On my Goodreads page, I have a category called “Set Aside For Now.” I sometimes start a book only to discover that it is not the right book for me or not the right time for me to be reading that book. I give it a good try and then move it into that category, without guilt. Later, I’ve given numerous set-asides another try and really enjoyed them. Some languish in that category for years before I give them another try or pronounce them a DNF.
This week I moved a book into that category. I love the books of D.E. Stevenson, in particular her “Miss Bunkle” books. I started the first book in her “Drumberley” series, Vittoria Cottage, and was enjoying it until some wording hit me hard. She started using the “N” word in conversations, and it stopped me.
I have read many books in which that word comes up, but this time it hit me harder. In the last few years, and on a daily basis, we have been inundated with blatant racism, misogyny, cruelty, bullying, unfairness, and manipulation in our daily lives through both news and personal encounters. I do not accept these encounters silently now, for there is too much at stake.
So I set that book aside for now…until I can put that part of the story into the historical/cultural context of the time, understand better the life of the author, and/or until I decide that the book is worthy of my time and emotional energy.
I am not trying to “escape” in my reading these days. I take on some pretty serious subjects, but I am very aware of my emotional vulnerabilities and the overwhelming amount of daily exposure to the negatives in life. I am trying to be more mindful in my choices…to choose things to read that honor the goodness, the strength, the resilience of the human spirit. To choose things to read that are beautifully written, especially if the subject is a difficult one. And to choose my “entertainments,” as Graham Greene called his own books, with care.
There are times when I really miss spending my days with school children. When I first started teaching, one of my wise teammates suggested that I keep a file in my desk drawer to keep the nice notes and cards from students and parents over the years. I took her advice and still have that treasured file, even though I’ve been retired for five years. While I was going through a box of my old teaching materials the other day, looking for something for my grandson, I pulled that file out and reread some of those notes and best wishes. One stood out for me and felt like the “compliment of a lifetime.” It had to do with reading aloud with my students, something that was the anchor of my day with all the different groups of children I worked with over my twenty-seven year career. A mom wrote it to me toward the end of a school year, just a short note on a nice little card, and it still warms my heart.
Since my daughter is going to miss reading books with you more than anything else in her school life so far — would you have any recommendations for summer reading, books you wish you would have had more time to read with the class?
Emmie gave her Dad a copy of “Danny Champion of the World” for his birthday, because it was so good she wanted to read it with him!!
My library posted this wonderful quote by David McCullough on Facebook the other day and I’ve been thinking a lot about this idea. It is true that books can change our lives and characters can have tremendous impact on us. In my own experience, I think the book and character of Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte, read (the first time) when I was in the 7th Grade, had a lifetime impact on me. I read many of the books my older brother read, and I remember that after he finished Jane Eyre he told me he thought I would like that book. I most certainly did! I have vivid memories of scenes and impressions from the book. The strength and resilience of the character, Jane, made a large imprint on my both my heart and my psyche.
Since then, I have found many influential characters and more favorite books. But that first encounter with a character that I admired deeply, and was so influenced by, was a life-expanding experience for me. And for that, it will always be my “favorite book.”
Which is your special book and life-changing character?
With the darker, colder days arriving, I found it much harder to keep my spirits up during November. That’s not unusual for me, or for many people at this time of year, especially in the Pacific Northwest. Seasonal Affective Disorder is real. The change of light, the shorter days, and staying indoors more on colder days can lead to melancholy or depression. My reading is my personal antidote to that SAD feeling. It broadens my perspectives and gives me new ways of looking at the world. That cheers me up and also gives me a new appreciation for friends and family.
So with that said, November turned out to be a pretty good reading month for me. I enjoyed getting lost in a variety of books — a mystery, some classics, a Christmas book. I read a number of graphic novels this month, and I’m liking that genre more and more. I especially loved Debbie Tung’s Quiet Girl in a Noisy World, and look forward to her new book, Book Love, to be released in the U.S. on January 1st. My favorite book this month was Michelle Obama’s, Becoming, because it was full of courage and dignity, and hope.
For those of you living in the northern hemisphere, I hope your reading in November was enjoyable and an antidote to the darker, colder days. And for the rest of you, I also hope your November was spent immersed in wonderful books!
My November reads:
Living in Oregon means long months of dark gray skies and rainy days. I don’t mind the rain. It doesn’t stop my walking routine. “We’re waterproof,” says my walking buddy. But the endless days of gray are harder to bear. One way I deal with the grayness is to read gardening books. It’s a fun and educational gray-season focus for my reading, and I love the colors these beautiful books bring to gray days!
My early Saturday morning reading is fun! I am reading two books about books, and both came into my possession without any planning at all. My husband preordered one of the books as a lovely surprise for me, and it arrived in the mail this week. 1,000 Books to Read Before You Die: A Life-Changing List, by James Mustich, weighs a ton and is filled with wonderful information about authors and books. It’s like an encyclopedia for readers, a wonderful resource to have and an enjoyable read! With 948 pages and small type, I don’t know when or if I will ever read it all the way through, but I will certainly use it a lot over the years, if I can wrestle it away from other family members!
The other book is from the library, found while perusing the shelves this week. A serendipitous find, considering that I didn’t know my husband had ordered the other book for me. This book is called Vintage Reading: From Plato to Bradbury, A Personal Tour of Some of the World’s Best Books, by Robert Kanigel. For many years, the author wrote a newspaper column for the Baltimore Sun called “Vintage Reads.” This book is an extension of those articles, and is full of fun and very readable essays on classics that appealed to him.
I love reading books about books, and these two are both fun reads and excellent resources!
It’s a busy Saturday, so I’m not posting a review. Instead, I’ll just post a very nice thought…
Happy Saturday to you all!