Sunday, January 8, 2017
"Oh, Kaye!" chats about books
No, it's not the 1st Sunday of the month. Did you miss me?!
I was one of many applauding the welcome of our new Reds - Jenn & Ingrid. Welcome! I have enjoyed getting to know a little more about you both this week.
And, I've been reading Will Schwalbe's "Books for Living."
Have you read it?
As readers, I think it's a book you'll enjoy and it's one I recommend.
Mine was a gift from a friend who knows me well, and while reading it I couldn't resist the urge to order one for a another friend.
It's that kind of book. One you're going to want to share.
From the book cover flap: "Why is it that we read? Is it to pass time? To learn something new? To escape from reality? For Will Schwalbe, reading is a way to entertain himself but also to make sense of the world, to become a better person, and to find the answers to the big (and small) questions about how to live his life. In this delightful celebration of reading, Schwalbe invites us along on his quest for books that speak to the specific challenges of living in our modern world, with all its noise and distractions. In each chapter, he discusses a particular book—what brought him to it (or vice versa), the people in his life he associates with it, and how it became a part of his understanding of himself in the world. These books span centuries and genres (from classic works of adult and children’s literature to contemporary thrillers and even cookbooks), and each one relates to the questions and concerns we all share. Throughout, Schwalbe focuses on the way certain books can help us honor those we’ve loved and lost, and also figure out how to live each day more fully. Rich with stories and recommendations, Books for Living is a treasure for everyone who loves books and loves to hear the answer to the question: “What are you reading?”
Naturally, while reading Mr. Schwalbe's book, I found myself remembering particular books that brought something into my own life. Touched me in some way. Books that may pop randomly to mind for, seemingly, no particular reason, or clearly tied to a singular event.
I think probably all readers experience this, don't we? Fall in love with a book and immediately want to share it with like-minded friends?
In no particular order, I'm going to share some of those that have meant enough to me, for whatever reason, that they've earned their own little corner in our house. A little corner of extra copies of books that I love sharing with people I think will enjoy them.
One of my favorite books is one I resisted reading for a long time. The title "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" was, for some reason, off-putting. That, along with all the hype bothered me. It just didn't sound like my cup of tea. I was so wrong.
It's a perfect book.
And it's one of those books filled with passages you want to read aloud. Either to whomever is close by, or just to hear them yourself.
One that resonated with me is: "Perhaps there is some secret sort of homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers.”
Isn't that wonderful? And true, I think.
Speaking of passages you want to read aloud - a whole series of books that I feel this way about is Louise Penny's Three Pines series. I am constantly following Donald around the house saying, "Oh, listen. Listen to this!"
Usually when I do this he knows it's going to be something by Louise, or by Pat Conroy.
Pat Conroy wrote books that beg to be read aloud, I think.
Back to important, for whatever reason, books -
One of the first books I fell in love with as a teen was Herman Wouk's "Marjorie Morningstar."
Another book that lives in the corner of "to be shared" books is Anton Myrer's "The Last Convertible."
And Michael Malone's "Handling Sin."
Laurie King's "Folly."
James Anderson's "The Never-Open Desert Diner."
Anne Rivers Siddons "Peachtree Road."
Every word written by Margaret Maron.
And in remembering that I'm only writing a blog here, NOT a sequel to Will Schwalbe's "Books for Living," I'll stop with my list.
That's certainly not to say that's the end of my list. Pfft. Far from it. But - it's a good start.
All of these books have been, still are, important to me.
Are they "important" in a larger sense? Important in a way of being BIG IMPORTANT BOOKS?!
Not for me to say - some on this list are simply books I love. And that's important enough for me.
In "Books for Living," Mr. Schwalbe talks about books that people say have saved their lives.
In some cases, this is quite literally the truth. As in Theodore Roosevelt's case when he was shot while on the campaign trail in 1912. His speech, in manuscript form, was in his overcoat pocket (along with his metal eyeglass case, which I'm thinking may have also helped). The bullet still found it's target, Roosevelt was indeed shot, but he insisted he was not injured badly enough to not give his speech.
There are less dramatic instances of life saving books, of course.
Or, perhaps it's a book that while not life saving is, in some way, life changing.
Quoting Will Schwalbe - "A book doesn't need to be thick enough to stop bullets . . . It just needs to be the book you need when you need it."
Another Schwalbe quote brought a particular book to mind. It's a book of particular importance to me.
First, the quote: " . . . reading should spur further engagement. When you read about injustice, you need to do something about it. Books have played a role in almost every one of the world's great civil and human rights movements, but only because people who read them decided to act. Reading brings with it responsibility."
The book that has lived in my mind for a very long time (and one I still actively seek out in used book stores. I can't even remember how many copies I own) is Anne Fairbairn's "Five Smooth Stones." Anyone who has read it will understand why. It's not an easy book to read - even now. I read it the first time when it was first published in 1966.
Sadly, it's still, in many ways, a timely novel.
And one that has gone out of print more than once, only to be brought back.
In 1966, I was a senior in high school and my hometown was in the news for all the wrong reasons.
Cambridge, MD was one of the first towns young black Freedom Riders visited. We were placed under Martial Law. National Guardsmen lived in tents on our school grounds. They stood on street corners with guns and bayonets.
This period of my life molded and forged me to be the woman I am now. "Five Smooth Stones" was a huge part of that molding and forging.
That shameful period affected and molded many of my classmates completely differently. While I am certainly not the only non-conservative, there are not a lot of liberals from the Cambridge, MD Class of '66.
So, yes, I understood what Will Schwalbe was writing about, and it resonated loudly.
Books entertain us, but oh my - they do so, so much more.
Dear Reds, What book or books do you hold dear, that may have even changed you in some manner?