Looking Between the Covers

First off this is not about sex, a bed, or linens. I want to discuss books. Books have been a little bit of an obsession in this household. Sparky has become a reading fiend. I have not felt inclined to become competitive. The last time I was in a book reading competition, I killed it. The English teacher had to invent new levels for me. I ended up a “phoenix” which was four or five levels above what she had initially determined to be the top tier – “eagle”. Anyway, Sparky has been not only reading physical books but listening to audio books. Although I can see the attraction, I have a problem considering audio books as having been read. Nevertheless, I have been reading some of the books Sparky has brought home from the library. (Since he works there it isn’t out of his way to check them out or return them.) So far I’ve been intrigued and disappointed, sometimes within the same book.

After reading the entirety of the book “Baking with Kafka” by Tom Gauld I realized that I am not as smart as I thought or as quick to recognize British humor. I did read the whole thing which is a testament to my need for closure. I kept thinking that the next page would tickle me or be in some way amusing. Hope springs eternal. At least until you close the back cover and think, “I’ll never get that time back.” I felt the same when I started reading “Hyperbole and a Half” by Allie Brosh. The difference being that about 20 pages in I was howling with laughter and had to stop to wipe the tears from my eyes.

Having a little trepidation about another of his book selections, I steeled myself and seeing as it was a thin book figured it wouldn’t be so bad. After 2 pages I was confused. Was it just me or did this book just make no sense whatsoever? I continued to read and become progressively less happy about reading the book. I must be a glutton for punishment so I finished the book. I felt as if I were having a mental collapse. The circular logic, the repetitive thoughts, the nonsensical obsessions conspired to make me doubt my own sanity. Fra Keeler by Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi was a painful experience. My husband thought it was “interesting” and “fascinating”. I suppose there is some merit in the writing since she won lots of awards for this novel. It was not my cup of tea.

I did enjoy a couple others, A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore. It kept me engaged and I wanted to see how things were going to come out… I won’t spoil it with details but I did like it. Then there was the book “One Hundred Favorite Folktales” which is a compilation of 100 stories from around the world. I liked that there were themes linking continents and countries. It was fun to see the variations of the stories. Over all the Russian folk tales were more brutal and the German ones a little scary while the Norwegian stories seemed to favor a gentler touch. Calmkate recommended “A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World” by C. A. Fletcher and it was a good one. I was engrossed and managed to read it in 2 days. I guess that’s the sign of a really good book! Then I tackled “Boy Swallows Universe” by Trent Dalton and though it was a grittier story I did enjoy it. I’m thinking the Australian authors might just become favorites…

What’s on your nightstand?

45 thoughts on “Looking Between the Covers

  1. “My Own Words” Ruth Bader Ginsburg, footnotes hard to follow and “Heaven” Randy Alcorn that I can’t stick with since eyes only last so long.

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  2. Several half finished books . . . in the “I’ll never get this time back” category if I persist. Never used to be able to let go of a book I was not enjoying, feeling it a failure of will. Now that I am “of a certain age” I say to hell with it, if I don’t get pulled in why suffer?

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    1. I know what you mean. I’ve gotten that way with movies and TV – if it doesn’t grab me in the first 5-10 minutes I’m out. I’m being more selective about the books too. Now if my husband recommends one, I flip to the middle and read a page. If I like the style and it captures my imagination, I’ll turn and start from the beginning otherwise I’m more inclined to close it and place it back on his reading stack.

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  3. Love hearing your history and life with the Spark.
    I’m the opposite of your phoenix graph, at this point. I’m only reading two at a time. Cultural Creatives (wonderful, to me) and The Book of Lost Things – John Connolly.
    Australian, eh? One of my favorites of all time is The Bone People by Keri Hulme. New Zealand writer but the book won the Booker, so. ๐Ÿ™‚

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    1. Yikes! Reading 2 books concurrently is an anathema to me. I’m a one at a time reader… Anyway I’ll have to look into “The Bone People” as it just might be a new favorite. I think I’ve read “The Book of Lost Things” but it was a long time ago.

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  4. You have my passion for reading Val. Sometimes i get hold of a book because someone recommended it, and then I suffer through it…. all the way to the end. At that time I don’t know if I should chuck the book or cry and tell myself “Why , why did I waste so much time.” Like you, I cannot stop reading half way, regardless of how totally unreadable it is. I HAVE to finish the book.
    Do you like Pat Conroy’s works? I love his diction and have almost all his books. One of them is a cook book of sorts, titled “Pat Conroy Cook Book”. It is not all about recipes, which there are, but also his little stories that he narrates in such an elegant style.
    I am currently reading “The Hour I First Believed” by Wally Lamb, who is another favorite.
    Thank you for a wonderful post Val. You always make me smile with a sigh of relief.

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    1. I do feel the pressure to have closure when reading a book. However after the disaster of Fra Keeler I’m resolved to just set some things aside if they don’t hold my interest! I haven’t read any Pat Conroy’s books but I did see several of the movies based on them… I’m tickled pink that I can make you smile!!

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  5. I have a bunch of books on my coffee table and all I do is dust them. I used to love to read, and, like you, I was way ahead of my grade, but after 30+ years of teaching writing and writing books that required a lot of research, I find it very hard to get into a book. So, I guess I’ll keep dusting these. ๐Ÿ™‚

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    1. For some reason this makes me sad. For me books have always been escape hatches into other worlds. Years of working in a hostile environment made me appreciate that quality…

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  6. no time to read books with the blogs I follow Val ๐Ÿ˜‰ Good reviews, that’s what I prefer, a frank this is how it struck me manner than a lot of the waffle reviewers carry on with

    Thanks for crediting me with that recommendation but I’ve never heard of the book … must have been another aussie.

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    1. You are right! It was Brizzy Mays Books and Bruschetta!! I guess that’s what happens when you follow a lot of blogs – but I wouldn’t dream of cutting down on my subscriptions! I know how you feel about book reviews. Same thing happens with trying to select anything online – the reviews are mostly just advertisements to get you to buy and not an honest evaluation.

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  7. My tablet which is what I read books on. I would need up to 10 to 30 books for one period away from home. A lot of my favorite authors have had new releases our and I been working my way through them.

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    1. I guess that would be my entertainment too if I was on the road for that many hours at a time! My iPad lets me read but it is hard on my eyes – too much glare and harsh light. Good that your favorites are putting out new books – that would be a plus!

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      1. I have my tablet set to a dark background for reading and it helps my eyes. I read, write, knit, and work on calanders for Christmas gifts right now. Every now and then on waits watch what is download to my tablet which is The Crown right now. And of course I take pictures. We are sleeping a lot during the day which means less time to do much other than read.

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  8. Another Aussie author you should read is Hannah Kent though her books are not based in Australia. For some reading that features the Oz landscape as a character try Jane Harperโ€™s mysteries.
    The pile of books by my bedside continues to grow and was beginning to cause distress because of its sheer size. I relocated it earlier in the week to relieve the pressure:) Itโ€™s because friends provide books for the Little Library you see – I think there are 80 now in my TBR pile

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    1. Ah! You are a real bibliophile! I realize now that you are the one who recommended the books… I have put these on the list for Sparky to see if our library has them. If not he’ll ask for an interlibrary loan. I admire your little library but 80 books is more than most of the little libraries can hold!

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  9. I am so glad you mentioned A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World! It’s my favorite book du jour; in fact, I listened to it on Audible then read it in hard back. I tend to discover an author and plow through his/her work, the most recent being Wallace Stegner and V.S. Naipaul. Audible books are wonderful for accompanying mindless tasks like weeding, cooking, and vacuuming but there’s nothing like the luxury of sitting down with a real book. Even the tablet doesn’t compare. Audible books are also good for enjoying books that might be daunting if you had to carve out the time to sit still to read them. I “read” Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov while cleaning stalls. I still think of those stories whenever I go up to the barn.

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    1. Sparky has one in the car to listen to while commuting to work and home. I suppose that would make some tasks more enjoyable. I will investigate some of these books but I’m not as voracious a reader as I once was… I might not get to them until after the New Year!

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  10. I am re-reading books from my basement library. Right now I’m reading all the Mitford books by Jan Karon. I think I’m up to book 5 now. I haven’t been to the library for 2 reasons, Covid and my broken arm. My daughter drives me to therapy and Dr. app’ts and I hate to ask her to take me anyplace else. I order groceries online from Aldi’s. They do a great job of delivering. I’m very thankful for books, especially since I really don’t enjoy TV or even movies.

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  11. Nowadays I’m mostly on the Kindle. I add books as I get recommendations. I like books set in places I kind of know, which is why I think I relate to Stephen King and Paul Doiron better than the Florida authors like Carl Hiaasen and AJ Stewart that my friends are trying to get me into. I can’t read straight through a series I get tired of the same thing, so I break them up. I probably have 50 books sitting on my kindle right now.

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    1. Wow! That is a lot of books. I rarely read series other than Harry Potter which was read over the span of years! I like fantasy and SciFi so those don’t take place in any familiar locations… So that isn’t part of my enjoyment criteria.

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  12. I began the year with “A Hundred Years of Solitude”, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The rest of the year has found me focused on the Black and First Nations experience in our country. My current read is “1491”, by Charles C. Mann. It is a deep dive into the true nature of pre-Columbian civilizations in the Americas/

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    1. Sparky read “A hundred Years of Solitude” and then “Love in the Time of Cholera” only fitting that he read the second one in March! I’m currently reading “The Book of Lost Things” by John Connolly. I guess one of the positives during the pandemic is that I’ve been reading more!

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