A return to slow reading

Revolutionary reading development here…

I’m slowing things down.

Reading Middlemarch changed me: it gave me back the pleasure of slow reading. I’m so very grateful for that.

The edition I read was 912 pages in length, and it’s rare that I read such a long book. And I feel like I’ve lost my patience and attention span. But I really haven’t; I just haven’t exercised them enough.

It also makes me realize the downside of tracking my reading: the gamification effect that makes me want to add more books to my Done list. Sometimes I feel like I just want to read books to finish them to get on to the next. And that’s sad, my friends. I don’t want to live that way.

So Middlemarch was a wake-up call. A long, meandering, 3-month-long wake-up call. It gave me back my identity as an absorbed, contented reader of big, long books that take their time.

And now I’m going to try to keep that part of my reading life alive — to keep reading long books and to slow down my reading when the book warrants close attention.

I’ll be returning to Ron Chernow’s Grant and maybe, upon a friend’s recommendation, picking up A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain.

And now it’s an official announcement, and we’ll see how I do.

How about you? Anyone else had a reading revelation?

Currently: early summer

Summer’s finally happened, and it’s sometimes even sunny. So I’ve been running outdoors and admiring the Dear Man’s fine caretaking of our lawn and landscaping. It’s good, my friends.

Here’s what else is going on around here…

Reading | Lately the book I’ve been reading past my bedtime is The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters by Priya Parker. I don’t want to put it down. Yes: mildly obsessed with the ideas in this book — how to be a better host and how to hold more meaningful gatherings. We’ll see how I do in real life. Stay tuned.

Listening | Around the house, I’ve been listening to Carol Dweck’s book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Thought-provoking stuff. And in the car: Everybody’s Got Something by Robin Roberts. Inspiring and uplifting. And she reads it herself.

Watching | We checked out the Ken Burns Lewis & Clark documentary from the library because we ain’t got no cable. And, in related news, we just canceled our Netflix subscription due to lack of use. We’re a readerly household, y’all. Anyway… Lewis & Clark: fascinating. I admit I didn’t know Sacajawea was a teenager or that she carried her baby with her on the entire journey. Also: there was a Newfoundland with them. That these are my favorite aspects makes me feel a little bit human-interest-y, but there it is.


Learning | After our recent trip to Pennsylvania and Ohio during that cold spell, I vowed never to be cold when traveling again.

via GIPHY


So we’re putting together an all-season travel kit that’ll stay in the car — filled with extra layers, long underwear, stocking caps, mittens, hand warmers, raincoats, sun hats, sunscreen, umbrellas, and other stuff so we’re never caught unprepared again. Sometimes you just need to be ready to hike to see waterfalls, and that’s no fun if your hands are freezing.


Working on | Styling the kitchen shelves. I haven’t been pleased with the look of them yet, and now they’re getting my serious attention. Stay tuned.

Loving | The new ladder. We’ve been on a quest for the perfect barrel and the perfect ladder. And now only our barrel quest remains. Thank you, flea market!

Anticipating | Looking forward to our next canoe trip…

What’re you excited about this spring-into-summer season?

Favorite bookish jewelry

Since sometimes we need to fancy it up, the readerly woman’s gonna need some bookish bling.

You can wear this stuff to the bookish places (the library, the bookstore, book club) but also to the everyday places (work, the grocery store, the library…)

It’s practical as all heck.

It’s a necessity of life.

Here are some of my favorites…

She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain necklace

Source: Etsy

My sister bought this for me several years ago, and I don’t see the exact necklace, but there are lots of similar ones.

Eyeglasses necklace

Source: Isette on Etsy

I love this necklace and always get comments on it. : )

Nonfiction necklace

Source: Willow and Copper on Etsy

A friend told me about a craft fair that was taking place at a local farm, and we headed over there… and I found this lovely piece. It makes me smile.

Dewey Decimal earrings

Source: Etsy

I ordered these years ago, and I don’t see the same listing, but there are other Etsy shops that sell this type of thing.

What the call numbers mean:

  • 320.9: Political situation and conditions
  • 917.4: New England travel and guidebooks

I love the significance, especially since political science was one of my college majors.

So tell me: what’s your favorite bookish jewelry? Did you buy it for yourself or receive it as a gift?

Audiobooks for every mood

June is Audiobook Month, and I’m all about celebrating the living daylights out of the bookish holidays.

Even though this past year my commute got gone, I’ve still managed to fit in some audiobook listening. Here are the best of the past year, arranged by mood…

Ironic

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

Genteel

My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead

Offbeat

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

Empowering

Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Uproarious

The Greatest Love Story Ever Told by Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman

Romantic

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

For more audiobook ideas, here are Audiobook Month posts from previous years:

I’m always looking for more great books on audio. What are your favorite recent audiobooks?

In which Middlemarch amazes me

Middlemarch by George Eliot

3 words: lyrical, character-focused, absorbing

Middlemarch. I still can’t believe how much I love this book. And as the weeks go by, I continue to ponder it and feel enriched by having read it.

Part of me wishes I’d read it earlier in life, because one of the things I hear over and over is that readers who return to this book find themselves observing the characters differently as their own circumstances and life experiences change. I love that this book is bountiful enough to offer that kind of reading. I’ll have to begin my re-reading experience closer to midlife… and I’m OK with that. But it would’ve been more rewarding to have had a younger person’s take on it.

Here are the aspects I loved most…

The characters

While Dorothea Brooke could be considered the main character, the other characters — so beautifully drawn, so complex and vivid, so imperfectly human — are vitally important to every aspect of the story.

Eliot lovingly crafted not only a rich and nuanced story, but also a cast of individuals who are realistic enough that I feel like I could carry on a conversation with them. I feel like we go way back.

And the characters and the situations they face are real and painful and joyful and strange and uncomfortable and comforting and loving and harsh.

There are young people doing foolish things, and older people, too. And young couples figuring out the world and older couples who are happy. And others who are not. And the small details of their interactions make them abundantly real. I feel like this book could be read as profiles of four married couples. I didn’t expect the wisdom that emerges from the way the people of this book relate to one another. But it’s the greatest gift this book gave me.

The narrator

Another surprise: the narrative voice was fascinating. An omniscient narrator comments on the actions and secret motivations of the characters, and the warm wisdom of that voice was comforting and delightful and unexpected. It seemed a very modern way of telling the story.

The language

Classics can kinda scare me, because dense prose can be tiresome. But this book wasn’t scary and wasn’t hard to read. It wasn’t dense or burdensome. While Eliot is fond of the Very Long Sentence (some of them went on for a full paragraph), she knows how to string together words in a very pleasing way. I found that I needed to slow down my reading a bit and just enjoy the words. The reading wasn’t difficult, but it wasn’t fast. It felt like a comfortable stroll through a beautiful garden — not hurried, and so much to claim one’s attention and to delight.

Now I want more

I found myself wanting to talk with readers who are set just like me, and ask them to give me another classic that’s this wise and warm and absorbing and delightful.

Give this book a whirl if you like… a big, absorbing story; classics; reading about a village; nuanced character portraits so detailed you’d recognize the characters if you met them; fiction that inspires the reader to examine her own life


So, my fellow readers… what classic novel is your favorite, and why should it be my next big read?

What I’ve been reading: May 2019

The books I finished reading in May were few in number, but it’s a mighty assortment.

I dedicate this month’s fine reading to the good and inspiring Bybee of Blue-Hearted Bookworm, who encouraged me to read Middlemarch. If you’d asked me 6 months ago what classic I’d’ve expected to have read and loved, I gotta tell you: Middlemarch wouldn’t have been on the shortlist. But I read it and I loved it and I just keep thinking about it. And I’ll be forever grateful to Bybee for giving me the gentle nudge I needed. (When she said she re-reads it periodically, I was there.)

So, favorite book of the month: Middlemarch by George Eliot

And again, following Bybee’s fine example, I read (actually listened to) My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead. So I was awash in Middlemarch-y goodness throughout April and May, and I’m so happy for the experience. And I can see myself re-reading Middlemarch someday… Thank you, dear Bybee. You made my life brighter yet again.

Here’s a look at my full month of reading…

Middlemarch by George Eliot

3 words: lyrical, character-focused, absorbing

Give this book a whirl if you like… a big, absorbing story; classics; reading about a village; nuanced character portraits so detailed you’d recognize the characters if you met them; fiction that inspires the reader to examine her own life

My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead

3 words: literary, genteel, calm

Give this book a whirl if you like… mash-ups of literary criticism and memoir, examining a classic, literary tourism, intellectual appreciation of a work of literature

Gunflint Burning: Fire in the Boundary Waters by Cary Griffith

3 words: fast-paced, haunting, behind-the-scenes

Give this book a whirl if you like… forest fires, horrible consequences of an accident, behind the scenes of firefighting efforts, Boundary Waters Canoe Area

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

3 words: comforting, bookish, romantic

Give this book a whirl if you like… small town setting, fish out of water, books set in bookstores, friendship through letter writing, reinventing oneself, the power of one person to change people’s lives

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

3 words: psychological, twisty, quietly menacing

Give this book a whirl if you like… ensemble cast, possible psychopaths, slowly unfolding narrative, characters with complex back stories, ends vs means, health resorts

What were your favorite books this month?

Bookish Tourist: White Whale Bookstore

During our delightful trip to Pittsburgh, we experienced several culinary delights (Primanti Brothers: that life-changing burger, Apteka: absolutely amazing vegan Polish cuisine, Prantl Bakery: burnt almond torte) and some literary ones, too.

After visiting the wonderful Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, we made our way to the White Whale Bookstore, which I’d been scoping out on Instagram and wanting very much to see in real life.

And I’m here to tell you, it’s even more charming than it looks in the photos. And that’s saying something.

The selection is well curated, the displays are enticing, and the atmosphere is inviting. The Dear Man and I both bought books that are making us very happy indeed.

So, if you’re visiting Pittsburgh, here’s the hungry reader must-see list:

  • Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh
  • White Whale Bookstore
  • Apteka
  • Primanti Brothers
  • Duquesne Incline
  • Prantl’s Bakery

Anyone else pleasantly surprised by Pittsburgh? Any recommendations?

Bookish news, in which I am despondent

There’s been some good stuff lately on the bookish interwebs, but this first story is making me ache inside.

There goes one of my favorite podcasts…

Brian Lamb has retired. And I just downloaded his final Q&A podcast –an interview of David McCullough. And I’m feeling gloomy and withdrawal-y and unhappy and a bit moan-y about it. He wasn’t supposed to ever retire.

(photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Jeopardy, baby…

In happier news, the current Jeopardy winner has stated that he learned so many darn facts by reading children’s booksmy very most favorite way in the world to learn new stuff. I hope this technique goes viral.

If only I had faith in TV…

…this would be better news. Susan Orlean’s magnificent The Library Book has been optioned for TV.

Validation for not Konmari-ing the books

Science says book buying is good for us. (Why do none of us find this to be a surprise?)

What bookish news stories have caught your eye lately?

Bookish Tourist: Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh: so much to love.

We saw surprising historic sites, rode an incline, saw gorgeous views from the heights, ate fabulous and unusual foods that delighted us, and visited a gorgeous library with dinosaur views.

We arrived in Pittsburgh in the evening, and libraries have generous hours so we headed there first.

We visited the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh Main Library, which:

  • Is named in honor of the Carnegie—Pittsburgh philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, who is famous for the library buildings he funded nationwide
  • Shares space on a huge city block with the Carnegie Institute museums

So we’re talking about a spectacular, swoon-worthy library that causes this kind of reaction…

And it means that when a person is in the nonfiction stacks and looks out the window, this is the view…

And the stacks are utterly charming.

And they’re kept their old card catalog, which holds some of their indexes. And who doesn’t love an old card catalog?

And of course, the most important part is the staff. We were greeted warmly and offered assistance, and a kind librarian answered my questions. And then we wandered into another area, and more pleasant attentiveness there.

As an introduction to Pittsburgh, this place won me over completely.

Well done, city of Pittsburgh. A good library is a great testament to the strength and health of a city.

Books I can’t wait to read

My library holds list holds many delights. Here’s what I’m most eagerly anticipating reading in the months ahead…

  • The Policewoman’s Bureau by Edward Conlon
  • Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev
  • Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep
  • Rules for Visiting by Jessica Francis Kane
  • Waiting for Tom Hanks by Kerry Winfrey
  • The Dutch House by Ann Patchett  

This whole list fills me with wiggly anticipation.

What books are you aching to get hold of?