Books, comforting

“Then would you read a Sustaining Book, such as would help and comfort a Wedged Bear in Great Tightness?” *

Casting about recently for something to read, I realized that what I really wanted was to reread a book—one that I knew would be absorbing, allow me to fall into another world, and comfort me with its familiarity. Just thinking about which books those were generated this list. In no particular order:

The Harry Potter series, especially the first three, by J.K. Rowling. I’ve read all of them multiple times, but the series gets grimmer after the third one and so not quite as suitable for when I need comfort.

The Wizard of Earthsea trilogy by Ursula Le Guin. I checked out and read the first of these, A Wizard of Earthsea, a couple of weeks ago, telling myself that I wouldn’t read all three since I like the first one best. I went on to read The Tombs of Atuan and The Farthest Shore. Not only did I enjoy rereading the trilogy, I was reminded that this is one of my favorite lines in a book: “I do not care what comes after; I have seen the dragons on the wind of morning.” Can’t you just see the dragons soaring?

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein. What can I say? I have read this more times than I can count and still turn to it when I need a sustaining book.

In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden. One of my all-time favorite adult fiction books. I don’t usually read it from cover to cover anymore, but start wherever it happens to open to. Love it.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis. I like the Narnia series and love some of the individual books, but this is my favorite. Early on in the book, when the narrator says about Lucy, “She felt quite sure they were in for a lovely time,” I couldn’t agree more.

A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter. I read my mom’s hardback copy as a teenager. It was already decades old then, so I thrilled when I found it in paperback ten years ago.

The Betsy-Tacy books, especially Heaven to Betsy and the five books that follow it, by Maud Hart Lovelace. Unlike some of the other series that I read first as an adult, I read this one as a girl. I bought the whole set when it was reissued in paperback several years ago just as I had a little extra cash on hand; I took it as a sign from the universe! The last book in the series, Betsy’s Wedding, is one of the happiest books I’ve ever read.

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury. As life-affirming as it gets. Perhaps because it’s set in summertime, I like reading it in August.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Another one I’ve read several times. I always start this one at the beginning so I don’t miss anything in the story.

The Railway Children by E. Nesbit. I knew about this book for a long time before I finally read it and was drawn into the story immediately. Although I’ve read it several times and know how it comes out, I still get teary at the end. I have the e-book version now and love knowing it’s there waiting for me.

Comment here if you have a book or two you read for comfort!

*Milne, A.A.. Winnie the Pooh (Winnie-the-Pooh Book 1) (p. 27). Penguin Young Readers Group. Kindle Edition.

Getting Cozy

I became a fan of mysteries when I discovered Agatha Christie during my senior year of high school. Since then, I’ve read everything from Dick Francis to P.D. James to Jo Nesbo.

My sister recently turned me on to cozies. I must admit part of the appeal for me is that so many of them have titles that are plays on words or phrases, e.g., “A Sheetcake Named Desire” and “To Brie or Not To Brie.”

What follows is a post my sister wrote about some of the cozies we’ve read. Enjoy!

Not Inclined To Resign To Maturity

I recently shared a post my sister wrote on her blog of some favorite books she has read. The books are all non-fiction, and though I have read a couple of them, it is my goal to tackle the others on the list.

 I love to read. A book that pulls me in and takes me to new places or offers new perspectives or allows me to feel deep emotion often does so to the exclusion of all else. I will stay up way later than I should, or put off chores that need to be done, just to read the book in question. I have been known to mourn when I finish a great book, just because it is over, or because the next one in a series isn’t out yet.

That being said, let’s get cozy. While I enjoy books that make me think or, gasp, help…

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Speaking of books…

In my post Notes from the trail, I mentioned that my brother and I got into a book discussion because we were talking about “Undaunted Courage.” In case you’re looking for something to read, here are some of the books we discussed.

Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson and the Opening of the American West by Stephen E. Ambrose—a fascinating account of the Lewis and Clark expedition, centered around Meriwether Lewis. One of the things that still sticks with me is how much these men had to know in order to recognize what was new, e.g., plants. Note: I’ve recommended this book to people who have had a hard time getting into it, so I suggest giving it several chapters.

The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History by John M. Barry—I got interested in the 1918 influenza epidemic and read three books about it. This was the best. Barry’s explanation of how a virus works was clear, even to a non-scientific mind like mine.

Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America by John M. Barry—I liked “The Great Influenza” so much, I read another book by the author. This book about the 1927 Mississippi River flood deals with politics, race, and class. Much about Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath was an echo of the happenings in this book.

Lindbergh by A. Scott Berg—I wasn’t at all interested in Charles Lindbergh, but read this book because I’m a fan of Berg’s. It’s a tribute to his writing that I wound up being engrossed by this biography.

Polio: An American Story by David M. Oshinsky—as a child, I received the vaccine on a sugar cube as part of a mass vaccination effort at the local high school. That memory prompted me to read about this race for the cure.

King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa by Adam Hochschild—this was a topic about which I knew nothing. It’s a gripping story, but fair warning—this book is very hard to read because of the atrocities described. 

Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire’s Slaves by Adam Hochschild—you might be noticing a theme here—when I find an author I like, I read more of his/her books. This is a wonderful, inspiring story—could not put it down. I’m still somewhat irked at the person to whom I lent it who didn’t return it—I wanted to keep it.

The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914 by David McCullough—McCullough is one of my favorite non-fiction authors. This is an enthralling epic about one of the greatest of engineering feats.

The Great Bridge by David McCullough—years ago, during a visit to Boston, my brother told me this story while we were waiting in line for the swan boats. Later that day, we were in Waterstone’s and he bought the book for me. It’s what started me off on reading history and biography, having not read much since I graduated from college. Loved this story so much that to this day, I feel quite proprietary about the Brooklyn Bridge.

Library Geek (and proud of it!)

Libraries have been a huge part of my life from the time I was a child. At my parochial grade school, each class made a formal visit to the school library once a week and we were allowed to check out one book, which would be due the next week. We thought that was so exciting!

I usually finished the book in a couple of days, but fortunately, my parents were not only readers, but believers in the public library system. Back then, our closest library was the central library, which was in downtown Fort Worth. On a Sunday afternoon every three weeks (the checkout period), we made a trip downtown to turn in our books, browse the shelves and check out another stack of books for each family member. I can still see the trunk of our ’56 Buick filled with books.

For that matter, I can still see the children’s area of the library, which occupied the basement floor of the building. The checkout desk was in the first room, along with the books for pre-school-age children. The non-fiction books were next, with the fiction around the walls. I remember a series of ‘biographies’ written for children. The titles all followed the same format, e.g., “Francis Marion, Swamp Fox’. (Do not ask me why I can remember that when I can’t remember what I had for dinner last night!)

When I was in fourth or fifth grade, I wanted to read books from the Young Adult section, which was upstairs. The rule, though, was that you had to be at least 13 to check out any books other than those in the children’s section. One Sunday, my dad took me upstairs to one of the librarians in the adult section, pulled a book off a shelf and had me read aloud a paragraph to her. He pulled another book off the shelf and I read another paragraph. At this point, the librarian agreed that I could have access to, and check out, books from anywhere in the library.

By the time I started high school, there was a branch library on the west side of Fort Worth that we patronized. I worked part-time in the library all four years of high school, first as a ‘page’, then as a clerk. To this day, I alphabetize my fiction books by the author’s ‘real’ last name if I know it, not the pen name, because that’s how it was done in our library.

In every place I’ve lived in as an adult, I’ve gotten a library card, even in Warsaw, Indiana, where I worked summer stock one year. Over time, though, while I still used my local library, I started buying most of the books I read – either new or secondhand. At one point, I had over 800 books in my 400 square foot apartment.

Despite my best efforts at occasionally weeding out books for donation, my bookshelves were always full. Maybe it was having to pack all those books for the move to Providence that made me decide to buy fewer books and start checking out books from the library. What a pleasure that has been! From the first time I walked into my neighborhood library, I felt at home. I’m sure that’s due in part to the strong resemblance the Providence Public Library building bears to the Fort Worth library of my childhood.

I can’t count the number of books I’ve checked out in the last three and a half years. Thanks to the Ocean State Libraries system, I am able to request books from libraries all over the state. The library has a computer room that is almost always completely occupied and offers computer and other classes, as well as lectures and exhibits. I like this library so much that I’ve started taking my laptop to the reading room of the library two or three times a week and working there for a couple of hours – the atmosphere encourages working on my photos or my writing.

Yep, library geek and proud of it!

Anyone out there editing or proofreading? Anyone?

I’m the wrong gender and not old enough to be a curmudgeon, but if there were a female version of this word, I would employ it here. Since I can’t find one on Merriam Webster’s site, I will go ahead and use the word.

If anything could make me curmudgeonly, it would be the lack of editing and proofreading in published material. I accept that for texts and tweets, a shortened version of English words and phrases is useful. I can understand that Facebook, by its informal nature, does not require that we write the same way we would in school or at work.

However, I am slowly being driven insane by the sloppily-edited books I read, by misused words on websites and in newsletters, and by misspellings everywhere.

For example, I read a lot of mysteries. One of the pleasures of this genre for me has always been that it’s light reading, yet intellectually stimulating enough that I’m not bored. These days, the Intellectual stimulation I get is mentally correcting sentence structure and noting continuity errors.

There is one mystery writer. Who writes. Like this. I understand that an occasional incomplete sentence can provide emphasis, but this is so distracting that I lose the sense of what is written. I like her characters, the settings of her books and sometimes even the plot, but I can no longer read her books because. Her sentence structure. Is so annoying.

Don’t even get me started on sentences that start with words that I was taught introduce a clause in an existing sentence. Because that’s another pet peeve.

Websites are rife with examples of sloppy editing or perhaps no editing at all. During a recent heat wave, the headline on an article about reducing energy consumption referred to ‘preserving’ energy. I am all in favor of conserving energy, but I refuse to boil it with sugar, put it in sealed jars, and place it on my pantry shelves.  

One of my favorite goofs appeared in an article I read recently on a major news site. The writer stated that the subject of the article had been arrested for ‘pubic intoxication.’ Really?

Believe me, I understand how mistakes happen; what seems to be missing these days is the awareness that one might have made a mistake and the will to correct it. This may be old-fashioned of me, but I think sloppy language is a sign of sloppy thinking. At best, it’s annoying; at worst, it’s potentially dangerous, even life-threatening. Please, editors and writers, pay attention!