Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Owls and Other Fantasies: Poems and Essays by Mary Oliver

I have the greatest of admiration for Mary Oliver's poetry. She has an almost "mystical" connection with nature that is truly inspiring. I feel the same connection that she does, I am just not as capable of expressing it as she is.

It seems that birds have been a very important part of her life, as they are in mine.

These are passionate poems and essays that will precipitate within you deep reflections on the marvelous mystery of life. Pick up this slim volume of pleasurable reading and you'll see why Mary won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry.

Here's the beautiful kickoff poem in her book:

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting--
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Postcards from the Boys by Ringo Starr

I am a huge Beatles fan, and every so often I add another book to my collection. This one released by Ringo in 2004 is a collection of postcards sent to him by "the boys". Accompanying them are Ringo's comments; his thoughts and memories of the particular time the cards encapsulate. They vary widely from the whimsical to the bizarre, with scribbled haikus, drawings, and private jokes, dashed off in friendly fashion. I guess what these cards really show is the fact that through all the ups and downs and ins and outs that the Beatles as a group experienced, their friendship remained. They stayed friends even if they couldn't stay Beatles.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Yours Ever: People and Their Letters by Thomas Mallon

In these days of MySpace, Facebook, emails, and you remember the last time you sat down and tried to write someone a letter?--Not just a note, or card, but a letter.

Thomas Mallon's book discusses the loss of these social and historical artifacts. I don't know if his book is truly as he says an "elegy to the genre" (I hope it is not truly dead), but it does make you think. What are the implications of losing such a rich connection with history? It has been said that letters are the lifeblood of history and the beating heart of biography, so what do we do without these tools that help us monitor the interior climate? One thing is certain, we won't be re-reading old emails or text messages or blog posts in our golden years, and our children won't be able to browse our emails after we're gone to gain any insight into what their parents were like when they were younger.

Mallon's book is a delightfully wide-ranging chronicle of this lost art. He organizes his material thematically and jumps around a lot, but if you are the sort who deplores the absence of salutations and polite closings in electronic correspondence, chances are you'll really like this book.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Katherine Paterson

 Katherine Paterson, the author of Bridge to Terabithia, is currently the Library of Congress National Ambassador for Young People's Literature. She recently shared what books made her grandkids' list of favorite reads:

Preschool (These are books they still remember fondly)
The Bunny Planet books by Rosemary Wells
The Island of the Skog by Steven Kellogg
A-Hunting We Will Go by Steven Kellogg
The Mysterious Tadpole by Steven Kellogg
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
The Mitten by Jan Brett
The Little Polar Bear by Hans de Beer
Mrs. Wishy Washy by Joy Cowley
Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton
The Blueberry Pie Elf by Nancy Thayer
Owl Babies by Martin Waddel

Series Books
The Magic Tree House by Mary Pope Osburne
The Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace
The Tale of Emily Windsnap by Liz Kessler
City of Ember by Jeanne Duprau
The Percy Jackson and the Olympian books by Rick Riordan
Geronimo Stilton by Stilton Geronimo
Maximum Ride by James Patterson
The Hunger Games and Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins
Alex Rider by Anthony Horowitz
Eragon by Christopher Paolini
The Spiderwick Chronicles by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black
Half-Magic by Edward Eage
The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling
The Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer

Enjoyed by Ages 8-12
The Tale of Desperaux by Kate DiCamillo
The Yankee Years by Joe Torre
Heat by Mike Lupica
Siren Song by Anne Ursu
The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry
Charlotte's Web by E. B. White
One Hundred Dresses by Elanor Estes
Land of the Lawn Weenies by David Lubar
Ribsy by Beverly Cleary
Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Walk Two Moons (and anything she writes) by Sharon Creech
Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh by Robert C. O'Brien
Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry by Mildred Taylor
Tom's Midnight Garden by Rosemary Wells
No Promises in the Wind by Irene Hunt
Crispin: Cross of Lead by Avi
The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
Bread and Roses, Too by Katherine Paterson

Teenage Picks
The Giver by Lois Lowry
A Jar of Dreams by Yoshika Uchida
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
Animal Farm and 1984 by George Orwell
A Separate Peace by John Knowles
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
Hope was Here by Joan Bauer

Thursday, March 25, 2010

I'll Mature When I'm Dead by Dave Barry

Research has shown that laughter reduces pain, increases job performance, connects people emotionally, and helps your blood vessels function better, increasing blood flow. In other words, it's good for your heart and brain, two organs that require the steady flow of oxygen carried in the blood.

So here's my prescription to heal what ails you. Read this book! The New York Times has called Dave Barry the funniest man in America. In his latest book Barry tackles the challenges of adulthood, from technology and the battle of the sexes to parenting and unmentionable medical procedures. I guarantee you will laugh out loud on just about every page. This book is pure (sorry) unadulterated fun. (He rubs off) Don't miss it.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Lady of Letters

I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Jillian Foster Knight at the Glasgow Highland Games last year. Her website is Lady of Letters

She writes poetry, taught herself bookbinding skills, and with mythology as her inspiration creates singular works of art. The pages of her books are ragged and the books have stitched bindings and canvas bound covers. She spends up to eight hours per volume producing them with an industrial sewing machine, clamps, gluepots, and other primitive methods.

I bought her volume "ReWritten: tales of celtic mythology." She wrote all the poetry and took all the photographs. Here's a sample:

For the Love of a Swan

I called to you from a dream.
I called to you as you slept.
There my true face and form first met you.
While slumbering,
you fell in love with that girl.
But in my other form,
you must find me.

She travels the country and makes her living selling these books. If you get the chance to see her at one of her upcoming events, she's delightful to talk to, and you will enjoy looking at her books and other goods. At the very least, check out her website.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Wise Women by Joyce Tenneson

I've had this book on my list of books to read for awhile now, and finally got the chance today.
As the book jacket says, "Wise Women is a celebration of the power and beauty of women in the third phase of their lives." The author traveled throughout America to photograph and interview the women in this book, whose ages range from 65-100. These women were eager to show what it means to be an "elder" in this new millennium. Instead of being the frail stereotype of aging that our society has promoted in the past, these black and white portraits show women who are vital, energetic, and beautiful; inside and out. Some of the photographs are of celebrities, but most are of ordinary women who could be our mothers and grandmothers or even ourselves. Many confided that they have never been happier or more in touch with their deeper powers. I don't think you can pick up this book and read these women's stories and think the same way about aging.

Here's an example of some of the wisdom contained within these covers, from Polly Kline, age 97: "I still don't dye my hair. My advice is follow your conscience. I've had several lives. I'm not the same person I was at twenty, forty, or even sixty. Now I'm a role model for women in their seventies and eighties! When you're this old you can reconsider your whole life. You can relive your life and understand it with a pleasure and perception not available when you first experienced it. People are extremely nice to me now, because I am no longer a threat to them."

From Elva Azzara, 93: "I can still remember what it feels like to love with all my heart."

You know, many of us fear growing older. We think it is a time of degeneration when physical and mental abilities are in sharp decline. We fail to recognize the energy, vitality, and yes wisdom, that is possible in later years. This book should help us dispel some of the negative attitudes we have about aging and is full of magic moments of revelation. It is truly a celebration of the courage, wit, strength, and beauty of these extraordinary women.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The area I spend so much time in at home

This is my desk at home. The area I spend so much time in, writing my book blog, and doing class work and library business, not to mention my own personal life tasks that intrude now and again.

This is a close-up of one of the bookshelves above my desk. This one contains books by my two favorite authors, Pat Conroy, and Rick well as an assortment of signed books that I've obtained from authors and a few books on top that I'm reading at the moment.

This is the other shelf with a mixture of books, each and every one of them telling a story about me and my life at the time when they entered it.

I don't know. I think I need a little more kitsch. Maybe a sock monkey or a robot.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Recent Favorite Covers

Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev

Perchance to Dream by Lisa Mantchev

Sometimes book covers will just catch your eye. I admit the covers on these pulled me in. Of course I loved the tag lines "All her world's a stage" and "We are such stuff as dreams are made on". Is part of the reason Young Adult books are so hot now due to the fact that their covers are so very interesting? Then I read a few of the quotes about them and was totally hooked. Quotes like: "With an iron-willed girl hero whose magic is with words, and a universe that is also the ultimate theater, Eyes like Stars is the most unusual fantasy I've read this year! I recommend it to anyone who loves drama, strong girls, and rowdy faery folk!"--Tamora Pierce and "Once again Lisa Mantchev has spun a tale like no other--full of romance, magic, adventure, and fairies, too--that readers won't want to put down, even after the curtain has closed." Yep. I'm going to be reading these. You may want to too.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Most They Ever Had by Rick Bragg

You know, people ask me all the time, "Who's your favorite author?". I could come up with a list of names within seconds. Some of the names on this list will vary, depending on the latest book I've read, or the day that you happen to ask me. But there are a couple of names that are always at the top of my list, and Rick Bragg is one of them.

Rick is a Pullitzer Prize winner, but more than that, he is a storyteller. And he comes from a long line of storytellers, the Appalachian people, who are his people, and my people too. And I guess the thing I like best about Rick's writing is that he gives voice to these people--these hard working, salt of the earth people, that are all too often forgotten or ignored or caricaturized in our popular culture.

Rick was born and raised on the outskirts of Jacksonville, Alabama, the mill town that is the subject of his latest book. Rick tells the story of the people in this small town who worked in the mill. They worked there because they needed those jobs, even though it filled their lungs with lint and shortened their lives, and because it allowed them to live, as Rick says, "in stiff-necked dignity in the hills of their fathers... so, when death did come, no one had to ship their bodies home on a train." In this area of the country, people who do not work, but could, are despised. In the local vernacular, they are "jest sorry". And it is work that defines them. Rick again..."You need not use foul language to damn a man here. Just say that a day's work would kill him, and you tore him down to the bald nothing."

These are the real people behind the plant closings and layoffs that are a common story around our country these days. Each chapter tells the story of a separate life and through it all there is a background of suffering endured that is grim and sad, yet very real. These tough people do not deserve to vanish alongside their dying industry, and they don't deserve to be forgotten by the labor unions or politicians in Washington. Rick wrote this book for them to champion their cause, and to honor them, a people who were once valued for what they could make, and how fine it was, and how fast they could make it. As Publisher's Weekly says "Bragg again creates a soulful, poignant portrait of working-class Southern life." You really should read this book.

A few years ago, when I saw Rick at the Southern Kentucky Book Festival in Bowling Green, I was lucky enough to get my picture taken with him. I was so proud of that picture with one of my favorite authors that I framed it and put it on my desk at work. I already had a picture of my son on my desk, and when I added this one to it, people just naturally thought it was my husband. I always hastened to correct them, no, no, not my husband, just my favorite author and a Pullitzer Prize winner. When I was telling my husband about this, he got his feelings hurt a bit that I didn't have his picture there, and I wound up taking both pictures down anyway, as I didn't have a whole lot of room for them anyway. I love my husband (you don't stay married to someone for 40 years if you don't). And I do love Rick Bragg (and I believe you will too), but the picture of me and Rick currently sits on top of my bookcase at home.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Stop Trashing Books--Donate, not Dumpster!

Here's a link to a very timely blog about an industry that has gone mad in the quest for a best seller. I think once you read it, you'll agree that people should tell book chains and publishers to donate unsold books to non-profits, instead of trashing them.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Sweeping up Glass by Carolyn D. Wall

I read the accolades about this Kentucky book, long before I picked it up to read it as our March selection for book club. And I must admit, I was pulled into the story from the opening page and did not want to put the book down. The prose was so rich and magical that it was hard for me to believe this was a debut novel. I also admit that I have a fondness for plucky heroines who battle against the odds in a bleak landscape and this book definitely fits that bill as well.

Someone is killing the beautiful silver faced wolves on Olivia Harker's property in depression era Kentucky, and she intends to find out who, and put a stop to it. In the process, we learn about Olivia's childhood with a mother who rejected and ignored her, then slipped into madness and had to be institutionalized, and a father who she adored. Her life is composed of taking care of her grandson and working very, very hard to make ends meet. She is friends with the blacks of the town at a time when segregation ruled and lynchings were very common. This book has so many different themes, expressed so beautifully--racism, family and community, poverty, coming of age, standing up for what you believe in, all brought together in a powerful character study of real people, told so well that you can practically smell their sweat and experience their stuggle right along side them.

I highly recommend this very engaging story that delivers a huge emotional wallop.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...