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profile-icon Kendall McCurley

This week, Brenda and I decided that we wanted to team up and write about J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye. Why? Well, because I strongly (very strongly) disliked this book and Brenda loved it. So, we thought that we might breakdown why we either loved or hated it.

If you’ve never read the book, here is the synopsis from Goodreads…

It's Christmas time and Holden Caulfield has just been expelled from yet another school... Fleeing the crooks at Pencey Prep, he pinballs around New York City seeking solace in fleeting encounters—shooting the bull with strangers in dive hotels, wandering alone round Central Park, getting beaten up by pimps and cut down by erstwhile girlfriends. The city is beautiful and terrible, in all its neon loneliness and seedy glamour, its mingled sense of possibility and emptiness. Holden passes through it like a ghost, thinking always of his kid sister Phoebe, the only person who really understands him, and his determination to escape the phonies and find a life of true meaning. The Catcher in the Rye is an all-time classic in coming-of-age literature- an elegy to teenage alienation, capturing the deeply human need for connection and the bewildering sense of loss as we leave childhood behind.”


Kendall (Hated It… Well, strongly disliked):

First, let me say, I read this book when I was sixteen as assigned reading for my 10th grade English class. I already hated assigned reading because there were very few, if any, books that I actually enjoyed reading. So, when we were told to start reading Catcher in the Rye, I did not have high hopes. I also felt that my teacher really hyped this book up because it was about a rebellious teenager who cussed a lot. At sixteen, that sounded more appealing than Edith Warton’s The House of Mirth, which I also did not enjoy. However, unsurprised to me, Catcher in the Rye was just like all the rest of the ‘classics,’ disappointing and boring.

Holden Caulfield is just an unhappy person. For 277 pages, he complains. He complains about everyone. He uses the word ‘phony’ over and over again to describe those around him. In fact, the word ‘phony’ appears 35 times in this book. But to me, the most infuriating part, is that while he believes that everyone is a phony, he is the biggest phony of all. He is a major hypocrite. Holden is annoyed when his peers try to act more mature than they are, yet the entire story is about him doing the same thing. This book is very much about teenage angst and even reading it as a sixteen-year-old, I was annoyed with Holden. I found him unrelatable and that was why I just couldn’t get into this book. I’ve never read it again, and maybe I should, but I just remember being annoyed and angry with the Holden the entire time I read it, and I don’t know if I want to even try again.

Brenda (Loved It):

My senior year of high school solidified my love of reading. A class entitled “Novel” with Mrs. Aston remains my favorite class of all time. Really, can you believe that? Among the 15 titles assigned, The Great Gatsby and The Catcher in the Rye remain my go-to books to re-read. Kendall has expounded on her reasons for dislike (maybe hate, but I’m hoping to make her a believer in J.D.) of Catcher; however, I’m thinking that her introduction to the teen angst classic was flubbed from the start. Kendall, will you please give J.D. and Holden another try? For me? Does it help to know that Salinger served five years in the U.S. Army where he saw combat with the 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division, was present at Utah Beach on D-Day, in the Battle of the Bulge and the Battle of Hurtgen Forest? Salinger was a combat veteran who was assigned to a counter-intelligence unit known as the Ritchie Boys where his proficiency in French and German helped him to interrogate prisoners of war. Come on, Kendall, the reclusive writer’s a war hero. And critics are with you claiming that Catcher’s complaining (I say insightful and funny; you say annoying) narrator Holden Caulfield is a result of witnessing the atrocities of war. He was hospitalized for “combat stress reaction” (read: PTSD) following the war and later told his daughter, Margaret that, “You never really get the smell of burning flesh out of your nose entirely, no matter how long you live.”

Will Salinger’s background persuade you to give Holden another read because no less than Hemingway, Ernest that is, said of Salinger: “Jesus, he’s a helluva talent.” The two legendary authors met during WWII at the Hotel Ritz in Paris.

I’ve picked a couple of my favorite lines from Catcher that capture Salinger’s self-deprecating prose, his insightful introspection, and his downright hilarious lines that show the absurdity of humans. Here goes:

1. Opening line hooked me. I never read a first line like this one:

“If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.”

Why I like it: Holden opens with a conversation inviting the reader to a chat. And his vocabulary speaks to me. He’s not stuffy. He’s not proper. It’s real.

2. I wanted to sit down and chat with Salinger after reading this line. Alas, Salinger is/was a reclusive man who never granted an interview to the press.

“What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.”

Why I like it: I understand and respect his (Salinger here) desire for extreme privacy.

3. Salinger’s (and Holden’s) insight is clear in these lines. The annoying teen is nowhere in these lines:

“Among other things, you’ll find that you’re not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behavior. You’re by no means alone on that score, you’ll be excited and stimulated to know. Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now. Happily, some of them kept records of their troubles. You’ll learn from them—if you want to. Just as someday, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you. It’s a beautiful reciprocal arrangement. And it isn’t education. It’s history. It’s poetry.”

4. Holden isn’t perfect. He knows it. He lets the reader laugh at him here:

“And I have one of those very loud, stupid laughs. I mean if I ever sat behind myself in a movie or something, I’d probably lean over and tell myself to please shut up.”

5. I’ll end on a sentiment that the beloved baseball icon Yogi Berra, who was famous for his contradictory quips, might have said:

“I’m quite illiterate, but I read a lot.”

Kendall, do you still think of Holden as a whining, annoying teen? I hope you’ll give Catcher another try. You might just find out where the ducks go in the winter…


Well, in response to Brenda’s plea to try it again, I might actually do just that. Knowing that J.D. Salinger fought in World War II is interesting and I can see that having an impact on the creation of Holden. Will I be able to get past the complaining and the hypocrisy? I don’t know. Will I appreciate it more as an adult than as a teenager? I don’t know, but maybe I will find out.



Cover ArtThe Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
Call Number: PS3537.A426 C3 2010
ISBN: 9780316769532
Publication Date: 1951-07-16
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profile-icon Dr. Brittnee Fisher

As a rule, I avoid "mass production authors." You know, those authors pumping out tons of books. Those authors that seemingly have an unrealistic amount of published work. I find their repertoires overwhelming, and I cannot commit to reading that many books by one person or in one genre. Long ago, I placed Nora Roberts in that category, and I've been actively avoiding her ever since! This had nothing to do with her abilities as an author but just pure avoidance for my sanity.

This self-imposed ban on Nora was going well until a few months ago. A friend of my husband was doing a bit of traveling with his family, and they decided to pit stop at my house for a night. I've become friendly with said friend and his family, so his wife and I were chatting in the living room while the husbands caught up in the kitchen. We discussed our love of audiobooks, and she mentioned a "great series" by Nora Roberts. My initial thought was a firm "not going to happen." But I soon learned that series really meant trilogy- which seemed reasonable. My friend insisted it was good, so I gave the trilogy a shot.

The Chronicles of the One trilogy includes three titles: Year One, Of Blood and Bone, and The Rise of Magicks. Here’s a description provided by Goodreads, “From the #1 New York Times bestselling author Nora Roberts comes an epic, post-apocalyptic saga, Chronicles of The One. In a world full of hope and horror, chaos and magick, where everything from electricity to government institutions has crumbled, a group of survivors must embark on a supernatural journey that will unite them in a fight for the battle of their lives. The end has come. The beginning comes next…in Year One.”

Basically, the world falls apart, and most people die. Those left are either as they were or have developed a magical ability- think witches, elves, fairies, and shapeshifters. The leftovers (magical or otherwise) then pick sides (dark or light, good or bad) and fight it out. Book one outlines the "end" and sets up the post-apocalyptic nature of things. Book 2 is mainly about the development of "the one," the lead character. Book 3 is where the fight between good and evil mostly takes place.

I am a big fan of what this series embraces, so I decided to try it. I love a good post-apocalyptic storyline. I have a weakness for magic and whimsy. I don't shy away from a fun cheese-fest. These books delivered in all those areas. Will I say that they were the best books I've ever read? No. Is this my new favorite trilogy? Also, no. Was the cheese almost too much for an adult book series? Yes, it was a lot. But, overall, I did enjoy it. There were fun characters, and it was mostly entertaining. This might be an excellent option if you are looking for a fictional trilogy for entertainment. Enjoy!

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profile-icon Brenda Hoffman

Ann Patchett’s The Dutch House is my first foray into the author’s seven novels. I’d seen the author’s name on bestseller lists, but I never had the desire to check her out until my sisters urged me to listen to the audiobook narrated in first-person by Tom Hanks. The Dutch House is a small story with a huge lesson (hear me out, it isn’t preachy in the least) in compassion. David Foster Wallace composed perhaps the most compelling reason for practicing putting one’s self in the shoes of another with his famous commencement speech This is Water, while Patchett’s prose encourages compassion as siblings Danny and Maeve struggle to understand why their mother left them at ages three and ten respectively. And Tom Hanks’ Danny provides first-person narration, which lifts this little story to huge heights.

Built in 1922 by a wealthy Dutch couple, the Dutch House is lavishly designed with six bedrooms, a ballroom, an ornate dining room ceiling, and a window-seat coveted by both Maeve and the stepmom’s daughter. Cyril Conroy, the family’s patriarch and real estate mogul, surprise buys the home for wife Elna who hates its gaudiness and opulence, so much so that she hightails it outta there and lands in India where missionary work is her calling. Unrelated foreigners earn Elna’s compassion, while her children remain behind wondering what caused her departure. Most compelling are Danny and Maeve’s parked-outside-the-Dutch-House discussions where nostalgia grabs hold. Philosophically, Danny questions if he can “ever see the past as it actually was.” The “it” I interpret thus: Elna loves her children, but she was an individual person before she birthed two children. Living in the thrust-upon-her Dutch House proved too much for her simple sensibilities. Critics have faulted Patchett’s first-person narrative for its sentimentality, but I see it differently: Sentiment here is compassion. Maeve forgives her mother’s absence, and they forge a relationship that, under typical mother-daughter relationships, might not have transpired. Danny’s hatred (a strong word, yes, but fitting here) for step-monster, Andrea dissipates in an unlikely encounter that’s best left to Hanks’ compelling voice. Whether or not Danny and Maeve return to the Dutch House is beside the point when the point is compassion. I told you at the outset of this blog that Patchett isn’t preachy; in fact, she channels David Foster Wallace’s thesis when he speaks of the difficulty in “choosing to do the work of somehow altering or getting free of [his] natural, hard-wired default-setting, which is to be deeply and literally self-centered, and to see and interpret everything through this lens of self.” Wallace acknowledges that NOT being self-centered is hard. Patchett’s characters do too as Danny and Maeve adjust their “default-setting [s]” by the novel’s end.

Cover ArtThe Dutch House by Ann Patchett
ISBN: 9780062963673
Publication Date: 2019-09-24
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profile-icon Michael Ramey

Considered one of the best science fiction novels ever written and a classic, H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds is a first-person account of an alien invasion from Mars. Wells wrote this story in 1898 when the British Empire spanned nearly a quarter of the globe and was at its apex. After reading about the impact British expansion had on Tasmanian Aboriginals, Wells wondered how the British would react if a technologically superior force invaded their country. War of the Worlds is the result of this musing. When aliens begin attacking towns throughout the British countryside, the British are outmatched and outgunned. The Martians quickly dominate the forces sent against them and all seems hopeless for humanity until a surprise twist occurs at the end of the story.  

Other than being one of the first alien invasion stories in print, War of the Worlds is a fascinating look into how people at the turn of the century viewed Mars and space at large. In the late 1890s, many people believed they saw canals on Mars through their telescopes which they considered obvious evidence of a civilization on the red planet. The idea of space travel was not taken seriously considering humans had not yet mastered flight – the Wright brothers first flight happened several years after the first printing of War of the Worlds, in 1903. Reading the War of the Worlds with these past assumptions in mind provides a fascinating context on the story.

The story itself is essential reading, but the 1938 radio broadcast adaptation done by actor and director Orson Welles is required listening. Welles adapted, directed, and performed War of the Worlds in a radio drama on Halloween night in 1938 which used live bulletins to describe an alien invasion happening in real time. The one-hour broadcast was so convincing that many people who tuned to the program without hearing the disclaimer at the beginning thought the alien invasion was real. It caused widespread hysteria throughout the country and solidified Orson Welles’ fame (and infamy directly following the broadcast).

Thankfully, the War of the Worlds radio drama is available on YouTube. Regardless of the medium, I highly recommend checking out this timeless classic.

Cover ArtThe War of the Worlds by Coralie Bickford-Smith (Illustrator); H. G. Wells; Patrick Parrinder (Editor); Brian Aldiss (Introduction by); Andy Sawyer (Notes by)
ISBN: 9780241382707
Publication Date: 2019-09-17
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profile-icon Dr. Brittnee Fisher
  • Greenlights- Matthew McConaughey

I must start by saying that I looovvvveeeddd this audiobook. The audio version is narrated by the author, and he does a fantastic job. He’s an interesting guy with great stories to tell. And boy, does he tell a good story. In fact, I would like to start a petition to have Matthew take on audiobook narrating full-time. He’s that good at it!

A few of the tales are about McConaughey’s life as an actor. I particularly loved hearing about how he landed his role in Dazed and Confused. He also talks about the journey to create The Dallas Buyers Club. This was a film he pushed for that didn’t seem to have a chance but ended in great acclaim for those involved.

But while hearing about the exploits of a famous actor is cool, what’s even better are McConaughey’s stories about his life outside of work. His family and upbringing- fascinating. His travels around the world- captivating. His thoughts on life and spirituality- intriguing. I wholeheartedly recommend this book. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed whether you listen to or read it!

  • What my Bones Know- Stephanie Foo

Oh, man- this is good! This memoir details Foo’s quest to understand and manage her diagnosis of Complex-PTSD. It has been a long time since a book made me feel complicated emotions like this one did. Her work has the potential to make many people suffering the effects of C-PTSD feel seen and hopeful. It may also give everyone else a better understanding of the struggles that accompany this diagnosis. I have recommended this book several times since finishing it. It would appeal to various readers, especially the memoir and non-fiction crowds and people curious about Complex-PTSD. 

  • Untamed- Glennon Doyle

I blame #booktok for this pick. Before Untamed, Glennon made a name for herself as a Christian-Mommy-Blogger and then as the author of Love Warrior. I wasn’t a huge fan of her debut title but read it due to the hype. If you know me, you know “Christian-Mommy-Blogger” falls well outside of my interests. BookTok reviewers swore up and down that this was different. After a little Google searching, I found out what was so different and decided to give this memoir a shot despite my reluctance. I appreciate Doyle’s honesty about her weaknesses and failures. She recounts times she was wrong or mistaken. She talks about learning and changing. I welcome the vulnerability. The online reviews for this one are mixed, so you might want to do more research before committing to it. It won’t be an enjoyable read for everyone, I’m sure.


GreenlightsGreenlights by Matthew McConaughey
ISBN: 9780593139134
Publication Date: 2020-10-20
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