Reading: September 2019

Books come to us at a time and for a reason. I often pick up and put down a book  because our time hasn’t yet come. I am willing to jettison a book that offends me, whether because of the writing or the content; I don’t feel I have to finish every book I start (I used to), because life is too short to read bad books.

In this season of life, as fall has arrived and my sabbatical summer has ended, I’m reading mostly non-fiction about creativity and recreating my life. If you’re in a different season, likely we’re reading different things. I’d love to hear your suggestions!

Art MattersArt Matters by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Illustrator Chris Riddell took some of Neil Gaiman’s essays and, well, illustrated them. “Make Good Art” was the best essay, with a clarifying image: the goal of my art is like a mountain. So long as I am walking toward the mountain, I’m on the right path. Anything that takes me closer to the mountain, say yes to that. Anything that turns me away from the mountain is a no. Helpful.

Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get DiscoveredShow Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered by Austin Kleon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book isn’t rocket science, but it is encouraging and helpful to those who create and want to be known for their creativity.

The Artist's WayThe Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve had this book for years but pulled it off the shelf to guide me through my summer’s sabbatical, having quit my career and needing to find my way (write my way, more precisely) into a new one. This book was so on point: each time I felt resistance in any area, she addressed it specifically. I plan to keep this book close at hand for regular encouragement.

Lillian Boxfish Takes a WalkLillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed my New Year’s Eve 1984 walk with Lillian through her city, Manhattan. Each stop along the way led her to share stories from her life- about history, culture, friendship, women and work and family. Her engagement with strangers, always respectful, always interested, were the highlights of the evening.

I enjoyed it until I didn’t. She took such sideways turns… I limped along with her as she walked to midnight and beyond, but she seemed deflated. I wanted more for her.

“A motto favored by the ancients was solvitur ambulando: It is solved by walking” (234).
“The point of living in the world is just to stay interested” (238).

A Circle of Quiet (Crosswicks Journals #1)A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L’Engle
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Possibly my favorite non-fiction book of all time. I read it first when I was a 21-year-old college graduate, when the concepts of “ontology”- being-ness – and “chronology” vs. “kairos” – clock time vs. flow – were new to me and entirely formational. As a young adult, I was seeking how I would be in the world, and especially seeking those experiences that would take me out of time, like dinner parties with friends, reading a captivating book, walking on the beach, and using my expensive education and the skills I had (and would develop) to make a difference in the world.

Reading it again at almost 50 years old, I have a different, renewed, appreciation for what Madeleine wrote when she herself was 51 years old. So much of what she wrote in 1972 still feels relevant, even oddly prophetic.

“Creativity is an act of discovering…. When we can play with the unself-conscious concentration of a child, this is: art: prayer: love.” (12-13)

The Anti 9 to 5 Guide: Practical Career Advice for Women Who Think Outside the CubeThe Anti 9 to 5 Guide: Practical Career Advice for Women Who Think Outside the Cube by Michelle Goodman
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book would best be read by women in their 20’s, possibly before college graduation or soon thereafter. Since I’m not in that demographic, the best part of this book for me were the inspiring stories of women who followed their bliss into non-traditional careers.

Platform: The Art and Science of Personal BrandingPlatform: The Art and Science of Personal Branding by Cynthia Johnson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

No denying the world has changed. Everyone who spends any time on social media of any form has a platform, whether or not they know it, admit it, or care about it. Johnson is bold, an actor who becomes any character she wants to be to live the life she wants. She has a lot to teach, and this book contains practical advice and real-life illustrations to back it up. I didn’t always enjoy the book, and TBH, I’m more than a little overwhelmed by this new reality, but as they say, that’s life.

“So if everything is constantly changing and evolving, why do we become complacent and accept things as they are in the present? Acceptance…stops us from seeking change and challenging ourselves to grow.” (13)

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Thankful Thursday – Spring 2016 Books

Lotsa reading happening over here, and it’s been a fun mix of a couple of novels, even more young adult novels, a goofy volume of poetry, and several non-fiction books.

Every Thing on ItEvery Thing on It by Shel Silverstein
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A quick-and-easy read-aloud for a poetry reading requirement, but not my favorite Shel Silverstein. Still, a couple of poems stood out: “WRITESINGTELLDRAW” and “THE RAINBOW THROWER.”

The Graveyard BookThe Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was my second time through this book – I read it myself years ago and this time read it aloud with Tween – and I liked it even better this time. And even more so when I read Gaiman’s acknowledgements, which begin with Rudyard Kipling and The Jungle Book. Gaiman read and reread The Jungle Book from childhood through adulthood, and that information sheds such light on what he has created. I thought parts might scare my sensitive Tween, but that was my too-rational adult brain overthinking; he took even the “scariest” bits in stride, as children perceive the world differently than adults – a perspective that helped me appreciate that life’s “scary” bits don’t have to be overwhelming, even to a sensitive mama.

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond FearBig Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was the right book at the right time for me. Gilbert blends the right amount of play and seriousness, discipline and joy, storytelling and truth-telling. Highly recommend to anyone who desires to live beyond fear, whatever form creativity takes in your life.

Harriet Wolf's Seventh Book of Wonders: A NovelHarriet Wolf’s Seventh Book of Wonders: A Novel by Julianna Baggott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One of my new favorites! Having allowed myself to stop reading another book, acclaimed and lovely, but not for this moment in my life, I picked up this book. Sentences in I knew I’d found a treasure. Harriet Wolf is an author and matriarch of three generations of women, all broken in their own beautiful ways. Baggott weaves together scenes from Harriet’s books with narratives told in each woman’s voice. Fantastic, moving, healing, wonder-full.

Why Not Me?Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Although I went in looking for a lighthearted laugh, some essays left me feeling I wasn’t rich, smart or hip enough to get her humor. And yet I stuck with it to the end, so that’s something. Fans of her TV work might like this more than I did. Still, I do appreciate her vision for her life, her hard work and diligence, and that she’s willing to laugh at even the crappy stuff in life.

After You (Me Before You, #2)After You by Jojo Moyes
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I entered this book with some trepidation. I adored Me Before You–unlikely a story as it tells and as painful in the end–and I didn’t want this one to muck it up. It didn’t. It didn’t exceed Part 1, but it did faithfully continue Louisa’s story. It depicts the roller coaster experience of grief, specifically Louisa’s plod through the loss of Will, while intersecting her story with others who are also grieving and dealing with losses of many sorts. In the end we feel proud of Louisa for having the courage to move on in more ways than one, and we hope that we will have the same courage when it required.

Raymie NightingaleRaymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Kate DiCamillo is one of my very favorite authors. This isn’t her typical book. I liked it, but it took me a while to warm up to the story. It’s sad, mostly. But in that bleak landscape, there are whispers of DiCamillo’s usual magic, hope in the darkness or, in this case, Raymie’s soul growing larger as she learns to let go of what she expected and embrace the new people and path before her.

Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own PersonYear of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

LOVE this book! It reminded me of a mash-up of two other books I’ve read recently: I Dare Me (Lu Ann Cahn) and Why Not Me? (Mindy Kaling). But way better.

Why was I surprised that the woman who has written some of my favorite TV dialogue can write so thoughtfully, so eloquently, with the perfect balance of depth and humor? And while she does write at length about how she wrote Cristina Yang’s “Grey’s Anatomy” character because she (read: we!) need a Cristina Yang in our lives, her own voice sounds a whole heckuva lot like Bailey. And I love it.

She says YES to the things you’d expect: YES to scary invitations, YES to asking for help, YES to play and getting healthy and true friends. But also YES to hard conversations, and to NO, and even to Wonder Woman. To being a badass. Badassery is a word, people: Shonda Rhimes added it to the dictionary.

The Calder Game (Chasing Vermeer, #3)The Calder Game by Blue Balliett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Teen read this in middle school and so now Tween and I have read it aloud together. None of us have read the other two books that precede it, although that didn’t affect our enjoyment. This book intertwines art, artists, history, three uniquely gifted kids (one in math, one in language, the other as a “finder”), and a mystery that stretches from Chicago to Blenheim Palace, England. The description of the Calder retrospective in the first few chapters was so beautiful, so alluring, I could easily imagine myself there and also longed to be there.

GratitudeGratitude by Oliver Sacks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

These four short essays written in the last few years before Sacks’ death tell the life story of an extraordinary man who has made an indelible mark on the world. That we should all live so fully, think so deeply, and convey such gratitude and grace as we approach the end.

“It is up to me now to choose how to live out the months that remain to me. I have to live in the richest, deepest, most productive way I can” (16). It is up to all of us to choose to live richly, for none of us truly knows how much longer we have.

“I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written” (20).