Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Reading Challenges

 Reading challenges are both internal and external nudges that push us toward goals, toward the need and desire to complete something, in this case reading.

The Library of Congress Reading Challenge https://blogs.loc.gov/national-book-festival/2020/08/take-on-our-challenge-read-across-the-library/ is designed for children, for those being schooled at home, home schooled, and those in the classroom. Of course, adults can take advantage of the challenge and read by themselves or with a little one (or not so little one) by their side.

Just recently, I decided to challenge myself to participate in a read-along. In this instance, it is the biography of Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/395848.Alexander_Hamilton

It's a huge book, a door stopper of a biography with tons of history thrown in. The goal of the read-along was thirteen pages a day. That's a small bite of book, of reading each day. And now, with three days to go, I'm right on time, on the mark to finish and to have learned more than I ever wanted to know about one of our most influential founding fathers.

 Reading challenges serve as a means to an end. They challenge us to try new books, to read on a new topic, to learn about the world around us. 

 Try the Library of Congress reading challenge. See where the books take you this fall.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

The Great American Read Finalists 2018

It's always exciting to see people reading, reading everywhere, reading their favorite books, and so much more. What's even better is to get a sense of what others think are the BEST BOOKS EVER!

The Great American Read https://www.pbs.org/the-great-american-read/home/  is / was a four month program that asked people across America to vote for their favorite book, the one that they love the most, has touched them most deeply.

Finalists were announced on Tuesday Oct 23, 2018 https://www.pbs.org/the-great-american-read/results/

The top five won't surprise many, although personally I wonder at number one. Here's the list of the top ten:
  1. To Kill a Mockingbird
  2. Outlander (Series)
  3. Harry Potter (Series)
  4. Pride and Prejudice
  5. Lord of the Rings
  6. Gone with the Wind
  7. Charlotte's Web
  8. Little Women
  9. Chronicles of Narnia
  10. Jane Eyre
Anne of Green Gables came in at number eleven.

The moral of this story is, when people ask you, and librarians, if reading is dead, if books are dead, if libraries are going away, the answer is a resounding NO. And the Great American Read is proof of that.

If you missed any of the episodes that ran on your local PBS station, here's where you can watch the shows today https://www.pbs.org/the-great-american-read/about/show/

Pick up a good book today and share it with a friend!


Sunday, January 21, 2018

Mysteries in Series

There’s something comforting about diving into a book where you know the main characters, their habits, speech patterns, and even their passions. That's why people read books in series. 

I'm a fan of starting at the beginning, seeing how the characters evolve, and joining them as they find their way around the world their author created. Of course the danger in starting at the beginning of a series is the author is just honing his or her craft, figuring out how the main characters will interact with one another. I find this is true with book series where I've become hooked on the TV series first and want to read how the author conceived of the characters and their world. 

In the case of J.D.Robb and her In Death series, the characters come alive on the page not on the screen. Each character has evolved from the very first book in the series Naked in Death (1995) to the most recent Dark in Death, released on January 30, 2018. While the books stand alone, they are part of the continuum of the series and the deadly, sparkling world of New York City in the 2060s.

Dark in Death, the 46th book in the series, is a book within a book, where the serial killer is re-enacting crimes in mystery / thrillers by an author. The killer is rewriting the murder scenes, placing herself in the role of the killer doing the killing, making the stories come to life. Lt. Dallas, Roarke, and Det. Peabody are hot on the trail of this killer, reading the mysteries, following the written and real life clues, and racing to get a head of the murderer.

Robb’s writing leaves the reader breathless, waiting for the next clue to drop, the next murder to happen, while hoping against hope that the trio will head off the murderer, the serial killer before the story plays out. Most of all, readers will want to read the imaginary mysteries created by the talented, ever creative mystery writer.

If you are just joining the series, it’s okay, you’ll figure out who’s who and then want to start at the very beginning with Naked in Death. No matter which of Robb’s mysteries you read, you’ll finish each will a sigh and a tremor, thankful it’s fiction yet yearning for another installment of the In Death series.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Family History through Heirlooms

Little things like charms, aprons, recipes, and even stuffed animals are ways to reminisce and remember family members and events. Perhaps you have a few favorite items that always spark a memory, happy or sad.

Author Viola Shipman has hit upon the perfect way to tell family stories. Shipman has two books already in print and a third due out in March 2018. Each book weaves together the lives and loves of a family through objects in the house. While the plot lines are similar, the stories will warm your heart and make you consider what’s in your house that captures moments in your family.

The Charm Bracelet (Thomas Dunne Books, 2016) follows the life and times of matriarch Lolly, her daughter Arden and granddaughter Lauren. The story is told through charms each woman wears on a bracelet that grows heavier by the months and years. The charms mark common and unique events in their lives. Through the telling of the stories behind the charms, the women grow closer, reconnecting their lives and gaining appreciation for one another.

In Shipman’s second book, The Hope Chest (Thomas Dunne, 2017) the main character is Mattie Tice who is dying from ALS, her husband Don, and Mattie’s caretaker Rose Hoffs and her daughter Jeri. Of course it’s Five year old Jeri who breaks the ice by exploring Mattie’s hope chest, asking about dolls, glass vases, and Christmas ornaments. Mattie tells stories about the objects sharing their lives with Rose and Jeri. Through the keepsakes, the two families bond, sharing love, hope, and learning to overcome challenges. While more of a tearjerker than The Charm Bracelet, The Hope Chest will inspire you to put aside some precious and common memories to share with your family and friends.

We all have family recipes, those tried and true favorites served at every holiday and special occasion. That’s what Samantha Mullins discovers in her family’s Recipe Box. Set in the family orchard in Northern Michigan, The Recipe Box includes stories about the family, remembrances of the tough and fantastic years. All the while, Samantha bakes recipes from her mother, grandmother, while rediscovering her passion for food and baked goods. Family stories abound as does love and friendship.

The Recipe Box proves that Shipman has found the perfect formula, or recipe, for telling tales and sharing the stories behind every day heirlooms.

These books are the perfect gift for family historians, genealogists, and fans of a good family story.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Memoir or Oral History on Overdrive

I was listening to an interview about history and biography when the author mentioned oral histories and how important they were for putting together his book. I nodded my head in agreement and then stepped back as I realized how important oral history is to memoir. 

If we differentiate memoir from biography as told in the first person as opposed to the third, then memoir is really an extended oral history. More than that, memoir is oral history written down and edited, thought out and perhaps contextualized with background on important events in a person's life.  More importantly, memoir is the first person account of a person's life, a look back at how that person responded to events and actions around them. Memoirs are another name for auto-biography, writing from memory. 

Two authors stand out in my mind as writing excellent and engaging memoirs or autobiographies. The first is Jill Ker Conway whose The Road to Coorain https://www.audiofilemagazine.com/reviews/read/5637/the-road-from-coorain-by-jill-ker-conway/ recounts her life until she goes to university. It's a wonderful oral history writ large, a history of growing up in Australia. Jill Ker Conway, a president of Smith College, went on to write several autobiographies and a wonderful study on the subject called When Memory Speaks: Reflections on Autobiography

James McBride is the second author who writes down the history of his family, particularly his relationship with his mother in The Color of Water https://www.audiofilemagazine.com/reviews/read/96315/the-color-of-water-by-james-mcbride/ This memoir tells of his life in Red Hook and his struggles with issues of race, religion, and identity. 

In the AudioFile Magazine’s 2017 Best AudioBooks, particularly Memoir http://digital.audiofilemagazine.com/t/9418-audiofile-best-audiobooks, we can listen to memoirs written and read by the author or interviewee, that is, the person who made an oral history come to life in print. Some of the memoirs are read by professional narrators. Does that make a difference? It depends upon the memoirist's ability to read for a long period of time and to capture the rhythm and tempo of their life. That's my opinion What do you think?

Take a listen to the audioclips provided by AudioFile Magazine

and make up your own mind.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Memoirs = Life Stories

Each of us looks for role models, role models who help us through difficult times, understand love and loss, relate to others, and so much more. Where do we find these role models? At work, at places of worship, in our families, and in books. Books might be fiction, history, biography or memoir. It’s memoir that’s the focus of this column in honor of AudioFile Magazine’s 2017 Best AudioBooks, particularly Memoir http://digital.audiofilemagazine.com/t/9418-audiofile-best-audiobooks

This year’s Memoirs are a wonderful mixture of triumph and success; of determination to survive loss and disease; and to understand what happens in life, good and bad. Links to the 2017 Best AudioBook memoirs are below.

Before you peruse the list, consider why you might listen to a memoir. In the telling of one’s life, the memoirist tells his life stories, of her hopes and dreams, of tactics for survival against all odds. Memoirs are often dramatic  and dynamic, a glimpse into the most intimate and passionate periods of a person’s life. With each memoir, we learn a little more about ourselves, good and bad.

Maybe you prefer biography to memoir. Maybe you ask, “what’s the difference?” To me, biography is an external view of a person’s life along with lots of explanations and examples of why and how the subject reacted and lived in their time. Memoir is an internal view, a personal perspective that can provide a model for your own experiences, trials, and struggles.

The thirteen titles below are a wonderful mix of life stories that will delight and charm, will touch you deep in the soul, and affect your own lives. I hope you find a role model, an author who will help you shape your own life stories, values, and internal strengths.

Join me in listening to AudioFile's 2017 Best of MEMOIR Audiobooks 

with their review link:

AL FRANKEN, GIANT OF THE SENATE  by Al Franken, read by Al Franken

THE BRIGHT HOUR by Nina Riggs, read by Cassandra Campbell, Kirby Heyborne

CHASING SPACE by Leland Melvin, read by Ron Butler

DEATH NEED NOT BE FATAL  by Malachy McCourt, Brian McDonald, read by Malachy McCourt

HUNGER by Roxane Gay, read by Roxane Gay

LET JUSTICE ROLL DOWN by John M. Perkins, Shane Claiborne [Foreword], read by Calvin Robinson, Shane Claiborne

LOGICAL FAMILY by Armistead Maupin, read by Armistead Maupin

MY LIFE, MY LOVE, MY LEGACY by Coretta Scott King, Barbara Reynolds, read by Phylicia Rashad, January LaVoy

SEVEN by Paula Cizmar, Catherine Filloux, Gail Kriegel, Carol K. Mack, Ruth Margraff,  Anna Deavere Smith, Susan Yankowitz, read by Shannon Holt, Jossara Jinaro, Alex Kingston, Emily Kuroda, Sameerah Luqmaan-Harris, Annet Mahendru, Sarah Shahi

THEFT BY FINDING by David Sedaris, read by David Sedaris

VACATIONLAND by John Hodgman, read by John Hodgman

WHAT HAPPENED by Hillary Rodham Clinton, read by Hillary Rodham Clinton

YOU DON'T HAVE TO SAY YOU LOVE ME by Sherman Alexie, read by Sherman Alexie