My first post-Christmas read was Alexander McCall Smith’s charming The Sunday Philosophy Club. The novel is the first in the author’s Isabel Dalhousie series. I love discovering Edinburgh through his characters. I love how ruminative those characters are. I love his gentle wit and insights. Continue reading “In which I undertake “Sketches by Boz””
One thing I don’t want to read about just in books is the four seasons. Experiencing them, one and all, is one of my favorite things about living in New England. Autumn is arguably the gaudiest, with our fabulous foliage. Still, I love winter too, even the snowstorms. It gives us a common experience to rally around, even if this does involve some grumbling from time to time. Plus, it makes me appreciate spring and summer that much more. Continue reading “7 Snowy Scenes in Books”
Last year, I began devouring Christmas reads in November – November 16, to be exact. I know this because I’m diligent about keeping reading records. For this reason, I also know that I read twelve holiday-themed books between November 2014 and January 2015. That’s a lot of holiday books!
Apparently, I was on some sort of mission. I blame Starbucks. They released their gingerbread latte (my favorite!) so early that my internal clock became confused, and I thought it was time for Christmas. Continue reading “Reading Winter Holidays”
By the time I moved to Connecticut, I had already made a habit of reading Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol” at Christmas time. I had made it habit but not yet a tradition.
The decision to commit to rereading it every year began the snowy winter we lived in a one-story cottage dating to the mid-18th century. It had a huge picture window overlooking the backyard, which had a creek running through it and, on the opposite bank, a nature preserve. In the living room, a gigantic stone fireplace (about the size of the studio apartment I had once lived in) dominated one wall and featured a cooking arm dating to the colonial period. Continue reading “Rereading “A Christmas Carol” at Christmas Time”
Before 2012, “Northanger Abbey” was the only Jane Austen classic I had not read. Upon remedying this shocking lapse (I mean, she only wrote six completed novels – how hard it is to read her whole canon?), I decided it was my favorite Austen novel. Though I’m skeptical that we can trust these judgments…
At any rate, I reread this sparkling classic novel recently for a book group and fell in love with it all over again. What makes it so special, to me at least, is that it’s both a witty send-up of gothic novels and a serious defense of novels as an art form. In the process, Austen reminds us that the issue isn’t form as much as it is substance. It’s what we do with what we have that counts. Continue reading “The Wit and Wisdom of “Northanger Abbey””
Since Stephen Mitchell’s 2011 translation of the The Iliad came out, I’ve been telling myself that I should reread this epic poem. The last time I read it, I was in high school studying modern Greek with a tutor. This tutor came to my house each week. Seated at a round table in my parents’s shades-of-brown family room, with its faux wood-paneled walls, I’d read out loud from a modern Greek translation of The Iliad. I think maybe we discussed it? I can’t recall exactly how I felt about the poem, other than that it seemed to involve a lot of killing, trash talking, and whining gods.
Four years after purchasing Mitchell’s translation and reverently placing it on my bookshelf, I finally got around to the task of reading it. Turns out, I wasn’t so off the mark with my initial assessment. Also: It’s one of the saddest books I’ve ever read, and an absolute must read for anyone who wants to understand the human condition.
As I’ve mentioned before, one of my big inspirations to reread my favorite classics, and discover the ones I’ve neglected in the past, has been doing the Gilmore Girls Reading Challenge with Jessica Collins, my friend and contributing editor at Books, Ink.
With Halloween upon us, my Gilmore Girls reads this week are holiday themed: Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Raven” (which has a Charles Dickens connection) and his chilling short story “The Tell-Tale Heart.” Both appear in the Season 3 episode entitled “A Tale of Poes and Fire.” Continue reading “Rereading “The Raven” and “A Tell-Tale Heart” at Halloween”
We are now firmly in the grip of my favorite time of year – the months of October through December. I love autumn leaves. I love pumpkins and gingerbread (in all their decorative, imbibe-able, and edible forms). And I love seasonal reading.
With my son well out of the picture books stage, lingering at the Halloween display in the children’s section is more exercise in nostalgia than shopping expedition (sniffle). Continue reading “Halloween Reads for Grown-Ups”
I had a terrible moment while reading Charles Dickens recently. I was just beginning the second paragraph of the second chapter of “Oliver Twist,” where the narrator describes Oliver’s first months of life as a ward of the state:
The hungry and destitute situation of the infant orphan was duly reported by the workhouse authorities to the parish authorities. The parish authorities inquired with dignity of the workhouse authorities, whether there was no female them domiciled in “the house” who was in a situation to impart to Oliver Twist, the consolation and nourishment of which he stood in need. The workhouse authorities replied with humility, that there was not. Upon this, the parish authorities magnanimously and humanely resolved, that Oliver should be “farmed,” or, in other words, that he should be dispatched to a branch-workhouse some three miles off, where twenty or thirty other juvenile offenders against the poor-laws, rolled about the floor all day, without the inconvenience of too much food or too much clothing, under the parental superintendence of an elderly female, who received the culprits at and for the consideration of sevenpence-halfpenny per small head per week. Sevenpence-halfpenny’s worth per week is a good round diet for a child; a great deal may be got for sevenpence-halfpenny, quite enough to overload its stomach, and make it uncomfortable. The elderly female was woman of wisdom and experience; she knew what was good for children; and she had a very accurate perception of what was good for herself. So, she appropriated the greater part of the weekly stipend to her own use, and consigned the rising parochial generation to even a shorter allowance than was originally provided for them. Thereby finding in the lowest depth a deeper still, and proving herself a very great experimental philosopher.
I read this paragraph once. Then I read it again. And then again. I could not stop myself rereading it a fourth time, at which point I despaired of ever getting through the second chapter, let alone the entire novel. (Spoiler alert: I did, eventually, get through both.) Continue reading “Why We Bother”
A few weeks ago, I committed to explaining why I’ve been reading so much Charles Dickens lately. Here is where I make good on that commitment:
It started over at Books, Ink (the books website I edit), where we’re doing the Gilmore Girls Reading Challenge. If you’ve never heard of it, the objective is to read all 339 books referenced on the Gilmore Girls series over the course of its seven seasons.
My brilliant contributing editor, Jessica Collins, suggested undertaking the project collaboratively. Since the show and Books, Ink are both based in Connecticut and Jessica and I are both fans of the show – and books and, like the eponymous Gilmore girls, coffee – well, let’s just say the challenge felt like the perfect fit.
For the Books, Ink version of the challenge, we feature one book from the list per week, and whoever read it writes a short piece about his or her experience of it. So far, we’re 18 books in, and the best parts have been sharing the challenge with fellow book lovers (local readers are invited to participate) and being inspired to read books that have been languishing on my reading list.
This is where Charles Dickens comes in. When I first looked over the list, the books that caught my attention because I’d always meant to read them (but hadn’t) were mostly classics. Specifically, “David Copperfield” and “Little Dorrit,” two of six Dickens novels on the challenge list. Continue reading “Why Charles Dickens?”