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Tag Archives: books

The year turns again to autumn

This is a tree in my neighborhood in Maine.  It’s a cliché but a true one that most of us feel lucky to live in New England this time of year.  The “FOILAGE”, as I heard someone say on the radio, is spectacular.  One’s thoughts turn to cooking, comfort food, approaching holidays, wearing fleece and putting the flannel sheets on the bed.  And, of course, reading and other indoor activities.  I read a wonderful book recently, ON THE MOVE, Dr. Oliver Sacks’ memoir.  What an extraordinary man, multi-talented and in love with language.  I had read some of his books about neurological patients and they were very good, but the memoir is even more fascinating, and I recommend it highly to you.  neighbor tree October

A list: books about writers/writing

book and yellow cat

I’ve always been a list maker and love lists – especially of books. It’s one of the best things about amazon (which has some negative aspects – a subject for a different blog entry) and sites like Goodreads. No matter how eclectic your subject, you can find reading lists put together by other people – some of them smart, some quirky, some plain crazy.

Today I’m going to list some interesting books I’ve read and enjoyed about writers, writing or books. I know the list is all over the place. I’d love to hear suggestions of your own in the comments. Here are twelve.

Death In Venice
Enderby’s End
Fear of Flying
The Golden Notebook
Angle of Repose
Misery
A Widow For One Year
The Sportswriter
The Shadow of the Wind
Fahrenheit 451
The Kite Runner
That Old Cape Magic

We got through January with the help of books

Mathiessen with cat

cat books

Here is the late writer Peter Matthiessen with a cat. And a feline doing research.

After an easy December with little snow, New Englanders were hit with three big snowstorms in a row at the end of January. And 6-10 more inches are predicted for tomorrow, at least in southern Maine. I’m still digging out and neatening up the walkways. Thank goodness for the library. I recently read two notably good books: THE ROUND HOUSE by Louise Erdrich and THE ASSASSINATION OF MARGARET THATCHER, a collection of stories by Hilary Mantel. Erdrich’s novels are always rewarding, rich with native American wisdom, family history and humor. I really liked Mantel’s twisted, often dark stories. I want to read her WOLF HALL and sequels.

Consolations during this frigid, trying time of year include a fireplace, comfort food like mashed potatoes, stew and homemade bread, email with faraway friends, my cats and dog, “Downton Abbey” and other good things on TV, but most of all, books. I hope you have a big pile of them at your house.

Good books I read in 2014

books gifts

cat on books

I read 108 books in 2014. I’m not bragging – this is fewer than in many years. Fifteen of my favorite fiction books are listed below. As you can tell, my reading tastes are rather eclectic. Note that three writers on this list live in Maine: Monica Wood, Bill Roorbach and Bruce Spang. I write short reviews for some books on Goodreads. We are inundated with “best of” lists on the Internet and in print, but I find them useful. As always, I welcome your comments. May we all have time to read in 2015.

Alice Adams, The Last Lovely City (stories)
John O’Hara, Appointment in Samarra
Jennifer Dubois, Cartwheel
Richard Russo, Elsewhere
Max Berry, Lexicon
Monica Wood, When We Were the Kennedys
Kate Atkinson, Started Early, Took My Dog
Lee Smith, Guests On Earth
Susan Choi, The Foreign Student
Bruce Spang, The Deception of the Thrush
Bill Roorbach, Life Among Giants
Bill Roorbach, Summers with Juliet
Joseph O’Neill, The Dog
Stuart O’Nan, Songs for the Missing
James Lee Burke, The Wayfaring Stranger

Remember what made you happy…

beach library
London book benches

Advice I came across years ago that I find useful: think back to what made you happy as a child, say eight years old. When you feel overwhelmed by grownup obligations, these memories can help you focus on simple pleasures you may be neglecting that feed your soul.

My eight-year-old self loved books, animals, smart friends, the ocean, holidays of all kinds, writing and drawing, including making little illustrated books for my family. No surprise that I live on the coast of Maine, an animal lover, avid reader, writer and yes, publisher of books for the fun of it, not for profit. I still love holidays and playing with like-minded friends. If too much of what you were drawn to and made you happy as a child is missing from your busy adult life, perhaps you can find those uncomplicated pleasures again and be nourished by them.

On the theme of books and their importance: here’s a beach library, and examples from a clever project in London where bus stop benches are decorated as famous books.

Fickle New England spring – and reading

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books crucial

cats in rain

It’s a cliché to say that if you don’t like the weather in New England, wait 15 minutes (I believe this is attributed to Mark Twain), but there’s a lot of truth to it. I set out this afternoon in sun to walk my dog. We got about 10 minutes away from the house and the sky grew black and a tremendous stinging hailstorm swept in. We sheltered the best we could under a pine tree, but got bombarded and soaked. Poor Zoe was scared. A kind neighbor came along in his pickup and offered us a ride home, and didn’t mind a very wet dog in the cab.

I estimate that we’re three weeks behind normal blooming and blossoming times this year. Finally the forsythia, daffodils and tulips are blooming, but it’s May, not April. Now the hail has stopped and it’s raining. Nothing to do but stay inside, have a cup of tea and dive into a book. Sometimes the weather conspires with bibliophiles.

Children’s books and the worlds they open to us

boy reading on buffalo photo

I was a lucky child because I learned to read young (about 4) and it came easily to me. My sister, three years older, had learned to read, and my parents are both readers, and I could not stand it that they got to read and I didn’t. So I got hooked on the magic of reading (and libraries) at an early age, before school. In retrospect I was also fortunate that my family didn’t have a TV until I was maybe 10 years old. I know, hard to imagine; so don’t draft me for one of those trivia games about TV shows in the early sixties. Some of the books that captivated me as a child:

Treasure Island
The Wizard of Oz
The Wind in the Willows
the Dr. Seuss books
The Secret Garden
The Little House On the Prairie series
Anne of Green Gables
Black Beauty
White Fang
Lad, A Dog
Born Free
Tarzan
Kipling’s Just So Stories
Nancy Drew mysteries
fairy tales from all over the world
Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, the Booth Tarkington books

I’ll stop with this selection, which of course is a bit heavy on the animal-themed side, and rather old-fashioned.
It’s a bit of a cliché to say so, but staring into a screen, playing video games or reading graphic novels just doesn’t exercise the imagination (at least for me) like good old immersion in a book. Just as when I was a child, does it get any better than a sunny day, a new book and a few cookies? Oh, and add a beloved animal.