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"Pace is all. Rhythm is master. Consistency is your friend."

Friday, June 9, 2006


I realize that the official start of summer isn't for another couple of weeks. Maybe I'm just getting antsy because of the five plus inches of rain I've been drowning in over the past week (with more expected overnight!) Whatever the reason, here are a couple of books I've recently read and recommend:

1. The Giver by Lois Lowry - This was a great, quick read. It's set in the future where everything in society is closley monitored and the lives of its citizens are predestined and controlled to the extreme. Of course, since this is the only life these people know the majority follow the status quo. However, there is one citizen who is destined to receive all the memories of the past including those from a past before such control. The person chosen to fill this role is revered as the most important member of the society for his knowledge and wisdom. However, the trade off is that the keeper of the memories also is completely isolated because the information he has is seen as dangerous. I won't say anything else so as not to give too much away. Suffice it to say that it brings up a lot of things to think about (similiar to 1984 by Orwell), but is original in its premise. It reminded me of being back in high school in that it was a book with substance and I could just hear the study questions forming in my head :)

2. A Friend of the Earth by T.C. Boyle - This book is phenomenal!! Five stars. Another novel set in the future and, as expected, it's a very bleak scenario. The earth has been ravaged by global warming, pollution, the extinction of most wildlife, etc. There isn't much of an environment left really and yet humans have somehow evolved to live an average of over 100 years. (I guess that's what we get for ruining the Earth - longer time to live in our mess.) The story centers around a man in his seventies named Ty who in the 90's was an "environmental terrorist" who sabotaged construction equipment slated to tear down forests, participated in a protest that got him arrested and his daughter placed in social services and in 2025 he is the caretaker of some of the few animals left on Earth. Ty is definitely a character who it would be easy to hate, but his passion - as misguided as it often is - and his love of his daughter make it impossible for us to feel anything but sympathy. He makes a lot of BAD decisions. His temper and stubborness is unbelievable and often leads to him making his own trouble while blaming everyone else around him. This book brings a lot of things to the surface. The most obvious being that if we continue the destructive environmental path we are currently on could we live in a world like Ty's? And is someone like Ty justified in his actions to try and get people's attention and save the Earth? And what about the actions of a parent? Should we sacrifice our ideals or modify our actions in order to protect our children? Is it OK to get thrown in prison for a cause even though he has a daughter, whose mother has died, at home to care for? I can't say enough about this book. The writing is spectacular - Boyle's descriptions of the environment are incredible (I can feel the cold rain falling on my face), his depiction of Ty as a complicated character with tunnel vision is amazing and the plot itself brings the reader on an exciting and emotional ride. I will definitely be checking out some of Boyle's other writing this summer because of this one. (Thank you, Shannon!)

3. The Portable Emerson edited by Carl Bode & Malcolm Cowley - Ralph Waldo Emerson that is. Another suggestion by a friend, I have just finished "Nature" and I am amazed again at how wonderful this man was. He was truly one of our greatest American writers. His ability to draw parallels between the natural and spiritual worlds really helps to connect us to our environment and I think if we are to turn this ship around and start treating Mother Earth as we should that's exactly what we need right now. If we can find "God," whoever that may be to you or me, in nature then we will revere her and treat her with respect and a kind hand. And as we all know the Earth's future is that of our own, our children and our grandchildren. Emerson offers a little bit for everyone with his views on writing, religion, self-reliance, slavery and his portraits of other authors/philosophers like Thoreau and Plato. Not the easiest of reading, but that's what I really like about it. You can get so deeply immersed in him that the rest of the world falls away and your mind feels reinvigorated upon finishing any given passage.
"Standing on the bare ground - my head bathed by the blithe air and uplifted into infinite space - all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing! I see all . . ."

4. The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz - I've said enough about this one. But I can't recommend it enough. Read it! It will change the way you live your life, as well as the way you see others.

5. Round Ireland with a Fridge by Tony Hawks - This book is hilarious. It's a travel book of sorts about a guy who accepts a bet to hitchhike around Ireland, coast to coast, with a small, dorm size fridge in tow. I haven't read this one in years, but as I scanned my bookshelf for suggestions this one definitely stands out. The stories are so IRISH! A great, light, humorous summer read.

I'm going to be rereading Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer this summer. Those are two books I haven't touched since high school and I'm looking forward to seeing what I discover now that my perspective is completely different from the last time I read them.
But I'd like some suggestions from all of you. What are you reading? What can you recommend? I'm up for just about anything - so type away! And not just for me. Share with all of us your recommendations so that we can have a great summer filled with reading!!

P.S. Check out the new link I've posted under "Websites I Like" - Astronomy Picture of the Day. I stumbled upon it and the images are some of the most incredible I've ever seen!! My boys were mesmerized and so was I ... Check it out.


At 6/09/2006 08:28:00 PM, Anonymous Loushe said...

Okay, so I have to add yes, yes, yes, to #s1-3 and Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer will be so much more amazing as an adult. I will check out #s 4& 5 myself.

I'd like to add that Ty reminds me of a Captain Ahab of the land. That some monomania pervades his character through and through. Boyle rocks and his short stories are well worth reading too. Anyone who enjoys Orwell, Hesse, or Vonnegut, Boyle is a must. His style is impeccable.

Anyone looking for a lengthier, involved novel, I'd like to recommend my personal favorite, The Count of Monte Cristo. It is the ultimate revenge tale. Dumas tells an incredible story with so many twists and turns, it will boggle your mind how he pulls it all together in the end. If you saw the movie, good, but as any reader knows, the movie can't compare and classic Hollywood changed the ending (very, very disappointing and unfair to the novel). The novel is just phenomenal all around. A must read for anyone!

Anything by John Irving. If you've never read him, I'd suggest starting with The Cider House Rules, A Prayer for Owen Meany or A Widow for a Year. Most people rave about The World According to Garp, but I think some of his other novels are much better and get glossed over. His writing is awesome, storytelling is compelling and his characters amazing. His ability to pull you into his characters (who all have very bizarre quirks, but so so real) is top notch. I just picked up his new novel, Until I Find You, and will add it to my stack of books to read this summer. Irving probably isn't for everyone, but I love his humor and ability to make something out of "nothing".

Well, that's all for now.

Thanks Nancy. And I am so thrilled those books impacted you enough to recommend them. Good stuff.

Happy Reading Everyone!

At 6/10/2006 10:25:00 AM, Blogger cherylann said...

You've got to read my favorite book ever.... it's not really your type of book... empowering and educational. You need to look in the fiction section for this one. It's Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet. Ken Follet usually pens war mysteries and things in the genre of the bourne identity. Pillars is an epic about a man's dream of building a cathedral and how the lives of people in the 14th century are entwined. I love this book, it is lengthy, but it only every takes me like 3 days to read it because I can't put it down. I've read it like 6 times. Sometimes I finish it then turn to the beginning again. READ IT!

Oh, and I wanted to thank you for your letter in response to my letter to you. It really touched me. I cried a few times. It's good to know that there are people out there who love me more than I think. I hope you never have to feel what I have felt in losing my mother. You were and have remained a good friend... even in all those years we weren't in communication... you still loved me as a friend. Even through all the anger. Thank you Nancy. I love you! xoxo- your cherlito

At 6/10/2006 03:07:00 PM, Blogger Linus said...

"A Prayer for Owen Meany" is one of my favorites! I can't believe I forgot that one. And "Cider House Rules" is very good, too.

Irving's subject matter does tend to be a bit bizarre (I'd been turned off by the summaries on book jackets before and read Owen Meany only on a friend's suggestion), but the characters are some of the best written characters I've ever read. It's been a while for me so maybe this will be the summer to pick up another Irving book.
Any suggestions, Shannon?

I will pick up Pillars as well (at some point!) That's why I love this! I like getting suggestions of book that I wouldn't ordinarily pick up. It makes reading even more of an exciting discovery process.

At 6/12/2006 07:49:00 PM, Blogger Linus said...

I couldn't let this quote go by ...

"Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill."
--Henry David Thoreau


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