Booking Through Thursday

Booking Through Thursday Asks: What are you reading right now? What made you choose it? Are you enjoying it? Would you recommend it? (And, by all means, discuss everything, if you’re reading more than one thing!)

The Hungry Mirror, a novel by Lisa Nikolits, in on my reading plate right now.  It came to me from Inanna Press, in Toronto, and I’ve long been impressed with the quality of work they publish.  They focus on women’s issues in novels like Jackfish, the Vanishing Village, by Sarah Felix Burns, and Tricia Dower’s short story collection, Silent Girl.

The Hungry Mirror goes deeply into the matter of eating disorders, told from the perspective of a woman whose obsession with food rules every aspect of her life, and has done for as long as she can remember.  She alternately hates herself for the obsession, and applauds herself for the control she is able to exert over her body.

It is another ravenous bloody Sunday, and I am trying to pass the time until I can eat again.  Nothing like a day of starvation to bring out the snarling animal in a woman.

I am so ashamed.  Because there is absolutely nothing noble about my preoccupations.  My pursuit of getting as close as I can to the bones of my body is so horribly self-involved, self -obsessed.

But if I can just feel the sharpness of bone it will be all right. I just have to get through today and I will be all right.

I can do it.  I must.

This is a fascinating, but painful novel, well written with just the right touch of dark humor.  It’s a portrait of a woman whose self-esteem has been fractured to the breaking point, a woman whose life appears near perfect from the outside, yet is decaying on the inside.  I don’t think you can really enjoy a novel like this – be fascinated and horrified in equal measure, perhaps.

And be grateful for the simple pleasure of enjoying your food.

Booking Through Thursday – First Love

What is the first book you remember reading? What about the first that made you really love reading? ~ Booking Through Thursday

You’d never have guessed it looking at me, but I was sort of  a sickly child.  Lots of asthma related allergies and respiratory infections, many of which came with that awful barking cough known as “croup.”  Because of that, and because one of the few things that comforted me from a very early age were books and magazines, there was a lot of reading going on in my house, much of it at all hours of the night.

My grandparents lived with us in those days, and my grandmother was the designated night time reader.  Thinking back on it, I suspect she was in the early stages of her “change of life,” and was perhaps having her own troubles sleeping.  So when I would awake, my chest clogged tightly with thick mucous, she would plug in the vaporizer, prop me up with pillows, and settle beside me on the sofa.  

“What shall we read?” she’d ask.

“Heidi, please,” was always my first answer.  “The part about Grandfather and the goat’s milk.”

I loved Heidi because it was about a little girl and her very quiet, almost taciturn Grandfather, a man I pictured to look much like my own Granddad, who would wander with me through the nearby woods, pretending to “hunt”, or play makebelieve versions of my favorite television shows (he was “Chester” to my “Mr. Dillon” from Gunsmoke, and was able to walk with a very satisfying hitch in his gait.)

But the best part of Heidi was a passage that told of the pair coming down the mountain, tired from herding sheep all day, to a meal of  thick white bread laden with rich, creamy butter, washed down with glasses of warm goat’s milk.

My mouth waters even now

So it was Johannes Spry that set me off on a love of reading.  In those days, the poems from A Child’s Gardner of Verses were also big favorites, as were the Bobbsey Twins series and Beatrix Potter tales.  But it was Heidi and her beloved Grandfather who instituted my love affair with books.

Now tell me, what was your first book love?

Booking Through Thursday -Encouragement

How can you encourage a non-reading child to read? What about a teen-ager? Would you require books to be read in the hopes that they would enjoy them once they got into them, or offer incentives, or just suggest interesting books? If you do offer incentives and suggestions and that doesn’t work, would you then require a certain amount of reading? At what point do you just accept that your child is a non-reader?

In the book Gifted Hands by brilliant surgeon Ben Carson, one of the things that turned his life around was his mother’s requirement that he and his brother read books and write book reports for her. That approach worked with him, but I have been afraid to try it. My children don’t need to “turn their lives around,” but they would gain so much from reading and I think they would enjoy it so much if they would just stop telling themselves, “I just don’t like to read.”

In the high school where I worked a few years ago, each morning at 10:40, right after morning announcements, the voice on the PA system would say, “And now it’s time for silent reading.”  For 20 minutes, the entire school, teachers and students alike, stopped everything and read.  You could read anything you liked, as long as you were reading.

I loved that idea, and wished it would spread throughout the entire world.  Besides encouraging a reading habit, it gave kids the idea that reading was important, not just for young people, but for every person.

I think that’s one of the best ways to encourage reading at home, too.  Make it a family affair, maybe allow a special snack while reading, or read aloud to one another.  Make trips to the library a regular event, coupled with a stop for ice cream or pizza.  (I still do that, especially now that my library has a cafe with super home baked cookies for sale, and I certainly don’t need any encouragement to read!)

 I guess I always lean toward positive reinforcement to encourage any behavior, believing in the old adage that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

And just because children don’t read now, doesn’t mean they never will.  My husband was never much of a reader until just the past couple of years…now his TBR list is longer than mine!

Booking Through Thursday

Do you think any current author is of the same caliber as Dickens, Austen, Bronte, or any of the classic authors? If so, who, and why do you think so? If not, why not? What books from this era might be read 100 years from now?

I think about this question from time to time, particularly as I peruse the best seller shelves in my local bookstores.  After all, the authors we refer to as “classics,” were often not recognized as such in their own time.  Dicken’s novels were first published as serials in the newspapers, what we might even refer to as “potboilers.”  Seen in that light, we might compare his work to popular authors such as Grisham and King.  Austen’s work never find true popularity until after her death, and while Bronte’s novels sold well commerically, she published for many years under a male pseudonym. 

The 20th century brought to light the works of many distinctive writers – Steinbeck, Fitzgerald, Woolf – to name only a few.  I think the work of  21st century authors  such as Richard Russo, Jhumpa Lahriri, and John Irving have the potential to become part of the canon of “classic literature,” literature that captures the concerns of a particular generation while illuminating truths about life in general.

 

Booking Through Thursday

btt2Life is too short to read bad books.” I’d always heard that, but I still read books through until the end no matter how bad they were because I had this sense of obligation. That is, until this week when I tried (really tried) to read a book that is utterly boring and unrealistic. I had to stop reading. Do you read everything all the way through or do you feel life really is too short to read bad books?

Once upon a time, I plowed through every book, no matter whether I liked it or not.  But as I get older, I feel less compunction to finish books I’m not enjoying.  Life is too short, and there are far, far too many books waiting to be read (and re-read!)  Particularly now, since nearly all my books come from the library, I don’t have the added onus of feeling as if I’ve wasted money by not finishing. 

I have occasionally been surprised by a book – pushed on past the point where I might have set it aside only to find it’s suddenly become quite interesting.  And the opposite has happened as well – a book that starts out keen can suddenly flounder along the way. 

So, yes, I do occasionally say, “Bah!” and toss the book aside.  It’s a bit painful, I’ll admit…but after all, I don’t go on eating a pile of Brussel sprouts (which I detest!) simply because they’re on my plate.   There are far too many things in the world one must do no matter what the feelings are.  At this point in my life, reading is one of the few things over which I still have a modicum of control.  So, I’ll exercise that control, and dismiss a book I don’t like.

There are always lots more to choose from.

Visit Booking Through Thursday for other responses to this question

Weeding

btt2When’s the last time you weeded out your library? Do you regularly keep it pared down to your reading essentials? Or does it blossom into something out of control the minute you turn your back, like a garden after a Spring rain?  Or do you simply not get rid of books? At all? (This would have described me for most of my life, by the way.)

And–when you DO weed out books from your collection (assuming that you do) …what do you do with them? Throw them away (gasp)? Donate them to a charity or used bookstore?  SELL them to a used bookstore? Trade them on Paperback Book Swap or some other exchange program?

I’m one of those rare gardeners who enjoy weeding.  I love grabbing those nasty, spiky clumps and jerking them out by the roots.  Soothes my inner beast, I suppose. 

Weeding one’s library is not nearly so satisfying.  Alas, it must be done on occasion, if only to make room for more books to blossom on the shelves.  It’s always difficult to part with books, so I’m only willing to do it if I know they’re going to a good home.  

Most of the books I pull from the shelves go to our library book sale. ..and often end up on the library shelves to be borrowed by others…

Occasionally I donate books to the small lending library within our gated community in Florida…

Some books I loan to friends, with permission to pass them along to whoever they feel might enjoy them…

Some go on offer to Book-moochers…

Some get traded at Books Connection, our local independent used book store…

Weeding is a necessary evil, in the garden and in the library.

Booking Through Thursday (on Friday): Recent Fun Read

This Thursday BTT asks: What’s the most enjoyable, most fun, most just-darn-entertaining book you’ve read recently?

upforrenewaltpbcover-smallI was suprised by Cathy Alter’s Up for Renewal, and found myself laughing out loud more than I thought possible, considering the current state of affairs in my life.  Alter’s life is in a state of upheaval as well, when, at age 37, she finds herself divorced, working in a dead end job, and engaging in one hopeless relationship after another.

So, she does what any intelligent, creative young writer would do…she creates her own Self Renewal program, using magazines as her textbooks.  With a year’s subscription to all her favorite glossies, she sets out to learn everything from how to get rid of upper arm jiggles and neck wattles, reduce her credit card debt, redecorate her apartment, and – of course – land the perfect man.

Alter is a freelance writer, and has written for many of the magazines she chooses as her guide for the ultimate makeover.  She’s witty, funny, and self-deprecating in a completely lovable way.  Her memoir-ish style book was great fun to read, and definitely renewed my interest in reading magazines.

Booking Through Thursday?

btt2    What’s the funniest book you’ve read recently?

 

Funny you should ask. 

Truth is, after thinking about this question, I realized I never read humorous books.  In fact, looking over my reading list for the year, my tastes run decidedly to the dark side.  Or at least what one might call the dramatic  side, what with my penchant for historical novels and psychological thrillers and tales that explore the deepest recesses of the psyche.

To remedy that situation, I picked up the nearest thing to a humorous book I could find in my TBR pile ~ it landed on my doorstep Monday afternoon, a review copy of  Mercury in Retrograde, by Paula Froelich.  Perhaps  this slick novel about three young and single Manhattan-ites isn’t exactly what some would call funny, but I am  smiling a lot more while reading it than I  have been during some of my other recent reads.   After all, who can help but smile after reading passages like this…

Last year, Penelope even tried Match.com, which had introduced her to Tony, a balding energy trader who had an annoying penchant for high-fiving everyone within earshot every time he made what he thought was an interesting comment (“Yo, that dude looks like a lady – high five!” or “Duke guys do it best – high five!”).  After high-fiving a guy, he would usually follow it up with a belly bump, a move Penelope referred to as the “sumo.”

Their first date have been woeful, but Penelope had decided to give Tony another chance as he promised he’d take her to Da Silvano, a trendy and pricey restaurant that she couldn’t afford.  He’d lied.  Instead, Tony had taken her to a sports bar in Midtown to watch the Yankees beat the Red Sox, where he’s gotten so excited, he’d not only high-fived her, he’d sumoed her and Penelope flew halfway across the room and landed on her ass.  She’d called it quits after that, fearing permanent sumo-inflicted damage.

Mercury in Retrograde  is a fun, fast paced, Sex and the City  style read, and it’s been a great diversion from my own rather grim reality lately. 

 Perhaps I should read “funny” books more often.

Booking Through Thursday

btt2So! In my Official Capacity as a writer of science fiction and fantasy, I hereby proclaim June 23 Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Day! A day of celebration and wonder! A day for all of us readers of science fiction and fantasy to reach out and say thank you to our favorite writers. A day, perhaps, to blog about our favorite sf/f writers. A day to reflect upon how written science fiction and fantasy has changed your life.

So … what might you do on the 23rd to celebrate? Do you even read fantasy/sci-fi? Why? Why not?

I’ve occasionally wondered why science fiction and fantasy writing have such little appeal for me.  Is it because I’m so bound to realty, so tethered to earth, that my mind refuses to suspend the disbelief necessary to fully engage in this type of fiction writing? Do I prefer reality based writing , the way my eyes are drawn to realistic artwork and my ears to tonal music, because it’s familiar and safe? 

I have immense respect for sci-fi and fantasy writers, for the humongous leaps their imaginations have made into an alternate universe where no man has gone before.  Occasionally I chastise myself for my lack of receptiveness to this genre, and urge myself to browse the sci-fi section at the bookstore. 

But somehow I can never take the leap, and shy away at the last minute as I might do if someone were to hold the door of a rocket ship open and invite me in.

“Thank you, but no,”  I would say, characteristically polite.  “I’m sure it’s lovely out there, but I prefer to keep my feet firmly planted on the ground.”

Now tell me,  if you read sci-fi or fantasy, what do you love about it?  And if I were to screw up my courage and take a leap into this genre, where would be a good place to start?

 

 

Booking Through Thursday – Unread

btt2

Is there a book that you wish you could “unread”? One that  you disliked so thoroughly you wish you could just forget that you ever read it?

The nightmares came in cycles, most often during my own time of the month, in some strange synchrony with the protagnoist’s performance of her official duties as a “handmaiden” – a faceless woman chosen only for her ability to breed.   The dream images were stark and evil, and in them my world was filled with imprisonment, terror, and darkness.

417SV938KJL__SS500_I read The Handmaid’s Tale  soon after it was published in 1985.    It was a time in American history when the conservative ideals of a very popular President were holding sway in the minds of many.  And while I didn’t really believe the authoritarian, patriarchal society Margaret Atwood was describing in her dystopian novel would actually come to pass, nevertheless, the horrifying vision of  the Republic of Gilead made a deep impression on me.   Gilead can best be described  as  a “feminist nightmare, a place where women were strictly controlled, unable to have jobs or money and assigned to various class –  the chaste, childless Wives; the housekeeping Marthas; and the reproductive Handmaids, who turn their offspring over to the “morally fit” Wives.   The tale is told by Offred (read: “of Fred”), a Handmaid who recalls the past and tells how the chilling society came to be.” 

And nightmares I had, for months after reading this book.  Naturally, I assiduously avoided the film, which starred Faye Dunaway and (the late) Natasha Richardson.  I’ve never had a book affect me so deeply, and while I might not wish it “unread,” I would  wish the horrifying images of those nightmares erased from my mind. 

Perversely, I’ve kept the book on my shelf on this time, and could right now go into the basement and pluck it from the spot where it’s been resting quietly for almost 15 years.  But I believe I’ll leave that terrifying story remain tucked safely away between Gail Godwin’s A Southern Family  and Helen Hoover Santmyer’s And Ladies of the Club, both very kinder  versions of a woman’s world.

Now tell me – have you ever had nightmares about a book?