Saturday, July 15, 2017

Summer Reading: As the Pages Turn!

Summer is in full swing now, and so is summer reading. 

Well, it can be. 

It should be. (I mean, it's summer!)

So, how is your summer reading coming along?

My summer reading is ebbing and flowing. When we last met this intrepid reader, I was experiencing a surprising level of book ennui. I could not find my groove. I looked, I skimmed, and yet nothing launched me into the book frenzy I sought.

I have completed eight books in seven weeks. Not bad, but I have done better.

What am I reading now?


  • The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. I read it when it was first released 31 years ago, and it chills me as much — if not more — now than then. This time, I am listening to Claire Danes read it to me, and I am enjoying her narration. When I read the book without her, I still hear her in my head. (Thanks, Claire!)
  • The Case Against Sugar by Gary Taubes. He makes his case, relentlessly. It's an interesting book, but I think he's trying to trim a bonsai with a power saw. It may be me, but I'll keep on keeping on.
  • The Day the World Came to Town by Jim DeFede. I love the musical Come from Away and am intrigued about how a small town managed to host 7,000 strangers during one of the most stressful times in recent history. Full disclosure: I want to know how (or if) the municipal government managed it. It will be a slow read: I get to the comments about what a stunningly beautiful day it was, and I have to stop and think about that stunning day. Wish me luck.

What is on deck?

  • A Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason. Karen gave this to me, and I am totally intrigued!
  • Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. My book club will follow this with a tour of the graveyard from this book. The tome seems daunting, but I shall try.
  • Little Dorritt by Charles Dickens. My friend Carole and I are reading "weighty tomes," and this is the latest tome. We just finished Anna Karenina, so why not a little light reading about poverty in Dickens' England?
  • Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen. I have this in print and audiobook, and I will read it this summer no matter what!
  • The Magicians trilogy by Lev Gorssman. He will be at Fall for the Book this year, so I have to catch up!
  • Exit West and The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid. Another Fall for the Book author, and the narrator the second novel mentioned captured my attention.
  • The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead, or maybe The Noble Hustle. Guess who else will be at Fall for the Book this year? It is going to rock again this year!
  • The Wide Circumference of Love by Marita Golden. A quick review of her books shows that readers seem to prefer her fiction that focuses on family life, and I want to know why. Plus, four words: Fall for the Book.

Of course, by listing them, I have put the Reading Whammy on them, which means I will read entirely different books beginning today — but, hey, you never know.

What's in your TBR pile?

Don't forget: it's never too late to join the summer reading club! And it's not too late to start your summer reading!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Wonder Books: Wonderful!

I have tried to expand my resources for books. I am a sucker for used books, but it's not always easy to find a reliable, interesting, and affordable used bookstore in the real world.

Oh, we always have the online behemoth, and a few other Web favorites, but sometimes you just need a room full of books you haven't yet purchased or borrowed.

So began the adventure: choosing the new-to-me bookstore within driving distance. We discovered the lovely Hole in the Wall on a whim, so why not meet Wonder Book and Video?

When I walked in, I knew I came to the right place. This was similar to Acres of Books, may it rest in peace, and Hole in the Wall Books, with narrow corridors of bookshelves. Wonder Book featured lots of narrow corridors that lured book lovers deeper and deeper into the labyrinth.

"Chris?" I heard David call once.

"Hey honey, I'm in Modern Fiction. Mostly hardbacks and trade paperbacks. To your left." Moments later, he peeked down my row, relieved. With me, he could never tell: he has lost me in smaller bookstores.

"You know, the classic literature is back that way," he said, gesturing over his shoulder.

"Yeah, I saw that. I'm looking for Fall for the Book authors, in case they're here." (Spoiler alert: I didn't see any books by authors scheduled for the 2017 event, but I found plenty of books by authors from previous festivals.)

I bonked my head once or twice as I stepped back to peruse titles and discovered a few odd-shaped books sticking out of the shelves, but one expects that. I just adjusted my stance and kept reading.

I was surprised that the only Connie Willis I found was a mass paperback, but that just meant she was not long for the shelves.

I found a few classics for the local Little Free Library, which is in heavy use during pool season (its neighbor, and the most brilliant location in the neighborhood). Doesn't everyone want to read about romance and monsters in the summer sun? Happy reading of FrankensteinEmmaWuthering Heights, and Home Front, neighbors!

David found a few books for his studies on gems and healing.

Me, I mostly stuck to modern fiction — with a dip into Lillian Hellman's classic plays. I also found the first of the Persia Wooley series on Guinevere, which I intend to own as I come across the books.

Lastly, but not leastly, I found a jolly Christmas bookmark and David found a couple of music CDs.

As we checked out, David talked me into what was the most delicious chocolate soda I have ever tasted. I'm sure it wasn't the result of just spending an hour or two in an old, dry building full of books and discs that made it so tasty, but it was.

I will continue to shop Wonder Book both online and in person. The other stores under this name are farther afield, but I can think of at least one other book lover who may join me in an adventure. I'll take back the reusable bag they gave us and find a few more gems, no doubt.

How do you find your new-to-you bookstores: online, word of mouth, driving until you encounter it? What was the last gem you found, and what gems did you find in it?

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Library Loot: Bones, Books, Mystery, and Comics

When it comes to Library Loot, I'm a slacker.

Upon reviewing the last few Library Loot articles, I discovered I did not read those books in their entirety. If anything, my eyes are too big for my bookshelf.

At any rate, I persist. And who knows: I may read at least one book from this recent looting!

First of all, book displays were meant for me to loot. I don't care who the intended audience is, when I'm intrigued, I take a book. The slim volume of Forgotten Bones will be an introduction into slave burial sites — this one in New York. Our past is never very far behind us, and this is an excellent reminder.

I also can't wait to delve into the Roanoke settlers mystery — I read about this new book, and about a recent finding announced in the Smithsonian, which makes me very excited.

David is a fan of comics, and I thought he'd like to learn more about comic books.

Finally, I needed to visit Brooklyn Wainwright again. This will be the third try at reading the third book in her bibliophile mystery series, so let's hope it's the charm. I don't mind skipping it if it doesn't tickle my fancy, which is why I also picked up the ninth book in the series, the one I saw at the bookstore that made me ask, "Wait, a cat and books on the cover? I must find out more!"

Of course, I also spent a few hours at a used bookstore today, and that may impact how long it takes me to read these delectable books, but we shall see.

Thanks to Linda (Silly Little Mischief), Claire (The Captive Reader), and Mary (The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader) for originating the Library Loot column. Check out what they're checking out!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Poetry Wednesday: Interrogative, and a New Poet Laureate



Congratulations to America's new Poet Laureate! Here is a poem from her book Duende.

Interrogative

Related Poem Content Details

1. Falmouth, Massachusetts, 1972
Oak table, knotted legs, the chirp
And scrape of tines to mouth.
Four children, four engines
Of want. That music.
What did your hand mean to smooth
Across the casket of your belly?
What echoed there, if not me—tiny body
Afloat, akimbo, awake or at rest?
Every night you fed the others
Bread leavened with the grains
Of your own want. How
Could you stand me near you,
In you, jump and kick tricking
The heart, when what you prayed for
Was my father’s shadow, your name
In his dangerous script, an envelope
Smelling of gun-powder, bay rum,
Someone to wrestle, sing to, question,
Climb?
                        2. Interstate 101 South, California, 1981
Remember the radio, the Coca-Cola sign
Phosphorescent to the left, bridge
After bridge, as though our lives were
Engineered simply to go? And so we went
Into those few quiet hours
Alone together in the dark, my arm
On the rest beside yours, our lights
Pricking at fog, tugging us patiently
Forward like a needle through gauze.
Night held us like a house.
Sometimes an old song
Would fill the car like a ghost.
                                    3. Leroy, Alabama, 2005
There’s still a pond behind your mother’s old house,
Still a stable with horses, a tractor rusted and stuck
Like a trophy in mud. And the red house you might
Have thrown stones at still stands on stilts up the dirt road.
A girl from the next town over rides in to lend us
Her colt, cries when one of us kicks it with spurs.
Her father wants to buy her a trailer, let her try her luck
In the shows. They stay for dinner under the tent
Your brother put up for the Fourth. Firebugs flare
And vanish. I am trying to let go of something.
My heart cluttered with names that mean nothing.
Our racket races out to the darkest part of the night.
The woods catch it and send it back. 
                        4. But let’s say you’re alive again—
Your hands are long and tell your age.
You hold them there, twirling a bent straw,
And my reflection watches, hollow-faced,
Not trying to hide. The waiters make it seem
Like Cairo. Back and forth shouting
That sharp language. And for the first time
I tell you everything. No shame
In my secrets, shoddy as laundry.
I have praised your God
For the blessing of the body, snuck
From pleasure to pleasure, lying for it, 
Holding it like a coin or a key in my fist.
I know now you’ve known all along.
I won’t change. I want to give
Everything away. To wander forever.
Here is a pot of tea. Let’s share it
Slowly, like sisters.

by Tracy K. Smith
courtesy of The Poetry Foundation

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Summer Reading Meets Book Ennui

Entire weekends of reading! Long nights of nothing but book time! It's summer! Woo hoo!

Well, don't spill your lemonade, but this year's summer reading is starting off very slowly for me.

You'd think that I'd have more than three book under my belt after three weeks of summer reading.

Nope, just three. A whopping 839 completed pages. A fabulous 839 pages that includes a Pulitzer Prize-winning play, but still a paltry sum of pages and books (including one book I began reading literally months ago).

Oh, don't get me wrong: I'm reading. My nightstand reading stack is dwindling, somewhat. I am nearly halfway through Anna Karenina, and I picked up the latest by Arundhati Roy, hot off the press.

I'm just not tossing back the books at a breakneck speed as intended.

I will continue to plug along, and pick up interesting books along the way. I won't break down, but I will limp along a little slower than anticipated. Wish me luck!

What do you do when you experience book ennui? Do you dial back the reading to give your psyche a rest, break on through to the other side no matter what, or wallow the ennui until it dissipates?

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Library Loot: New Library, New Books

This week's library loot experience took me to a rarely-visited branch of my library system for a book not for myself.

My husband David wanted to read a book by Eckhart Tolle, which was available at a branch of the library he passes in his travels every week. Apparently I never took him into that library, which I find hard to believe, but it could happen. (In a strange alternate universe, but still.) We resolved that issue immediately.

I took a lap around the lovely little library, checking out the "new books" section, the audiobook shelves, and the "Friends of the Library Book Sale" shelves. My audible gasp caused at least one patron to turn toward me (sorry!), but as I reached for Arundhati Roy's new release, I couldn't help it. It's a 14-day book, so heaven help me finish it on time, but I'll give it the old college try.

(Full disclosure: I began listening to The God of Small Things last year, but stopped after a very short time. That was about the same time I couldn't get into Uprooted, so I will call that timeframe "my bad.")

On the book sale shelves, I found a lovely hardback copy of Belgravia, which has intrigued me since its publication. The buzz hasn't been off the charts, but one cannot make all the people happy all the time, so I'll check it out.

David also was lured to the used book sale, but by fly fishing. There were two books, and one caught his eye. It was the knots, I believe.

All in all, it was a very successful trip to the library.

What treasures have you found at your library recently?


(Shout-out to Clare, the Captive Reader, for the original Library Loot column, and fabulous logo.)

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

At the Pitch • Poetry Wednesday



At the Pitch
If I could only live at the pitch
that is near madness, Eberhart wrote

but there was his wife Betty hanging onto
his coattails for dear life to the end of her life.

No one intervened when my mother’s brother’s
wife ran off with the new young rabbi

every woman in the congregation had a crush on.
They rose unleashed, fleeing west

into the sooty sky over Philadelphia
in a pillar of fire, at the pitch that is near madness

touching down in the outskirts of Pittsburgh.
Cleveland. Chicago. O westward!

O fornication! I was sixteen.
Eberhart had written his poem before

he sailed off to World War II and a boy
had just put his tongue in my mouth

which meant he could make
me do anything. No one

holding onto his coattails, no one onto my skirt
until my father switched on the back porch light.


by Maxine Kumin
from Where I Live: New & Selected Poems
courtesy The Writer's Almanac