February Reading List

February reading


Wow!  How is it the middle of February all ready?  There is a good reason for the silence — we had a great trip to San Diego, enjoyed the sunshine and thought about our “ocean science.”  I’ll share some of that in the next few days.  For now, I want to tell you about a few books we’ve enjoyed in the past month.

The Enormous Egg by Oliver Butterworth.  This book, with its wonderful illustrations, is one I remember from my childhood.  I began reading it aloud to the little kids, and as usual with books I am reading aloud to them, I had to hide it so that they wouldn’t finish it before I did!  It is the story of a boy whose hen hatches out a Triceratops.  Definitely not scientific, but a great read-aloud nonetheless.

Dinner:  A Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach.  I came home one evening last month to an Amazon package on my bed.  Since I hadn’t ordered anything, I was sure I was going to be in trouble with Shandy for an “accidental” purchase.  Instead, I found a gift card from my mother and this great story/cookbook.  For those of us who believe getting dinner on the table for the family every night should be a top priority, this book is a definite must read.  Whether you are already a pro, or need a “dinner doula” as she calls herself at one point, you will enjoy the book and the recipes.

Raising Demons and Life Among the Savages by Shirley Jackson.  The only thing I had ever read by this author was her famous short story The Lottery.  When I heard that she had written some autobiographical books with these titles, I was instantly interested.  Some of the things she chronicles (searching for her cigarettes, and moving the brandy and cigarettes around from bed to bed while sleeping with sick children) are shocking to a more modern way of life, these were humorous books that were good, relaxing reading.  I also checked out from the library a book of her short stories, and these were not relaxing at all.  In the two I read, children were involved in discussion that I can only describe as horror.  I did not continue reading.

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.  The last time I read this book, I was in high school.  Now, both my teenagers were assigned this book as part of their curriculum, and so I read along.  This is a well-written, tragic work, even if you don’t buy into the Jesus Christ allegory that my high school teacher tried to sell us.  It means much more to me now than it did when I was a teenager, and is so often the case with classics.  The assignment I chose for myself on this book was to match a candy bar to each character.  I’m still working on that one!

Soon . . . sunshine and ocean pictures!  Stop back by!

What have you been reading?  Please leave me a comment.


Hiking (and Life) Advice from Annie Dillard

Advice:  (from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard)

When I was six or seven years old, growing up in Pittsburgh, I used to take a precious penny of my own and hide it for someone else to find.  It was a curious compulsion; sadly, I’ve never been seized by it since.  For some reason I always “hid” the penny along the same stretch of sidewalk up the street.  I would cradle it at the roots of a sycamore, say, or in a hole left by a chipped-off piece of sidewalk.  Then I would take a piece of chalk, and starting at either end of the block, draw huge arrows leading up to the penny from both directions.  After I learned to write I labeled the arrows:  SURPRISE AHEAD or MONEY THIS WAY.  I was greatly excited, during all this arrow-drawing, at the thought of the first lucky passer-by who would receive in this way, regardless of merit, a free gift from the universe.  But I never lurked about.  I would go straight home and not give the matter another thought, until, some months later, I would be gripped by the impulse to hide another penny.

It is still the first week in January, and I’ve got great plans.  I’ve been thinking about seeing.  There are lots of things to see, unwrapped gifts and free surprises.  The world is fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside from a generous hand.  But — and this is the point — who gets excited by a mere penny?  If you follow one arrow, if you crouch motionless on a bank to watch a tremulous ripple thrill on the water and are rewarded by the sight of a muskrat kit paddling from its den, will you count that sight a chip of copper only, and go your rueful way?  It is dire poverty indeed when a man is so malnourished and fatigued that he won’t stop to pick up a penny.  But if you cultivate a healthy poverty and simplicity, so that finding a penny will literally make your day, then, since the world is in fact planted with pennies, you have with your poverty bought a lifetime of days.  It is that simple.  What you see is what you get.


Eat every wild raspberry you see.

Hope you find a few pennies today!

The Case for Book Ownership

I have a guilty confession to make.  I know a lot of you are becoming “e-readers”, some of you especially because you don’t want to accumulate more “stuff.”  While it might make me appear materialistic, I have to tell you, I disagree.  I am a bibliophile in every sense of the word.  I don’t just love the words on the pages, I love the pages themselves.  Why just today, I ordered six more books!  We check out books by the dozens from the library, but even the large library where we pay for membership in a neighboring city doesn’t have many of the older books I love.  Or, if they have the books, they are lacking the original illustrations that make a book really beautiful.  This is another reason I don’t love e-books.  The illustrations often make the story.

Another reason I love book ownership is that everyone in the family can read the book at his or her own pace without running out of renewals.  We often buy books that we want to read aloud as a family — the pressure to read it in the 6 weeks allowed by the local library just isn’t worth it.  We buy books that we want to use for school, and we often buy cookbooks (Eden and I just made the first Tres Leches cake from the new Pioneer Woman cookbook today) because we want to be able to take them on trips and get them messy.  We buy books to replace books that we have “read to death.”  We buy books so that we can loan them to our friends.

We buy books online, through Amazon, Abebooks (my favorite for used books) and Alibris.  We buy books at library book sales, yard sales and thrift stores.  Our friends and parents give us books they think we might enjoy.  The fact is, we hardly ever say no to a book.  We do sort occasionally and pass books on.  In fact, we are needing to pass along a lot of fairly good condition children’s books right now — Max is outgrowing all but the very favorite of the picture books.  I wish we could find a place to donate them.  Then we would have room for more books!

Thank goodness I am married to a finish carpenter!  He has built wonderful bookshelves in nearly every room of the house.  There are a few rooms lacking bookshelves — the bathroom (Our last house had a bookshelf in the bathroom, but I couldn’t keep any books I really valued there.  It was too dusty.), the kitchen (but I would love one, I just can’t find the spot.), and my bedroom (I know, strange.) All of the kids have their own bookshelves in their bedrooms, and consider it a privilege to have  certain series in their own collection, along with books purchased specifically for or by themselves.  You should have seen the joy in Max’s face when he was allowed to put all the Mrs. Pigglewiggle books on his own shelves.

Don’t you think there is still plenty of room for books on all these shelves?  I mean — look closely.  There are holes!

What do you do?  Do you collect books, or do you love them and let them go?  Leave me a comment.