Friday, August 30, 2019

My Summer Reading - Four Short Reviews

My summer was too busy for blogging (plus I read very little that merited a thoughtfully written blog post.) So here is a quick overview of the fiction I read.

The Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie: So engrossing, that for two straight days, I kept wishing that whatever activity I was involved in would finish so that I could get back to it. 

Village School by Miss Read: The first of the Fairacre series. I took careful notes of all the village residents (over 30!) so that I could keep everybody straight as I progress through the other 19 novels. So happy to have found 10 of them quite cheaply. (They are already tucked into my "take-back-to-Brazil" stash.) The rest I'll read through digital library loan.

Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein: I nabbed this title at the thrift store because the movie was coming out and the previews looked promising. This is the YA version of The Art of Racing in the Rain. I was surprised at how depressing it was from start to finish - except for the impossible to believe "happy" ending. I regret every hour I spent in this book.

Island of the World by Michael D. O'Brien: An achingly sad and beautiful book. Sometimes Josip’s hardships were overwhelming and I had to put the book down for a few hours, but there was a redemptive thread throughout that kept them from being unbearable. I appreciate the ability of Catholic authors to include suffering in their fiction without facile answers. But I struggled at times to identify with the more mystical elements of Obrien’s book. Still, this is some of the best storytelling you will ever read. Worth every minute I spent in it.


Friday, August 23, 2019

What I Read and Watched this Summer

Since our return to the U.S. 3 months ago, we have been constantly on the move. Occasionally we stopped to watch an episode of Andy Griffith or Jeopardy. The only movies we watched were Toy Story 4 and Ant Man and the Wasp (not as good as the prequel). Toy Story was loads of fun in spite of the creepy puppets and the underlying message (ubiquitous to most films) that men are dolts who need powerful women to tell them what to do with their lives.

I've done mostly light reading since my brain couldn't handle much else: 4 Vintage novels (Bel Lamington and Fletcher's End by D.E. Stevenson, Village School by Miss Read and He Fell in Love with His Wife by E.P. Roe.) The latter was over the top in melodrama.

6 Non-fiction: Biography of missionary to China Geneva Sayre, Letters to an American Lady by C.S. Lewis,  a book on housecleaning called Sink Reflections, 3 Bible study books - Opening the Windows of Blessing (Zechariah) by Kay Arthur, Be Rich (Ephesians) and Be Joyful (Philippians) by Warren Wiersbe

Least favorite book: Racing in the Rain (YA version of The Art of Racing in the Rain) I wanted to read it because the movie was rated (gasp!) PG and I thought it might be worth watching. After reading the children's version, I can only imagine how depressing the adult version must be.

I'm halfway through Miracles by C.S. Lewis and 80% through Michael O Brien's Island of the World.

I'm looking forward to having more of a regular routine in the fall for reading and blogging.


Friday, August 9, 2019

Nicholas Carr on "Printed books vs. E-Books"

I know I said I wasn't going to address this subject anymore (post here), but this quote is too good not to share:

A page of online text viewed through a computer screen may seem similar to a page of printed text. But scrolling or clicking through a Web document involves physical actions and sensory stimuli very different from those involved in holding and turning the pages of a book or a magazine. Research has shown that the cognitive act of reading draws not just on our sense of sight but also on our sense of touch. It's tactile as well as visual. "All reading," writes Anne Mangen, a Norwegian literary studies professor, "is multi-sensory. There's a crucial link between the sensory-motor experience of materiality, of a written work and the cognitive processing of the text content." The shift from paper to screen doesn't just change the way we navigate a piece of writing. It also influences the degree of attention we devote to it and the depth of our immersion in it. (p. 90 of The Shallows)

I have loved the ease of acquiring books through my Kindle (saving space, time and money), but have noticed a downturn in my ability to read deeply. I'm not yet ready to give up my e-reader, but am trying to make better choices about how often to use it.


Friday, August 2, 2019

Village School by Miss Read

I thoroughly enjoyed Miss Read's Thrush Green series and have long looked forward to beginning her Fairacre series. As in the first Thrush Green book, I was introduced to a dizzying amount of characters, but I know that as the series develops, all of them will become as familiar to me as old friends.

The main character in Village School is the school mistress, Miss Read and the stories are based on the author's (her real name is Dora Jessie Saint) many years of teaching. If you are looking for a thrilling page-turner, please look elsewhere. These books describe commonplace activities with charm and gentle wit. The descriptions are lovely:

Behind the tractor wheeled and fluttered a flock of hungry rooks, scrutinizing the fresh-turned ribs of earth for food; their black shapes rose and scattered like flakes of burnt paper from a bonfire.

No English village story would be complete without a vicar and a chapel. While decorating the church for the Harvest Festival, Miss Read writes:

The troubles and vexations of the last twenty-four hours suddenly seemed less oppressive. It is difficult, I reflected, to take an exaggerated view of any personal upheaval when standing in a building that has witnessed the joys, the hopes, the griefs, and all the spiritual tremors of mortal man for centuries.... In the presence of this ancient, silent witness, it was right that personal cares should assume their own insignificant proportions. They were, after all, as ephemeral as the butterflies that hovered over the Michaelmas daisies on the graves outside.

As I said earlier, there isn't much of a storyline, but I very much look forward to getting to know Miss Read, her students, and neighbors in the coming months. Friends who have read both sets of novels say they prefer the Fairacre folks. I have a hard time imagining that I could love any group more than my Thrush Green family, so I'm interested in what my final verdict will be.