Wednesday, August 20, 2014

What I've Been Reading: Some Nice British Ladies and a rugged Wyoming Sheriff


I've been enjoying more good books in the last two weeks!

First, I read a book that was assigned for a Retreat I attended: Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation by Parker Palmer.  I love the way Palmer writes, and his whole message of living an authentic life resonated as well.  This is a short and highly accessible book of wisdom on that age old questions: how to live a life worth living?

Then I finally got a copy of one of the first Longmire Mystery: The Cold Dish.  I have really enjoyed watching Longmire on Netflix, so I wanted to read one of the books for my reading challenge category of "My Favorite Detectives".  But my local library system does not carry any of the Longmire books - a strange hole in their collection.  So I had to bite the bullet and buy the book.  But then it sat there and sat there, because I frequently have a book that is almost overdue from the library and then that gets the priority for my reading time ... and a book that I own can be read "anytime" so it falls to the bottom of the priority list.  Once again, I had to just choose to set other things aside and give this book my time, and I was so glad I did!  Although it is slow paced, and the ending did feel a bit anticlimactic, the charming character of Walt Longmire is just as human and lovable in the written version and the Wyoming setting is also a real character in the story, telling it's own tale as the action unfolds.

And then I fell in love with some very nice British ladies in Cranford.  I had never heard of this book, or its author Elizabeth Gaskell, but I found a reference to it in 1001 Books to Read Before You Die.  To be honest, I'm feeling the pressure at this point with my 14 x 14 in 2014 Reading Challenge, so I was perusing the 1001 Books looking for women authors so that a book could count as a "double dipper" between my "Books to Read Before You Die" and "Women's Studies" categories, and then I realized that this book could be a Triple Dipper.  It also served as my book for "E" in my "Around the World in Alphabetical Order" category.  The value of the book was not just in its versatility for my challenge, however - it's a genuinely charming and lovely book.  The genteel society of Cranford are almost all ladies - the book states at the beginning that men are all absent or dead - and the ladies like it that way.  They live quiet lives of poverty, glossed over by nice manners and a genteel refusal to acknowledge their own monetary state, liberally sprinkled with eccentricity, foolishness, and social niceties taken to their ridiculous conclusion.  Gaskell paints the characters with a mix of tongue-in-cheek sarcasm and deep love, which makes for a charming blend.  There is evidently a miniseries that I will have to watch now.

The "D" book for the "Around the World in Alphabetical Order" was also read this week: Number the Stars by Lois Lowry.  I'm basing that category on the Nancy Pearl book: Book Lust To Go, but for "D" she only lists books about Detroit.  I wasn't all that interested, so it was lucky that my mother came to my rescue and suggested Number the Stars for "Denmark". I hadn't ever read it before, and what a sweet and hopeful story it is!  Lowry looked for a story of the good and the bravery that humans are capable of, and tells a positive story of the Nazi Holocaust, with a happy ending!  Very nice.  I've had a run of holocaust books, lately, and this one struck nice harmonies with The Book Thief.  

I also listened to two more books of the Ranger's Apprentice series with my kids in the car.  Audiobooks in the car are still a wonderful thing for us, even though the kids are starting to want to listen to the pop music station more as they get older.  There's only so much pop music you can listen to on a long drive - but a good story will keep your attention and help cover those miles.

And that's what I've been reading!  My 14 x 14 in 2014 Reading Challenge can be viewed here.

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