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.

A Song of Home

 

 

Were I to make a poem of a day
Of housework, I’d not write of dust and brooms
So much as of the sun in spotless rooms,
Of bowls of freshly cut sweetpeas—I’d say
Less of vegetables and kinds of bread,
Of endless dishes washed and scraped and dried,
And more of children’s hunger satisfied—
I’d tell of warm soft lips on mine instead.

O more than ceaseless duties I would sing
Of happy hearts and of contentment, of
Ambitious dreams—yes, more than anything
I’d tally every blessing, wherein love
Is greatest of them all: is the leaven
Exalting toil, turning home to Heaven.

 

poem by Ethel Romig Fuller
from Kitchen Sonnets

Thank you, Carmon, for pointing me to Oregon’s third poet laureate.

Closing Thoughts

 

She is depressed.  The d’s—disappointment, discouragement, dejection, despondency, despair—plague her. And Death, the big D, is staring in the window, eager to devour. 

I longed to encourage her. I looked for the right words. I had in mind the last verse of one of the psalms, about hope.  Flipping through the psalms, it occurred to me that the closing thought of many psalms are precisely what we need to hear in the closing chapter of our life. The perfect orientation. The reminder of where our strength lies. Solid truth. Something to grip.

Here is a sampling:

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. [23]  

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God, for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. [42]

For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations. [100]

In peace I will both lie down and sleep:
for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety. [4]

Bring me out of prison, that I may give thanks to your name!
The righteous will surround me, for you will deal bountifully with me. [142]

Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord. [27]

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever! [118]

I will thank you forever, because you have done it.
I will wait for your name, for it is good, in the presence of the godly. [52]

Our help is in the name of the Lord,
who made heaven and earth. [124]

Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
even as we hope in you. [33]

For he stands at the right hand of the needy one,
to save him from those who condemn his soul to death. [109]

O Lord of hosts,
blessed is the one who trusts in you! [84]

Bless the Lord, O my soul! [103]

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord! [150]

Is This the Face?

Jesus on the Cross, Rembrandt

Is this the Face that thrills with awe
      Seraphs who veil their face above?
Is this the Face without a flaw       
      The Face that is the Face of Love?
Yea, this defaced, a lifeless clod,   
Hath all creation’s love sufficed
Hath satisfied the love of God,       
     This Face the Face of Jesus Christ

Christina Rossetti

Wisdom

 
Wisdom

When I have ceased to break my wings
Against the faultiness of things,
And learned that compromises wait
Behind each hardly opened gate,
When I have looked Life in the eyes,
Grown calm and very coldly wise,
Life will have given me the Truth,
And taken in exchange–my youth.

Sara Teasdale

Advice to Small Children

Advice to Small Children  by Edward Anthony (1895-1971)

Eat no green apples
   or you’ll droop,
Be careful not
   to get the croup,
Avoid the chicken-pox
   and such,
And don’t fall out
   of windows much.

I can’t help myself. 

This odd little poem reminds me of one of my favorite words.

Defenestration.

The act of throwing someone or something out the window.

From the Latin fenestra, window.

(I guess I’m not out of my Latin stage, after all.)

Life, Well Lived, Is Like Writing a Poem

Life, well lived, is like writing a poem.
 And therefore it is hard, very hard.
A sloppy prose or an unintelligible,
free verse life would not be as hard.
And the effect would not be as great.
God is beautiful,
and the life that expresses his glory should be beautiful.
…Beauty and truth and compelling depth
come by painstaking thinking
and trial and praying
and self-correcting.

~ John Piper

My Favorite Billy Collins Poem

                                                                              [picking up the poem at the fourth stanza]


She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sickroom,
lifted teaspoons of medicine to my lips,
set cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light

and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift–not the archaic truth

that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hands,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.

~ The Lanyard by Billy Collins in The Trouble with Poetry: And Other Poems
    (click on the link, click on Look Inside!, enter lanyard in the search box and you can read the first part of the poem)

For an exquisite treat, get the CD Billy Collins Live.  Follow the link for a tasty sample of a poetry reading.
 

A Godward Life

John Piper’s A Godward Life: Book Two  reads like a blog.

His keen interest in life brings a wide variety of topics to the table: poetry, ethical dilemmas, reflections on his parents, letter to his wife, vignettes of people in his life, meditations on suffering, mental health tips, and commentary on current events. He reaches back to Augustine, Bunyan, and Luther, reflects on David Brainerd, and writes about contemporary heroes like Josef Tson. 

Each reading is close to three pages; this is a book which can be read in small sips or large gulps. 

Piper brings perfect pitch to his writing.  It is not smarmy or cheesy; dry and dusty; or heavy and didactic.  His exuberance for God’s glory brings a patina of grace on each page.  His humility keeps him from self-focus while maintaining a personal and genuine voice.  Above all, John Piper is a pastor. He teaches us how to pray, how to think and how to live.

Life, well lived, is like writing a poem. And therefore it is hard, very hard. A sloppy prose or an unintelligible, free verse life would not be as hard. And the effect would not be as great. God is beautiful, and the life that expresses his glory should be beautiful…Beauty and truth and compelling depth come by painstaking thinking and trial and praying and self-correcting.

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