November Reads


Les Miserables  I’m on page 420/1232. Part of me (about 35%)  says Why, oh why have you not read this before? The greater part thinks it is splendid to have the exquisite joy of reading this for the first time while I’m in my fifties. A friend warned me about Waterloo; she got bogged down. But, you know, I really only know Waterloo by its name. To me it was exciting as reading Shaara on Gettysburg. This sentence describing the cavalry grabbed me for its onomatopoeia and the progression of 3-, 4-, and 5-syllable adverbs:

They rode steadily, menacingly, imperturbably, the thunder of their horses resounding in the intervals of musket and cannon-fire.

The Hobbit  I’m on Disc 3, listening to Rob Inglis’ superb reading of Tolkien’s classic. I laugh at my teenage self who didn’t care for the book after reading three pages. It was all so confusing: hobbits, Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf, seed cakes. I’m trying to wait until Curt is home so we can listen together. To have two such magnificent books going through my head is an embarrassment of riches.

Arrow of God
I’ve read several excellent books on Africa, but they since they have all been from a colonial perspective, I read Chinua Achebe’s novel. It took me about 2/3 of the book to get into the story of a Nigerian village. An old priest struggles to keep the old culture in the midst of change.

He found it refreshing to be talking to a man who did not have the besetting sin of smugness, of taking himself too seriously. 103


The Invisible Child: On Reading and Writing Books for Children  I expected Katherine Paterson’s book to be a memoir. As in a narrative. Instead, it was a collection of speeches. Once I got over that disappointment, I found many quotes to copy into my journal. Paterson’s books make me uncomfortable; they aren’t nice happy books. Oh, but they are powerful: one made me hiccup-sob 15 minutes.

Books are not TV or, heaven help us, MTV or the Internet. I suppose it would be possible to write a book whose plot jumped around like a frog on pep pills, but that’s not what books are about. If that’s the kind of writing you want to do, I think you should be in a more hectic medium. Books are meant to be read slowly and digested. These days people don’t pray much or go to services of worship, they don’t commune with nature—why, they hardly go to a national park without a TV set, a laptop, and a cell phone. The book is almost the last refuge of reflection—the final outpost of wisdom. I want children to have the gifts that books can give, and I don’t believe they can get them from a book that attempts to imitate the frantic fragmentation of contemporary life. 55


Baby Island  I responded to Carol Ryrie Brink’s book here.


Trudel’s Siege A little know book by Louisa May Alcott. My review.


Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other Back in the 80’s, our telephone used to ring often throughout the day and evening. When we got overwhelmed with calls, we used to joke that it was time to move so our phone would quiet down. Lately, we get one, perhaps two calls a day. (Keep in mind that we only have a land line. Would it be different with a cell phone?)  Does this example resonate with you? It is just one of the things I’ve reflected on since I’ve read Sherry Turkle’s book. I didn’t connect with the first half of the book, an exploration of the role of robots as companions for the elderly and caregivers for the young. 

In the second part of the book, Turkle examines our increasing connectivity with each other online, but how oddly we are more alone than ever. I was struck with Turkle’s use of the word tethered to describe the pull and grip that technology has on us. I highly recommend this second half.

My own study of the networked life has left me thinking about intimacy—about being with people in person, hearing their voices and seeing their faces, trying to know their hearts. And it has left me thinking about solitude—the kind that refreshes and restores. Loneliness is failed solitude. To experience solitude you must be able to summon yourself by yourself; otherwise, you will only know how to be lonely. 288




6 thoughts on “November Reads

  1. Ah, Baby Island…. I must have read that a dozen times growing up. When I got “too old” for it, I read it aloud to my younger sisters. As a mother, I read it to my daughter. One of my all-time favorites.And Les Miserables…. someday!

  2. I am so glad you are reading Les Miserables! I especially appreciate what you highlighted from The Invisible Child, and from Alone Together; little bits of food for thought. Thank you.

  3. I’ll be another 50+ year old to read Les Miz. 🙂  Truly, I’ll probably be approaching 70 before I read it, if the Lord gives me those years.Loved, loved, loved reading this entry. I thirst for reading days that never seem to come. I use Inglis’ audio every time I teach The Hobbit which is usually sixth grade. Unfortunately, many of my now-sixth graders do not have the literary background to understand this wonderful book. But I love getting read it over every year!I ripped off that Paterson quote! Love it. And so true. By the way, Carol, I’m developing a list of fiction and nonfiction books for my upper school students to read on Africa. If you have some suggestions that could be read by that age, would you send them to me? I teach different time periods of Africa during 9th-12th grades and would like to enlarge my list of books they can read about that massive place. Thanks!Janie

  4. i remember reading Les Miserables years ago..coming back from work and walking as fast as i could  to get back to my reading..Les Miserables i a true masterpiece.. i inted to read it again..

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