Monday, 29 August 2016


  T.B.R. (To Be Read) Everyone has a pile but I have a bin.  
 I had great plans for summer reading.  Since there is only one book club that goes through the summer, I thought that I would dig into my 'bin', containing all the books that I have bought over the years but never found time to read.
  I love to buy books when I travel, but when I get home, I have to get down to the business of preparing for book clubs.  So the books collect in the 'bin'.  This summer, I was able to sort through the bin, get rid of some books and read others.
  All of the books on my shelf have been read and are favourites that I want to keep and perhaps re-read.
the book bin for unread books

   Speaking of re-reading, that was another plan that I considered for the summer.  Why keep trying new books that you may or may not enjoy?  Why not spend the whole summer re-reading favourites?  Sounded like a good plan but I didn't have the discipline to do that.      

   I just kept arranging books in piles that I was sure that I needed to re-read.  I didn't get to any of them, but John did.  And I enjoyed looking at them and remembering the joy that they gave me once, and I am sure I will dive into them again.      Until then, they go back on my shelf!

Friday, 26 August 2016


   In 2003, I spent some time in San Francisco with a friend.  I loved the cable cars and spent a lot of time riding up and down the hills of the city.
   The view of Alcatraz is quite spectacular and we decided to make a tour of the prison.
my photo of Alcatraz

   As we were getting on the ferry to go to the island, there was a man selling a book.  Darwin Coon had been a prisoner in Alcatraz and he was talking to the tourists and selling his book.  

touring the prison
   The tour of the prison was fascinating.  Each person was given a headset and wandered alone, listening to commentary.  It was an interesting way to get the information and really set a grave atmosphere.

   I finally got around to reading this book about Alcatraz.  Sometimes there was more detail than I needed but other parts were interesting.  As well as the Bird Man of Alcatraz, other prisoners made pets of lizards or mice.  It was extremely difficult to remain sane and 'safe' in Alcatraz.  Many prisoners tried to escape and Darwin was involved in a few escapades.
  Darwin Coon had been in trouble since childhood, when his mother deserted him.  He developed a lifestyle of crime (mostly robbing banks) and prison, with breakouts involving brief periods of wild living, then back in prison.  He was in five institutions, ending with four years in Alcatraz.  But his story is much more interesting than just the years in Alcatraz.
   I discovered that, at age 30,  he turned his life around with the help of God, the church, the minister and a good woman. He found a job in property management.  Surprisingly, he and his wife were able to foster children- 94 actually!  He became a Bible teacher in a prison.    He never forgot his years in the prison system and especially in Alcatraz.  After his wife died, he spent a lot of time around Alcatraz, selling his book and talking to visitors there.  He was well-loved by the residents and tourists alike.  He died in 2011 at the age of 78.

Monday, 22 August 2016

"Night" by Elie Weisel

   Elie Weisel (1928-2016) was  a survivor from the holocaust, who wrote 57 books during his life.  He wrote in order to come to terms with his horrendous life experiences. He also was working to promote peace.  He was a professor at Boston University and won the Nobel Prize in 1986.
  This book is his best known and most powerful.

   As with many memoirs, there is concern about the truth of the novel.   However, the book has been through many translations and there may be some errors in translation.  That makes no difference to me.   I read memoirs for the emotions more than the small details.  And it appears that his experience was similar to many other Jews in that time period.  And we need to learn from those experiences.
  I bought this book ten years ago when Oprah chose it for her book club. It has been sitting in a bin of books  that I hope to read some day.....
  Here is a picture of Elie with U.S. President Obama.
   And this book is on the list of the best 75 book of the last 75 years.

Friday, 19 August 2016

The 75 best books of the past 75 years

Ann Patchett, with the help of her bookstore staff, chose these books as
The best 75 books of the past 75 years
 (in the English language)
If you enjoy 'lists', you will love this.
How many have you read? Do you agree with the list?  Actually, no two people ever agree on 'the best books'. But it's fun to mull over.  I love to 'mull'.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
The Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell
All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren
The End of the Affair by Graham Greene
Foundation by Isaac Asimov
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler
A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories by Flannery O’Connor
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
The Civil War, Volumes 1–3, by Shelby Foote
The Once and Future King by T.H. White
Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger
Night by Elie Wiesel
The Rabbit Angstrom novels by John Updike
Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Moviegoer by Walker Percy
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas S. Kuhn
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
The Guns of August by Barbara W. Tuchman
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
The Double Helix by James D. Watson
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown
Burr by Gore Vidal
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
Suttree by Cormac McCarthy
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty by Eudora Welty
Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
Maus by Art Spiegelman
A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn
So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell
A Perfect Spy by John le Carré
The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
All Over but the Shoutin’ by Rick Bragg
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields
The Collected Stories by Grace Paley
Last Train to Memphis by Peter Guralnick
The Color of Water by James McBride
The Harry Potter novels by J.K. Rowling
American Pastoral by Philip Roth
Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
On Writing by Stephen King
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
Old Filth by Jane Gardam
Collected Poems by Jane Kenyon
Consider the Lobster by David Foster Wallace
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live by Joan Didion
What Is the What by Dave Eggers
Brother, I’m Dying by Edwidge Danticat
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
New Selected Stories by Alice Munro
Collected Poems by Jack Gilbert
The Patrick Melrose Novels by Edward St. Aubyn
My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Sunday, 14 August 2016

"The Sound of Gravel" by Ruth Wariner

   This memoir is 'hot-off-the-press'!
   I love memoirs but I must move on to another genre, because they are so often heart-breaking.  You begin to wonder if anyone is living a 'normal' life.
   But I understand why it is important for these authors to tell their story.  This author, Ruth Wariner, started writing her story in bits and pieces several years ago but was finally able to put the book together with the help of her husband who spent hours walking with her while she struggled through her childhood memories.  And it was a very painful childhood!

  Ruth's father was the founding prophet of a colony of Mormons in Mexico.  He was murdered by his brother for control of the church.  Ruth was the 39th of 42 children.
  Her mother remarried another man from the colony and he caused havoc in their lives.  They lived in poverty and had to constantly go across the border into the U.S. where they could get food stamps and other government assistance.  The mother had nine children, Ruth was the fourth oldest but was the one who mostly raised the children, three of whom had disabilities.
  The father was a 'do-it-yourselfer' who never finished anything.  There were live wires around the property and one day Ruth's young brother was electrocuted with a friend.  When the mother came to help, she was also electrocuted.  By then, an older brother was living in the U.S. and Ruth went to the store to use the phone and told him to come for them immediately.  He drove through the night and Ruth ended up, at 15, raising the younger children in the U.S.
  Miracle of miracles, she also got her education.  She had seldom been able to go to school as a child.  But she eventually put herself through college and graduate school and is now teaching high school in Portland, Oregon.
  The T.V. show "Sister Wives" shows a good side of polygamy.  And I don't see polygamy as the main problem here.  The father was the problem- a molester among other terrible traits.  The mother was so desperate for attention that she accepted whatever came her way. 
  The stirling character of Ruth shines out from the beginning and she is such an inspiration.  I would read anything that she writes in the future.
Three years ago, I read this historical fiction novel: "The 19th Wife", based on the life of Brigham Young (1847-1877), who was the second president of the L.D.S. church and had 55 wives throughout his life.  I really enjoyed this fiction novel, although, ironically, it also includes a murder.

It is my understanding that polygamy has been banned by the Mormons and is presently only practiced by renegade groups.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Personal Writing- one more!

   My last blog was about Dan Gibson, our friend and ex-pastor.  This is his wife Susan in the middle with my friend Carol and myself.  While Dan was our minister, Susan, Carol and I had 
a wonderful book club three-some.
We read many books with a spiritual theme- either fiction or non-fiction.  It was a very special discussion because it was filled with honest thoughts and emotions.

Susan has also published this book of devotions, and I will always have her words and thoughts. The cover shows her special connection with nature. 
Words can last forever!

Monday, 8 August 2016

Personal Writing (continued)

   My last blog was about keeping the words of those we love, even though we are missing the connection that we once had.  
   I sometimes see John smiling while he is reading "The Dancing Cottage" by our friend and ex-pastor, Dan Gibson.  Dan and his wife Susan have moved to the east coast and Dan has had some medical challenges.  However, the distance has not changed the connection that we have experienced.  And John still loves to read Dan's words.
   Every Sunday while Dan was our minister, we looked forward to the sermon and always found it inspiring and thought-provoking.  I love to mull over ideas and there were plenty of opportunities for that.
  In addition to the pastor connection, we had a deep friendship.
  Here are 'the men'.
This self-published book allows us to keep Dan's words and remember his wonderful spirit.

Monday, 1 August 2016

Personal Writing

Jean's poetry
My friend Jean is now in an institution because of Alzheimer's.  She doesn't know me any more, but I can stay connected to her words.  She loved to write poetry and many years ago, she gave me three little books that she had put together.  These words have great value for me and this week I am going to share them with a mutual friend, George, who is in his last days.  He will love to reconnect to Jean's spirit- what a fun-loving spirit it was!  She wrote about her joys in life- family and God.

In Nassau with my friend Jean
When I visit with George this week, I will read Jean's poems to George and it will seem that Jean is in the room with us.  It will bring smiles to George's face because he knew her so well and he has great memories that he is able to tap into.  He will have lots of stories of Jean.

This has reminded me of the value of personal writing, journals, photos books.  I have blogged about this before.  Check it out here.