A Canadian, a former math teacher, a Chinese Harvard grad, and a blond girl walk into a book club...

The first book I ever read alone, front to cover, was the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I was four. I am not kidding.

Around age seven (my daughter's age as of yesterday, GO SAY HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY BABY) I discovered Erma Bombeck, and life became good. Gooder. The goodest.

When I was in junior high school, I was the official school reader. I read *every* new book that came into the library, and then wrote one 3X5 index card review on the book. The librarian kept those on file - sorted by genre, by me - for popular kids with a life who wanted a book but needed crutches suggestions. I got beat up a lot. 

All of that reading and getting beat up made me a very angsty young person indeed, who over time discovered the likes of Louis Carroll, Douglas Coupland, Chuck Palanuik, and John Irving. And I haven't really needed anything since. 

I tell you all of that to show you my in-case-of-fire book pile. 

There are a few books missing from that pile (my Alice is Wonderland books, to name more-than-one-but-less-than-734) but that is the actual 'separate-17-years-of-marital-pulp-assets' pile, photo taken while he was smoking so he wouldn't yell at me for taking pictures of fucking EVERYTHING, JESUS SHANNON.

(Audre Lorde said everything can be used except what is wasteful,  and she wasn't kidding.)

So I got stuck in a 20-year long book rut. I re-read the exact same books over and over and over again. I always thought it was bizarre that my mother could read you the entire introduction to the Hitchhiker's Guide without needing to be in the same room as the book, and now? Yeah. Ask me any line of any poem in UndersongWe all become our parents. 

It's really hard to get me to read something new. You pretty much have to sell me on really whacked storyline or whackeder presentation, or be the Cactus-Fish family. My books are some of the best friends I have, and I just this second realized that I'm not all that different than I was at 13. Wider, to be certain, but not too different. 

For me, it isn't even always so much the story as it is the book, which is why I always said you'd have to pay me to use an e-reader. You can't smell an e-reader and if you can, you're reading the wrong kinds of things on it, perv. You can't scribble notes in an e-reader that you hope your friends/kids will read one day, if your highlighter lasts that long. 

Except you can scribble notes in an e-reader that you hope your friends/kids will read one day. Except someone did offer to pay me to use an e-reader. And that leads me to the whole bunch of brand new books I'm reading on The Copia's social e-reader over the next few months with a few of my best friends - Doug, Jim, and Tanis. Because they're way more fun to drink with than Maslow's Principals of Abnormal Psychology, that's why. 

We have this little social group book club thing (see children? reading gets you into clubs with ridiculously hot, smart people, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise) and we've each chosen one book that all four of us have to read in a month's time. We have wildly varied tastes in books, to say the very least. This is going to be so much fun. 

We'll be reading together and leaving each other notes in the margins through the Copia app for iPad, Android, and desktop. Will I love it? Time will tell. Jim says it's like live-tweeting a book! but I hope it's more like having actual conversations with actual people. Which are probably the same thing now, huh? Get off my dewey decimal system. 

You can totally follow along with us. There's the main group of Copia Parents, but we have a sub-group called, of course, "Tanis, Doug, Jim, and Shannon Do Books," because I made the group and I am a 12 year old boy. You probably need a Copia account to join our group and follow along, but that's cool because A) accounts are free and B) each of us are giving away 10 books to our readers to help get you started. You could chose your own book, or you could chose the books we're reading and read with us.  

We're staring our book club with Doug's pick, Telegraph Avenue, because he said we were and we do what he says. I'm thinking about choosing Bastard Out of Carolina, because Lesbian Dad says I have to read it and she has impeccable taste in literature and wingtips. I also kind of want to read Brains, A Zombie Memoir, recommended by my boss' partner, but I also-also want to read Orphans of the Living, recommended to me by Ilina Das Ewan, who is wiser than she is beautiful, which is equally awesome and terrifying. 

This is why you never ask the Pisces to go first. 

What I want to know is what you'd like to read. Leave a comment telling me the book you can't stop reading, and then the title of a book you'd like to read that you never have before, and next week I'll randomly choose 10 winners of those books. My (rapidly growing) Copia library is right here, if you want to cherry-pick book ideas or mock me for being so incredibly lame. 

Of Eggs and PR People

In the eight weeks from when I first found out I was going to have all of this surgery, I did what I'd say was a remarkable job of avoiding Dr Google. I considered my situation a need to know basis, and I didn't. I needed to show up. I'm great at showing up.What I'm not great as is understanding basic human anatomy, so when they doctor told me I was having a Total Hysterectomy, but keeping my ovaries, I was a little confused.

I had my marching orders in hand from the doctor and the admissions people at the hospital and they all said Total Hysterectomy with blah blah blah other procedures and I was confused because I assumed that meant Uterus and Ovaries because who gives a shit about the Cervix and that is why I have tree unplanned children. As it turns out, your ovaries aren't actually attached to your uterus and don't count as part of it. Your cervix totally does. And some people get to keep their cervix. I am not some people.

Anyway, it's been three weeks since my surgery and four weeks since my last period and that means that I, right now, am having my first un-period. I actually prepared for this. By searching Google. Because I'm an idiot. I just couldn't fathom what my ovaries would do if there wasn't a uterus dangling near-by them and everyone in Googleville told me that I probably wouldn't have much in the way of PMS anymore since my eggs had no place to go but it turns out that my eggs don't dig the whole "unrequited" thing and have gone on the offense.

That is to say that, for the first time since my first period on October  8th, 1988, I have raging, evil, inexplicable PMS. How do I know this? Exhibit A:

PMS Striketh

Exhibit B: My Sent Email box.

I've been blogging for five years and 10 months. I get my fair share of email pitches, and most of them are bad, but I've never really care too much about them even though it's like the new rite of passage in blogging to publicly commiserate with your peers about the audacity of your PR pitches. This has always screamed to me of bragging, like, OhMyGod, Becky, I really need you to know you will never believe how many people didn't realize I was too good for them today harumph. Until I got some PMS. And now I get it. No my head is exploding every time I open my email.

PR people are seriously emailing bloggers and saying 'Hi, I work for this random obscure company you've never heard of. Please send all of your analytic information from the past six months to random at email address dot com'. REALLY. And that's it.

They want to 'suggest' articles for us to write or 'guest post' for us on our blog so that they can get uncompensated advertising on our blogs? Really? Ask the Wall Street Journal to link to you for free, I double dog dare you. No, I don't think my blog is the Wall Street Journal but if you think I write 'articles' and am in the habit of ''publishing' press releases, you clearly think I am.

Someone asked me to post pictures of their clothing in exchange for a VIP link to their website. Like, is there a line to get it? Do I have to get a boob job and extensions to order your clothes? Do I get an double pour of Hennessey in my snifter if I enter your site through the VIP link?

A PR person for a brand new mommy blogging toy review company thing who has zero experience in PR and less in grammar asked me what I charged for my email list. I will not only not sell you my email list, because A) I value my readers and B) it's fucking ILLEGAL, I will flag your name and the name of the site you're working for and the second I get a commerical message from you, I'll know you bought someone's list and I'll report your ass to canspam because guess what? I do email marketing for a living.

And the thing is, since my ovaries have no where left to funnel their rage anymore, I need a new outlet - which has come down to gorging on cheeseburger or replying to these people. I've chosen the latter, with my ad rates. Or advice. Which, oddly enough, really effectively shuts people up because I think a good many of these PR people have gotten the Public and the Media parts down, but they seem to have forgotten that Public Relations contains the world Relations. Social Media contains the word Social.

But not all of them.

Companies like Chevy get that we're people and we like to be treated like people. The fact that I can meet the regional PR rep for lunch and just have lunch speaks volumes about the character of the company. The fact that I've asked them for way more than they've asked me for, that they took the time to read the words on my blog before they emailed me tells me that they're in this for the relations and it makes me want to work with them.

Companies like Kenmore rebrand and rebuild themselves based on the the input of normal old people. They asked people to describe their company in a word, turned those into word clouds, and based their new product line on the results...from the font up.

I'm a sucka for a cool director's chair.

I found it fascinating and refreshing to see how, at every level, this major corporation was hearing people, rather than trying to make them listen. They're tapping into local media with their Kenmore Live Studios and Social Media with the funniest PR person the world has ever known and treating bloggers like people and professionals and actually paying them for insane things like their TIME and OPINIONS and all the while delivering a solid product that my kids could use to play hide and seek.

Big enough for 100 sodas or one kid

That's, like, the perfect storm of marketing and I suddenly wish my house wasn't top to bottom Whirlpool because I totally want to put my money behind the company that is putting their money behind customer relations.

Companies like XBox seem to understand that if I'm on Twitter asking my friends if Santa should bring an XBox 360 or a PS3 and one of your paid spammers replies to me with a link that looks legit but really isn't, I'm going to hate you. But if you reply to me even though I wasn't talking to you and you say actual human things and are actually humanly helpful over the course of 30 minutes, I'm going to buy your product simply because you as a company are willing to invest in your relationships with consumers.

But of course I screwed myself because I decided to buy the damn Xbox right when Burger Kind decided to have their "we're giving away an Xbox every 15 minutes" thing and my kids will.not.shut.up.about.it so I took them to try and win one, which cost me $30 and an hour of my life I will never get back. Also, their dreams are crushed. Thankfully, Christmas morning should see that mended and see my without another pedicure for two years. Such is the price we pay for childhood whimsy.

But to say thank you to Xbox for the good service and Burger King for the burgers with mayo, I'm giving away 20 $10 gift cards to Burger King so you can try to win your kids and XBox Kinect, too. The whole giveaway they're doing ends on the 28th, so we have to do this fast. I'll draw 20 winners on Sunday so we can mail the gift cards out on Monday. If we don't get them there in time, go here. You can get 6 free codes online to enter, but you don't get a Whopper with that.

And really, I just want the Whopper. With extra mayo and tomatoes.  More than I've ever wanted anything in my whole life. Is this really what PMS is going to be like for the next 30 years?