Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Bees

Can you imagine an entire novel written from the point of view of a worker bee? I found this while browsing the shelves for something to read over the holidays. I thought it might be difficult to get into, but I couldn't put it down. Flora 717 is a rebellious individual in a society that values conformity. Her curiosity and secrets put her in danger but also enable her to rise from the lowest level of workers, to a valued forager, to a final triumph and the salvation of her hive.
The Bees by Laline Paull, 2014.

Monday, December 15, 2014

November Reading Brings a Drop in Participation

As a district our numbers are:

12 people
44 books
12,051 pages

How did it break down you ask?

FV- 4 people, 17 books, 5412 pages

HP- 2 people, 8 books, 1770 pages

MC- 6 people, 19 books, 4869 pages.

Books we read:

The Winter King by Alys Clare
A Rumpole Christmas by John Mortimer
Friendly Game of Murder by J J Murphy
Buckingham Palace Gardens by Anne Perry
Defend or Betray by Anne Perry
The Hyde Park Headsman by Anne Perry
Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco
Six Degrees of Separation by John Guare
The Return by Hakan Nesser
The Target by David Baldacci
Eye to Eye: The Photographs of Vivian Maier
The Long Way Home by Louise Penny
Shifting Shadows by Mercy Thompson
The Walking Dead vol. 21 by Robert Kirkham
Stolen by Kelly Armstrong
The Walking Dead vol. 22 by Robert Kirkham
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J K Rowling
Shadow Traffic by Richard Burgin
Killer by Johnathon Kellerman
Finger Lickin' Fifteen by Janet Evanovich
Fox Tracks by Rita Mae Brown
The Garden Party by Katherine Manfield
A New York Christmas by Anne Perry
The Anatomy Lesson by Nina Siegal
Gilead by Marilyn Robinson
Eleven Pipers Piping by C C Benison
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
Monogram Murders by Agatha Christie
The Handsome Man's Deluxe Cafe by Alexander McCall Smith
The Christmas Wedding Ring by Susan Mallery
Ho-Ho-Homicide by Kaitlyn Dunnett
Murder and Moonshine by Carol Miller
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche
China Dolls by Lisa See
In Praise of Doubt by Peter Berger
Degrees of Allegiance by Petra DeWitt
J S Bach's Johanine Theology by Eric Chafe
The Manger is Empty by Walter Wangerin
Questions of Faith by Peter Berger
Documentation by Robert Hauptman
Michaelangelo: A Life in Six Masterpieces by Miles Unger
Pegasus Descending by James L Burke
Some Luck by Jane Smiley
No Place to Hide by Glen Greenwald

Monday, December 1, 2014

China Dolls by Lisa See

I picked up China Dolls because I had enjoyed Lisa See's breathtaking novel Snow Flower and the Secret Fan set in the exotic world of traditional nineteenth-century China, and the more recent Shanghai Girls and Dreams of Joy, which chronicle the lives of two sisters caught up in China's perilous leap to modernity. In China Dolls, three women of Asian descent but very different backgrounds become friends as they struggle to work as nightclub and stage performers in San Francisco in the years just before and during World War II. Personally, although the book was interesting as light reading material, I didn't find it to be as richly detailed or emotionally satisfying as the other novels.

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. [mailto:JBrazeal@stlcc.edu]
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