I Don't Hate It | Birthdays are good for pencils.

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It's the middle of October, which is undeniably my favorite month of the year. It's fall, a real thing where I live now, in central Virginia; one minute it was warm and the next there was a chill in the air and the leaves were changing. The leaves change! That is a thing that happens in these parts of the world that have seasons. (More seasons than dry and less dry, hot and less hot, what I had gotten used to in central Texas.) It's my birth month, and I love birthdays—especially my birthday—more than almost anyone you know. Trust me. (Blame my mother.) It's also Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which brings me to:

1. Katherine Rosman's If You Knew Suzy: A Mother, a Daughter, a Reporter's Notebook: After her mother dies of lung cancer at sixty, Rosman puts her journalistic skills to use seeking out many of her mother's former friends and acquaintances in an effort to more fully understand the woman whose habits shaped her life in such profound ways.

You might be wondering why I would recommend a memoir that takes as its inspiration a woman who died of lung cancer during October, the month we're all so hot and bothered about breast cancer. Katie Rosman and I had a mutual friend, Lisa Adams, who died of metastatic breast cancer in March of this year. (Longtime subscribers might recall that I quoted Lisa's "bit of beauty" wisdom on the occasion of her birthday in July.) When Lisa died, Katie wrote about her, and about their friendship, for the New York Times. For me, breast cancer and Lisa are inextricably linked, and when I think of Lisa I think of Katie. In If You Knew Suzy, Katie gives voice and heart to the experience of a loved one on the periphery of the ravages of cancer. This is awareness. This is not pinkwashing.

2. Since it's my birth month, I've decided to recommend one of my all-time favorite novels: John Irving's Cider House Rules. If you like The Knick, the Steven Soderbergh series garnering acclaim as of late, you might like The Cider House Rules. Now, I know there's a movie of TCHR, and Irving adapted the novel for the screen. (He even won an Oscar for the adaptation, as did Michael Caine for his portrayal of the novel's protagonist, Dr. Wilbur Larch). But whatever you do, read the book—don't watch the movie. Or at least read the book first. That way you'll appreciate the full depth of the story.

3. If you know me at all, or if you follow me on Twitter or Insta, you're probably hip to my love of pencils. I am especially enamored with pencils that are engraved with snarky sayings or quotes. The last time I was in New York, I visited Caroline Weaver, or, as I like to call it, Mecca. This little shop is the cutest. They have a test station to help you find your perfect pencil, and they ship internationally. (They also have a pencil-of-the-month club, for any last-minute shoppers. Hint, hint.)

As always, art by the inestimable Jen Deaderick.

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