Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Books’ Category

What Are You Reading?

The Reading Head in La Rochelle, France.

The Reading Head in La Rochelle, France.

Do you sometimes find yourself in a book slump?  You could have a truckload of books at your disposal, but just can’t seem to find the right one?

That was me at the end of this summer.  I was stuck in a rut and searching for a good book to pull me out of it, but nothing seemed to work.  What I often find, after these slumps have passed, is that I discover a multitude of books to feed my craving.  Then the problem becomes finding time to read them.

Currently, I have a rotation of three wonderful books on my nightstand, each very unique and satisfying.  If I could read them all at once, I would!

The Road to Wellville

The Road to Wellville by T.C. Boyle

The first is T.C.Boyle’s The Road to Wellville.  I really enjoy this author.  He has a dry wit about him, and I often imagine him telling the story with a wink.  His stories lean towards exaggeration and sometimes fall into the extreme.  (I’ve also read his book Tortilla Curtain, which has more of a social justice slant, but was equally satisfying in it’s extremism.)

This novel tells the story of the real life character, Dr. John Harvey Kellog, best known as the creator of cornflakes; but in this novel it appears as if he would rather people remember him as the purveyor of healthy living.

It centers around his Sanitarium in Battle Creek, MI, which he runs with precise attention to detail using his holistic methods of nutrition, enemas, and exercise.  Many of his methods are highly experimental, and his vegetarian concoctions are enough to drive any Vegan back to carnivorism!

There are a cast of quirky characters surrounding him:  a married couple who attend the sanitarium and begin to stir up trouble, as well as a group of “gentlemen” who arrive in Battle Creek to promote their new breakfast cereal, backed by Dr. Kellog’s estranged son, George- who is up to no good!

T. C. Boyle’s novels are like riding a roller coaster.  They begin with a series of wild twists and turns, followed by a gripping climax and free-falling ending.  I must admit, I haven’t gotten all the way through it yet, but from all the book reviews I’ve read, it promises to be quite a ride!

What Are You Looking At? by Will Gompertz

What Are You Looking At?: The Surprising, Shocking, and Sometimes Strange Story of 150 Years of Modern Art by Will Gompertz

Next on my nightstand is the nonfiction title What are You Looking At?: The Surprising, Shocking, and Sometimes Strange Story of 150 Years of Modern Art by Will Gompertz.

The author is a former board director of the Tate Gallery in London, and now a commentator for the BBC.

I find his take on art refreshing, not stuffy and pretentious like many art history books I’ve read.  The author is a little geeky (not that there’s anything wrong with that!) and academic, but his tone is friendly and he seems to revel in showing us all the hidden nooks and crannies of the modern art world.

There is a plethora of art, artists, and the stories behind them crammed into this novel.  I would hate to be a student forced to remember it all.  But I’m not, and therefore can let it all run through my brain, grasping at interesting bits and pieces.  (Which are abundant!)

What I have been enjoying the most is how he ties everything together.  He gives brief historical references and reveals how the artists are interconnected; what the artwork meant to that moment in time and how it is still relevant today.

My copy also has full-color plates of some of the art mentioned throughout the book.  I’m glad I decided not to buy it on my Kindle!

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Lastly, I’ve enjoyed sinking my teeth into the historical novel, Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel.  It feeds into my obsession with the English and, in particular, the fascinating King Henry the VIII!  (Are you like me?  Have you streamed the BBC miniseries, The Tudors?  Love.)

This is one of the most well-written books I’ve read in a rather long time.  I feel as if the author is weaving a tapestry as she writes.  The characters slowly begin to emerge with each scene, in rich threads of dialogue, innuendos, and description.  Yet, the author is very cunning and only bestows enough to leave one wanting more.

That, coupled with the fact I know some of the history behind the characters and their eventual demise (i.e.: when King Henry falls madly in love with Anne Boleyn, I know it won’t end well!) makes this a page-turner!

That this novel is written from the point of view of Thomas Cromwell makes it even more fascinating.  Thomas Cromwell, you may recall, became one of Henry VIII’s closest confidants and a devious conniver of the royal court.  He started off as the son of a blacksmith, so his journey to prosperity is quite captivating; and Hilary Mantel’s portrayal of his developing talents and skills to become so powerful is masterful!

Ahh, how I love to read!  Yet often I only manage to squeak in a few pages at the end of the day.  I need a book club where everyone gets to read what they want, dishes out recommendations, and keeps each other accountable.  (i.e.: makes sure we are all reading!)  Would you like to join it?

What are you reading and what is your favorite book from the past 6 months?  (and what is it about?)  I’d love to hear your book recommendations and add them to my list.  Perhaps I can prevent my next book slump from happening!

Have an Engaging Week!

Which books have chosen you?

The wand choosing Harry

The wand chooses Harry

I’ve been waiting for this moment for many years.

Both the boys have been disinterested.  I thought for certain one of them would come around to it.  But my youngest daughter has revealed her adventurous side and agreed…

to allow me to read Harry Potter to her!

We have only just begun our semi-nightly ritual of reading, side-by-side, under the covers by the dim light of her lamp. (I must change that bulb!)  Harry has just found out he is a wizard and is on Diagon Alley getting his school supplies to start at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Tonight we read of the pageantry that is involved with choosing a wand.  Or rather, allowing the wand to choose it’s owner.  Fascinating! Of course, Harry’s wand is very unusual, made of holly and containing the feather of a rare phoenix bird.

As I tucked the kids in and came down the stairs to write this, I thought of those wands simultaneously with the books that I wanted to write about.  I wondered, what if there was a connection?  What if books chose the reader?

Of course, there really isn’t any magic involved to it.  But still, it often does seem like books find a way of reaching us where we’re at in life and revealing the truths beyond us.  Or maybe it’s just me.

But, just for arguments sake, let’s suppose that the books on my nightstand have chosen me.  What do they reveal?

Bill Bryson's, The Lost ContinentThe first book  is actually something I’m rereading from about 18 years ago.  It’s The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America by Bill Bryson.  There’s no denying it, I’m a huge Bill Bryson fan.  I discovered him as an expat living in London and at the time, he was too.  He wrote this book about journeying back to the states and I devoured it in a homesick stupor.

I chose to reread this book now because my family and I are about to go on a road-trip this summer and I wanted to prep for some of things we might come across.  But of course that’s not exactly what I’m getting out of it.

What I’m getting out of it is how he speaks of the memories of traveling in his youth.  He talks of going back to places he used to frequent and finding them changed.  I can relate.  I’ve moved around a bit and am always startled when my memories don’t match what I experience when I return.

He also reflects about his father, and how they would travel.  Funny stories of the frugal hotels they used to roll into and where they would make pit-stops.

It made me remember my own dad and how we’d make the trek from our home in Wisconsin to his home in Kentucky every summer after my parents divorced.  Now that my Dad has passed away I find myself scrutinizing each of my memories with him, and road trips were a big part of our time together.

Who could have guessed that the 40 year old me could have gotten a whole other layer of this book that the 20 year old me couldn’t?

This book chose me!

Ron Suskind's book, Life Animated

My Kindle version of Life Animated (along with T.C. Boyles, Tortilla Curtain- which is next on my reading list!)

Another book I just discovered is Life, Amimated: A story of sidekicks, heroes, and autism by Ron Suskind.  I had caught the tail end of an interview with the Pulizer- Prize winning journalist as he talked about this book on NPR.  I was intrigued and ordered it for my Kindle.

I was intrigued because I have a son with autism who is obsessed with Disney, just like the author’s son.  And, like the author, we have struggled to find ways of helping him to communicate beyond that narrow scope.

What I wasn’t prepared for when I began reading was how Disney permeated all the boy’s thoughts and emotions and yet, gave him another language in which to express himself.  The family used (and is still using) Disney to communicate with their son and allowing him to explore his feelings through it.

It made me wonder if this is an avenue we could further explore with our son.  We are patient in listening to him discuss Disneyworld and all the rides he wants to create for his own Disneyville (a Disney park he is proposing to build in Cleveland someday!), but do we use this language of his to delve deeper into his own psyche?  It’s hard to say.

Again, this book chose me!

I could keep going with the books that have reached inside and tugged at my soul, and maybe in the future I will.  But, for now I’ll leave you with those two recent examples.

I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject.  What books have chosen you?

Have a Wonder-filled Week!

%d bloggers like this: