February reading and catching up

Hi friends! Happy spring! I’m just back from a week of Spring Break travel, first to Florida to visit family and then up the road to Austin, TX.  I am so happy to have Sweet Girl back to school – I write to you today with the house to myself.  The windows are open and I have a view of the neighbor’s wisteria hanging over our fence.  The pool’s water feature is on, giving me a soothing sound.  Mo, my sweet kitty, is sitting at my feet.  He was not very happy that I was away for so long and has a lot to tell me today.

Our house construction is nearly complete.  The garage and office/man-cave above is finished.  The pool needs 2 final city inspections and some tweaking with the nozzles, heat, pump, etc, which will be happening over the next couple of weeks.  Our landscaping is hopefully happening this week.  We got some grass in one area and that made a large difference.  I’ll do a photo post for you on each project just for fun.

Let me know how you have been lately!

Browsings: A Year of Reading, Collecting, and Living with Books by Michael Dirda

Besides getting a new list of recommended reading from this collection of essays on his literary life, I found a fellow lover of “books about books.” I think of books as my friends and keep the ones that made a big difference to me.

“Books don’t just furnish a room. A personal library is a reflection of who you are and who you want to be, of what you value and what you desire, of how much you know and how much more you’d like to know.” and “Digital texts are all well and good, but books on shelves are a presence in your life. As such, they become a part of your day-to-day existence, reminding you, chastising you, calling to you.”

My favorite quotation is that feeling of giddiness that I also sometimes get at bookstores after finding some true gems: “What I most cherish is that inexplicable feeling of buoyant youthfulness that overtakes me as I wander among the tables and shelves… After a couple of hours I’ll feel grotty and tired and very happy. At the checkout, I’ll spring for a coffee and a pastry…” I recommend this one only if you enjoy academic literature or rare book collecting.  I might have read it for the cover photo, but don’t you do that!

Mademoiselle Chanel by C.W. Gortner

I love historical fiction! This is an excellent story and very well-written.  I enjoyed watching Gabrielle, aka Coco, go from being a poor orphan seamstress to the head of a fashion empire.  Her motto was “less is more” and she continually acted in opposition to the current fashion of the times, most especially freeing women from the corset.   She started with a few simple hats.  By 1916, with 300 employees on her payroll, she began to consider herself a success, appearing in magazines around the world.  “Simplicity,” she said, “is true elegance.  A women is closest to being naked when she is well dressed.  Her clothing should be seen only after she herself is.”

I felt let in on a little secret when I learned how her perfume’s interlinked C’s were a way for her to honor the love of her life, who she lost too soon.  Coco was about far more than her styles.  She went through two world wars with relisience.  Learning about her primary relationships made a lasting impression on me.  Highly recommend.

Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right by Arlie Russell Hochschild

Though Hochschild had an understanding of the liberal left, she had gaps about the right, and, as a sociologist, she was interested in putting herself in their shoes.  She sets out on a journey from her liberal hometown of Berkeley, California, deep into Louisiana bayou country—a stronghold of the conservative right. As she gets to know people who strongly oppose many of the ideas she famously champions, Hochschild nevertheless finds common ground and quickly warms to the people she meets.  I enjoyed hearing about people who I will never meet and understanding how they think about their life priorities.

Hochschild examines over a 5-year period how industry, state government, the church and the press affected local views about pollution, health, schooling, and poverty.  She brilliantly portrays the hopes, fears, and anxiety of these Tea Party LA residents.  The bottom line, when asked about the loss of life and homes because of the local chemical plants? “Pollution is the sacrifice we make for capitalism.”

“We, on both sides, wrongly imagine that empathy with the ‘other’ side brings an end to clearheaded analysis when, in truth, it’s on the other side of that bridge that the most important analysis can begin… Our polarization, and the increasing reality that we simply don’t know each other, makes it too easy to settle for dislike and contempt…  As the political divide widens and opinions harden, the stakes have grown vastly higher… I was trying to enter the state of mind in which criticisms of the over-reliance on oil or the harmful side effects of fracking would seem misdirected, in which other things loomed more important.”

When the big oil companies were looking for places in LA to put their plants, they looked for the “least resistant personality profile: high school education or below, longtime residents of small towns in the South or Midwest, Conservative, Republican, Catholic, involved in mining, farming, ranching (‘nature exploitive occupations’). …Those who resisted the oil industry fit a very different profile — young college educated, urban, liberal, strongly interested in social issue, and believers in good government.”

It’s interesting to me the different viewpoints of living in a small, rural community, with huge value on family and faith.  “The blue-collar way of life and the honor attached to a  rooted self and pride in endurance” in huge contrast to the liberal upper-middle class viewing “community as insularity and closed-mindedness rather than as a source of belonging and honor.” The place to point the blame, to them, is the federal government.  When they have been “waiting in line for the American Dream” for a long time, only to see so many groups of people cut in line, they have felt downtrodden.  It is interesting to compare what they think is happening to actual statistics (one example is that these individuals interviewed believe that 40% of the country is on welfare when in fact it is more like 1 or 2%). In their ideal world, government would not take from the rich and give to the poor.  It would do some minimal tasks like national defense and highways, but otherwise would be nonexistent.

Obviously, the scene had been set for Trump’s rise long before he thought about running…

I couldn’t finish this one because I just couldn’t get into it.  The writer’s husband, a lover of nature, convinces Doreen, a self-proclaimed princess, to spend a year in an RV. I read about half of it and enjoyed that much, but I felt the writer was rambling without much point.

“He remarked that it was a throwback to a simpler time, when people depended on each other for entertainment, rather than technology. I wondered which is simpler, really: relying on radio, Internet, and TV for social glue or on ourselves and each other, on our own imaginations and talents to delight and ultimately bind us together. I had been so focused on the change in lifestyle thrust on me by this trip, that I didn’t even consider it might actually be causing changes in me.”

Books for Living by Will Schwalbe

This one was excellent.  I love the idea of connecting moral lessons to novels.  Schwalbe writes here about the power of books to shape our lives.  I’m positive many of you will identify with these quotes:

“I’m not the same reader when I finish a book as I was when I started. Brains are tangles of pathways, and reading creates new ones. Every book changes your life. So I like to ask: How is this book changing mine?”

“Reading is the best way I know to learn how to examine your life. By comparing what you’ve done to what others have done, and your thoughts and theories and feelings to those of others, you learn about yourself and the world around you. Perhaps that is why reading is one of the few things you do alone that can make you feel less alone; it’s a solitary activity that connects you to others.”

“I’m on a search—and have been, I now realize, all my life—to find books to help me make sense of the world, to help me become a better person, to help me get my head around the big questions that I have and answer some of the small ones while I’m at it.”

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
This entry was posted in Books, Books - Monthly Reports and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to February reading and catching up

  1. Janet says:

    Naomi, I love getting your list of books read. The author I recently discovered is Geraldine Brooks. I recommend her. I’ve read People of the Book, Year of Wonders, and am making my way thru March. Substantial, interesting books. Happy Spring!

  2. Debbie says:

    Love your book review posts. I read Will Schwalbe’s, End of Your Life Book Club (I think that was the title) and I still think of Mary Anne Schwalbe. One of my favorite books of all time… and I didn’t hear about this new book! Excited to check it out now!

  3. Naomi says:

    Thanks, Debbie!

  4. Naomi says:

    I do like Geraldine Brooks. I think I’ve read March and People of the Book. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge