Saturday, February 06, 2010


I've had a great week but sadly it has not included much blogging. I completely missed Word of the Day which was just bad of me since lately I have had so many great contributers of sentences. I will do my best to be back on that this coming Wednesday.

What I did do is a rewrite on the 1944 chapter of my memoir, Reading For My Life. For those of you who have read the early chapters here on the blog, you might wonder why you haven't seen a new chapter for over a year. The main reason is that I haven't written a new chapter for a while. I joined a writing group about a year ago and have been revising my earlier chapters month by month and reading them to the group for feedback, which I am happy to say has been quite positive. The group members tell me that it reads like a novel. Maybe I could still write a novel or two in the years left to me.

The second reason is that I got squeamish about putting the memoir on the blog for free. What if I could actually publish it someday? Other reasons like should I put such personal information about my life and family on the web and related thoughts to that are still swirling through my mind and finding nowhere to rest. Stay tuned is all I can promise.

The other accomplishment this week, besides reading, was a book review of The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova for BookBrowse, which will go up on the web on February 17 for members and about 2 to 4 weeks later for visitors. But don't wait for that. Just read it. It is quite good.

I have been on hiatus from working at Once Upon A Time since we finished doing inventory at the first of the year. Since I had some savings and business is slower this time of year, I was lucky enough to take some time off. This blog is still linked to the store and I encourage any of my readers who are fond of independent bookstores to shop there or at your local one. We might not have them for much longer but at least we can support them and all their hardworking owners and staff. It is possible that our children and grandchildren will move on to other ways of shopping for books but then again, you don't what you've lost until it's gone. I find it heartening that children's literature is having a boom these days and really, how can you pick out a picture book without paging through it?

Reading: I started the year with a (probably unrealistic) resolution to read a book a day. Factually it takes a good eight hours or more a day to do so and some days just don't go that way. I got started on my resolution in the second week of January, due to the above mentioned inventory, but still managed to read 18 books last month. That is pretty good.

So here is the rundown. Some of these are already reviewed here on Keep The Wisdom. The rest are in the queue. One of my goals is to read three books a week for My Big Fat Reading Project, as that is the research for the memoir. In 7 years of working away at my lists I have only completed 17 years worth, so I must step it up. Also, the lists get longer as the years go by and I discover more authors I want to explore.

OK. Enough. Here is what I read in January:

The Short Reign of Pippin IV, John Steinbeck. A little known novel of his from 1957 which is his only book of overt political satire and takes place in France. Great!

Loser Takes All, Graham Greene. Very short, mediocre, 1957 novel. One of his "entertainments."

Little, Big, John Crowley. Adult fairy tale. My favorite book of 2010 so far.

The Madonnas of Leningrad, Debra Dean. Outwardly a story about the siege of Leningrad but really a story about art, memory and immigration.

Food Rules, Michael Pollan. A brief, hilarious list of ways to avoid food that will ultimately make you sick and poison you.

The Scapegoat, Daphne Du Maurier. Well, she just never wrote a book that wasn't wonderful. This one, from the 1957 list, is about a doppelganger situation that takes place in France.

The Swan Thieves, Elizabeth Kostova. The much anticipated follow up to The Historian. Art, love, women, and mental states with history added. Very nice.

The Borrowers, Mary Norton. A favorite of mine from childhood. Missed it when I read the books from 1952. About small human-like creatures who live in our homes and "borrow" all our stuff that's gone missing.

Bayou Susette, Lois Lenski. The first of her regional series for children. Also missed from my 1943 list. Life on the New Orleans bayou in the early 1900s.

The Deep Range, Arthur C Clarke. Futuristic extreme adventure set in the oceans of Earth, where mankind grows much of his food: algae and whales, from the 1957 list. Engrossing.

The Edge of Darkness, Mary Ellen Chase. Not the movie. From the 1957 list. She is a loved author of mine but this one wasn't her best. People from a Maine backwater and their foibles.

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, David Wroblewski. Just amazing. Can't believe I waited this long to read it. And I don't even especially like dogs.

Miracles on Maple Hill, Virginia Sorensen. Newbery Award winner from 1957. One of the best Newberys I have read so far. A father damaged by the Korean War is healed by life in the maple sugar country of northern Pennsylvania.

Dandelion Wine, Ray Bradbury. His 1957 coming-of-age tale set in a midwestern small town summer.

The Grift, Debra Ginsberg. Fun, trashy novel about a psychic by the author of Blind Submission.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Muriel Barbery. Three of my five reading groups have selected this bestselling book of ideas. Set in Paris, not much of a plot, but lovely just the same.

Giants of Jazz, Studs Terkel. The first of his books about American life. Non-fiction, loving portraits of many of the jazz greats from the first half of the 20th century.

White Man, Listen, Richard Wright. From the 1957 list. He continues to tell the truth about Africa, colonialism and the future of the black race. Amazing really.

What have you been reading? Or writing?

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