"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Monday, July 26, 2021

TTT: Good Books to Read AFTER a Favorite Book



Top Ten Tuesday: Good books to read AFTER completely a favorite or an excellent book.

Recently I finished two excellent books in a row. Both captured my imagination and I wanted to savor the stories before moving on to another book which would demand my attention. I found a little inspirational book that helped my transition and gave me space and time before moving on.

This is a list of books which have served this purpose, as transition books (far right). 




-Anne


Sunday, July 25, 2021

Won't You Be My Neighbor? Sermon notes.

Mr. Rogers' ministry was directed toward children but is applicable to all people.

 
Today I was guest preacher for our church service. The current sermon series is on modern stories and characters who can inform us about the kingdom of God. These are my sermon notes.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Let us pray:Let some word that is heard today be thine.” Amen

When John asked me to preach while he was out of town, he gave me a list of the books/authors he was considering for his series. I jumped at the chance to talk about Mr. Rogers, having recently read two books by/about him. But unlike the characters John has highlighted: Marvel, Harry Potter, Mr. Rogers was himself on and off the screen.

Today I’ll be talking about Mr. Rogers’ ministry to children and how he calls us all to be good neighbors.

Mr. Rogers began his career in broadcasting in the late 1950s but finally landed on PBS with Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood in 1968.

·       By that time I was a young teenager/preteen. My friends and I, who never watched the show, made fun of it, thinking it was corny and old-fashioned.

·       It wasn’t until I was a mother with young children that I actually watched it myself and discovered that the irrepressible charm of the show was its simplicity and its loving message of inclusion.

·       Often I would find myself weeping as the girls watched the show for the sweetness, simplicity, and respectfulness of his message.

Did you know that Mr. Rogers was an ordained Presbyterian minister and his work on television was his ministry?  (I wonder how many committees had to meet to approve that?)

·       Here’s another fun fact: He never once mentioned God on his show, yet ALL of his words and actions spoke of his great love for mankind, especially children.

·       His actions and consistent messages spoke more of God’s love than the words of most Christians today.

·       His television neighborhood gave him a way of sharing God’s love to children across America.

·       “The underlying message of the Neighborhood,” Rogers once said, “is that if somebody cares about you, it’s possible that you’ll care about others. ‘You are special, and so is your neighbor’—that part is essential: that you’re not the only special person in the world. The person you happen to be with at the moment is loved, too.”

o   Imagine what the world would be like if we all embraced that philosophy. I am special but so are you.

o   I’m going to return to this thought later.

·       Mr. Rogers prayed before each day of filming the simple prayer I opened with today: “Let some word that is heard be thine.”

Scripture:

As I was contemplating what scripture I’d like to pair with my message, the obvious choice seemed to be from Matthew 19:14:

·       “But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” (KJV)

·       Did I really just quote the KJV that says “Suffer little children?”

·       Mr. Rogers would never have used such confusing terms. Let me try again.

·       But Jesus said, Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”” (NASB)

o   This scripture is so perfectly aligned with Mr. Rogers’ ministry, it hardly needs a sermon to expand on the theme.

o   I think the disciples weren’t being mean about children, they just thought that Jesus’s message was meant for adults, and only adults could understand it.

§  Children deserve to hear about God’s great love for them, too.

§  In fact, what a great place to start, at the beginning of life to learn about God and Jesus and their great love for mankind. All mankind.

o   Unlike most adults, Mr. Rogers never shied away from tough subjects when talking to children.

§  He talked about death and loneliness, divorce, and disabilities.

§  In fact, when the 9-11 attack on the World Trade Centers occurred, producers on PBS brought Mr. Rogers back out of retirement to speak to the children of this country to help sooth their anxieties and fears.

§  He addressed the topic of helpers. He asked children to notice how many people there were that were helping in the recovery efforts. This was a topic or theme he often repeated “Notice the helpers.”

§  Thinking about the disciples wanting to shoo away the children and Jesus wanting them to stay, reminds me of a song Mr. Rogers introduced in 1984 called: “I like to BeTold”.

§  I can imagine Jesus singing this Mr. Rogers song about why children should be allowed to hear his message.

JuJust think about those lyrics in relationship to the scripture. Children like to know about things and when we tell them accurate information it teaches them to trust us (and God more.)

·       Mr. Rogers has a song for just about every concept he was trying to model during the episodes. In fact he sang one of the songs in front of the US Senate sub-committee that was considering axing funding for PBS. The song was about expressing feelings.

·       I imagine if Mr. Rogers were alive today, health specialists would want him to come out of retirement again to help sooth our worries and fears about COVID and vaccines. Can’t you imagine him saying or singing, “Trust the helpers” on this one?

I realized, however, that scripture wasn’t exactly the point. I wanted to make today. So what other scriptures do you think of related to Mr. Rogers?

Who is my neighbor?

Luke 10:25-37  NASB

25 And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 And He said to him, “What is written in the Law?  How does it read to you?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And He said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.” 29 But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

You know the rest of the story. The Good Samaritan story where Jesus used a parable to make a point about neighbors and loving kindness.

(For just a moment I’m going to digress.

Jesus was asked lots of times why he spoke in parables rather than straight up. His answers were always about his message being available for those who have ears to hear.

I believe that stories have a way of speaking to us so that we can make changes.

In a Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Overstory, one character Adam, a psychology grad student, is asked if resistance efforts can make a difference in saving trees and in the environmental movement. He says, “The best arguments in the world won't change a person's mind. The only thing that can do that is a good story.” Powers, the author, clearly believes that in order to change to consciousness of the peoples of the world we have to employ different techniques of persuasion.

There is power in a good story to change the hearts and minds of a people. Jesus knew this, too.)

But let’s go back to the scripture.

The man asks, “Who is my neighbor?”

But what is he really asking? Who do I need to love? In other words he is saying, I’m willing to love him if

  • ·       He looks like me,
  • ·       talks like me,
  • ·       worships like me,
  • ·       loves like me,
  • ·       is in the same socio-economic class as me

Gandhi famously said: I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

·       I don’t know about you, but I feel this way all the time when I hear of Christians behaving in very unloving, judgmental ways.

·       There seems to be no room in their hearts for anyone other than those people who are exactly like them.

·       How are we supposed to attract people to Christ when our actions actually repel people?

Let’s go back and relate this idea of neighbor to Mr. Rogers and his ministry to children (and their parents).

In the book Peaceful Neighbor: Discovering the Countercultural Mister Rogers, the author Michael Long points out that

·       Mr. Rogers’ work for the greater good did not take the form of marching, rallying, or picketing.

·       Mostly he did his work in and through his own context. Mr. Rogers didn’t march against Jim Crow; he cast black actors on his program.

·       He didn’t travel to Birmingham or Selma in support of integration; he set up a pool and invited Officer Clemmons (played by black, gay actor) to soak his feet and share his towel.

·       Mr. Rogers’ life reminds us that we can work for the well-being of the most vulnerable wherever we may be, in whatever work we do. In other words, “There are many ways to say ‘I love you.”

·       And we don’t have to trail the trappings of religiosity behind us to do it. Remember he never once mentioned God on his TV show, but everything about his being spoke of love and respect.

·       “You don’t need to speak about religion overtly to get a message across,” Mr. Rogers once said.

When Jesus asks us to love our neighbors. What does he mean?

-Mister Rogers didn’t call us “acquaintances” or “friends”; he didn’t call us “boys and girls” or “ladies and gentlemen.” He called us neighbors.

-“Neighbor” is biblical language. Jesus reminds the lawyer trying to ensnare him of this with the Good Samaritan story when he asks him, “Which one of these three was a neighbor?”

The lawyer answers: “The one who demonstrated mercy toward him.”

-By calling us NEIGHBORS Mister Rogers was calling us out of old ways and our desire for sameness, into lives of mercy and care for one another, for everyone: no matter their differences

-Admittedly, maybe he was overly optimistic.

·       Maybe he was calling us something better than we actually were.

·       But maybe he believed that if he got to us while we were young, if he told us, again and again, that we were good, that we were lovable, and that we could extend mercy, maybe we could grow into real neighbors to one another.

·       I think Jesus was saying the same thing to the young lawyer and to his disciples. A neighbor is a person who shows mercy and kindness to everyone and when better to learn how to be neighborly than when we are children?

Lastly- I wanted to come back to that opening prayer:

Let some word that is heard today be thine.”

·       People can’t hear the good news of the gospel if we speak in an unneighborly way.

·       Or our actions are not those of loving kindness.

·       Three ways to ultimate success: “Be Kind. Be Kind. Be Kind.” –Mr. Rogers.

Let’s go out and be real neighbors today…and tomorrow, and the next day…

Sing together: Won't You Be My Neighbor

Benediction:

Jesus reminds us to follow these rules:  “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself."

Mr. Rogers reminds us to BE KIND and NEIGHBORLY.

Let's go out and live that way!

 

AMEN


 

Friday, July 23, 2021

Review and quotes: WE ARE NOT FREE


Title
: We Are Not Free by Traci Chee

Book Beginnings quote:


Friday56 quote:


Summary: 14 teenagers and friends who live with their families in Japantown in San Francisco in 1942 tell their stories of what life was like for them when the Exclusion Order comes down from the government to place all people of Japanese descent living on the West Coast into Internment Camps for the duration of the war. We follow these teens as they lose everything their family owned, were transported to the camps, loss of their freedom, and then being asked to sign a loyalty pledge to the country that had just imprisoned them.

Review: I put this YA novel onto my reading list because it won a Printz Honor this year for being one of the best YA books of the year. I've read many books about Japanese Internment but none from the point-of-view exclusively of teenagers. I was struck by how normal these fourteen teens really were. They wanted to do and be the same things that all teens want -- to have friends; to be popular; to look good; to fall in love; to fell safe; to not be bothered by younger siblings; to have a sense of community; and to belong.

In the first part of the book the teens all live in the same area of Japantown, a section of San Francisco. Some are harassed by whites and told to 'go home' or are accused of being traitors. Their Chinese-American neighbors put up signs saying 'We are Chinese' so that they, too, won't be harassed. Then as the evacuation order comes down families are forced to sell everything on very short notice before they were taken to detention/processing places nearby like Camp Harmony in my town which was really the Western Washington Fairgrounds. Families lived in horse stalls and pig pens as their paperwork was processed before they were moved to newly erected "camps" where the families were imprisoned and under guard. Yet life for these teens continued. They still got crushes on each other, and looked forward to social events like dances where they would fill up their dance cards before the day of the dance. They formed softball and baseball leagues and even played games against schools from nearby communities. Then they were all asked to fill out the government pledge claiming their loyalty to America and disavowing fealty to Emperor. They had to answer yes-yes or no-no. They couldn't split their answer. This angered the Japanese community greatly. What a horrible bind they were in. Those who answered no-no were sent to more restrictive camps like Manzanar. Some of those who answered yes-yes were allowed to move out and locate somewhere on the East Coast or Midwest. Eventually the war ended and families were free to go home. But where was home and what would they have when they got there?

Traci Chee's relatives had to live through this trauma and her author's notes at the end of the book are very enlightening and moving. I learned so much and am grateful to have an additional point-of-view to consider as I think about history. For example Chee explains how the terminology that was used makes 'internment' not sound like what it was -- 'incarceration'. And the terms 'forced removal' should be used instead of 'evacuation', which makes the action seem like something that was helpful and good. Words matter. 

In the words of Redress hero Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga, “words can lie or clarify.”  When we use language that distorts the past, we lose our ability to recognize patterns of repeating history. But language that imparts truth and understanding can help us avoid repeating those same mistakes today. (Densho).

I highly recommend this book. I consumed it in the audio format which was so well done using a whole cast of different voice actors to represent all fourteen of the main characters. But I missed our on the illustrations and other visuals. So maybe use both print and audio! And, as a side note, don't you just love the cover? I do.

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City ReaderShare the opening quote from current book.
Th
e Friday56 is hosted at Freda's VoiceFind a quote from page 56 to share. 

Visit these two websites to participate. Click on links to read quotes from books other people are reading. It is a great way to make blog friends and to get suggestions for new reading material.   
   

Challenges:

  • Big Book Summer Challenge: 4th book, 401 pages
  • Audiobook Challenge: 20th audiobook  
  • 20-Book Summer Challenge: 9th book

-Anne

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

My Goodreads Project

Goodreads vs AnneReads!

Cue the eyerolls!


 I am starting another inane project. I'm calling it my Goodreads Project.

In 1997 I started keeping a book of annotated list of books I was reading in little blank book. I filled at least three of them over the years.

In 2009, around the time I started blogging, I found Goodreads (after a short stopover at Library Thing) and slowly stopped using the paper/print version of cataloging in preference to the ease of Goodreads.

Over the years I have honed my Goodreads account to be a very useful tool in not only keeping track of titles I've read, but also categories -- audiobooks, book club selections, reviewed books, nonfiction, etc. -- allowing me to do all kinds of 'sorts' when I am making lists.

Using my little books isn't as easy to use to help find titles/dates/my timely thoughts.

So...

Today I am launching into my Goodreads Project where I will transcribe the titles/dates/thoughts on books I read between 1997 to 2009 into the Goodreads database.

 Just another chore that no one cares about but me. But here I go anyway... (This one should take me awhile.) 

Update: It took me two days but I finally updated my records for 2009! One year done. And what a fabulous year of reading. I enjoyed the walk down memory lane thinking about these books and remembering what was happening in my life during that year.

Update #2: I have now completed 2008. It is odd to think that I read some of these books over twelve years ago but they are still fresh in my mind. By 2008 I was almost reading YA exclusively unless for book club and my passions for classics.

-Anne

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Are these the 'Best of the Best' Pulitzer Prize novels?


This week I've been reevaluating my Pulitzer Prize Challenge, thinking perhaps I should abandon it and just make an attempt to read the current winner each year and not worry about going back and attempting to read past winners. With this idea running through my head it occurred to me that perhaps I should check out which books are considered the best and make an attempt at reading those and leaving the others.

What I discovered after doing a little research here, here, here, here, here, here, and here, these eighteen Pulitzer Prize winning novels were mentioned the most (at least three of the seven lists) as the best of the lot. (Note: only two lists were compiled in 2020 all the rest before that date, thus few recent winners were even mentioned, obviously.) Of the eighteen books on this 'Best of the Best Pulitzer' list, I haven't read six of them and reading them now seems like a good place for me to start, or more accurately, to finish my project.

The 'Best of the Best' Pulitzer Prize Winners for Fiction


1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1961, six lists)

I read TKAM for the very first time in 2003. I loved it instantly and wondered what took me so long to get to it. I listened to the audiobook narrated by Roses Pritchard. Her voice, with a sweet southern accent, is now the voice of Scout to me. My review, of sorts.

First line: "When he was nearly thirteen years old, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow."


2. Beloved by Toni Morrison (1988, six lists)

I read Beloved in 2010 and I wished I'd been part of a college lit class so to discuss all the symbolism. It blew me away but I found that I needed/wanted help to understand it. After I'd book-talk this for my students many were attracted to the idea of its ghost story but sadly I'm not positive any of them actually ever finished it. My review.

First line: "124 was spiteful."


3. The Color Purple by Alice Walker (1983, six lists)

As a high school librarian I made an attempt to read most of the books that were recommended for students to read before they graduated. This one, read in 2009, didn't make as big of an impact on me as the play we saw in New York City starring Cynthia Erivo in 2018.

First line: "You better not tell nobody but God."


4. The Interpreter Of Maladies: Stories by Jhumpa Lahiri (2000, six lists)*

One of the reviewers on Book Riot picked The Interpreter of Maladies as her favorite Pulitzer over TKAM because she's read this short story collection over and over and it always speaks to her. 

First line: "The  notice informed them that it was a temporary matter: for five days their electricity would be cut off for one hour, beginning at eight p.m."


5. Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (1940, six lists)* 

I wasn't able to tell from the seven lists if this is anyone's favorite Pulitzer, or if it is just one book that it is agreed everyone should read. I haven't read it yet and I'm dragging my feet on it since it took be a year to read East of Eden once I started it.

First line: "To the red country and part of the gray country of Oklahoma, the last rains came gently, and they did not cut the scarred earth."


6. Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx (1994, five lists)

I was surprised to see this book on five of the lists because I thought I was the only one who loved it. It is so quirky and odd. I read it in 1997 the first time and several times since. Looking back through my blog I see I never reviewed it. But I did mention it many times on my 'lists of favorites' over the years.

First line: "Here is an account of a few years in the life of Quoyle, born in Brooklyn and raised in a shuffle of upstate towns."


7. The Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (1981, five lists)

TCOD is one of the funniest books I've ever read experienced. Hilarious! Actually, I recommend listening to the audiobook to get the full impact of the story set in New Orleans. Ignatius J. Reilly is possibly the most memorable character in literature. (My review from 2013)

First line: "A green hunting cap squeezed the top of the fleshy balloon of a head."


8. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (2015, four lists)

I not only love this book but I've done a lot with it: two book clubs meetings, an evening event with the author and I wrote two reviews of it. Check out both of them here and here.

First line: (Leaflets) "At dusk they pour from the sky."

9. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon (2001, four lists)*

Why does TAAOKAC deserves a spot on the 'best of the best' list? One reviewer said she was dazzled by it. "It wasn't just its technical perfection—physical description, character development, perspective, time shifts, dialogue, metaphor—and [Chabon] deployed them gracefully, without apparent effort, with inflections of 1940s New York and the language of comic books."

First line: "In later years, holding forth to an interviewer or to an audience of aging fans at a comic book convention, Sam Clay liked to declare, apropos of his and Joe Kavalier's greatest creation, that back when he was a boy, sealed and hog-tied inside the airtight vessel known as Brooklyn, New York, he had been haunted by dreams of Harry Houdini."


10. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton (1921, four lists)

Edith Wharton was the first female to win a Pulitzer for a novel, and only the third overall. It has stood the test of time with its story of unfulfilled/scandalous love. I read this masterpiece in 2016 as part of the Classics Club Spin challenge. (My review.)

First line: On a January evening of the early seventies, Christine Nilsson was singing in Faust at the Academy of Music in New York.


11. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (2003, four lists)

Such a complex book about many seemingly unrelated topics: life as a transgender individual, the Armenian genocide, and the Detroit riots of 1968. I listened to the audiobook in 2007 and it has improved in my memory since that time to almost epic proportions.

 First line: "I was born twice: first as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy in an emergency room near Petosky, Michigan, in August of 1974."


12. The Road by Cormac McCarthy (2007, four lists)*

My husband has read this, I haven't. His description of unrelenting dread and the nearly hopeless struggle of a father and son who survived an worldwide apocalypse was a bit off-putting, making me not so eager to start it. But I've read other books by McCarthy and I know he is a first-rate writer.

First line: "When he woke in the night and the cold of the night he'd reach and touch the child sleeping beside him."


13. The Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner (1972, three lists)

I am a Wallace Stegner fan and have enjoyed everything I've read by him. I read TAOR in 1995 and confess that my memory of it is a bit hazy though I do recall being swept up in the story and the setting.

First line: "Now I believe they will leave me alone."

14. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz (2008, three lists)

This book fairly blew me away. First, who is the narrator? I couldn't figure it out until well into the book. Then all the mysticism or fuku connected to Dominican Republic and some history of the island. Oscar is a marvelous, quirky character. I'd be remiss not to mention the footnotes. Be sure to read them. All of them. (My review)

First line: "Our hero was not one of those Dominican cats everybody's going on about -- he wasn't no home-run hitter or fly bachatero, not a playboy with a million hots in his jock."


15. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway (1953, three lists)

I was in junior high in 1971 or '72 when I read TOMATS so I have only the vaguest of memories of it. I do recall thinking it was a pretty good story after all the torture of reading it for class was done. That said I am not a big fan of Hemingway's sparse style of writing so I doubt I'll reread this one to see what I think of it as an adult.

First line: "He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish."


16. A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (2011, three lists)*

This sounds like the type of book I'd love so what am I waiting for? The BookRiot reviewer said, "I loved her book, a funky retro-current account of the music industry meets the e-age and the excellently funny chaos that ensues from there."

First line:  "It began the usual way, in the bathroom of the Lassimo Hotel."

17. The Hours by Michael Cunningham (1999, three lists)*

The Bookriot reviewer said hands down The Hours is the best Pulitzer. "Cunningham writes beautifully, and he does a wonderful job of getting in the heads of three very complex women: Virginia Woolf herself; Laura Brown, a 1950s housewife; and a Clarissa Dalloway-esque character, Clarissa Vaughn." I'm pretty sure I've seen the movie, now it is time for me to move the novel onto my reading list.

First line: (Prologue) "She hurries from the house, wearing a coat too warm for the weather."


18. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry (1986, three lists)

Having just read Lonesome Dove last year, this wonderful book is very fresh in my mind. Just about every line is quotable and I can picture all of the action in my head. At 800+ pages in length I 'lived' in the old West for weeks while I read it and I didn't want to leave when I was finished. So I gave it to my husband and had the fun of reliving the book through him. (My review.)

First line: "When Augustus came out on the porch the blue pigs were eating a rattlesnake -- not a very big one."

(*These are the 'best of the best' I haven't read.)

Now I recognize that this list is sorely out-of-date already. The most recent book to make it onto the list is All the Light We Cannot See from 2015. We've had six years of awards since that date and surely one or more of the most recent books should have at least been in contention for this 'best of the best'  list. I also realize that the lists I drew from were actually just lists of opinions. As my husband and I were discussing my final eighteen titles, he remarked that there are probably very few people alive who have read all 90+ Pulitzer Prize fiction winners, and unless a person had read them all they shouldn't be making a 'best of the best' list. Good point. And that would be me. I've only read 40 and that number includes a few of the finalists. What if one of the best books is just one we haven't read yet? One of the reviewers in the Book Riot article said she'd only read six Pulitzer winners. That is a fairly small field to pick from. So my research is flawed. Very flawed. But as I look over this list and compare it to the whole Pulitzer list, I bet I'm not very far off. Accept this project for what it is -- me trying to decide which of all the Pulitzer winners should I make an attempt to read before I close out my personal Pulitzer Challenge.

What is your favorite Pulitzer Prize winning novel?

What books from the master list are conspicuously missing? See full list here.

 

Sources used to create this list:

Decades represented:

1920s-1; 1930s-0; 1940s-1; 1950s-1; 1960s-1; 1970s-1; 1980s-4; 1990s-2; 2000s-5; 2010s-2

-Anne