Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Miriam’s Way by Cissy Lacks

This is the story of 13 year-old Miriam Kornitsky’s courageous five-year survival in the forests of White Russia. The year is 1941 and her father insists that she and her older cousin Sonia hide in the forest from the advancing German soldiers. He warns her to trust no one. Her cousin is shot and killed when they ventured out of the forest to find food and water. Now on her own, Miriam relies on the survival lessons her father taught her as a young child. During the summers she survives on berries, weeds and tubers. In the winter she ventures out to find molasses cubes in barns outside the forest never staying long enough to get caught.  At first she finds plenty of clothing from the dead who did not escape the repeated firing from German soldiers on the ground and from above. 

After five years in the forest Miriam discovers that the war is over. She is befriended by a young Russian girl whose family nurses her back to health. Few people who escaped into the Polish and Russian forests survived but Miriam did.  Her determination to live is a wonderful testament to the human spirit.  This is a heartwarming story for both teens and adults.  In the late 1950’s Miriam and her husband settled in St. Louis where she lives today.

Martha Henderson/Meramec

Friday, November 7, 2014

How to Read a Book

     For over two decades this book has sat on my shelf with a bookmark sticking out the top. I got about a third of the way through. I was too busy--reading.  Adler and van Doren's book is a true classic. It first appeared in 1940 and continues in print, with subsequent revised editions. I'm sure there is sage advice here. After all, these were the guys who came out with The Great Books of the Western World series. Topics such as "Levels of Reading," "How to Be a Demanding Reader," and "How to Read Philosophy" are covered.



Human nature being what it is, though, we all have our own ways of doing things and too often we think our way is superior. (Maybe that's why I didn't finish Adler and van Doren?) So, I offer here my own "How to Read a Book."  (Don't feel bad if you don't finish reading this blog post.) Disclaimer: I have FDD--Fiction Deficit Disorder, so this method is skewed toward non-fiction.
1) Consume caffeine steadily while reading; it aids comprehension. Coffee or tea for non-fiction, Coke for literary fiction, Mountain Dew for all other fiction. Save wine for your book group.
2) Sit comfortably.
3) Sit beneath good lighting.
4) Use three bookmarks: one for your place, one for your place in the Endnotes, and one for your place in the Bibliography.  No Endnotes and Bibliography? Choose a different book.
5) Read the Introduction. (Have you skipped an Introduction at some point in your life? Then, if Catholic or Eastern Orthodox, read five long Introductions for penance; if Episcopalian or Lutheran, tell your best friend you once skipped an Introduction and move on. All other Protestants: try not to wallow in guilt. If Jewish, this is a non-issue; you always read Introductions--as do Unitarians, Agnostics, and Atheists.  All other world religions: just try to get in the habit.)
6) Read the Bibliography. If you own the book, place a checkmark by those items you have already read. Place a line by those you would like to read. Don't forget to refer to this two years later when you are in a dry spell and can't find a good book to read.
7) Minimize background noise, although either the Chopin Nocturnes or John Rutter's Requiem are suitable for evening reading. Slow jazz is a distraction--especially for non-literary fiction.
8) If you own the book, underline salient points or quotable material. Then note the page number in the back of the book with a word or phrase to jog your memory a decade later.
9) If you do not own the book, take notes on either college rule notebook paper (wide rule is unacceptable; it makes you look elementary, my dear Watson) or on cheap printer paper. Save your 100% cotton rag for serious letters or people you want to impress.
10) If consuming food while reading, use a book weight. This allows you to read "hands free"--at least for a couple pages, avoiding accidents. The book weight is to reading what the blow dryer is to hair styling.
11) If you thoroughly enjoyed the book, send the author a "thank you" note. Sometimes they will write back. Two notes tucked in their books I particularly appreciated were from Joseph Epstein and Fritz Stern. (If you're really lucky, when the author passes on, you can auction the note at Sotheby's and retire early. Note: this should not be your sole or even main motive for expressing gratitude.)
12) If it is a truly outstanding tome, look for the author's e-mail address, either in the book or online and send an e-mail of gratitude. You will have made someone's day brighter and often will receive a reply. Here is an example:

Thanks  for the compliment, and may all of  the books you read be golden.  S0
From: Brazeal, Jana S. []
Sent: Friday, July 20, 2012 10:20 AM
To: Ozment, Steven
Subject: Thank you
Dear Prof. Ozment,
Thank you very much for your excellent and accessible scholarship. I have read, with pleasure, about five of your books over the years—beginning with Age of Reform. I am currently reading A Mighty Fortress and I’m looking forward to reading your book about Luther and Cranach.
You have given the gift of intellectual enjoyment to a Reference Librarian in St. Louis, MO.
Vielen Dank!
Jana Proske Brazeal

The above method does not pretend to be comprehensive nor "The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading" ala Adler and van Doren, but it is a lot shorter than their 419-pages of How to Read a Book.  May all the books you read be feasts for the mind and soul.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Girl in Hyacinth Blue

The novel Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland traces a fictional 17th century Dutch painting from its present owner, the schoolteacher son of an SS functionary who looted it from a Jewish home, back to its genesis in the brushstrokes of the offspring-laden Vermeer. I am spoiling this for you, dear reader, in so many ways, but I myself came into the novel unaware of this structure. Imagine my confusion as the third chapter began, but I quickly caught on. It was still delightfully disconcerting at the beginning of every chapter to be transported back a period and then brought up in time to where the previous chapter had begun. Along the way, Vreeland explores the history and landscape of the Netherlands through the various voices of her characters.

I picked this book up because someone chose it for my monthly book/wine club. That is probably why I was unaware of what it was about and how it was constructed when I began reading. I finished it to preserve my honor in book club and because I almost always finish a book that I start. However, it wasn’t a chore. It was a lovely read, particularly as an interlude between the textbooks I’m reading this month. I have already recommended the book to my walking/reading co-worker Monica! I hope she reads the book before she reads this review.

The image I’m sharing here is NOT the painting in the novel, which, as I mentioned, is fictional (as far as I can determine). I chose it because of the color blue that figures throughout the novel. Image credit: akg-images / Universal Images Group. Vermeer / Woman in blue / c.1663/1664 Vermeer, Jan (Johannes), called Vermeer van Delft, 1632-1675. 'Woman in blue reading a letter', c.1663/1664. Oil on canvas, 56.6 x 39.1cm. Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Our September Numbers Have Been Reported and Tallied...

The Numbers for the District Look Like This...
15 People
72 Books
18,326 Pages
Let me break it down for you, shall I?
FV                    HP                    MC
4                       4                         7               people
18                     18                       36             books
5902                 4922                  7502          pages
For those that like to see what is being read.....
The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman
Bonk! The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
Son of Bitch by Elliot Erwitt
The Storied Life of A J Fickry by Gabrielle Zevin
Personal by Lee Child
Stieg Larson's The Girl Who Played with Fire, graphic novel adapted by Denise Mina
The Hilton's: The True Story of an American Dynasty by J Randy Tanaborelli
A Dangerous Mourning by Anne Perry
Dark Assassin by Anne Perry
Funeral in Blue by Anne Perry
Pentecost Alley by Anne Perry
The Shifting Tide by Anne Perry
The Silent Cry by Anne Perry
Traitor's Gate by Anne Perry
Weighed in the Balance by Anne Perry
The Kept by James Scott
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
Joni: The Creative Odyssey of Joni Mitchell by Katherine Monk
Light of the World by James Lee Burke
Is Water H2O? by Hasok Chang
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
How to Live, or A Life of Montaigne by Sarah Bakewell
Blues Mandolin Man: The Life and Music of Yank Rachell by Richard Congress
Lean Mean Thirteen by Janet Evanovich
Do Not Sell at Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World's Rarest 78RPM Records by Amanda Petrusich
Wild Tales: A Rock and Roll Life by Graham Nash
Night Film by Marisha Pessl
An Event in Autum by Henning Mankell
Death Comes to Pemberly by P D James
The Girl in the Road by Monica Byrne
The Devil in the White City by Eric Larson
Ruby: A Novel by Cynthia Bond
Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser
Rogue with a Brogue by Suzanne Enoch
How the Scoundrel Seduces by Sabrina Jeffries
Soldier's Heart by Leslie Lynn
Suitor by Mary Balogh
Stormy Persuasion by Johanna Lindsey
Miss Miranda's Marriage by Claire Lorel
Rake's Redemption by Leslie Lynn
Loving Rose by Stephanie Lauren
Insurgent by Veronica Roth
The Great Green Heist by Varian Johnson
Statute of Limitations by Tamar Myers
A Week at the Airport by Alain de Botton
Dreams of the Reiki Shaman by Jim Pathfinder
Hopscotch by Brian Garfield
The Cat Whisperer by Mieshelle Nagelschneider
Just Tell Me What to Eat by Timothy S Harlan
Eye of the World by Robert Jordan
Book of Common Prayer
Caring and Curing: Health and Medicine in Western Religious Traditions
The Manger is Empty by Walter Wangerin
Prague Panoramas by Cynthia Paces
I Saw Heaven Opened by Michael Wilcock
Warring Maidens, Captive Wives and Hussite Queens by John M Klassen
Rosie's Project by Graeme Simsion
Mirian's Way by Cissy Lacks

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Paw and Order

Paw and Order by Spencer Quinn

It’s so much fun to read the Chet and Bernie series, which started with Dog On It, mainly because we get to see things from the point of view of a big, loveable, easily-distracted dog. Paw and Order is the seventh in the series about Bernie Little, private detective, and his partner Chet the dog. Chet’s internal dialogue is believable and full of humor. He sometimes picks up clues that others miss, but he leaves the thinking to Bernie, who is – in Chet’s opinion –always the smartest person in the room. In Paw and Order, the duo head to Washington, DC to patch things up with Bernie’s reporter girlfriend Suzie and wind up investigating the murder of one of her sources. The book stands alone, so if you haven’t read the others, don’t let that stop you from enjoying this one.

Friday, September 12, 2014


Alright gang, I'm just going to lay out the numbers this time around.  If anyone wants a list of books read, contact me and I'll get that out to you. 

20,121 PAGES

FV                                  HP                                 MC                                 WW
5 people                         4 people                         8 people                       1 person
17 books                       13 books                        26 books                        5 books
7341 pages                   3641 pages                   7376 pages                    1763 pages

No Abby this time around. 

Friday, August 15, 2014


Well, it took a while, but I finally have our numbers for the month of July.  In the district we had: 
14 people 
54 books
16320 pages

The break down by campus:
4 people, 11 books, 3267 pages

4 people, 16 books, 5281 pages

5 people, 22 books, 6009 pages

1 person, 5 books, 1763 pages

Books read:
Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman
Lucky Us by Amy Bloom
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
The Walking Dead: The Fall of the Governor Part 2 by Robert Kirkman
Frost Burned by Patricia Briggs
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J K Rowling
Hollow City by Ransom Riggs
Quest for Reality by Merton B Osborn
Espresso Tales by Alexander McCall Smith
The Bees by Laline Paul
The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
The Dark Side by Jane Mayer
The Gravedigger's Daughter by Joyce Carol Oates
Kindred by Octavia E Butler
Doctor Sleep by Stephen King
Another Time, Another Life: The Story of a Crime by Leif GW Perrson
Ten Big Ones by Janet Evanovich
Harper's (June 2014)
Gay Nineties Melodramas by Lawrence M Brings
Black Lies, Red Blood by Kjell Erikson
Eleven on Top by Janet Evanovich
The Whole Enchilada by Diane Mott Davidson
When I Was Puerto Rican by Esmeralda Santiago
The Little Girls by Elizabeth Brown
The Quick by Lauren Owen
The Arsonist by Sue Miller
The Silent Wife by A.S.A Harrison
The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths
Slaves in the Family by Edward Ball
Nonpareil by Dawn Lindsey
Treasured by Candace Camp
Proper Proposal by Dawn Lindsey
Impromptu Charade by Isobel Linton
Margaret Truman's Undiplomatic Murder by Donald Baur
Escape by Mary Balogh
The Arrangement by Mary Balogh
Tuesday the Rabbi Saw Red by Harry Kemelman
The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith
Cat Sitter's Nine Lives by John clement
Waverly by Sir Walter Scott
Emma by Jane Austen
Being Dead is no Excuse
Jeeves and the Wedding Bells by Sebastian Faulks
O Pioneers by Willa Cather
Badenheim, 1939 by Aharon Appelfeld
The Preached God by Gerhard Forde
Marriages and Infidelities by Joyce Carol Oates
Redeemer: The Life of Jimmy Carter by Randall Balmer
Accidental Species by Henry Gee
Plover by Brian Doyle