2015 Challenge: Travel the World in Books

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While perusing the hundreds of different reading groups on Goodreads recently, I found one that called out to me: Travel the World in Books, hosted by three bloggers, Tanya at Mom’s Small Victories, Becca at I’m Lost in Books, and Savvy Working Gal.

The Goal of this challenge is to: “Travel the world in books, of course! Expand your horizons and read books set in or written by authors from countries other than the one you live in. Visit as many different countries in books as you wish.” The Time Frame for participation is open ended, which suits me well. And, best of all, they are having a January read-a-long of Barbara Kingsolver’s, The Poisonwood Bible, a book I’ve long had on my TBR list. I couldn’t resist, so have signed on to participate in both the challenge and the January read-a-long. 

My own goal with joining this challenge is to expand my reading horizons, and enjoy some more of the world’s wonderful literature, which is something I love to do. I’ll compile a list of books, as I go, and will keep track of them under my Challenges header. I am looking forward to my reading travels this year!

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Early Morning Cocoon

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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.

When Books Went to War

My Dad, fourth from the left...

My Dad, fourth from the left…

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.

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Photo from Molly Guptill Manning’s website. Click on the photo to visit her “museum” of photos.

 

A Bridge for Passing

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How quickly, in one instant, years of happy life become only memories!

A Bridge for Passing, by Pearl S. Buck, was an interesting  end for my 2014 reading year. Buck is a favorite author of mine, and I read her books slowly, absorbing her words and wisdom, enjoying the beauty of her prose.

TheBigWaveI hadn’t heard of this book before, but when I saw the description of it, I knew it was my next read by her. One of my all time favorites of her books is The Big Wave, a story about life and death and what it means to be Japanese. I loved sharing it with my 6th grade students when I was teaching and we were studying the Pacific Rim countries. The discussions were so powerful. A Bridge for Passing is a memoir of the time when Buck was in Japan for the filming of The Big Wave. She had written the screenplay. During that time, she received word of the death of her husband, Richard Walsh. Her experiences in Japan at such a sad and difficult time provided solace and perspective, and became a “bridge” into her new life alone without her beloved husband. What an interesting experience to read this poignant book about grief and renewal, with its fascinating connection to another book I love!

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It’s a Wonderful [Reading] Life

Young Woman Reading a Book, by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1875.

Young Woman Reading a Book, by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1875.

2014 has been a wonderful reading year for me. It was a year of re-reading old favorites, finding new authors to love, and just enjoying the book journey. The year began and is ending with two beloved books: The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame, and The Collected Stories of Winnie the Pooh, by A.A. Milne, both audiobook versions of childhood favorites. What pleasure to listen to both those books again! What warm memories of hearing them read over and over by my Dad, gone now 20 years. That’s the magic of books — book memories are timeless, and the pleasure never gets old. As we welcome in the New Year, this is my wish for you, dear book friends: May you have a wonderful reading year that adds many warm and timeless memories to your reading life!  Happy New Year everyone!me cg presenter.indd

Guest Post from Mom: Art of a Jewish Woman

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My Mom

My mother, at age 95, is still a prolific reader and an inspiration to me. She lives next door to a wonderful library and enjoys walking there as often as she can. During the winter months, when the weather is awful, she foregoes her walks to the library and chooses more Kindle books to read. She recently found one she enjoyed very much and she sent me an email describing it. It is a story that came out of World War II and the Holocaust, the story of a strong and courageous woman, both things of great interest to my mother. Since she hasn’t written reviews for my blog in quite awhile, I decided to include her email as a “Guest Post from Mom.”

Mom’s Review:

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I have just finished reading  a biography called: Art of a Jewish Woman written by her son, Henry Massie. It is a remarkable story. When I read of her death at the age of 97, I could not hold back the tears, a complete surprise to myself.

From a review on Amazon I found this short review helpful in covering some important facts about this memoir, Dr Henry Massie’s’ account of his mother.

Kitty Hughes – See all my reviews

This review is from: Art of a Jewish Woman: The True Story of How a Penniless Holocaust Escapee Became an Influential Modern Art Connoisseur (formerly titled Felice’s Worlds) (Kindle Edition)

“Felice’s World is a graceful and thought-provoking read of the difficult, complex and rich life of the author’s mother. It fills in the various historical contexts of her life in a meaningful way, showing us the various worlds that Felice moved through and the ways she was shaped by and shaped the environments that enclosed her.”

Felice was able to escape the worst of the devastation the holocaust had on members of her family. She escaped to America with the help of family relatives living in the United States. She spoke a number of languages and mastered French to near perfection. She tutored young people from rich families in French, and was often able to be a live-in teacher, which helped her immensely.

From a young age, she was declared a beauty and her beauty provided definite advantages. She was certainly brave in accepting opportunities that came her way. Her story began in Poland and the war kept her moving to safer places. What an amazing story!  It was hard for me to try to write about her but wanted to share a bit with you.

Love,
mom

Not My Father’s Son, A Memoir

Cumming

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.

Three Houses

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Fall is here and I find myself feeling my usual autumn nostalgia. Three Houses, by Angela Thirkell, was a perfect fit for my changing season days. Her little book of memories from her childhood during Victorian times was beautifully written, with descriptions so lovely that I read them slowly, savoring them. Her memories are tied to three homes from her childhood, homes filled with loving grandparents, fun cousins, family friends, and all those who helped in or visited those households.

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Painting by her grandfather, Edward Burne-Jones. Click on the image to visit the Angela Thirkell Society.

She was the beloved granddaughter of the Pre-Raphaelite painter, Edward Burne-Jones, was a cousin of Rudyard Kipling (first cousin, once removed), and was the goddaughter of J.M. Barrie, so her childhood was filled with art and stories. She became a wonderful storyteller herself, so after this lovely experience, I am looking forward to reading more of her work.

Here’s an example of her magically descriptive childhood memories.

In the larger part of the drawing room was my grandmother’s toy cupboard. Originally begun as a toy cupboard for our visits, it had gradually fallen into her far worthier hands and she kept it and added to it with the collector’s passion. When the oak cupboard was unlocked what an enchanting sight was there. It was like a page from Nutcracker or Mouse King, or a story from Ole Luk Oie. Tiny houses, gardens, hedges, and people. Russian families of painted wood, shutting up one inside the other from grandfather to baby. Merry-go-rounds that made a little tinkling noise as one turned the handle. Tiny shops and stalls with suitable apples, pears, carrots, turnips, and cauliflowers. Flocks and herds that knew no other grazing lands than the table-cloth. Fishes of mother-of-pearl from Chinese seas. Sicilian carts drawn by bedizened oxen. Saucepans and jugs and coffee-pots carved from wood, no bigger than a baby’s finger nail — and whatever more of littleness you can imagine. He friends used to add to the collection and any one who came to Rottingdean bringing some tiny tree, or flower, or figure, was doubly welcome.