Posts Tagged With: reading

Excessive Blushing and Twirling and Other Book Club Oddities

It’s Gratituesday! My book club drives me crazy. But in a good way. So, yup, today I’m thankful for book club.

Why, you ask. Why would your book club drive you crazy? And if so why do you continue to attend?

One of my all time favorites.

One of my all time favorites.

For seven years now we’ve read and discussed a handful of books. Eighty-four at most, since we read an average of twelve books a year. We’ve read fiction and non-fiction, memoir, self-help, religious, parenting, classics, recent releases, young adult, and yes, admittedly, even some romances.

My favorite meeting of the year happens in January when we pick our upcoming reads. It’s a process that’s evolved. Some books make repeat appearances until the proponent wears us down and we give in and read the thing. Others get voted off the island for reasons as odd as “it’s too long,” to “we’ve already read one like that.”

Don’t tell anyone, but I don’t always read every book on the list for the year. And even more surprising, if I haven’t finished reading the book by time we actually discuss it, I most likely won’t finish reading it. (I also hardly read any of 2014’s books, but then I didn’t read as much as I usually do either.)

Shhhh…I think the book part of book club is somewhat secondary.

The snacks definitely add to the experience and can make or break a book club night. (Just kidding, but it’s a nice addition.) One person does a full-on dinner for us, themed around the book we’re discussing. Impressive, don’t you think? I’m happy if chips and salsa or any kind of chocolate makes an appearance.

I think the people come in as the best part of book club.

Our group has morphed over the years. I’m not sure how many originals still attend. I miss some who’ve moved away or moved on. I didn’t like my bestie Kathy much when I first got to know her through book club because, frankly, I was jealous that she read more books than I managed to. What a prolific reader. Every new person who attends adds a twist to the group that shapes discussions and makes a difference.

There’s been young mothers, grandmothers, single women, a male or two, empty nesters, stay at home moms, people who work full-time, people who work from home and occasional visitors we hardly know a thing about. We’ve invited spouses to a few discussions and teens to a couple as well.

Photo By Tom Murphy VII (Own work)

Photo By Tom Murphy VII (Own work)

It’s fascinating to watch all these diverse personalities interact. Some haven’t read the book at all and are simply relieved at the chance to interact with live adults. Others have a definite agenda they want to discuss. Serious readers come and go, not really thrilled with our eclectic choices and off topic discussions, I suspect. Others seem intent on self-improvement. Some try to get a sentence or two in and get drowned out by louder voices. I might go one month and say almost nothing, just observing mostly. And then another month I might be the one solitary voice of dissent in a room of twirling blushing romance novel swooners. (I’ll never live that one down.)

I’d like to think I could have a one on one discussion about almost anything with any one of these book club members. It’d be easiest if we discussed books and reading. But surely there’s other possible connections that go deeper than the written word.

I’ve participated in a few after-discussions that turned out way better than the actual meeting. Smaller groups naturally have an intimacy and openness about them that invite more listening and less jockeying.

There’s definitely some holding back on strong opinions and some reservations about real open discussions. And there’s some unfiltered stuff that just spills out all over the place. It can get messy in a room filled with women.

Willi Heidelbach [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html),], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo by Willi Heidelbach [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html),]

I wonder at times what would happen if some of us stepped back and listened more and talked less. I wonder how safe each member feels sharing anything close to the bone. Maybe it’s happened a bit. Some of us joke around as a defense mechanism sometimes, I suppose. Some of us don’t say what’s really on our minds. Some try to and get glossed over. It’s group dynamics at work. Maybe we need to read a book about that topic.

I adore the different people there. I see my much younger self in a couple of them. I see qualities to admire and emulate in every single person in the group. I try to set aside my uppity English major self and just be a normal human who can and does enjoy variety.

This year’s book selections include three self-help/inspirational books, one memoir, one regency romance, (cough) four based on true events, and three fictional books. Should be interesting!

It’s good for me to throw in some different flavors I wouldn’t necessarily choose on my own. Book club makes me a more well-rounded person.

And once, it made me dizzier. Or ditzy. But that’s another story.

Categories: Books, Gratitude, Gratituesday | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Discovering Paradise

“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” ~ Cicero

It’s Gratituesday! Today I’m grateful for libraries.

Elementary school provided my first introduction to a library. Ours resided on the stage attached to the gymnasium. We entered via stairs on one side and exited via the stairs on the other. I recall waist-high shelves, closely stacked and poor lighting. Books all grouped together in one room made me feel kind of giddy, even back then.

Empty space on the shelf? Say it isn't so!

Empty space on the shelf? Say it isn’t so!

An old house served as a community library in the town next-door.What once served as bedrooms, a kitchen, a family room, transformed into meandering corridors of books. The open hours posted seemed almost random and hardly long enough to wander, pick some books and check them out. By then Mom knew enough to screen what books I picked, ten and eleven is a bit young for Clockwork Orange, don’t you think?

A few years later I discovered the city library. (How long had that been there? And why wasn’t I told about it sooner?) A proper building, several stories, iconic, white stone and temple-like, complete with hushed tones inside. Stepping inside I felt worshipful and closer to the reading Gods if there exists such a thing. Every book I’ve read since then that has a library as a character/place, I picture as this edifice, this homage to the written word.

This quote captures how I began to feel about libraries:

“I attempted briefly to consecrate myself in the public library, believing every crack in my soul could be chinked with a book.” ~Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible

At University I stood in awe before a complete set of the Oxford English Dictionary. I knew I’d arrived at the mecca of knowledge and wisdom. Endless stacks ran maze-like and beckoned me to lose myself in there. An entirely separate building housed the law library, the place a serious student wanting no distractions whatsoever would retire to for study and contemplation.

Because proper reading requires feet up.

Because proper reading requires feet up.

Now we live less than a mile away from our town library, an architecturally beautiful building that dwarfs the books and shelves they live on. Huge windows look out on my beloved Riparian Preserve, instilling a sense of sanctuary in this noisy and echoing chamber. Seldom does quiet reside there. Libraries now serve more as community gathering places, media centers, toddler racetracks, an escape from home, a place to come in out of the heat. Books seem almost an afterthought. Maybe the librarians simply want to draw people in with a kind of “if you build it they will come,” idea. Offer all sorts of tempting tidbits mixed in with the m eat and potatoes of books and hopefully reading and learning will occur and keep the world sane.

Maybe that’s what T.S. Eliot meant on saying:

“The very existence of libraries affords the best evidence that we may yet have hope for the future of man”

I seldom wander the stacks, choosing instead to “place my order” online for books I want that get shipped in from libraries around the valley for my convenience.

Occasionally I’ll grab a couple of current months magazines and sit, my feet propped on the lovely log footrests to relax, perusing gardening tips, recipes and travel suggestions. But I get restless, the stack of books I reserved whisper my name, anxious to become acquainted in stolen moments, late night hours of lost sleep, waiting in lines, when other pressing matters linger.

Today's hopeful pile.

Today’s hopeful pile.

Today I did browse and picked up a volume of poetry and a second Alice Munroe volume. I have three weeks, and three weeks more, up to five renewals unless someone requests one of them. I’d like to think I’ll read two or three a week, it’s been such a drought of reading these past few months. But I have one book from our personal shelves I started, one online book I promised to proof months ago, and a few gifted tomes I’d also like to delve into.

Such a decadent life I lead, surrounded by my own books, stories swirled throughout my childhood, novels seasoning every month and year, libraries making words available for free. FOR FREE!!! Amazing!

Grateful doesn’t begin to describe the feeling for today. Graced, blessed, rich beyond compare, for I have libraries in my life.

 ~~~~~

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” ~Jorge Luis Borges

An eternity of reading? Sounds nice.

An eternity of reading? Sounds nice.

Categories: Books, Gratitude, Gratituesday | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Long and Winding Road to Here

My parents invested in an encyclopedia set not long after they married. As a bonus to that purchase they also received “The Bookshelf for Boys and Girls,” a set of nine red volumes of stories, folk and fairy tales, poems, nursery rhymes, songs, history, crafts, and science.

Mom read to us often from those books. I recall sitting on her lap or beside her as the words that accompanied simple line drawings came to life. Occasionally an illustration filled an entire page with bright colors and the words faded into the background as I imagined myself into the story.

photo 1-2Even on days when my mother didn’t have time to read, I still looked through the books, drinking in the drawings, remembering stories and poems, planning which ones I wanted her to read next. We wore those books ragged, until the bindings broke down and pages tore and went missing. To this day I love Aesop’s tales and the simple rhymes of early childhood.

A decade ago, while perusing shelves at a small local used bookstore, I ran across a complete and unsullied set of these books. You can only imagine my stunned and delighted response. If they had cost ten times as much as I paid I would have still bought them. As it was, they were a steal. I consider those volumes some of my dearest friends and most cherished possessions. They serve as a link to my tender childhood years and a witness to my love of all things written.

A love of reading and anything to do with words settled securely as the foundation of who I would become because of the time my mother spent reading to me. Her willingness to let me rifle through those pages without worry over how gentle I was or how pristine they might look on the shelf, also planted a seed of familiarity and comfort with the written word.

photo by  Richard Benson

photo by Richard Benson

Occasionally as a young’un I’d see a child’s printing set for sale somewhere and my coveting genes kicked in. I craved the opportunity to hand print a book, letter by letter, word by word with a black stamp pad and alphabet stamps. Obviously I had no concept of what such an ominous task would require. Coming up with the money for this desired prize never happened, so a self-stamped, self-published book stayed a distant, unreachable dream.

I adored attending school, learning new things, from early kindergarten, “we walk on the right side of the hallway,” and onward from there. I also adored my teachers as they held the keys to knowledge whose doors I so very much wanted to pass through.

In first grade our teacher gave an assignment that I ran with. “Write about other things you can do with a pencil beside writing.” I filled my page rapidly with idea after idea of uses for a simple pencil. I felt as if I’d invented some clever, never before conjured ideas. The next day our teacher read my little essay to the class. Such pride never before filled a child’s heart as mine did that day. Then the teacher told me I had “a very creative mind” and that she “expected great things” from me.

In response I threw my all into writing assignments and anything requiring even a modicum of creativity. This lasted well beyond first grade.

Writing became so ingrained in me that when I hit those confusing years between twelve and eighteen I turned to the written word to make sense of it all. I filled notebook after notebook with whatever was cruising through my head. And at that age, one’s head spins at incredible speeds. My journals became my best friend, my confidant, my therapist, and my outlet for stress of all kinds. I’m not sure how other kids survive their teen years, but I got through mine using a number two pencil and reams and reams of paper.

I spend what seems like too much time right here.

I spend what seems like too much time right here.

Then in college one professor in particular praised my writing with abandon and kindness. This professor encouraged me to put a few more years behind me and then write like mad. I’m afraid I put a few too many decades behind me before I let myself go crazy with my writing. Those decades can fill volumes though, if I’m only brave enough and creative enough to put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard.

Five years ago I sat next to a young woman at a volunteer day. She struck up a conversation with me that led us to learn that we both loved writing. She suggested we form a writer’s group. I thought it sounded like a glorious plan. She had the chutzpah to follow through and find a couple of other women to join us. We four started writing five years ago last month, and haven’t stopped.

All these experiences have taught me something about myself that I hardly dare think out loud and yet I’m about to say it here, in public.

I am a writer.

I owe thanks to a mother who read to me, a set of wonder filled books, a teacher’s praise, a strange but effective coping mechanism, a professor’s encouragement and my writer’s group. Thanks to such a convergence I proudly refer to myself as a writer.

I write so that I know what I’m really thinking. I write so that others can see things through a slightly different lens. I write so that someone can say, “ah, that is exactly how I have felt.”

Mostly, I write because I simply can’t help myself.

**********

 

“Everyone has talent. What’s rare is the courage to follow it to the dark places where it leads.” ~Erica Jong

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Relationships, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Dear Reader: A Letter to Me

April 7, 2014

Dear Me,

Last night after searching Netflix and Amazon Prime for a movie to watch with MSH you left the family room with a rerun of The Twilight Zone playing. Sure, MSH felt slight disappointment that you didn’t want to watch yet another science fiction program, but you’ve never like Twilight Zone, not even any of the remakes.

Former reads.

Former reads.

Remember how you sat down in your comfy chair in the bedroom, put your feet up on the side of the bed and cracked open a new book someone had loaned you? “Mmm…ahh…” Yes, you remember. What a feeling to start reading a new story. You were so excited to begin that you forgot to bring a snack in with you. No sunflower seeds, no ice cream, no popcorn, not even a bit of chocolate. Of course, you were only going to read the first chapter or two and then turn out the lights and call it an early night.

Something happened in that first chapter, or maybe the second, it’s hard to remember now with half a night, and half a morning, of sleep behind you. Looking down at the page numbers, surprised to see that you were in the low hundreds already, you kept reading. Well, you thought to yourself, it’s a YA, young adult book, so it’s a quicker read than most. It doesn’t feel very late. I’ve probably only been reading about an hour. But the clock on the nightstand faced the bed, so you couldn’t see the time and frankly, didn’t care.

You were fully invested in the story, the words, the lives described, the town, the plot, and the nuanced epistolary style of the book. (You remember epistolary? You’re tired today, so I’ll remind you that it’s a book written as a series of letters.) This novel felt more like you had stumbled on someone’s ribbon-tied stack of opened mail to a loved one than a book from a shelf. How could a person put down such a stack of letters mid-pile? Impossible. And so, you kept reading, letter after letter, word after word, and surprise after surprise.

Letters. A thing of the past?

Letters. A thing of the past?

MSH came in to the room after a while. Was it past midnight already? He’s such a night owl, he does his best thinking and programming after you’ve gone to bed. A trait you will never understand in people, as you’re a definite morning person. He laughed at you and said, “are you still reading?” and you laughed back and asked, “you’re not coming to bed already are you?” You wanted to stay where you were and keep reading, not turn down the lights and read like a child sneak-reading under the covers. And you didn’t want to jinx the magic by finding some other comfy spot to cacoon in for the rest of the book. Luckily, MSH found another something to keep himself occupied. You continued to read.

A smattering of books, some read, some waiting for discovery.

A smattering of books.

The thing is, it wasn’t really like reading. It was more like following along while someone thought aloud. Or watching from a distance and hearing everything that went on. You wondered, in the back of your head, how a writer accomplishes that. But mostly, you were so much a part of the story that you couldn’t, wouldn’t, mustn’t stop reading. It would make as much sense as stopping breathing, which is really difficult to do.

The last words of the book crossed your eyes. You hesitated, ran your hand across the page, held it there. What were you hoping for? A sensation transferred through fingertips of the author’s final thoughts? Whispered, unwritten words that the narrator might still wish to pass on to those who are listening with an extra measure of attention? Some feeling of completion, a symphony to accompany credits, a promise of another book?

Something intimate happens between reader and writer, in spite of, or maybe because of the distance paper and ink provides. How else to explain the desire, the drive, to meet the author of certain books? What you want is to meet the characters. Yes, I know what you’re feeling, you want to begin or continue a discussion with those very real characters, find out reasons, background, what happens next, more details about chapter eight, a recipe from chapter fourteen. Whatever little unfinished bits remained, you want more of them.

When you finally closed the back cover, running you hand over those words and illustrations, you let yourself set the book down on the nightstand. And then you simply sat. Remember any of your thoughts? No. Not surprising. You were returning from a journey of weeks, months, years, that had taken a mere four or five hours. You’d traveled through time and space and back past through who knows what science fiction-like means and had returned, intact, whole, and yet changed in subtle and significant ways.

Do you remember pulling the covers up around your ears and snuggling into the pillow? No, you don’t because your mind had wandered back inside the book and carried you dreamlike and floating through that town, the story, to the people. Of course, as dreams do, it all jumbled up with odd real life details. By morning, late morning, since you let yourself sleep in after staying up far too late, you’d lost the sweet vacation essence of the book and found yourself back in reality.

A day of to-do lists and sunlight stood at the door, quietly tapping its foot as you dragged yourself out of bed.

What’s next?

A day or two of no reading. After such sweetness as last night’s book, nothing more will satisfy. In fact completely satiated and full to the brim, you may not need another book for four, or even five days. You might find yourself searching for other books by the same other. That wouldn’t surprise us in the least.

Now, you’ve reveled long enough. Close the door on that book and move on. You have much to do. If you’re productive enough, you might allow yourself a short nap later on.

Welcome back.

Sincerely,

Me

 

Categories: Books | Tags: , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Bookmark That!

Book lovers have their quirks. One of mine involves dog earring pages of books I own. Blasphemy, some of you may think. But to me a dog eared book is a beloved book. If I also write in the margins, or underline, or star, or highlight, then the book is even more loved.

Occasionally I can’t or don’t want to dog ear a book. Librarians get fussy and really don’t like it when you squinch those corners down. And for that I need a bookmark.

One of my favorite bookmarks shows a squished Garfield with his quintessential thought bubble, “I thought you’d never open this book again.” I think I’ve had this since college. It’s in pretty good shape.

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This next bookmark, made of leather, was a gift from my friend Kathy. She brought it back for me from a cruise she went on couple of years ago. It’s not the place or the bookmark but the person it’s from that makes it priceless.

20130908-143505.jpg

Just yesterday I met the author of The Rent Collector at a book signing. Camron Wright also gifted the bookmark, actually hand signed by Sang Ly, the woman whose life the book is loosely based on. You can rest assured I’ll treasure this one for ages. If you haven’t read this book yet, do so!! Find it as fast as you can, read it. Don’t put it off. You’ll thank me. What a treasure!

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Here’s a handcrafted piece of artwork by my daughter. Loaded with love in a book she gave me for my birthday.

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Pressed flowers from a home-grown garden in Minnesota made this bookmark an extra special gift.

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And this one. A gift bookmark made by one of my daughters who is also an avid reader and chocolate afficianado.

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Best one word piece of advice I ever saw in a bookmark.

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More often than not the bookmarks I use are whatever is at hand when something else demands my attention. An envelope, a sticky note, a piece of paper torn off something, a ribbon, a paper clip or even a pencil. This book, from the looks of the Christmas themed notepaper marking my place, was getting read near the holidays. I find the book it sticks out of kind of ironic, or coincidental. Not sure if I learned much from the book, but friends and most people do bring me joy.

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Marking up books so I can find stunning passages, or underlining brilliant bits of wisdom, or dog earing a page I want to find easily and quickly, are all just ways of letting a book feel the love right back at it. I find it odd that I, apparently, have a relationship with my bookmarks as well.

Here’s the last one I’ll share with you. Crafted by my daughter it captures my sentiments exactly.

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When it comes to books, I suppose I’m just a basket case. Or would that be a book case?

Categories: Books | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

The Real Beginning of It All

“I am beginning to learn

that it is the sweet, simple things of life

which are the real ones after all.”

– Laura Ingalls Wilder

This woman, this writer of real things, of simple, ordinary days, of frontier life, of chores and one room schoolhouses of family, struck a chord in me that still echoes.

Author Laura Ingalls Wilder used her experienc...

Author Laura Ingalls Wilder  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A story of life in the woods captured my heart as seven-year-old and has held me prisoner ever since.

I made a mistake when I listed my favorite books. How could I have left off Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder? That book changed my world forever. That book triggered my insatiable craving for words.

Every book since then must measure itself against this one book.

Some fall short with a thud. Others nearly reach the high standard set here. A few rarities exceed the mark.

If I could reach into the past and meet “Half-pint” I would hug the stuffing out of her. Thank you for your life. Thank you for writing it all down so well. Thank you for providing a key to countless worlds and lifetimes.

Sweet and simple. Real.

Laura Ingalls Wilder. Master storyteller. Writer. Woman extraordinaire.

Thank you.

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

Best Books Ever, At Least for This Week

Someone asked me for a list of my favorite books. Or maybe it was, “If you were stranded on a desert island with only three books…” I don’t know. They demanded a quick answer and I had none.

Happy Children Playing Kids

(Photo credit: epSos.de)

May as well ask a mother to pick a favorite child.

Apparently, I’m just a fraud, masquerading as a literary aficionado.

And yet if someone knew nothing else about me they’d need to know that I. Love. Books.

When we pack up to move, the book boxes outnumber the kitchen boxes. Surely I have a shelf of favorites. Actually, I have categories of favorites. And not just genres. Books are favorite reads because of character development, or amazing descriptive writing, or a compelling storyline. Books are favorites because I recognized myself and my quirks in a particular character, or because the writing felt familiar and comfortable. Favorites find their way into my heart through no reasoning whatsoever. Some are such masterworks of genius I read them just to remind myself that such art and perfection exists.

My yearly goal is to read twenty-five books. (That’s two a month plus one for we math illiterates.) That’s been going on for upwards of thirty years. And some years I read much more than that. Being conservative, that’s 750 books I’ve read as an adult. As a kid and a teen I read like most people breath and I didn’t keep track of them. A book a day during the summer, perhaps? Given that impossible to estimate number, lets round it up to a thousand books I’ve read. Narrowing that down to ten favorites seems impossible.

Just as a sort of point of honor, I read all of these before they became movies, or musicals, or whatever else they’ve morphed into.

Yet, in the spirit of answering last night’s book club question, here is a list of a few of my favorite books, in no particular order. (If they have a star, it’d be in my “deserted island” backpack.)

  • To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee*
  • The Thirteenth Tale – Diane Setterfield
  • Les Miserables – Victor Hugo*
  • The Book Thief  -Markus Zusak* (Surprising narrator)
  • Last of the Mohicans – James Fenimore Cooper*
  • The Time Traveler’s Wife  – Audrey Niffenegger
  • Charlotte’s Web – E. B. White
  • The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon (The best first lines of a novel ever!)
  • Out of Africa – Isak Dinesen*
  • Ender’s Game  – Orson Scott Card
  • Matilda – Roald Dahl*
  • The Whistling Season – Ivan Doig* (Stunning!)
  • The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck (Yup Mr. Beck, your favorite author made the list, aren’t you a proud teacher!)
  • Ella Minnow Pea – Mark Dunn
  • Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stevenson
  • A River Runs Through It – Norman McLean* (Better than a hike in the woods)
  • A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens*
  • Banner in the Sky – James Ramsey Ullman
  • A Prayer for Owen Meany – John Irving
  • Life of Pi – Yann Martel
  • Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
  • Caleb’s Crossing – Geraldine Brooks
  • The Scarlet Letter – Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Talk Before Sleep – Elizabeth Berg (Beautifully heartbreaking)
  • Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis
  • A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
  • Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe – Fannie Flagg (Towanda!)
library shelves

(Photo credit: jvoss)

I feel like I’ve left hundreds of my beloved children behind. I also realize after reviewing my list that it’s all fiction. I do read non-fiction, they just don’t fall into my favorites lists apparently.

Simply reading the synopsis of each book will entertain you, I’m certain of it. Pick one or two that you haven’t ever read then get back to me about what you thought. I’d love a dialogue like that.

I ramped up my reading goal this year to thirty-six books. That seems reasonable. Three great reads a month. Okay, maybe they won’t all be great. But the more I read, I figure, the more likely I’ll find some real gems to cherish. I’ve read eighteen so far, so given that it’s the beginning of July, I’m right on track.

If you have a favorite you think I need to read or you don’t see here, I’d love to know about it. Please leave a comment so I can enjoy  and share the treasures you’ve found among the world of reading.

I’m always looking for another favorite.

Categories: Books | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Forgetting, Remembering, Wondering

PortalPhilosophers

Some really smart thinkers.

Have you ever wondered why we can’t remember something incredibly important, like a close relative’s name when you need to introduce them to someone, but yet you can never forget some of the most hideous, stupid, inane, mind-squinching things?

The question circles around in my head constantly the past few days.

Why, why, why can’t I annihilate gross images, scary things, disgusting stuff from my memory banks?

Why, why, why can’t I remember wonderful people, details from a red-letter day, words that hover at the edge of my brain?

Is it the shock of a particular thought or word or image that embeds it more permanently? Does the vile and vulgar register on gray matter in a more potent formula of chemical reactions? Are happy, joyfilled, pleasant thoughts less powerful, less meaningful, less memorable for a reason?

The brain, the mind, and consciousness fascinate me.

I read a book once called Sophie’s World, which in story form explained many philosophies. It seems like it might have addressed this very question. But of course, now that I want to recall those details, I can’t.

Seems it covered Marx, Socrates, Kierkegaard, Kant, Democritus, Darwin, Plato, St. Augustine, Hume, Spinoza, Floyd, Descartes, Locke, Berkeley and a few others. It’s been at least fifteen years since I read it, so it’s miraculous I remember any of this.

I’ll have to scare up a copy of the book. I loaned my out and never got it back. When I’ve gotten through it and found an answer or two, I’ll get back to you.

Did, or will this book help me with my question? I have no idea. But it has come to mind as I’ve thought about the remembering and forgetting issue. So I’m kind of going with it. Seems like it might have opened my eyes to new ways of thinking about and viewing the world and life in general.  Somehow it feels like it might help me understand my remembering and forgetting. Who knows. Like I said, I’ll find a copy and dig in and see what I find.

head anatomy lateral view superficial details

head anatomy lateral view superficial details (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Most likely I need an anatomy book, or a neuroscience book. That’d probably be more helpful, but I’m less likely to understand what I’m reading.

In the meantime, I’ll keep wondering.

And remembering. Ack!

And forgetting. Eesh!

Categories: Books, Wondering | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

I Can Never Get Enough

The Daily Post from WordPress, offered up a writing prompt that I couldn’t resist. “Tell us about a book you can read again and again without getting bored — what is it that speaks to you?”

Some books never lose their ability to instill a sense of wonder. When you own two or more copies of the same book that’s a big clue that it’s a keeper, a novel I want to read again and again and again.

The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig is just such a marvel. His prose rolls, dances, sings, pirouettes, lilts, surprises, soars and weaves magic in the air. Every page presents a fresh perspective, a nuance never thought of, the use of a word custom designed for his sentences.

Cover of "The Whistling Season"

Cover of The Whistling Season

His descriptions and explanations don’t overshadow or standout or get in the way like some writer’s “big words” tend to do. No, in The Whistling Season you’ll find yourself transported to the time and place, sights, scents and sounds of the very world he presents. Mr. Doig is a magician with words, deft, precise, entertaining and awe-inspiring.

Characters in this novel become your neighbors, your friends, your relations. You find yourself caring more deeply than you ever thought possible about a person on paper. Your heart will race, you’ll break out in a sweat, you’ll want to close the windows to shut out the weather blowing from the leaves of the book.You’ll feel as if you’re on that horse, crouched behind that outcropping, walking through that field, sitting in that very classroom.  Even more, you’ll want to wrap your arms around these people and protect them from the heartaches, the struggles, the meanness, the chill, the noise and the progression of time. You’ll have to hold yourself back from cheering, restrain your tears and keep  yourself from singing along.

Rereading The Whistling Season lets me relive a life I never actually lived. I’m transported and entranced any time I read a even a short passage from its jewel-laden pages.

If you’ve ever wondered what excellent writing looks like, feels like and sounds like, here is your chance to find out. You’ll be charmed, captivated and  bound up in the very seams of this book.

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

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

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