Summer reading

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

I've got quite a few books lined up for my summer reading, and realize none of them really qualify as your typical light beach reads. I will need to fill in with a few of those, as some on my list look like they'll be heavy going.

No reviews here; I haven't read them yet. But as I always like to see what people are reading, I thought you might feel the same.

Our book club is currently reading A Beautiful Mind by Sylvia Nasar. Because I won't be at the next meeting, I decided to take a pass and spend the time reading one of my favorite authors, Wendell Berry. I love his books set in the fictional town of Port William, Kentucky. One of my favorites is Hannah Coulter. But right now I'm reading a book of his agrarian essays entitled The Art of the Commonplace. In it, he laments the passing of the small family farm and shares a vision of what real community can look like. He offers an alternative to the mass consumption, stressed-out urban culture of today.

Here is a poem of his I've always liked.

The Peace of Wild Things 
by Wendell Berry
When despair for the world grows in me
 and I wake in the night at the least sound
 in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
 I go and lie down where the wood drake
 rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
 I come into the peace of wild things
 who do not tax their lives with forethought
 of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
 And I feel above me the day-blind stars
 waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
Isn't that beautiful? I don't have a similar place to go and lie down, but I can imagine . . .
In our book club, if a book you recommend gets enough votes, and we decide to read it, you are in charge of leading the discussion. Two other books I recommended will be coming up later this year, The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien, and The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky. So I want to get started on those. 

The Silmarillion is the story of the events that occur in Middle Earth prior to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. I've already read the chapter entitled Of Beren and Luthien because I read that those are the names engraved under Tolkien's and his wife's gravestone inscriptions. It's quite romantic, and a little unusual in Tolkien's writings as he doesn't have much romance in his books (although you could say his whole genre is certainly romantic in the broader sense of the term).

I chose The Idiot partly because I love Dostoevsky. One of my all-time favorite books is his The Brothers Karamovoz. But mostly I chose it because it contains the famous line "beauty will save the world." Can't wait to read that in context.

I would like to write another book, this one on the importance of beauty in our lives, entitled simply The Beautiful Matters, or Why the Beautiful Matters. I have a small stack of books to read on that subject. I've been perusing them, but I'm thinking perhaps I should just write without being influenced too much by what others have to say on the subject.

This lovely old card catalog is in the library at the state capitol in Des Moines, Iowa. I would love to have this in my home.
My mom read and then passed on to me the whole Jalna series by Mazo de la Roche. This is the multi-generational story of a family who settled on the early Canadian frontier. I've read three out of the ten books that she had (I think there's a couple more to the complete series), but I'm already a little tired of them. Kind of in the same way I got tired of Poldark and Downton Abbey (not the books, the TV series). Just ongoing soap operas.

When I feel worried or anxious or in need of comfort, I turn to my stack of Grace Livingston Hill for some light and soothing old-fashioned story telling. I've read through the sixty or so books I have of hers and just finished the fourth in my second go-round. Other comforting and well-loved books that I turn to include any by Elizabeth Goudge and, for lighter reading, Miss Read.

I have to keep up with the book club reading also. We move at a pretty fast clip; a new book every two weeks. I'm not a particularly fast reader; I tend to savor every word and stop and think about what I'm reading or look things up as I read. So I'm usually up late reading the night before book club, trying to get my "homework" done! 

What are you all reading this summer? Anything good?
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