More Bookish Things

Lots of reading around here lately. Charlotte has been going gangbusters, plowing through Junie B. Jones books (retch retch retch) as fast as I can download them from the library. She's newly enamored with Agatha Parrot books, but the library system only has two of them. Which means--gasp--I may have to buy the others. They take her a decent amount of time to read, so it's probably worth it, but her bookshelf is stuff with other unread books . . . so buying more books seems sort of dumb.

Wait. Buying books is never dumb.

Charlotte has also been reading Kit books (American Girl) from my youth that ended up here during my parents' downsizing. It's actually kind of cool, because Kit's stories are set during the Great Depression, which her grandfather (and mine, come to think of it) grew up in. So, she's learning history, the idea of not having enough, understanding family history. It's hard to explain, but some dots are getting almost effortlessly connected for her with Kit.

Lorelei is on the brink of reading but is just not there yet.  However, she has a select few books she "reads," guided by patterns and pictures, which Charlotte loudly declares as "NOT REALLY READING!" and I, after shooting the older sister a nasty look, declare totally legitimate and real reading. These books include Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, Ten Little Ladybugs, and What Makes a Rainbow? Overall, Lorelei's patience and openness to being guided word by word ("Mommy, what's that word? And that word? And that word?") is growing. I think she's very close to begin putting it all together. Right now, fostering a love of books and stories is my main goal.

Mommy too has been reading. IHere's what I've quasi-recently finished:
  • Several weeks ago, I finished the final two Narnia books: The Magician's Nephew and The Last Battle, both spectacular (but Magician's Nephew is a hair better).
  • We Are Okay by Nina Lacour, a YA-esque novel focusing on a college student going through personal strife. The writing was lovely. Recommended.
  • Mayumi and Sea of Happiness: An overwritten tale of reverse Lolita. Parts were really brilliant, much was unending plodding along within an interior monologue. Not quite recommended.
  • I finally finished Phillip Glass's memoir, Words Without Music, a must-read for anyone who admires his music, or minimalist music in general.
  • Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings: the latest and greatest parenting tome I've read, but the first on sibling relationships. I got some very helpful guidance on handling things like competition, sharing, and sisterly squabbles. The organization was too random for my editorial taste, but it's worth a read for anyone with more child.
  • Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple. I love Semple's writing, and her ability to capture the endearing weirdness of Seattle is so spot-on and hilarious. I cared little about the plot and just enjoyed the impressions of my beloved city and the wry writing. Reviewers were tough on this one, but who cares. I totally recommend it.
  • My Age of Anxiety: A comprehensive journalistic and autobiographical account of anxiety--its history, manifestations, treatment. I felt anxious just reading it, but boy, I learned a lot. At 416 pages it could've been WAY shorter. Recommended for anyone with an interest in the subject.
  • Burial Rights by Hannah Kent--wowser. One of the most spectacular books I've read this year. Set in Iceland in the early 1800s, Agnes is sentenced to be executed for murder but must first be boarded with a family until the time of her death. An inexperienced reverend tries to prepare her for death, and slowly slowly her story emerges. I can't recommend this book highly enough. It's wonderful.
  • The After Party by Anton DiSclafani. This one focuses on Houston's social elite (there was social elite in Houston, apparently--OIL) in the 1950s and a the friendship between two young women. I really enjoyed the story, DiSclafani's writing, the sense of time and place with historical detail. As our narrator Cece reiterates her thoughts about her friendship with the secretive but striking, commands-a-room Joan, some repetitiveness screws up the novel's pacing a bit. Still, this is the perfect book to read on the deck with cocktail on a summer night. Recommended.
  • Letter to My Daughter by Maya Angelou--It's been ages since I read any Angelou, so it was lovely reading this collection of essays imparting advice to, well, people. Not just women. Recommended, because it's Angelou, but it's about what you'd expect.

Phew. Are we all caught up? Almost. Here's what I'm currently reading:
  • A biography of C.S. Lewis by Alister McGrath. The author's approach is more to analyze the literary work of Lewis rather than the ins and outs of his life, which I'm enjoying, but this approach may not be everybody's cup of tea. McGrath, an Oxford don himself, is endearingly stuffy and . . .  British in his writing, which is pretty much the perfect tone to dissect Lewis and his work.
  • Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell. I've always wanted to read this Gaskell work but put it off because it's 650 pages. Well, no longer. I'm half listening to it via audiobook and part reading it. I'm totally into the story, which is moving along at a snail's pace, but who cares? That's the Victorian way, especially for a serially written novel written.
  • The Life-Giving Home by Sally and Sarah Clarkson. I love homemaking books. There, I said it. There's a lot of good in this book, but Sally having her college-aged daughter (or maybe she's in grad school?) write parts of the book is ridiculous. Sarah's writing is pretentious, with bits of interesting ideas here and there on the sacredness of home that's rather theological, but the dots are never fully connected into the day-to-day reality of homemaking. Sarah's co-authorship is an obvious effort on Sally's part to include her daughter in something the young woman has no authority to write on. She COULD take a decent stab, I think, writing to young folks making homes in dorms, crappy apartments, transition spaces, places with roommates, etc. But his was not the book for her perspective, as it's aimed at mothers trying to make their homes inviting, non-chaotic, beautiful, and family-centered. Believe me, even the most sweetly tempered mother will roll her eyes at getting homemaking advice from someone who doesn't own or run a home. And I'm not sweetly tempered, so I add a guffaw and some four-letter words. Alas, Sarah's writing is too-starkly contrasted with Sally's writing, which is gentle and sweet but cloyingly sentimental. There's lots of tea, sparkling cider (heh, not at my house!), and Celtic music. Her ideas of what makes for good art or books or--more broadly, beauty--is kind of . . . um, not what I would pick. All that aside, the core ideas of home being beautiful, home being a haven, home being where every family member has his or her place, home being a place of hospitality, and so on---that's where the book shines, and for that I say it's worth a read.
  • The Children by Ann Leary--this is a great summer read, set at a New England lake house with adult children and their stunningly depicted matriarch (she's the most hilariously written character I've read in a long time). The writing is solid and witty. Definitely recommended (so far).
  • Jackie as Editor--I'm still in the early stages of this book. Instead of yet another broad biography of Jacqueline Kennedy, this bio focuses entirely on her literary career as an editor. Jackie O. doesn't contain that much fascination and mystique for me, but I am finding my respect for her deepening. Most interesting, though, is not the Jackie piece but the inside look at publishing in the 1970s and 1980s. I also want to plagiarize her rejection letter wording. It's so graceful! Recommendation pending.
So, there you go. What are you reading this summer? Is it good? Is it crappy? Will you tell me about it?


  1. I enjoyed The Constant Gardener early summer. I adored The Girl on the Train and read it in like two days. I always enjoy Ann Tyler.....her characters are so interesting. I liked her book Noah's Compass, though I'm not sure why because not a whole lot happened in the book! Currently reading and loving Cutting For Stone. I love your book posts and get ideas for my next book!


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