Category Archives: Favorite authors

The Writer’s Almanac

One of the nicest things I’ve discovered recently is The Writer’s Almanac, with Garrison Keillor, a daily podcast of literary and historical notes, and the reading of a poem. It is an utterly delightful 5 minutes in my day and a wonderful antidote to all the ugly and negative news events that inundate us these days.

“Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.”
~ Garrison Keiller

The Unicorn and Other Poems

 

One of the special books on my bookshelf is The Unicorn and Other Poems, by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. I bought this book many, many years ago, and revisit it often to read the poems that touched my heart when I first read them and now have special meaning in my life. They express so eloquently many of my own inner feelings and thoughts, and so have become treasures for me.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh was the wife of the famous aviator, Charles Lindbergh, who was a hero to many. After finding this book of poetry, and then reading all of AML’s diaries and fiction, she became for me the real hero in the family. She was a gentle soul, but with a tremendous inner strength, forged partly through tragedy. She lived an amazing life traveling all over the world with her husband, and she became a pioneer aviator herself. She was intelligent and introverted, and a beautiful writer. Her books, North to the Orient and Listen! The Wind told fascinating stories of their world travels. Her diaries and letters were her way of processing life as it happened.

“I must write it all out, at any cost. Writing is thinking. It is more than living, for it is being conscious of living.”

In her wonderful book, Gift From the Sea, she “shares her meditations on youth and age; love and marriage; peace, solitude and contentment as she set them down during a brief vacation by the sea.” (words from her daughter, Reeve).

But as I said before, it is her poetry that really touches my heart. One of my favorite poems in this book is called “Bare Tree.” I loved it the first time I read it, but it is even more meaningful to me at this age and stage of life, so I love it now in a whole new way.

BARE TREE

Already I have shed the leaves of youth,
stripped by the wind of time down to the truth
of winter branches. Linear and alone
I stand, a lens for lives beyond my own,
a frame through which another’s fire may glow,
a harp on which another’s passion, blow.

The pattern of my boughs, an open chart
spread on the sky, to others may impart
its leafless mysteries that I once prized,
before bare roots and branches equalized,
tendrils that tap the rain or twigs the sun
are all the same, shadow and substance one.
Now that my vulnerable leaves are cast aside,
there’s nothing left to shield, nothing to hide.

Blow through me, Life, pared down at last to bone,
so fragile and so fearless have I grown!

I chose to reread this book as one of my 50-books-in-5-years for The Classics Club. It’s a book I have re-read many times in my life and each time I read it, I love it even more.

Happy Birthday, Beverly Cleary!

Today is Beverly Cleary‘s birthday. She is one of my favorite authors, and an author who has brought great joy into the reading lives of so many people, young and old. Her understanding of children is wonderful, and her books are great fun to read at any age. I haven’t read all her books yet, but I particularly loved her very enjoyable memoirs: A Girl From Yamhill, and My Own Two Feet. Today she is 101 years young! Happy birthday, dear author friend!

Some wise words from Beverly Cleary:

In 50 years, the world has changed, especially for kids, but kids’ needs haven’t changed. They still need to feel safe, be close to their families, like their teachers, and have friends to play with.

Click here to see a list of all of Beverly Cleary’s books.

April Poetry

I love the month of April, not just because Spring finally arrives after all the rainy grayness of our area, but also because it’s National Poetry Month. Poetry is a big part of my life. My grandmother was a poet, and there was always poetry in my family as I was growing up. I loved teaching poetry to elementary students for 27 years (there was so much young talent!!), and I love to write poetry, although I don’t do it often. I am in awe of the poets, the wordsmiths. They seem to have a direct line to the collective wisdom of the centuries. They definitely have a direct line to my heart.

Throughout April I always try to keep ‘a poem in my pocket’ and read as much poetry as I can.   This month, I’d like to share a few of my favorites with you.

So here’s an all time favorite of mine…one I discovered when my son was a newborn 45 years ago. It touched me very deeply way back then, so I always include this poem with the knitted baby blankets and sweaters I give as gifts to friends and family when a new baby is born.

Morning Song

~ by Sylvia Plath, from Ariel

Love set you going like a fat gold watch.
The midwife slapped our footsoles, and your bald cry
Took its place among the elements.

Our voices echo, magnifying your arrival. New statue.
In a drafty museum, your nakedness
Shadows our safety. We stand round blankly as walls.

I’m no more your mother
Than the cloud that distils a mirror to reflect its own slow
Effacement at the wind’s hand.

All night your moth-breath
Flickers among the flat pink roses. I wake to listen:
A far sea moves in my ear.

One cry, and I stumble from bed, cow-heavy and floral
In my Victorian nightgown.
Your mouth opens clean as a cat’s. The window square

Whitens and swallows its dull stars. And now you try
Your handful of notes;
The clear vowels rise like balloons.

A photo with my newborn daughter. I love that big brother is in the background of this one, barely visible but there.

The Railway Children

Illustration by Inga Moore…

Somehow I missed reading the books of Edith Nesbit as I was growing up. I would have loved them! Over the last few years, I’ve been trying to make up for missing them in childhood by gifting myself an E. Nesbit read every so often. That’s my way of making the pleasure last longer and I won’t run out of her books so soon!

My most recent Nesbit pleasure was to listen to the audiobook version of The Railway Children narrated by one of my favorite narrators, Virginia Leishman. What a fun way to spend some rainy hours indoors! And I would highly recommend it for families on road trips!

Publisher’s summary…

Father has suddenly and mysteriously disappeared. Now Mother has moved Roberta, Peter, and Phyllis from London to an old English country house. Missing the hustle and bustle of the city, the children are ecstatic to find that their new home is near a railway station. Making friends with both the porter and the station master is great fun. So is waving to a kindly old gentleman who rides through on the 9:15 every morning. When mother gets sick, it is he to whom they turn for help. And later, when a fortunate twist of fate returns their father to them, they are surprised to find the old gentleman involved once again.

Written by an unconventional woman whose friends included H. G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw, this classic has been popular since it was first published almost 100 years ago. Virginia Leishman’s enthusiasm translates these adventuresome children into heroes for modern listeners.

Public Domain (P)1999 Recorded Books

As with all the Nesbit books I have read so far, the main characters are very nice, bright children who have great imaginations, love stories and outdoor play, and who change the world around them with what is called  “loving kindness” in the book. Oh how I wish I had read this book to my students while I was still teaching! The modeling of loving kindness is so important in today’s world…and how better to teach the idea than to read this beautiful story to young people and let them love those railway children and their adventures, and make those connections themselves.

illustration by C.E. Brock.

 

I chose to read this book as one of my 50-books-in-5-years for The Classics Club.

Wise Words: 03.29.17

A few years ago, at a time that was particularly difficult for me and my family, I read two short novels by Alice Hoffman:  Green Angel and then Green Witch. (They were later republished in one volume called Green Heart.) I loved them both! And they were very healing books for me. This morning, I found a quote in one of my reading notebooks copied down while reading Green Witch. I love this idea, so I’m happy to share the simple and profound wisdom of Alice Hoffman’s words with you today.

“I can’t help but wonder if it might be true that for every step you take, everyone you’ve ever loved walks with you.”

 

A Favorite Character

 

Virago Press has an Instagram meme for this month called “#BooksforChange“.  I’m really enjoying the photos that people are posting in response to this meme, and these daily prompts inspire lots of ideas to think about regarding my reading.

Today’s prompt is favorite female character,” and it didn’t take me very long to decide that Penelope Keeling, from Rosamunde Pilcher‘s The Shell Seekers, is one of my all time favorite female characters. I liked her very much when I first read the book as a young mother, but I like her even more now that I am approximately the same age as the character.

Some things I love about this character: I love that she’s a gentle, thoughtful person, that art and beautify help her survive the terrible losses in her life, that she has an inner strength that guides her well through the relationships in her life, and that she finds joy in the little things in life — “the gentle powers,” she calls them.

“I’ve lived with sadness so long. And a loneliness that nothing and nobody could assuage. But, over the years, I came to terms with what had happened. I learned to live within myself, to grow flowers, to watch my children grow; to look at paintings and listen to music. The gentle powers. They are quite amazingly sustaining.”

In the two different movie versions of this book, the character of Penelope Keeling was played by two lovely actresses — Vanessa Redgrave and Angela Lansbury. Both of them were perfect for the role.

Crooked House

Last week I finished reading Crooked House, by Agatha Christie, but it’s been such a busy week and weekend, that I’m just now getting around to posting about it.  I’ve read many of Agatha Christie’s mysteries over the years, starting with And Then There Were None when I was in the 5th grade many, many years ago! I’ve read quite a few since then with Miss Marple as the detective, a number with Poirot,  and one or two with Tommy and Tuppence. And, happily, there are still a lot of them I can look forward to reading!  Crooked House is a stand alone novel, not part of one of her series, but is a very enjoyable mystery to read!

From the Agatha Christie web site, here is a synopsis of the story:

A wealthy Greek businessman is found dead at his London home… The Leonides were one big happy family living in a sprawling, ramshackle mansion. That was until the head of the household, Aristide, was murdered with a fatal barbiturate injection. Suspicion naturally falls on the old man’s young widow, fifty years his junior. But the murderer has reckoned without the tenacity of Charles Hayward, fiance of the late millionaire’s granddaughter…

In this book, I was particularly struck by Christie’s chilling description of the mindset of a murderer:

“What are murderers like? Some of them,” a faint rather melancholy smile showed on his face, “have been thoroughly nice chaps.”

… “Murder, you see, is an amateur crime. I’m speaking of course of the kind of murder you have in mind–not gangster stuff. One feels, very often, as though these nice ordinary chaps, had been overtaken, as it were, by murder, almost accidentally. They’ve been in a tight place, or they’ve wanted something very badly, money or a woman–and they’ve killed to get it…

…”But some people, I suspect, remain morally immature. They continue to be aware that murder is wrong, but they do not feel it. I don’t think, in my experience, that any murderer has really felt remorse…And that, perhaps, is the mark of Cain. Murderers are set apart, they are ‘different’ — murder is wrong– but not for them — for them it is necessary — the victim has ‘asked for it,’ it was ‘the only way.'”

Crooked House was one of Christie’s own favorites of the books she wrote:  “Writing Crooked House was pure pleasure and I feel justified in my belief that it is one of my best.”

I chose to read this book as one of my 50-books-in-5-years for The Classics Club.

 

A Long-Awaited Pre-Order

Audible just told me that my long-awaIted pre-order will be available in 13 hours. I know what I will be listening to tomorrow while I try to finish up my current knitting project! I love the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear and am so looking forward to reading this latest installment, In This Grave Hour! I read the first book in the series, but have listened to the audiobooks of all the rest. Orlagh Cassidy if a wonderful narrator and, in my opinion, a perfect voice for Maisie Dobbs.