Still Gray But More Blooms

Hi friends. Well, the good news is that my library system closed on Friday, which was absolutely the right thing to do for the safety of staff and patrons. So I am home for now, other than walks in the neighborhood and occasionally grocery shopping. What a relief. I hated looking at my lovely library patrons and trying to assess if they were unknowing vectors of disease, you know? Not a good feeling for someone who prides herself on excellent customer service!

Still not able to read for long stretches at a time but I am still reading. On page 77 of Milkman by Anna Burns. (For Reading Ireland Month, Cathy!) What a quirky, interesting book, I’m not sure how I feel about it really but I think I like it. It’s rather unlike my usual reading fare and I think I like it for that reason. Very long paragraphs and few chapter breaks. I’m intrigued and saddened by all the ways in which their society is hemmed in by layers of rules… what to say, what to do, how to relate to other people. Also I’m thoroughly creeped out by the milkman.

My other book is a reread: Sylvia Boorstein’s It’s Easier Than You Think: The Buddhist Way to Happiness. This will be one of my four rereads towards my reading goal. It’s a book that gives comfort, in which Boorstein illuminates Buddhist teachings through personal anecdotes. Her tone is remarkably warm and gentle. For instance, this passage on fearfulness:

Fearfulness is a mind habit. Some people have it more than others. It is always extra. Being trapped by fear is a form of delusion. Either I can do something or I can’t. If I truly can’t – I am mechanically inept, so piloting a plane would be unwise – I don’t do it. If I truly can, and it would be a wholesome thingy do, I push myself. I figured out one day that fear is a series of neuronal discharges in the brain, and I resented feeling I was being held captive by cerebral squiggles.

Grandmothers often have the role of spiritual teacher. My grandmother was my first teacher, and I hope I am carrying on in her tradition. The lesson I learned best from her was fortitude in the face of disagreeable situations. “Where is it written,” she would ask, “that you are supposed to be happy all the time?”

She then talks about her own grandson, Collin, and how he once didn’t want to climb a very long set of stairs to visit a friend of hers living in a convent. He was very reluctant to climb the stairs. He said, “I really don’t like these steps, Grandma.” She replied, “You don’t have to like them, Collin. You just have to go up them. Hold my hand and we’ll do it together.”

If someone holds our hand, “frightened ” changes to “interested,” and “interested ” is one of the Factors of Enlightenment.”

Anyway, I was thinking that we don’t have to like what’s going on in the world right now, but if we can hold one another’s hand, and go through it together, then we will get through it. How wonderful that we have each other across the miles, brought together by our love of books!

I’ll end with some more pictures of my neighborhood. A pink clover patch in my front yard (I didn’t plant it, they just came up a few years ago,) yellow forsythia starting to bloom, the new boardwalk around the neighborhood duck pond, and finally, a dogwood tree about to blossom. Stay well, friends!

This Is the Strangest Feeling Spring Break Ever

Hi friends! I’ve decided to write something and reach out to my blog friends even if the bookish content is lower than usual. I am home today because this week is my son’s Spring Break; we had planned a staycation because we had planned a trip for later in the year. But things are changing so quickly I have no idea if this staycation will turn into a very long one for us or not. I just got a text saying that my son’s school is closed through March 31. I have no idea if our other trip will go on as scheduled or not, as it was planned for the end of the school year. As of today my library system is still open but we have closed all programs and public meetings for the next eight weeks. I am hopeful we will close to the public altogether, as many library systems across the US are doing. The situation is very fluid, as I imagine it is where you are.

What a time, huh? I hardly know how to process it. An introvert at heart, I have no problem practicing the advocated social distancing. I mean I might feel differently weeks from now, but for now I enjoy being home and puttering and doing Yoga With Adriene videos and taking a walk around the neighborhood. Other than work and groceries, we are not going out.

Are you able to read? I confess that my reading concentration is poor. But I’m still reading, slowly. And that’s okay. We don’t need to turn this weird time into “let’s be as productive as we can” time like we do with the rest of our lives. I am almost finished with my Classics Club book for March, Crossing to Safety, by Wallace Stegner. It’s a good read for right now because it’s very soothing. Lots of nature, interpersonal relationships, beautiful writing. If I get a chapter or two read a day I consider that a win! Maybe if I could make myself turn off Twitter or The New York Times app, I’d be able to focus more on reading. I should set a time limit and stick to a “checking news” schedule. Yep, starting that now.

I mentioned daffodils and gardening in my last post. I took a picture of my daffodils the other day but they’re already starting to wither. They still look pretty though, so I’m sharing a picture. And another one of some beautiful trees in my neighborhood in bloom. We put some new dirt and turned over old dirt in my garden bed yesterday. I want to putter in my yard as much as I can the next few weeks. I’m so grateful we have a yard, a safe neighborhood in which to walk, and a park minutes away. So many people don’t enjoy those blessings.

Oh, have you started following Yo-Yo Ma on Instagram yet? I saw his post from Adriene (of Yoga With Adriene fame.) He’s highlighting what he calls Songs of Comfort in his stories and people from all over the world are playing their instruments beautifully. It’s refreshing for the spirit and lovely to see so many people joining in. And now I’ve discovered how much I like listening to Yo-Yo Ma!

Also, another soothing form of entertainment in the recent days is the British reality show The Repair Shop on Netflix. It’s half an hour long, and it’s relaxing and adorable. People bring in great-grandma Doris’s broken clock or vase or whatever and these funny, charming British people restore it. That’s it. It’s about as low-stakes as you can get and it’s completely delightful. I highly recommend it for soothing frayed nerves. Also, the Masterclass episodes of Great British Baking Show with Paul and Mary teaching how they make stuff also hits the soothing tv spot.

What have you been reading/watching/listening to for comfort the past few days? I gladly take all suggestions!

I’ll try to blog hop today and catch up. I hope you are all safe and able to stay home as much as you can. Sending love from Tennessee!

 

 

 

 

Friday Afternoon Bookish Ramblings

It’s a beautiful sunny but cold day here at a Big Reading Life Manor, and it’s been a while since I’ve posted. I just haven’t had time or energy to write about books or anything else. There is sleep to prioritize (self-care 2020!) and also I’ve been finishing watching The Good Place and Netflix’s Next in Fashion. But today I have a bit of time and wanted to catch up on things. So, hello! I hope your week has been a good one. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty much sick of winter. I’m sick of gray and I’m sick of rain. I’m trying to remind myself that everything changes, and so will the seasons, in time.

Anyway, I’ve read some good books lately, for which I am grateful. One five-star read (The Singer’s Gun by Emily St. John Mandel, which had been on my TBR List since 2015) and three four-star reads: Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot, Body Positive Power by Megan Jayne Crabbe, and Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson. Two of the latter were ones I owned, so whoopee for reading my own books! Lately I’ve been really trying to look at my own shelves and also the beginning of my TBR list and trying to choose reads from those. It’s a constant struggle to balance those considerations with the newest, shiniest books that I have on hold at the library. You can relate, I am sure.

51anPJ5-ihL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_What am I currently reading? Lindy West’s new essay collection The Witches Are Coming, which is AWESOME and so smart and funny. I’ve only read the first four essays but so far she’s killing it. I just finished Mavis Gallant’s short story collection In Transit, which I’d been reading since December. It was good – she’s masterful at capturing humans trying and failing to relate to one another. But for me overall it was a bit depressing and I’m relieved to be finished. I am not sure what work of fiction I’ll pick up next. I think I need something light to boost my mood! I may try Helen Hoang’s romance The Kiss Quotient, which I just checked out from my library.

Next month I plan to participate in Cathy’s Reading Ireland Month, so I need to pick at91Vq1lzeOaL least one Irish book – this event always sneaks up one me. I also will be reading Wallace Stegner’s Crossing to Safety with Smithereens as a buddy read – another selection from my Classics Club list. Please read along with us in March if you’d like!

So that’s it from me for now. I’ll leave you with some body positive affirmations from Megan Jayne Crabbe’s book (if you’re on Instagram, you should consider following her @bodyposipanda. She’s delightful.)

I’m grateful for everything that my body allows me to do in the world, and all the ways it takes care of me.
I am hotter than the inside of a poptart in this outfit!
There’s no such thing as a problem area, my body is not a problem to be fixed!
My softness is beautiful.
My cellulite clusters are constellations mapped across my thighs and I am magical.
I deserve the space I take up in the world.
I am good enough.
My body is not the enemy.

Also – how do we like this new “block editor” thing WordPress has given us? I don’t like it at all and when I tried to switch back to the classic editor it’s made my spacing weird in this post. Hmmmph. Oh well. I hope you have a very good weekend, friends – may you have lots of time for reading!

 

Sunshine Blogger Award Tag

img_0334Back in January Shell at Books By The Cup nominated me (and others) for the Sunshine Blogger Award, and now I finally have a chance to answer her excellent questions. The award is given from one blogger “to those who are creative, positive, and inspiring, while spreading sunshine to the blogging community.” Thanks for thinking of me, Shell!

What’s the best book you’ve read in the last 6 months and why?

The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton, because he blew me away with his strength, forgiveness, and positivity in the face of unimaginable oppression.

What’s the worst book you’ve read and why?

I suppose this is in the last 6 months, not all time (which would be Billy Budd by Herman Melville because it pissed me off so badly when I had to read it in the 10th grade.) Hmmm… this is hard to answer because I don’t finish books I don’t really like. I did not care for Cork Dork by Bianca Bosker. That was my most recent DNF. It wasn’t the book for me, but I can see how some people would love it. It was just way too much information for me and I realized I didn’t actually care about wine to that level of detail.

What book have you read recently that’s outside your comfort zone?

51flpz8fm5lProbably A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole. It’s a straight-up contemporary romance with steamy sexy parts in it. I haven’t read very many of those at all. But I really enjoyed it and found it to be smart and feminist with a page-turning plot.

What has blogging taught you about yourself and others?

It continually teaches me to stop comparing myself to others! (A very valuable life lesson for me.) It’s taught me to follow my OWN path and believe in who I am right now, just as I am. It has also taught me that book people are the smartest, most encouraging and compassionate people on the internet!

What format do you read the most in?

Paper books. I do not prefer to read on screens because I am in front of a computer at work all day, and I concentrate better reading than listening.

Why is reading an important part of your life?

Why is breathing an important part of my life? 😉 Reading provides me so much: knowledge, vicarious experience, empathy, escape, joy, fun, satisfaction, excitement… it truly is the thing I geek out the most about and the pursuit I can’t imagine my life without.

How many unread books do you have?

Ha! Well, I just did a recount for the #unreadshelfproject2019, and I have 63 unread books in paper or e-book form at my house.

What book would you reread every year (if you like to reread?)

Anything by Jane Austen or Barbara Pym.

What is the most memorable bookstore or library you’ve been to?

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Toronto Public Reference Library

The Toronto Public Reference Library is so unique and HUGE!

What’s your favorite genre?

Mysteries and thrillers. I like mysteries on the more realistic side but not totally gruesome or disgusting.

What advice would you give a new blogger to improve conversation and engagement?

Find the blogs you enjoy reading the most and comment consistently on those. Don’t try to follow or comment on a million blogs. If a blogger doesn’t comment back regularly on your blog, then maybe you don’t need to expend a lot of energy on theirs in return. You will find your core group of bloggers over time, and they will bring you so much joy and good energy – and introduce you to so many interesting books!

I enjoyed answering these questions! I’m not going to tag anyone but here’s a question you can answer in the comments if you like:

What’s the book that’s been sitting on your bookshelf unread for the longest time and why haven’t you read it yet?

 

 

 

 

 

It’s My Blogiversary!

Four years ago tonight I decided to start Big Reading Life. I didn’t know what I wanted to do here other than write about books and hopefully connect with other passionate readers. I didn’t know if anyone would ever read my blog, let alone comment. It’s been a wonderful experience these past four years! I can’t express how much joy you all have given me simply by reading my posts and reaching out to me. It’s so fun to know I have blog friends all over the globe.

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Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

At times this year I’ve wondered if I had anything left worth saying here. But I think I’ve turned the corner on that and have found my spark again! I’m excited about my reading plans and goals for the new year and can’t wait to go on bookish adventures with you all.

To everyone who has read anything I’ve written here, and especially to those that comment, thank you. Let’s keep having fun and reading good books in 2019! Happy New Year!

A Small Break

Hello, bookish friends. I wanted to post this to let you know that I’ll be taking a small break from the old blog for a little while. (Seems I already got a head start on that break  – ha ha!) Things in my personal life are rather topsy-turvy at the moment, unfortunately. I just don’t have the energy to commit to reading deeply, thinking deeply, and writing about books. That’s not to say I won’t be reading. I’m still reading. (I finally finished Jane Eyre yesterday – hurray! And I’m just starting the new Cormoran Strike novel today – Robert Galbraith/J.K. Rowling if you don’t read those.) But my mental energy for blogging is low and I need all the mental energy I can get to take care of myself and my son in the next little bit.

So I wish you all well as autumn has finally arrived, and hopefully I will be back some time in October to write up my R.I.P Challenge posts and continue on with my Classics Club and Library Checkout posts as well. I may pop in to comment on your blogs here and there as I am able. Happy Reading, friends.

Book Blogger Tag

I was tagged WAY back in May by the lovely Erin @ Feel, Learn, Wonder and I’m just now getting around to writing this tag post! But I thought it would be a nice diversion from my 20 Books of Summer and Classics Club reviews that I haven’t yet written. If you haven’t checked out Erin’s blog, please do give it a look!

img_2523Where do you write your blog posts?

At my desk in my living room. It’s an old hand-me-down desk from my father-in-law, not an antique, just old, with peeling paint and stickers that my son has put on it over the years. We have talked about buying a “grown-up desk” but it’s not a high priority so we haven’t yet done so. We DID just buy a new office chair, though, and it’s so comfy!

 

How long does it take you to write a book review?

Ha ha! Well, once I actually SIT DOWN to do it, probably about an hour. It’s the sitting my behind down in the chair that’s the issue.

When did you start your book blog?

December 31, 2014. I can’t believe I’m coming up on four years already. My first blog post didn’t even mention that I was starting this blog – it was just a list of my reading resolutions for the coming year. I guess I really didn’t even know what I was planning to do with this or for whom I was writing. (Do I know these things now? Ha ha!)

What’s the worst thing about having a book blog?

Is there a “worst” thing? I suppose it would be the same affliction I have on all social media platforms, which is comparing myself to others. Others write such in-depth reviews! They post so much more frequently! Their blogs look nicer than mine! Blah Blah Blah. I’ve always compared myself to others, even before the days of computers, so it’s just one of my bad habits. I’m trying to quit.

What is the best thing about having a book blog?

Without a doubt, it’s YOU GUYS. I am so happy to have “met” so many interesting, smart, curious, and supportive people from all over the world through blogging. You all save my faith in humanity sometimes! And you all have such good taste in books too!  🙂

What post have you had the most fun writing so far?

I don’t know – they’re all fun once I get going! But I’m gonna share a post from way back in 2015 about a picture book that I love and think you all should know about. Most of you weren’t regular readers of mine back then so here you go:  https://bigreadinglife.wordpress.com/2015/11/19/sidewalk-flowers-by-jonarno-lawson/

What is your favorite type of blog post to write?

Lately I love the Five Sentence Reviews I’ve started doing, and also the Library Checkout meme that Bookish Beck introduced me to.

When do you typically write?

At night when my son has gone to bed and my husband is still at work, around 9:00 pm.  Sometimes if it’s super slow at work on a Saturday I’ll start a rough draft of a post.

How do you write your book reviews? With a cup of tea or coffee? With Netflix? Cuddle up with your fur-baby?

Well, I usually put on a Pandora radio station – I write best with music. Lately it’s the Sylvan Esso station, sort of dreamy electronic/pop/dance music. Sometimes I drink a glass of wine. Sometimes I eat Twizzlers. Sometimes I just write.

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Sylvan Esso

When do you write book reviews – right after finishing the book? Two weeks after finishing the book?

Um… lately it’s been OVER two weeks after finishing. When I’m on the ball it’s usually a few days after finishing.

How often do you post?

My goal is 2 posts a week. 🙂

I don’t want to tag anyone else but if you feel moved to put this one up on your own blog, please do. How do you write your blog posts? With snacks? On a laptop in bed? With the TV on? Do you also like Sylvan Esso? Tell me in the comments.