Category Archives: Book Talk

Reading with Intent

One of my biggest fears is wasting my time. That’s one reason I like following book bloggers and keeping up with readings and reviews. I’m trying to be pickier about my books these days and I’m trying to read at a pace where I can actually absorb and use what I’m reading, not just “read at it” and react to whatever is open on the page before me. There are just so many books!

Today I ran across this quote and wanted to leave it here. I may have to make myself a bookmark with this. It’s from Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations (that link is to one of the free digital versions on Project Gutenberg).

“…I learned to read carefully and not be satisfied with a rough understanding of the whole, and not to agree too quickly with those who have a lot to say about something.”

I love that about “those who have a lot to say about something”! Some of these modern histories and social science books appear more worthwhile than they are just because they weigh a ton.

Anyway, just wanted to share the quote. Reading Meditations is turning out to be a good (if slow) experience. Amazing to think that he wrote all of this for himself. All these lofty goals, thoughts, personal philosophies were not meant for the public eye. Pretty neat to think about.

Be well!

Hay Festival 2021

The sun is shining and it feels good to have 2020 way behind us. While being safe/stuck at home wasn’t the best, one positive to come out of it is the way book festivals how to do virtual events and this year’s Hay Festival is building on last year’s experience!

Things kicked off a couple of days ago and virtual events are planned all the way through Sunday, June 6th. It’s a long weekend here in the States and I hope to get to take in some of the events.

You can check out the full schedule here. You do have to register for the events, but I haven’t had to pay anything yet. I’m not sure if everything is free or if I’ve just clicked on the freebies. What makes all of this even better is that you can go through the video archives and watch events from the past.

While attending a Hay Festival, in person, is still a bucket list item for me, I love being an armchair attendee. And now that their online shop is up and running, it’s fun to scroll through all of the signed copies of Festival books plus all of the gifts, including chairs with the Festival logo, mugs, shirts, stationery and more. All the money collected here goes to support the festival.

I hope this post finds you healthy and doing well and that you’re able to tune in to at least one Hay Festival session that interests you.

Are there other virtual events this summer that should not be missed? Let me know!

My 2020 Recap

I am so thankful to have 2020 in the rearview mirror. In pulling together this recap, I realized that I am certainly one of the fortunate ones and hope you and your loved ones are doing well. I have a job that lets me work from home, no one in my house got sick and for whatever reason I was not affected by the “I just can’t read right now” bug that bit so many of my friends. Being stuck, er safe, at home for so long, I was able to fill much of my time with reading.

I always find other bloggers’ annual reviews interesting and have enjoyed posting my recap from time to time. Though I never follow a template and just post whatever info is interesting to me at the time. So here is a quick peek into my reading in 2020. I hope you’ll post and share your readings somewhere. Please share!

  • 45% of my books came from used bookstores
  • 35% of my books came from independent bookstores
  • 20% of my books came from big box/chain bookstores

This is the first year, since starting this blog, that none of the books I read came from the library (thanks, pandemic). Needless to say, I am pretty excited to get to go back and browse the stacks at my local library.

One of the things I like tracking is how I discovered a book. This year my “I first heard about it on a podcast” column only had two books in it. Not having a commute has really killed my podcast listening.

  • 38% of the books I read were recommended to me
  • 30% of the books I read were ones I just stumbled upon in a bookstore
  • 18% of the books I read I first saw in a magazine or newspaper
  • 7% of the books I read came from book blogs I follow
  • 3% of the books I discovered through podcasts
  • 2% of the books I was gifted with, and
  • 2% of the books were ones I first heard about on Twitter.
5 book spines that I recap

Top 3 Favorite Fiction books I read this year:

Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing. I’m usually actively avoid ‘magical realism’ type books, but after I read Ward’s eye-opening and crushing memoir Men We Reaped a few years ago, I’d been on the lookout for more. I felt like this was a gamble for me and it was. But it was so worth it.

A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne. I’m a tad embarrassed by how much I enjoyed Boyne’s wicked new novel. It’s a story dripping with depravity orchestrated by one of the meanest characters I’ve ever read. Bonus points for being a book about books and publishing.

The Motion of the Body Through Space by Lionel Shriver. I’ve been a fan of Shriver for some time. Her writing is just fantastic. This book is a bit of a slow burn when it comes to big swings in plot, but Shriver’s framing of an aging marriage in light of today’s focus on youth and exercise and self-worth is wonderful.

Top 3 Favorite Non-Fiction books I read this year:

Upstream by Mary Oliver. This was my first introduction to Oliver. Wow. I was blown away. Such a steady hand and mind. I was saddened when I learned she died, in 2019. She’s one of the writers you dream of writing letters to when you’re reading her book.

The Address Book by Deirdre Mask. I’ve already shared this book, in an earlier review. Not much else I can say except it’s rare when I book moves me to action and get involved.

How the South Won the Civil War by Heather Cox Richardson. This is another one that I reviewed last year and I find myself constantly referencing as I read the news these days ahead of Congress’ certifying of the Electoral College votes.

And I have to call out my favorite “Books About Books” book that I read in 2020. I found So You Want to Publish a Book? by Anne Trubek wonderfully honest and encouraging. Just a great conversation with someone any book-loving person would like to have coffee with. Trubek gets HUGE bonus points from me for mentioning Alvin Lustig. Throwing out the Lustig love is pretty much as close as you get to having ‘street cred’ in the book world.

I truly hope 2021 is off to a good start for you. I hope you are healthy and have a good read nearby. If so, please share! The year is just beginning and I am excited about the reading list ahead of me. I’d love to add to it.

New ‘Far Side’ Cartoons

I don’t know if you’re as big a fan of the Far Side cartoons has folks in my house are, but they are the best. And they’re back! Well, sort of…

Just the other day Far Side creator Gary Larson posted on his site alongside 3 new cartoons. He says the new cartoons are a product of his exploring new digital tools, tablets and gizmos. He says he’s having fun again drawing.

Larson stopped making the cartoons back in 1995 because he was bored and said he didn’t want his creations to wind up in the “Graveyard of Mediocre Cartoons”. He hasn’t been drawing much since.

The box collection is a hot item during the holiday season. His books were an easy go-to when our kids were learning to read. And they’re ones my kids still pick up from time to time.

I really enjoyed the cartoons when I was younger and they were being published in the local paper. I’ve never quite figured out what made the cartoons are so funny. They have it all… talking flies, talking dogs, they’re full of bodily fluids and death. Lots of not-so-smart folks and aliens.

Some of the best ones are even just a single panel. I mean seriously, why does this one tickle my funny bone… every… time? I never get tired of watching George Washington Crossing the Street.

If you haven’t flipped through a Far Side collection, hit up your local library or but one at a bookstore. You won’t regret it. And be sure to check out his site as they share multiple cartoons every day from the archive.

And if you’re as big a fan of Gary Larson as we are, it’s time to rejoice! He said in his recent post that this is all still just “exploring and experimenting”, which is fine. I’m glad he has pen in hand and is sharing (but I really am hopeful he’ll start cranking out the funnies once again. I really could use a laugh these days).

Hope you are safe and well these days and surrounded by lots of good books.