Category Archives: Classics

November Reading, 2021

November has been a busy reading month for me. Here are the books I finished this month:

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And here are the books I’ve been reading in November that are taking longer to finish:

The Hobbit

The Hobbit, read by Andi Serkis

The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien, is a book I’ve read so many times I’ve lost track of the number. But every time I reread it, I find something new to enjoy about it. This time, I listened to the new audiobook version narrated by Andi Serkis. What an incredible talent he has for voices, dialects, and everything it takes to bring such a story to life!  Just in case you don’t know, Andi Serkis was the voice actor and motion capture actor for the animated character of Gollum in the movie version of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. And he did an awesome job of narrating The Hobbit!

from the publisher:

Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit who enjoys a comfortable, unambitious life, rarely traveling any farther than his pantry or cellar. But his contentment is disturbed when the wizard Gandalf and a company of dwarves arrive on his doorstep one day to whisk him away on an adventure. They have launched a plot to raid the treasure hoard guarded by Smaug the Magnificent, a large and very dangerous dragon. Bilbo reluctantly joins their quest, unaware that on his journey to the Lonely Mountain he will encounter both a magic ring and a frightening creature known as Gollum.   Written for J.R.R. Tolkien’s own children, The Hobbit has sold many millions of copies worldwide and established itself as a modern classic.

If you are looking for a delightful audiobook for the whole family to listen to during the holidays, look no further! This is just a delightful entertainment for all.

Smaug, illustration by J.R.R. Tolkien

I Heard the Owl Call My Name

I Heard the Owl Call My Name, by Margaret Craven, begins with a diagnosis.

painting by Emily Carr

The doctor said to the Bishop, “So you see, my lord, your young ordinand can live no more than three years and doesn’t know it. Will you tell him, and what will you do with him?” The Bishop said to the doctor, “Yes, I’ll tell him, but not yet. If I tell him now, he’ll try too hard. How much time has he for an active life?” “A little less than two years if he’s lucky.” “So short a time to learn so much? It leaves me no choice. I shall send him to my hardest parish. I shall send him to Kingcome on patrol of the Indian villages.” “Then I hope you’ll pray for him, my lord.” But the Bishop only answered gently that it was where he would wish to go if he were young again, and in the ordinand’s place.

So the young vicar, unaware of his diagnosis, went to live in the village of Kingcome. Over time he learned the Kwákwala language. He learned about and appreciated the old ways of the people of the village, and came to understand the struggles of the young people. He became close to many of the villagers, and they came to him for support and guidance. But it was the villagers who would teach him the most fundamental things about life and death.

About the people:

There was pride in his eyes without arrogance. Behind the pride was a sadness so deep it seemed to stretch back into ancient mysteries…

Kingcome villagers…

About the village:

“The Indian knows his village and feels for his village as no white man for his country, his town, or even for his own bit of land. His village is not the strip of land four miles long and three miles wide that is his as long as the sun rises and the moon sets. The myths are the village and the winds and the rains. The river is the village, and the black and white killer whales that herd the fish to the end of the inlet the better to gobble them. The village is the salmon who comes up the river to spawn, the seal who follows the salmon and bites off his head, the blue jay whose name is like the sound he makes—‘Kwiss-kwiss.’ The village is the talking bird, the owl, who calls the name of the man who is going to die, and the silver-tipped grizzly who ambles into the village, and the little white speck that is the mountain goat on Whoop-Szo.

A village at Kingcome Inlet…

When after his few years of living with the native tribe, the young vicar finally understands what is happening to him, and that he will have to leave his place in the village, that someone will arrive to replace him in his work, he  tries to come to terms with such a change, and tries to come to terms with the end of all things.

How would he live again in the old world he had almost forgotten, where men throw up smoke screens between themselves and the fundamentals whose existence they fear but seldom admit? Here, where death waited behind each tree, he had made friends with loneliness, with death and deprivation, and, solidly against his back had stood the wall of his faith.

And what had he learned? Surely not the truth of the Indian. There was no one truth. He had learned a little of the truth of one tribe in one village. He had seen the sadness, the richness, the tragic poignancy of a way of life that each year, bit by bit, slipped beyond memory and was gone. For a time he had been part of it, one of the small unknown men who take their stand in some remote place, and fight out their battle in a quiet way.

It was the village that reached out to him to ease his mind at that point in his life.

“Stay with us. Marta has told us. We have written the Bishop and asked that he let you remain here to the end, because this is your village and we are your family. You are the swimmer who came to us from the great sea,” and he put his arms around her and held her close, finding no words to say thank you for the sudden, unexpected gift of peace which they had offered him in their quiet, perceptive way.

It is a poignant but uplifting story. The descriptions of the land there and the villagers’ relationship with the environment, are beautifully written. It is a quiet, honest book, a true classic, and I loved reading it.

The author, Margaret Craven, lived in the village of Kingcome, in British Columbia, for awhile before she wrote the book. The photos I chose for this post are from that area, so I hope they help give a visual reference for this story.

https://www.sfu.ca/brc/virtual_village/Kwakwaka_wakw.html

Kwakiutl canoe

Reading The Three Musketeers


One classic book that has been on my TBR list since long ago is The Three Musketeers, by Alexandre Dumas. It is one of the books I included on my new Classics Club, List #2, for my second round of reading fifty books in five years, and I’m looking forward to finally reading it.

I discovered that another member of The Classics Club is hosting a read-along for the book. The challenge is set up in a chapter-a-day format, which simply takes the hesitancy out of starting a long book or series. This read-along started yesterday, October 25th, so I will read two chapters today, and be right on track. I’m so looking forward to reading this wonderful old classic!

A special thank you to Nick Senger (Deacon Nick) for organizing and hosting this read-along!

Click here to read information on the read-along.

 

Read-a-thon Wrap-Up, October 2021

Painting by Deborah DeWitj

9:00 p.m.  My Dewey’s 24-Hour Read-a-thon is over now. It’s been a long time since I pulled an “all-nighter.” (I get more excited about pulling an “all-dayer” these days, even though I do love naps!)  So although I’d love to stay up all night and read, I will leave the “night owl reading” to others and wish you a very happy reading night!

Thank you so much to all the organizers of the read-a-thon! I know it is a lot of work for many people, and I just want you all to know how much I appreciate you working to keep this fun tradition alive and thriving after so many years.

Here are the books I read and thoroughly enjoyed for this read-a-thon:

Read-a-thon Afternoon, October 2021

Owl illustration, by E.K. Belsher

6:00 p.m.:  I really enjoyed the books I read this afternoon for my OWL-themed Read-a-thon! And while looking for owl photos and art for my posts, I found the beautiful owl illustration above. It is by E.K. Belsher, an artist from Vancouver, BC.  Please visit her website here to see more of her extraordinary illustrations.

After a lunch break, I finished listening to the beautifully-written classic, I Heard the Owl Call my Name, by Margaret Craven. The location of the story was here in the Pacific Northwest, on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, so I am familiar with and particularly liked the descriptions of the landscape of that area.  Also, because I have long been fascinated by the culture of the Native Peoples of that area, this story really resonated with me. It was a great choice for my “owl theme” for this read-a-thon, and I will be writing a full review of the book in the next few days because it is also one of the books on my Classics Club list to read 50 books in 5 years.

A short story I read this afternoon, also has “owl” in the title, but has nothing to do with owls.  An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, by Ambrose Bierce, is a powerful and moving story, set during the Civil War. Peyton Farquhar is a wealthy planter and slave holder who was helping the confederates during the Civil War. He was captured by Union soldiers and and is being prepared for execution by Hanging at Owl Creek Bridge. The story of how he was captured and of his attempted escape is told in a flashbacks. This story was originally published in 1890 and packs a powerful punch. I think it’s eerie enough to count it as one of my short stories read for the RIP-XVI challenge.  I vaguely remember seeing a film of this story long, long ago (was I even in high school yet?) and remember being haunted by it for a long time afterward.

The next book I read this afternoon was a fun book for middle grade readers written by Jean Craighead George.  It is called There’s an Owl in the Shower. I have read and loved many of JCG’s stories about nature and animals. In this book, Borden Watson was a young boy whose father was a logger who had lost his job due to the new government law, the Endangered Species Act, which included protections for the Spotted Owl.  The forest Borden’s father had been logging was home to the owl species.  Borden was very proud of his father, and so was very angry that a little bird could cause his father so much pain and stress.  A hero had been felled by a measly little bird.”  And then, while Borden was in the forest determined to shoot and kill Spotted Owls, he finds an owlet that had been blown out of the nest. He brings it home, not realizing it was a Spotted Owl, and his family take care of the cute little thing. This owlet, and all that the family learned about the lives of owls while helping it survive, changed their understanding of the complex issues surrounding endangered species. It’s an interesting book that helps young people understand both sides of the issue and learn about the fascinating lives of owls.

Spotted Owl

My next book has been sitting on my bookshelf for a couple of years. It’s a lovely looking book, and I was anxious to finally read it. The Secret Life of the Owl, by John Lewis-Stempel, is a little gem full of all kinds of information, poetry, tidbits of history…all about owls. He also talks about each of the different types of owls in Britain, so although it is short, it is packed with learning for anyone interested in owls. And according to Mr. Lewis-Stempel, we all are interested in owls!

A collection of books and information on owls would not be complete without some of the poetry about these amazing birds. One joyful poem is The Owl and The Pussycat, by Edward Lear. I have a book of this short poem with illustrations by Jan Brett, an illustrator I love, so of course I added it to my pleasurable day of reading about owls.

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After dinner, I will spend a few more hours reading a book that my blogging friend, Nan, (Letters from a Hill Farm) recommended to me recently. It’s called The Owl Service, by Alan Garner, and I’m about of 1/3 of the way through it. I may not finish it tonight, but will count it as part of my OWL day.

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My afternoon was packed with some wonderful reading. I’m off to dinner now, and will check back in with you all at the end of my day.

painting by Jesse Willcox Smith

Read-a-thon Morning, October 2021

Read-a-thon time

NOON:  What a lovely read-a-thon morning — rainy outside but with plenty of hot tea and enjoyable books indoors.

My first book read today was Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen. It is one of my all-time favorite books. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve read it, and how many times I shared it with children, but it never gets old and it’s like visiting an old friend each time I reread it.  On a cold winter night, a young girl and her father go owling.    “It was late one winter night, long past my bedtime, when Pa and I went owling.”

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After Owl Moon, I read some other children’s books from the library. Owl Babies, by Martin Waddell, and illustrated by  Patrick Benson, was delightful. Three owlets wake up in the night and find that their mother is gone. They waited, but she didn’t return. They waited some more, huddled together on a branch outside the nest. They were worried. Would she ever return? A very sweet owl story for the young ones!

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Owl Sees Owl, by Laura Godwin, with beautiful illustrations by Rob Dunlavey, is a word book. The story is told visually and with single words, four at a time on a page. It’s a heartwarming story of a young owl’s exploration of his world outside the nest while his family is asleep. The four words on each page tell the story of his adventure. I would love to read this book (over and over again) to a very young grandchild sitting on my lap. Alas, my grandson is almost 15 years old, but he would have loved hearing it read to him back then!

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Owls: Our Most Charming Birds, written and illustrated by artist, Matt Sewell, is a guidebook for older children (and adults) who really want to learn about owls found all over the world. The illustrations of each owl are wonderful and the information that accompanies each one is excellent and informative. I learned a lot reading this one. It’s a book I definitely would have had in my 6th grade class library!

 


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Another old family favorite on my bookshelf is Owl at Home, by Arnold Lobel. My kids loved every one of Arnold Lobel’s books, and this one is well-worn and well-loved. From the publisher: “Owl lives by himself in a warm little house. But whether Owl is inviting Winter in on a snowy night or welcoming a new friend he meets while on a stroll, Owl always has room for visitors.

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Otis the Owl, by Mary Holland, is a beautiful photography book about the life of a baby owl. The photographs are amazing, and the story about the young life of this owl and his sister is interesting. But this book is also a science book for the young naturalist. There’s a wealth of information about owls after the story ends. See an example below. What a wonderful book for learning/teaching about owls!

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Wow! Owling: Enter the World of  the Mysterious Birds of the Night, by Mark Wilson, is an awesome book I found at the library. It was just jam packed with information about owls and comparing them to other birds. It’s a complete education for young and old, for anyone interested at all in owls!

A special book:  My friend, Marlo, shared a very special book with me on baby owls.  She created it for her grandchildren and very generously sent me the link to the photo book along with the following story about how she created it. “I’m going to add a little-known, amateur book to your available titles. Several years ago we stayed in a vacation home that had an owl nest in the yard. I spent most of the month sitting in the yard watching. Here is a link to the book I made for my grandchildren. https://babyowlbook.shutterfly.com … What a great experience it was!”  THANK YOU so much, Marlo, for adding your book to my owl reading today! I loved it!

The rest of my morning was spent doing Saturday chores and listening to the audiobook, I Heard the Owl Call my Name, by Margaret Craven. It is fiction, and not directly about owls themselves, but is a beautifully written classic about the native peoples and culture of the Pacific Northwest, of which owls play an important part.  I’m not quite finished with it yet, but after my lunch break / blogging time, I’ll finish this audiobook and continue with my afternoon read-a-thon reading!  

And outside, the rain continues!

Spin Book Reading

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Today, the number was chosen for The Classics Club Spin #28. It was book #12 on my list, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, by Mark Twain, so I will be spending the next few days immersed in this story.

I actually have both the print version and the audiobook version. The audiobook is narrated by Nick Offerman, so I know it’s going to be a fun listen!

Happy reading to all who are participating in this fun event!

The Amethyst Box

The Amethyst Box, by Anna Katharine Green, was a short mystery that kept me guessing until the end.

Two young women, their fiances,  and a group of friends were gathered for the wedding of one of the young women, Gilbertine. Both she and her cousin, Dorothy, were accompanied by their Aunt, who is their tyrannical and cruel guardian. Gilbertine and Sinclair’s  wedding was to be held the next day, but that night, just after everyone had retired for the evening, a piercing scream was heard and the Aunt lay dead. Natural causes? Nope, although it looked that way at first.

Sinclair had brought with him from his collection of oddities, a tiny amethyst box, a beautiful and rare trinket containing a tiny vial with one drop of the world’s most potent poison. It went missing in the early evening, so Sinclair and Worthington (Dorothy’s fiance) began to search. With the Aunt’s death, they realized that they were too late in finding the poison. Who had stolen the vial and administered the poison?  It seemed the two most likely suspects are Gilbertine and her cousin, Dorothy!

Anna Katharine Green wrote many mystery/detective stories in the early 1900s. She was actually a poet, but couldn’t make a living with her poetry, so turned to mystery writing, instead. She was wonderful at creating enjoyable plots, so her mysteries are compelling and she became an influential author in this genre.

Anna Katharine Green (photo by Hulton Deutshc)

I read this book for the Readers Imbibing Peril XVI challenge. It was also a book chosen to read for my The Classics Club, Round 2.

Classics Club Spin #28

It’s time for another Classics Club “Spin!”  Here’s how it works:

  • Go to your blog.
  • Pick twenty books that you’ve got left to read from your Classics Club List.
  • Post that list, numbered 1-20, on your blog before Sunday, 17th October.
  • We’ll announce a number from 1-20.
  • Read that book by 12th December, 2021.

Here is my list of 20 books. Check back here on October 17th to see which book I will be reading for this new Spin.

  1. Sons, by Pearl S. Buck
  2. The Enchantress of Florence, by Salman Rushdie
  3. The Little Bulbs, by Elizabeth Lawrence
  4. The Black Stallion, by Walter Farley
  5. The Stranger, by Albert Camus
  6. Home, by Toni Morrison
  7. The Sign of the Four, by Arthur Conan Doyle
  8. In Morocco, by Edith Wharton
  9. The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien
  10. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith
  11. Summer at Fairacre, by Miss Read
  12. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, by Mark Twain

  13. The Cossacks, by Leo Tolstoy
  14. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred D. Taylor
  15. Night, by Ellie Wiesel
  16. Barchester Towers, by Anthony Trollope
  17. Round the Bend, by Nevil Shute
  18. Kokoro, by Natsume Soseki
  19. House Made of Dawn, by M. Scott Momaday
  20. Malgudi Days, by R.K. Narayan

The Fortnight in September

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What a sweet way to end my summer reading! The Fortnight in September, by R.C. Sherriff, was a delightful ode to family and summer vacations. Every September for many years, the Stevens family has been making their end-of-summer pilgrimage to the same seaside town, staying at the same (now aging) inn, and enjoying the break from all their usual activities. In this quiet, slow-paced book, you get to know each member of the family and what that fortnight in September means to them. That’s it…nothing earthshaking, just a regular family on vacation. But this author is masterful at capturing the nostalgia of such a yearly vacation over time, and capturing the sunshine and joy of time away from the usual hustle and bustle. It is a timeless story, and full of sunshine for the soul.