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Hail Guest, we ask not what thou art.
If Friend, we greet thee, hand and heart.
If Stranger, such no longer be.
If Foe, our love will conquer thee.
-Old Welsh Door Verse

Sunday, April 17, 2011


in literature.

My sister-in-law loaned me a book.  She said it is perfect for me.

This is scary.

I love my SIL.  In many ways she is my best friend.  My champion.  We have much in common, not the least of which is a life-long love of reading.  But our reading (and movie) preferences are much different.  I hate it when I don't like something she recommends, or when I recommend something she doesn't like.

After all, when we recommend a book to someone, aren't we saying, "I loved this.  I want you to love it, too, and then we can spend delicious hours in conversation about what we loved."

And so we're disappointed when it doesn't work out.  Kind of like a blind date gone wrong.

I have an added fear when someone recommends a book.  I seem to be losing my ability to become immersed in what I read.  Nicholas Carr writes about the phenomenon in his book, The Shallows.  Or maybe it's just adult onset ADD; I will look forward all day to crawling into bed early - 9:30 PM, 9:00, 8:30 - so that I can read for a while.  Within paragraphs my mind wanders, flitting from the latest cross stitch pattern to the flowers blooming in the Fairy Garden to the school papers still to be graded to plans for the weekend.  Hours later I wake up with the book still propped in front of me, light still burning.  I check the page to see where I left off and realize I lost it after only two or three paragraphs.


Imagine my delight when - relatively done in (having only had a few hours sleep the night before, thanks to my idiot dog) - I picked up my newly borrowed "perfect for me" book to put in my usual two paragraphs before dropping off and found myself saying "Just one more chapter" for the first time in years.  And then, on a glorious SoCA spring morning with the siren's call of a happy list (the length of my forearm) of garden chores echoing through the room, I found myself heeding the other echo instead.

Just one more chapter.  And then another.

And the winner is...

Maybe there's hope.

Here's the stack from the nightstand.

Summer reading?  The next several summers, probably.  There is, still, that tempting garden.  And the gym.  And the road.  And people I love.  Music to hear, fun to be had.

But the stack sings its own song.

Someday I will post how the dominoes of synchronicity toppled and led me to Deepak Chopra's The Way of the Wizard.  For now I will simply say that because they fell as they did, Mr. Chopra will be next after Ms. Lamott.

Choosing from the rest will be a challenge.  Some were begun, loved and interrupted.  Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle will be among the first, I think.  All the Julia Cameron books are workbooks for me, to continue the journey begun so happily through Artist's Way.  Gregory McGuire (of the fabulous Wicked) caught my $$$ as I browsed the first three paragraphs of The Next Queen of Heaven, only to lose me to strife-of-life issues; it may be time to see how her majesty is doing.  Some on the stack - like The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak -  are recommendations that I would love to love so that I can enjoy those conversations.  I bought Sam Houston by James L. Haley to learn why his marriage to his first wife was so short-lived, only to fall in love with the man;  I would like to finish that biography.  But, it's hard to resist the colorful Calamity Jane.

On top of the stack is my kindle, a device I never wanted but was a thoughtful and generous gift that I am learning has its advantages.  Its portability can't be beat.  It's loaded with classics that I am just now, as I approach a milestone birthday, starting to appreciate.  All the poetry of Emily Dickinson, essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson, the novels of Jane Austen (I've read Pride and Prejudice a dozen times, but none of her others.)  Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson was recommended by a respected friend and I'm loving it.  My Cameron-to-go is God is No Laughing Matter.  And now Ms. Lamott's Bird by Bird nests there, ready for my next unexpected pause on the run.  The nice thing about the kindle is that I can have in my purse at all times something that will suit my mood.  If Austen doesn't, perhaps Anderson will.

So, what would you choose?

1 comment:

GreatAuntJulie said...

From the first sentence to the last, your named drummed a constant rhythm: Debi, Debi, Debi. I've never, in a lifetime of reading and sharing books, felt so strongly that a book BELONGED in someone's hands.