Reading Life

Summer Reading: Clock Dance/White Houses

On the New Release shelves at my local library, a select few books are classified as “Lucky Day” books. In high demand, they’re available on limited one-week loan, with a hefty $1 dollar a day fine if they’re overdue. I was there on Monday and grabbed up Anne Tyler’s brand new novel, Clock Dance, as well as Amy Bloom’s White Houses. I almost snatched Meg Wolitzer’s new one too (The Female Persuasion) but figured my chances of reading three novels in one week (especially THIS one week) were pretty slim.

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Well, it’s Wednesday morning, and thanks to two very sleepless nights, I’ve read both my Lucky Day picks, and am wishing I had The Female Persuasion waiting for me in the tote bag.

Anne Tyler’s novels always delight me, and Clock Dance was particularly so. There is always something so poignant about her characters - their quirkiness, their neediness, their willingness to just step off into life, sort of like stepping of a cliff into thin air. In this one, Willa Drake, a 62 year old woman whose life is seemingly going just fine, finds herself plunked down in the middle of just such a cast of characters and realizes there are some very important elements missing, elements this very unlikely group of people can help restore for her. It’s quintessential Tyler, and was a lovely way to pass the wee hours of a sleepless night.

White Houses is an entirely different kettle of fish. It’s a fictionalized account of the relationship between First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and journalist Lorena Hitchcock. Told from “Hitch’s” perspective, it’s an unflinching look at historic figures who have been idealized by time but were, of course, simply human beings with flaws and frailties, needs and desires. Amy Bloom places them squarely within the confines of history, but also beautifully conveys the timeless depth of emotion between these two women. 

I am reading a LOT this summer (21 books since June 1) partly fueled by the aforementioned trouble sleeping, but also by the fact that there’s been little of interest to watch on television. Historically, July is always a big reading month for me. Things will likely slow down starting today - my son and his family are coming for their annual summer visit, and having my 6-year old grandson in the house will keep me occupied and probably tired enough to sleep all night long!

How’s your summer reading coming along? Anything particularly striking your fancy?

Summer Reading: A Place for Us

In summers long past, my friend Jill and I would cajole my grandfather or my aunt to drive us to the local library at least once a week where we stocked up on reading for the long summer days. We always registered early for the annual Summer Reading Program, obtained our reading log sheets, and dutifully completed them to drop into the collection box on the librarian’s desk. I still recall with great fondness my favorites from those summers, and I often re-read them before moving on to other things. Maud Hart Lovelace’s Besty-Tacy books, anything by Madeleine L’Engle, Trixie Belden, the Little House series - classics in a time where there wasn’t a lot of choices in children’s or young adult literature. 

Years went by, I had a child of my own who loved to read, and he would also register for summer reading (at the very same library, by the way, a nice bit of serendipity for me.) So back we’d go to the library, often riding our bikes (we lived closer than I had as a child) and stopping a nearby donut shop on the way home.

Thus, summer and reading are intrinsically linked in my mind. Already this summer I’ve happened across some wonderful new books, and I thought to write about them occasionally here.

The Sunday Salon: The Case for the Closet Creative

My son was the most creative child I ever knew. Because he grew up as an only child in a neighborhood without other children nearby, he developed an entire world of creative projects to keep himself occupied. From the age of three until adulthood, he lived and breathed for this imaginary universe of characters which he wrote about, drew in cartoon adventures, and made video and audio recordings. He had his own little franchise and it occupied nearly all of his waking thoughts. He was so focused on these creative projects, and they were so important to him, that school always seemed like a huge waste of time, something he did only because he had to, a task to hurry and get out of the way so he could return to his “real work”.  Nothing made him happier than the hours and hours he spent creating. 

Whenever I’m tempted to throw my own creative endeavors under the bus in favor of “being productive” with my time, I try to recall my son’s creative fervor in his childhood days.

The Sunday Salon: Drawn In

It finally happened.

Winter arrived today. 

Icy rivulets ran down the windowpanes in harmony with hot coffee streaming into the pot. Howling winds battered the house as a Mozart Piano Concerto danced gently on the stereo. 
Leaden gray skies hung heavily over us as warm firelight flickered in the living room.

We are making the most of this wintry Sunday morning.

Naturally books are part of our response to winter.

The Sunday Salon (Monday edition): Best Books

It’s that time again - the annual Best of the Year Lists. 2015 was the first year I’ve used Goodreads to catalog, rate, and track my reading, which makes compiling my Best Books list a little more interesting than in past years, when I’ve simply perused the pages of my reading journal for those entries I’ve starred as favorites.

My personal criteria for a Best Book classification? One that captures my emotional interest; one that has appealing, believable, fully developed characters; one with an interesting plot or story line; one that makes me feel “writerly” (to quote my friend Melissa- in other words, a book that makes me itch to get to my own pen and paper and start writing myself). The final requirement, and probably the most important one, is that it must be a book I can imagine myself re-reading, either in a year, five years, or even 10. Even as was writing this list, I felt the urge to go downstairs to my shelves and grab each one of these to re-read.