My Bad Habit

Friday, February 27, 2015 0 ,

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I used to think that the stack of books on my nightstand, all bookmarked in various places, was a bad habit.

Shouldn’t I be able to finish one book before starting the next? I obviously cannot answer that. But I certainly don’t feel compelled to break my multiple-book-reading habit when I come across something in one book that feels eerily similar to a passage in another book.

Having a pile of books that you are in the middle of is like having coffee with a few good friends, instead of just one. The conversation often benefits. And one person’s ideas inspire a similar thought from someone else–and the ideas keep building.

Books, of course, cannot hear each other speak. So when two quotes from two different books overlap so beautifully, it seems almost magical.

So I won’t break my habit. Not as long as my books are able to maintain a civil conversation.

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Reading lately

To lessen my seemingly unremitting feelings of bibliogret, I made a goal this year to read 15 books. Not that many considering that means just over one book per month, but: life and stuff, you know? But life feels lacking when I am not deeply engrossed in at least one book, so this goal was a top priority for me. I have so much fun scouring goodreads.com (want to be friends?) and adding to my ever-going list that feels less overwhelming when it is visual, and getting excited about a book that may hold some insight into a current life question I am pondering. 

So, I thought I would give a brief synopsis of some of the books I have read this year in case you share my enthusiasm. Now tell me, what book should I add to my list, and why? Convince me. When one has only one life to live, one cannot be too picky.


A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken (five stars)

One of the best books I have read in a long time. The true story of a man who endures the terrible grief of losing his wife too soon, Vanauken leads us through their love story from beginning to end. The end of their love story is not the end, however, as much as it feels like it when you are reading it. And because Vanauken and his wife were good friends with C.S. Lewis, we get to read his wise words through his letters to the author. A beautiful story full of rich insight and comfort to anyone who has ever lost a loved one, or suffered any amount of hardship in life. 

Union Street Bakery by Mary Ellen Taylor (two stars)
I picked up this book randomly in a book store and when I read the back cover and realized it took place a mile from our home, I purchased it. She is a first time author, too, which always intrigues me. Unfortunately though, I could not finish it. I gave it the old college try, I did. I found the dialogue to be rough and unnatural. The story was somewhat interesting, but the beginning was too slow to keep my interest. I wasn’t even curious to know what happened, and it was supposed to be somewhat of a mystery. I wanted to like this book–simply finish it–but I just couldn’t. Life is too short.
 
 
Tess of the D’ubervilles by Tom Hardy (three stars)
I wanted to read this book because it is a classic, and because I enjoy Victorian novels. I did not realize though, that it is a tragedy. I won’t give anything away, but a lot of bad things happen to Tess, and Tom Hardy has some strong views about women during this time period that were very modern for his time. For example: women who are taken advantage of sexually should not be scorned by society. It is hard for me to imagine living in a world where women are commonly treated as lesser beings for crimes committed against them. 

This book was scandalous during its time because Hardy dares to even reference the harsh realities of poor women in the 20th century. The shocking part to me was that I didn’t see anything scandalous about it, as a 21st century woman. I didn’t agree with Hardy’s entire commentary (in particular his skewed view of Christianity–although he got some things right), and I am not even sure why I liked this book so much as it is very sad and depressing most of the time. I think what I enjoyed about it was the historical context, and reading it through the eyes of someone living over one hundred years ago. In that sense, it was very enlightening.

Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss (four stars)
I had already read this book twice, but reading it for the third time was like reading it for the first, in a lot of ways. This is a beautiful book with a cheesy title. It is the fictional diary of a flawed young woman recording her Christian walk from the time she is sixteen. Reading how she changes, and how she doesn’t change, is so encouraging, and so relatable. Her struggles are so familiar and her realistic, frequently humorous attitude toward life is so refreshing. This is one I plan to keep reading every few years.

Handel’s Messiah: Comfort for God’s People by Calvin R. Stapert (four stars)
If I told you I am listening to Handel’s Messiah as I write this post, would that tell you how much love I have for this piece of music? “A phenomenon with no parallel in music history”, I wanted a book that would give me an even better appreciation for Handel and The Messiah, and this book was exactly what I was hoping it would be. The first half of the book gives the history of Handel and his coming to write The Messiah, as well as the impact it had/has on the world, while the second half goes through each scene, giving musical and theological commentary. I came away with an even greater amount of gratitude that The Messiah exists today, for our comfort and edification. I understand this is kind of a niche book, but if you have any interest in Handel, the history of music, or just history or music in general, I highly recommend this book.

The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery (three stars)
There are a few books penned by L.M. Montgomery left in the world that I have not read, and this was one of them for a long time. The story of Valency, a twenty-nine-year-old who has lived a life of caution all her life, but is suddenly liberated by life-altering news and proceeds to live her life exactly as she likes–is funny and delightful. Blue Castle has all the charm one expects from Lucy Maud, but this book does not come close to Anne of Green Gables or Emily of New Moon. Still a lovely book and beloved by many of her fans, this is not one I foresee reading again and again.

Blog, INC.: Blogging for passion, profit, and to create community by Joy Deangdeelert Cho (four stars)
If you have any interest in blogging at all, this book covers everything from the basics to the complex. From advice on starting a blog, to figuring out the tax part when your blog starts making money, this book is packed full of helpful advice and inspiration. The perfect handbook for anyone trying to master the sometimes very specific and art of blogging.

Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis (three stars)
As a huge Lewis fan, I have been reading his books for years, but had not read the closest thing he wrote to an autobiography until this year. While I enjoyed his telling of his conversion story, and his thought-process along the way, I was hoping for a little bit more. I had read a biography on him before this, and was hoping Lewis’s own story would answer a few of my questions. But it left me wanting. Perhaps it was my own fault for thinking of it as an autobiography when he gives no pretense that it is any such thing. This book just felt like something he wanted to write to have on the record, and lacked a little bit of his usual passion and wit.

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (five stars)
From the author of Sea Biscuit, this is one of those books that if I could strap down everyone I know, prop their eyes open and make them read it, I would. Okay, not everyone I know. But, if you like history, biographies, WWII, the Olympics, track, running, Italians, or just plain downright absolutely moving true stories, I recommend you drop what you are doing and read this book. Without giving anything away, this is the story of an Olympic runner, Louis Zamporini, who joins the military during WWII, and survives the most unthinkable odds. I am not going to tell you this is a nice easy read, because it is not. It is super stressful at times. But Louis is an amazingly inspiring person and his story is just…stranger than fiction. To say the very least. He is still alive today, too. Read it. You won’t be disappointed.

There are a few books left that I am dying to talk about, but they are stand outs in their own way, and I plan on dedicating entire posts to them. Stay tuned, my book-loving friends!

Fifteen things we learned from Anne

 
If I had to pick one author of fiction who most impacted my childhood, it would be L.M. Montgomery. 
 
I read constantly as a child, but there was no author who delighted me more than the woman who wrote my favorite fictional character into existence. I really don’t remember a time during my childhood when I was not reading a book by Montgomery.
The Anne of Green Gables series is made up of eight books. And then there is my second favorite series, Emily of New Moon, as well as a host of other books starring strong female leads who see life as an adventure, love beauty, and love to learn.
 
The books you read in childhood can have a profound impact on your life. For me, Anne helped me shape a very distinct view of the world. Even now, I feel like something in my life is slightly off if I have gone too long without re-reading an L.M. Montgomery book.
Her talent for capturing human nature and showing beauty in the commonplace, adds a distinct flavor to life that I cannot fully explain in words. I feel indebted to L.M. in many ways, and I know I am not alone in my sentiments.
 
As a little tribute, I want to review a few of the things Anne has taught us. I present to you fifteen things we learned from Anne:
 
 
1) Making mistakes is a part of life; but if you make up your mind to learn from them, they can’t hold you back. 
 
“It’s so hard to get up again—although of course the harder it is the more satisfaction you have when you do get up, haven’t you?” 
 
2) People won’t always understand you, but that doesn’t mean you should conform to the ideals of unimaginative people.
 
3) Kindred spirits can be found in very unexpected places, so give everyone a chance.
 
4) Imagination makes the world a better place, but unfortunately it is of no help at all when it comes to geometry. 
 
5) Don’t let an ordinary name define you, but make your name stand for something beautiful in the minds of others: 
 
“That’s a lovely idea, Diana,’ said Anne enthusiastically. ‘Living so that you beautify your name, even if it wasn’t beautiful to begin with…making it stand in people’s thoughts for something so lovely and pleasant that they never think of it by itself.”
 
6) When it comes to boys, set your standards high and don’t bother with those who don’t meet that standard. 
 
Young men are all very well in their place, but it doesn’t do to drag them into everything, does it?”
 
7) Octobers make the world a more beautiful place.
 
 
8) Wearing pretty clothes makes it easier to be good, specifically, wearing puffed sleeves.
 
9) No matter how dreary today looks, no matter how flawed we may feel, there is always hope in a new day. Tomorrow is always fresh with no mistakes in it.
 
10) Having ambitions and big goals can be tiring, but they are worth the sacrifice. One should never stop working diligently toward something.
 
11) Literature not only opens different worlds to us, it helps us to see the world differently.
 
12) One should be in no hurry to grow up whatsoever. 
 
“One can’t get over the habit of being a little girl all at once.” 
 
13) Don’t keep beautiful thoughts to yourself: 
 
“If a kiss could be seen I think it would look like a violet,’ said Priscilla. Anne glowed. ‘I’m so glad you spoke that thought, Priscilla, instead of just thinking it and keeping it to yourself. This world would be a much more interesting place…although it is very interesting, anyhow…if people spoke out their real thoughts.” 
 
14) It is better to live vulnerably, than to live in fear that your hopes may be dashed: 
 
“When I think something nice is going to happen I seem to fly right up on the wings of anticipation; and then the first thing I realize I drop down to earth with a thud. But really, Marilla, the flying part is glorious as long as it lasts…it’s like soaring through a sunset. I think it almost pays for the thud.” 
 
15) And finally, the lesson that possibly took Anne the longest to learn: true love doesn’t look like it does in day dreams. 
 
Perhaps, after all, romance did not come into one’s life with pomp and blare, like a gay knight riding down; perhaps it crept to one’s side like an old friend through quiet ways; perhaps it revealed itself in seeming prose, until some sudden shaft of illumination flung athwart its pages betrayed the rhythm and the music, perhaps…perhaps…love unfolded naturally out of a beautiful friendship, as a golden-hearted rose slipping from its green sheath.” 
 

 

Oh, Anne. We love you. Now excuse me while I go re-read the entire series. Feel free to just…talk about Anne in the comment section.

a woman with a sense of humor

 

 
“You’ll make me vain,” I said. 
 
“Not with your sense of humour,” said Dean. “A woman with a sense of humour is never vain. The most malevolent bad fairy in the world couldn’t bestow two such drawbacks on the same christened babe.”
 
“Do you call a sense of humor a drawback?” I asked.
 
“To be sure it is. A woman who has a sense of humour possesses no refuge from the merciless truth about herself. She cannot think herself misunderstood. She cannot revel in the self-pity. She cannot comfortably damn any one who differs from her. No, Emily, the woman with a sense of humour isn’t to be envied.”-Emily Climbs by L.M. Montgomery