Wild Kingdom in Miniature by Deb Jess

I grew up two dunes from the beach in Kohler Andrae State Park, along the western shore of Lake Michigan. My mom and I lived with my grandparents until I was five, and lucky for me, my Grandfather was the Superintendent of that state park. He and my Grandma had a house tucked right into the woods just beyond the dunes, and I couldn’t imagine a more idyllic place to spend your childhood: exploring the dunes during the day, falling asleep to the sounds of whippoorwills calling to one another at dusk, the smells of white pine, wild raspberry, and campfire mingling in the cool night air. If the wind blew the right way, you could sometimes hear the waves washing onto shore, distant and soft—better than any white noise machine ever made.

Even after my mother married and we moved an hour from the lake, I still returned summer after summer to log countless hours reading and sunning myself on that beach. Two of the books I know I read on the dunes include Stephen King’s The Stand and Judy Blume’s Summer Sisters. Of all my books, these are the two that I’ve read and reread more than any other.

Now, I do most of my reading in my own backyard. I’ve seen placemats larger than our lawn and I’ve swapped a lake for a birdbath, but it’s all I need. Over the last three years I’ve stuffed every nook and cranny back there with shrubs and flowers carefully selected to attract all of the critters large and small that usually end up distracting me from whatever I’m reading: butterflies, monarch caterpillars, bumblebees, chickadees, goldfinches, and now a family of house wrens in the nestbox mounted to the garage. (The baby birds are just days away from fledging, and I hope I catch their first flight.)

Despite the distractions, I do lose myself in a good book back there, including most recently:

The Opposite of Love by Julie Buxbaum
Such a Pretty Fat by Jen Lancaster
Leave the Building Quickly by Cynthia Kaplan
I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley
When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris
A Wolf at the Table: A Memoir of my Father by Augusten Burroughs
Girls in Trucks by Katie Crouch
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
And currently, an advance review copy of time of my life by Allison Winn Scotch (which you’re going to love this October, if you haven’t gotten your hands on an ARC already).

When I return from San Francisco in early August, I’m going back to the beach to recharge and, of course, do some reading. My Read Me Next pile has begun actually growling at me whenever I walk past—clearly a sign that I need to whittle it down book by book. Next up? Throw Like a Girl by Jean Thompson and Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore.

And if you have any of the Deb books still on your Read Me Now pile, throw ’em in your beach bag and head for the shore! (Or pre-order Cancer is a Bitch and Falling Under, which is out on Tuesday.)

Have a great weekend!

Deb Jess

13 Replies to “Wild Kingdom in Miniature by Deb Jess”

  1. You have a very beautiful garden or I should say Wild Kingdom. It’s nice to have your own place where you can get lost it along with a good book

  2. Thanks Cheryl & Jenny! It’s my “hobby that got out of hand.” 🙂 (Or should I call it my favorite way to procrastinate when I should be writing?)

  3. Just so you know, Jess, I plucked DRIVING SIDEWAYS from the top of my Read Me Next pile and put it in my carry-on for tomorrow’s flight. And dang if it’s not taunting me: “No, no, no! Not till you finish that tome on Aristotle and the Philosophy of Friendship!” How’d you get it to be so responsible?

  4. Love the list, Jess, and also the pics of your back yard! Oh, how I’d love to bring my own stack of books and hang out back there with you.

    Two-year olds, btw, are not too sympatico with parental reading.

  5. Your childhood beach haven sounds, well, like heaven!

    I spent many a long beach afternoon on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, myself…

  6. One of my readers just sent me Such A Pretty Fat to cheer me up. I read the first chapter and it’s working. I’ve got Jenny’s book coming up in a shoe contest in August and then Cancer is a Bitch in September and I’m just finishing up 15 Minutes of Shame but don’t know whether Lisa wants a contest too??????? That just leaves Danielle. Man, you Deb Bitches have wiped me OUT.

  7. Terrific list with even MORE for my tbr pile… and thanks Suzy. We (I think I speak for all of us debs) appreciate your support!).

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