Oxfordshire in the Blood


The Hubby and I just finished watching the old Inspector Morse series (all 33 episodes) which we first watched on Masterpiece Mystery many years ago. The books were written by Colin Dexter; the setting was Oxford, England; and the main characters were the brilliant Chief Inspector Morse and his hardworking colleague, Detective Sergeant Lewis. I’ve never read any of Colin Dexter’s books, although I always thought I would like to because we enjoyed the TV version of Morse so much. On my TBR list! The TV series was intelligent and well-written, very good mysteries, and enjoyable to watch again this many years later.

Thomas Gomm

My great, great, great grandfather, Thomas Gomm.

Another reason we returned to the series was because I have been reading some family history. My paternal great, great, great grandparents all came from Oxfordshire. When I remembered that the Inspector Morse series was filmed in Oxford, I thought it would be fun to see the area and watch a good mystery program at the same time. I was not disappointed. The mysteries were great and the filming of that area was wonderful. Many beautiful shots of the city and outlying areas.

Of course, the more I learn of my family history, the more I would love to travel to Oxfordshire and visit the locations where those distant grandparents lived. But that probably won’t be happening very soon, so my reading and TV viewing will have to do for now. Just for fun, I spent some time online and compiled a reading list of books set in Oxfordshire. There are probably many others I missed, but it turned out to be a fun list that would provide me with many hours of reading pleasure. Here’s some of the list I’ve compiled:

  • Jude the Obscure, by Thomas Hardy
  • A Discovery of Witches, by Deborah Harkness
  • His Dark Materials (trilogy) and Lyra’s Oxford, by Philip Pullman
  • Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh
  • Gaudy Night, by Dorothy Sayers
  • Last Bus to Woodstock (Inspector Morse), by Colin Dexter
  • An Instance of the Fingerpost, by Iain Pears
  • Three Men in a Boat, by Jerome K. Jerome
  • To Say Nothing of the Dog, Connie Willis
  • Some Tame Gazelle, by Barbara Pym
  • Tom Brown’s Schooldays, by Thomas Hughes
  • Oxford Blood, by Antonia Fraser
  • The Oxford Murders, by Guillermo Martinez
  • Byron’s Child, Carola Dunn

Side-by-side photos of my great, great, great grandparents in Oxfordshire…



Mishmash! Sounds like a casserole or something…but actually it just describes my reading since the first of the year. It’s been all over the place, not following any plan, just going where whim takes me. My reading has often been project-driven over the years, so letting go of plans and just wandering through my bookshelves is very relaxing and enjoyable! Here’s a thumbnail collage of my mishmash of reading since January 1st. Oh, and the photo above is of my vegetarian Paella.


Fall Shared Reading

Our Reading Rug…where we sit to share all these wonderful books.

When I say that I haven’t been reading very much recently, it’s not exactly true. My own reading has slowed down for many reasons, but I am still reading every day and going through books like crazy! Here’s why…

This is my 27th year of teaching, and this year I have the world’s sweetest class of Second Graders. They love to read and love listening to stories, so we are compiling quite a list of books shared (our Read Aloud books). We have a Read Aloud time every morning after recess, and it’s amazing how many books you can read in just 20-30 minutes a day! Here’s our list of the books we have shared during our Read Aloud time on our Reading Rug so far this year:

  1. Strega Nona, by Tomie dePaola
  2. Strega Nona: Her Story, by Tomie dePaola
  3. Big Anthony: His Story, by Tomie dePaola
  4. Strega Nona’s Magic Lessons, by Tomie dePaola
  5. Big Anthony and the Magic Ring, by Tomie dePaola
  6. Strega Nona Meets Her Match, by Tomie dePaola
  7. Strega Nona Takes a Vacation, by Tomie dePaola
  8. Strega Nona’s Harvest, by Tomie dePaola
  9. The Sunflower House, by Eve Bunting
  10. Tomie dePaola, by Eric Braun
  11. Mercy Watson to the Rescue, by Kate DiCamillo
  12. Mercy Watson Goes for a Ride, by Kate DiCamillo
  13. Akimbo and the Elephants, by Alexander McCall Smith
  14. Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen
  15. Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White
  16. Blueberries For Sal, by Robert McCloskey
  17. Squanto and the Pilgrims, by A.M. Anderson
  18. Room on the Broom, by Julia Donaldson (Thanks, Mrs. Lux, for reading this to us at our Halloween party!)
  19. Gooney Bird Greene, by Lois Lowry
  20. Catwings, by Ursula K. Le Guin
  21. Catwings Return, by Ursula K. Le Guin
  22. Wonderful Alexander and the Catwings, by Ursula K. Le Guin
  23. Jane on her Own: A Catwings Tale, by Ursula K. Le Guin
  24. Currently reading: Helen Keller, by Margaret Davidson

Thinking in Themes

Oh dear…there are times when I realize how deeply ingrained “Teacher Thinking” is in my brain. When my own children were little, every once in awhile they would say to me, “Mom, you’re acting like a teacher again.”  This morning I ran into a blatant example of my teacher thinking…

I went to my bookshelves to search for a good read for Dolce Bellezza‘s Japanese Literature Challenge #6.  I enjoy Meredith’s challenges, and thought this would be a good way to gentle myself back into challenges mode after my long hiatus from blogging. I was surprised to find, on different bookshelves, the following books. I realized that I think (without intending to do so) in themed connections!

Theme #1: Professors!

Theme#2: Summer!

Parker Palmer, in his book The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Mind, describes the art of teaching this way:

Good teachers possess a capacity for connectedness. They are able to weave a complex web of connections among themselves, their subjects, and their students so that students can learn to weave a world for themselves.

As surprising as it was to find all these books on my shelves, I realize that I have always thought this way… If I look back at my childhood reading, I find similar patterns. Since I am a 4th generation school teacher, I can only conclude that there must be a gene in the family for that “capacity for connectedness”. One of my college professors, who knew my family well, joked that it was a “mutant gene.”  I’ll bet that many of my book blogging friends, teacher friends, and librarian friends all have this same way of thinking!

BBC Book Challenge Meme


A friend tagged me for this books-read meme that is circulating on Facebook. I liked the list and thought it was a fun meme. If you like it, consider yourself “tagged.”

The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books here. How do your reading habits stack up? (What? No Mark Twain? Cormac McCarthy? Philip Roth? William Faulkner? Ernest Hemingway?)

Instructions: Look at the list and put an ‘x’ after those you have read. Tag other book nerds.

My count is 64. Which ones have you read?

Section 1 = 16

1 Pride and Prejudice -X

2 The Lord of the Rings-X

3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte -X

4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling -X

5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee –X

6 The Bible–only partly

7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte-X

8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell-X

9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman

10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens-X

11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott -X

12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy-X

13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller-X

14 Complete Works of Shakespeare-much of it-X

15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier-X

16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien -X

17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulk

18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger-X

19 The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger-X

Section 2 = 8

20 Middlemarch – George Eliot-X

21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell-X

22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald-X

23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens

24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy-X

25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams-X

27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky-X

28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck -X

29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll-X

Section 3 = 7

30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame-X

31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy-X

32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens-X

33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis-X

34 Emma – Jane Austen-X

36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis-X

37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini

38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres

39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden-X

Section 4 = 7

40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne-X

41 Animal Farm – George Orwell -X

42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown-X

43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving

45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins-X

46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery-X

47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy-X

48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding-X

Section 5 = 4

50 Atonement – Ian McEwan

51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel

52 Dune – Frank Herbert-X

53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons

54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen-X

55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth

56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon

57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens-X

58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley-X

59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night – Mark Haddon-X

Section 6 = 6

60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez-X

61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck -X

62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov

63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt

64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold-X

65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas

66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac-X

67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy-X

68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding-X

69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie

70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville

Section 7 = 4

71 Oliver Twist- Charles Dickens-X

72 Dracula – Bram Stoker-X

73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett-X

74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson

75 Ulysses – James Joyce

76 The Inferno – Dante

77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome

78 Germinal – Emile Zola

79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray

80 Possession – AS Byatt-X

Section 8 = 6

81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens-X

82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell

83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker-X

84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro

85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert-X

86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry

87 Charlotte’s Web – EB White -X

88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom-X

89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle-X

90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton

Section 9 = 6

91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad x

92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery-X

93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks

94 Watership Down – Richard Adams-X

95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole

96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute-X

97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas

98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare-X

99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory- Roald Dahl-X

100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

Legacy Libraries

Library Thing has a fun feature — it’s called their “Legacy Libraries,” which are lists of the personal libraries of famous readers. It’s interesting to look at those lists and compare them to the books you have on your own Library Thing list. It’s really interesting to see which books you have read in common with those famous readers!

For example, I’ve read these 6 books out of the 68 books listed in Tupac Shakur’s library:

• I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
• The Diary of Anais Nin, 1931-1934
• 1984, by George Orwell
• The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
• The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
• The Autobiography of Malcolm X

And I’ve read 25 books out of 1,759 (an incomplete listing) in Karen Blixen’s (Isak Dinesen) library:

• Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen
• Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte
• Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens
• The Cocktail Party: A Comedy, by T.S. Eliot
• Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
• The Snow Goose, by Paul Gallico
• Death Be Not Proud, by John Gunther
• The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway
• The Odyssey, by Homer
• Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
• The Turn of the Screw, by Henry James
• The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, by Carson McCullers
• Doctor Zhivago, by Boris Pasternak
• Cry, the Beloved Country, by Alan Paton
• Le Petit Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
• Franny and Zooey, by J.D. Salinger
• The Merchant of Venice, by William Shakespeare
• Frankenstein, by Mary W. Shelley
• The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
• Kidnapped, by Robert Louis Stevenson
• Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy
• Venture to the Interior, by Laurens Van der Post
• Leaves of Grass, by Walt Whitman
• The Bridge of San Luis Rey, by Thornton Wilder
• Mrs. Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf

And I’ve read 17 books in common with Sylvia Path’s library, 100 books in common with Carl Sandburg’s library, and just 3 books in common with John Muir’s library.

photo by Andre Kertesz

Once Upon a Time III: My Quest


I’m so excited that Carl V’s Once Upon a Time III challenge is underway! I’ve finally decided what I’d like to read for my Quest, and I know it’s going to be another wonderful journey!

Last year, among the books I chose to read for Carl V’s OUaT Challenge II, were four books that turned out the be the highlight of the challenge for me. It was a unique collaboration between four authors, who each wrote a book centered around one of Brian Froud’s paintings. The four authors were Charles de Lint, Patricia McKillip, Terri Windling, and Midori Snyder, and it was a wonderful creative collaborative project. This year I was hoping to do something similar since I enjoyed that type of reading project so much. I’ve found just the thing! My goal this year is to read Terri Windling’s Fairy Tale Series! (Or at least as many of them as I can get hold of.) I’m also going to participate in the Short Story Weekends reading!

Just in case I find more time to read, I’ve also put together a list of books already on my TBR shelf, waiting for this challenge, so we’ll see how many I can get through in the next three months.

My TBR Shelf possibilities:

• The Book of Lost Things, John Connolly (underway!)
• Rapunzel’s Revenge, by Shannon Hale and
• A Fine & Private Place, by Peter S. Beagle
• The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle
• Tales of Beedle the Bard, by J.K. Rowling
• The Book of Atrix Wolfe, by Patricia McKillip
• Daughters of Copper Woman, by Anne Cameron
• Arabian Nights & Days, by Naguib Mahfouz
• Moonheart, by Charles de Lint
• A Hidden Magic, by Vivian Vande Velde
• Heroes & Heroines in Tlingit-Haida Legend, by Mary L. Beck
• The Raven Steals the Light, stories by Bill Reid and Robert Bringhurst

My TBR list has gotten longer each year I participate in this challenge, but that’s what I love about it — being introduced to new authors and wonderful books by reading all the reviews that fellow travelers post on their blogs.

Escape to Africa

It wasn’t planned ahead of time, but just happened to work out this way, that in the last month I have managed to escape some of the winter cold and darkness of the Northwest by being “transported” to Africa. First, B and I went to see The Lion King in Seattle. We’ve wanted to see this Broadway musical since watching a special program on TV a few years ago about the brilliantly creative Julie Taymor. We were anxious to see her costume and stage design work for The Lion King, and we were thrilled with both! We loved the evening of stunning visuals and wonderful music.

And then yesterday, after a last-minute invitation from a friend, I went to see the Lucy’s Legacy Exhibit at the Pacific Science Center. The tickets were for both the exhibit and the IMAX movie, The Mystery of the Nile. So for hours yesterday, we were completely immersed in Ethiopian history and culture.

And then, tired and hungry, we headed for the freeway to go home. But as we stopped for a red light, I looked over and saw an Ethiopian restaurant, and when I mentioned it to the others in the car, they all immediately said, “Let’s stop!” So we had a lovely and absolutely delicious late lunch of traditional Ethiopian food to complete the day’s immersion into the culture. It was a magical day!

And oh yes, I’ve always loved reading about Africa. Here are some of the books I’ve enjoyed over the years:

The Blue Nile, by Alan Moorehead

The White Nile, by Alan Moorehead

Out of Africa, by Isak Dinesen

West With the Night, by Beryl Markham

The Flame Trees of Thika, by Elspeth Huxley

Venture to the Interior, by Laurens Van Der Post

The African Queen, by C.S. Forster

The Akimbo series, by Alexander McCall Smith

The Sci Fi Experience Wrap-Up

I should probably call this post the “Sci Fi Experience Almost Ready to Wrap Up.” I haven’t quite finished my last book for it. But the week has gotten so busy that I haven’t had much reading time at all, so I think I’ll go ahead with the wrap up and then post the review when I finish the book this weekend.

Carl V’s Sci Fi Experience each winter is a nice way to get to know the genre of Science Fiction a little better. This is the second time I’ve participated in the Experience, and, like last year, it was a lot of fun. Here’s a list of my Experience:

1. A Fisherman from the Inland Sea, Ursula le Guin

2. Mars Needs Moms!, by Brian Breathed

3. The Devil’s Arithmetic, by Jane Yolen (time travel)

4. Manga Shakespeare: Macbeth, by William Shakespeare (set in a post-apocalyptic world)

5. Enchantress from the Stars, by Sylvia Louis Engdahl

Science Fiction DVDs we enjoyed watching at our house during Jan-Feb:

Doctor Who — Series 1 (completed)
• Doctor Who — Series 2 (underway)
Battlestar Gallactica: the Miniseries — Season 1 (completed)
Equilibrium (directed by Kurt Wimmer)
Hellboy II: The Golden Army (directed by Guillermo del Toro)

Flashback: 40 Years

1969 was the most important year of my life. It was a year of decisions that set me off on the pathway I find myself on now. It was the year I met and married B. — best decision of my life.

This week, as I looked back over my two years of blogging about books, I decided to pull out my old reading record book and see what I was reading in early 1969. My list reveals a number of things about me, such as the fact that I was taking some very interesting classes in college at the time, and about the times we were living in, and about the influence of B on my reading (Cleaver, Salinger, and Dostoevsky were all introduced to me by him). It seems like a pretty “heavy” list, if I may use the lingo of that time … but then it was a pretty “heavy” time, if I remember correctly.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X
Marriage and Morals, by Bertrand Russell
Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
Soul On Ice, by Eldridge Cleaver
The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
Black Rage, by Grier and Cobbs
The Idiot, by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley
Death at an Early Age, by Jonathon Kozol
The Brothers Karamozov, by Fyodor Dostoevsky