Widely Read

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“Read and listen to one thinker and you become a clone; Read two and you become confused; Read ten and you get your own voice; Read a hundred and you start to become wise.”

― Timothy Keller

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Been reading lately– and taking to heart the call to read more widely.  Here’s a couple books that were so worthwhile…

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles rells the story of a Count Rostov who in 1922 is confined to the attic rooms of a  luxury Moscow hotel for house arrest.  He spends the next decades there, passing days with a fascinating cast of characters that pass through the doors.  There are gold coins, a pass key, a hidden room and a long term secret romance. But the star of the story is definitely the count himself, wry, witty and cultured to a T. The story concludes with riotous twists and turns and leads to a truly satisfying ending.  Loved this book– favorite this year…

Just finished Hillbilly elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance.  The author grew up in the Rust Belt of Ohio, into a tumultuous troubled family and made his way to graduate from Yale Law School.  Vance’s grandparents moved up to Ohio from the Appalachians of Kentucky in pursuit of a middle class life.  But the legacy of abuse, addiction and poverty followed them.  Vance tells his own personal story of a chaotic childhood and the support he received along the way that made him able to move up in the world.  At the same time he is candid about the effects of his family that followed him into adulthood.  As well as a personal story, the book is a worthwhile analysis of class and and the struggle to break out of the bounds of poverty and addiction.  Loved the author’s openness and very real view into a segment of America not well known to me.

P.S. The photo above is from the movie The Painted Veil– which is one of my favorites, along with the original excellent book The Painted Veil by Somerset Maugham.

 

3 Books– 3 Women


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Hi friends– Loving , loving retirement!!  So much unfettered time to read!  And lately I’ve been through 3 books I think you’d really enjoy.  Here they are:

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I picked up Victoria from the new book shelf at the library because it was written by Daisy Goodwin who also wrote the script for the PBS series, Victoria.  Fun to to read/watch them together.  The book covers just the years from Victoria’s ascension to the throne at 18 until her engagement to Prince Albert.  Victoria steps into her 63 year reign with the support of her beloved Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne and in spite of the machinations of her mother and her advisors.  It’s a personal look at an amazing woman.  Left me wanting to read more about her years on the throne…

Eleanor’s life is a mess.  But she has decided today will be different.  She lays the best made plans and proceeds only to have them all completely fall apart right up to the surprising ending.  You’ll love this hapless but well meaning character and the quirky plot line. Today Will be Different was written by Maria, author of Where’d You Go Bernadette, book with another crazy but lovable heroine.

America’s First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie chronicles the log and complicated life of Pasty Jefferson Randolph, daughter of Thomas Jefferson.  She loses her mother at an early age and takes up the reigns of caring for her famous father.  She lives a celebrated Parisian life during his years as American minister to France, brings up a large family in Monticello during her tumultuous marriage, serves as her Father’s hostess at the White House. There is intrigue, poverty, scandal and trajedy for the fascinating woman who lives strong through it all.   The authors relied heavily on the files of letters from Jefferson for plot and dialogue.  A great look at the times and the personal life of our third president.

P.S.  painting of woman reading by Francoise Collandre

Reading on the Couch

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Hi Reading Friends– I don’t know about you, but all this winter weather (that means finally lots of lovely rain here!) — makes me want to curl up on the couch with the fuzziest blanket and read away an afternoon, hot mug of tea in hand.

Here’s what I’ve been reading– not earth shattering books, but good company on a rainy afternoon.

unknownA chance meeting at a christening party, results in the break up of two marriages and a new marriage, pulling together a complicated web of 4 adults and 6 kids.  When Franny, a daughter grows and dates a famous author, he writes their involved story and the families revisit their intertwined pasts together.
Love Ann Patchett’s books (especially Bel Canto and Truth & Beauty, a memoir).  And this one follows suit, with characters you may not admire, but are so understandable and a story line that weaves lives together in an intriguing way.

 

unknown-1Does it seem like there is a spate of best selling WWII books?  Here’s another.  Lilac Girls tells the stories of 3 women– Caroline, a NY socialite championing causes for war victims, Kasia a Polish teenager, working with the resistance who finds herself detained at Ravensbruck and Herta, a young German doctor, called to work for the Nazis.  It’s not gorgeous prose, but the story pulls you along right up to the end– and is based on actual people whose lives played these parts in the war.

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unknown-2The Golden Son by Shilpi Somaya Gowda is an immigrant tale–one of my favorite themes since we were immigrants in Spain for those years.  Childhood friends, Anil and Leena take different paths. He leaves behind the rural farming community in India for medical school and residency in Dallas, while Leena stays behind and is trapped into a desperate marriage.  It is a story of love, honor, responsibility and tradition–and a look at two fascinating lives.

painting: Girl Reading on Sofa (1920) Isaac Israel

Christmas Books for Little Readers

 

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Hi there– Do you have favorite Christmas books that you go back to every year?  I have a stack right here on the coffee table, just waiting for the grand-girls to come through the door.  We like sweet. We like funny. We like endearing Christmas books.  Here’s a few if you happen to have little readers on hand at Christmas:

513uldt0lkl-_sy337_bo1204203200_The Christmas Pageant by Tomie DePaola makes use of the text from the gospels of Matthew & Luke, along with the simple, charming illustrations that are instantly recognizable as DePaola’s work.  The story takes us through the Christmas story as presented by a group of children in their Christmas program celebrating Jesus birth.


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by Raymond Briggs is almost wordless, but chronicles Christmas Day for a rather grumpy Santa through a series of detailed illustrations.  This British Santa packs his thermos of tea, flies over Buckingham Palace and makes a Christmas pudding.  You have to admire this intrepid Santa and enjoy his little celebration when he finally arrives home.

61twq0ouzvl-_sx399_bo1204203200_Christmas in the Country by Cynthia Rylant is the sweet story of a small girl who describes her Christmas in the country home of her grandparents.  There’s the awkward Christmas tree that “seemed sometimes like an embarrassed guest” and Christmas dolls and aunts & uncles & cousins bringing pies– a gentle story made even better by DianeGoode’s tender illustrations

51jka-7wl-_sx398_bo1204203200_Auntie Claus by Elise Primavera is a rollicking adventure of Sophie and her mysterious Auntie.  When she stows away in her Aunt’s luggage, she finds herself on a revealing trip to the North Pole and learns a lot about herself and Christmas.  Vivid illustrations and a satisfying ending made this a fun book to read together.

From my Booklist

bb20b0143b4a314e235a4f05f8199af5Hi Reading Friends– First can I let you know I’ve added a new page here.  It’s the tab below The Thankful Heart title– and it’s called Booklist.  For a long while I’ve kept a list of books-read in a little binder–just to remember good authors, titles I’d recommend. But I’ve moved them on to my blog–mostly because I love seeing other people’s books lists!  As when you visit someone new and have the urge to saunter over and browse through the books on their shelves…  So take a look of you’re equally nosey about what other people are reading!

And here’s a few recent books read, that I would say are worth your while…

5175kwhmhl-_sy346_Written by one of my favorite favorite bloggers, Shannan Martin– This books tells the her story. She and her husband Cory had prestigious jobs, their dream farmhouse on acreage and 3 beautiful kids adopted from around the world, when they felt God’s call on their lives to a new way of living.  She’s funny and frank and feels like your best friend by the end of the book.

51w6qupzcll-_sx319_bo1204203200_A Man called One by Fredrick Backman is the story of a Swedish curmudgeon who despairs of life after losing his beloved wife.  When new neighbors moving in next door knock down his mailbox, it sets off a series of events that rattle Ove’s world. A tender book about an odd, but lovable man.  (now a movie)

unknown-6I ran out to find another Fredrick Backman book, soon as I had finished reading Ove!  My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry is the lively story of a young girl who delivers a series of apology notes from her crotchety grandmother after the old woman passes away and in the process our little heroine learns a lot about her family.

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One of the most gripping books I’ve read, When Breath Becomes Air, was written by Paul Kalanithi in the last year of his life. Kalanithi was a 36 year old neurosurgeon, graduate of Stanford, Cambridge and Yale who talks about his life as a surgeon, a husband, a eventually a new father while he faces his last months fighting lung cancer.  A brilliant man who continues to give through his writing.  Epilogue by his wife, also a doctor.

unknown-2When I read this story of one family’s amazing struggles living in the slums of India, I thought it was heart rending fiction.  Only afterward did I find it was a story told from years of research in that actual place in Mumbai based on scores of interviews.  Behind the Beautiful Forevers will change your heart toward India and it’s beautiful people.  (Author Katherine Boo is a Pulitzer Prize winner)

unknown-4In Pursue the Intentional Life, Jeanne Flemming wrote out of her collected quotes and writings and conversations she’d collected in her “old lady file”– things she wanted to remember when she came to this stage of life.  It’s an insightful look at what is true and real and eternal.  I loved her book A Mother’s Heart when I had small children, and now this new book is just what I need as I step into retirement!

512JUvlc8bL._AC_US320_QL65_Well, if you’re a fan of Downton Abbey (and I am!) you’ll love this book by Downtown’s script writer Julian Fellowes.  Belgravia is the story of two families whose fortunes and family members intertwine and secrets are revealed as the book progresses.  Set in the 1800’s after Waterloo in London’s fashionable Belgravia neighborhood.  Great fun!

 

Thank you verdes-canas.blogspot.com for the book in a pocket pic.

Books for a Special Baby

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“So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall. 
— Roald Dahl (British novelist & children’s writer 1916-1990)

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Hi all– In a couple weeks we’re heading up to San Francisco to a baby shower for our daughter Ani and her Brian.  I can’t wait!  And all the friends are bringing books to start that baby girl’s library.  I’m of a mind that a baby can’t have too many books!  So here’s my dilemma– which books should I wrap up for the newest grand-girl??  There are so many stories I look forward to reading to that little girl!  Here’s a few possibilities:

The Jolly Postman by Alan and Janet Ahlberg
A British postman delivers letters to storybook characters across the countryside– and the actual letters pull out from pockets on the pages to be read.  Charming.

Noah’s Ark by Peter Speier
Dutch artist. Peter Speier,  tells the story of Noah and his ark in the this detailed wordless book with plenty  of humor ad warmth. A Caldecott winner.

No Jumping on the Bed! by Tedd Arnold
Despite warnings about jumping on the bed, Walter jumps until he crashes down through several floors of his apartment building, taking the other occupants along with him.  Clever rhyme and illustration.

My Crayons Talk by G. Brian Karas
A lively lovely first book of colors– set the to a staccato rhythm that carries the story along.  “Talk talk, my crayons talk, Clickety Clackety Talk talk talk!”

Noisy Nora by Rosemary Wells
Naughty Nora just wants attention and she’ll do just about anything to get it– until she disappears!

I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More by Karen Beaumont
A toddler goes wild with his set of paints, starting with his body and ending up pretty much splashing paint in all directions– to the tune of “It Ain’t Going to Rain No More.”  Wacky rhyme and whimsical illustrations make this loads of fun!

The Lady with the Alligator Purse by Nadine Wescott
Sing along story of a baby who drinks the bath water and eats the soap and ends up with the arrival of the slightly crazy doctor and nurse.  But the hero of the story is the lady with the alligator purse– and her pizza!
Wacky fun.

Lunch by Denise Flemming
Colorfully crafted illustrations tell the story of a little mouse with a big appetite who eats his way through the kitchen.  Delightful.

There you have it.  So many fantastic books (and there are more!!)  We’ll be reading stories galore to our new little baby Heung in the year to come…

 

Rosamund Pilcher–an old favorite

Hi reading friends–  Don’t you think some books are rather like comfort food– that’s how I feel about Rosamunde Pilcher’s series of books. I’ve read them all, but now and then I just need cozy undemanding book and I pull one of her’s off the shelf.  They’re set in Cornwall or Scotland or London– and usually center on a family, including a beloved older grandma type.  I’ve always loved her characters.  They just feel like old friends.  So for some light summer reading here’s my favorites:

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The She Seekers is Pilcher’s most well known book– Penelope Keeling, in her later years, is remembering her bohemian childhood with her artist father near the Cornish coast, her service in WWII in the British military,  her love of a lifetime during those war years.  And in the present there are her three children, grasping Nancy, sophisticated Olivia and devious Noel all with their own ideas about the disposition of Penelope’s dearest treasure — the valuable painting “The Shell Seekers,” given to her by her father years ago.  There are so many likable characters, tender moments and a few surprises along the way.  It really is one of the few books I would read and reread.

 

51PMsim95DL._SX307_BO1,204,203,200_Love this story of good intentions gone awry. It reads like one of those tender hearted 1940’s movies.  After Flora Waring unexpectedly discovers she has a long lost twin sister Rose, she agrees to take Roses place just for a weekend with her finance’s family in Scotland.  But she falls into a fondness for the Armstrong family she is deceiving and finds some unexpected attachments.  It involves loch side walks, colorful characters and highland dancing. Flora and the family will stir your heart…

41R0x07Px5L._AC_US320_QL65_Flower in the Rain is a collection of short stories Pilcher wrote for magazines over the years.  It’s a good one to tuck in a suitcase for reading on a trip– there’s a couple who reconnect after years apart, a boy who builds a doll house for his sister when their father cannot, Cousin Dorothy-who learns to love a difficult person… People you’d like to know and places you’d enjoy spending time.  Just a gentle companionable, satisfying  summer book.  I think you might like it too.