Books & Cookies!


Hey there– It’s reading weather around here– cooler, calling for mugs of tea and books on the couch.  I wonder if you’re in the middle of a good book these days.  What are you reading??!

“Let’s be reasonable and add an eighth day to the week that is devoted exclusively to reading.”
– Lena Dunham

If you’re a reader (and I think a lot of you are!), get read to be charmed by Anne Bogel’s new book, I’d Rather Be Reading, the Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life. You’ll see yourself on these pages in chapters like Confess Your Literary Sins or Bookworm Problems (so funny!).
Here’s a quote from Anne:
“It took me thirty-five years to find my twin… We’re no bound by blood or formal ties. We’ve never shared a last name or an address or Thanksgiving dinner. Our twinness is confined to our reading lives: she’s that remarkable reader whose taste bears an astonishing resemblance to my own.”
The good news is that Anne also has a well curated book blog at Modern Mrs. Darcy.  Check it out!!

I discovered Kate Morton this year and am starting to make my way though her engaging stories.  Mostly recently, The House at Riverton.  In this book, is the recounting of a 98 year old woman with the family who lived in the house and the tragic death that shaped their history.  It was written before Downton Abbey but feels very much the same in detail and characters (I wonder if Julian Fellowes read the book!).  The narrator tells the stories of Hannah and Emmeline, sisters, whom she served as a lady’s maid.  The story pulls you along right until the end when the mystery unfolds. Now I’m waiting for her newest book, The Clockmaker’s Daughter!

I have a special affinity for Fatiima MIrza’s book A Place for Us. Rafiq and Lyla are the parents of 3 grown children who were raised in their conservative Muslim family in the Bay Area.  When the oldest daughter marries, the prodigal son, Amar, returns to the family.  Different family members recount incidents in the the growing up years of the children with tenderness and sometimes sorrow.  I loved the parents hearts for their three children and the last section of the book, the father’s recounting of his interactions with his son, had tears streaming down my face.  Beautiful complicated characters and the beautiful telling of one family’s story.

Love and Ruin by Paula McLain describes of the tumultuous love affair and marriage of Martha Gellhorn and Ernest Hemingway.  Mostly told from the point of view of Martha, third of Hemingway’s four wives.  She is a writer and journalist and strong personality who comes to love Hemingway when they are both war correspondents, in war torn Madrid, as Franco captures the country.  They made their home together in a writer’s get away in Cuba and travel and write around the world.  Fascinating picture of their relationship– and of course, it sent me to Wikipedia to see home much of the story was actual.  MacLain also wrote The Paris Wife, the telling of Hemingway’s first marriage, also a worthwhile book.

Last month’s book for our was Lit group was Sing Unburied Sing by Jesmyn Ward.  This story was a difficult one, narrated by sturdy 13 year old Jojo and his drug using mother Leonie.  Living in southern Mississippi with Jojo’s grandparents, they set off on a road trip to collect Jojo’s father who is being released from prison.  The story is populated by Jojo’s younger sister, his steady grandfather, Pop, an ailing grandmother and a pair of ghosts from the past.  The book is at points disturbing and at others hopeful.  Not an easy book, but a worthwhile one.  Winner of the National Book Award.

I’ll end with a sweet story, Dear Mrs. Bird by A J Pearce.  Emmeline is a young woman, living with her best friend Bunty, in war torn London during WWII.  She spends her nights at the phone bank for the Auxilary Fire Services, which responds to nightly bombings.  And by day, she is the assistant to crotchety Mrs. Bird, an advice columnist for a women’s magazine.  When Mrs. Bird discards letters from people who truly need help, Emmy can’t help responding to them.  It’s a story of deep loss and firm loyalties, of the courage of two young women.  I’m not sure why, but this book reminds me of a 1940’s Katherine Hepburn movie– girls with spunk!  Very enjoyable

   To read more book notes (all my books from the the last 3 years)–
Click on Booklist

 

 

And to go with a good afternoon read on the couch, it’s pretty essential to include a mug of hot tea and perhaps a plate of cookies.  Here’s a chewy chocolaty cookie that came out of our kitchen this week.  You might like them along with a good book…

DOUBLE CHOCOLATE OATMEAL COOKIES
3/4 cup butter (1  1/2 stick), room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup water
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa*
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup whole oats (uncooked!)
2 cups chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

With an electric mixer, beat together the butter, brown sugar and white sugar to make a creamy paste.  Then beat in the egg, water and vanilla.  When that’s blended, mix in the flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder and oats.  And finally beat in the chocolate chips and nuts.

Drop the batter by large spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray (or has a silpat mat).  Bake them up at 350 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes, until they feel firm.  Let them cool a couple minutes on the cookie sheet before you lift them onto a cooking rack.  So chocolaty good!

*I used Hershey’s dark chocolate cocoa

 

And here’s a couple other cookie recipes that could accompany your reading:


Chocolate Toffee Slice and Bake Cookies


Gingerbread Chocolate Chip Cookies


Lemon Nut Shortbread Cookies

 

And to finish up– a few of my favorite pictures of people reading:
     
The Lady in the Polka Dot Pants by Rae Andrews
Self Portrait by Michelle Ranta


Little Girl and her bedtime books– Claire Fletcher


Daniel Gerhartz

   
Yuri Petrovic Kugach
Young Clergyman Reading by Martinus Rorbye


Henry Loved Eating all sorts of books!  Oliver Jeffers

“Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all.”
– Henry David Thoreau

The brilliant painting at the top of the post is by Karen Cooper.  thanks.

Recent Reading

Hi Reading Friends– I have one question for you —  What are you reading??    Do you have some recommendations?  I’d love to hear them!  Always looking for worthwhile books to track down and read.

And for you readers:

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”  ― C.S. Lewis
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Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.”  ― Lemony Snicket

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”  ― Dr. Seuss

I’ve been reading a piles of books lately.  Mostly reading snuggled up against a toddler, who has definite literary tastes. And also some a few books of my own that have been worthwhile.   Here’s a few of our favorites:

There’s been multiple readings of The Lady with the Alligator Purse every day around here.   It’s a sing-along book about a baby who drinks up all the bathwater and eats up all the soap, resulting in visits from the doctor, nurse and, or course, the Lady with the Alligator Purse, who saves the day!  Nadine Westcott has added her lively lovely illustrations to a whole string of children’s songs in books like Miss Mary Mack and Down By the Bay.  All books you’ll read/sing again and again.

Hug by Jez Alborough is also on high demand here.  A baby monkey sees an elephant mom & child giving hugs and it sets him on a search for his own big hug.  Along the way he finds other jungle animals hugging and is about to despair when his Mom appears with– you guessed it– an enormous hug!  Few words, just illustrations tell the story.  Was fun to talk though and the bonus was big hugs from my reading buddy!

Go Dog Go is a classic by P. D. Eastman (but in the Dr. Seuss collection).  It’s just a series of observations about dogs doing crazy things, in the simplest vocabulary and happy illustrations.  That’s why it’s great reading with a toddler and also a wonderful first book for a kindergartner to take on reading on his own.  It’s silly and whimsical and ends with a big dog party!!  Any kid who likes dogs, will like this book.

The Monster At The End of This Book by Jon Stone is the best!  Good old Grover notices from the title that there is a monster at the end of the book.  He spends that next several pages trying to stop you from turning pages so that you will not get to the monster at the end.  It’s funny and interactive and happily (spoiler alert!) the monster at the end is just him–lovable Grover.  I recommend this book be read with that grumbly Grover voice for best effect!!  Lois and I love it– with her stuffed Grover sitting on her lap!

Here’s my reading buddy Little Lois and I reading at the library after Toddler Story Time.

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And happily, I’ve had some time to read books that are not heavily illustrated, aimed at a little more mature audience.

One of those books that sticks with you long after you’ve turned the last page, Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover is a riveting story.  Westover grew up in a large survivalist family near he mountains of Idaho.  Her rigid father ran a junkyard on their land, her mother a mid-wife and herbal healer. Over the years family members suffered gashes, burns, concussions and were just treated at home, the medical world distrusted.  As well, the children did not attend schools and were cut off from the wide world.  Tara suffered from an abusive brother and parents who would not protect her.   When one of Westover’s brothers goes to college, he encourages her to do it as well.  She teaches herself enough to take the ACT and eventually goes/graduates from Brigham Young University–hearing for the first time of the Holocaust and the Civil Rights Movement.  She continues on to study at Harvard and to earn her PhD from Cambridge.  But through these years she constantly struggles over her relationship with her family, with loyalties and the fears of her childhood at play. A fascinating crazy true story about the ties of family and the power of education.

Eleanor Oliphant is a quirky socially awkward young woman whose days are filled with office work and nights and weekends are spent alone, consuming frozen pizza and vodka.  She makes the acquaintance of Raymond, the IT guy at her work and he gradually becomes the friend she needs.  As you read along, the story of Eleanor’s disturbing childhood becomes apparent.  Raymond’s dogged friendship see’s her through her darkest hours.  Enjoyed this story for the interesting characters that I fell in love with by the end of the book–faithful kind hearted Raymond and courageous Eleanor.

Kate Bowler is a professor Duke Divinity School.  At 35 she has a wonderful husband and a small new son– and is diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer.  She realizes how much she believed she could control her own life circumstances — that things did happen for a reason.  What results is her journey through involved treatments, surrounded by family and friends.  Her honest, vivid, sometimes funny account is Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved.  Her truths about how to live when death is a near possibility are heartening and ring true.”

And I’ve saved the best for last.  I have to admit to being a huge fan of Shannan Martin, first on her blog and now her Instagram posts that are sweet, funny, honest and open my eyes to the world of need around me.  So when there was an offer to receive an advance copy of her latest book, The Ministry of Ordinary Places, I jumped at the chance!  Shannan tells stories– of people in her neighborhood and how strangers became friends.  She writes about digging in deep with the people around us, about being intrepid in how we love people, about sticking around for the long haul.  My copy is dog eared right and left– and I’m ready to go in and read it for a second time to collect all the thoughts I need to remember for my own care taking of people I love. Loved every well crafted page of this amazing book.  You can find Shannan’s Instagram meditations/warm hearted stories at “Shannanwrites.”  And her book is due out October 9th.

Here’s an excerpt of her writing:
“I’m on a journey toward understanding that my highest calling is to be a woman who loves my neighbor more than I love myself. I’m not very awesome at this yet, but each day is a new opportunity for growth, for guts, for compassion, and for open hands.”

 

For more posts on books worth reading:
Halloween Books Kids Love
Best Thanksgiving Books
Two Books–Two Old Favorites
Three Books–Three Women
A Pair of Good Books
Two Favorite Books

“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! — When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.”   — Jane Austen from Pride and Prejudice

P.S.  Painting at the top is “Great Chapter” by Nancy Chaboun (1954-)
Painitng at the bottom is “Girl Reading” by Edmund Tarbell (1862-1938)

 

Ten Blogging Years


Hello Blog Friends– This August marks my tenth year of typing away on this blog.  Really it’s more of a scrapbook of recipes and thoughts I want to hang on to.

I’ve been thinking for a while that I would use this anniversary to close the site down.  Life is full. And there are so many things I want to give more time to–people we love and projects we never seem to get done!

But when I then I thought about now much I would miss it–especially keeping in touch with old and new blog friends (that means you– Lacey, Mollie, Kat, Marcia, Daisy, Suzanne, Lisa, Mary, Carol, Lilly, Cindy, Brigid, Vero, Ursula and Susie!!)

So I’m cutting back to once a week– less recipes, more of life and faith and family.  I think that will fit just fine.

And to mark the happy event of Ten Blogging Years, I thought I’d link to my favorite posts (just click on the blue letters to link through):

 

FAVORITE RECIPES — DISHES FO FAMILY & FRIENDS


Chocolate Cream Cake with Ganache Frosting


Creamy Lemon Parmesan Chicken


Books & Breakfast– A Morning with Friends


Beef Barley Soup


Swedish Pancakes with Blueberry Sauce


Bacon Ranch Potato Salad


Moroccan Spiced Chicken with Apricot Couscous


Overnight Orange Rolls

 

 

FAVORITE THOUGHTS ON LIFE AND FAITH:


True Home


Waiting


My Notebook


Rethinking Christmas


Enough


Aging Well

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FAVORITE BLOG MEMORIES WITH THE FAMILY:


Christmas With the Crew 2015


Wonderful Woodsy Wisconsin Wedding Weekend


Good Times in Big Bear


Grammy Camp 2017


Cambria with Kids


Sweet Times in San Francisco


On Being A Mom

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FAVORITE BOOK POSTS OVER THE YEARS:

     
     
Booklist Page (Notations of books I’ve read the last 3 years)


Five Favorite Children’s Books!


At Home in the World (& Other Travel Books)

  
Books For A Special Baby

 
  
30 Years of Books (Lit Group favorites)

      
Favorite Books (October 2009)

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FAVORITE TRAVELS FROM HERE TO THERE:


Family Trek Through the Sequoias!


Beautiful Kyoto


Vancouver Days


Wet Market in Lijang China


Lunch in Paris


San Francisco with the Grand-Girls (or Fun in SF with kids!)


Wisconsin Part #2– Off to the North Woods!!

 

Whew! That’s a whole lot of posts.  It wasn’t easy narrowing down to very favorites!!  And if you, by chance, are still reading this overwrought posting– thank you!!  It’s been a joy to send out posts for the last ten years to dear people like you.  I remain thankful.

Two Wonderful Cookbooks

Hi Cooking Friends– I’m guessing that’s most of you.  For my birthday this week two friends gave me cookbooks– and they are the best!  I’ve already made the Moroccan Chicken from one of them and it was so good!  Thought you’d like to see them.

Checked this book out from the New Book shelf at the library.  I started to dog-ear pages (I know– in a library book??!!) of recipes I wanted to try and it was half the book!  So when Jenon dropped it off as a gift I was jumping up and down! Everything is so so beautiful and just unique enough.  Amazing photography and little garnishing touches.

 

And this book I browsed through at a store on vacation– but being the cheapskate (frugal??) person that I am, couldn’t bare to buy it on first acquaintance.  But after I described it to my friend Joy, she scooped it up for me!  Everything in the book is a big board or platter full of ingredients– S’mores Platter, Beach Board, Mediterranean Board…   And I have the Big Board from breakfast a few weeks back to fill up with all these yummy recipes!  Such fun ideas more than recipes!  I think you’d love it!

Books & Breakfast –Morning with Friends

Hi all– This isn’t really a recipe, but an idea that was so much fun, I thought you’d like to know about it.  Saturday morning a tableful of friends came in the door for breakfast and a favorite books “show and tell.”

We started off with a breakfast board down the middle of the table– sort of a help yourself to whatever looks good kind of meal.  Drank mugs of tea and laughed and talked over the week…

Then we all pulled out a short stack of what we’ve been reading lately to recommend to each other.  I typed up the list of books with small descriptions and emailed off the recommendations for everyone to use for future book possibilities.  So fun!  (we all had things to say about each other’s books–adding on movie and podcast ideas).

So here’s the Breakfast Board list –just in case you want to throw one together–
(sort of like a cheese board, but with breakfasty things thrown in!)
Brie
Smoked Gouda
Sliced ham
Rye bread
Baguette
Cranberry walnut bread
Mini blueberry muffins
Hard boiled eggs (salt & pepper)
Pears, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, cantaloupe
Berry jam & orange marmalade, honey
Yogurt
Granola
Almonds
Seedy mustard
(throw on a few flowers for the pretty part)

I got the long board (4′ by 12″) at Home Depot for $8.  Larry sanded and oiled it to make a breakfast worthy serving board.

       
And here’s a handful of the books we talked about:
Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown
My Kitchen Year by Ruth Reichl
Hearing God by Dallas Willard
Winter Garden by Kristen Hannah
A Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell

Here’s to friends who read and love noisy talks over breakfast!!  Can’t wait to do it again!

Kicking Back with a Couple Good Books

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Hello there Reading Friends–  Sometimes
you just want a good story, something to kick back and escape everything around you.  Sort of Netflix binging for readers.  I’m thinking these two books would fit nicely into that category.  Enjoyed them both.

Seven Days of Us — by Francesca Hornak
When Olivia Birch returns at Christmas from treating an epidemic abroad, the whole Birch family is quarantined for a week in their country house.  So many twists an turns as an unknown family member arrives, a mother guards her secret, sisters clash and a father sees things in a new light.  Couldn’t put it down– sad and endearing and heart warming all the way to the end.

How To Stop Time — by Matt Haig
Tom Hazard looks like an ordinary 41 year old, but actually he was born in the 1500’s.  He’s known, Shakespeare, Captain Cook, F. Scott Fitzgerald…  And he’s been recruited by the Albatross Society, made of people with his same rare condition–and whose motto is “Never Fall in Love” –hold people at arm’s length.   The book skips between the 1500’s and current London, amid Tom’s struggles to find the “normal” life he wants while stuck in fears from the past.  Strong characters and it all wraps up with an exciting ending.

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P.S. Graphic- La Lecture – from parfumdeviolette.centerblog.net

Recent Reading

Hello Reading Friends–  Down with the flu the last couple weeks. Ugh!  So plenty of reading time– silver lining!  Here’s three books I would pass along, an old friend and a couple new ones…

Sourdough, written by Robin Sloan (author of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore) is another quirky, but endearing book.  Lois has moved to San Francisco to take a tech job, coding all day and in the evenings sitting home alone, ordering take out from the shop downstairs owned by two unusual brothers.  When the guys lose their visa status, they gift their exceptional sourdough starter to Lois before they leave the country.  Lois, not a baker, delves into the complexities of sourdough baking and discovers a close knit, mysterious association of food experts that draw her in to a gastronomic world of technology and food.  Sourdough is a quick, enjoyable book if you love to cook (or eat!).

This unlikely story about a research botanist reads more like fiction than actual memoir.  Lab Girl is the story of the author, Hope Jahren, from her girlhood days in Minnesota in her father’s science classroom through her various stops at university labs across the country.  Her sidekick is her eccentric lab manager Bill, who practically takes a vow of poverty to live this life of science and discovery and who also keeps life in the sciences a little crazy.  And laced through the books are tiny chapters describing the wonders of leaves and seeds and trees…  It’s an amazing book and a look into the science life that was all new to me.  A worthwhile look at an fascinating life.

I read The Joy Luck Club when it first came out many years ago, but eagerly picked it up recently for a reread.  It’s the story of 4 women, immigrated to San Francisco from China carrying with them incredible stories of loss and struggle.  They meet to eat and talk and play mahjong and call themselves The Joy Luck Club. The chapters alternate between their recounting of their amazing stories and the lives of their 4 American born daughters.  Mothers steeped in the traditions of China, daughters raised in a fast moving affluent culture make for clashes and tender moments as their lives unfold.   Loved it.  And it was more interesting to me now that we have Brian from Hong Kong and Jodi from Hunan province in our family and many of the settings are places I now know well.  And– P.S. I checked out the movie of the book from the library this week– It’s beautiful and fascinating as well.

P.S. Painting above by Henry Lamb (Australian, British 1883-1960) Portrait of his wife.

Favorite Christmas Books

Hi friends–  When we drag out the Christmas decorations around here, I also climb up onto a chair reach the top bookshelf where we keep a beloved collection of Christmas books.  I pull down all the favorites and plop them on the corner of the coffee table, ready to read with grand-girls when they come in to stay.  It’s one of the best parts of Christmas!  Here are a few of our favorites.

B Is For Bethlehem — by Isabel Wilner, illustrated by Elisa Kleven.  This lively rhythmic telling of the Christmas story uses an ABC format and couldn’t be more beautiful.  The illustrations are a combination of collage and small paint details–exquisite.  And the message is glorious– honoring God and his gift to us at Christmas.

Christmas in Noisy Village — by Astrid Lindgren, illlustrated by Elon Wikland.  A band of village Swedish neighbor children spend their Christmas baking, gathering a tree from the forest, visiting a grandfather and feasting together at a Christmas party.  Couldn’t be more charming.

The Story of the Three Wise Kings — by Tomie DePaola.  Classic DePaola telling of the journey of the three wise men in search of the baby Jesus at the first Christmas.  He uses a slightly more formal take on his signature illustration and there is a interesting preface about the history of the telling the story of the wisemen.  A  wonderful addition to any Christmas book collection.

Santa’s Favorite Story — by Hisako Aoki, illustrated by Ivan Gantschev.  When the forest animals find Santa napping just before Christmas, they worry that Christmas won’t be ready! But Santa assures them that the real Christmas is more about the coming of a babe in a manger.  Lovely water color illustration and gentle text, make this a beautiful telling of Christmas.

Hope your Christmas is full of cozy reading and sweet times with family young and old.  Merry Christmas!

P.S. top illustration thanks to Holly Hobbie.

What I’ve Been Reading

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Hi Reading Friends–  It’s that time of year for our Book Club– We all send in recommendations from the books we’ve read and then weed through the list and narrow down to our next 6 books to read together Jan. to June!  Here’s the 4 books I recommended.  I think you might like them too.

And– what are your book recommendations??  I’d love to hear what you’ve been reading so I can take notes for my next trip to the library!!

When the Vicar in the small town of Chilbury disbands the church choir, after the men have all left with the advent of WWII, the women band together and revive the choir.  Written through the journals, diaries and letters of the various women, from an older nurse to a unscrupulous midwife, a young girl and her vivacious sister.  There is deception, romance, bravery and family ties stretched to the limits.  Sort of of a British Mitford-esque tale of colorful characters.

We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter is yet another in the current crop of WWII books.  In this story the Jewish Kurc family of Radom, Poland finds themselves scattered during the course of the war– between Paris, ports in Africa, a labor camp in Siberia, the front in Italy, Rio De Janeiro and Warsaw.  The narrative follows their amazing stories of hardship, bravery and near escapes.  At the end of the book, the epilogue explains that the stories told were of an actual family, collected and written by a grand daughter, Addy Kurc.  Heartwarming and incredible.

I love the way Lisa See connects a riveting story with big doses of Chinese culture and custom.  In The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, Li-yan lives and works picking tea in a tradition bound village in southern China.  When she has a baby while unmarried, she takes her daughter to an orphanage where the baby is adopted by an American family.  Li-yan goes on the an education and builds a tea empire, always hoping to find the daughter she gave away.  A fascinating look at the prescribed life of a hill country young girl.

In Pachinko, Min Jim Lee weaves the story of a family over several decades, beginning in the early 1900’s when Sunja, a young Korean woman, pregnant and abandoned, marries a virtuous Korean pastor and immigrates with him to Japan.  The story continues with the lives of their children and the persecution of the Korean minority in Japan during WWII and beyond.  A poignant story of a family torn by circumstance, with characters that you really care about.  National Book Award Finalist.

P.S. Thanks for the reading graphic– illustrator Nicole Wong

Halloween Books Kids Love

Hello there– You know Halloween is already on it’s way if you’ve walked through Target lately.  My sis and I were there this week and scooped up a basket full of Halloween goodies to mail off to the grand-kids.

And that made me come home and pull down the little stack of Halloween kids books I keep for reading with kids this time of year.  Here’s some of our favorites:

We discovered this book on the aforementioned Target trip and stood there laughing in the aisle!  A group of goofy chickens are terrified of a number of strange things they see going on– a mouse of enormous size, a pumpkin with flickering eyes…  They work themselves into a state until it’s revealed that it’s just Halloween!

This is the Pumpkin uses rolling rhyme to take you through Halloween day into night with the buoyant Max and his family– from donning his costume, ghastly and green, through parties at school, past glowing pumpkins in the night, clear until he and his sis fall asleep amid their Halloween treats.  Bright happy illustrations make it fun!

Junie B. Jones at her best.  This time in Boo…and I Mean It!  Junie is too frightened to go out trick or treating.  There could be witches or monsters prowling, or pumpkins with sharp teeth!  But in the end with help from her mom, she manages to take it on.  This wacky first grader always makes me laugh out loud!

Our little protagonist in the Frankenstein mask steps up and knocks on the door of a haunted house to trick or treat on Halloween.  The occupants– a spider, some bats, a mummy, an owl… set off a startled chain reaction that a ends surprisingly.  Love the illustrations by the prolific Ted Arnold.

At Home in the World (& other travel books)

Hi Reading friends– Just finished At Home in the World by Tsh Oxenreider.  And I could happily pick it up and read it through all over again right now!  It made me think of other travel books I’ve loved.  If you’ve got the travel bug– maybe you’d love them too.

But be careful.  Now I’m itching to plan up a big trip.  (I did google “cheap flights to London!!”–$340 round trip from L.A. Air Canada!!)   Do you have summer travel plans??  Suggestions??!

Tsh and Kyle Oxenreider did something I secretly (or maybe not so secretly since I’m writing it here!), wish we could do.  They sold their house packed 5 backpacks for themselves and their three smallish kids and began a trek around the world that took 9 months.  Starting in China with jet lag and a language barrier, settling 6 weeks in Thailand, and moving on to sojourns in Australia, Kenya, Ethiopia, France, Kosovo, England and points in between.   They stayed with friends along the way and met a colorful new band of people as they traveled. Tsh is contemplative and practical.  She muses about the place called home and their place in the world.  Loved it!

In A Year of Living Danishly, Helen Russell and her husband find themselves transported from the bustle to London to small town Billund, Denmark when he takes a job working for Lego.  Having heard repeated statistics touting Denmark as the happiest country on earth, Helen spends 12 months uncovering the habits and preferences of Danish people with style and humor.  She interviews Danes around the country on the topics of education, work culture, taxes, health care, food, interior design in her attempt to find out why they could be so happy.  She immediately is taken with their pastries and slowly comes to understand the quirks of their culture.  Just a fun book, and a real look at fascinating country.

It’s been a while since I read The Geography of Bliss.  But it left an impression.  Eric Weiner wanted to find where the happiest people on earth were found– So he set out to The Netherlands, Switzerland, Bhutan, Qatar, Iceland, Moldova, Thailand, Great Britain, India and finally back to the U.S.A. , interviewing people from all walks of life and positions in the country to determine how much happiness could be found in these places.  He depended on psychology, science, history and humor in his search and the result is vastly entertaining and an enlightening look into the lives of people around the world.

A friend sent us a copy of Heidi’s Alp the years we lived in Spain, and would travel in our tired old van around the continent with 4 kids in tow.  This is the story of a family from Oxford who loaded their 4 daughters in a camper van and traveled through Europe tracking down the origins of well known fairy tales, from Cinderella in France and Pinocchio in Italy, to The Little Mermaid in Denmark and the tales of the Brothers Grimm in Germany.  Along the way they also were acquainted with new foods, cultural sights and curious customs.  She also includes a lot of just rollicking fun with the girls as they go– and subscribes to Hans Christian Andersen’s thought, “To travel is to live.”  (Used copies still available on Amazon)

This is another family off to see the world!  Author David Cohen, wife and three kids (2, 5 & 7) sell their house and set off.  They hike up a Costa Rican volcano, view Burgundy from a canal boat, meet lions on an African safari and trek across the desert lands of Australia.  The style is less reflective and more just an amazing travelogue of the high highs and low lows of traveling around the world as a family.  I especially liked his final chapter on what he would do differently, were he to start over again.  A satisfying armchair travel book!

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.

 

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.


unknownFather Christmas
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.

Ten Tips for Reading with Kids!

 

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Hey friends who know kids (that should be about everyone)–  Saturday we had a baby shower here for smart, articulate, beautiful Emily.  For part of the morning, the 5 hostesses (all her mom’s age) decided to give a little “Mom Advice” to Emily, just starting out on this mothering thing.  It felt a little bit like the fairies in Sleeping Beauty hovering around to bestow blessings on the new baby!!  It really was a sweet time together– and here’s my advice on reading:

TEN TIPS FOR READING WITH KIDS

#1. Start early.  One friend told me her mom read to her as an infant and since the baby wasn’t tracking stories quite yet, the mother read what she enjoyed– Shakespeare!  Awesome.  It’s never to soon to ladle all those sweet words and sounds into your baby’s head…

#2. For tiny readers, it’s all about rhythm, rhyme and repetition.  That’s why most every 3 year old is content to to read Brown Bear Brown Bear or Hop On Pop over and over.

#3.  Sing along books are great!  Even my 3rd graders loved to chime in on The Lady with the Alligator Purse!
Nadine Wescott has a whole series of sing-along books that are whimsical fun.

#4. Work reading into your schedule– the obvious before bed slot or during lunch or a wake up story…  The year Aaron was in kindergarten, we read every day while his sisters napped after lunch.  A sweet memorable time together.

#5.  Never be bookless!  Always have a stash in your diaper bag or in the car or tucked in a backpack–so waiting for appointments or in line or in traffic, you can pull out a story!

#6.  Some books are boring– Skip those!!  Look for books with color and lively language and humor, lots of humor–  Our favorite funny books include– I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More (naughty baby with a paintbrush) and Never Mail an Elephant (obvious foibles) and the Monster at the end of the Book (better read with the Grover voice!).

#7.  Wear out your Library Card!  Keep a fresh stack of books rotating through your house.  Last summer for Grammy Camp, we had a Library Scavenger Hunt.  We made an illustrated  list — a book about a cat, a Dr. Seuss book, an ABC book…   and rounded them up for a bagful of books to tote home.

#8.  Talk about the books you read together–  anticipate what will happen next.  Ask which character is the most interesting, why?  Imagine a different ending to the story.

#9.  Bribing children to read is totally acceptable!  We had summer reading charts that looked like large Candyland games with a family outing at the end for all who finished.  And when we lived in Spain, someone mailed us a set of World Book Encyclopedias. I paid my boys 25 cents a page to read entries.  When the kids were older, I would check out colorful library books on topics they enjoyed and leave them on the coffee table, pretty sure they would pick them up.

#10.  Just keep on reading!  As they get older and schedules get full, you have to be creative.  On vacations, pick up a book that relates to your trip and read together.  Jim Trelease (author of the amazing Read Aloud Handbook) would make his high school kids wash the dishes for their chores and then sit at the kitchen table and read to them!  One year we had a 30 minute ride to school and read through The Hiding Place, Brother Andrew, Tom Sawyer…  to pass the commute.

So much joy in reading with kids– Hope your lap is full of books and little “readers!”  And one last picture– our little grand-girl Mae, a book lover.
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Thank you to albinfo.ch for the illustration.

 

 

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.

Breakfast Tacos & Books

 

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Hey there taco-eating, book loving friends– a couple weeks ago, some of the best reading buddies came in the door for Saturday breakfast.  They brought along a few books to recommend.  We sat and talked and laughed around the tables and then settled in the family room to talk books.  People passed around their favorites so be pursued and perhaps borrowed.  And Jenni typed up a list of the all suggested books and emailed it off to all of us on the spot.

And breakfast?  We sat down to egg-y breakfast tacos with sweet pineapple mango salsa.  And a bright fruity salad on the side, with mimosas and mugs of tea.  It was a fine morning.

Tacos:
12 small “street taco” sized corn tortillas
6 eggs
3 tab. cream (or whole milk)
salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
2 tab. butter
6 strips of bacon, cut in half
1 cup grated colby jack cheese
1 large avocado, cut in small chunks
1/2 cup cilantro
1 cup sour cream

Pineapple Mango Salsa
1/2 fresh pineapple, peeled & cut to small bits
1 large mango, peeled and cut to bits
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
1/4 cup red onion, minced
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped fine
1 canned chipotle pepper, stem & seeds removed, minced
1 tab. lime juice (1 large lime)

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To make the pineapple, mango salsa combine all the above salsa ingredients and st it on the table!

Then start cooking the bacon and set it into a 200 degree oven to keep warm.  Wrap the tortillas in foil and set them in the oven with the bacon to warm.  Whisk the eggs, cream with the salt & pepper. Melt the butter in a skillet and stir in the eggs until they are set.

When that’s all ready, set it all out with the salsa, grated cheese, avocado, cilantro and sour cream.  And let everyone pile up their own little tacos.

And if you have a stack of books to talk through, all the better!

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Here’s a few of my favorite book suggestions from that morning:
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The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman, The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah, Day After Night by Anita Diamant, The Pahtom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, The Warden by Anthony Trollope, and The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom.  Looks like a lot of grand reading ahead…

What’s Been Coming Home from the Library…

 

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Carl Vilhelm Holsoe (Danish artist, 1863-1935) Woman Reading

Hi there– When you go to someone’s house do you drift over toward their bookshelves to see what they like to read? My book buddy Jenni keeps a basket of books she’s been reading on her kitchen counter– and I always have to peek and seen wha’t current on her list.  And I can count on Sally for book recommendations for reading I know I’ll enjoy…   Then there’s Janet who generously hands out worthwhile books she’s loved.

So in the spirit of sharing book titles, here a few I’ve found on the library shelves in the last few months.  No earthshaking literary treasures, but a list of books that have been a pleasurable way to pass some quiet hours on the sofa with a mug of tea.

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Circling the Sun
surprised me.  It’s the story of Beryl Markham, the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic from east to west.  I thought there’d be a whole lot of aviation in here, but the story is more her life in Kenya in the 1920′– from her childhood raised by a father and the nearby Kipkigis tribe, on their horse training farm– to her tempestuous years amid a fast living Kenyan expatriate community.  Her life could scarcely be further from my own, but her fortitude and the grandeur of Africa a century ago weave a fascinating true life story.
P.S.  Paula McLain also wrote The Paris Wife, a look at the life of Hadley Richardson and her turbulent years as the wife of Ernest Hemingway.

 

 

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Our Lit Group read Caleb’s Crossing a few months back.  The novel is set in Martha’s Vineyard in the 1660s, as Bethia Mayfield is growing up in a community of English Puritans.  As a young girl she meets Caleb, son of the Indian chief of the Wampanoag tribe on the Island.  Their friendship continues over the years as he comes to the Christian faith and eventually studies as one of the first two Native American students at Harvard.  Caleb and Bethia must navigate the clash of two very different cultures and the disruptions that life can bring as they come of age.  The book is based on the actual story of Caleb Cheeshahteaumauk and is a fascinating look into the Calvinist society of the time.

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This is a book I’ve mentioned before, City of Tranquil Light (By Bo Caldwell, who wrote one of my all time favorite books, The Distant Land of my Father).  She based this story on the lives of her grandparents who ventured into inland China at the turn of the last century– in the days of warlords, bound feet and and civil wars.  Will and Katherine are remarkable in the ways they care for the people in their village–Will as their teacher, Katherine their nurse.  They come through some harrowing days of bandits, earthquakes, and terrible loss.  But their faith sustains them as the story unfolds. It’s told through the narration of Will and the diary entries of Katherine, which are especially tender and poignant.  I loved this book for the historical perspective that it gives as well as the very human look at the courageous pair who served and stood strong over their 25 years in China.

510Xm0djJXL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_ Camille Pissarro, the “old man”of impressionism, is one of my very favorite artists.  I have a small print of one of his paintings hanging in my entryway.  So when I ran across this book, The Marriage of Opposites, the story mostly of his mother’s life and by extension his, I scooped it up!  Rachel Pissarro, was born into an immigrant Jewish family on the island of Saint Thomas in the early 1800s.  She grows up in her complicated family amid the brilliance and beauty of the island, is wed early to a widower to save the family business, but at last finds an enduring love that leads her to Paris.  There are a compliment of colorful fictional characters along with Rachel’s novelized story, a good dose of intrigue, and the real star of the book– the mesmerizing setting by the sea.  It’s a perfect blend of fact, fiction and the magic of St Thomas.
As a P.S. — Irving Stone’s brilliant novelization of Pissarro’s life, Depths of Glory, is one of my favorite books and includes the whole community of impressionists of Paris more than a century ago.

Another P.S.  After writing this all out, I was surprised to realize that all these books are fictionalized accounts of real people– I think I’m stuck in that happy genre rut.  But I do love a good book that reveals the story of a life lived…

Libraries

liraries.regionaldirectory.usHey there– Just now got a notice popped up in my email from my friendly downtown library.  The book I’ve been waiting for (The Girl on the Train) has come in!!  I just love that place, tacking down books for me, then letting me know it’s in, all for free!

I’m a life-long library fan.  And I ran across a few library-ish quotes that I think you might like as much as I have.

“A library is the only single place you can go to learn something new, comforted, terrified, thrilled, saddened, overjoyed, or excited, all in one day.  And for free.”  –Amy Neftzger

“A library is a place vibrating with ideas.”  –Nancy Kundhadt Lodge

“Libraries are really wonderful.  They’re better than bookshops, even. I mean bookshops make a profit selling you books, but libraries just sit there lending you books out of the goodness of their hearts.”    –Jo Walton

“Without the library, you have no civilization.”     –Ray Bradbury

flavorwire.com  . “I don’t have to look far to find treasures. I discover them every time I visit a library.”
–Michael Embry

“If I could live in the library, I would.”     — Pembroke Sinclair

“Who doesn’t love a library?  It is a place you can to in any town and discover the world.”
–Pat MacEnulty

“When I enter the library, I feel I’ve come home.”    –Barbara Wright

independent.co.uk