Just Any Book Won’t Do

On Facebook a couple of days ago I asked friends what books they loved, but would NOT recommend people read during a pandemic. I started the conversation off with a couple of my personal favorites.

First on my list is The Stand by Stephen King. Every now and then I reread King’s tale of a biological weapon unleashed on an unsuspecting and unprepared world. The weapon, in the form of an awful disease nicknamed “Captain Trips” wipes out all but about 4% of the population worldwide.

Of course, being vintage Stephen King, supernatural forces also come into play. As if a global pandemic wasn’t enough. Every time I’ve read the book I’ve ended up with either an upper respiratory virus or a digestive illness, and become fairly certain that I’ve contracted Captain Trips. I definitely will NOT read it in the near future.

Another book I enjoyed and will at some point reread once we’re past the current crisis is Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. Her novel follows several individuals who have survived a rapidly spreading disease and are trying to make their way in a new kind of society. Multiple story lines explore how different characters cope with the initial panic, the decimation of the population, and the aftermath of the pandemic years later. It’s well written, creatively imagined. and thought-provoking. I just can’t read it right now.

There are a few more I could list, but I want your best DON’T READ RIGHT NOW BOOKS. These should be books you really like, but probably would just ramp up anxiety if read right now. And I’m changing my mind even as I write this. Maybe you LIKE to read books that parallel our current situation. I’d like your thoughts, as well. Ready, set, go.

And as always, Peace, people. Stay well.

Love of Learning

It might surprise some of you to know that I was not a perfect student. My grades were always good, but I never really applied myself. Honestly, I wasn’t sure what that entailed until I went to college as an “older than average” student and my adolescent children were watching me.

In spite of my rather uninspiring beginnings in education, I’ve always loved learning. From an early age I was fascinated by books. I couldn’t read enough. That kid reading by flashlight under the covers way after lights out? That was me. I read everything: biographies, horror, science fiction, travelogues, poetry. I like to believe I was the Floyd County Library’s best customer, but maybe not. As far as I know there was never an official survey conducted.

Nothing much has changed over the years. I still read a ton; although, thanks to my Kindle paper white I no longer have to use a flashlight to read in bed at night, and excursions to the library are more for research than anything else.

I still enjoy learning. Last fall I took an Olli class at Florida State University on “The Parallel Universe of Ants.” I enjoyed that so much that I signed up for a class this semester, “Fun With Writing.”

The class begins today (2/20), and I confess that I’m apprehensive. I’ve been writing for awhile now, but have I been having fun with it? Do I even know how to have fun in my life, let alone with my writing? Am I going to be expected to share what I’m writing with real live people who’ll be in the same room with me? I suppose these questions and others will be answered soon.

Please keep an eye on this space over the next few weeks to see if I figure out the whole fun thing. I joke, but I’m excited. Learning IS fun.

Peace and love, people!

Book Club Issues

Yesterday I wrote about the book The Worst Hard Time. It was a wonderful book club pick, one that’s stayed with me for many years. But there were several other books my book club in Champaign, Illinois, read that deserve a mention.

One of my favorites was Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson, a true story about a serial killer who plied his trade during the 1893 Chicago World Exposition. While it’s nonfiction, the book reads like novel. I was totally engrossed.

Another great read was Loving Frank, based on the story of a woman who loved the architect Frank Lloyd Wright so much that she left her family for him.

This was a book that stirred emotions and sparked heated discussions. It’s beautifully written and thought provoking.

My favorite book, though, from the book club years was The Whistling Season, by Ivan Doig. This is a book that honors teachers and education. It’s absolutely beautiful, and will make you yearn for simpler times.

I have book club issues. It’s difficult for me to read what someone tells me to read, but these books are evidence that I can follow directions. At least for awhile.

Peace, people.

Desperate Times

“Desperate times breed desperate measures”–William Shakespeare

On most days I have lunch alone, either here at Doright Manor or at one of a handful of Tallahassee cafes. Now, before you feel sorry for me you need to know that I enjoy my solitary lunches. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy having lunch with Studly Doright or with a friend, but when I dine alone I pull my Kindle out of my purse and read. And there are few things I’d rather do than read.

One day last week I had a whole list of errands to run, most of them in Tallahassee. I planned the most efficient route and left home around 10 a.m. with the goal of having lunch at the best little vegan eatery in the world, Sweet Pea Cafe.

With my errands halfway done, I drove to Sweet Pea and ordered that day’s special, Tempeh Temptation. I found a table and reached into my purse for my Kindle. Hmmm. No Kindle. I searched every zippered compartment with no luck.

“That’s okay,” I said to myself. “Just read from the Kindle app on your phone.”

“You’re so brilliant!” I answered.

“I know.” I said.

Unfortunately my brilliant self had managed to leave my phone at home as well.

As I waited for the meal to arrive I wondered how I was supposed to eat without a book in hand. How does one do such a thing?

“You can do this,” I gently reminded myself. “Just be more mindful of your meal. Pay attention to every bite. People watch. Listen to the music playing. Enjoy the experience.”

“Shut up! I NEED my book. Or just something, anything, to read.”

Gee, one of us needs anger management therapy.

In the midst of my angst I noticed a woman who’d been reading from a book as she dined at the table nearest mine. She’d finished her meal and as I watched from the corner of my eye saw that she was preparing to leave.

I hesitated for a second before asking, “Excuse me, this is going to sound weird and slightly desperate, by I don’t suppose you have an extra book that I might buy from you.”

Now, the beauty of this is she totally understood my question. The sad part is that she’d just returned from a trip to see her sister and had given the sister a box full of books that she usually carried in her car.

We laughed about our respective reading addictions. She apologized for not having a book to offer. I laughed and told her no big deal while underneath my smile I was thinking, “Couldn’t you at least have saved one book for us, I mean, me?”

She left the cafe as my meal arrived and I began to eat in a desultory fashion. The food was excellent as always, but damn it, how could I enjoy myself when there were intrepid space explorers trapped on an exoplanet in my book, and how the heck was I going to save them if I couldn’t read the remainder of chapter 55 while I chewed?

That’s when an angel came to my rescue. The woman who’d taken a box of books to her sister came triumphantly back into the cafe waving a book.

“Look what I found,” she smiled.

“It must’ve fallen out of the box. It’s yours if you want it….”

I wanted to hug her, but I restrained myself, offering effusive thanks as I tried to pay her.

“Absolutely not!” she said. “I don’t know how anyone can eat alone without a good book for company.”

A true hero, that woman.

I opened the book and began a new adventure. John Grisham paired quite nicely with Tempeh Temptation.

Peace, people.

Oh, the Humanity!

It might not have been a good idea to watch Avengers: Endgame on Sunday morning and this season’s Episode 3 of Game of Thrones on Monday evening. I’m an emotional wreck.

No spoilers, but in both cases some favorite characters died. I know exactly which ones left us in Endgame, but thanks to the overly dark ambience in Game of Thrones, I’m not completely sure who was killed and who is still among the living. There may be tears shed after next week’s episode when we learn their fates.

On a slightly, but not really, related note, this floater in my right eye is bumming me out. My understanding is that it might be my new normal. I’m thinking of naming it “Splot” because it’s more than a “Spot,” but less than a “Blot.” Out, damned Splot!

I teared up as I told Studly Doright that there’s a possibility I’ll never get to ride a roller coaster again for fear of ending up with a detached retina. Roller coasters are my thing, and I’d hoped for a few more good years of riding with my grandkids. Studly, who doesn’t want anything to do with roller coasters had trouble empathizing with me.

“It’s like when you had to give up racquetball after your knee replacement surgeries,” I told him.

“Yep, and I did it,” he gloated. Studly isn’t exactly known for his willpower, so that carried some weight.

“As long as I can still read, I guess I’ll be okay,” I sighed.

“Look on the bright side,” Studly said. “Reading has never sent you to the chiropractor. Roller coaster riding always does.”

He’s right, dammit. Here’s to many more years of reading.

Peace, people.

Beetles and Spiders and Wasps. Oh My!

Studly Doright is tired of hearing me talk about the series of books I just finished reading, but I’m not through talking about them. That’s bad news for my readers, so feel free to tune out any time. If you enjoy the sci-fi/fantasy genres, though, you might want to stick around for just a minute or two.

The series in question is Adrian Tchaikovsky’s epic “Shadows of the Apt” told in ten novels and followed up in three, soon to be four, companion books of short stories.

The first book in the series, Empire in Black and Gold, introduces readers to a world in which humans have evolved not from apes, but from various insects, arachnids, mollusks, and other species. Their evolutionary process is relatively young, and some species are more evolved than others. Indeed, some humans, such as those evolved from beetles and wasps, are apt, in this case meaning that they understand mechanical processes and have developed machines similar to our automobiles and airplanes.

Other humans, or kinden, in this world cannot operate a simple doorknob. These species are inapt. Spider-kinden, moth-kinden, and butterfly-kinden fall into this category.

Individual members of each kinden develop arts inherited from their species. For example, wasp, bee, fly, and moth kinden can all fly. Some kinden have excellent night vision. Spider-kinden are adept at deception, and scorpion-kinden are fierce warriors.

I must admit that at the beginning I was somewhat put off by the kinden tag, but soon it seemed natural as the story and characters developed. And Tchaikovsky is a master at developing a universe of characters and juggling multiple story lines.

Without giving too much away, the wasp-kinden have grand plans to dominate the world, and it falls to a loose coalition of other kinden to attempt to prevent this from happening with varying degrees of success and failure. As one might imagine there are barriers to peaceful coexistence between the varied kinden. Prejudices against, and preconceived notions about different kinden make for delicate negotiations. There are traitors and spies, turncoats and heroes among all the kinden.

Tchaikovsky writes battle scenes that make one feel as if they are right there in the middle of the action, too. I’m not a particularly violence-prone person, but the author made me believe that I might be able to go toe to toe with a wasp, as long as I stayed beyond the range of his vicious sting.

I came to care about so many of these characters: Cheerwell Maker, a young beetle-kinden, and her uncle Stenwold,; Thalric, a conflicted wasp-kinden; and Taki, an amazing fly-kinden. My only complaint is that there aren’t more books in the series.

As I read “Shadows of the Apt” I couldn’t help but wonder which kinden I’d be. A purposeful beetle? Maybe. A sensual spider? Hardly. A graceful butterfly? Hahaha! A war-like wasp? Could be. Chances are, I’d be a slug; although, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. You’ll have to read the series to discover why.

Peace, and happy reading, people.

Almost a Review of “Children of Time”

Amazon periodically sends me suggestions for new books based on my reading history. Some of their book picks are hits; others are complete misses. My most recent purchase was a home run in the sci-fi genre.

Children of Time, by Adrian Tchaikovsky is riveting. The setting alternates between an ark ship from a dying planet earth and the green planet that the humans have targeted as their best hope for mankind’s survival.

Unbeknownst to the travelers, the planet has been seeded with a nanovirus by much earlier explorers from earth. Originally, the nanovirus was intended to mentally enhance a colony of monkeys from earth; however, the best laid plans of monkeys and men go awry and the nanovirus interacts with an entirely different species, several of them, in fact.

The trials and tribulations of the crew members on the ark ship, Gilgamesh, as they travel for thousands of years going in and out of suspension and awakening to new realities every few hundred years are fascinating. There are coups and crises, romances and disappointments among the humans trying to establish a new foothold on an alien world.

But even more intriguing is the nanovirus-triggered sentience in an unexpected alien species. I won’t give away the details, but I found myself rooting for these non-mammals in the epic, penultimate battle for survival. I want to go live on their extraordinary world.

If I had ten thumbs, I’d raise every one of them for this book. The author spins a great tale.

Peace, people!

Quick Post

Read The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah.

I started it yesterday and finished it early this morning. Cried like a baby and never could go back to sleep.

In these days of Americans parading around as would-be Nazis and proudly proclaiming white supremacy we need books like The Nightingale to remind us of the horrors perpetrated by those who fought for Hitler’s Germany.

Never forget the atrocities.

Read it Again, Ma’am

I read all the time. If I could no longer read for some reason I’m sure I’d wither away and die. Oh sure, I could listen to books on tape, and I suppose I could make do, but there’s something magical about the way a reader interacts with a book that a recording can’t replicate.

My taste these days runs to science fiction/fantasy, but I’m always looking for some new delicacy regardless of genre. And then there are my favorites. These are books I’ve read more than once, and for someone like me who’s always looking for the next literary thrill this repeat reading is the highest compliment I can pay a book.

So what select books are among my repeats?

1) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is number one. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve delved into the world of Scout Finch, and I read it at least once a year in the fall.

2) Stephen King’s, The Stand, is a close second. The epic tale of good versus evil still gives me chills, and I become suspicious of any sniffle or cough, certain that Captain Trips is about to wipe out most of humanity.

3) A Separate Peace, by John Knowles, comes in third, and I can’t really say why. There’s something about this coming of age story that draws me in. My heart aches for these boys on the brink of manhood and all of the pitfalls awaiting them. If I pick up my well worn copy when I’m dusting or otherwise moving stuff around I can’t help but begin reading it again.

4) I’ve read all but one of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series multiple times, having read the series from the beginning every time a new book in the series was released. So I’ve read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone seven times, while I’ve only read Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows once.

I’ve recently added a new book to those deemed worthy of a rereading. This book, The Whistling Season, by Ivan Doig, is the first book that comes to mind when a friend asks for a recommendation. So when I didn’t have a new book in the queue, I thought it might be time to remember why I recommend it so often.

The Whistling Season is set in Montana in 1909. A widower with three sons takes on a housekeeper whose ad, “Can’t cook, but doesn’t bite” intrigues him. The widower and his sons get much more than they bargained for when Rose and her brother, Morrie come into their lives.

This book is an homage to education and the one room school house, and to a time when life was a bit slower, but no less complicated than it is today. The language is incredible and the story so compelling I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to reread it.

Those are mine. What books have you read repeatedly? I’m always looking for my next favorite. Looking forward to suggestions.

Peace, people!

A Suggested Guide for Reading in 2017

I found this reading checklist on Facebook and thought it was worth sharing. 


Wouldn’t it be fun to tackle the list in order? I’ve needed to shake up my reading pattern for awhile, and this might be the ticket. Anyone care to join me? We could discuss our choices at the end of every second week.

Peace, and good reading, people.