Archives for posts with tag: reading

I’ve always noticed and appreciated sculptures that greet visitors of public libraries.

But lately whenever I visit a different library, I am in awe; and even when I visit the same library over and over again, I stop to admire the sculptures and how they capture the beauty of reading and the library itself–a special home open to all to share and receive that which lies within the library walls.

Recently, I visited a library that was new (to me). I’m on a mission to obtain as many library cards as I can whenever we go to a nearby city and it makes sense. Although, it may not be convenient to physically check the books out from certain more distant locations, I gain a new library card, and online access to e-books and audio books. I enjoy visiting each of the library webpages to learn about new books and librarian recommendations.

These are just a couple of the sculptures from two different libraries. It’s always fun to see the vast differences in how an artist captures the magic of reading and the libraries.

A book that comes to mind is Know the Past, Find the Future: The New York Public Library at 100. It was one of my first free downloads, when it was available for free, when I purchased my first Kindle reader. I still need to come back to it and finish reading the reflections by various people on their favorite books from the collection.

Here I sit at the local coffee shop,
a circular construction, tables all around,
waterfalls in the background, trees reach
wide around the space, making me feel as
though I’m in a treehouse, and for these moments,
I feel free, at ease, childlike–
in my element.

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A few weeks back I went with only one bag, ready to fill it with orphan library books. It was that time of year again when the library takes stock, unloading its shelves of books that will find happy, new homes. I’ve perused Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project in the past, but didn’t immediately jump to action.

When I saw a beat up copy of the book staring out at me, I thought now seems the right time to dive in, figure out some more simple pleasure that I can add to my list and find new perspective in the familiar. There was a “Damage Noted” sticker on this one: “ragged, readable.” I taped up the front and back cover to reinforce it to get more use out of it before it starts to fall apart. I found some other books; I could’ve taken more bags, but I made a deal with myself that one bag was enough. I did also end up carrying a few books under my arms.

I’ve been dipping in and out of books. At one point I was going to pick up, in book form, where I left off in the audio version. I didn’t recognize anything, then I realized it was the wrong book and felt better. I sometimes worry that I’ll start losing track and cross plots and characters amongst the books I’m juggling. I’m usually pretty good about keeping it all separate. It’s challenging though, in the sense that I yearn to get back to one book, then another pulls me in, and that other one over there is saying, ‘read me, read me.’ All these books are vying for my attention.

Sometimes I know right away if a book and are will get a long really well; other times, I need to keep going a little longer to see if we’re a good fit. And still other times, I will feel satisfied right where I’ve stopped–forcing a new ending because another book is calling.

One book I almost gave up on is Antoine Laurain’s The Red Notebook. I’m so glad I didn’t. Month’s ago I started reading it, then put it aside. I had also downloaded the audio and started listening to it, then back to reading it–then perhaps it was being in one of the small bookstores looking through the tables of recommended books, and just maybe it was the woman nearby, also looking, searching, whom looked to me and said I loved this book, have you read it. I looked and because it was the hard cover, I didn’t immediately recognize it, then I said, “well, I started it, but haven’t finished it yet. I do believe it was her nudge that brought me back to the audio version. A sweet love story, that talking about, is making me want to go back for a visit.

One book that I recently downloaded is A Concise Chinese English Dictionary for Lovers. It’s different, in the way it’s organized through words–through the words the protagonist is learning, sprinkled with Chinese sayings. It has intrigued me and I think I’m in for the long haul. I want to see where this goes, how the language and thought process develops, how it ends.

Traveling through books is one of my favorite pastimes and also reading about peoples lives. I don’t always know whose lives will pull me in, wanting to read more, wanting to get to know the person more, read (hear about their experiences).

A couple of these that have recently come to my attention are Take Off Your Shoes: One Man’s Journey from the Boardroom to Bali and Back by Ben Fender. I am looking forward to traveling alongside Mr. Fender and his family. I’ve read up until the point where the transition begins and am happily awaiting getting back to the journey. The writing is clean and already I feel like I’m just beginning to know his family.

Driving Miss Norma: One Family’s Journey Saying Yes to Living by Tim Bauerschmidt and Ramie Liddle. How could I not be inspired by a 90 year old woman, who is diagnosed with uterine cancer, and decides to say yes to life , join her son and daughter-in-law on an adventure on wheels, living out the time she has left in what may possibly be her last hurrah.

I came across these books from the daily BookBub email that I signed up for. I have found out about many great deals from them. It’s great!

http://www.bookbub.com

I came across the book, The Novel Cure while I was looking for another book in the library shelves. I like the concept of being prescribed a book for what ails you. I also like the idea of being introduced to books that I may not come across or some that I’ve read to see what the ailment was. A fun one to flip through.

Here I sit, writing in my journal, one of my tippity-top forms of happiness and one of which I’ve been depriving myself from enjoying.

Here I sit feeling the cold on my arms,
feeling my muscles tense with the chill.
One last sip from my teacup,
minty freshness perks my senses.
I hear the television in the background,
the aroma of someone’s hearty dinner wafting in the air,
happiness found in the tap tap tap of fingers on the keyboard,
as thoughts connect with words connect with the page,
making the day feel alright.

When I first learned of this book a few years ago, I never would have expected what I found within its pages. I appreciate snails, but I never imagined that I would want to keep reading of the companionship that one humble snail would offer to its newfound keeper and continue learning more. The writing is beautiful in an understated way. The descriptions of the author’s country home and nature transport, and the details allow the reader into this intimate space.

I never feel Elisabeth Tova Bailey feels sorry for herself in a way that takes away from her story or journey. I feel a kinship with her and her snail who becomes the shining star in this memoir because of her strange, debilitating illness, that comes upon her suddenly when she’s on her way from her travels to home.

I love that each chapter is headed by a haiku or quote that ties in nicely to each chapter. It’s true, this small book does indeed feel like a “delicate meditation on the meaning of life.”

A gentle and beautiful read that I’m happy to have stumbled upon.

There’s something that I’ve always found exciting about grab bags or–now–these blind book dates, something about being surprised, not knowing, figuring it out, finding something you might not have.

So, I had my first ever blind date with a book two weeks ago. The local bookstore has been doing this through the month of July. Donate a small amount of money, and take a book on a date. I don’t make it to this particular bookstore all that often; who knows how many opportunities I missed.

An assortment of books vied for my attention, all wrapped in the same brown paper outfits with a single clue written upon them. The one I chose had this clue: Australia late 1940s–novel re: renewal & moving on. I couldn’t wait until I got home to carefully peel the wrapping off to see which book would be waiting. Upon unwrapping the mystery book, the title that looked back at me was, The Railywayman’s Wife by Ashley Hay. I had never heard of it. By now, it’s been a few weeks, and I’m happy to report that the date was a success. I only got through the first 25 pages, but I was interested in the family and wanted to learn what would happen next. With so many other books competing for my attention, I plan on returning to its pages soon.

Next, I was off to find a book of my choosing. I love reading about books and especially why certain books are important to other readers, so I couldn’t pass up, The Books that Changed my Life: Reflections by 100 Authors, Actors, Musicians, and other Remarkable People by Bethanne Patrick.  I am throughly enjoying it and am purposefully taking it slow, although, it reads quite fast. I want it to last a while longer than it might normally. Already, there are several more books that I want to read because of this book and others that it has reminded me of.

I’ve since been back to the store because I had a coupon to use. I saw a book that seemed like it would be funny. It was between it, the funny one: Dating Tips for the Unemployed or Keep Me Posted. I wish would have gone with Keep Me Posted. As I started reading more of the other one, once I owned it, there just wasn’t a connection. The book and I were definitely not a match, which I should have know, but I was really looking forward to something funny and different. I had flipped through it in the store, as I usually do, but somehow, I was hoodwinked. I like trying new things; this one just didn’t work out.

I went on two more blind book dates. One was a memoir and the other was science fiction, both new books to me. The memoir wasn’t to my liking and the science fiction book sounds interesting, but the first few pages didn’t pull me in as much as I would have liked. I may have to come back to that one when I’m in the right mood.

If I see other bookstores that offer blind dates with books, I will most definitely be participating! And the money goes to a good cause.

It’s ironic that I’m reading more since I’ve been taking classes to complete the A.A. in accounting. Better late, than never. Now that our living situation is different, after work I go to the library almost everyday to study. Usually I only take one class per quarter because it’s all that I have the energy or focus for; however, I’m getting close and have decided that I will take two courses next quarter begins. Summer session is almost done and I finally get a small break before the Fall quarter. At this point, I feel like I’m doing this A.A. degree more for myself than anything. I’m viewing it as a small attempt to provide a cushion if I should find myself somewhere else, and it’s also a challenge that I can afford to take-and must take.

I remember blowing on dandelions when I was a kid; I don’t remember thinking of them as clocks. Today, my daily calendar has a close up photo of a bunch of dandelions with the caption, “Dandelion clocks await a child’s puff of breath.” Today this is really special to me because, amongst other books and audios, I’m listening to Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 and Bradbury Stories: 100 of His Most Celebrated Tales. I’m also wanting to revisit The Illustrated Man.

When I see the dandelions this morning, I see Ray Bradbury. I see Clarisse holding the dandelion up to Montag’s chin. And I remember that when I was in a writer’s group for a very brief moment, one of the writers told me that I should read Dandelion Wine after having read one of my snippets.

I don’t have a strong tie to my own childhood and the dandelion, but after returning to Bradbury, and the dandelion that turns up in his other stories, I feel a real resonance and connection to him. So now when I see dandelions, I see him and I’m reminded of childhood-the childhood that I know he speaks about but haven’t yet read in Dandelion Wine. I think of what a remarkable person that I imagine he was, and of course, a great writer and storyteller. I appreciate how open he is about sharing where the seeds of his stories began.

I knew that if I didn’t come to the page, in this moment, that this moment would fly away just as the seeds of a dandelion, and that sometimes you just have to stop what you’re doing and GO. To be in the moment, lest it fly away, blow into the wind.

Yesterday I spent the whole day reading. It was a delight. It felt good to have the day free without the interruptions of a regular day. School begins again on Monday. I’ll only be taking one class, but I know that because that will be my focus, pleasure reading or any kind of reading will have to slow down again.

I’ve gotten on a bit of a YA steak lately. I listened to an audio: Counting by 7’s by Holly Goldberg. It was an enjoyable story with quirky characters, particularly Willow Chance, who is also highly intelligent, and a foster child whose parents have died; she is left with an odd set of circumstances and people that help her put her life back together.

While I was reading an issue of Bookmarks magazine, I learned of a movie that will be coming to theaters soon. It’s based on the book by Katherine Paterson called The Great Gilly Hopkins. I know that I want to see the movie, and in this case, I wanted to read the book first. I was glad to be introduced to this book that is meant for the middle-school reader. I couldn’t put the book down. It was a quick read. Gilly Hopkins has been in and out of the foster care system; she is feisty and sometimes a downright mean young lady. The ending is bitter-sweet. I can’t wait to see how the movie version of this book plays out.

I was in the mood for something by Kate DiCamillo, so I chose The Tiger Rising. This was a beautiful short piece about a boy, a girl, a tiger–a story about love and acceptance. It touched my heart.

And the book that I spent yesterday reading was A Step Toward Falling by Cammie McGovern. There are a handful of quotes of praise on the back cover of this book and I would say that one stands out and made me want to start reading it: “This is a book to read, savor, and pass on and on until it has gone around the world twice.” –Ron Koertge, author of Stoner & Spaz. A Step Toward Falling is worth the time.

For non-YA fiction, I am pecking away at Neil Gaiman’s: Tirgger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances. I love that in the introduction he gives a short bit about how each story came about. I am enjoying the stories so far.

I also finished The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells by Andrew Sean Greer. I’m not usually drawn to time travel novels, but for some reason on the day I was browsing the library bookshelves, this one caught my attention. I enjoyed every page of this story that was split between three periods of time in New York. I could not put it down.

I continue to find new books to add to my list.

I recently broke down and purchased the Kindle Paperwhite to add to my collection of Kindles. I now have three and each serves its purpose. The Paperwhite has made it much faster to search for books both in the Kindle Store and in my own collection; and now it’s much easier to read where there is low light. It’s also refreshing to be able to see the book covers. I have accumulated far too many books on my second Kindle and was feeling overwhelmed and not being able to get to them all. I’m trying not to clutter this Kindle with too much at one time.

Here we are in 2016, and even though it will take me a long time to finish it because of other things, I have begun reading The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens. It is so easy to get lost in his beautiful language and story telling. The way that he creates images that stick in my mind never ceases to amaze me.

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Easing into this quiet Saturday, the morning dove coos in the background as I update my books read/in process list in Evernote. It’s where I keep titles and dates because I want to be able to have another spot to look back at my progress and see what pulled me in and when. I quickly scan over the 2014 list and am happy to see the long list of books, most completed, some left unfinished with short notes as to why I abandoned the book. Many titles I’ve forgotten about, but when I see them, I remember the stories and feel happy that I entered so many different places, met many characters, laughed, cried, felt deeply touched at times, connected.

And then there are some titles, that when I see them, I do remember the title itself, but not a thing about the story or characters. This bothers me. I know that I’m not alone in this. But I wonder why there are some stories that go forgotten, as though we never read them, never encountered the characters or their experiences. There are books on the list that I cannot forget and that from time to time I remember when something occurs in my day to draw it back. There are stories that I’ve wished that I could love, stories that sounded like they’d be fantastic, but because of whatever reason, maybe the style didn’t fit with my mode of receiving or maybe I didn’t like how the dialogue was going. Sometimes it’s so subtle. I know when I simply can’t enter a book even though I want to because it feels like it could have been, but never was–at least not for me.

One book in particle that I see on my list that I wanted to love is The Reading Promise by Alice Ozma and Jim Brozina. I’ve attempted to finish this book at least three times. How could I not be lured to the end by a memoir of a young girl and her Librarian father who make a pact to read aloud for 100 nights?

Last I updated my notes in Evernote, I left off on page 71. Usually if I begin a book, and it’s completely and utterly pulled me in, I will finish it; and I’m usually reading several books at one time, dipping in and out of where ever I want to be in the moment. I did like the book. There were parts that stood out and kept me going, but there was something about it, that kept me from wanting to continue. I feel that because I love books and libraries, I will need to finish this book one day. I need to keep going and continue where I left off no matter what. I used to keep a spreadsheet of my book reactions. I stopped doing that, but have been wanting to get back to it. I don’t usually make many notes in Evernote, but for this book, I wrote “Interesting but too many other books to read right now.” That was back in September of 2014.

So that gives me a sense and brings me back to thinking that maybe the book just felt a little bit too slow for me and maybe it felt like it would be a memoir told from an adult perspective, and it is, but it often felt like it was told from her younger self, which I suppose I wasn’t expecting. So when I enter the book again at some later time, I have to remember to enter it on its own and try to suspend my judgment until I reach the end.

The morning dove stopped cooing for a while, but I hear that he is back. His coo is a welcome sound that immediately brings calm to this morning, makes me stop to follow my breath.

I haven’t posted an update on what I’m reading lately. I was just going to include the last two month’s, but then I thought I may as well post what I’ve recorded and finished to date, since it’s not that many. I get so excited about books, and I love seeing and hearing what others are reading too.

There were a lot of books that I started and didn’t finish, that I hope to come back to at some point. I’ve only listed the books that I actually completed and remembered to record.

JANUARY
Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard Von Bingen – Mary Sharratt
-I rang in the New Year reading this book. I was captivated by this story based on the life of the mystic and saint, Hildegard Von Bingen. I had no idea going into this book how much it would take a hold on me and how invested I would become with the characters.

7/29/14 – I listen to the classical radio station everyday at work and when I hear a piece that really speaks to me, I write it down. I heard an angelic song coming through my speakers, and when I clicked to see who the composer was, it was Hildegard Von Bingen. It was the first time I’ve heard her music. Listening to her gave me goosebumps.

Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
-There are numerous classics on my list. I can’t believe it took me so long to read this one. I loved every minute of it.

Read this! Hand picked favorites from America’s indie bookstores – Hans Weyandt, Editor
-How could I resist this one!

Voltaire’s Calligrapher – Pablo De Santis
-This was an interestingly strange sort of mystery.

Thousand Cranes – Yasunari Kawabata
-This was a beautifully told story centering around a tea ceremony and the subtleties of human nature. Beautiful and sad. It made my heart ache.

FEBRUARY
Kokoro – Natsume Soseki
-I can imagine how this story about a young man who befriends an older man that he calls Sensei may not be for everyone. The story made me contemplate how it must have felt being Sensei and all that he had to keep secret from his wife and how he couldn’t live a full and true life. When I came to the last page, the last words, I felt a deep sadness.

The City of your Final Destination – Peter Cameron
-I think I came across this book from one of the books on books. I was pleasantly surprised. It’s a book about love, through and through.

MARCH
Yes, Chef: A Memoir – Marcus Samuelsson
-I like watching Chef Samuelsson on the food show, Chopped. This book was featured on my book a day calendar–I couldn’t resist. It gave me a peek into his life and what it’s like trying to make it as a chef. This was a treat to read and gave me a more rounded perspective of just who Chef Samuelsson is and where he came from.

The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde
-What a wonderful piece of literature. I actually started this in the spring of 2013 and finished it this year. I sped through the first half and for some reason set it aside until March of this year. This is a book that I will reread in the future.

APRIL
James and the Giant Peach – Roald Dahl
-I missed Dahl in my childhood, so I have some catching up to do. Delightful, of course!

MAY
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl

The Chaperone – Laura Moriarty
-I was whisked into the story of Louise Brooks and her chaperone, Cora. The story and characters came alive for me, and there was a surprise that caught me off guard; it made the story that much more interesting.

Philosophy Made Simple: a Novel – Robert Hellenga
-I mostly enjoyed this novel, but had mixed feelings. I had favorite parts.

The Cats Table – Michael Ondaatje
-A story about a group of boys that form a friendship on a ship bound for England. I felt as though I was along during this adventurous ride across the ocean. Beautiful writing.

Supermarket – Satoshi Azuchi
-I remember being in the library searching through the A’s to see if any titles caught my attention. This was one of them. Who knew that I would be so enthralled by a work of fiction about the workings of a Japanese supermarket, but I was. The characters drew me in, as well as the internal struggles, and the relationships.

JUNE
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore – Robin Sloan
-What a fun adventure this was!

Terms and Conditions – Robert Glancy
-This is a witty novel with plenty of black humor. It fit my mood when I found it. I finished it in one sitting and found myself laughing a lot and thinking how clever this book was. I loved it!

The Apartment – Greg Baxter
-There isn’t much that goes on: A nameless man and a woman he met search for an apartment. I was drawn into the language and the bits of insight throughout. As I neared the end, I felt the story sneaking up on me. I appreciated the subtlety of this short novel.

Dying Words – K. Patrick Conner
-I don’t remember where I first learned of this book, but it’s been in my Kindle as a sample for a while now. Graydon Hubbell, somewhat of a curmudgeon, is an obituary writer at the San Francisco Chronicle. He finds out that he has cancer, but wants to work for as long as he can. A touching novel with a good amount of humor to balance it out.

JULY
Kafka on the Shore – Haruki Muralami
-I wasn’t sure if I was going to like Kafka on the Shore, so it was a great surprise and absolute treat when the story hooked me. I thoroughly enjoyed the parallel stories and how they came together. This was a magical book that had a little bit of everything.

The Writer’s Afterlife: A Novel – Richard Vetere
-An entertaining story that writers will especially appreciate.

When I read with S, the first grade student that I read with, we finished a story about an egg that a boy found and watched hatch. “What does hatching mean?” he asked.

I turned back to when the duckling first began to crack out of his egg and said, “well, see here, it means the duckling is breaking out of his egg. He’s ready to come out into the world.”

“Where’s the mama duck?”

“This little story only gives us a part of the story. The mama must have gone away and left the one egg there to hatch.”

“How do you know the mama duck left the egg. Could it have been the dad that left it? How can you tell if animals are mamas or papas?

“Well…” I started to smile, looking at S’s animated face, full of energy, curiosity, and wonder, standing at this point, but still at my eye level while I was seated.

“Maybe you should ask your parents.”

“We have two dogs. I asked about them.”

“What did they say?”

“They said that they chose.”

“Ah, so that’s what they said. So they didn’t exactly answer…”

I was trying to keep it together, but I reverted back to what happens in uncomfortable situations, where I know how I can tell the difference between a boy dog and a girl dog, but I can’t say it to this first grader, so I start laughing, but I can tell he’s not taking it personally or badly. And luckily he didn’t think it too strange that I burst out laughing.

When I had gotten the nervous laughter out of my system, he said, “No, really, how do you know?”

“You know what? This is a very good question, S. And I’m going to try to find a book that helps explain and shows us how we know.”

“That would be cool! Yeah, if you can bring a book next time, but you don’t have to. But if you find one…”

**

Our reading time came to a close and I walked S back to class. On the way to work, driving down the road, past some apartments, I saw a female turkey with her feathers spread out in a full fan. She stood still, trying to get the attention of two male turkeys that were at the edge of the grass. Who knows how long she would be waiting.
**

When I got back to the office, I wrote a quick email to the public librarian asking for any books that may discuss the differences in female and male animals, differences that relate to their plumage or other such characteristics, something appropriate for a first grader. I appreciated their frantic search; they weren’t able to find exactly what I was looking for, but did point me in the right direction.

In the meantime, I did a quick google search for a few animals that I know have visible differences: mallards ducks, lions, deer,–and sometimes, with certain animals, you really can’t tell. So that’s all I have for now and we can ask the school librarian, but I didn’t have time last week.

For now, hopefully, he’ll be satisfied with what I’ve got when I see him next, which is not much. At least I can provide him with some pictures of ducks, deer, and lion, that show one way we know.

“I wanna to be a toad so I can stick my tongue out and eat all day.”
–First grader

Because of scheduling changes I have been switched from reading with a few second graders to now first graders. Walking into the first grade room was utter chaos. Every inch of wall was covered in letters, numbers, pictures. There were clusters of children working on different things. Loud noise was booming out of the tape recorder where a group of students was listening to a book on tape. The room was abuzz of chattering children all seeming to be speaking in one long chain of vibration. Another table of students where each student was cracking an egg into a bowl. My senses were overwhelmed. And on top of it all, it was pajama day, so I think this may have added to the frenzy.

The teacher was kind and calm. She asked how I’d like to be referred to, since I had given my first name to her when she asked. “Ms. Rebbecca is fine,” I said. She introduced me to the first student I would sit with. “S, this is Ms. Rebbecca. She is going to listen to you read. Here take your books with you. See you in a little bit.”

With the second graders, I had selected books for the students to choose from. With the first graders, the teachers send them with their packet of books and word lists for review. This works out well. I may occasionally bring along a book that may be of interest. I’ll have to see where the rhythm falls, how it unfolds.

The boy student was quite a character. He made me laugh and was not shy about talking. When I asked him which book he wanted to read first, he said for me to pick it. He chose the next book. It was so nice to see him pull the book from his packet, his eyes widening, and say “this is one of my favorites, I love this book,” and he read it to me. Since he knew this one well, and it was a rhyming story, he read it with ease.

It was time for me to take him back to class. As we were getting ready to leave, still full of energy in his manner of speaking and twisting his body, he said,

“I don’t like school.”

“Why don’t you like school?”

“Because it’s a lot of work. You’re an adult. You don’t have to do anything.”

“Well, I go to work after this.”

“Work–adults just move things around.” He made a motion of moving papers around on a desk. “That’s not work. School’s a lot of work. I wanna be an adult so I don’t have to work so hard.”

“Well, you’ll be an adult one day.”

“I wanna be a toad, so I can stick my tongue out and eat all day!”

“Ah, you want to be a toad…”

The recess bell rang as his last thought trailed off. We exited the library as students dribbled out to the hallways. We approached the door to his classroom–back to his world of work.

As I took a short walk during recess before returning to sit with the last student of the morning, I couldn’t stop smiling at the utter beauty and innocence of childhood and catching glimmers of my own elementary school memories, albeit quite dusty.