What I am listening to (and enjoying very much!) this week:
October just flew by this year and here it is November already. As the days grow shorter and darker, I spend more time reading and listening to audiobooks while doing winter knitting projects. Right now I am reading a number of different things. My current library book is Wild Seed, by Octavia Butler. This is my first time reading her work and I’ve found that I really like her writing. My current Audible listen is J.K. Rowling’s The Silkworm. My current Kindle book is Rules For a Successful Book Club (The Book Lovers, #2), by Victoria Connelly. And a friend loaned me another Kindle book to add to my annual holiday reading project. It’s called A Cornish Christmas, by Lily Graham. There’s no shortage of books to light up these shorter darkening days!
I must admit that I am an escapist. The national election scene in September and October has been an awful place to hang out. Yes, I watched all three presidential debates. Yes, I did my homework on local issues and candidates. And yes, I have voted. But it all left me feeling breathless, cold and shaken as if the Dementors have been hovering nearby!
So my reading list for September and October reflects my need to close out that crazy ugly world of politics and find more uplifting places in which to spend my time. I search for those kinds of books and appreciate so much the ones I find with kindness in them.
There. A kind word, a word of encouragement or admiration, could shift the heaviest, most recalcitrant baggage.
~from Precious and Grace, by Alexander McCall Smith
So, my September and October escapes…
When Spring finally arrives here in Oregon, my reading slows down. Spring is so gorgeous here, and there are so many outdoor things to see and do. Going for long walks and gardening set the pace of each day, and our “Wandering Wednesdays” define each week, so reading time is moved to “in-between.” I tend to fall asleep while reading at night instead of being able to stay up late to finish a book, and it takes me weeks instead of days to finish a longer book. But I’m okay with that…as long as I have a book going at all times.
Despite all the beautiful distractions during April and May I was able to enjoy and finish these books:
We are enjoying a beautiful, early June vacation, and early June is such a beautiful time to travel! While teaching, early June would be filled with end-of-the-school year fun and stress, busy as could possibly be. Field trips, testing, finishing units and projects, report cards, and tenderheared goodbyes. In my old school district, there are still 8.5 days of school left! But now retired, we are able to enjoy traveling at a time when temperatures are mild, hillsides are lush green, and roads not yet jammed with traveling families. Ah…the joys of retirement.
So I brought my Kindle along on the trip, and my earphones for listening to my audiobooks. I’m enjoying my traveling reading and listening, relaxing over beautiful scenery and distances with these books:
I’ve always been an early riser, but one of the pleasures of retirement?… I’ve replaced that early morning get-ready-for-work rush with my quiet cocoon of beauty — filled with words and yarn. Knitting while listening to an audiobook. What an enjoyable way to start a day! This morning I started a new knitting project with this silk yarn (a gift for a beautiful friend) while listening to Barbara Kingsolver’s gorgeous writing in The Poisonwood Bible.
My Mom told me that during World War II, my Dad always carried a paperback book in his pocket. Although I knew my Dad was an avid reader, I had no idea what that book in his pocket really meant until I read Molly Guptill Manning‘s, When Books Went to War. It is a well-researched book and a very interesting story. From the publisher’s description:
When America entered World War II in 1941, we faced an enemy that had banned and burned over 100 million books and caused fearful citizens to hide or destroy many more. Outraged librarians launched a campaign to send free books to American troops and gathered 20 million hardcover donations. In 1943, the War Department and the publishing industry stepped in with an extraordinary program: 120 million small, lightweight paperbacks, for troops to carry in their pockets and their rucksacks, in every theater of war.
The A.S.E. (Armed Service Editions) became a highly successful program, and the story of what those books meant to the troops is quite fascinating. Anyone who loves books will be interested in this story and especially interested in the list of books published as ASEs.
Alan Cumming’s memoir, Not My Father’s Son, is an important book. Mr. Cumming grew up with a cruel and abusive father, certainly a difficult subject to write about, and one that is often difficult to read. But he wrote it with honesty, courage, compassion, and fairness. And as I listened to the audiobook, which he narrated himself, I found myself admiring Alan Cumming more and more for the way he has dealt with such a dark childhood. He is a good, caring, and sensitive human being, (as well as a gifted actor!) and I appreciate him for sharing his difficult story with the world.
Some authors, over time, weave themselves into your reading life! When I was in high school, I read a book by Nevil Shute called On the Beach, a story about nuclear war. I remember only a few details of the story after so many years, but I vividly remember the powerful emotional impact it had on me. Then, years later, when my children were young, the Hubby and I enjoyed watching a series on Masterpiece Theatre called A Town Like Alice, based on a book by Nevil Shute. Again, it had a powerful emotional impact on me and I still consider it one of my favorites from many years of stories we’ve watched on Masterpiece Theatre.
Last month, I discovered the audiobook of A Town Like Alice was available through Audible. I downloaded it and enjoyed listening to it while knitting, and was delighted to discover how much I enjoy Nevil Shute’s writing and storytelling. This was an amazing story of love, survival, resilience, and hope during and after World War II. When I finished it, I didn’t want to leave his storytelling presence, so I downloaded another of his books. Pied Piper, the story of a 70-year-old Englishman who was able to lead 7 young children to safety during World War II, also captured my heart and I had a hard time taking off the earphones, listening to it in record time!
So over my lifetime of reading, Nevil Shute has “visited” me numerous times. Each time, I have appreciated that he tells his stories with honesty and emotional integrity; that his characters are ordinary people thrust into extraordinary times and who meet those challenges with courage and kindness. He reminds me that one person can make a difference.
I look forward to reading my next book by Nevil Shute, and welcome his stories of good and caring people into the fabric of my reading life.
In The Housekeeper and the Professor, by Yoko Ogawa, a gifted mathematics professor suffered brain damage in an accident that left him with only 80 minutes of working short-term memory. He had been cared for over the years since the accident by housekeepers who ran his household and watched over him. They came and were replaced frequently.
The new housekeeper, however, is different from the others who had looked after the professor before her. A very caring and intuitive person, she (and her young son) become close to him, and their kindness and caring ways bring out the best in all of them. They become a kind of family, sharing a love of mathematics and of baseball, and taking care of each other. But each day, when the housekeeper returns, the professor doesn’t remember the events and interactions of the day before.
It’s a fascinating kind of story. It didn’t have big action or lots of drama, but it stays with you long after you finish the book. I loved the relationships, the math that was explained by this gifted teacher, and the baseball. I read it for Dolce Bellezza‘s Japanese Literature Challenge 8, and it was a lovely choice. I look forward to reading more of Yoko Ogawa’s work.