Category Archives: Reading Journeys

Wanderlust: Reading the 50 States


I am enjoying my “Wanderlust: Reading the World” ongoing personal reading project so much that I’ve decided to expand it by also reading a book from each of the 50 states. (That inspiration came from my blogging friend, Cath, at Read_Warbler.)  I’ll call it “Wanderlust: Reading the States”.  I’m not a glutton for punishment, I assure you. I’m just interested in and curious about the world around me, and these personal projects are stress-free, motivating, enjoyable, and a way of expanding my horizons. All from my favorite reading chair (on the porch again before too long, I hope!).

I decided that I wanted the two projects to run side-by-side, so I went back through my list of books read in 2019 to find the books that were set in one of the States, or the author was from a particular State, or that State claimed the author as their own. It’s a fancy way of sorting my books!  I added them to this list so that both projects were started in 2019. They are “ongoing” with no time limit and are just meant to be fun reading journeys. I’ll review most of the books I read, but not necessarily every one.  Please do check back here occasionally to see where I’ve been “traveling.”

  1. Alabama:  Barracoon, by Zora Neale Hurston
  2. Alaska:
  3. Arizona:
  4. Arkansas:
  5. California:  The Red Pony, by John Steinbeck
  6. Colorado:
  7. Connecticut:
  8. Delaware:  The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, by Howard Pyle
  9. Florida:
  10. Georgia:
  11. Hawaii
  12. Idaho
  13. Illinois
  14. Indiana
  15. Iowa
  16. Kansas
  17. Kentucky
  18. Louisiana
  19. Maine:  The Country of the Pointed Firs, by Sarah Orne Jewett
  20. Maryland
  21. Massachusetts
  22. Michigan
  23. Minnesota
  24. Mississippi
  25. Missouri
  26. Montana
  27. Nebraska
  28. Nevada
  29. New Hampshire
  30. New Jersey
  31. New Mexico:  Kokopelli’s Flute, by Will Hobbs
  32. New York:  Here is New York, by E.B. White
  33. North Carolina
  34. North Dakota
  35. Ohio
  36. Oklahoma
  37. Oregon
  38. Pennsylvania
  39. Rhode Island
  40. South Carolina
  41. South Dakota
  42. Tennessee
  43. Texas
  44. Utah
  45. Vermont:  Pollyanna, by Eleanor H. Porter
  46. Virginia
  47. Washington
  48. West Virginia
  49. Wisconsin
  50. Wyoming

 

Some Interesting Reading

 

Woman Reading, by Louise Catherine Breslau

For the last few weeks, I’ve had my nose in some very interesting books, as my Dad used to say to me. And I’m enjoying every minute of my reading right now. Isn’t that a nice thing to be able to say!

I finished Louise Penny’s The Brutal Telling, a story of another murder in Three Pines (the murder capital of the world?). I loved the references to the artist Emily Carr, and the trip to the Queen Charlotte Islands made by Chief Inspector Gamache as he worked to understand and solve this mysterious death.

from the publisher:

Chaos is coming, old son.

With those words the peace of Three Pines is shattered. As families prepare to head back to the city and children say goodbye to summer, a stranger is found murdered in the village bistro and antiques store. Once again, Chief Inspector Gamache and his team are called in to strip back layers of lies, exposing both treasures and rancid secrets buried in the wilderness.

No one admits to knowing the murdered man, but as secrets are revealed, chaos begins to close in on the beloved bistro owner, Olivier. How did he make such a spectacular success of his business? What past did he leave behind and why has he buried himself in this tiny village? And why does every lead in the investigation find its way back to him?

As Olivier grows more frantic, a trail of clues and treasures— from first editions of Charlotte’s Web and Jane Eyre to a spider web with the word “WOE” woven in it—lead the Chief Inspector deep into the woods and across the continent in search of the truth, and finally back to Three Pines as the little village braces for the truth and the final, brutal telling.

Then I read another book by Nevil Shute, Mysterious Aviator, which kept me captivated for a couple of days. This book was published in 1928 under the title of So Disdained.

from the publisher:

When Peter Moran, a former World War I pilot, picks up a man on the roadside while driving through a bitter rainy night, he is startled to discover that the bedraggled man is a wartime comrade of his who has just survived a crash landing. As he learns more about his old friend’s strange mission, Moran finds himself entangled in treasonous international plots, flying adventures, and tests of both his bravery and his loyalty.

After the tragic fire at  Notre Dame Cathedral, I decided to start listening to the audiobook version of Ken Follett’s, The Pillars of the Earth, the first book in his Kingsbridge Novels trilogy about the building of a medieval cathedral, and it has completely carried me away!

And as if listening to 44 hours of The Pillars of the Earth wasn’t keeping me busy enough, I read a lovely review by Jane @Beyond Eden Rock about Greengates, by R.C. Sherriff. It sounded so interesting that I searched for a copy but couldn’t find it at Powell’s or at my local libraries. I finally found that it was available for my Kindle so I downloaded it, started reading, and have loved every minute of it!

From the Persephone Books catalogue:

The plot is timeless and simple: a man retires from his job but finds that never were truer words said than ‘for better, for worse but not for lunch’. His boredom, his wife’s (suppressed and confused) dismay at the quiet orderliness of her life being destroyed, their growing tension with each other, is beautifully and kindly described. Then one day they do something they used to do more often – leave St John’s Wood and go out into the countryside for the day. And that walk changes their lives forever: they see a house for sale, decide to move there, and the nub of the book is a description of their leaving London, the move, and the new life they create for themselves.

I have so many more interesting books to read next, but I also have a garden to plant, much weeding to do, meetings with my Moms Demand Action team, my fitness class schedule, and a 5k race to walk on Sunday morning. All of a sudden, life is very busy!

Farther Afield

Reading one of Miss Read’s books is like coming home. If the world gets too crazy, or the days too stressful, I can depend on Miss Read to calm the waters, make me smile, and renew my spirits.

Farther Afield was a fun read. The storyline was a little different from the other Fairacre books I’ve read so far in that Miss Read went traveling!  Summer break arrived, the students all went happily on their way, the school was sorted and closed, and Mrs. Pringle arrived at Miss Read’s house to help her with the deep cleaning she called “bottoming.”

Unfortunately, while helping grumpy old Mrs. Pringle, Miss Read has an accident and broke her arm, so all her plans for the summer were dashed. When Miss Read was released from the hospital, she began her recovery at the house of her close friend, Amy, who took loving care of her. And when she was sufficiently recovered to get around, her friend invited her to join her for a vacation in Crete! What a wonderful, healing adventure they had there!

This was a summer of reflection for Miss Read. The travel was wonderful, but returning home was also wonderful. She returned with renewed health and renewed appreciation for the life she lives. Amy was having serious marital problems, and as she watched and worried about her friend, she ruminated about her own life as a single woman, a “spinster” as the village called her.

It is at times like this that a spinster counts her blessings. Her troubles are of her own making, and can be tackled straightforwardly. She is independent, both monetarily and in spirit. Her life is wonderfully simple, compared with that of her married sister. And she cannot be hurt, quite so cruelly, as a woman can be by her husband.

Conversely, she has no-one with whom to share her troubles and doubts. She must bear alone the consequences of all her actions and, coming down to brass tacks, she must be able to support herself financially, physically and emotionally.

I know all this from first-hand experience. I know too that there are some people who view my life as narrow and self-centred. Some, even, find a middle-aged single woman pitiable, if not faintly ridiculous. This, I have always felt, is to rate the value of men too highly, although I recognise that a truly happy marriage is probably the highest state of contentment attainable by either partner.

This was one of my favorite books so far in my reading of the Fairacre series!

 

Reading Miss Read

In the last few years, I have fallen in love with the Fairacre series, by Miss Read (the pseudonym for English author, Dora Saint). Fairacre is an imagined English village, and the stories about the life and people in this village as told by the village school teacher are absolutely delightful. Not everything is idyllic in the village, but nonetheless, I would love to live there, and I thoroughly enjoy my time spent there when I’m reading one of the books in the series. When I finish reading the Fairacre series, I will most happily move on to her Thrush Green series. Thrush Green is another village full of more delightful stories.

This is an ongoing personal reading challenge…one of my “Reading Journeys.”  I haven’t been reviewing each of the books I’ve read in the series, but this post is where I will keep track of the ones I read and link to the ones I review.

The Fairacre series:

  1. Village School – 1955
  2. Village Diary – 1957
  3. Storm in the Village – 1958
  4. Miss Clare Remembers – 1962
  5. Over the Gate – 1964
  6. Village Christmas – 1966
  7. Fairacre Festival – 1968
  8. Emily Davis – 1971
  9. Tyler’s Row – 1972
  10. Christmas Mouse – 1973
  11. Farther Afield – 1974
  12. No Holly for Miss Quinn – 1976
  13. Village Affairs – 1977
  14. The White Robin – 1979
  15. Village Centenary – 1980
  16. Summer at Fairacre – 1984
  17. Mrs. Pringle – 1989
  18. Changes at Fairacre – 1991
  19. Farewell to Fairacre – 1993
  20. A Peaceful Retirement – 1996

The Thrush Green series:

  1. Thrush Green – 1959
  2. Winter in Thrush Green – 1961
  3. News from Thrush Green – 1970
  4. Battles at Thrush Green – 1975
  5. Return to Thrush Green – 1978
  6. Gossip from Thrush Green – 1981
  7. Affairs at Thrush Green – 1983
  8. At Home in Thrush Green – 1985
  9. School at Thrush Green – 1987
  10. Friends at Thrush Green – 1990
  11. Celebrations at Thrush Green – 1992
  12. Year at Thrush Green – 1995

The Caxley Chronicles:

  • The Caxley Chronicles Omnibus: The Market Square and The Howards of Caxley

Other Works by Miss Read:

  • Tiggy – 1971
  • Fresh from the Country – 1955
  • Mrs. Griffin Sends Her Love

 

Reading Nevil Shute

A portrait of Nevil Shute Norway from the Nevil Shute Norway Foundation website...

A portrait of Nevil Shute Norway from the Nevil Shute Norway Foundation website. Click on the portrait to visit that website.

Some authors, over time, weave themselves into your reading life! When I was in high school, I read a book by Nevil Shute called On the Beach, a story about nuclear war. I remember only a few details of the story after so many years, but I vividly remember the powerful emotional impact it had on me. Then, years later, when my children were young, the Hubby and I enjoyed watching a series on Masterpiece Theatre called A Town Like Alice, based on a book by Nevil Shute. Again, it had a powerful emotional impact on me and I still consider it one of my favorites from many years of stories we’ve watched on Masterpiece Theatre.

Last month, I discovered the audiobook of A Town Like Alice was available through Audible. I downloaded it and enjoyed listening to it while knitting, and was delighted to discover how much I enjoy Nevil Shute’s writing and storytelling. This was an amazing story of love, survival, resilience, and hope during and after World War II. When I finished it, I didn’t want to leave his storytelling presence, so I downloaded another of his books. Pied Piper, the story of a 70-year-old Englishman who was able to lead 7 young children to safety during World War II, also captured my heart and I had a hard time taking off the earphones, listening to it in record time!

So over my lifetime of reading, Nevil Shute has “visited” me numerous times. Each time, I have appreciated that he tells his stories with honesty and emotional integrity; that his characters are ordinary people thrust into extraordinary times and who meet those challenges with courage and kindness. He reminds me that one person can make a difference.

I look forward to reading my next book by Nevil Shute, and welcome his stories of good and caring people into the fabric of my reading life.

Here is the list of Nevil Shute’s books.  I am slowly reading through the list, and although I haven’t reviewed all of the ones I’ve read so far, please click on any that are hyperlinked to read my reviews.

  1. Marazan (1926)
  2. Mysterious Aviator/So Disdained (1928)
  3. Lonely Road (1932)
  4. Kindling/Ruined City (1938)
  5. What Happened to the Corbetts (1939)
  6. An Old Captivity (1940)
  7. Landfall (1940)
  8. Pied Piper (1942)
  9. Pastoral (1944)
  10. Most Secret (1945)
  11. An Old Captivity/Vinland the Good (1946)
  12. The Chequer Board (1947)
  13. No Highway (1948)
  14. A Town Like Alice (1950)
  15. Round the Bend (1951)
  16. The Far Country (1952)
  17. In the Wet (1953)
  18. Slide Rule (1954)
  19. The Breaking Wave/Requiem for a Wren (1955)
  20. Beyond the Black Stump (1956)
  21. On the Beach (1957)
  22. The Rainbow and the Rose (1958)
  23. Trustee from the Toolroom (1960)
  24. Stephen Morris/Pilotage (1961)

 

Reading Pearl

 

The little book I reviewed last week, Christmas Day in the Morning, reminded me how much I love the work of Pearl S. Buck.  Her writing is so beautiful and her stories so compelling, whether written for adults or children.  She’s an absolute favorite, and I’ve decided to give myself the gift of reading more of her work.

She was a prolific writer, publishing over 70 books, and although we associate her primarily with China, she wrote novels about other cultures and nonfiction about important issues, as well.  Apart from her novels, she wrote about children with disabilities (her own daughter suffered from PKU as an infant and was severely disabled); she wrote about adoption issues (she adopted 9 children);  she wrote biographies of both her parents and her own autobiography; and she wrote wonderful books for children and young adults. She won the Pulitzer Prize in 1932 for The Good Earth, and the Nobel Prize in 1938 for all her work.  She was a great humanitarian and an activist for human and civil rights. She is one of my heroes!

Many of her books are now out of print and available only through the libraries or used books dealers, but they are treasures worth tracking down. There are also a number of excellent biographies of her. One that I have sitting on my TBR shelf is Pearl S. Buck: A Cultural Biography, by Peter Conn.

I’ve put together a starter list of books I would like to read or reread, and will expand this list and link my reviews to it (although I may not review all of the ones I read).  I’m not putting a time limit on this personal challenge. I’ll just keep reading and enjoying her work as time allows.

Children’s Books:

Fiction:

  • The House of Earth Series:
    1. The Good Earth
    2. Sons
    3. A House Divided
  • Peony
  • Death in the Castle
  • Pavilion of Women
  • Three Daughters of Madame Liang
  • Mandala: A Novel of India
  • Imperial Woman
  • The Mother
  • Kinfolk
  • The New Year
  • East Wind, West Wind
  • Dragon Seed
  • The Angry Wife
  • Letter from Peking
  • The Living Reed
  • The Goddess Abides
  • The Eternal Wonder

Non-Fiction

  • A Bridge for Passing
  • The Fighting Angel: Portrait of a Soul (her biography of her father)
  • The Exile (her biography of her mother)
  • My Several Worlds
  • To My Daughters, With Love
  • The Child Who Never Grew
  • The Man Who Changed China: The Story of Sun Yat-sen
  • The Kennedy Women

About her:

    • Pearl Buck: A Cultural Biography, by Peter Conn
    • Between Two Worlds, by Barbara Mitchell (a biography for middle school readers)

May Sunshine Light Your Day…

A single sunbeam is enough to drive away many shadows.
— St. Francis of Assisi

When November arrives in the Pacific Northwest, it brings deep darkness and rain. Most of us living here actually like the rain and understand Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s advice: “The best thing one can do when it’s raining is to let it rain.” But that doesn’t mean we don’t long for sunshine on those long, dark, wintery days. One of my favorite things to do in winter, on a dark and dreary day, is to read a book that takes place in sunnier climates. I love to immerse myself in the written sunlight, and then look up to be startled by the dark contrast outside my window.

As I was looking through the books on my bookshelves this weekend, I was amazed at how many fit that sunshine description. I decided to put a list together of books I can read on very gray days…my own little journey south in search of sunshine.

My Sunshine choices:

People don’t notice whether it’s winter or summer when they’re happy.
— Anton Chekhov

(Click on the beautiful painting above to learn more about the artist, LaShun Beal.)