Saturday, July 26, 2014

Good Finds at the Library!

I've been having fun going to the library and seeing what's on the shelves when I get there. I particularly like seeing what's new, and I make the bestseller shelves my first - and sometimes only - stop.

The downside of using the library is that there is no guarantee that a particular book is going to be there when I want to check it out. Bestsellers are not holdable or requestable, and when they do become holdable, there is often a long waiting list.

The upside (other than that I can read books for FREE) is that it's kind of fun to see what's here right now...books come and go, and who knows what treasure I will find at any given time?

I've found a few!

Here are a few I've been enjoying lately:

THE EMPATHY EXAMS by Leslie Jamison
I'd read about this book and was excited to see it on the bestseller shelf, just waiting for me! Jamison does an incredible job exploring empathy with depth. Much more than addressing empathy in what we'd think of as traditionally potentially empathic situations (a hospital or with a friend, perhaps), Jamison digs deep to explore opportunities for empathy in challenging situations as well as hindrances to empathy. There is a lot to think about here. Well done.

THE FARM by Tom Rob Smith
Daniel is a young man living in London. He gets a frantic phone call from his father, who has been living in Sweden with his mother for several months. His father tells him that his mother is not well, that she is making accusations and behaving irrationally and even dangerously. This is worrisome and scary for Daniel, as his mother has never been anything but gentle and loving his whole life. This phone call from his father is completely out of character for his father as well, as the father makes accusations about his mother, and he also was a calm, loving presence in Daniel's childhood. Daniel is completely surprised and taken aback. What is going on? There is much to be revealed, and we find out in this psychological!

THE SPACE BETWEEN US by Thrity Umrigar
Okay, I admit, I found this in the regular stacks at the library. While not a bestseller (which, in my library, seems to mean new-ish releases, not always books on a best seller list), this was a find, nonetheless. I'd seen it when I worked at the bookstore and heard good things about it from other booksellers. And they were right. I was drawn into the story of Sera and Bhima, two women living in Bombay. Bhima is Sera's servant. And while their lives are intricately intertwined after their intimate working relationship covering decades, there is the employer/servant barrier, which is significant and brings its own complications into the relationship. Life is complicated, and Umrigar brings these two women to life as they relate to each other and their own families. Beautifully done.

I'd never heard of this book or this author when I saw it at the library. I usually comb the shoves and select several books that look interesting to me. Then I take them over to a table and get a better sense of each book, knowing that the title and cover art may not be enough to carry a book through for a full read. This book started it opens, Avis, a 53 year old woman, is trying to seduce her husband by going to the rarely visited naughty-underwear drawer. The story starts there, Avis telling about her marriage to Jim, her daughter, and her soldier son, Nate. Other people narrate as well, Bashkim, a young Albanian boy who also lives in Las Vegas with his family. Luis, a soldier sent home from war, and Roberta, a CASA volunteer. Using different people to tell the story isn't a new device, and I quite like how it's done here. Each character is distinct and comes alive. While I figured that their stories would intersect somehow, and I correctly predicted some of what happened, I didn't predict all of it, and the characters kept me wanting to read more. A good find!

This book has been on my periphery for a while...first recommended to me by a friend of mine on Goodreads (thank you, Susan!). I was delighted to find it on the Bestseller shelf. I zipped through this and loved it. A.J. owns a bookshop that is not doing well. His wife died a few years previously, and he is depressed. Isolated and living alone in his bookshop, A.J. is in a funk. He meets Amelia, a publisher rep who travels to bookstores in her territory to sell books, and is quite rude to her. The townspeople of Alice notice, and with help from the police chief, his sister-in-law, and the arrival of a mysterious package, A.J.'s life changes. This was a delightful read. Lots of great bookish references. Fun!


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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Refocusing on Reading

After my mom's stroke, I carried a cell phone with me at all times. Her insulin dependent diabetes left her in an even more fragile state after the stroke, as she was unable to manage her insulin dosages and blood sugar monitorings. There were frantic midnight runs to the ER when her blood sugar dropped to dangerously low levels. I never knew when a call would come in and I'd have to drop everything and go. Even though she was being cared for by very capable people, her condition was fragile. I kept my phone close at hand.

My mom died several years ago. While I haven't needed to be so tethered to my cell phone since she died, I've kept my phone pretty close. It's been hard to let go of that feeling of urgency and worry that crisis is imminent.

Keeping my cell phone close has been a habit, starting from needing to be available for my mom, but morphing into...just a habit. I have a few games I play. I check the weather. I can check my email. There are texts. And I have a pedometer. I have a nifty, snarky to-do list app that I use a lot. And of course there's the camera...who knows when the perfect photo op will present itself? It could be any time! I do use my phone.

At my work we have a program every summer to encourage team members to take better care of themselves. We can register online and get points for things we do that are good for us and the planet. Things like eating our vegetables. Points! Exercising. Points! Drinking water. Points! Taking an alternative form of transportation. Points!

They refine and change the program every year. This year they've added a few things. We can get points for spending time doing hobbies. We get points for meditating. We get points for doing activities with other team members. And, we get points for turning off our cell phones.

Hmmm. I hardly ever turn my cell phone completely off.

But I like me some points, so on one of the first days of the Greek Trek Challenge, I turned it off. I wasn't having any text conversations with anyone. It wasn't my turn to play a game. I had other things I needed to do around the house and there wasn't any real reason to keep it I turned it off.

I didn't think it would feel very different than having it on. There are times, lots of times, actually, when even if my phone is on, it's in another room, or even on another floor (we live in a three level row house), and I almost never have the ringer on. It didn't seem that it would make much difference to turn it all the way off.

But having the phone completely off did feel different. It's as though I wasn't having tiny feelers out, listening to hear if a text came in. Or if it was my turn to play a game. Or if I needed to check the temperature. Or check my email.

Having the phone off felt quieter. I felt calmer. Did I mention I was also getting points?

Something else I noticed when the phone has been turned off? I wanted to read more. And I already like reading a LOT. I have been realizing that the phone has sometimes been this little pull away from things I really want to be doing.

Thank you, Green Trek Challenge, for helping me refocus on what's important to me - like reading.

And thanks for the points!

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Saturday, July 5, 2014

Will I Like This Book?

I follow a few book blogs. I like seeing what others are reading and how well they like what they are reading.

One of the bloggers I follow ( gave a strong, but brief recommendation for A Land More Kind Than Home.

Her recommendation went something like...
"A Land More Kind Than Home - An amazing book by Wiley Cash. Read it."


It's a strong, positive recommendation. She really liked this book. Would I like it as well?

I do not know this person at all. I don't even know this person's reading tastes very well, as she posts often on Facebook, but her posts are more about reading than what she has been reading herself. I have selected books to read after reading recommendations written by people I don't know, but they are usually more detailed and involved reviews. This recommendation was really short. And I do not know this blogger personally.

I have friends with whom I know I share similar book tastes...when they recommend a particular book, I pay attention. Of course it has happened that books they have LOVED have been ones that I've not liked quite as well as they did (and vice versa). My book tastes often align with people I know well, but not always.

So this blogger gave a high recommendation, but do I share her taste in books? I don't know her in person, I only know her from her blog and Facebook page. I know she reads. A lot. I know she loves books. I know she has a daughter. That's about all I know about this particular blogger.

Well, and I know that she loved this particular book. Would I love this book too?

I was in the bookstore a few weeks ago and found A Land More Kind Than Home in the bargain section...a hardcover for $5.98. I thought I'd give it a try.

I started it a couple of times and couldn't get into it. So I put it down, wondering if I would ever want to pick it up again.

Yesterday I picked it up again. I'm about 60 pages in and I am wanting to find out what happens next.

Will I like this book as well as she did? I'll let you know!

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