“I’d Like to Find a Good Book to Live In”

Does anyone remember Melanie, who sang “Look what they’ve done to my song”? My favorite part of it was this verse:

“I wish I could find a good book to live in
Wish I could find a good book
Well if I could find a real good book
I’d never have to come out and look at
What they done to my song.”

There are so many times when I would like to find a good book to live in….if I had my choice, it would be something of Pat Conroy’s, now sadly gone from our ranks. I would live in either “Beach Music” or “South of Broad.” If you have never read either of them, please do yourself a favor and read them—slowly. They will take you away to places you may never have dreamed of.

While he was a southern writer and I am not southern, I too fell deeply and completely in love with Charleston, SC. Mom and I took two memorable trips there, and loved every minute.

Even the sidewalks there have personality; they are made from what they call “tabby,” which is essentially concrete with ground-up oyster shells in it. From good old Wikapedia, here’s more info:

“Limestone to make building lime was not available to early settlers so lime was imported or made from oyster shells. Shell middens along the coast proved to be a supply of shells to make tabby which diffused from two primary centers or hearths: one at Saint Augustine, Florida, and the other at Beaufort, South Carolina.

The earliest known use of tabby was near Beaufort, South Carolina area, formerly known as Santa Elena which was the capital of Spanish Florida from 1566 to 1587.

It is so unique-looking; soft gray with sprinkles of light-reflecting mica-like chips. As a newcomer to the city, I couldn’t help looking at it.

And then there is the smell of pluff mud, which is a dark, soft sediment typical of the marshes of South Carolina. It is full of decay; spartina grasses, fish, crabs, shrimp and who knows what-all marine life. Since there is so much bacteria to break down in pluff mud, hydrogen sulfide is released, which is exactly the pungent stink of rotten eggs.

However, to a Mainer like me, it smelled close enough to Atlantic mud to make me feel both homesick and at home. It became part and parcel of the joy of my time in Charleston.

I could go on and on about our two trips there; the fabulous dinner at Elizabeth’s, the seafood at Pookin’s Porch, the way the moon seemed larger and more glamorous than at home…..the plantation tour we took, the little house we rented for our stay, and the yellow cat belonging to the owners who became our “watch cat” each night.

We enjoyed eating benne wafers; tiny, crisp buttery cookies made with sesame seeds. We visited the factory that makes them, and brought home tins of them as gifts for friends. We often visited  a wonderful jewelry store, run by a lovely Russian man. Each time we went in, he would drop what he was doing, clasp his hands together, smile invitingly and say in his wonderful accent, “Challo, ladyes!”

Pat Conroy was born in Atlanta, GA, a true Southern man. Even though he was, as my mother would say, rough as a cob, he was a wonderful writer who had the ability to put charm you right into his stories. Truly, if I had a choice, it would be just about any of his books I would live in. But again, “Beach Music” and “South of Broad” are my favorites.

So, how about you? Is there a particular book that you would like to live in?

Book Ban — Really?!

I have heard that some schools have decided to ban “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee and “Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain. Why these books? Because they have “racial slurs” in them. Not only are these books classics, but they reflect the times in which they were written.

Because they are reflecting those times, readers will find in these books now politically incorrect words such as the “N” word. At the time these books were written, that was just how things were. I’m not saying that this was right, but I am saying that these were far different times than those in which we now live.

We may read these two books today and exclaim: “how awful! How could people treat other people like this? How could they use such insulting language?” But again—these books were written in another time, not our present time.

Here is my issue with banning certain books: where does this end? Are we to become so obsessed with not hurting anyone’s feelings or offending anyone that we start banning any book with the slightest hint of political incorrectness? These books and many others are part of our history—like it or not.

History stands as it happened, with no clever cover-ups or sanitizing what happened. History is how things happened, and this is why we need to know our own history, warts and all.

If we do not learn our own history, we are certain to repeat the same sorry and damaging things we have done in the past. The whole reason that books like “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Huckleberry Finn” exist is to show us how things used to be; in other words, the history of those times.

We need to better explain why books like this are important. Those who spend precious time looking to be insulted surely will be—but that is not the intent of these books.

I fear that, if we keep the current course, the next thing may be burning books. That would truly be a tragedy and a sign of mass ignorance. Please let’s not let this happen.

Remember the saying: “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.”

 

 

 

Book Perfume

Anyone who has spent enough time at a library knows all about “*book perfume.” For me, the older books smell like a combination of dust, leather, paste, ink, and the ghosts of many fingers turning the pages. Sometimes some of the page edges have been nibbled to fine lace by whatever creatures ingest paper. Often there are ancient tea stains on some pages. Many of the books have had to be re-bound, and those too have their own unique scent.

Just about everyone I know now reads by Kindle, Nook, and all the other electronic devices that allow us to carry around thousands of books at a time. There’s nothing wrong with that; in fact, if you travel a lot, it’s very handy to have one with you. You can load up hundreds of books and read at your leisure.

When I used to travel, I always lugged several books with me. I was careful to only take paperbacks with me; even ten of those weighed quite a bit. The idea of running out of books gave me the cold sweats, so when I had to make another connection, I would dash into the terminal to buy a few more books “just in case.” More than once I had to ship my books home, but it was worth having a good selection with me.

Along with the book perfume, there is that comforting feel of a book in the hand. Solid as a Christmas gift and full of light, wisdom, horror, compassion, nobility, fearsome things, history, and all the visuals that come with being so involved in a book that you can actually see the characters in your mind. Often you can hear their voices, too.

I don’t pretend to have read Dante’s Inferno, Proust, all of Shakespeare’s plays, all of Dickens or Victor Hugo, and the great poets; I have read some but not all. I have to admit that as a reader, I mainly read for pleasure and entertainment. I did greatly enjoy English Literature in college, and many books I would not have chosen on my own introduced me to some truly wonderful works.

I have read hundreds of books so far in my lifetime, and some of my own “must reads” (should anyone ask me for suggestions) are authors such as Michener, Victor Hugo, Stephen King, Doug Preston and Lincoln Child (who have each written books together, and some on their own), Mary McGarry Morris, Alice Hoffman, Elizabeth Berg, Ann Rivers Siddons, Pat Conroy (read “Beach Music; it will change your life), Rose Franken, John Irving, J.K. Rowling, Ellen Gilchrist, Donald Harrington (read “With;” it will melt your heart), and oh, so many, many, many more. Even now I hear my book list shouting, “what about me? Me? and ME?”

Reading is a pure pleasure. I have a few hobbies I am passionate about, but reading is Number 1. When I was in grade school, I used to visit the town library just about every Saturday. I’d return last week’s stack, and choose another stack to enjoy over the next week.

One such Saturday I was walking out of the library, carrying several books under my arm. A girl about three grades above me was walking by and stopped me.

“Why are you carrying all those books? Don’t you remember that school’s out for summer?” she asked, looking fiercely down at me.

“I’m—well—reading them,” I replied.

The girl scowled at me and said, “Are you crazy? Why would you read books if you didn’t have to?”

I said, “um, because I like to read?”

“Well, you’re stupid then,” she said and stalked away.

Since everyone in my family read every chance they could get, I knew at that moment that I really was different. I knew I wasn’t stupid for reading books for fun, but it was the first time I felt somehow separated from a lot of people. For the first time in my life I also felt that what some cranky girl thought of me and my reading didn’t bother me—at all. I was the kind of kid who badly wanted others to like me, but I was also at the age where you begin to find your own “tribe.” My few but precious friends all read, and so did I. I remember that I walked home whistling that day.

I also realized that I had been overcome with the perfume of books forever.

*From The Daily Mail, here’s one explanation of ‘book smell:’

“Old book smell’ is generated by the breakdown of cellulose and lignin in paper, which produces organic compounds.

Benzaldehyde adds an almond-like scent, vanillin smells of vanilla and ethyl hexanol has a ‘slightly floral’ scent. Ethyl benzene and toluene, which are also produced give off impart odours.

These volatile organic compounds are created by reactions known as ‘acid hydrolysis’ and  together make up the smell of old books along with other alcohols produced by the reactions.

No one is sure of exactly which chemical compounds contribute to ‘new book smell’.

The scent differs from book to book as different chemicals are used in the making of different volumes.

It is thought the smell derives from three main sources: The paper, inks used to print the book and the adhesives used in book binding.”

 

More Book Recommendations for Book Lovers

This is a continuation of my original post, “For the Book Lovers.” This was part of my mom’s program for her PEO chapter. In the last post I included some of Mom’s favorite books (Books I Love) and some of Mom’s PEO friends’ books that they love (Books YOU Love).

The following also come from Mom’s program; Books Men Love and Books Children Love. I have also added some of my own favorite as well.

Please enjoy!

Books Men Love

“Northern Borders,” Howard Frank Mosher

“Stranger in My Kingdom,” Howard Frank Mosher

“North Country,” Howard Frank Mosher

“On the Beach,”Nevil Shute

“Round the Bend,” Nevil Shute

“The Chequer Board,” Nevil Shute

Books Children Love

“Harry Potter” (all seven books), J.K. Rowling

“Freddy the Detective” (all books in the series), Walter R. Brooks

…And Some Books I Love

NOTE: When I list an author, it usually means that I have read EVERYTHING that author wrote. So if you love one book by an author, try the others as well. You won’t be disappointed! 

“The Golem and the Jinni,” Helene Wecker

“With,” David Harrington

“Me Before You,” Jojo Moyes

“A Man Called Ove,” Fredrik Backman

“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” (the entire trilogy), Stieg Larsson

“The Snow Child,” Eowyn Ivey

“Solomon’s Oak,”  Jo-Ann Mapson

“Pompeii,” Robert Harris

“Odd Hours,” Dean Koontz

“The Host,” Stephanie Meyer

“Made in the USA,” Billie Letts

“Wideacre,” Phillipa Gregory

“People of the Book,” Geraldine Brooks

“Off Season,” Anne Rivers Siddons

“The Sweet In-Between,” Sheri Reynolds

“Skylight Confessions,” Alice Hoffman

“The Lace Reader,” Brunonia Barry

“The Book Thief,” Markus Zusak

“In the Hour I First Believed,” Wally Lamb

“Molokai,” Alan Brennert

“Deep Dish,” Mary Kay Andrews

“Glass Castle,” Jeannette Walls

“The Land of Mango Sunsets,” Dorothea Benton Frank

“The Girl Who Stopped Swimming,” Joshilyn Jackson

“The Deep Blue Sea for Beginners,” Luanne Rice

“South of Broad,” Pat Conroy

“The Lost Symbol,” Dan Brown

“Remember Me?” Sophie Kinsella

“The Third Angel,” Alice Hoffman

“Mercy,” Jodi Piccoult

“Dr. Sleep,” Stephen King

“Black House,” Peter Straub

“A Hole in the Universe,” Mary McGarry Morris

“Past Perfect,” Susan Isaacs

“Winter Garden,” Kristin Hannah

“Eat, Pray, Love,” Elizabeth Gilbert

“Every Last One,” Anna Quindlen

“The Last Aloha,” Gaellen Quinn

“Nora Jane,” Ellen Gilchrist

“Bad Boys,” Olivia Goldsmith

“The Queen of Bedlam,” Robert McCammon

“The Last Night in Twisted River,” John Irving

“Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe,” Fannie Flagg (NOTE: If you saw the movie and did NOT ready the book, you’ve really, seriously missed out!)

“Third Degree,” Greg Iles

“Buster Midnight’s Cafe,” Sandra Dallas

“Brava, Valentine,” Adrianna Trigiano

“The Good Daughters,” Joyce Maynard

“Being Committed,” Anna Maxted

“The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder,” Rebecca Wells

“Homebody,” Orson Scott Card

“The Grays,” Whitley Strieber

“The Help,” Kathryn Stockett

“Secrets of Eden,” Chris Bohjalian

“Knit the Season,” Kate Jacobs

“The Hunger Games,” Suzanne Collins

“The Rest of Her Life,” Laura Moriarty

“The House at Riverton,” Kate Morton

“The Lies We Told,” Diane Chamberlain

“The Blue Bistro,” Elin Hilderbrand

“The Ice Limit,” Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child (both authors have written other books on their own)

“The First Phonecall From Heaven,” Mitch Albom

“Ripper,” Isobelle Allende

“The Orchid House,” Lucinda Riley

“Gone Girl,” Gillian Flynn

“Heading Out to Wonderful,” Robert Goolrick

“Dad is Fat,” Jim Gaffigan

“Delicious,” Rachel Reichl

“A Year After Henry,” Cathie Pelletier

“You Should Have Known,” Jean Hanff Korelitz

“Pines,” Blake Crouch

“One Thousand White Women,” Jim Fergus

….and oh, my friends–there are so many, many more!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the Book Lovers

I come from a family of readers, and between my mom and dad and me, we have read TONS of books. To clarify, Mom and I enjoy books that entertain, inspire and delight—in short, fiction. Of course, we also enjoy biographies and autobiographies, but we mainly enjoy a good story. Dad, on the other hand, reads for information. Actually, so does the Crankee Yankee. They read to get necessary information rather than entertainment. I guess that puts Mom and me in the lightweight category, but the point is–we all like to read.

Mom once did a program for her PEO (Philanthropic and Educational Organization for Women) chapter called “Books I (Mom) Love, Books YOU (those books mentioned by her PEO sisters), Books Men Love and Books Children Love.” This program in my opinion stands the test of time for good reading, and I include them here.

Please check out these books (if you haven’t already), and prepare yourself for time well spent.

Books I Love

“Hoopi Shoopi Donna,” Suzanne Strempek Shea

“The Last Day the Dogbushes Bloomed,” Lee Smith

“Celestial Navigation,” Anne Tyler

“Touched,” Carolyn Haines

“I’ll Take It,” Paul Rudnick

“Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All,” Allen Gurganes

“The Beet Queen,” Louise Erdrich

“Emmeline,” Judith Rossner

“Empire Falls,” Richard Russo

“Life With Its Sorrow, Life With Its Tear,” Lester Atwell

“Escaping Into the Open,” Elizabeth Berg

“Journals,” May Sarton

“Charleston,” Alexandra Ripley

“On Leaving Charleston,” Alexandra Ripley

“Run With the Horsemen,” Ferrol Sams

“Whisper of the River,” Ferrol Sams

“When All the World Was Young,” Ferrol Sams

“Savannah,” Eugenia Price

“To See Your Face Again,” Eugenia Price

“Before Darkness Falls,” Eugenia Price

“Stranger in Savannah,” Eugenia Price

“The Reading List – Contemporary Fiction, A Critical Guide to the Complete Works of 110 Authors,” ed. David Rubel

Books YOU Love

“Outlander” and the rest of the series, Diana Gabaldon

“The Red Tent,” Anita Diamant

“The Poisonwood Bible,” Barbara Kingsolver

“Gifts From the Sea,” Anne Morrow Lindbergh

“I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” Maya Angelou

“Beachcombing For a Shipwrecked God,” Joe Coomer

“Prince of Tides,” Pat Conroy

“Beach Music,” Pat Conroy

“Talk Before Sleep,” Elizabeth Berg

“The Mitford Series,” Jan Karon

“A Prayer for Owen Meany,” John Irving

“The Hobbit,” J.R.R. Tolkien

“Six of One,” Rita Mae Brown

“Snow Falling on Cedars,” David Guterson

“Shipping News,” Annie Proulx

I have read all of the above, and can tell you truthfully that these are indeed books worth reading.

I will soon post the titles and authors of the books I love, plus Books Men Love and Books Children Love.

Happy reading, everyone!

 

 

 

 

 

A Must-Read Book – “A Man Called Ove”

I have mentioned the term “ya ya books” in previous posts. It means that a book you are reading is so good, so engrossing, that if anyone tries to speak to you while reading, all you can do is to flap one hand irritatedly at them, indicating that they should shut up immediately and go away.

“A Man Called Ove” is such a book. Written by Fredrik Backman, it is the story of one grumpy old Swedish guy, hidebound in his thinking, ideals, values, and in fact every aspect of life. He is much more than he seems, and his story encompasses so much–I found myself alternately laughing and weeping while reading it.

Mind you, it isn’t a really sad book, but a combination of things funny, sweet, endearing, heart-breaking, and poignant. Reading it is a lot like picking up an ugly chocolate by chance, and, because you don’t want to seem boorish for putting it back in the box, you bite into it…..and it’s the single best, most delicious, most unexpectedly amazing chocolate you’ve ever eaten.

Here’s a passage from the book that I just loved (and for your information, it’s on page 305):

“Loving someone is like moving into a house,” Sonja used to say. “At first you fall in love with all the new things, amazed that every morning that all this belongs to you, as if fearing that someone would suddenly come rushing in through the door to explain that a terrible mistake has been made, you weren’t actually supposed to live in a wonderful place like this. Then over the years the walls become weathered, the wood splinters here and there, and you start to love that house not so much because of its perfection, but rather for its imperfections. You get to know all the nooks and crannies. How to avoid getting the key caught in the lock when it’s cold outside. Which of the floorboards flex slightly when one steps on them or exactly how to open the wardrobe doors without them creaking. These are the little secrets that make it your home.”

If you are a dedicated reader as I am, books are your daily bread. When you become immersed in one that holds you captive page by page, it becomes part of you. It’s a lot like meeting someone for the first time; you’re not always sure that you’ll like them or be able to forge a friendship with them. But when you let them into your heart, they are there forever. They become part of who you are, and often they change the very map of your life.

This book sort of sinks into your soul and lingers there for as long as it takes for you to let it go. It is compelling because you want to stay with it and in it for as long as you can–but you still can’t wait to reach the last page. When you do, you may cry as much as I did because I didn’t want it to end.

After finishing the book, I feel as if I’ve met someone who became important to me, and now I never want them to leave. This book touched me so deeply that I need to wait a day or so to start a new one. I’m not finished living in “A Man Named Ove” yet.

Please read this book. It will change your life.

 

 

Could We Be Facing a REAL Faherenheit 451?

If you are a Ray Bradbury fan as I am, you will no doubt have read “*Fahrenheit 451.” This is a horrifying tale of a society where books are outlawed and anyone having and/or reading books are subject to imprisonment and punishment. The premise of the story begins with society making television their number one source of entertainment, and consequently generations of people grow up with little or no interest in books. Books become brutally abridged to the point where the stories are short and sloppy synopses and gradually, even these books go unread. For ‘the good of humanity,’ books are burned and television can at last be the single god of entertainment. But of course there are a subversive few who love and treasure books. They hide them away for their own enjoyment, but live in fear that they will be found out.

These days we have technology that was undreamt of decades ago, and certainly not in 1953 when this book was published. As a baby boomer, I never even saw a computer until I was a junior in college. Although I have made my living as a technical writer for years, I am a callous and impatient computer user. I regularly aggravate technical experts with dumb questions, and have often pounded my keyboard for not doing what I want it to do. In short, I am a technical *troglodyte.

In short, I am both confused and dismayed by such things as iPhones (hey, it was hard enough for me to just buy a cell phone that is JUST a phone) and Kindles and Nook and all their ilk. As handy as a Kindle, etc. may be, I personally prefer a real book with real paper. I have shelves of them that I just can’t bear to give away as I like to revisit them from time to time, like an old friend.

But back to the horrors of a society that bans books and worse; BURNS them, I do worry that we can lose ourselves in technology. Many of my friends who love reading really enjoy the ease of use of Kindles and such, especially when they travel. They don’t have stuff their carry-on bags with paperbacks and lug that extra weight around. But me being me thinks, ‘ok, well and good, but what happens if your battery runs out?’ Maybe they come with their own back-up system–I wouldn’t know because I’m a troglodyte….

As always, I welcome comments. Please feel free to set me straight on how great Kindles are and why you think I should get one. Seriously–I fully admit my ignorance about them, so do not hesitate to school me.

******* SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t read “Fahrenheit 451” and plan to, don’t read any further.*******

 

 

As horrifying as “Fahrenheit 451” is, both as a story and a prospect; it ends with hope. There is a secret society that has broken off from the main stream and lives, as we would call it now, “off the grid.” Those staunch book lovers who have escaped imprisonment have taken it upon themselves to become the books they loved. They have memorized the books they love, and speak them each day to rapt listeners, or simply for their own enjoyment. In this way, books become alive again as told by these brave storytellers.

*”Fahrenheit 451 is a dystopian [the absolute antithesis of utopia] novel by Ray Bradbury, published in 1953. Briefly, it outlines a future society in America where books or outlawed and appointed “firemen” burn any books they find. By the way, the title refers to the temperature that Bradbury understood to be the igniting temperature of paper.

 

*Webster’s Dictionary defines ‘troglodyte’ as 1) “a member of any of various peoples [as in antiquity] who lived or were reputed to live chiefly in caves,” and 2) “a person characterized by reclusive habits or outmoded or reactionary attitudes.” That last definition is definitely ME.