Monday, October 21, 2013

Pre-vacation Reading

Therapist and I are going on vacation at the end of this month, and we are (of course) taking quite a few books. Keep an eye out for a blog post about what we'll be taking to read on the trip!

While there has been planning for vacation reading, there has also been pre-vacation reading. I'm reading books I don't want to take on our trip, mostly because of weight, which means hardcovers or audio books. (And yes, I know I can digitally take audio books on vacation, but I really don't prefer those when I want to just read.)

Ghostman by Roger Hobbs
This is the first novel by Portland, Oregon native Hobbs, and is a delicious debut. Five years after being involved in a bank robbery gone bad, the Ghostman is called in for a casino heist. I really enjoyed this crime thriller.

Rodeo in Joliet: A Cancer Memoir by Glenn Roskowitz
Reviewed in 2010 by Therapist (read the - excellent - full review here:, Rodeo in Joliet: A Cancer Memoir is Glenn Roskowitz's memoir chronicling his journey with cancer. Glenn is not the most likable person, cancer or not, but his memoir is honest and real. Worth a look.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Weird black and white photographs are sprinkled throughout the book and inform the story. Before I read the book the photographs were both intriguing and off-putting, maybe even a little creepy. I enjoyed the story and loved how Riggs used the photographs as part of the story, making them more engaging and less creepy. Keep an eye out for the second in the series of Miss Peregrine in 2014!

The Dinner by Herman Koch
Translated from the Dutch and set in Amsterdam, The Dinner is told by Paul, who attends dinner with his wife Claire. When I first saw that this book was about a dinner, I thought of the movie, My Dinner With Andre. The only similarities between this book and that movie is that there is a dinner. Reading The Dinner evoked a similar feeling I got from reading We Need to Talk about Kevin (P.S.). In this book, Paul makes observations about their dinner companions, and gradually life complications emerge as the dinner progresses. Dark, compelling and oh so excellent.
This book will be out in paperback on October 29. The Dinner would be a great book for a book group!

Spontaneous Happiness: A New Path to Emotional Well-Being by Andrew Weil (audio, read by the author)
I enjoyed listening to Weil read his book, and I will take away a few ideas for raising my own emotional setpoint. One of the ideas, which my friend Jacki has been using even as she's been battling cancer is the Three Positives ( My Three Positives for today are:
1) The sun is shining. Again. The sun and the fall colors are spectacular.
2) One of my co-workers made me laugh really hard last night. I'm still happy about that.
3) I get to pick up my bike from the shop today. It's getting a tune-up after sitting in the garage for, um, a long time. I'm going to go for a little bike ride (see #1).

The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards by Kristopher Jansma
After the dedication, and after the page with two literary quotations, and after the table of contents, there is a page that says "If you believe that you are the author of this book, please contact Haslett and Grouse Publishers at your first convenience." That was the hook that got me interested in this book. Even though I've just started reading this, I am enjoying it. A young man talks about becoming a writer, starting in Terminal B of an airport, where he spent his days waiting for his mother who was a flight attendant.


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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Remembering My Dad Through Books

My dad died in 2002. My brother and I still have items from our parents, some of which we will keep as keepsakes and heirlooms, some of which we will let my kids have, and some of which we will not keep.

There were three books that belonged to my dad when he was a kid in the 1920's and 30's. About a year ago, my brother found them in a box of our parent's things and gave them to me. Knowing they were old and rather fragile, I took pictures, then I put each of the books in a separate ziploc bag.


(I like my dad's kidscrawl signature. I also like the list of books that was in the back of one of the books...DON COYOTE is a fun title, as is SEM'S MOROCCAN LOVE.)

I'd put the books behind some other things in our own bookcase, and last week we found them again. They were moldy, the mold smell strong without even opening the plastic bags.

In the moist Pacific Northwest, keeping mold at bay can be a challenge. We didn't need to invite mold into our home. So I threw them away.

Writing this, I feel a pang of regret. I didn't do any research on how to keep old books (maybe one does not even put old books in plastic bags). I just didn't want anything toxic in our house. It was a reactionary move.

In my defense, these were books I'd never seen when I was growing up. My dad never showed them to us or talked about them with us. I don't know where he kept them. They just ended up in a box with some of their stuff that my brother found several years after he died.

There is a book that my dad DID share with me when I was a teenager. He gave it to me to read and told me it was one of his favorite books. I've read it several times. This book is in a prominent place on our bookshelf. There is a sticker on the inside back cover that said he got the book at The Emporium for 39 cents.


The three books that are no longer with us had his signature, which was pretty great.

However, I have other remembrances of my dad. There are letters my dad wrote and sent when he was about seven years old. He wrote these letters to his brother, who was 13 years older and had left home to go to college. I have loved seeing these letters, giving me glimpses into what my dad was like as a kid.

Should I have thrown away the three books? I don't know. I do know that I have other ways to remember my dad, and that is what is important to me.

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