There are days when I wonder why I even bother reading anything. Today I was especially reminded of how futile it is and yet I persist. Definition of insanity in action.
The last time I went to the movies (to see my beloved Star Wars) I saw a trailer for “Emma” and thought, “Oh man! I have to find some people to go see that with me and if I can’t, I swear, I’ll go see it alone.” It’s not much fun to see movies alone. There’s no one to look at and give a thumbs up or down for each trailer, no one to roll your eyes at during dramatically sickening scenes, and no one to sit and tear apart the movie with directly afterward. Sure, you can do it online but it’s not the same. I will see this movie alone if I have to, but I’m holding out hope for a fellow Jane Austen fan to go with me.
When I saw the trailer and had these crazy thoughts about who to see the movie with (my husband and son definitely will not, although I would have sat through that Ferrari movie if they wanted me to), I thought, “You know, I’m fairly certain I have the book on my shelf at home. I should read it before the movie comes out!” A few days later, I was rummaging through my bookshelves on New Year’s Eve gathering up all the books I’d read throughout the year because I had a strange compulsion to have a picture of them all in one big pile, and there it was, right where I believed it would be.
It doesn’t always happen, you know. I have repurchased books I already have and searched in vain for books I thought about getting but never did. This time I was right, and I was very excited. How clever of me to buy a book in the hopes that I would read it in the future. I found the book at a used bookstore and remember picking it up and thinking that I liked other Jane Austen books, this one would add to my collection!
I set the book on my “to read” shelf and went back to my obsessive gathering and quantifying on New Year’s Eve and then into New Year’s Day. Yesterday morning, I finished my current book and picked up “Emma” to get in a few pages before I ran off to do the laundry only to find…
Eighteen months ago, I had read this book and I had no recollection of it. I flipped through the pages and found my penciled notes inside. Sigh.
What’s the point of reading if I don’t have even the foggiest of notions about what I’ve read less than two years later? It’s not like I was trying to pull up a list of books from memory. I had it in my hand, pulled it off my own bookshelf, and it did not jog my memory in the slightest.
After reading it for an hour this morning, I’m only slightly less depressed. I am recalling the story and the characters as I read. It’s not like the entire book has been banished from my memory. And maybe a second reading like this will help cement it in my mind better.
I’m wondering if it might be a good idea to spend the coming year re-reading books. It would certainly save money! But then…there are so many books on my wish list! Maybe someday I won’t be able to buy any more books and I can start re-reading then.
Year Three of combining my love of books with my obsession with making lists and the numbers are in!
1.03 hours per day
1.84 hours per day
1.9 hours per day
12.14 hours per book
8.82 hours per book
9.79 hours per book
If anyone wonders if I have a slight obsession with books, just look at this photo and you will be left without a doubt.
This year past year, my goal was to get to an average of two hours of reading per day and I almost made it. Of course, are days that I just don’t get a chance to read, so I try to read for three hours on the days that I can, to make up for those missed ones, but it just wasn’t enough. Maybe next year!
On New Year’s Eve I had a wild idea to go around and gather up all the books I read this year and make a big pile of them. I got my reading notebook out and went on an Easter Egg Hunt around the house. A couple books I couldn’t find and I can’t remember what I did with them. A few a let my son borrow when he moved to Virginia earlier this year. And a couple I read on my Kindle, so I don’t have the physical book, although I may go back and buy them.
It was fun hunting them down and an interesting thing happened while I was searching the shelves for the titles. First of all, I realize that I need a better shelving situation. My shelves are overloaded and, although I have gone through and organized them by genre before, they soon end up all shuffled again. I add books over the years and don’t want to spend the time moving everything around to accommodate the new books or books that should be shelved with others of its genre are too big to fit on the shelf the previous books were given. I’m not sure what I can do about that other than marvel that I have so many wonderful books. And it does give me the opportunity to happily hunt through the shelves from time to time, so there’s that.
The other interesting thing that I didn’t expect was how exciting it was to see those books again and remember them. It’s one thing to see them written out in a list, but another to see the cover in your hand. It’s like seeing a friend in the grocery store verses reading their Facebook posts. Memories came flooding back and I’d flip through the pages and see my notes. “No, Michelle, we have to stay on track. This is a gathering mission. You can read and reminisce later.” Seeing them all on my dining room table at once made me proud of my work. And it was infinitely easier to pick out my favorites!
Something that I would like to do this year is keep track of books that I’ve bought for future reading, whether or not I have the book in possession or if I loaned it or gave it away for whatever reason. It drives me bonkers not knowing what has become of my precious babies!
Historical Fiction: 3
Short Stories: 4
DNF (Did Not Finish): 4
As I flipped through the pages making compilation lists of genre, pages, and hours read, I started to think maybe I should make up an Excel spreadsheet and tally the books as I read them throughout the year. It would make this part of my hobby much simpler, but then it probably wouldn’t be nearly as fun.
Yes, I’m a little strange, but I can’t think of a better way to spend New Year’s Eve and Day than going through my notebooks and visiting with the friends I made this year.
2020 is going to be an amazing year for books. I’m continuing to use my Instagram page to post pictures of the books I’m reading and quotes I find in them. I’ll keep sharing my own work on my blog and Medium. Facebook is a good place to keep up with what I’m posting anywhere else. If you find anything share-worthy, please do so! Sharing my posts really helps widen my audience and I appreciate all the help I can get.
I’m excited to keep reading and writing more this coming year and I hope you’ll enjoy what I find! If you want to see the titles, check out my READING LIST page. You’ll find them there in the order I read them and which ones were my favorites.
Back in September, my sweet husband, in an attempt to help me, bought me a Chromebook to write on. I had complained over the summer that between him talking to customers on one side and the boys and their antics on the other, I just couldn’t focus at my desktop in my office. If I had a laptop, I could take myself out to the trailer and lock the door. Alone in silence, without the distractions of, “Where’s the butter?” “Have you seen my red shoes?” and “Have you tried deleting the app and reinstalling?” maybe I could better focus on writing and make a go of this author thing. Laptops are expensive just to buy for an experiment, so he got the Chromebook as a test. If taking it out to the trailer alone proved to be helpful, then it would make sense to buy a better laptop for me to use.
Now, before you get disgruntled with my husband’s lack of confidence that I NEEDED the laptop, I’m notorious for wanting to do things and then getting bored or losing interest. We’ve been married for twenty years and known each other much longer. He knows me, sometimes better than I know myself. Once again, he made a good decision in going cheap before jumping in with both feet, but not for the reason we thought!
Since the beginning of November, my right elbow and wrist had started hurting. I’m not talking a little. It has been painful to the point of tears. After attempting to scoop cookies out onto a tray for Christmas, my arm was shaking in pain. Ibuprofen did nothing, but CBD oil helped a bit. It would start to subside but come back in full force anytime I forgot about it and reached to grasp and turn anything with my right hand.
I was becoming discouraged, to say the least. I thought it might be arthritis. I am getting older and the weather at the beginning of November had turned cold and wet suddenly, and it has stayed that way. I was considering going to the doctor to see if there was anything she could do. Maybe I have elbow cancer and there is something they could do to save me if I don’t wait?
These are my actual thoughts. I hate doctors and do everything I can to avoid going, but anytime something hurts, I instantly think it’s the end…but I still don’t see a doctor. I’m convinced that’s how I’ll die. Something will bother me for years, I’ll try to ignore it, attempt to cure the ailment myself, and finally break down and make an appointment. Then they’ll tell me that I have only a few weeks to live, but I could have been saved if I had only seen a doctor earlier.
But I digress.
This morning, when I sat down to get back to a regular habit of writing every morning (for the sixth time this month), I picked up my Chromebook, set it in my lap, and started on my journal, my wrist immediately started to ache worse than ever. That’s when it dawned on me. You know what else started the week my wrist started hurting? Nanowrimo. It’s the first year that I made the commitment to write every morning from 10am to noon and I was keeping it. By day five, my elbow started hurting and I blamed it on the cold weather and age.
These are the things we do, people. You’d think it would be obvious what’s to blame for our troubles, but we live blind most of the time. I can’t believe I didn’t see that. A friend even suggested that it sounded like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and I just shook my head, “I can’t imagine what repetitive wrist action I do that would do that!” Maybe it was because it started in my elbow and not my wrist?
Today, I’m back at my desktop in my office with the door shut and earplugs in. Not being able to hear really helps. It’s like the world is shut out. The bonus is that I’m right here with my notebooks and more coffee when I need it! Oh, and that cat. He keeps walking over my hands between my face and the screen because he’s a cat and his mission is to drive me bonkers! I’d lock him out but then he’d just scratch up my door to get in.
And now on to what I thought I’d be writing about this morning! I started reading Nick Hornby’s “Ten Years in the Tub” a couple days ago. How is it that I come across just the book I need at just the right time?
I picked the book up at Barnes & Noble a few weeks ago, right off the shelf, not even out in the middle with a “Must Read!” sign on it. I was browsing through the shelves and there it was. A book about reading books? A book about what he’s reading and why? It sounded like a decent way to find some new interesting books to read next year!
I’d never heard of Nick Hornby, but when I posted a picture of the book on Facebook, as I do each time I start one, a friend said she loved his writing. Intriguing.
Diving into it a few mornings ago, I was instantly happy I bought it, and even happier that I decided to read it now, in the last few days of the year, even though it’s a fat book and I won’t finish it before January 1st, so I won’t be able to add it to 2019’s book totals. Yes, it’s all about the list and making it look as good as possible.
Speaking of that list, I’m really excited to get started on my January 1, 2020, post! It will be the third year in a row that I’ve welcomed the new year with a tally of the hours, pages, and the number of books I’ve read over the past 12 months. I know you’re looking forward to it! Don’t worry, I’ll compare the previous year’s totals!
Back to Nick Hornby’s book about a reading list! How lucky is this guy to be paid to do exactly what I’ve been dreaming of doing, what I love doing? And then I got sad. He already does it. Why would I do it? But hold the freakin’ phone a moment! He’s a totally different person, from a completely different background, reading entirely different books. What I read, why, and what I think about it, comes from my personal perspective, my journey, my voice. It’s not the same. That’s like saying someone already wrote a book about space travel, so why would I?
Self-talk. It’s what I do.
I’m going to wrap this post up, but before I go, let me just give you a heads up. This coming week, I’m going to post an “Hasta La Vista, 2019!” essay and another about my precious reading statistics. The latest Star Wars movie (and a trip to Disneyland) has inspired some deep Jedi thoughts, but I have to finish watching all the old movies with my son before I see the new one again before I can really do that essay justice, so have patience Padawan!
Last thing, I promise, my goal this week is to post SOMETHING every day of the week, even if it’s just a few words. Prepare yourself to be inundated!
Tom Hanks wrote a book. Did you know that? I didn’t. I found “Uncommon Type” at Barnes & Noble a while back and picked it up. My first thought was, “Tom Hanks can’t write a book! He’s an actor. Just because you’re an actor and famous (and awesome) doesn’t give you the right to put your name on a book.” I scowled at it. Maybe it’s not THAT Tom Hanks but an author thinking he’ll cash in on people thinking it’s the actor Tom Hanks and buying it because…well…because Tom Hanks the actor is pretty impressive, his book would be impressive too. I wasn’t so sure. I flipped through, looked at the back, yep, there’s his picture. Interesting. “I’ll buy it but it better be good or I’m going to blog about it!”
Yes. This is exactly what went through my mind as I discovered the book and added it to my pile to read that I really didn’t need more of that day but…BOOKS!
Guess what? It’s awesome. I loved every one of the short stories I found inside. Some were more endearing than others. Some made me cry. Some made me smile. I closed it a little sad that it was over. I hope he writes more.
The book got me thinking in a couple of ways. First of all, I thought the stories were wonderful. As a writer, they inspired me. They are good stories that filled me with hope. “I could write stories like that someday,” I thought. Tom Hanks had his published because he, and the publishers, used his name. He has a built-in audience (one he has built himself with his skills as an actor) that’s sure to buy it. And that is awesome. That was my second thought. Step stools to get to the next level are not illegal or immoral. We use them all the time and we should.
I’m the shortest person in my house these days and there’s a step stool in my kitchen that I use just about every day. I got it when I moved into my first apartment. When I see it sitting there, in the corner of my office, I’m reminded of that apartment.
It was a studio apartment right next to Disneyland. My parents were not happy about the area I had chosen to live in, but it was what I could afford on my own, it was close to work, and I was determined to make it on my own. In my eyes, it was perfect. An older building with built-in cabinets in the bathroom, hallway, and kitchen. Up on the second floor of the building, it had a big front window that I could sit in and watch the fireworks from.
The front door had a slatted glass window in it, making it look like you were entering the laundry room and not another apartment. It opened to a long hallway that spilled into a large living room with a bedroom nook set in the corner. To the right from there was an old 50’s style kitchen with beautiful original cabinets and Formica countertops. The two-burner gas stove and oven had to be lit with matches that I kept in a magnet box stuck to the old refrigerator that came with the apartment. Between the living room and kitchen areas, was a short hallway that led to the bathroom, a pink and white enamel tiled masterpiece! The hallway had a built-in dresser at one end with a rusting mirror over the top of it. The moment I saw the place, I knew it was mine.
The only trouble I had was that everything was built so high up. The ceiling was probably nine feet high and the cabinets in the kitchen and hallway were built right up to it. I’m not “short” but at 5’ 5” I was going to need a step stool if I was going to be able to use all the storage space. I needed those upper cabinets. At 20 years old, I still had a lot of my teenage stuff and I was starting to build up my own set of holiday decorations just like my parents and my grandparents.
I made a point to stop at Kmart on the way home from work one day to pick one up and found the perfect thing. It was only one step, all I really needed, and the top opened to reveal a toolbox inside. Small, heavy, strong, and sturdy…kinda like me! I took it home that day and I’ve had it ever since. I’m 46 now. I chose well.
That step stool/toolbox now sits in the corner of my office, still filled with my own personal set of tools. A hammer, a screwdriver, hex wrenches, electrical tape, etc. In a house full of boys and men, it has always been nice to have my own set of tools that I didn’t have to search the garage for. They were kept sacred in my office for times when I just needed a small hammer to hang a picture or a wrench to tighten up a chair. And it always reminded me of my first apartment and my independent, single days.
Michelle! Why are you going on about a step stool?!
Hold on! I’m getting there.
Everyone is entitled to use a step stool in life to get to that thing that is just out of your reach. The key here is the active word “use”. It doesn’t matter really where you get the step stool, just that you do something with it. Some people are given one as a gift. They are born with it or their parents helped them. Some have to scramble and scratch to make one out of anything they can find. Some can buy one and some borrow. But no one is entitled to give you one. In fact, if you get one yourself, you’ll probably be better off in the long run.
Standing there complaining that you don’t have one, that you’re too short to reach, and waiting for someone to help you is a waste of your precious time and everyone else’s. You have important things to do in this life. You have particular talents that need to be expressed. If you can’t reach, get a step stool. If you can’t get one, build one. Don’t just stand there doing without that stuff on the top shelf. Don’t cheat yourself!
“There are too many books in this world to waste precious time reading ones we don’t enjoy.”
A reader posted a meme about someone saying they didn’t like a book (acceptable) but they didn’t finish it (unacceptable). I think that’s ridiculous. Reading is supposed to bring us joy or information. If I’m not enjoying the book, I rarely get much information from it. And so…it’s a waste of the precious time on this earth that we are given to continue.
Now, there are books that moved a little slow for my taste at first or the subject didn’t quite hold on to me, but I kept at them because the writing was good and I wanted to give it a fair shake. Those books ended up being great for the most part. If I have to force myself to keep reading or don’t have the urge to keep reading the next chapter, I put that book down. It may not even be a bad book. It just isn’t for me.
You know what’s strange? The same goes for the rest of life. If it doesn’t bring you positives, let it go. There are so many experiences in this world and we have so little time on this planet. Why would we waste that precious time on things that aren’t serving us? Sure, there are things we have to do, things we need to do to survive or to take care of our loved ones, but if we do them from the right frame of mind, they end up being positives as well and worth doing. Why would we deliberately choose to stay in a situation, a job, a relationship, anything, that brings absolutely no joy to ourselves or someone we cherish? Just put the book down.
How about we all practice taking responsibility for our own happiness for a change? If you’re unhappy, unsatisfied, unfulfilled, change something. Change the process. Change your surroundings. Change the direction. Change your attitude. Take back the control of your own life instead of just floating along with the flow.
Start with the book you’re reading. Just like each book is not for everyone, each life choice is not for everyone. Do what you love. Be where you love. Accept responsibility for your own life choices. Go for it.
I know many of my friends and family are big fans of e-books, but I’ve never been able to love them. It’s not that I disapprove of them or am daunted by technology. I actually think it’s brilliant. I have the Kindle app on my phone and occasionally buy the e-book version of a book so that I can take it with me on a trip more easily or, when I’m reading a more provocative title, read it more privately, but I just can’t love them like I want to.
The truth of the matter is that I simply enjoy having the books that I have spent time in on my physical shelves, no matter how crowded they get. When I walk into the room, I can see them, and I get an instant sense of accomplishment. It’s a physical representation of my effort. I remember them and visit, like seeing old friends. When I’m bored, I scan through the titles sitting so prettily on my selves like small sentinels of my past. Sometimes I pull them off the shelves and leaf through them, see my notes, and read a paragraph. It warms me and brings me closer to… What? I don’t really know. All I do know is that it feels good and I don’t want to let them go.
Today I read this in “The Bookshop on the Corner” by Jenny Colgan,
“I think I just stopped seeing books around,” the man went on. “You know, on the bus, everyone used to read books. But then they were fiddling with their phones or those big phones, I don’t know what they’re called.”
“They were probably reading on their tablets,” said Nina loyally. She loved her e-reader too.
“Yes, I know,” said the man, “But I couldn’t see. I couldn’t see what they were reading or ask them if it was good or make a mental note to look for it later. It was if suddenly, one day, all the books simply disappeared.”
It brought up something I never thought of before and not in a negative, “these damn things,” kind of way, in a “something is missing” kind of way.
When I love a book, just by having it out in my hand in public, I’m sharing it with the readers around me. And if I see someone with a title or book cover that looks interesting, I can make a note of it without saying a word. We communicate with the people around us even when we don’t think we are! It’s a covert operation. The perfect introvert sharing opportunity.
When we’re looking at our e-readers, most people assume we’re busy talking to another person, so they don’t want to interrupt. But having a book out sitting next to you at the coffee shop, reading at the park or on the bus, is a conversation starter for those around you. “Oh! I love that book!” or “I was thinking about getting that. Is it good?” are great ways to start talking to a stranger. If they don’t want to be bothered, they’ll cut it short and I can move on. But if they’re interested in sharing about the book, they’ll keep talking and I’ll be in heaven. It’s a win/win situation.
I think I’ll start carrying a purse again, one big enough to have a novel in it that I can pick up and read while I’m in line or waiting for a friend. Who knows what conversations it might start or who it will inspire to pick up and read it too?
“However much we may admire the orator’s occasional bursts of eloquence, the noblest written words are commonly far behind or above the fleeting spoken language as the firmament with its stars is behind the clouds. There are the stars, and they who can may read them. The astronomers forever comment on and observe them. They are not exhalations like our daily colloquies and vaporous breath. What is called eloquence in the forum is commonly found to be rhetoric in the study. The orator yields to the inspiration of the transient occasion, and speaks to the mob before him, to those who can hear him; but the writer, whose more equable life is his occasion, and who would be distracted by the event and the crowd which inspire the orator, speaks to the intellect and heart of mankind, to all in any age who can understand him.” From Walden by Henry David Thoreau
This. Wow. This morning, sitting there with my book, distracted like a squirrel by anything that moves or makes a sound, I read this.
I wasn’t enjoying Walden very much until this chapter, Reading. And then I almost cried. He spoke to my soul with this chapter, from 100 years in the past. And that’s exactly what he was trying to say.
How can we relate old written words to our current tech-filled, fast paced life? Read this book and you’ll know. He writes of the telegraph, the train, newspapers, and city life as we would of social media, world travel, mainstream media news, and city life. Ha! And his point still stands.
Do we really have that much to do? Are we overwhelming ourselves and forgetting what it’s like to be human? Are we so filled with “business” that we lose site of the real point of our lives?
This morning, I got up from my reading to make breakfast as I usually do and thought, I should go back to eating better. I haven’t been feeling as healthy as I should the past few weeks and I know it’s mainly because I’ve been skipping a good breakfast and starting my days with coffee and toast or cereal. I walked into the kitchen, opened the fridge, and looked at the vegetables, eggs, cheese, that I had bought the day before.
“I don’t have time to cut up veggies and then make eggs.”
I don’t have time? Why? Because I have so many pressing responsibilities? Because I have to be at work? Because I have babies to feed and love? No. I don’t have time because I want to get back to the distraction of scrolling through social media feeds. I’ve lost track of my priorities.
I’m not condemning social media, fun, or friendships. I’m not saying sell all your possessions, quit your job and live off the land. I’m saying make time for what you really want. And to do that we have to start with knowing exactly what it is we want.
For me, that means deliberately setting everything else aside for a while and going back to basics, maybe even spending some serious time in solitude, to reflect and refocus. When I’m quiet and undisturbed from the outside, my mind begins to settle down and the real thinking begins.
I need to go back to my stars and stop looking at the clouds for direction.
For a while now, I’ve been attempting to post about every book I read but I think I’m changing my plan. I have a backlog and it’s disrupting my peace. The picture you see above is my current pile of already read books waiting to be summed up. When anything starts to pile up, my anxiety starts to build and that’s when I shut down and discontinue my practice. Homework, email, laundry, diet plans: that overwhelm feeling grates on my nerves and colors everything else I attempt to do. I’ve found that it’s much better for me to pick and choose my battles. I can’t just throw out the clothes or the dishes instead of washing them when they pile up, but I can delete all the emails, drop the class, or walk away from the diet, so I do.
So here we are with a pile of books on the corner of my desk, waiting to be reviewed and blogged about. Every day I see them and walk by. Every day I pick up the top one, thumb through it, look at the rest of the pile, and walk away. I can’t even sit at my computer and write about something else, because those books are looking at me in the accusatory way that makes me start to sweat every time I see them.
This morning, I walked by and thought, “My that pile looks so pretty like that. I should take a picture.” As I did, I had an epiphany. Why not post about that pile? Maybe pull one thing from each book to write about, give them closure so to speak, and then file them away on my bookshelf? And that is exactly what I’m doing right now.
This may be a bit long and boring but it has to be done. My reader heart needs closure on these. Feel free to scroll through and find a title that catches your eye! I will allow it…this time!
“Following Muhammad – Rethinking Islam in the Contemporary World” by Carl W. Ernst
This book was suggested reading from another book I read about religious literacy and it was an excellent read. I highly recommend it for everyone. It really helped me understand Islam, its history, its diversity, and cleared up a lot of misunderstandings for me. It’s also not a long, boring, overly detailed read. It’s just an overview, something to get you started on the path to understanding and tolerance. Go get this book right now.
“The Last Days of the Late, Great State of California” by Curt Gentry
A friend sent me this book, with a few others, after our last big earthquake. He thought I’d like it and he was so right! It’s historical fiction, written as if the “Big One” hit and all of California was dumped into the sea, disappearing forever. It’s so easy to read and a great story. Most of the book highlights California history in the first half of the 20th century. What would the rest of the country miss if California disappeared? I couldn’t put it down and ended up adding a few other California History books to my reading list.
“Writing as a Path to Awakening” by Albert Flynn DeSilver
This one was a little too “woke” for me, but not a waste of time. I found some inspiration. Little things like “we are meaning-making machines” made me smile. I wrote that one down and posted in on my “writing altar” along with “Practice doesn’t make perfect, practice makes process, and with consistent attention, proficiency, and eventually, with further devotion, mastery.”
“The Best American Essays – 2018” edited by Hilton Als
I love a good essay! These would have been better if fewer of them were about how much Trump has ruined their lives. There were some great ones though. I love hearing people’s perspectives and experiences.
“Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and For Those Who Want to Write Them” by Francine Prose
“Hey! That’s me!” That’s what I thought when I saw the title on Amazon and clicked BUY. It was a bad idea though because…well…it added a couple dozen books to my reading list! Ha! It is full of great examples of narration, character, and dialogue, among other things. Reading it is like talking to a fellow book lover!
“The Man Who Quit Money” by Mark Sundeen
I read this under duress. It was assigned to my son by a college English Composition teacher last year and there has been much debate about its content, premise, and subject, but…no one had actually read it all. I decided I would. “In 2000, Daniel Suelo gave away his life savings. And began to live.” It was hard to read. I kept thinking, he’s not living with less or living without or “off the land,” he’s only living off others. He stays with friends, dumpster dives, and uses the internet at the library. I honestly don’t think he was any happier living that way than if he had just focused on being more conservative in how he lives, using less, etc. The only reason he could live the way he did was because most people don’t. Most people have more than they need, throw away excess, underuse what they have, so he has those resources. There was a lot to think about though and I appreciated his journey.
“Bright Lights, Big City” by Jay McInerney
So, what do I think when I read that title? “James and the Giant Peach” of course! I hear the centipede singing it every time I read those words. I hear there was a movie of this very book. I know…I’m so lost. Anyway, book was…interesting. Pretty darn sad. And deep at the end. Wow.
Two things I took away from it that were awesome. First of all, he works in a magazine’s “Department of Factual Verification.” I can’t imagine doing this job before the internet! Every article they buy from a writer must be “fact checked” by a third party before printing. They have to call places and look things up in the encyclopedia, libraries, and other publications. It’s a huge amount of work. The magazine has a reputation to protect. They can’t just pull an article off the internet if it turns out to be false like they do now. Once it’s in print, it’s there forever! Wow.
The other thing was this quote, “…what you are left with is a premonition of the way your life will fade behind you, like a book you have read too quickly, leaving a dwindling trail of images and emotions, until all you can remember is a name.” Ouch.
“Carrie” by Stephen King
This book has a back story too. It’s one of the scariest movies I ever saw, mostly because I saw it when I was around six years old! Before you go calling my mom a monster, little kids are supposed fall asleep late at night and my brother and I were safely tucked away and sound asleep in the back seat of our car in our feet pajamas when the movie started. You just gotta love drive-ins! My parents were watching the movie in the front seat and at the end of the movie, there I was with my head poked between the seats, eyes wide. I had nightmares for years! We were all traumatized!
Something I noticed when I finished the book…Carrie is just Frozen with a much more horrifying ending. Small girl with latent powers the adults can’t deal with so they lock her away until she becomes an adolescent, at which point her powers are too much for anyone to deal with including the girl.
“How to do Nothing – Resisting the Attention Economy” by Jenny Odell
Another great book with some amazing insight into stepping out of the world for a bit and changing your focus. I just wish it could have been done in a more positive way, without adding “the world is ending because Trump is president” bologna. The world is just as messed up as it always was. The internet isn’t destroying us. Facebook is not the great Satan. Please. Just stop. I also wish it had more examples and ideas of “how” instead of so much “why.”
“Wise Blood” by Flannery O’Connor
Ok. This…was strange. I never got the point of the story. Didn’t really care about the characters. The whole book was odd. Maybe I missed the point? While I did finish the book, desperately hoping for meaning, it did start a series of DNF’s (did not finish) in August.
“Beyond Good and Evil” by Friedrich Nietzsche
DNF. That’s what they write by your name if you start a race but don’t finish. Maybe your bike broke down or (Lord forbid) you crashed and didn’t get back on the bike, but you never crossed the finish line.
This book I did not finish. I just couldn’t read it. Several pages in and I had no idea what he was trying to say and no patience to have every page explained. I’m not sure if it’s the translation or what. I enjoy Nietzsche’s philosophy, so I was disappointed that I couldn’t read it for myself. Maybe I’ll find about book that explains it better? Or…maybe…take a class?
“Revolution at Berkeley” by Miller and Gilmore
Another DNF. A collection of articles about the protest at Berkeley in the 60’s. Fascinating read, mostly because the articles are from that time, not ours, but I gave up reading about a third of the way through. I had enough information and just wasn’t interested the subject anymore.
“Night Shift” by Stephen King
On a bit of a Stephen King jag lately. I have two more on my “to read” shelf! This guy really knows how to entertain through horror. My husband walked into the room while I was reading this and I about jumped out of my skin!
So, there you have it! Thirteen books! Phew…I’m exhausted!
“Wind, Sand and Stars” by Antoine De Saint-Exupery
This book…wow…the imagery he brings up through his words is amazing. Every page is filled with beauty. And it’s a true story. I have never given much of a thought about Africa or the Middle East before our own time, much less about how mail would get across the desert in those areas! And now, well, I’m enchanted. A technology was invented that changed the world, airplanes. Suddenly, there was a way to communicate with people across vast distances in a fraction of the time it used to take. And there were people that were unhappy about it. Imagine that!
He describes amazing scenes and adventures, some that didn’t end well, with an insight to human nature that we can all use a dose of today. Imagine the risk of flying those old airplanes across the desert just to get a letter or other document to a relative or business partner? Makes posting to social media seem like child’s play, but imagine the impact it can have compared to that one letter!
I never even knew this book existed until I heard another author mention it as his favorite book as a child, one he has read over and over again. Ahh…that…reading one book over and over. I’ve never done it. I sometimes wonder if, in my quest for more information, more story, I miss the deeper meaning and joy of really knowing one small piece of the world. I probably do.
Sometimes I feel like a collector. At the moment, I’m collecting books like there’s no tomorrow. What if there isn’t? What if the time comes when I can buy no more for some reason or another, and all I have is what I’ve already collected? That will be the time to start re-reading!
“Numerous, nevertheless, are the moralists who have attacked the machine as the source of all the ills we bear, who, creating a fictitious dichotomy, have denounced the mechanical civilization as the enemy of the spiritual civilization.”
Funny to think a book written in 1939 would have the same complaints we have today. When I hear people complain that the technology we have today is the end of the civilization, I wonder if they’ve ever read anything older than 20 years.
“What are the hundred years of the history of the machine compared with the two hundred thousand years of the history of man? It was only yesterday that we began to pitch our camp in this country of laboratories and power stations, that we took possession of this new, this still unfinished, house we live in. Everything around us is new and different – our concerns, our working habits, our relations with one another.
“Our very psychology has been shaken to its foundations, to its most secret recesses. Our notions of separation, absence, distance, return, are reflections of a new set of realities, though the words themselves remain unchanged. To grasp the meaning of the world today we use a language created to express the world of yesterday.”
How’s that? How much more has changed in 100 years, more than any other century of the past? We’ve created a technology that will change everything yet again. Yes, things seem insane and upside down. It will be ugly for awhile. Evolution isn’t pretty and it doesn’t always end well. But it’s happening and the only way to deal with it is to ride the wave and see where it goes.
“Every doctrine swears that it can breed men, but none can tell us in advance what sort of men it will breed. Men are not cattle to be fattened for market.”
That’s what I think schools are doing, fattening cattle for market. In the past we could know what the market will be one from one generation to the next. We’d need farmers, businessmen, explorers, etc. There were jobs we needed to fill that were predictable. And to do those jobs there was a set amount of information, education that each would need. Life has changed so much that that has become increasingly untrue. I think it started just before the author’s time and has steadily increased in the number of changes until now and beyond. We’re better off teaching our children basic skills like communication and how to stay flexible and alert, than a set of rules and dictations as we have in the past. Right now, anything can happen and we need to be ready to move one way or another. Those that can’t, won’t survive.
And this sweet reminder to write!
“Let a man in a garret but burn with enough intensity and he will set fire to the world.”
“For man’s greatness does not reside merely in the destiny of the species: each individual is an empire.” I don’t think we respect the individual as much as we should. We tend to act like hive mates and treat the hive as supreme. It’s limiting. Each of us holds a world in our heads and hearts. Each of us has something to add to the world, no matter how young or old, rich or poor, brilliant or dull. “Interdependent” that’s the word I love. We are each our own sovereign world, capable of taking care of ourselves, but when we work together we become so much more. It’s the same with people as it is when nations and cultures. If we could only see that and stop trying to force each other to bend to each other’s will.
“Each shell that fell upon Madrid fortified something in the town. It persuaded the hesitant neutral to plump for the defenders. A dead child weighs heavily in the balance when it is one’s own. It was clear to me that a bombardment did not disperse – it unified. Horror causes men to clench their fists, and in horror men join together.”
How, after all these years of war, can we not see this today? Do we really think we are doing any good in the world when we commit violence against another?
And the last…
“To come to man’s estate it is not necessary to get oneself killed round Madrid, or to fly mail planes, or to struggle wearily in the snows out of respect for the dignity of life. The man who can see the miraculous in a poem, who can take joy from music, who can break his bread with comrades, opens his window to the same refreshing sea. He too learns a language of men.
But too many men are left unawakened.”
It can be easy to read true stories of adventure and start to think that the only way to really live is be out there living through disasters, that they only way to learn to live through struggle is to struggle yourself, that the only way to respect life is by losing parts of it, but that’s not true. Humans have an amazing ability to communicate over generations. It’s what sets us apart from any other animal. It’s what I believe is the “image of God” in us. We communicate through all types of medium, the written word, music, paint, and technology. Open yourself up to it. Read, experience, and create. Wake up to the world around you!
This was a difficult book for me to read objectively. It’s condescending tone and elitism bugs me to my core, but he does have some good points. With the invention of the internet we suddenly have the world at our fingertips. Not only can we access all the great thinkers and the experts in any field, we can also read all the alternatives as well. We can get a second, third, and fourth opinion about anything we like. We don’t even have to search for answers at all. We can simply go to a social media platform and ask a question. Within minutes we can have the opinion of thousands of people to sift through. The key word here is “opinions.”
There are things we don’t need an expert for, things social media are amazing at. Finding a good place to eat in your area, what stores have the best prices, and where to find a good mechanic, are all excellent uses for the internet. Whether or not you should vaccinate your kids, the legal ways to evict a tenant, or how to pay your taxes, are probably best answered by an expert, not just someone who’s done it before or read an article about it.
The trouble for me has been trust. Who can I trust these days? Just because someone is an expert in something doesn’t necessarily mean I can trust his opinion regarding my personal choices. I’d love to have several professionals I can trust, ones that offer their professional opinions, listen to my own preferences, and respect my choices. But that doesn’t seem to be available. What I generally get is a person who treats me as an ignorant and willful child that they must protect, one that can’t possibly make intelligent decisions for herself with the information they present. It makes it hard for a person to take their expert opinion seriously, which I so desperately need sometimes.
When I was able to put aside the “better than you” tone, which I’m sure was not intended and only my immature interpretation, the book had some wonderful points. He brought up where he believes things have gone wrong through higher education, the overwhelm of conflicting information, the loss of the art of conversation, problems with journalism, etc. There seems to be a balance missing these days and it’s starting to have serious negative effects.
The truth is that we do need experts. It’s so much more efficient if we all take care of our own immediate needs, take responsibility for own lives and choices, AND rely on experts when we come up against unfamiliar territory. There should be someone I can trust with my medical needs, my legal needs, and yes, my political needs. I should be able to trust that someone that has spent their lives studying and working in politics would know more about what do in the middle east. I should be able to trust that the person that studied medicine would know what’s best for my condition. But I should also be well versed enough in critical thinking to know when the so-called “expert” is bullshitting.
The book is worth your time. I’m not sure I agree with a lot of what he presents, but I do believe something has gone terribly wrong and I think he has some good points about where we may have taken a wrong turn. I don’t necessarily agree with the solutions he implies. The answer is never going to be “control things with government regulation” in my “non-expert” opinion. The answer lies in a much more complicated direction, allowing people to make their own mistakes, not tread on other people’s rights, and encourage people to think critically and solve their own problems.