What Are You Reading?

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Remember books?

Remember summertime . . . and the big relief it was when that last day of school came at last, and you could turn your worn stack of textbooks back in, and turn to real books again? That’s what May makes me think of: walking to the library (happily, just a couple blocks away), breathing in a bit of lilac that I had snagged from a neighbor’s bush at my nose, poring over the well handled copies of Laura Ingalls Wilder books, Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew (yes, I read both series), the Borrowers, the Littles, all my favorites. Tingling with anticipation over possibly finding new treasures to read this summer. The volumes were library-bound hard backs, with fabric covers and softly worn corners.

Nelson Public Library

The Nelson Public Library: a very tiny photo of a very tiny library.

I grew up in a very small town, but I never remember being bored. There was no movie theatre, no mall, no internet, only three channels on the t.v. to choose from, but we always had plenty to do. Hey, we wouldn’t have been allowed to sit and watch t.v. during the day, even if there had been anything interesting to watch, anyway. Unless we were sick. Really, really, really sick.

Mom always had lots of little chores for us to help with–we had a big garden, berry patch, orchard, and lots of animals to care for–we learned very early–as mewling infants!–not to complain of boredom. We were in 4-H, and so we were always dabbling in sewing, knitting, and baking challenges, and we walked to the town swimming pool nearly every day. We started working in Dad’s drugstore as soon as we could reliably make change, and make a decent cherry phosphate.

And we read piles and piles of books. It was lovely.

I was surprised by the results of one of my impromptu survey questions on my Facebook fan page (by the way, if you haven’t liked it yet, please do! I would love to have you in on the discussions over there!). I asked my friends: what are you reading? I expected enthusiastic reports of books that I could check out myself. I got very few comments at all, and many were thus: “I read Facebook and magazines,” or “I don’t have time for books.” Oh.

This is a sad state of affairs, Gentle Readers. I’m sure you agree.

I love books. I absolutely get giddy around them. I hope to continue my love affair with books until the day I die. I always have at least two books on my bed, and I sneak in a few pages in the afternoon, if I have time to lie down for a short nap (I’m not ashamed) and at bedtime, if I can get little Mack tucked into bed early enough to still actually be able to focus my eyes, myself, on the pages.

This just occurred to me: I ought to make t-shirts: “Napper and Unashamed” or “I Nap and I’m Proud of It” or “Napping: Just Do It!” or “Isn’t it time for a NAP?”

Great. Now I want to go take a nap.

My daughter Bethany last summer worked as an electrician’s apprentice, and she was pleasantly surprised by the fact that she was able to read three big thick books over the summer, in two fifteen-minute breaks a day. She had no idea that those little breaks would result in so much reading time. So if you are one of those “I don’t have time for books” folks, then be encouraged. You probably do!

So there’s the encouragement-to-read books part of this post. Now I’ll tell you what I’ve been reading. And then you may want to scuttle off to your local bookstore, or your local library, or maybe just click one of the links provided here, and get one or two for yourself. And start reading books again!ย It’s such a treat to get lost in the arms of a good book. (*sigh*) Trust me. You won’t regret it.

Now, on to the books I’ve been reading. If it has been a while since you’ve read a book, but you do remember how much you used to love to read a good book, you might want to pick up this first one right away. It will light a fire underneath you to organize your time better, to find secret bits of time that you didn’t think were even there (like my daughter’s two 15-minute breaks) and it will make you feel great about reading books again.

Steve Leveen, in The Little Guide to Your Well-Read Life (the subtitle got me, honestly: How to get more books in your life and more life from your books)ย will not only give you permission (if you feel guilty about sitting down to read, which, in my opinion, you shouldn’t) to indulge in the simple pleasure of reading a good book, no matter how busy you are, but also will suggest great ways to get more book-reading into your life. It’s an awesome little book!

(Here’s a secret, just between you et moi: I actually bought this little book as a gift for my son Matthew, who is more fond of books than anybody I know, but Amalia and I decided to read it together, first. I may still give it to Matthew, eventually. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Or I may keep this volume for my collection, and buy Matthew a new one.) (In any case, shhhhh! don’t tell!)

I love this Atwood H. Townsend quote from the book:

The author, Tom Rath, sucked me right into this next book, with his personal story in the beginning pages. When he was a teenager, he discovered that he had a rare genetic disorder, Von Hippel-Lindau Disorder. It’s essentially a mutation that shuts off a powerful tumor suppressor gene and leads to rampant cancerous growth throughout the body.

Can you imagine?

The author didn’t waste time feeling sorry for himself. Instead, he turned his attention to researching all the areas of his life that he could control, in order to keep the cancers from growing, and thereby living as long a life as possible, despite this disease. He distilled the results of his research into this little book, and all the information is broken up into three areas: Eating, Moving, and Sleeping.

So with a premise like that, how can you not want to know what he discovered? If his research can help Tom Rath live a longer, fuller life, then I’m sure it can help me do the same. And you, Gentle Reader. I love this book! Eat Move Sleep: How Small Changes Lead to Big Changes.

Small Move, Big Change (Using Microresolutions to Transform Your Life Permanently)ย by Caroline L. Arnold, is another book along the same lines. But I like this line of thinking that small habits that we develop in our lives can make really big changes. I’ve got my daily dance card absolutely packed full, and I don’t have the time, frankly, to contemplate making big changes. But small changes, I can do!

The author suggests making very tiny “microresolutions,” only two at a time, and then doggedly sticking at them, until they become a mindless part of your daily routine. Like brushing your teeth. Or making your morning coffee. Sounds easy, eh? Then she discusses all the areas of life that most of us have margin for improvement in: diet and nutrition. Clutter (cough). Relationships, and Organization. Definitely this can be a life-changing book!

I’m working on two microresolutions right now, and I feel (dare I say it?) empowered by this. It’s exciting!

The Winter Harvest Handbook by Eliot Coleman: either my good husband Bryan must be unaware of my mad crush on author and gardener extraordinaire Eliot Coleman, or he really felt sorry for me as I lay on my birthday deathbed (worst birthday ever: I had the stomach flu and barely moved off my bed the entire day!) a few days ago, for he gave me this book, which I’ve been hankering after forever.

I wrote about Eliot Coleman’s book Four-Season Harvest years ago, and why it CHANGED MY LIFE FOREVER and also gave me a greater awareness of how I could stretch the gardening season fore and aft, and ALSO spurred me to whine until my husband agreed to take on the massive building project last summer of building our own hoophouse. And why I have such a crush on the author. Swoon. (Oh, Eliot.)

And yet, Bryan gave me this luscious book. What a good guy he is. I’m sure it doesn’t hurt that my crush lives in Maine or Vermont or someplace very far away, indeed.

It’s a heavy book, packed with meaty, practical stuff: maps, diagrams, planting tips, schedules, amazing photos, too. I love it like a brother, already, and I haven’t even read much of it yet. Or a sister. Or a sweet little baby chick. I just love it, I do. If you’re an avid gardener and want to get more out of your garden, and especially if you want to stretch the margins of your gardening season, you really must check out this book!

I started reading Alexander McCall Smith’s books, the #1 Ladies Detective Agency series, years ago, and every time I see a new one at the local library, I grab it up so fast and so vigorously that the library shifts on its foundations just a tiny bit. My kids know how much I love these books, too, and they’ll root out the new ones for me, too, when they see them.

The author creates an African detective, Precious Ramotswe, a “traditionally built” woman, who plays the detective as folk hero, solving crimes through an innate, self-possessed wisdom that, combined with an understanding of human nature, invariably penetrates into the heart of every puzzle. If Miss Marple were fat and jolly and lived in Botswana–and decided to go against the conventional notions of what an unmarried woman should do, spending the money she got from selling her late father’s cattle to set up a Ladies’ Detective Agency–then you have an idea of how Precious sets herself up as her country’s first female detective.

The books are funny, charming, and a perfect summer read. I just read the 14th installment, and it is titled The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon. If you’ve never read any of the series, though, you may just want to treat yourself and start with the first one and read the entire series.

My kids have always liked comic books. (I KNOW, right?) I’m a homeschooling mom and have always forced encouraged them to read mainly “dollar” books (think C. S. Lewis. J.R.R. Tolkien. Jane Austen. Charles Dickens, et al) not “quarter” books (most contemporary stuff) or (gak) “penny” books (comic books). But my kids have always liked comic books. Go figure.

The Adventures of Tintin series of comic books written and illustrated by Hergรฉ are fun to read, and even a bit educational(ish) with their international locales and historical settings, and mysterious characters. Anybody who saw the recent Tintin movie knows what I’m talking about. The unlikely hero, the reporter Tintin, with his shrewd dog Snowy, solve crimes and get into trouble and nearly always escape unscathed. The drawings are wonderful, and the cast of colorful supporting characters is fun, too.

Bottom line: even a book snob reader with high expectations for her childrens’ reading choices, like yours truly, can enjoy and appreciate Tintin’s adventures! Little Mack has a few of these checked out from the library, and we’ve been sitting down every afternoon and reading a portion of one. It’s fun! And fun is good, don’t you agree?

I picked up a volume of Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion at a garage sale this weekend. My daughter was with me. “Do we have this book?” I asked her (such is our library–which is spread out in most rooms of our house–too vast to keep neatly inventoried in my brain) “I have a copy of that, Mom, but I don’t think you do.” Okay. So that’s the way it is. We all have our favorites, and our favorites must be in each of our individual libraries. Someday Amalia will move away, and she will take her favorite books with her–including Harry the Dirty Dog, but now I have nothing to fear: now that I have my own copy of this classic.

Because, of course, I snatched that baby up.

Harry is a sweet little dog with a very loving family, and he gets into some sort of innocent trouble in the books. There are several in the series. In this story, he gets so dirty as he tries to evade a bath (ironically) that his family doesn’t recognize him when he returns home, and they go out searching for him. (He reminds me of a little boy I know quite well.) (*sigh*) But his family loves him and they finally realize it is him, and he gets the bath he badly needs (and deserves).

I’ve read this series of books over and over to my children, and I’m looking forward to reading them over and over to my grandchildren. (happy anticipation!)

Well, Gentle Readers, that’s all the recommendations for books that I have for you today. I hope you take the time–even just a little–to read today. I sure do intend to!

I also intend to share this post with the nice folks over at The Prairie Homestead. I hope you pop over for a minute and check it out!

17 thoughts on “What Are You Reading?

  1. Shay

    My kids love having me read to them. They are still little (4 and 3) and love how I sound when I read books. As for me… I love reading books to help me move forward in business.

    Currently I’m reading: Wildly Wealthy by Sandy Foster and The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks.

    You have a few great books in there that I will have to read now ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks!

  2. Fran

    Amy, I am an avid reader, involved in a local 100 book challenge, to try to read and briefly review on 100 books over the course of the calendar year. I’m not likely to make it with farm chores, garden, knitting and spinning, but will get into the 90s at least. I recently discovered the author Michael Abraham. He grew up and lives in the region in which we reside. He and his wife have a local publishing company and several of his books are available as e book. I discovered him quite by accident as my husband was off on his motorcycle, took a wrong turn and ended up in a nearly depleted coal town called War, WVa. When I googled the town to see where he had been, Michael’s newest book popped up entitled War, WV about the town and its problems due to strip mining replacing underground mining. It is a novel and kind of dark, but really hits on environmental issues. It wasn’t available by ebook and it was Sunday, so I couldn’t get to the libarary, so I bought one of his prior books, Providence VA. A great story. I did check out War WV and am now working through his fiction and non fiction as they are all placed in our region.
    Your post was so reminiscent of my childhood living in a county, now part of the city of Virginia Beach. We couldn’t walk to town, but our area boasted about a dozen kids all about the same age and we were never in the house in the summer. Our call home was a signal from the car horn and each family had their own signal. We played ball in the field, walked the edge of the river, built forts, played jacks, rode bikes and romped with the dogs. When it was too hot we played in the sprinkler. As a teen we joined a pool that was a 20 minute drive away and we went there several times each week. We were never bored, like you there were chores for a bored child. And I read, I have always been an avid reader and love that most of our children and grandchildren are as well.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Thanks so much for your rich comment, Fran. I thought about it all day long. Planting kale: “100 book challenge!” Weeding the hoophouse “100 books in a year!” Cleaning the house: “Wow, just imagine, 100 books!” You have fueled my imagination!! Thanks so much for your book recommendations. And wow. 100 books. That’s a lot of books! I’d love to hear how many you get read in your busy year!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Sounds excellent, Tara! I love it when I find books that captivate me like that, too. It just gives a nice tingle of anticipation in the daily chores . . . when can I get back to the BOOK?

  3. Chef William

    At the moment I am reading “A Course In Miracles” “Mexican Folkways” “What does the Bible really teach” and “Healing foods” and yes there are about 3 or 4 books next to my night stand at all times. I put myself to sleep reading and I start the next day with a reading from the Bible…..lots of reading in my life.

  4. Ana

    I love reading and am a member of a monthly book club. This makes me read books that I might not choose myself and I often find great books that way. The best time for reading was when I lived in Oxford and commuted up to London every day by train. I had a full two hours every single weekday to read – bliss! Now it is more like a snatched 30 minutes here and there.

  5. Alana(@RamblinGarden)

    I so perked up (not that I was drooping) when I read the comment mentioning War, West Virginia, because it brought me back to one of my favorite trilogies of all time – the Homer Hickam memoirs of October Sky/Rocket Boys (has been published under both titles), The Coalwood Way and Sky of Stone. Don’t ask me what I am reading now – I read several books at once. It’s a habit I picked up in childhood and have never given up.

  6. Mari

    Wow! Another avid reader in the world – not that you weren’t there before but I just didn’t know it. From my earliest recollections, my mother read to us. She was an avid reader and when we had family devotions in the evening, she ended it by reading us a chapter from a book – the Danny Orliss books, the Jungle Doctor books, the Bobbsey Twin books, Elsie Dinsmore (there is a whole series, but we only had one very well read book), the Pollyanna (ditto about the series), and Grace Livingston Hill books. Some were children’s books while others were definitely adult books. All were interesting and developed my love of reading. Some gardening books that I am now enthralled with is Spring Warren’s The Quarter Acre Farm…and chicken books…and gardening books…and canning books…and recipe books…and fiction and non-fiction books. One series of fiction that I love are the books by Robin Gunn Jones: Sisterchicks books. They are a series and I always come away looking for the new special friend that is like a sister. My SIL is my sister! I have so many, many books and I read them like old friends…at lunch…and bedtime…whenever I get the chance to sit down and relax, I always have a book in my hand. Never watch TV.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Mari,
      I should have known that we were kindred spirits in the book department, since we are in so many others. I am inspired by your love of books! I’ve never heard of the Sisterchicks books but I’ll have to check them out!

  7. Shelly C

    I usually have 2-3 books going at the same time, also. But I have been busy getting the garden in and various spring busyness. I am only reading 1 book right now. Stephen Lawhead’s Bright Empire series book 3:The Spirit Well.

  8. Jenny Deschane

    I recently read “Angels Walking” by Karen Kingsbury. I have read a lot of her books. On a recommendation from my grandmother, I just picked up “At Home in Mitford” by Jan Karen. I’m just one chapter in. And, of course, I read lots of books to my children for school. We read the story of Gladys Aylward not long ago and found it to be wonderful! We are currently reading “Strawberry Girl” aloud and it has a lot of dialogue with accents. I enjoy it, unless I am overly tired, and then the accents take too much brain power. Heehee!

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