Posts Tagged With: books

What Are You Reading?

My Mark Twain collection

Someone else’s Mark Twain collection. Sigh. I’m a bit jealous.  (Photo credit: terryballard)

Here’s another elementary school find, lovingly posted above the library doors. Being the book addict that I am you can understand my liking for this quote.

“The man who does not read good books

has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.”

– Mark Twain

Of course, Mark Twain would say something like this since he was an author, a brilliant humorist, a curmudgeon and a bit egocentric.

American writer Mark Twain (1835-1910) in 1909

The author, Mr. Twain, looking grouchier than usual for this photo, probably because he had nothing good to read that day.

I’m always a little taken aback, speechless actually, when someone tells me they don’t read books. The reason has never been that they can’t read. It’s that they have no interest in reading.

I stand there, mouth hanging open as if they’ve just transformed into an alien life form as I watched. How can one not read books? That’s like saying you don’t breathe oxygen, or eat food, or that you’ve given up sleep! At least it is for me.

Torture for me would be to put me somewhere with nothing, and I mean nothing, to read. I can entertain myself, if I have to, with the back of a cereal box, product labels, a newspaper, recipes, lists, rules, captions, advertisements. I just need words to read!! I can’t go very long without them.

But I prefer a good book. Literature. Thought provoking, inspired, well written. I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before in past blog posts, at least a dozen times or more. For which I apologize. I’m a little obsessed. I’m sorry.

Lately I’ve been reading “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” which is eye-opening and surprising and wonderful and sad all in one. I’ve got a list of lighthearted novels to pick from after that. I need something to lift my spirits, make me laugh and shine some light into the darkness. After that I’m thinking of tackling “Don Quixote,” but I’m not sure. That may have to wait until summer.

Are you reading anything good?

Care to share with me?  Fiction or non-fiction. I’m always looking for my next good read!

Categories: Books | Tags: , , , , , | 9 Comments

Confessions of An Unrepentant Addict

Hello…   “hello.”

My name is Kami…  hi, Kami.”

I.. am… a book snob…    “Amen sister, tell it.”

Shelf of Used Books

(Photo credit: TheDarkThing)

It’s true.  I’ve been inhaling books since before I could crawl, at least I’m pretty sure of it. Every memory in my life seems to have one thing in common.  There is a book involved somehow.

Here’s what clued me in to my “problem:”

My hairstylist, (yup, you Jill) asked me for a book recommendation.

Easy! I’m thinking.  Then she adds a few restrictions.

Nothing depressing

Nothing deep

Nothing I have to think about once I’m done

No mystery

No worry

No drama

Nothing difficult

Something light, entertaining,

Like a sitcom.

That puts a bit of a challenge on the request.

I left an hour later having given her nothing but some cash for the lovely hairstyle.

I had failed at giving a book recommendation! How could I live with myself?

The closest I came to her requirements was a Young Adult book called “Faith and the Electric Dogs.” But it had been a long time since I’d read it.  It was probably too much of something.

Oh, the shame!

Dang it! Why hadn’t I suggested “Hunger Games?”

I had resisted reading those when EVERYBODY was drooling all over themselves reading them.  I was not going follow along blindly like those hoards of crazed lunatics reading “Twilight Books,” no matter how much my most respected bibliophiles recommended it.

About two years after the rush ended I gave in and read the first one.  Then I was like a kid three days after Halloween who’d vowed to make the candy last until at least Christmas.  You got it; I devoured all three of those books. Barely ripped the wrappers off for the speed I was trying to take them in.

Afterwards I felt like a book glutton. I had binged on the literary equivalent of fries, burgers and shakes. It was time for crunchy veggies and clear filtered water and home-baked wheat bread. I needed some classics; Hardy or Tolstoy or Steinbeck or even Dostoevsky to set the world back on balance.

Here’s the thing

I worked for a writer as a typist. (Back in the day, yes, in the dark ages before personal computers were in every pocket and on every flat surface.) This writer was a professor at the university I attended, but wrote under a pen name so as not to put the job at risk.  How would writing put a professor’s job at risk? Well, the novel was a Harlequin or Silhouette romance novel.  I use the word novel very, very loosely.

After submission the manuscript came back to the professor with a rejection form-letter, which included the basic equations for creating a book for their company. The heroine must be x,y,z but not d,e,f. The hero must have a,b,c but not j,k,l. The plot must….the story can’t….the characters need to….  It was so exacting that we considered trying to write a computer program that would write the novels.  They probably do use a computer program now.  Why waste real man hours on that kind of formulaic book?

I probably just offended everyone in the known world. May as well keep going…

But before you all judge me harshly hear me out.  I’ve read westerns, in fact, I love me a good Louis L’amour or Zane Grey once in a while.  I’ve read Michener and liked it. A mystery occasionally is good for variety.  I dig into memoire from time to time. I peruse non-fiction with some regularity.  And, I count historical fiction as part of my ongoing educational pursuit. I even check out a NY Times bestseller from the library on occasion. I even imbibe in Science Fiction if it’s well done.

I don’t always confess to reading them on my Goodreads account though.

Would a chocolatier confess to eating Hershey’s when his palate has the Swiss and Dutch equivalents of nirvana to compare?  Would an affineur, a cheese expert, admit to imbibing in processed cheese on a burger? Would a vintner chug a box of ten-dollar wine and then brag about it?

Not likely, but it’s possible.

When the words of language masters have danced through your head, played on the fields of your mind and painted landscapes across your memory, nothing else fills the need anymore.  Once you’ve had the good stuff, the literary caviar, then flat characters and simple plots with predictable endings or gratuitous anything just doesn’t cut it anymore.

I need the straight lines, the pure stuff, the real talent.

Yes, I am a book snob. I admit it.

And I don’t care if I ever get over it.

Categories: Books | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Writer and Reader: A Work of Heart

English: Picture of an open book, that does no...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“I have come through this many of my allotted days, watched the passing of life on earth, made something of it and nailed it to the page. Having written, I find I’m often willing to send it on, in case someone else also needs this kind of reassurance. Art is entertainment but it’s also celebration, condolence, exploration, duty, and communion. The artistic consummation of a novel is created by the author and reader together, in an act of joint imagination, and that’s not to be taken lightly.” – Barbara Kingsolver, from “Careful What You Let in the Door” in her book of essays High Tide in Tucson

I love hearing that an author has respect for and interest in her readers. Maybe that’s why all the books I’ve read by Barbara Kingsolver resonate me with, regardless of the topic. She trusts her readers to bring thought, wisdom and intelligence with them when they open her book.

There are many authors whose works I’ve read that left me with a similar sense of collaboration. Surely that’s where the sentiment of “the book is always better than the movie” comes from. No movie maker can duplicate the combined imagination and interface of writer and individual reader. What happens in the space called reading is uniquely personal and potentially magical.

As solitary as reading appears to be on from the outside, surprisingly, it’s actually a relationship and an alliance. Thanks to authors like Kingsolver and many, many others, there are countless opportunities to be part of of such creative adventures.

Long live the written word!

Categories: Books, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Taste of Wisdom and Insight


Today I’m sharing some quotes that resonated with me when I read the book, “Let’s Take the Long Way Home” by Gail Caldwell.  This is a book I recommend to anyone.  In fact, I think it’s time I reread it myself.

Cover of "Let's Take the Long Way Home: A...

On Being a writer:

“If writers possess a common temperament, it’s that they tend to be shy egomaniacs; publicity is the spotlight they suffer for the recognition they crave.”

“…not without reason did an old friend refer to me as the gregarious hermit.  I wanted the warmth of spontaneous connection and the freedom to be left alone.”

Insight about Relationships:

“It took me years to grasp that this grit and discomfort in any relationship are an indicator of closeness, not its opposite….we had great power to hurt each other, and because we acknowledged this weapon we tried never to use it.”

“dying doesn’t end the story; it transforms it.  Edits, rewrites, the blur and epiphany of one-way dialogue.  Most of us wander in and out of one another’s lives until not death, but distance, does us part – time and space and the heart’s weariness are the blander executioners of human connection.”

The Real Reality:

“…the world as we see it is only the published version.  The subterranean realms, whether churches or hospital rooms or smoke-filled basements, are part of what hold up the rest.”

About Dying:

“Suffering witnessed is a cloudy and impotent world: The well, armed with consciousness, watch a scene they cannot really grasp or do much to alter.  Suffering is what changes the endgame, changes death’s mantle from black to white.  It is a badly lit corridor outside of time, a place of crushing weariness, the only thing large enough to bully you into holding the door for death.”

Enduring Loss:

“Caroline’s death was a vacancy in the heart, a place I neither could nor wished to fill.”

“like a starfish, the heart endures its amputation.”

Categories: Books | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

It’s Gratituesday! Booking It Big Time.

It’s Gratituesday!  Today I am thankful for school librarians and bookmobile drivers/librarians.  These are the people who helped me find the already written words that would shape the person I would become.  The results of their labors would probably surprise them.


Bookmobile (Photo credit: revger)

One of my most vivid memories of the bookmobile which came to our elementary school not often enough, in my then young opinion, offers evidence of the twists a guiding hand can take.

The general guideline, the bookmobile driver/librarian said, was that books at your eye level were the books you would be able to read easily.  My eyes scanned the shelves running the length of the bus-sized van, and my body turned to look at the back of the vehicle filled floor to ceiling with books.  I wondered if I could ever read them all.  Then my body turned a bit more to follow the rows of books toward the driver’s seat and found bookshelves even tucked in near there.

I read some of the titles at my eye level.  Thin books, with chapters, large printing.

I let my eyes wander above eye level and saw fat spines, bulging with words in small print. I swear I could almost hear voices saying, “read me, read ME, choose ME!”  But then I had a vivid imagination.  I let my hands run along the base of that shelf, fingers brushing the spines of the above eye level books.  That touch was a promise I was making to them, that I would be back, soon, to take them off their shelf and home to mine for a visit, a get to know you week, a sleepover.

That first day I was a dutiful student.  I selected books at my eye level and envied the tall kids in the class.

Next time!  Next time the traveling library pulled in beside the artesian well water fountain and opened its doors to me, I would be ready.  I would write my name and stamp the card for one of those bigger kid books and I would read it all. I would practice what to say to the driver when she protested my book choices.

I wanted tall stories, wide vistas, big characters.  I would have them and so much more.

How grateful I am for those additional choices the bookmobile brought, especially when the school library had exhausted itself on me. The salvation of a bookmobile visit over summer break was sometimes all that got me through those long summer months.

Well, that may be exaggerating it some. But then, it seems I’ve always wanted more than the average.

I am thankful for that mental meals-on-wheels filled with books, filled with other worlds, filled with wonders.

Categories: Books, Gratituesday | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Books! Glorious Books!

Gathered for the IHR Headphone Roundup

Gathered for the IHR Headphone Roundup (Photo credit: Derek K. Miller)

Audio-books are my new drug of choice.  A year or two ago I would have told someone they were crazy if they suggested I would become a fan of this particular medium.  I am hopelessly and forever in love with the heft and smell and feel of physical books.  The act of turning a page, the mere anticipation of the turning of a page, is a seductive thing for me.  But it’s also more than the physical experience of reading a book with my own eyes that I’m enamored by.  What really holds me is the story, the characters, the descriptions, and most importantly, the sense that an author has read my own personal library of experience and put words to emotions I’ve had.

Staying Connected

In order to keep that connection with the written word, in the face of a schedule that laughs at the idea of reading time, I have become one of those people walking around with white wires hanging from both ears for about eight hours a day.  Dweeby, I know.  But it keeps me sane in the face of mindless repetition, numbing background noise and the sense that my life is full of silliness.

And really, it’s no different than that time in second grade when my teacher had us sitting in the alcove, cross-legged and captivated as she read aloud from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House in the Big Wood.”  I was enraptured.

Decadence is a good thing, sometimes

Being read to is luxuriant, decadent, lyrical.  It’s better than listening to music. Some readers are performers extraordinaire!  Some readers are less so, but all make the words accessible to those of us whose hands and bodies are otherwise occupied.

The classics are particularly well suited to being read aloud.  The longer sentences, the flowing recitation of scenery and costume and events are like a cinematographers tools.  I feel like a witness to a masterpiece being created one paint stroke at a time.

A Short List

Here’s a short list (not comprehensive) of some audio-books I’ve recently enjoyed that I would recommend wholeheartedly.  Explore a little, try one on for size, listen while you make dinner, do the dishes or clean the bathroom.  Listen as you fall asleep.  Listen in the car. Enjoy!

I’m always on the lookout for the next great listen/read, so feel free to share any you’ve heard that could be added to this list.

Places to access audio-books: (some of these are free!)

Your local library

Categories: Books | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

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