Things to Bring, S#!t to Do!

Your List as Your MemoirI recently spoke with Karen Rizzo, author of “Things to Bring, S#!t to Do.” As far as we’re aware we are not related, but since Karen’s first book is a memoir told entirely in lists, we might well be! List making might be in our blood because like me, Karen inherited her list-making tendencies from her father.

Our Lists Reveal Our Personalities 

Our lists are usually very personal.  The lists I write probably say a lot about who I am.  Karen explained to me that this was the idea behind her book. She had been asked to write some words of wisdom for a new mother, and as she sat with the blank paper in front of her, all she could think of were things she needed to do. This spark of inspiration became the central theme of her book.

“For some reason I got the idea of life of lists, life in lists, and how you can really see the arc of a life through a person’s lists. Like the lists when they were 22 and, you know, what it consists of. It consists of ‘get apartment keys,’ ‘buy Rolling Rock’ or ‘buy beer’ you know?  And then the lists get a little more complicated and sophisticated. You’re in your 30’s maybe and now it’s ‘stop by wine shop and get good cabernet,’ and ‘pick up Bristol Farms Shrimp,’ or it’s ‘shop for baby gifts,” Karen told me.

“Things to Bring, S#!t to Do.” 

Karen’s saved her lists for over fifteen years and compiled them into a memoir that tracked her life from the 1970s to present day. As Karen’s needs evolved so did her list. I think it’s a great and unique well to tell your story. Our lists may seem simple and mudane, but when they are compiled together they show our journey.

What stuck out to me when reading her book were the things that kept popping up on her lists again and again, never completed. Many of Karen’s lists contain the note ‘learn Italian’. In fact, I noticed that the last page of the book has this list:

  • Buy Mutant Ninja toothpaste
  • Colored Band-Aids
  • Ibuprofen
  • Tiramisu
  • Learn Italian CD

And there the book ends.  If you’re a list-maker you’ll probably relate to this. There’s inevitably some task that you know you’re never going to do, but that you can’t let go of. By the way — Karen still hasn’t learned how to speak Italian!

For Your Must-Read List

Karen’s new book ‘Famous Baby’ is her first fictional book. She describes it as being “about 3 generations of women, the secrets we keep and what we choose to tell our daughter or mothers or in our lives. But it’s sort of hung on this mommy blogger, this crazy, narcissistic mommy blogger.” If you’ve ever delved into the online ‘Mommy’ community then you will know there’s a ring of truth to the characterization!

I strongly recommend adding both of Karen’s books to your reading list. Unfortunately Things to Bring, S#!t to Do is no longer in print but I’m sure you can get your hands on a used copy.  And you can grab Famous Baby today.

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