Category Archives: books

Reading Mystery

A few years ago, back when a librarian needed to check out your books for you, the older red-haired librarian at the desk (Anna would know her name) said “My, you have a wide set of topics here.” I don’t remember what I was checking out, but I do read across a fairly wide swath.  Science fiction, fiction, mystery, a variety of science, biography, history, philosophy, fantasy, kid lit, thrillers.  About the only thing I don’t read is romance if I can help it.

It was about that time that I started keeping track of how I got the idea to read a particular book. I have several categories for this – my book clubs, BookPage from the library, Writer’s Almanac, my various “lists” (English Monarchs, Presidents, Newbury & Caldecott winners, etc.) and the Trail. By far the biggest category is O&A (Out & About), a catch-all for everything else.

I’m pretty good at remembering where I find a title that I want to read, but every now and then I am surprised when I go to my hold shelf in the library. I knew from looking at my online account that there was an InterLibrary Loan titled Meetings with Remarkable Trees waiting for me.  It had the sound of poetry and many of the poetry books I look for end up coming from other libraries: I assumed it was poetry.  So imagine my surprise it’s a lovely photo book with essays about specific trees.  It’s fascinating but I’m not sure where the idea came from?  It’s not exactly the kind of thing that you find in the mainstream.

So I’ve decided it must be something that was recommended to me on the Trail. It’s about nature, so it might be Clyde (he is usually my go-to for travel books, but it seems like something he might like).  But it has absolutely lovely nature photos, so it might be the kind of thing recommended by Steve or Cynthia or BiR.  It’s a little off the beaten path, which has Bill written all over it.  The author is originally from Ireland, which means that it might have been recommended by PJ, who has a broader range of non-American authors.  I’ve haven’t gone back to the Trail and done a search: for now it’s a nice little mystery.

Do you do well at taking advice? Or do you prefer to GIVE advice?

The Stuffed Headboard

Whenever I am out and about and see someone with a massively full baby stroller, I wonder why some folks feel the need to bring every single thing they might possibly need along with them every time they leave the house.

Then I get home to my bedroom. When I bought my bedframe many years ago, I got one with bookshelves because… well, you know why.  Books.  As soon as YA and I had it put together I installed a few books and a box of tissues and figured I was all done.  There was plenty of room.

Fast forward to today. Now I have a bucket of pens/pencils, ibuprofen, a hand mirror, my blood pressure monitor, my Walkman, my laptop, my journal and sticker box, my allergy meds, the land line phone, a cell phone holder, lotion, fingernail polish, some photos, a candle, finger nail clippers, two little notepads, a couple of magazine, a pig bank and a bucket w/ various things like chapstick, Neosporin, a few band-aids, aloe vera gel and Benadryl gel.  And, of course, way more books.

Whenever I try to straighten all this up, I end up leaving most of it there so it’s “handy” if I need it. Guess now know exactly what all those strollers are so full!

What’s essential in your trip kit?

Getting Deposed

I am being deposed. No, I don’t mean thrown out of office or my job. I mean that I will be soon sitting in a room at a court house with four lawyers, their assistants, and a court reporter. I have been subpoenaed as an expert witness in a case  related  to my work.  Three of the lawyers will ask me questions. One will try to discredit me and my testimony, while the other two will like what I have to say.  The fourth lawyer is sent from the Attorney General’s office, since I am a State employee,  to help me out if needed.

My lawyer from the AG’s office is a very nice man who sent me a list of helpful hints for giving testimony and  who will  provide all the documents that I was ordered to bring to the hearing. I have testified in court many times before and have given at least one deposition, but it was nice to talk it over with him.  I am not a difficult witness, and I know how to behave on the stand. This made me think, though, what a thankless task it will be for the poor lawyer or lawyers who will prepare 45 for giving testimony and answering questions on the stand.  I can’t imagine it will be pretty.

Have you ever had to testify in court? Imagine you are a lawyer.  Think of some historical or literary characters and tell us how you would prepare them to testify in court. 

Are We Really Ready?

The headlines today say that Facebook is creating  “an immersive environment called Horizon to tempt people into spending more time in virtual reality.”  They’re calling this virtual world “Horizon”.

I just recently finished reading Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, which is about a future in which a worldwide virtual reality called “Oasis” has become the reality for most people.  Despite there being some seriously bad guys in the story, Ready Player One is much more optimistic about this future virtual world than I am.

Having just written yesterday about my unhappiness with my phone game addiction, I’m pretty sure I don’t want to jump into a virtual reality world with both feet. I mean, if you spend lots more time in “Horizon” or “Oasis” or “Eden”, who does the dishes and vacuums the dog hair?  My job of physically sending people to exotic destinations would be kaput.  In Ready Player One, many people got jobs in the Oasis but it still doesn’t answer the question of who makes your frozen burritos and who maintains the building you live in.

So I think I’ll pass. At least for now.

You just got a new planet for your birthday. What would you call it?  Anything special about it?

Bad Habit!

I’ve picked up a very bad habit over the past several months. Like way too many other folks I have succumbed to apps on my phone, three in particular: two games and one “paint by number” program.   It wasn’t too worrisome until a few weeks back I realized that I’m reading less, mostly in the first hour after I get up in the morning and at the gym, both prime times in my reading schedule.   It’s showed up on my reading log that I have read less at this point in the year than I have in the last five years.  This is a horrifying revelation to me.  In fact, it took me two weeks to decide to divulge this on the trail.  Just embarrassing.

So I’ve made the decision to try to give up all three apps for the month of October. At first I thought I would just do a week, but I’m thinking to get them out of my system, I need to delete the apps and give it a solid month.  I can always re-install the games if I think I can be more circumspect in my usage.  They do say you have to do something for at least 21 days to have the habit sink in.  We’ll see.

When have you quit something cold turkey? How did you do?

Serial Bliss

Today’s post comes to us from Minnesota Steve.

There aren’t many things better than discovering a great book, a book so good you hate to turn the last pages because you never want it to end. One thing that is better is discovering that the great book you just finished is one in a series written by the same author. The pleasure you are feeling is repeatable.

One afternoon when I was about ten I discovered a book of stories by Arthur Conan Doyle in the Ames Public Library. The first of them, “A Scandal in Bohemia,” introduced me to the complicated figure of Sherlock Holmes and to the thrill of reading mysteries. When I understood there were more Holmes stories, I couldn’t believe my good fortune.

There is a lot to like about book series. You can start subsequent books in the series knowing you like that author’s style. You often go into subsequent books already knowing some of the characters and the setting. Series offer writers the chance to develop themes in depth and do a better job of telling stories. When I begin a book by a new author I don’t know if I will eventually feel the time I spent with the book will be rewarded. When you are chewing your way through a good series, that isn’t an issue.

I’ve just begun exploring a new series. Following exhortations from my daughter, I just read the first novel in Louise Penny’s beloved Three Pines series. Penny’s crime novels feature charming Canadian locales and the comforting presence of Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. Louise Penny has a warm and whimsical view of life and people. While her novels are driven by the need to explain a murder, the people who fill her books are human and mostly likable. Penny’s vision is deeply rooted in community. My daughter enjoys Penny’s humor. I was surprised to find so many “Easter eggs” in the form of unexpected observations about life and people. The series currently includes 15 books. Penny adds about a book a year. When my daughter met Louise Penny last year at a Detroit book signing event, she was not surprised to find Penny is modest, witty and gracious . . . just the sort of person who would write such appealing novels.

I’ll have more to say about good book series in the Comments section.

What book series have you enjoyed? What did you like about them?

Words for Book Lovers

I get an email every day from Dictionary.com with a “Word of the Day”. Then on Mondays there is a quiz of the last seven days worth of words.  And occasionally there are other emails about word-related things.  Last week there was an email with a link to “Words All Book Lovers Should be Using”.  You know I can’t resist that.

Here are the words.

  • bookish
  • colophon
  • bibliotaph
  • fascicle
  • logophile
  • sesquipedalian
  • bibliophile

How many of them do you know? How many of them describe YOU?  Any other words you think all book lover should be using?