Of Forest Fires and Hurricanes


So began a life with “less schedule than a forest fire and less peace than a hurricane.” — Walter Thompson, Churchill’s bodyguard, quoted by Sonia Purnell in Clementine.

It tickles my fancy when details in what I’m reading correspond with my current situation. For instance, reading about the events on March 23, 1877 on March 23rd. Or reading about the view from an airplane while looking out an airplane window.

Forest fires and hurricanes are not at all delightful, but I found it noteworthy to come across this unusual pairing during the first week of September 2017, when Irma was approaching Florida and fires were consuming Montana, Idaho, Washington, and our beloved Columbia River Gorge in Oregon.

Had I read this sentence in July, it would have glanced off me without notice. But reading it in September gave the description rich resonance.

Have you experienced such an intersection between your reading and your living?


On My Nightstand

my disheveled, dis-shelved nightstand


Today is January 24th and I have not finished reading one book in 2012. Life has a way of interfering with reading schedules, don’t you know. [wry grin] In December when my head was clear but my body was convulsing I read through a book a day.  After reviewing my 2011 list of books read, I decided to start each month with one weightier title, working towards my goal of deep reading. I’m in the middle of…


Practicing History, essays from Pulitzer Prize winner Barbara Tuchman, yields as much about the craft of writing as it does about history. I’m taking my time with this book, sniffing the words, swirling them around in my mouth, enjoying the flavors and textures.

Distillation is selection, and selection, as I am hardly the first to affirm,
is the essence of writing history. It is the cardinal process of composition,
the most difficult, the most delicate, the most fraught with error as well as art.
Ability to distinguish what is significant from what is insignificant is sine qua non.
Failure to do so means that the point of the story, not to mention the reader’s
interest, becomes lost in a morass of undifferentiated matter. What it
requires is simply the courage and self-confidence to make choices and,
above all, to leave things out. 62



Many named Eric Metaxas’ biography, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, the best book of 2011. I was delighted to discover that our library had the audio version of this available. I’ve been listening primarily while I cook and clean the kitchen. Most sections I listen to twice before advancing to the next chapter. I expect I will get the print version of this book and re-read it with pencil at hand.




Alan Jacobs came into clear focus this past year. I watched symposiums, read reviews by and about him, and decided he’s a current writer I need to explore. I haven’t started reading The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction in a systematic way, but I’ve been dipping into it. Funny thing: one of Jacob’s strong messages is to read at whim. At the moment, I’m taking a whimsical approach to the book. In, out, over, back, here, there.


I collect books on how to write. Shelves of them. My favorites are the ones who urge me to read and read and read some more, with an occasional bit about writing. In Wordsmithy: Hot Tips for the Writing Life, Douglas Wilson piles on, with not only advice to read, but lists of recommended titles at the end of each chapter. One might not expect a manual on writing to keep you grinning like an idiot, but the humor in this book makes it impossible to read with a serious face. Short enough to read in one sitting, I’ve strung it out, savoring the flavors on each page. 

Wilson is the father to three remarkably accomplished children. Son, N.D. Wilson, is a best-selling author. Youngest daughter, Rachel Jancovic’s book, Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches is always in my basket of goodies for new moms. I yelped in delight to discover, tucked on page 48, that Wilson’s firstborn, Rebekah Merkle has a forthcoming book, England Swings. Here’s a hilarious sample of Bekah’s writing.

In the evenings, Nancy and I hang out with the kids and grandkids,
who come over frequently. I play the guitar, read, and so on.
It is a full and busy life, but we work hard at preventing it from
becoming frenetic. I hate frenetic, which returns us to the
previous point on the fruitfulness of plodding. Living this way,
we have found that it all adds up. 41


There are times when I just want to read a story, when I put my mind on cruise control—which, I feel compelled to point out, is not the same as turning it off—and pick up a novel. I am fully in the center of Trollope lovers; he’s one author whose complete works I would like to read.  To be honest, I’m still languishing in the introduction. Once I get to Chapter 1, this book will likely triumph on top of the pile of books.


Cindy at Ordo Amoris turned me on to Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It .  Even if you don’t agree with the premise of the book, it is a fascinating view at independent thinking. I’m smack in the middle and willing to give this way of eating a try.

If your goal in reading this book is simply to be told the answer to the question
“What do I do to remain lean or lose the excess fat I have?”
then this is it: stay away from carbohydrate-rich foods, and the
sweeter the food or the easier it is to consume and digest…the
more likely it is to make you fat and the more you should avoid it. 11



In addition to WWGF, I’m re-reading Alicia Stanton’s book, Hormone Harmony: How to Balance Insulin, Cortisol, Thyroid, Estrogen, Progesterone and Testosterone To Live Your Best Life. Whew! The title alone is daunting. I work part-time for a compounding pharmacy; we have 15 copies of this book that we lend to customers. I find it interesting that the message of this book dovetails quite nicely with Taubes’ book.

Insulin resistance promotes weight gain because it prompts fuel to be
preferentially delivered to fat cells, and it leads to elevated levels of
glucose in the blood. Both excess body fat and elevated blood
glucose contribute to hormone imbalance. 17


I’m linking, for the first time, to the 5 Minutes for Books site. On the fourth Tuesday, you can share a What’s on Your Nightstand post. Join us!