"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, November 25, 2019

TTT: Books I am Thankful for

Top Ten Tuesday: My gratefulness extends to books this week. Here is a list of books I am thankful for:
REPRISE from November 2017...

1. The Bible. I thought I'd get that out of the way "in the beginning" (yes, that is a pun!) This book is a life-changer.

2. Pride and Prejudice. I know. Everyone loves this book (and movie) but honestly this book and all of Austen's novels have really helped me as a reader...to not be afraid of reading classics; to understand that there is a good feeling of accomplishment when one finishes a challenging book; and recognizing that it is OK to love a book and reread it when I need it.

3. Ten Poems to Change Your Life by Roger Housden. When I discovered the Ten Poems series by Housden suddenly poetry was revealed to me. In his books Housden highlights ten poems and explains aspects in each against modern life. I read and reread these books for inspiration and I am no longer afraid to read poetry, in fact I crave it.

4. To Kill a Mockingbird. No book speaks to me more about being an ethical person  than TKAM. Atticus Finch is not only a good lawyer but an excellent parent, someone I try to emulate in my life. Plus, I love Scout and Jem.

5. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds, Western Edition. Bet you weren't expecting this, huh? I consult my bird book often as I sit and look out at the backyard when birds visit it. I love identifying a bird I haven't seen before.

6. The Chronicles of Narnia. I loved this series as a child. I read them to my children when they were little. We read them together after they grew up. I am grateful for all the positive moments spent with these books.

7. The Worst Best Christmas Pageant Ever. My mother read this book to us when my sibs and I were kids (actually the book was just a short story from a magazine at that time) and I have read it aloud for my family every Christmas since I had a family. I am grateful for special moments spent with family and special books.

8. Looking for Alaska. Before I became a teen librarian I hadn't been reading YA lit as a practice. I remember my first year of torturous book talks since I basically had no books to talk about. Then I read LFA by John Green. I was blown away by it and realized that YA lit had a lot to offer. The book also won the Printz Award that year, so I became aware of other fantastic books through that gateway.

9.  Cold Sassy Tree. If you have read my blog for years, you will notice that I list this book often because it is the book which brought me back to reading. I read a lot as a child and a young teen then basically abandoned reading (except books for classes) until I was around 30. Then I read this book. It blew me away and whet my appetite for reading good books.

10. Burial Rites, or my current read. This book represents my gratefulness for the book I am currently reading. There are so many great books and when I start a new one, I am always grateful for authors who think up the stories and write them down,  for publishers who make them available for readers, and for libraries where I can get them for free.

What books are you grateful for?


This week I am to talk about some of my favorite nonfiction titles and what makes them so great.

I really enjoy reading narrative nonfiction. What is that, you ask? Well, I used to tell my students that the facts are told in a story format so reading these nonfiction books often feels like you are reading fiction. I also enjoy learning something new. It makes reading interesting to me if I enjoy the format AND learn something new along the way.

Some of my favorites:

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt (pub. 1994)
"A beguiling and seductive reading experience." Set in Savannah, Georgia this is a murder mystery with a cast of quirky characters. It is hard to believe that this is not fiction. It really happened. This is one of the first nonfiction books I read after becoming a teen librarian and I was blown about by the genre. I liked this so much, I opted to read another narrative nonfiction selection by the same author, The City of Falling Angels, about a fire and troubles in Venice.

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown (pub. 2013)
"The Boys in the Boat is an irresistible story about beating the odds and finding hope in the most desperate of times—the improbable, intimate story of nine working-class boys from the American west who, in the depths of the Great Depression, showed the world what true grit really meant." Even though everyone knows that the boys won gold, the writing was so spectacular I found myself worried that they wouldn't. This was an excellent book club discussion book.

The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America by Timothy Egan (pub. 2009)
"Egan narrates the struggles of the overmatched rangers against the implacable fire with unstoppable dramatic force. Equally dramatic is the larger story he tells of outsized president Teddy Roosevelt and his chief forester, Gifford Pinchot. Pioneering the notion of conservation, Roosevelt and Pinchot did nothing less than create the idea of public land as our national treasure, owned by and preserved for every citizen. " We live in the Pacific Northwest and have driven past Pinchot National Forest. My husband and his father have both fought forest fires using a tool designed by one of the forest rangers highlighted here. I have enjoyed all the books I've read by Timothy Egan.

In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson (pub.2000)
"Every time Bill Bryson walks out the door, memorable travel literature threatens to break out." Set in Australia this book is sure to charm the most casual reader. Bill Bryson's books are not only informative they are hilarious. I find myself laughing out loud at many points in this and all his books.

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the F.B.I. by David Grann (pub. 2017)
"In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian Nation in Oklahoma...And then, one by one, they were killed off." David Grann inserts himself into the story in that he goes to Oklahoma and interviews relatives of the slain Osage members. This book is both interesting and maddening in equal measure. It is another excellent book club selection.

Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War by Mary Roach (pub. 2016)
"Grunt tackles the science behind some of a soldier's most challenging adversaries—panic, exhaustion, heat, noise—and introduces us to the scientists who seek to conquer them. " I've read five or six of Mary Roaches books and all of them are so informative yet hilarious at the same time. This one also has many very gross parts, but I was not off-put by them.

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson (pub. 2014)
"Just Mercy is at once an unforgettable account of an idealistic, gifted young lawyer’s coming of age, a moving window into the lives of those he has defended, and an inspiring argument for compassion in the pursuit of true justice."My note on this book is that all of humanity should read it. Watch Bryan Stevenson's TED talk, too.

The Library Book by Susan Orlean (pub. 2018)
"On the morning of April 29, 1986, a fire alarm sounded in the Los Angeles Public Library." Orlean researches not only the fire but the history of the library and attempts to uncover the mystery of how the fire was set.

I could go on and on but I'll stop. I can recommend these books without any hesitation to most readers. Consider selecting a nonfiction title for your next read.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Review and quotes: Virgil Wander

Title: Virgil Wander by Leif Enger

Book Beginning quote: 
Now I think the picture was unspooling all along and I just failed to notice. The obvious really isn't so--- at least it wasn't to me, a Midwestern male cruising at medium altitude, aspiring vaguely to decency, contributing to PBS, moderate in all things including romantic forays, and doing unto others more or less reciprocally (1)
Friday 56 quote:
The dog romped hither and yon, the kite string hummed like a prayer in my head, I had access to stories not remembered in years (56).
Summary: Virgil Wander, an average guy living in Greenstone, Minnesota, nearly dies when the car he is driving leaves the road and flips into Lake Superior.  He was saved but had a severe concussion. His neurosurgeon warned Virgil that recovery would be slow but also assured him that he would likely regain most of his motor skills and eventually his words would return. Virgil is very aware that he can no longer communicate the way he used to. Words, especially adjectives, seem to elude him especially right after the accident.
He [the doctor] was correct about the language. Within weeks certain prodigal words started filtering home.They came one at a time or in shy small groups. I remember when sea-kindly showed up, a sentimental favorite, followed by desiccated and massive. Brusque appeared all by itself, which seemed apt; merry and boisterous arrived together. This would be a good time to ask for your patience if I use an adjective too many now and again—even now, some years on, they’re still returning. I’m just so glad to see them (5).
When he returns from the hospital to his apartment above The Empress movie theater, which Virgil owns, he walks around looking at his clothes and furniture and it doesn't feel like his home anymore. From that point forward Virgil refers to himself as the "previous tenant." And, like many people with head injuries, life indeed does need to be renegotiated. Virgil finds himself more willing to speak his mind. He doesn't put up with bad behavior that he would have tolerated with before the accident. He makes new friends, and makes a difference in his community. He even gets up the nerve to follow his heart and asks his woman friend on a date.
I had a sudden horror that she might, after all, do something else--- she might have other plans , might've committed to being with other people on Christmas Day, instead of being with me. The previous tenant would've borne this bravely, would've expected it, embraced it, shouldered up under it. A proper stoic him---me, I couldn't stand it (200).
Leif Enger's Peace Like a River is one of my top ten favorite novels. When I realized that this favorite author had written another book, after a long hiatus, I had to read it. The plot isn't exactly riveting: an average guy, living in a small town in Northern Minnesota, has a life-changing accident which gives him a chance for a redo. Not only does his life change, but so do the lives of many other folks in his community. What a cast of off-beat characters, too. There is Adam Leer, the most famous person from Greenstone, who seems interested in assisting in the town's revitalization. Alec Sandstrom, a beloved minor league baseball player who many believe is really not dead, though he disappeared years ago. Alec's beautiful wife, Nadine, and his son now grown, who barely remembers his dad. Rune, Alec's father, comes to the town to get to know his son through Alec's neighbors. Rune makes and flies kites which draws people to him. There is a down-on-his-luck handyman and a sheriff who is tired of chasing down criminals and voles. The town finally decides to call it's three-day festival 'Hard Luck Days', because, well, that is how things seem to be going for everyone in town. There is even a little and a possibly catastrophic situation which provides a mystery that needs to be solved along the way.

Enger is a wordsmith. The first sentence (Book Beginnings quote) made me laugh out loud. In fact, I started the audiobook and within a few minutes of listening decided to start over but this time when my husband was with me, knowing he would enjoy the wordsmithery in Virgil Wander as much as me. I was right. As we listened we found ourselves laughing out loud at many turns-of-phrase. At one point Virgil makes a comment about how romance, even for an adult, can make a person feel like they are back in junior high. I found the thought so funny we had to pause the CD to allow me time to get the giggles out of my system. I've included more quotes from the book than usual to give you a better sense of the writing. We really enjoyed the audiobook. MacLeod Andrews does a wonderful job as the narrator. He has a charming Minnesotan accent which seems just perfect.

And in the end, though nothing monumental happened, characters are happier and have grown in appreciable ways. I appreciate the thought from this quote about choosing to throw yourself at the future---
I loved that kite, that cinnamon hound. We were old friends. I had soared and laughed with that kite. It got me out on the perimeter. I felt I had failed it somehow...It broke the line and caught the next gust out of town. A perilous beautiful move, choosing to throw yourself at the future, even if it means one day coming down in the sea (258). 
I found the book an easy and fun read (listen) and I have already recommended it to my mother, sister, and daughters. 

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

 RHS Book Club upcoming selection for sometime in 2020.


Monday, November 18, 2019

TTT: Changes to my reading habits since I retired

Top Ten Tuesday: Changes to my reading habits since I retired over two years ago

1. As a teen librarian I used to read mainly YA titles. Now that I am retired most of my selections are not YA, though I haven't given up them completely.

2. Because I now have some extra time on my hands I have volunteered to be a Cybils Award judge for the past two years and will be participating as a second-round judge again this year.  Cybils= Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards. I've been a judge for Junior High/Senior High Nonfiction books. Last year I had to read over 60 titles in less than three months. I learned so much along the way.

3. I listen to fewer audiobooks than I used to because I used to listen to them during my commute to work. Now that I am not commuting I try to listen to audiobooks while I walk the dog but I just don't get through as many books in this format as I used to.

4. I am more likely to not finish books that I don't enjoy than I used to. I guess I don't feel like I have to answer to anyone anymore except myself.

5. I have read a whole lot more board books since retirement and becoming a grandma happened simultaneously. This is pure joy for me, rereading books I read to my daughters when they were little and discovering new gems.

6. I have started several personal challenges.
7. Surprisingly, I now read more books from my own shelves. I guess this shouldn't be surprising since I used to have a whole library at my fingertips. Now I have to drive to get to the public library. Why not just grab a book here in the house already?

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Review and quotes: The Canterville Ghost

 Title: "The Canterville Ghost" by Oscar Wilde

Book Beginnings:
When Mr. Hiram B. Otis, the American Minister, bought Canterville Chase, every one told him he was doing a very foolish thing, as there was no doubt at all that the place was haunted. Indeed, Lord Canterville himself, who was a man of the most punctilious honour, had felt it his duty to mention the fact to Mr. Otis when they came to discuss terms.
Friday 56 (from Chapter 6):
"Good heavens! child, where have you been?" said Mr. Otis, rather angrily, thinking that she had been playing some foolish trick on them. "Cecil and I have been riding all over the country looking for you, and your mother has been frightened to death. You must never play these practical jokes any more."
"Except on the Ghost! except on the Ghost!" shrieked the twins, as they capered about.
Summary: "The Canterville Ghost" was Wilde's first published story. It was originally published in two parts in the Court and Society Review in February and March of 1887. When the Otis family move into Canterville Chase they were forewarned about the ghost that haunted the place and indeed the very first night in their new home, they notice a spot on the carpet that the housekeeper assures them is blood but one she is unable to remove. When Mr Otis is able to remove the stain with Pinkerton's Champion Stain Remover they think all will go well. But the next morning, the stain is back. Several nights later the ghost decides to scare the new tenants to death. But when he breaks out his rattling chains routine, guaranteed to give anyone a fright, he is met by Mr. Otis himself holding a small bottle of Tammany Rising Sun Lubricator. He urges the ghost to use it unsparingly and the squeak should go away. From that point forward the whole family finds ways to flummox the ghost, who continues to try all his tricks at haunting the house and scaring the family. Now the trickster is having tricks played on him and he doesn't like it. One day the oldest daughter, Virginia, happens upon the ghost and decides to help him instead of playing another trick on him. For her help, she is richly rewarded.
As the ghost enters the room, a bucket of water tumbles onto his head to the delight of the twins.  Illustrations by Wallace Goldsmith, 1906.

Review: I really can't read horror novels or short stories because they honestly give me nightmares. But I decided to give "The Caterville Ghost" a try since I got a free copy of the audiobook/story and it is short. If I didn't like it, I figured, I wouldn't have wasted much time. I found, to my delight, that the book wasn't scary at all. In fact, it is quite funny. If you are looking for a funny ghost story, here it is.

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

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Nonfiction November: Be the Expert

This is week three of Nonfiction November. The question of the week is what books, on a theme, make me an "expert". I put expert in quotes because I do not feel like an expert, but I will recommend these three books on MORTALITY.

1. Being Mortal by Atul Gawande---the author is a physician and a son of aging parents. Each chapter tackles tough topics that people who are aging, and their caregivers, have to confront near the end-of-life. The book is so helpful. I listened to the audiobook, bought a copy for my parents, and urged my siblings to do the same. My husband used some of the suggested conversation tools with his father prior to his death. We are all mortal. We will all die. The question is can we die on our own terms?

2. The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe---Schwalbe and his mother form a two-person book club after she is diagnosed with cancer. Schwalbe makes time in his schedule to take his mother to doctor appointments and for her chemo treatments. During the long, waiting around hours the two discuss books they have both decided to read. In the process of reading and discussing these books the mother-son team become closer and Schwalbe becomes an advocate for his mother's care. I think we all wish we could spend quality time with our loved ones before their death. This book is a blueprint for doing just that.

3. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi---the author, another doctor, is diagnosed with lung cancer. This book looks at mortality from both the doctor's point of view and from the patients'. The book is heartbreaking because we see the downfall of health and tightening up of dreams. Kalanithi dies before the book is finished so his wife takes up the task of finishing it for him. If you think that life is long and you don't need to worry about your mortality until a later date, this is a book to jar that notion loose in your head. No one knows when their time will come for self or for loved ones. Live your life accordingly.

Oddly all three books have very boring book covers.

Do you know any good books on the topic of mortality?

Monday, November 11, 2019

TTT: Favorite bookmarks

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite bookmarks.

I use any scrap of paper which is convenient when I need a bookmark. Often the hold notice from the library ends up being the paper I use. But if I think ahead I will grab an official bookmark, or an unofficial one.  See what I mean below.

1. I often use my ticket stubs from plays we've attended. I laughed when I found the CATS ticket this week since we saw that play over ten years ago.

2. I created these bookmarks for Jane Austen Week in the library. They each have a quote from one of the books by my favorite author. 

3. I like fancy bookmarks. Who doesn't? The one on the left is a homemade one with cut paper design. The Japanese kimono-wearing girl was purchased at the UN gift store in NYC many years ago. She is still protected by plastic wrap.

4. I often cut up greeting cards making the scraps into bookmarks. In fact, this is probably the most common type of bookmark that I use. When I went searching for examples today, however, this is the only I could find. It is from a birthday card given to me and doctored by my husband. So sweet.

5. I collect bookmarks where ever I go: bookstores, libraries, museums, and gift stores.

6. I was given a bunch of these bookmarks when my birthday gift arrived: my thumbprint made from titles of my favorite books. I don't love the bookmarks but they remind me of something I do love. 


Friday, November 8, 2019

Review and quotes: Mother Daughter Me

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

The book I just finished reading (with a summary and review):

Title: Mother Daughter Me by Katie Hafner

Book Beginnings quote: (from Prologue)
My longing for her was always there. What I wanted more than anything was my mother's attention. I plotted and campaigned. I hatched plans. I pleaded. Then, just when I thought I had her, she would slip from my grasp.
Friday 56 quote:
"She's a teenager," I say quickly. Anticipating a rebuttal I have no desire to hear, I take the unusual step of cutting my mother off. "Mom, you have never raised a teenager." We're both a little stunned as we take in the implications of what I've said. Then she looks me squarely in the eye. "You're right."
Summary: The author, Katie Hafner, decides to move her mother in to live with she and her daughter after the mother's long-time boyfriend is moved into a care facility. The only problem is that Ms. Hafner and her mother haven't really lived together since Hafner was ten and she removed from the mother's home due to neglect brought on by alcoholism. When the move goes smoothly Hafner rejoices that she will finally have the relationship with her mother that she has always wanted. But it doesn't take long from this notion to be dispelled. Hafner's daughter and mother are at odds almost immediately and the author has to admit that she has latent feelings of anger left over from a childhood of neglect. The book probes the depths of their family life and looks forward to a future that neither one predicted.

Review: Mother Daughter Me is a memoir written by Hafner in real time as her mother moves in and as they try to navigate living together after a lifetime of pain and neglect. Hafner, who used to write for the New York Times, is a good writer and I felt pulled into her world immediately. I cheered on their efforts to make things work out but wasn't surprised when they called the new living arrangement quits before the first year was out. I kept thinking about the Stevenson quote, "Are we the sum total of our worst acts?" Hafner's mother was a horrible, neglectful, alcoholic when Hafner was young. When she finally got clean and sober, Hafner was grown and living on her own. Yet, Hafner and her older sister could not quite get rid of their past memories and to some degree want to punish their mother for what was. The mother's reaction to her daughter's nonverbal cues, that she was still a screw-up, were predictable. 

I am not sure I would have read this book if it weren't a book club selection. That said, I know we will have a lot to talk about at the club meeting. One of the questions I hope to probe is the notion of care. When people aren't good parents to their children isn't it natural that these children don't want to care for their parents in old age? I also want to discuss the deleterious effects on children of divorce. When Hafner reads a book on this subject she finally finds some of the answers she has been seeking. The last question I hope gets asked is how might the writing of this book helped or hurt the new relationship between mother and daughter. As I read I kept wondering how Hafner could remember conversations and feelings about current events so clearly. Then at the end of the book, she reveals that she started writing it before the mother moved in with them. Her publisher thought it would make for an interesting book---the melding of three generations under one roof. Though not a favorite book, I think it has a lot to say about our relationship with our parents and how those relationships change, and should change, as we age.

SOTH book club, November selection
Nonfiction November selection

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Nonfiction November, week 2

Well, hello! I missed week one but here I am participating in a nonfiction reading challenge for the month of November, and this is week two. This week's topic: Pair nonfiction titles with matching fiction titles. I decided to narrow it down even more. This week I am listing nonfiction and fiction titles on similar themes by the same author.

Themes: LGBTQ and Mental Health Issues

Themes: Rape and Depression

Theme: Native American Issues

 Theme: Spirituality, finding one's way

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

TTT: Audiobooks I've listened to this autumn

Top Ten Tuesday: Theme---Autumn

These are the audiobooks I've listened to this autumn so far:

  • 1. Inland (my current audiobook)
    • by Téa Obreht
    • read by Euan Morton, Edoardo Ballerini and Anna Chlumsky
    • My thoughts so far: The book is set in Arizona territory in the 1800s. All three of the voices and the text seems like they derive from a different century which brings the book to life.
    • Audio Sample
  • 2. Ask Again, Yes
    • by Mary Beth Keane
    • read by Molly Pope
    • My thoughts: My husband and I listened to this book in the car, which requires good sound and clear audio. Pope does a great job with the narration.
    • Audio Sample
  • 3. Akata Witch 
    • by Nnedi Okorafor
    • read by Yetide Badaki
    • My thoughts: Akata Witch is set in Nigeria. Badaki is Nigerian-American and her accent makes the setting and the characters come to life.
    • Audio Sample
  • 4. The Canterville Ghost 
    • by Oscar Wilde
    • read by Robert Degas
    • My thoughts:The Canterville ghost thinks of himself as terrifying but when the new family moves into the house, they aren't afraid of him at all. Degas does a hilarious job reading this ghost story.
    • Audio sample
  • 5. American Spy 
    • by Lauren Wilkinson
    • read by Bahni Turpin
    • My thoughts: I've listened to several books read by Bahni Turpin and really enjoy her narrative voice. As mysteries go, this one is pretty unique.
    • Audio sample

  • 6. The Nickel Boys 
    • by Colson Whitehead
    • read by J.D. Jackson, with acknowledgments by the author
    • My thoughts: J.D. Jackson has one of those deep voices I could listen to forever. This is such a disturbing book based on a real situation. I'm glad the listening experience wasn't torturous, too.
    • Audio sample
  • 7. If Beale Street Could Talk 
    • by James Baldwin
    • read by Bahni Turpin
    • My thoughts: Another book narrated by Ms. Turpin. She sets the mood of the story with her voice and her timing.
    • Audio sample
  • 8. The Library Book 
    • by Susan Orlean
    • read by Susan Orlean
    • My thoughts: I usually don't like authors to narrate their own books but Orlean does a very good job. Maybe because this book is nonfiction, there is no need for theatrical interpretation. If you haven't read this book, I recommend it.
    • Audio sample