the urge to wrap her in a boa).  I’ve also learned that you’ll raise an eyebrow or two when you confess that your eight year old  has “dirty pants,” because “pants” mean underwear, not trousers. I’ve even come to employ the term “toilet” when in search of a bathroom, even though “toilet” is a bit too literal for my taste. (Can’t we just leave what I do in there to the imagination?)

I even smugly underlined every Britishism Zoe Heller inadvertently slipped into her latest novel, The Believers, when she should have been using American slang. (Take that, you Booker prize nominee!!)

Which is why I was really flummoxed when a British friend of mine handed me a copy of his latest screenplay and asked me to “translate” it into American. I blithely flew through all the standard issue changes: shopping vs. groceries, car park vs. parking lot, etc. etc. But then I hit a speed bump:

The term of art was “trouser tenting.” It’s meant to refer to that time in the morning when a gentleman might be – how to say? – more alert, aroused or otherwise excited. I paused. What on earth was the generic American term for “trouser tenting?”

So I fired off an email to some of my guy friends in the States and got the following responses: morning wood…morning glory…morning missile…breakfast sausage…(Yup, someone really said that.)

My screenplay friend ended up opting for “morning glory” and I was relieved to have held up my end of the bargain. But I have to say, the whole exercise just left me feeling, once again, that the English just sound so much more grown up…



Speaking of good, old-fashioned grown-up English fun, I was delighted to discover the London Travel Log, with this entry on Fuller’s Brewery.

Image: The Knitten Tent by Basheem via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.