Book DNA: Boston Book Fest Treasure Trove

Last Saturday, I had the opportunity to attend (child-free, thanks to husband) the annual Boston Book Festival. It is a free, annual event in Copley Square, bringing together readers, writers, publishers, book shops and other creative reading/writing resources, like Grub Street. My Twitter and Facebook status updates are evidence that I thoroughly enjoyed myself and inspired through Tuesday! Check out my Storify of Saturday events. I came home loaded with books meant to be Christmas presents, but went into the hands of two eager girls before I could even get through the front door.

So, is the book dead? Hardly. I bought nine physical books and three e-books. Here is what I purchased and have already added to the Book DNA mind map:


  • An Octopus Named Mom, written by Kathleen Flaherty and illustrated by Jennifer Caulfield Donehey – Both the writer and illustrator autographed this book for my 9yo daughter; She devoured the book immediately and loved that the dog illustrated in the book looks like our boxer, Tiger Lilly.
  • Lily and the Imaginary Zoo, written by Seneca Clark and Sandy Giardi and illustrated by Julie Decedue – Another Three Bean Press book signed by authors and illustrator for my youngest daughter, her first autographed book. The book takes the reader on an adventure of Boston landmarks. Kids at the festival could follow Lilly’s Trail and complete a passport to be eligible for a prize. I will need to create our own version of this activity for both girls.
  • Secret Seahorse by Stella Blackstone and Clare Beaton – This book is for my 2yo daughter and she was mesmerized by the mixed media illustrations. As a parent, I enjoyed the glossary at the end of the story to teach the child more about the creatures in the book and get them excited to learn even more.
  • World Atlas, written by Nick Crane and illustrated by David Dean – This book is for your budding explorer and has an accompanying iPad app.
  • The Snow Queen, retold by Sarah Lowes and illustrated by Miss Clara AND The Twelve Dancing Princesses retold by Mary Hoffman and illustrated by Miss Clara – Another Barefoot Books visual wonder! I was captivated by the artwork for these classic stories as interpreted by Miss Clara. I am tempted to keep these books on my bookshelf, but these two early reader chapter books were purchased for my 9yo daughter.

Adult Non-Fiction

  • A History of Vampires in New England by Thomas D’Agnostino – I am a sucker for a vampire book and could not pass up this book describing the superstition that gripped and shaped New England.
  • The Age of Insight by Eric R. Kandel – This book originally found its way on my must-read list because of a feature on Brain Pickings, but I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Kandel speak at the festival and was blown away by his in-depth (and funny) research about how the brain perceives art.
  • How to Be Black by Baratunde Thurston – To be honest, I would not have gravitated towards this book, but after hearing his thoughts on the final panel, Future of Reading, and learning how he wrote the book with social / community elements, I knew I needed to read this book for myself.
  • How to Do Things with Books in Victorian Britain by Leah Price – After attending the session, Great Brits and Books, and hearing Price talk about how she teaches students Austen and Elliot, I knew this book belonged in my bag.

Adult Fiction

  • America’s Best Short Stories 2012 edited by Tom Perrotta– Until the Book Festival, I did not give short stories enough credit, but after listening to the brilliant star-studded panel including Junot Diaz, Edith Pearlman and Jennifer Haigh, I thought I should give short stories another shot. Well, I finished this compilation and I was blown away. Needless to say, it was added to my Book DNA mind map.
  • Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry, Ridley Pearson and Greg Call – This book was mentioned on the Great Brits and Books panel. I have a love/hate relationship with adaptations, but when you think about it, there is no such thing as an original story.
  • Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang – This short story compilation was recommended on the morning panel by Junot Diaz. I am a couple stories in and already captivated.

Also, guess what has started?! National Novel Writing Month! For thirty nights, you too can write like one possessed. This year, I am holding myself to the deadline. Taking a break from my historical fiction thriller to focus on a mainstream fiction novel. Add me as a buddy and we can motivate each other to write, write, WRITE! I begin the word count tonight.

Book DNA: Have Book, Will Travel

I may be fond of order, but I think it would be more exciting to explore my book DNA map out of chronological order. So, today, I bring you a book recently added to my list: A History of the World in 100 Objects by Neil MacGregor. I am sharing this reading experience with my soon-to-be nine year-old daughter. Try this with your child, spouse, or friend. You don’t have to purchase expensive airfare or hotels to experience different cultures and escape.


  • Each day, we read (together) a chapter from the book, A History of the World in 100 Objects by Neil MacGregor.
  • At the end of the chapter, we discuss and focus on what one new item she learned and / or found interesting.
  • I pre-read each chapter and develop five questions that my daughter will answer on her own after we read the chapter – the answers are not to be regurgitated from the reading material. Each question requires an answer with multiple sentences and a formed argument. Half of the questions also require my daughter to go to the website and search for additional details on the timeline or review other pre-approved sources (Ted talks, history sites / relevant news articles).
  • The questions serve three purposes:
    • Expand vocabulary; 
    • Learn how to search on websites and define a relevant search / search terms; and
    • Form an argument.


Each week we will explore the next five all time favorite and impactful books that have shaped my book DNA. For additional reading recommendations, please review the Book DNA category.

Book DNA: October Book Club Selection

We did it! Last week, we held our first Book DNA club (virtual) meeting to discuss the book, The Starboard Sea by Amber Dermont. And yes, we chatted an ENTIRE hour via Google Hangout just about the book. On a scale of one-to-five (one being the least desirable read and five being a Book DNA selection), I would give this book a solid three. If you have not read the book or are in the middle of the book, trudge through to the end.

This book has a lot of layers transcending teen angst. Perhaps that is the biggest downfall of the book? There are just too many layers being woven into a Big Idea that is fuzzy at best. With the exception of the protagonist, all other characters are one-dimensional. It is hard to care for any one of them…there are so many characters! But perhaps that is the point? As one reader suggested, maybe this lack of development was intentional by the author and each character represents an attribute of the protagonist. One can only have fun speculating.

We won’t ruin the ending for you (except to tell you that it was tied too neatly with a bow), but we would like to share some interesting tidbits from the book:

  • Novels referenced in this book: O Pioneers, The Awakening, The Scarlet Letter, Moby Dick, The Sun Also Rises, and The Motion of Light in Water. In fact, in keeping with the Book DNA theme, we wanted to choose The Motion of Light in Water as our October book, but the text was not available in large quantity on Amazon or in digital format.
  • The character names, Aidan, Nadia, and Diana are all anagrams. <—Isn’t that neat? On purpose?
  • If you are a sailor or feel the love of the sea, this book will speak to you and the metaphors may make more sense than they did for me (but I didn’t shy away from looking up the meaning of those nautical terms).

The October book has been randomly selected from the list of suggestions requested in August. If you would like to add to the list, please add to the post comments. We will be discussing The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul on Wednesday, 10 October at 8:30pm.

If you would like to continue the September book or RSVP for the virtual meeting on 10 October, let me know and I will include you in the No Nonsense Book DNA Club. There are no rules. Drop in every month or every two months. All we ask is that we RSVP the day before so we can schedule a Hangout or conference bridge. Let’s have fun! Be respectful. Broaden perspectives…diversify your book DNA.

Book DNA: Summer Book Club, 5 September

Calling all people with a thirst for adventure and taste for controversial conversations (OK, maybe , not every meeting)! The first meeting / melding of the minds is 5 September to discuss The Starboard Sea by Amber Dermont (Kindle version and Nook version). RSVP here.  The next book will be randomly selected next Wednesday for discussion 3 October. The books up for selection include:

If you have other books you would like added to this list, please add a comment to this post.

One more week until I have to hit the books again for school, but this will not stop me from reading for fun! I have spent the past month turning my Book DNA list into a mind map. I will add links as I finish each section in the vlog series. There are some entries where only the author’s name is listed because I read everything in sight by that author and the mind map entry requires a bit of fleshing out. The vlog series returns from summer break next Friday!

Each week we will explore the next five all time favorite and impactful books that have shaped my book DNA. For additional reading recommendations, please review the Book DNA category.

Book DNA: Summer Book Club

Calling all people with a thirst for adventure and taste for controversial conversations (OK, maybe , not every meeting)! Suggestions requested for summer book selection. The first meeting / melding of the minds is 19 August via Google+ hangout. See you there!

Each week we will explore the next five all time favorite and impactful books that have shaped my book DNA. For additional reading recommendations, please review the Book DNA category.

Book DNA: Fairy Tales & Poetry

Thank you for joining me on this adventure and challenge of mapping the connections between the books I have read and why these stories have had a personal impact – positive and negative. The books read to me in the early days lay the foundation for the characters and stories that would become my best friends and the safe places to escape.


  1. Serendipity Book Series by Stephen Grove, with illustrations by Robin James: I worry a lot. As a kid, I worried even more. My mother told me to shut my eyes and create an enchanted forest in my dreams and bury my fears. The place that took shape in my mind was inspired by the illustrations in this series.
  2. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein: Many children gravitated to the popular Silverstein collection, Where the Sidewalk Ends. I enjoyed those poems, but preferred the single story of the giving tree and the lesser known collections like, Runny Babbit. I have always wondered what the older version of me would tell the younger Lauren.
  3. The Bremen Town Musicians by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm: I clearly remember this being the tale that had me running back to the library for additional stories to capture the imagination and flame the requests of penance.
  4. The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter: As a child living in England, you could not escape the adventures of Peter Rabbit. This story opened the door into a parallel English countryside where I could get into mischief with Benjamin Bunny (my favorite of the clan) or learn grace and discipline from Miss Tiggy Winkle.
  5. The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Anderson: When I think of a fairy tale, I shy away from the Disney interpretations and focus on the moral tales and short stories of legend. Despite the limited length of the story, there was more to the tale than what you read. I learned to read between the lines and look beyond the surface of the story for the lessons to be learned and insights into the culture at the time the story was told and written.

Each week we will explore the next five all time favorite and impactful books that have shaped my book DNA. For additional reading recommendations, please review the Book DNA category.