What’s on Your Nightstand, March 24

DSC_3970Although I love the concept of What’s on Your Nightstand, a monthly overview of one’s reading, I have only participated a few times. In a rare and wonderful synchronicity, I  deep cleaned my nightstand area yesterday.

My husband had surgery two weeks ago (he’s fine, thank you) that allowed me seven hours of reading in the waiting room. There was a huge flat-screen TV that looped through Travels in Europe with Rick Steves for 4.5 hours. Eventually, a penguin documentary came on. Occasionally I glanced up, but it wasn’t bad background sound.

Keeping my mind occupied was A Pianist’s Landscape, a book of essays about playing, learning, performing and teaching the piano. This was a book sale find. The cover and title drew me in. Carol Montparker is a Steinway Artist; her essays have been in the New York Times. Delightful!

I’m working on consistently reading poetry. It’s one of those things that takes an effort, but offers rich rewards. I found Wis£awa Szymborska (w sounds like /v/, £ sounds like /w/; thus, Vees WAH vah shin BORE skuh) funny, dark, random, full of irony, beauty and profundity. Many poems didn’t strike a chord in me. But some did. When asked why she didn’t write more poems, her answer was “because I have a trash can at home.” I kept forgetting that these poems had been translated from Polish. The translations are magnificent!

“Disappointing” — two historical novels. Widow of the South centers on the Carnton Plantation near Franklin, TN. I didn’t like that a major part of the plot centered on a contrived and fictitious relationship between Carrie McGavock and one soldier/patient. It was a weird Jayber Crow-ish intimacy.

A Separate Country tells the story of defeated Confederate General John Bell Hood’s life after the war in New Orleans. He marries Anna Maria Hennen, a young society belle, and they have 11 children in 10 years, including three sets of twins. The author uses a scaffolding of facts but most of the story is fanciful. The tone and language is a bit salty for my taste.

I made small progress on my goal to read through Shakespeare’s canon with Henry IV, Part 1 and Part 2. Before I read these, I had thought Falstaff was witty and clever. No, sirrah! His self-aggrandizing, manipulative, lying behavior erased any gladsome thoughts of this main Shakespearean character.

My Kindle read – did you know if you have Amazon Prime you can borrow a book a month on your Kindle? I’m a junkie for books on how to write. To say I have dozens would be only a minor stretch. I love to read them, to re-read them, and to promise myself that someday I will do what they say.

I was reminded to slash away at adverbs and adjectives. Yes. But I really enjoyed Rosenblatt’s comments on education: “Teaching takes a lot of wheedling and grappling but basically it is the art of seduction. Observing a teacher who is lost in the mystery of the material can be oddly seductive.”

Audiobook  This long audio book was mostly tedious, but I was so glad I finished this life of Anna Leonowens. I was reminded how powerful a teacher can be. Prince Chulalongkorn attributed to Anna the decision he made to abolish slavery (without war!) in Siam (Thailand).

For Fun   I love Jane Austen, but I don’t consider myself a Janeite. Among the Janeites was an entertaining read. What struck me was how many ways there are to read Austen. People see virtue, wisdom, feminism, eroticism, autism, therapy, and more in her books.

DSC_3968Reading in preparation for Easter: Silence, by Shushaku Endo and Nikki Grime’s At Jerusalem’s Gate, Poems of Easter.


What’s on Your Nightstand?


I love 5MinutesforBooks.com’s feature What’s on Your Nightstand? It’s fun to get a snapshot of what people are reading. Clearly, I did not tidy up my stack of books on the nightstand. I can’t go into much detail, because of time constraints, but here is the stack I am working through. I ran out of my favorite Post-It Flags, as you can see by the pencils stuck in the books. Shame.

Real Marriage, by Mark and Grace Driscoll is on loan from my son and his wife. I want to read parts of it aloud with my husband…someday!

• Barely visible, the tiny sliver of blue, is Fit to Burst by Rachel Jankovic. This young mom has an abundance of wisdom that reaches far beyond homemade granola bar recipes and stars on chore charts. I like to consume it in small bites.

• The back cover showing, Shadow of the Silk Road, by Colin Thubron, is my current travel book. In this book Thubron travels from Xian, west of Shanghai, to Antioch in modern day Turkey. This is my third Thubron; I’m already inclined to like his writing. But I’m not sure he’ll be able to entrance me like Rob Gifford did in China Road.

• The generic black journal is my commonplace book. This is my fourth identical journal, purchased at WalMart, in which I write down quotes, phrases, words, book and DVD titles, and similar musings.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, a Flavia de Luce mystery by Alan Bradley, has been borrowed for far too long. I listened to the highly excellent audio version, but wanted to copy quotes from it. Which involves a re-reading with some skimming. So this title is the most guilt-inspiring one.

• Black bound Kindle rests on Flavia. I read the sample portion of Booked, Literature in the Soul of Me, by Karen Swallow Prior. An email reminded me that I had an unused gift card from Amazon, so I purchased the book today. Although I keep acquiring Kindle books, I haven’t read much except the Bible on it in February.

• The orange spine of Scrolling Forward, Making Sense of Documents in the Digital Age, by David Levy, is a book that simultaneously provokes groans and stubbornness in me. I was “Currently Reading” this on Goodreads on September 9th! The author, after finishing a Ph.D. in computer science, majoring in Artificial Intelligence, moved to London to study calligraphy for two years. That alone makes me like him. And the dedication in Hebrew. But, this book from 2001 is outdated. And for some reason I can’t ditch it. My persistence—foolish or not—was rewarded in chapter 10 with a great story about the 1989 San Francisco earthquake and the author’s assignment for a Hebrew class to translate Psalm 104:5. I have twenty pages left and I’m determined to finish. But the joy left a while back.

• Top of the pile is This Rich and Wondrous Earth, a Memoir of Sakeji School,  by Linda Moran Burklin. I’ve read Wes Stafford’s book Too Small to Ignore and several magazine articles revealing abuse and mistreatment at African boarding schools for missionary kids. This book is not about that. Linda’s book has a good-natured humor that acknowledges the hardships and difficulties, but also points out the benefits she received and the fun she experienced. I have to admit that the tight regimen and censored letters home has reminded me of prison. Last night we read a few pages aloud after dinner about a baptism that had us all laughing. It sounds sacrilegious, but it truly was a funny baptism story. I know of an MK who found Linda’s book very therapeutic. I’m eager to finish it and pass it on to my cousin who was at a different African boarding school.

• There is a secondary pile behind the towering one with two books: Muriel Barbery’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog and John Stott’s The Birds Our Teachers. You might call this the “Meaning To Get To” Pile.


 You are welcome to join the crew over at 5MfB or just write in the comments. What are you reading?



What’s on My Nightstand


I must clarify that my nightstand is a bag of books, because I’m at my second son’s house helping out after the birth of Riley, his third son. And since babies trump books any day of any year, here is the handsome boy, our sixth grandson.

And here is a picture of my “nightstand.”


Yep. I think I brought 17 books with me. Some I’ve read, but need to copy parts into my commonplace book. Because a photo like the one above would drive me wild (I can’t see the titles, I’d be saying to my computer) here are a few on a tottering stack.

Let’s just work down this pile, shall we?

:: Frank Delaney’s Ireland ::   I had a hard time settling into this story in the print version. When I downloaded the audio book, I couldn’t leave the book.  Sometimes I read along, but mostly I used the book for a quick way to note sentences to copy later. If you love word origins, Delaney is your author. Beginning before Saint Patrick and going through the Easter Rising, the oral tradition of Ireland, intertwined with the narrative, make this a great read. I firmly believe that any Frank Delaney title must be heard. Delaney reads his own books, and with his background in broadcasting, his renditions far surpass any other “read by author” audio book.

 Then she polished [the battered boots] to a shine, and they stood inside the back door, ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven.  p. 58

:: Shakespeare’s Comedy Of Errors ::  Making good on my promise to fill in the gaps in my Shakespeare. I haven’t started yet, but I’m going to take a tip from my sister-in-law: read his plays in one sitting.

:: Patrick Taylor’s An Irish Country Girl ::  I recently engaged the services of a new financial adviser; within two minutes of our appointment we were talking books, and he gave this book to me. Nice, huh?

:: Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables ::  This was December’s big read, but the book is not finished with me yet. I would like to go back and read some of the underlined parts again. And perhaps do a few more blog entries like this one.

:: Ronald Doah’s Fantastic Mr. Fox ::  I test drove this with my other set of boys. They loved it. I thought I’d try with these guys.

:: Larry McMurtry’s Roads : Driving America’s Great Highways ::    A travel book on driving the interstates was just enough quirky to capture my attention. This best reason to read this book is all the references to other travel books. The author states that he owns and has read three thousand travel books. And I will ever be grateful for McMurtry’s phrase, a skim-milk light.

:: Marcel Proust’s Swann’s Way ::  Capitalizing on the momentum from Les Mis, I thought I’d tackle another huge French novel, the first volume of Remembrance of Things Past. This version is translated by C.K. Scott Moncrieff, about whom–and about the translation work– I read in Russell Kirk’s memoir, The Sword Of Imagination. I’m finding it tough sledding, but I’m plowing through hopeful for some happy rewards.

:: Muriel Barbery’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog ::  Another title from my new stockbroker. Any thoughts from you who have read it?

:: Lawrence Anthony’s The Elephant Whisperer ::  My friend Rachel sent this to me when she figured out I was hip deep in books on Africa. It looks delightful, and if I learn enough about elephants I can reckon it as a science read!

:: Linda Burklin’s This Rich & Wondrous Earth ::  A memoir of Sakeji School, a British boarding school in Zambia. Burklin captures the tension of trying to fit into a new environment and stay out of trouble. I’m only a few pages into this, but I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read so far.

:: Anthony Trollope’s Lady Anna ::  I listened to this Librivox recording on the six hour car trip up here. And I’ve fallen asleep listening to it every night. The plot and themes remind me of the very first Trollope I read, An Old Man’s Love , wherein after a (fatherless) young woman gives consent to a suitor, a more attractive man comes courting. Does keeping your word apply to an engaged couple? 


 So what about you? Whatchareading?