Friday, January 23, 2015

Good sentences, beautiful images

I do love a well-constructed sentence that leads to a beautiful image in my mind. Thus I spoke aloud as I indulged in James Herriot's All Creatures Great and Small for re-read after twenty-some years. 

Back in the 1980s, I read all of the books and have watched all of the television episodes produced by the BBC. I rarely will re-read or re-watch anything, but Herriot's books are different for me. I enjoy all over again a quietude of spirit, no matter what might be wrong with the world and me. 

Who cannot relish just these two quotes, of which, no doubt, I will add more?
Darrowby didn't get much space in the guide books but when it was mentioned it was described as a grey little town on the river Darrow with a cobbled market place and little of interest except its two ancient bridges. But when you looked at it, its setting was beautiful on the pebbly river where the houses clustered thickly and straggled unevenly along the lower slopes of Herne Fell. Everywhere in Darrowby, in the streets, through the windows of the houses you could see the Fell rearing its calm, green bulk more than two thousand feet above the huddled roofs
Many of the bottles were beautifully shaped, with heavy glass stoppers and their Latin names cut deeply into their sides; names familiar to physicians for centuries, gathering fables through the years.
Yes, James Herriot, pen name of James Alfred Wight, not only was a successful Yorkshire country vet for many years, he was able to chronicle details of his world into well-crafted stories that continue to be a joy to read.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Responses to "12 Reasons Why You Should Read at least 12 Books This Year"

If you know me, you know I'm a major advocate for reading. Books have come to mean a lot to me even though I did not grow up a reader. So, I enjoy good articles that advocate for reading and like to push those along to others.

Recently, the article "12 Reasons Why You Should Read at least 12 Books This Year" was circulating on the Internet. It encourages students in school to read beyond classroom requirements. But this article is good for anyone; all of us are busy with our whatevers, though we may not be in school. These reasons apply to everyone.

I've listed those twelve reasons in boldface and added my own two cents worth.  

1. Reading is good for your brain. Who isn't interested in something good for our brains, especially as we age into the fifty and sixth decades? Reading helps me focus and remember the storyline. It offers me new words to look up. And it offers conversation starters with my husband and close friends. 
2. Reading introduces you to new ideas and invites you to solve problems. This is especially true of mystery books, as the author points out. It's also true as you become absorbed with the story and cannot help but try to predict the outcome.
3. Reading makes you a better writer. I don't aspire to even be a writer, but I do marvel at good writers who use their techniques and vocabularies to turn a phrase and more. A recent book I read did this very thing:  Belong to Me (Santos). The metaphors she used were wonderful, and her descriptions were excellent.
4. Reading improves your conversational skills. I struggle with oral conversational skill. Often, my mind is still forming a response long after the conversation has ended. I love talking about books but I think I can write deeper and broader about them sometimes than I can talk about them. 
5. Reading strengthens worldview and convictions. Yes, it does. And when I read about an opposing worldview, I learn small ways in which others think. This is important to me to not just have a conviction, but also try to understand why someone else has a differing one. Many parts of a worldview are absolutes, but that doesn't mean everything is correct. We often are taught some viewpoint is absolute only to find years later that it is not necessarily so. Especially if it's not obviously based on Scripture.
6. Reading improves your self-discipline and consistency.  As I age, I realize my need for self-discipline and focus. I strive to be intentional in my reading.
7. Reading increases your knowledge of history. One reason I like historical fiction is because the story generated by the author using real historical events gives me the scaffolding I need to remember the history. When I taught, I always encouraged students to read good historical fiction. And I still like to read it myself. When I want to learn about new-to-me culture, vastly different from my own, historical fiction is always my introduction.
8. Reading increases cultural knowledge (without an expensive plane flight). Prior to and after any of our travels, I try to read something written by an author of that place. Not only do I expand my knowledge of the culture, I appreciate the similarities and differences more.
9. Reading challenges your imagination. Always and forever! Everyone who reads imagines the visual in his mind. Upon seeing the movies on The Hobbit, I found how vastly different Peter Jackson's imagination was from my own. Same story, different pictures. And usually, I'm fonder of my own images than someone else's.
10. Reading increases your skill in an area of interest. What is your experience with this? Mine has been broad. Just looking at the books on my shelves and remembering the books that I'm moved on to someone else's shelves, I see ones about family and schedules and raising children, basics of homeschooling and all manner of subject areas there, animal husbandry, farming, gardening, teaching, to name some.
11. Reading inspires you. One of the most inspiring books I've ever read was just last year, My Reading Life by Pat Conroy. It actually has changed books on my shelves for me. I've listened to the audio (and Conroy reads it -- double treat) about four times so far. He talks about growing up reading and how that led to significant books in his life. It is truly an inspiring book.
12. Reading reduces stress. I love to get lost in a book and be sorry when I turn the last page.  Reading is relaxing and such a treat to have unbroken amounts of time to indulge.

The author of the article goes on to list several "Tips to get you started." Suggestions include becoming a member of Goodreads where you can keep tract of your books read and want to read; finding a reading buddy, which is the point of many reading challenges around; and actually planning reading to make it a habit. One of the things that Pat Conroy, mentioned above, has done for years is read 250 pages per day. That goal is completely inaccessible ever for me, but it is his goal and he has become a better reader and writer because of it. One of my goals is to read intentionally, that is, choosing ahead of time particular books to read in a given three month period. I like to include biography, young adult, quality literature, history and/or science, and some fluff-fiction. 
Do you have reading goals? Do you organize your reading pursuits? What are your reading goals?

Saturday, January 17, 2015

It's the little things . . .

1.  Surprisingly, my what-I'd-call-small, county library (serving 56,000) has a vaster Overdrive library available for audio and e-books than does the neighboring county library which serves twice our population. Liking this especially since both my husband and I have become audio addicts by day.

2.  This little item replaced a reused prescription bottle in my purse to store ibuprofen and acetaminophen rather than AM or PM meds. It is slim, holds plenty in each side, and will discreetly slide into my pants pocket when I don't want to carry a purse. Plus, when I do have it in my purse, it fits better than the bulky round bottle. Idea from watching Carrie access her meds on Homeland. Ha! 


3.  Inexpensive source of greeting cards found at Michael's in the $1 bins! Nice, colorful with expressive inside greetings. Nice find for the few I need.

 4.  I've spent the better part of the last eighteen months rearranging the stuff in my life. Organizing and decluttering. I am beyond satisfied with being able to let go of things I've used and treasured because of their use but things which have no more real use to me. (How 'bout that -- I used the word "use" three four times in this sentence!)  I continue to look for organizing hints that are actually functional for me. One area, as odd as it might seem, is Facebook. Over the months I've realized that all those good-looking recipes that have been pictured and posted by groups, and which I think will be winners, aren't. They just never make it to the second round in my recipe planner because they are either not tasty or don't suit our tastes. So, to gain some control and organization on that front, I've just stop notifications or unfollowed all of them. And the quarter of a ream of paper I've printed those on is now in the firestarter box. I'm going back to the tried and the true. Why clutter up my menu and spend time and money on maybe-we'll-likes? Controlling Facebook, one like at a time.

5. Still Mine is a wonderful movie (available on Netflix). Based on a true story, this older Canadian couple faces adaptation due to dementia. Inspiring. And one of those about which I had to look up the real story.