Pat Nixon

Pat-NixonAfter I finished Going Home To Glory, by David and Julie Eisenhower, (see Revisiting Eisenhower) I decided to read Julie Nixon Eisenhower’s biography of her mother, Pat Nixon: The Untold Story.

I learned a lot reading this book, first of all respect for Pat Nixon. “Overcoming adversity” is such an exhausted cliché. But how does one describe the circumstances wherein a girl—13 years old—nurses and loses her mother to cancer, then in the space of five years nurses and buries her dad; works full time to help one, then another brother go to college; enters USC at age 22 and graduates cum laude three years later after working multiple jobs?

Here’s what impressed me about Pat:

♥ Her family adored her. Her brothers, her husband, her daughters, her sons-in-law, her grandchildren. That is a major accomplishment when you have lived life in the public eye and needed to be absent from family often. Yes, this is a sympathetic biography.

♥ She reached out to people. Her default mode with crowds was to shake hands, look in the eyes: connect. It’s one thing to connect with supporters, but she pursued detractors and protesters, often disarming them with a smile. She was a cool cucumber in life-threatening situations.

♥ Discipline and duty directed her steps. Campaigning is grueling: sometimes three solo appearances during the day and an evening with her husband. Entertaining dignitaries non-stop. She never shrank from what needed to be done.

♥ She sought *and found* beauty. Flowers, colors, fashion, design.

♥ She traveled to all fifty states and over fifty countries of the world.

♥ She read. In her later years, sometimes five substantial books a week.

♥ She was a creative grandma. She played “shoe store” with her granddaughter. They lined *all* of Pat’s shoes up; her granddaughter was the sales person and Pat would ‘shop’ and try on shoes. Oh, how I want to do this with my Aria when she’s older.

♥ Her signature phrase was “Onward and upward.”

I found Pat Nixon’s funeral online…and watched the whole thing. One of the earlier songs was Vaughn Williams’ For All the Saints, a song I decided at age 17 I wanted at my funeral. Billy Graham spoke about death, describing it as five things:
— a coronation
— a cessation from labor
— a departure
— a transition, and
— an exodus or “going out”

I’m glad I read this. When I finish a book that catches my imagination, there are more books I ‘need’ to read. This is my life. Even though it smacks of voyeurism, Pat and Dick: The Nixons, An Intimate Portrait of a Marriage is a book I’m interested in reading, based on recently released love letters.

Advertisements

The Bookshelf Project

DSC_1834I blame the movie Julie & Julia. Do you know how many times I’ve thought about cooking through every recipe in one of my 46 cookbooks? It messes with my all-or-nothing propensities. So many times, I’m browsing among the books and think: wouldn’t it be fun to read exclusively from this shelf until I’ve read everything?

The all-or-nothing system hasn’t been good to me. Because, you know, the nothing side hits the playground pavement with a bang and the all side is swaying, suspended in the air above the teeter-totter.

So I made a bargain. I eyed the shelves and did the math. What if? I whispered to myself. Stop! the other me warned. No, this is reasonable, I countered. What if I committed to reading one book from every shelf on the big white bookshelf? There are 30 shelves in total. Subtract three that hold CDs, Audio books, and DVDs. Subtract the one narrow shelf about which I can say, “I’ve read them all.”

26 books from my own shelves. That’s about half of the number of books I read in a year, so it allows room for the books in other rooms in my house, on my Kindle, or yet to be published.

I’m not going to decide which title on each shelf right now. I’m a bit schizophrenic in my reading. When I am mindful of how little time I have left on the earth, I determine to only read the best books. When I think about making room on the shelves, I read the book I want to read, but don’t think I’ll want to keep. And when I don’t want to work, I go for easy reading.

And I won’t shelve a new book, so I can say I read it off my shelves. Dirty pool!

So here’s a glance at my options:

DSC_8173There are two shelves of history. On the top shelf I’m inclined toward The Pity Of War: Explaining World War Ior The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill.

On the lower shelf, it’s an excruciating decision. McCullough’s book on the Brooklyn Bridge, Barbara Tuchman, Stephen Ambrose or Paul Johnson?

DSC_8174Oh, man. Several titles on these two shelves come highly recommended. The Widow of the Southis set in Franklin, TN. I want to read The Monuments Men before the movie comes out this year.

DSC_8175Two sets of Churchill to choose from: I’ve read A History of the English-Speaking Peoples and would like to re-read them. But Edmund Burke  beguiles me.  Three sets sit on the bottom shelf: 13 years of Cook’s Illustrated, a set of Dumas and a set of Dickens.

DSC_8176Short biographies, a collection of collections, and Willa Cather.

DSC_8177Small books with short stories and gorgeous books about Britain with watercolor plates.

DSC_8178Business and culture.

DSC_8201Classics. My husband and I are enjoying A Study in Scarlet, so we may well continue with more Conan Doyle. But I’ve never read Kimso I may choose Kipling.

DSC_8180Education and Witold Rybczynski.

DSC_8181I insist on reading one science book a year, weak as I am in science. I highly recommend Microbe Huntersand Longitudeif you need your science in narrative form. I think Lives of a Cellis calling my name.

DSC_8182Oh to have room to store my beloved Penguin collection upright! Whoever invented orange covers ought to be shot. I would love to read all those orange Trollopes so I can be done with them.

DSC_8183These two shelves are at the center of my collection. Deep. love.

DSC_8184More groups of authors that I love.

DSC_8185This shelf is a pass on my read-from-my-shelves project. Jan, Anne, and Mma.

DSC_8186Foodie books!

DSC_8187More foodie books.

DSC_8194True story: it’s easier for me to read about various methods of eradicating dust bunnies than to bend over and pick up the dust bunny.

DSC_8195Books on writing and books on books. Pure deliciousness.

DSC_8196Music. Poetry.

DSC_8198Art.

Children’s books, theology, travel and memoirs have their own bookcases. But they will have to get in line.

Intentional reading: the good life.

Hey! You with the eye for interior design? What would you recommend for the tops of my shelves? I’ve thought about framed photos (in matching frames) but I’m afraid they will make it too busy. Woven baskets? Eclectic collection of pottery/baskets? Empty? Your opinion is welcome.

Reading Year in Retrospect

DSC_1833“I am an inveterate browser of people’s bookshelves, always curious to see what other people have been reading, and which books they choose to display. but I am equally curious about the manner in which they array them. Are their books neatly aligned, like the leatherbound books in the Levenger catalog, or do they teeter on the shelf at odd angles?”  — David Levy in Scrolling Forward: Making Sense of Documents in the Digital AgeI love looking back at my reading year, and yet I also shrink from the raised eyebrow of my inner critic. Deciding on categories and distributing my titles in those gives the same thrill that I get in organizing my books. This is my reading year in retrospect.

My own Book of the Year? It’s a tie! N.D. Wilson’s Death by Living: Life Is Meant to Be Spent was both the slowest and most profound read. I read it aloud to my husband a page or even a paragraph at a time. But reading through Jacques Barzun’s From Dawn to Decadence was also deeply satisfying. (confession: I have 60 pages to finish)

Africa
This Rich & Wondrous Earth Linda Burklin (life in boarding school)
When a Crocodile Eats the SunPeter Godwin (living in Zimbabwe)
The Elephant Whisperer: My Life with the Herd in the African Wild Lawrence Anthony (animal conservation)

British
Over the Gate Miss Read (cozy read)
Lark Rise to Candleford(trilogy) Flora Thompson (a portrait of a culture)
Lady Anna Anthony Trollope (novel of a marriage)
Cousin Henry Anthony Trollope (a study of a guilty conscience)
Tyler’s Row Miss Read (not my favorite Miss Read)

Catholic
The World, the Flesh, and Father Smith Bruce Marshall (story of a Scottish Priest)
Father Hilary’s HolidayBruce Marshall (priest gets involved in political intrigue)

Christian
Death by Living N.D. Wilson (memoir/family heritage/travelogue/random thoughts)
Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community Dietrich Bonhoeffer (crammed with good stuff)
The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert Rosaria Butterfield (unusual story)

Culture
From Dawn to Decadence Jacques Barzun (500 years of cultural history, EXCELLENT) Scrolling Forward David Levy (e-book or bound book debate, written a decade ago)

Early American
Rip Van Winkle & Other Stories Washington Irving (some classics improve as we age)

Family
Fit to Burst : Abundance, Mayhem, and the Joys of Motherhood Rachel Jancovik (wise)
Real Marriage Mark and Grace Driscoll (yes and no: all the stats got old)

French
Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed Philip Hallie (5K Jews saved by people of Le Chambon)
The Elegance of the Hedgehog Muriel Barbery (postmodern novel, quotable sections)

History
First Family: Abigail and John Adams Joseph Ellis (very enjoyable read)

Kid Lit
Anne of Green Gables L.M. Montgomery (priceless)
Anne of Avonlea LMM (sad to lose Matthew Cuthbert)
Anne of the Island LMM (away at school)
Anne of Windy Poplars LMM (winning over the Pringles and Katherine Brooke)
Anne’s House of Dreams LMM (early marriage, bereavement)
Anne of Ingleside LMM (a houseful of kids and dear Susan)
Rainbow Valley LMM (add the Meredith kids to the Blythes: delightful)
Rilla of Ingleside LMM (I love Rilla; more Susan; a great view of WWI at home)
Chronicles of Avonlea LMM (12 short stories, Anne is just a cameo)
Further Chronicles of Avonlea LMM (includes a delicious story of a revival meeting)
The Story Girl LMM (she can make a story reciting the multipication tables)
The Golden Road LMM (a hilarious mistaken identity story)
Kilmeny of the Orchard LMM (a mute girl plays the violin)
Emily of New Moon LMM (appeals to all aspiring writers)
Emily Climbs LMM (word lovers will love Emily)
Emily’s Quest LMM (overcoming obstacles to writing)
The Blythes are Quoted LMM (more short stories)
Charlotte’s Web E.B. White, (classic, test-drove with a grandson)
Island Magic Elizabeth Goudge (Guernsey family, classic Goudge)

Memoir/Biography
The Story of the Trapp Family Singers Maria Augusta Trapp (must read for S o M fans)
God’s Arms Around Us William Moule (heart-pounding tale of family in WW2 Philippines)
Thinking in Pictures: My Life with Autism Temple Grandin (she translates autism)
The End of Your Life Book Club Will Schwalbe (terminally ill mom and son read books)
A Little Moule History William Moule (life of a vagabond adventurer)
Appetite for Life Noel Riley Fitch (bio of Julia Child)
The Bookseller of Kabul Asne Seierstad (daily life in Afghanistan)
The Alpine Path LMM (frustrating in its brevity)

Mystery
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie Alan Bradley (I ♥ Flavia de Luce)
Speaking from Among the Bones Alan Bradley (another Flavia book)
Chop Shop Tim Downs (Bug Man is a forensic entomologist)
First the Dead Tim Downs (almost had a heart attack reading this)
Less than Dead Tim Downs (difficulty breathing while reading this thriller)

Plays
Twelfth Night W. Shakespeare (mistaken identities)
The Tempest Shakespeare (full fathom five thy father lies)
The Comedy of Errors Shakespeare (TWO sets of identical twins)

Recovery
Little Black Sheep Ashley Cleveland (the gift of willingness)
Sober Mercies: How Love Caught Up with a Christian Drunk Heather Kopp (story of addiction)

Science
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Rebecca Skloot (spellbinding story of HeLa cells)

TV Reading (one-night read without substance)
A Lancaster County Christmas Suzanne Woods Fisher (English stranded with Amish)

Travel
Shadow of the Silk Road Colin Thubron (China-Turkey by one of my fave travel writers)
In a Sunburned Country Bill Bryson (winsome writing…mostly)
Stephen Fry in America Stephen Fry (witty, sometimes coarse flyover)
Roads : Driving America’s Great Highways Larry McMurtry (he drives the interstates)

Western
The Whistling Season Ivan Doig (the Wendell Berry of Montana)

What have you been reading?

(This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which allows me to buy perhaps one or two new books a year. But I’m thankful if you decide to buy a book through the links.)

For All the Tea in China

How England Stole the World’s Favorite Drink and Changed History

Tea met all the definitions of intellectual property: it was a product of high commercial value, it was manufactured using a formula and process unique to China, which China protected fiercely; and it gave China a vast advantage over its competitors.

Robert Fortune was a plant hunter sent to China by the East India Company to steal tea plants. He shipped them to Great Britain’s greatest possession, India, where they would be grown, giving England its own source of a precious commodity, thus bringing the price of tea down and making it available to England’s citizens.

This is a fun book on many levels: 19th century, England, China, espionage, horticulture, tea and opium.

I listened to the audio book, read by the author. I found her voice a bit off-putting. I have found few audiobooks read by authors that I’m crazy about. My interest lagged at times. This is the kind of book which required close attention: unfamiliar place names and era, scientific, political and economic considerations of a complex subject. I listened to several discs more than once to keep up with the details.

Recommended for history buffs, tea enthusiasts, and science lovers.

 SatReviewbutton

I enjoy participating in Semicolon’s Saturday Review of Books.