Reading Short Books

Renia Reading, 1910, painting by Wojciech Weiss

This week, in between my current project of reading two long books at the same time, I took a break and read two short books. I didn’t plan to do that, it just happened. I also didn’t sign up for a ‘reading non-fiction in November’ challenge, but both short books were non-fiction. I guess I just needed some delightful balance in my reading life this month.

Both short books were very interesting to read. The first one was Notre-Dame: A Short History of the Meaning of Cathedrals, by Ken Follett. It was, simply put, a love letter to the magnificent cathedral of Notre-Dame, started shortly after he heard about the fire that shocked the world. Having done extensive research on cathedrals for his book, Pillars of the Earth, and having spent much time in Notre-Dame, he was deeply shocked and saddened when he learned of the fire. It wasn’t too long before reporters started calling him, wanting his expert advice and viewpoint on the possible fire damage. Another call he received was from his publisher telling him that given his knowledge and background in the constructions of cathedrals, he must write a book in response to this tragedy. This little book was what he produced from the notes he started immediately.

The wonderful cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris, one of the greatest achievements of European civilization, was on fire. The sight dazed and disturbed us profoundly. I was on the edge of tears. Something priceless was dying in front of our eyes. The feeling was bewildering, as if the earth was shaking.”

The second short book I read last week was The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter, by Margareta Magnusson. It was actually a re-read for me because I’d listened to the audiobook a few years ago, and decided to re-read it because I’m currently working on a major decluttering/downsizing project here at home. I hoped it would give me some ideas and motivation to really let go of a lot of things, and it did. It’s a common sense book, and is just straightforward in explaining the ideas and philosophy of “death cleaning.” I’m glad I re-read it.

So I am enjoying my November reading, both the long books and the short ones. I hope you are enjoying your current reading, as well.


6 thoughts on “Reading Short Books

  1. Marlo Quick

    Both of your short books sound interesting. Of course Ken Follett was the expert of choice concerning Notre Dame. Your second choice also appeals to me. We have already downsized but as I visit friends who have a 30 or 40-year accumulation of stuff, I am ready to have even less. I have had a few conversations with friends who are unwilling to part with something because it was expensive and is worth a lot. My question is always, “Is it worth something to you?” Hope your downsizing project is going well!

    1. Robin Post author

      Thanks, Marlo. My project is going well. This paring down is energizing. I’m so ready be free of “stuff,” and get down to more of what is essential. My spring cleaning urge hit really early (or very late) this year!

  2. Lesley in OR

    I absolutely loved Pillars of the Earth and World Without End, so I’ll have to get a copy of this new book by Follett. It sounds like a perfect love letter to Notre Dame.

    I wish I could say the same for The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning, which I read in 2018, but I didn’t care for that one at all. However, I’m feeling the same as you right now and want to declutter. I did a little bit of work on that in my office closet today and think this is something I’ve always done right before Christmas. Maybe the anticipation of getting more “stuff” makes me a little crazy and I want to make space for the new treasures. I didn’t get too far and want to tackle going through all of my clothes, but I’ll save that for another day.

    1. Robin Post author

      Les, I read it a few years ago, too, and liked it better then. This time I appreciated some of her ideas and suggestions, but wasn’t enamored by the book. Mostly it was just common sense.

  3. Nan

    I haven’t heard much (anything?) about Notre Dame in a long time. I must look it up and see what work has been done.
    I find it just about impossible to do the clearing out, decluttering, throwing out stuff that is so popular now. I can’t throw out pictures of my kids and life in the past even if they do when I’m gone! I must not have much stuff compared to others because I really have no “clutter” to speak of – just one storage room I would like to organize a bit.
    And my books seem to grow all the time even though I did donate a whole bunch to an elderly housing place.

    1. Robin Post author

      Nan, I can’t part with the photos and special family things, either. It’s all the other stuff that are unnecessary to carry around these days, the extras, and those are easier to part with. Our town has a special day every six months when the waste management station is open for extra donations of items, and you are also allowed to put out six extra bags of garbage on that week’s pick up. They also have a shredding event in the spring, so they encourage us and help us to declutter!


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