Friday, January 13, 2017

A blog post for book lovers

Today is one of those gray, rainy days that are meant for huddling around a warm fire with a good book. Or maybe sitting in cozy chair with a bottle of wine between us while we talk about everything related to reading.

Honestly, there’s nothing I enjoy more than the subject of books and writing and in particular, hearing about people’s reading habits.

One book or many books?

For instance. Are you a one-book-at-a-time reader or do you have several books going at once?

Lately I’ve become aware of a quirky habit I have when it comes to choosing between my books and I’m wondering if you can relate.

First of all, I’m one of those people who starts reading several juicy books at once. I know, you’re probably thinking, isn’t that a distracting experience? And my answer is no because I eventually end up reading one at a time. But I basically let my spontaneous reactions decide which book I dive into and finish first. This approach never fails me; it’s like a playful book competition happening inside my head. 

Which one will win my attention?  

When I’m reading multiple books, I let my book selection be decided in those rushed moments that I’m walking out the door looking for the “right book” to stuff into my bag or when I’m looking to take a book to bed with me and suddenly find myself reaching for one title over the other, and then---before I know it I’ve sunk deeply into the pages of an engrossing book that ends up crossing the finish line first. 

Voila! Book chosen, book finished. Then this process gets repeated.

See?  I told you it’s quirky.

Here’s something else I’m curious about. Are you drawn to non-fiction or fiction books and do you notice any pattern to your choices?


For instance, I’m convinced my ratio of non-fiction to fiction reading is directly linked to what’s happening in my life at the time. 

Here’s my classic example, I never read Sci Fi. Ever. Yet decades ago when I was in the throes of a terrible heartbreak I lost myself inside a massive paperback (500 plus pages) of Frank Herbert’s Dune in what seems now, like a surreal period of time travel. Days blended into nights while I remained transfixed inside this book. To this day I can’t remember the plot, just that I was thank god, allowed to escape into another literal universe to get away from the sting of a dramatic break-up.

If you’ve ever used a book to escape real life happenings, you know exactly what I mean. 

So here’s a glimpse of my current reads. And as you can see these days I seem to be in the throes of a curiosity growth spurt.

Mostly non-fiction, although I did just read Tana French’s latest novel in one of those frenzied reading binges which left me teetering on the edge of two worlds; one minute I’m dealing with the suspicious behaviors of my fellow detectives in a gritty, dark police station in Dublin, and the next moment I’m pushing my grocery cart in the dappled sunlight of a Southern California parking lot. I do love Tana French’s characters, although my son informed me that he could instantly tell the author was female when he read the male character’s lines. Hmm don’t know what that means but it’s probably why I like it.

Currently next on my fiction list is a book recommended by Simone, my trusted friend in London, who has raved about All The Light We Cannot See, a book by Anthony Doerr, which you’ve probably already read-because apparently I may be the last person based on reviews--to read this book. Actually, I think I picked it up and put it back down thinking it might be too melancholy at the time. But now it's next.

Now let’s talk non-fiction in no particular order

Patrick gave this to me for Christmas because he knows that the author, David Brooks, is my intellectual nerd crush. With his gold rimmed glasses, crooked teeth and balding head he is someone you might mistake for an aging library assistant, shuffling books behind the counter, yet I literally light up whenever I see him on my TV-doesn’t matter where. 

Charlie Rose interviews, notoriously languid, fluid affairs are my favorite forum—but I enjoy him in political round table discussions too, where his brand of quiet civility and deeply insightful points never fail to get me thinking. 

As an author, David Brooks talks a lot about our resume virtues vs. eulogy virtues and how we need to distinguish between these in order to live a meaningful life. Our resume virtues are the skills we need for our jobs and to achieve success by societal standards.  While our eulogy virtues are the deeper ones that are talked about at our funeral. Our kindness, honesty, generosity. What kind of relationships we formed. 

I wasn’t crazy about his first book, The Social Animal, but I’m curious about this one. 

If you’re a regular around here you might remember my post on the power of owning your life story through writing. I flat-out love the memoir genre and have been intrigued for years, by those who strip away their layers and write fearlessly of their past, without being burdened by other people’s reactions. 

So far Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird and Stephen King’s On Writing remain my steady favorites, mostly because of their distinctly unique--and likeable--writing voices, but I’ve heard rave reviews on Mary Karr’s book and I was so happy to find it in my Christmas stocking. Have your read any of her books?

I went straight out to the bookstore right after I listened to KristaTrippett’s fascinating podcast with this author. 
What a wonderful discussion. Not only did I love hearing how yoga is now considered an important component of body/mind work in the healing of trauma...

I was captivated by the latest’s brain research showing us that our traumatic events not only reside in our physical body, but are often relegated to the area of the brain that’s inaccessible to words and verbal articulation, a finding confirmed with the technology of today’s brain scans, a fact I've long believed.

Suddenly my years working with "The Woman"-- who awoke the same hour each night in a semi-fugue state to binge incessantly on food, only to fall back into a carb-induced sleep, and wake up later totally distraught by her inability to understand or control her behaviors, --had scientific basis. 

Yes, eventually we understood. Slowly we began to make sense of her frenzied night-time eating but only in excruciatingly slow steps did her childhood abuse --at a certain hour of the night-- make its way into words she could use. 

The metal lock that she put on her refrigerator in a desperate attempt to prevent her raging attacks on food, became a metaphor for her own childhood pain that had been banished to a place inside her, that she simply couldn’t know or verbally articulate until she was safely sheltered in treatment.  

Anyone who genuinely believes that you’re never too old to embark on a new dream, to generate original ideas or to change your life in the best way possible, should care about this little book.

For years we all believed that the brain is a permanently fixed structure that gradually hardens like clay poured into a mold, turning us all into “old dogs who can’t learn new tricks.”

Today because of the advances in neuroscience, we know that not only is the adult brain capable of changing, it does so continuously throughout our life, in response to everything we do and every experience we have. 

This information should make us all deliriously happy.

This brief little book calls itself a concise overview of neuroplasticity for the general public. I bought mostly for the chapters on addiction and brain training.

The author opens this book by sharing his astonishing personal experience with grief.

When he was 20 years old his mother died of a stroke leaving him emotionally devastated. He describes living in a state of denial for two and a half years, completely disconnected from his feelings. 

Eventually, as he sought professional help for his grief, he discovered that his body had created an additional calcium deposit between one of his ribs and the breastbone—similar to what the body will do in response to a fracture. To sum it up, he states, “what my mind had been hiding, my body showed with pristine clarity; I had a broken heart.”

It sounds hokey but as someone who worked in the eating disorder field for years, it’s really not. 

I bought the book because of the author's decades of work as a somatic psychotherapist and yoga therapist and his specialty in the field of grief therapy.

As you probably guessed, I bought this book for my own growth as a yoga teacher and hospice volunteer.

This was one those spontaneous buys, a book that literally found its way into my hands by chance.

I was wandering through a used bookstore on a recent trip when I happened to absently pick up this book, opened it to a page with TaraBrach’s name, turned the pages again and saw a reference to Spirit Rock, a place Jim had visited years ago and holds in high regards.

And that was all it took.

I've since finished this book and I can’t say enough positive things about it. Now I’m nagging the men in my life to read it, because it’s written in a man’s voice from a skeptical, cerebral perspective that I think they would enjoy. I also think you would like it too, especially if you're still on the fence about the topic of mindfulness. The book is filled with the author's personal struggles and offers fascinating support for how mindful meditation can change your life for the better.

Have you discovered this lovely publication? 

You can find it at your local Barnes and Noble, or even Costco. It’s such a beautiful compilation of blogger words and images and I bought this edition to support my friend Suzanne who had her article published in it.  

Well, if you're still here after this rather long post, it's true. You really are a bona fide lover of words. (Thank goodness for me)  And I'm so happy you were interested in my little discussion on books. 

Now it's your turn. I'd love to hear about your own book suggestions along with any other thoughts you have about this post.

love and peace to you,


NanaDiana said...

I am a lot like you. I have at least 3 books going at one time...sometimes four. A "car" book- which I read whilst waiting for someone, a "purse" book -when I am going somewhere and know I will have time to kill, a "chair-side" and a "bed-side" book...and, like you, when I am fully engrossed in one I will read it to the exclusion of all others until I have finished it.

I am reading a series set in Amish country right now (wherein lie my own roots). I don't read as much non-fiction as fiction but did just read Elizabeth Edward's biography...probably the last one to read that. lol

I have been so busy lately that I have not made time to read and that, for me, is not a good thing. xo Diana

ps. I am also proud to say I had my book published a couple of years ago and it is 5 star on Amazon-(no swearing, sex or violence because I wanted something my grandchildren could read one day and not be embarrassed to know their grandmother wrote it.

Sarah said...

Leslie, you know I always take away interesting, though provoking messages from your posts.
To answer your questions ~ generally I'm a one book at a time reader. I sometimes start a book, can't get into it and move on, later to return and pick it up again, but I think that's totally different that your approach.
I'm definitely a reader of fiction. While my husband has stacks of books that he toggles between depending on his mood. He reads nonfiction, short stories, biographies, fiction ~ whatever grabs his attention. I read to escape. I want a good story, and historical fiction is my favorite genre. I'm drawn to trilogies and series as well. I don't like for books to end. It's like saying goodbye to a close friend.
I read All the Light We Cannot See, and yes, absolutely you must read it. I have spent time in Saint-Malo, France, so the visual imagery in my mind was crystal clear. I could hear the ocean and smell the salt air as I turned the pages. Sarah's Key and The Book Thief are also good reads about children from the same period of time. Another good book, but different time period is The Memory of Violets. I could go on and on listing historical fiction that has captivated my imagination, but I think your stack of non-fiction is where your heart is. '-)
Just so you know that I do occasionally pick up non-fiction, I'm currently reading The Widow Clicquot, the biography of a young woman who built the legendary champagne house, my favorite champagne I might add. '-)
Bella Grace is new to me, but I will pick up a copy.
Thanks once again for the conversation, Leslie. I so enjoy your friendship!

Leslie Harris said...

I love historical fiction too Sarah! Both Sarah's Key and The Book Thief were powerful plots that really affected me--, I've never read The Memory of Violets I'll put that on my list. Did you read Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter, I thought it started off strong but fizzled out at the end. I also like historical fiction with mystery, especially when it involves a plot around old books and historical documents, scenes around old bookstores and a touch of mysticism in there, so I absolutely adored The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafron. Other books with similar texture and feel that I enjoyed were The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield, The Book of Air and Shadows by Michael Gruber, and The Club Dumas by Arturo Perez.  I agree about a good story to be transported and while I don't usually read trilogies but I did fall in love with the entire Game of Thrones series. Thank you so much for sharing some of your books with me Sarah, I know we'd have fun talking in person about this topic.

Leslie Harris said...

Diana I am so glad you told me about your book!  I will definitely read it. I just pulled it up on Amazon and what an interesting plot. That's so exciting when did you finish it? I'm sure your kids and grandkids are so proud of you. I have to chuckle when I read about your bed-side book, car book, purse book..etc.... that's such a great way to fit in your reading time. Stephen King says that if you want to be a good writer you have to keep up your reading. I also saw in your profile that you liked Maeve Binchy books too, I think I've read everyone of her books, she was such a good story teller.

Art and Sand said...

You have me wondering what I'm doing with my time. I used to be reading 3 books at a time and lately I find myself reading only a few minutes a day.

I haven't even read Girl on the Train.

I'm not much of a non-fiction reader - that's Steve's genre, but I was intrigued by an interview on NPR about The Secret Life of Fat and I need to get it.

Vannessa@Luxuria said...

OMG Leslie!!! If only we lived close enough I would bring the wine and we could talk books,

Firstly I thought it was only me that had about 6 books going at once. Like you, I would start a few chapters of each and then progress through them depending on how I felt. Everyone convinced me I was not taking anything in, because it' was impossible too.Other friends convinced me I had ADD (I think I do have a touch ;-) I am SO glad it is not just me and your post has given me the permission to carry on my quirky habit if it works for me.

Secondly, LOVE the neuroplasticity book (but I guess with my background I would ;-) I am so into this at the moment and bought quite a few audiobooks on the subject to really "get it".
I rarely read fiction. When I am not reading anything "nerdy" or business related I love autobiographies. Over Christmas I read the autobiography of Estée Lauder; so inspiring.

Really loved this post Leslie and thank you SO much for your comment on my post The Year Of......... Can't tell you how it brought a lump to my throat. Love ya Leslie xxx

Veronica Roth said...

Interesting collection of books Leslie. I haven't heard of a single one of those and so shall be on the lookout for a couple. I've been reading such a hodge podge of books myself lately, just taking a chance on something which appeals at the second hand book store. Sometimes it's the title, sometimes the author, sometimes just the cover Recent best finds and best reads include: Lighthouse keeping by Jeanette Winterson. Written almost in free verse. Loved it to pieces. Also, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, by Rachel Joyce. And The Perfume Collector, Kathleen Tessaro.

Leslie Harris said...

Veronica it's so great to hear from you, happy belated new year's to you! Let's see. I'm also a big used-book store fan and often find my best books there. A good friend told me about The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and it sounded like such an interesting plot, I'm glad you reminded me. And I've heard of the Lighthouse by Jeanette Winterson... and after hearing your opinion I shall put it on my list of future reads. :)

La Contessa said...

HOWEVER, There is a book beside my bed I have been reading S L O W L Y for about a is SAD and I for the LIFE of ME cannot bring myself to READ DAILY BUT I do want to FINISH IT!

Preppy Empty Nester said...

I Love to read and I especially love to read reviews on books. These that you mentioned look great. I read one book on kindle while I listen to one on audible. Not at the same time. I'm not that clever. Have a great week, Leslie.

Linda @ Itsy Bits And Pieces said...

I always have a lot of books going on at once...makes me wonder what's going on with my brain that I have so many different subjects going on at once...kind of how I watch Netflix lol. I have many genres, depending on my make me want to pick up my kindle and finish one of them.

michele said...

tons of books because i love them like food, and i'm not a nibbler. pile it on. design books and cookbooks which i savor, help me to relax. they are my golf and my candy crush. nonfiction. almost exclusively (i was an unapologetic Twilight mama since my brain was going through a second adolescence when that series launched! ha!). anne lamott is at the top of the list (bird by bird gave me the confidence to write), but also david sedaris (when i first began writing humor and self deprecating, all i wanted to do was sound like david if only a little). poetry by rumi, hafez, mary oliver, rilke. i love marry karr too. and mary pipher. and bev donofrio. mostly i read contemplative christian topics now. cynthia bourgeault, thomas keating, richard rohr, ilia delio, and the rockstar teilhard de chardin. parker palmer is an incredible soul and john ortberg's 'soul keeping' changed me a few years back. since i began practicing centering prayer, peter traben haas and his incredibly unique writing voice has been enriching my days. and if i have to pick one author who i never tire of reading and who has been a teacher and a friend and a spiritual companion...henry nouwen! he is gone now, but oh my, i love that man's heart and longing. thanks for giving us great reading suggestions and starting a wonderful discussion. xox

Privet and Holly said...

Leslie, what a joy to be connected to this beautiful
post for us "Blue-Stockings!"

I have a sign by my desk that reads:

drink tea
read books
be happy

That about sums up my perfect afternoon!
(But a glass of vino could make me equally
happy, along with the books!)

I just finished "The Wednesday Sisters,"
fiction that I enjoyed very much. I'm in
two book clubs and the selections vary
greatly depending on who the "chooser"
is that month.

I usually have some non-fiction simmering
alongside my fiction. The last NF I read was
"Better Than Before," by Gretchen Rubin, about
habits and personality types, and how they
can be channeled to our advantage.

I appreciate all of your recommendations!
"10% Happier" was already on my list, but
now I need to move it up to the top.

Thank you for mentioning my little piece
in Bella Grace! It's a sweet publication.

Here's to our common love of books!

xo Suzanne

Splenderosa said...

I'm always reading something! I read in my bed late into the night, it's so relaxing...unless I'm reading some kind of spy thriller! I tend to finish one book before going on to another, however, I'be been known to toss one out completely, without finishing, if I find it horrible. I've learned that I really don't need to suffer. Great post, great comments.

Elizabeth@ Pine Cones and Acorns said...

I love books, they are like "friends". I sometimes read more than one book at a time and I always have a huge stack next to my bed, on my desk and in my basket in the family room. I love cookbooks, design books, travel books ,health, yoga, romance, biographies, chick lit, almost anything but I do not like "true crime" or scary books. I cannot wait to check out your book suggestions!

I hope that you are having a fabulous week! Did you start your new job yet? Or did I misunderstand your last post?

Take care

Blondie's Journal said...

I just started recently to juggle reading several books at one time and surprisingly it works, just as it does for you. Sometimes you want sweet, some times you want salty.

You have a much more sophisticated list of authors than I do, although some are familiar. I'm working my way back into the reading world with no Internet at the lake. And a lot of promises to myself for 2017!

Off to read your last post.

Jane xxx

Sophie said...

This post is definitely my cup of tea!! Books have transformed my life like nothing else ever had... & life is meaningless (well, almost lol) without books. I'm a voracious reader!!! And one day hope to write my own book as well. Thanks for sharing this heart-warming post. It's humble to know that there are still people out there who can truly appreciate a quality, tangible book. Happy reading & learning!

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