Thursday, August 27, 2009

Nice to Come Home To

Most recent read: The Art of the Handwritten Note, by Margaret Shepherd

Yesterday I finished reading, Nice To Come Home To, by Rebecca Flowers. I found it on the bargain shelves at Borders a month or so ago, but had other things to read in the meantime. When I finally picked it up a few nights ago-I barely put it down. Obviously, it was a pretty quick read, but it was fun and I would recommend it.

It's the story of Prudence Whistler, a woman in her mid-thirties, who looses her job and her boyfriend in pretty rapid succession. At first, it was eerily similar to my own life, as she was searching for a job in the nonprofit industry (as I am). The similarities seemed to stop there, however (except for her fondness for lists and planning-a fondness which I also share). Although the set-up is fairly typical for chick-lit, I suppose, the story did not turn out quite as I had imagined it would. And in the end, I was very satisfied!

Flowers' book was smart, too. She is a contributor for NPR's All Things Considered, and included my beloved public radio into several parts of the story line, which was very cool. The descriptions were vivid and the characters were very real.

If you are looking for a fun end-of-summer read, grab Flowers' Nice To Come Home To. I was definitely glad I finally did.

Chinese Rejection Slip

"We have read you manuscript with boundless delight.  If we were to publish your paper, it would be impossible for us to publish any work of a lower standard.  And as it is unthinkable that in the next thousand years we shall see its equal we are to our regret compelled to return your divine composition and beg you a thousand times to overlook our short sight and timidity."  
-Chinese Rejection Slip

This is one of the quotations from A Writer's Commonplace Book.  I wish there were more details.  But even as it is, it made me smile.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ex Libris

As a fellow book-lover, I really loved this delightful little book. In it, Anne Fadiman collects a series of essays she wrote about her books and her love of reading over the course of a four-year period. It is only about 150 pages and reads pretty quickly. I read the whole thing while my nephew took a nap!

It first caught my eye because of the subtitle: "Confessions of a Common Reader", but wooed me completely as I flipped through the pages. I adored the first essay, and it remained my favorite. "Marrying Libraries" was all about the saga of finally deciding to merge her massive collection of books with her husband's (after they had already lived together for several years). She spoke of arguments over organizational systems (alphabetically or chronologically?) and the tragedy of letting go of duplicate copies.

Other essays were about words ("The Joy of Sesquipedalians"-which is such a big fancy word (that means, well, basically big fancy word, apparently) that my spellchecker won't recognize it!), inscriptions ("Words on a Flyleaf"), and book care ("Never Do That To A Book").

The author was so clearly attached to her books (as I am) that it made me wonder. Is there a difference between someone who loves books and someone who just loves reading? I tend to think they go together, because they do for me, but maybe they don't. I'm assuming that a lover of books (someone who gets attached to the physical paper and glue) also loves reading, but isn't it possible that someone who loves to read isn't really all that fond of the books themselves? Does that make any sense?

Regardless of what kind of book/reading lover you are-I would recommend Fadiman's books. It's short, but delightful (a National Bestseller, as well!).

And I'm curious-have any of you ever had to marry your library to another?

Little Women

Most recent read: Nice To Come Home To, by Rebecca Flowers.  

Like many young girls, I read Little Women when I was in the 3rd or 4th grade.  I loved it and went on to read Little Men and Jo's Boys as well.  When I was 13 or 14, I took a trip throughout New England with my parents and we toured Louisa May Alcott's home in Massachusetts.  I loved the most recent movie version when it came out, and purchased the DVD sometime in college.  I always watch it around Christmas time, but find it comforting any time of year.  

This is all to say that I already loved Little Women and was familiar with the story, but thought it would be fun to listen to it again, so I bought it from iTunes for my iPhone.  I first bought it because my sister and I were going to be driving to Dallas from here house, which was a several hour drive.  We ended up just talking the whole time, so I started listening about two weeks ago when I got home.  It was over 20 hours long-at least!  And it was so good!  There were so many little parts that weren't in the movie that I had forgotten.  Some were familiar from my previous reading so long ago, and others seemed completely new.  Listening to it was a really fun experience as well.  The reader was excellent and before long I could tell who was speaking by her voice changes before the speaker was identified.  I know some people who look down on audio books, but I think they're fabulous.  Certainly not a replacement for real books, but such a joy on long car trips, or while exercising, or even just lying in bed in the dark.  I don't normally do classics via audio books, but Little Women was perfect, especially since I had already read it.

One of the main things that impressed me this time around was the complexity of the stories, emotions, and characters in the book.  While it is certainly appropriate for young people to read, I couldn't help but think as I was listening that I must have missed so much the first time I read it.  Alcott wove such a beautiful story-I hope that more adult readers are revisiting this classic as well.  I want to go and get a copy of the other two now.  I seem to be entering an intense Louisa May Alcott phase.  I want to read Little Men and Jo's Boys, first and then reread Eight Cousins and A Rose in Bloom.  I loved those two as a young girl as well.  Eight Cousins was the first book I remember being so attached to that I was really sad when it was over.  Then I was delighted to find A Rose in Bloom, the sequel.  I am also dying to read An Old Fashioned Girl, which I have never read.  Then I may need to take a break from Alcott.  

This whole experience is making me think about what other books I need to revisit from my childhood.  I reread The Giver and Number the Stars in college for my children's literature class.  What other ones do I need to read again?  What were your favorites from childhood?  Have you reread any of them?  Which would you recommend now?

What about Louisa May Alcott?  Any lesser known gems that need to be read?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Wishful Creating!

My new blog is up! It is called Wishful Creating and can be found HERE! It is extremely bare bones right now, with only one post, but will hopefully be blossoming this week! I am so excited and would truly appreciate it if you would all stop by! I will be posting about my creative endeavors there along with some of my favorite craft books of course!

I hope everyone is having a splendid Sunday afternoon!! Happy reading - and creating!!!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Exciting Developments

Most recent read:  Little Women (audio)

Despite excellent momentum at the start of the week, I've been neglectful of my darling blog for the past several days.  The reasons are many, but chiefly it is because I have been crafting like a maniac and decided to start a new blog about it!

I know, I know.  How can up keep up two blogs when I am barely posting on this one at the moment?  I have discovered that although I dearly love reading, writing about, and discussing books, there are often other things I want to blog about.  But I try to keep them off this blog because it is about books and reading.  Crafting and other DIY domestic endeavors are the usual suspects, and so I'm starting another blog just for such an outlet.  It is still in the development stages, but when it has begun to take shape, I will be sure to post a link.  

Today on Martha Stewart Radio, I heard someone say: "If you need something done, give it to a busy person."  I've never heard that before, but seen the sentiment in action over and over again.  I do the most when I am busy with other things, and usually end up doing it better.  With ridiculous amounts of time on my hands, I've been neglectful of all the things I really want to be doing.  This is going to change.  With new projects, new commitments, and a renewed desire to get busy and get things done-I have high hopes for new attitudes and new successes.  

I have also decided to try two new features to most of my blog posts.  The first you saw at the beginning of this post.  I will try to start each post with a quick update what I have read most recently.  Because I tend to be reading multiple volumes at any given time, I can't say "currently reading".  So instead, I will give you a taste of what I have most recently read prior to posting.  

The second feature will be at the end of some of my posts.  I always get ideas for further posts, and so I'd like to give a preview (when I have one).  There are several reasons for this: 1) it's fun,  2) it helps me remember what my ideas were, and 3) it gives you an opportunity to weigh in on a book or a subject before I post.  I love reading comments after a post, but I thought it would also be fun to occasionally include insights from others in the original post.  So, I will try it now-if you have thoughts to share on any of these subjects, please include them in the comments, or shoot me an e-mail @

Upcoming Posts (not necessarily in this order):
1. Little Women
2. ______ For Dummies books (like 'em?  love 'em?  hate 'em?  use 'em?)
3. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle; In Defense of Food; The Omnivore's Dilemma; and other books about various food movements.  

Monday, August 17, 2009

Recent Book Purchases

In the past few weeks, I've combed the bargain shelves at Borders, a discount book warehouse at the local outlet mall, and then the ever-full shelves of my local Half-Priced Books.  I've come away from each with substantial stacks of books.  I thought I'd share some of my recent loot.  I'm currently mulling over my next reading choice, so if you have opinions, favorites, or guidance about any of the titles-do tell!

Here we have The Golden Apples, by Eudora Welty; Nice to Come Home To, by Rebecca Flowers; Knitting under the Influence, by Claire LaZebnik; and Her Blue Body/Everything We Know, by Alice Walker.  

I already read Knitting under the Influence-it was a fun light read.  The Alice Walker is really a book of poetry, so I won't read it from cover to cover-but I have enjoyed looking it over.  I think these are the Borders finds.  

These are from my Half-Priced Books trip:  A Deeper Faith, by Jeff Golliher; A Treasury of Great American Scandals, by Michael Farquhar; Portable Literature, by Kirszner and Mandell  Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader, by Anne Fadiman; A Writer's Commonplace Book, by Rosemary Friedman; and City Dharma, by Arthur Jeon.  I also bought two For Dummies books, which I will be discussing at as a group in an upcoming post.  

(I was particularly excited to find Ex Libris and the Writer's Commonplace Book because they were so related to my blog!  I know that Virginia Woolf wrote a book called The Common Reader, but I've never read it.  Perhaps I should.  I will put it on my list.  The opening of Fadiman's book says that Woolf borrowed the phrase from Samuel Johnson.  I was not really aware of either when I chose the name for my blog, which started out as Commonplace, but then evolved to commonreaders.  I like it all one word and uncapitalized for some reason.  I'm not sure why.  But I digress. )

I am quite pleased with my book finds and look forward to diving into them.  What books have you purchased recently?  Or what books did you buy long ago and still wait to be read?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Books as Gifts

Sometimes I think some of my friends and family are less than thrilled with my gifts.  They are almost always books.  Which is great for those loved ones who cherish them as I do, but they don't all feel that way.  I think this was meant for the holiday season, but this video reinforces my belief that books do make great gifts!!

The Plug-In Drug

I just finished reading The Plug-In Drug, by Marie Winn, and it was phenomenal. Its ultimate conclusion is that TV is not good for young children or ultimately, for families. This is perhaps not ground-breaking, but I blown away by her reasoning and examples. She effectively dispels the notion that the content of the TV children watch is what's most important. She concedes that watching violent programming is not good for children, but also asserts that simply switching the channel to wholesome children's shows is not significantly better.

I was fascinated by the anecdotes and studies she cites comparing children and families in the 'pre-TV' era to those after the advent of mainstream television. The differences are marked and powerful. In many ways, the book reads as a sociological study of American families in the last 60 years through the lens of television. It made me re-examine my own viewing habits (see previous post) and make plans for when I have my own children one day. Even if you don't have children, I would highly recommend this book. It may change your habits. Winn is not necessarily advocating for a complete end of TV viewing (although she doesn't suggest that that is a bad thing, either), but rather for mindful viewing, with parents in complete control over the families TV (and computer and video games) habits. At the end, she gives examples of families who have controlled, limited, and sometimes eliminated their own TV viewing (some permanently, some for a limited period of time). She also lists a number of methods for curtailing TV access for parents to choose from. They range from minor to revolutionary, so I am confident that we could all find something we would be willing to comply with.

The book was originally published in 1977, but I read the 25th Anniversary edition, published in 2002. It includes important "improvements" or advancements to the TV viewing and electronic media experience since the 1970s. She does not, however, address new developments such as DVRs, Tivo, On Demand, etc. She mentions VCRs in cars and vans, but not DVD players, which are becoming more and more common.

I am still considering how this book will affect my own habits regarding TV and the internet, but I hope there will be changes. Please think about reading this book! It is powerful. Has anyone else read it? What did you think? Any more thoughts on TV viewing?

Monday, August 10, 2009


As I was thinking about my desire to be a well-read "literary woman" in my last post, I began to consider what is standing in my way.  I buy books all the time, but never seem to catch-up and feel as if I never read enough, despite how much I enjoy it.  In reality, I do read quite a bit, and am probably well-read by some standards.  However, I also spend a great deal of time in other, often less satisfying, endeavors. 

Although the internet is beginning to close in, television is still my primary distractor.  It's a big problem when I am feeling particularly lonely.  Books are fine companions, but sometimes I really want the added noise of voices on the TV.  Some days, like today, I'll hardly watch any TV, but others, I may get sucked in.  It was a bigger problem when I had a DVR in my old apartment in Atlanta, because there was always something ready to be watched.  Now that I don't have a constant supply of desirable programming, my viewing time has decreased, but it's still often more that I'd like.  I think about the piles of books that are constantly growing and I cringe at the wasted time.

Confession: The source of some of these thoughts can be found in the book that I am currently reading.  The Plug-In Drug by Marie Winn.  Although I am only about half-way through, I have already changed my attitude about television.  I have never thought it to be a great thing for small children in large quantities, but this book gives extensive scientific and anecdotal evidence of the damage caused by excessive (or even moderate, in some cases) television viewing by young people.  I will go into the book in greater detail when I have finished it, but I would like to share one rather obvious observation at this time.

According to Ms. Winn and others, a significant amount of the damage caused by television viewing is not necessarily the programming or the act of viewing itself, but rather by the lack of other activities which have been displaced.  Certainly, the author does discuss some damages caused by various aspects of TV itself, but many of the problems stem from less time spend reading, playing, thinking, and socializing.  This made me think.

What am I not doing when I watch TV?  Exercising?  Reading?  Writing?  Socializing?  Organizing?  Photographing?  Crafting?  Blogging?  Sleeping?  The list goes on and on.  I often watch when I am feeling extremely tired, so exercising may not always be the answer, there are plenty of other quiet, low-impact activities I could engage in instead of turning on the TV and plopping onto the couch.

These new thoughts have spurred a radical idea.  When I move to Austin, I might skip cable in my apartment.  Crazy?  Perhaps.  I've already decided to forgo a DVR, but why not take it another step?  I could certainly save money.  I'm not suggesting that all TV is bad, or that I'll give up on it entirely, but why not cut back?  Most of the shows I might really care about are available online if I must watch them and I might even find that I don't miss them at all.  I'll probably keep my Netflix subscription as well.  I'd like to get to a point to where I watch TV because there is something specific that I want to watch, and not simply because I want to be watching something.  

I am going to finish Winn's book and continue to monitor my own TV/reading balance.  I may even try to start keeping a TV log.  Perhaps I will post it on here for a bit of accountability.  Should I establish a guideline for weekly television viewing?  A maximum number of hours?  And if so, do movies count?  This will require some more thought.  In the meantime, do you have thoughts on the subject?

Bas Bleu Quotations

Once again, I went on an unintentional hiatus, but I am going to focus and get back on track-again!

As promised (more than a week ago), here are a couple of quotations about books and reading from the Bas Bleu literary catalog and website!

"Just the knowledge that a good book is awaiting one at the end of a long day makes that day happier." -Kathleen Norris (love her!)

"No entertainment is so cheap as reading, nor any pleasure so lasting." -Mary Wortley Montagu

"Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers." -Charles W. Eliot

I have just requested a catalog and it should be arrive within two weeks.  I am so so delighted with the entire concept of this catalog and website.  Their tag-line is: "Champion of the odd little book...and your source for inspired gifts and accessories for readers."  How lovely is that?  I adore odd little books!  And as I said before, "Bas Bleu" means blue-stocking in French, which is a literary woman.  

I like to consider myself a "literary woman", but then I also think that there is much I could do to move myself more in that direction.  Can I consider myself to be well-read?  Do you consider yourself to be well-read?  What is the criteria?