Wednesday, July 17, 2019

WHAT I'M READING V. 54




1. Shakespeare by Bill Bryson

I love Bill Bryson's writing and have loved every book I've read of his so far.  I was excited to discover that he wrote one on Shakespeare and really enjoyed listening to this one.  Some things were familiar to me, some things were new information, and all of them were presented with wit and his eye for detail in a way that all felt fresh and important.

2. Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan

I have read many books set in England, and this one more than the others made me want to go visit. Callahan's description of England are so beautiful.  This book is a piece of historical fiction regarding the story of how C.S. Lewis and Joy Davidman began as pen pals and ended up married to one another.  I was intrigued, enjoyed most of the book - although at one point midway through I felt a little fatigue - and really liked seeing C.S. Lewis from a woman's perspective. Joy Davidman was a writer in her own right and the book includes many of her poems and details of a woman's writing life. I am glad I read this one and would recommend it to other Lewis enthusiasts.

3. The Man Who Planted Trees by Jean Giono

My cousin Lois handed this one to me to read. It's a short story, bound up into a beautiful book, telling the story of a man's diligent and consistent effort to plant as many trees as he can in a valley in the foothills of the Alps in Provence throughout the first half of the 20th century.  It's quiet, lovely and hopeful.

4. Talk Triggers by Jay Baer and Daniel Lemin

We read this one at work for our book study.  It's a book about marketing, and it asserts that the best sort of marketing is word of mouth because it is free, genuine and impactful.  It makes the case that customers value stories and authenticity, and prompts businesses to ask themselves what they are doing to get people talking about their business.  They call this strategy a "talk trigger" and the book details why it is important, examples of other businesses that have successfully employed it, and details how one can determine their own talk trigger.  We're working on implementing ours at work and will find out if it is as imapctful as this book suggests!

Friday, July 12, 2019

A SATURDAY MORNING


One morning a few mornings back, we made space to sit over breakfast and listen to the wind in the trees, birds chatter, and hear about the rhythms of each other's days. 

We gathered hot coffee, steaming casserole and fresh fruit, and walked it outside to a summer morning that carried with it some of the night's briskness, but in the light of day, it felt like we had come upon a new world. Mornings are magnificent like that.   










Wednesday, July 10, 2019

WHAT I'M READING V. 53




1. Babette's Feast and Other Stories by Isak Dinesen

I knew the story of Babette's Feast but never read the short story itself, written by Isak Dinesen, which is a pen name for Karen Blixen (who also wrote "Out of Africa"). My friend lent me this copy, which includes some of her other short stories. I really loved the story, as well as the other ones, which all seem to explore the idea of passion and the place it has in community, in love, in career, in family.

2. Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid 

Reviews of this book made me take notice of it because readers kept saying that not only did they love this book, but they found themselves trying to research the musicians and band that are the book's main characters because they seemed so real, even though it is an entirely fictional book about a fictional band.  I read this because I wanted to experience that for myself and was so surprised to find that the entire book is in the form of a documentary script.  The book is a script of a documentary movie made about the band (in the stylings of VH1's Behind the Music) and it was pretty amazing to have the documentary come to life in my mind as a I read the script. It was very well done, and the back of the book even includes the lyrics of songs that the (fictional) band wrote!

3. Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai

I was intrigued by the premise of this novel: Mai, a young Vietnamese-American girl born and raised in California has to travel to Vietnam with her grandmother, who is going back to find out what happened to her husband during the Vietnam War. Mai is resistant to say the least, she doesn't know the language, culture or customs of the country and would rather spend her summer on the beach at home, but she complies, and over the span of the book, she slowly opens up as she learns about her grandmother's country.  It's a wonderful plot, but it's not a book I would recommend - Mai starts off as whiny pre-teen, and while she progresses in her views of Vietnam while she is there, it was hard to take the self-entitled whine that seemed to underlay her character.  The grandmother's words, on the other hand, as the book sometimes gave insight into her perspective, was beautiful and captivating and it made me wish I had read the story from the grandmother's perspective instead.

4. The War on Normal People by Andrew Yang

I was completely captivated by this book. Andrew Yang founded Venture for America and is currently running for president in 2020. I heard him on a few different podcasts being interviewed and was entirely convinced but intrigued enough to find his book and read it, and I thought it was excellent. He articulates the problems and issues that this country faces so clearly and reasonably, and offers seemingly radical solutions but lays out how it can be accomplished and also explains why it is so important to move in those particular directions.  I especially appreciated his definition of Human-centered Capitalism, the idea that humans are more important than money. While Yang states he is a huge proponent of capitalism, he points out that we are looking the human element in our economy and politics, and he foresees catastrophic consequences if we keep going down this road. It's a fascinating book, I recommend it!

Friday, July 5, 2019

AT HOME



June was a busy month for us, with lots of activities outside of the house - including a camping trip, visits from Eunice and Val, blueberry picking, birthday parties, our summer kickoff party and a trip to New York - which means we savored moments at home all the more. These are some photos that I captured on my big camera, spontaneously, whenever the thought arose, from such moments.

I am coming off an especially relaxing fourth of July, some of which we spent running errands, but most of which we spent at home.  One of our errands including buying seeds to plant, as our way of celebrating America's birthday, and I found both peace and delight in clearing the ground of weeds to make space for new things to grow.  The girls were equally enthusiastic and it grounded our sense of home, into the earth that we are surrounded by, as we felt dirt on our hands and between our toes.

July is equally full, but I'm making time for quiet moments around the house, and more moments with my hands in the earth. I'm hoping to finally plant some vegetables to grow, to linger in conversation with my parents who are here, and celebrate all the birthdays coming up with a heart full of gratitude. 












Wednesday, July 3, 2019

WHAT I'M READING V. 52



1. I'd Rather be Reading by Anne Bogel

Anne Bogel's "What Should I Read Next" podcast has been such a favorite - for its book recommendations and for all the 'eavesdropping' I get to do on bookish conversations. I read her first book, "Reading People" which is about personality tests and it was fine and interesting, but more of a primer than a deep dive.  I liked this second book much better, as it was a short and lovely book traversing through things that book-obsessed people would be delighted to relate to - the joys of living next to a library, library fines, trying to decide what to read next, reading slumps, reading accessories, etc.   A read through this book was coffee with a bookish friend.

2. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

I saw this one touted as an alternative to Jane Eyre, if you didn't like Jane Eyre, and although that sounds sounded like a pretty lofty claim to me, I was intrigued by that claim and picked it up. It's a more modern retelling that speculates where Antoinette Cosway came from before she was shut up in the attic at Mr. Rochester's house.  It was evocative, dark and beautiful, but I didn't love it like those recommending it did. It felt like a dream, and if that is the intended effect, it was successful. But I wanted more than just the emotions, I wanted clarity to see deeper into what was happening on this island. 

3. Deep Work by Cal Newport

This one was solid and falls along the ranks of Greg McKewon's "Essentialism"; many of the ideas reminded me of that one. It has good information about how important deep work is to achieving goals and mindfulness and makes the point that interruptions and multi-tasking are at odds with focus and productivity.  It points toward time management, prioritizing and being aware of distractions like social media. Many of the concepts were things that were familiar to me, but was organized in a direct and convincing way. The most helpful thing for me that I will apply is making sure I actually schedule uninterrupted periods of deep work when I'm working on a project. If I were to reread a book between the two though, I would probably pick up "Essentialism".

4.  Dear Life by Alice Munro

It took me a while to catch on to the wonderful train that is Alice Munro.  I read a few stories and was puzzled by the feel of these short stories - they felt like excerpts out of a novel, and left me wanting more. As I read on, I realized this is her art, and she's very good at it. She drops you into a life and you are fully immersed in its parameters, details, and tragedies and then you step out. She is masterful and I clutched it in appreciation after I was done. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

2019 SUMMER KICK OFF POOL PARTY



We had our summer kick-off party this past weekend, and it was such a fun and relaxing time with friends. I didn't get a lot of footage because I was too busy enjoying myself, but here is a compilation of some clips I did get, all to Kishi Bashi's "m'lover" song - which I'm obsessed with!

Monday, June 24, 2019

BLUEBERRY PICKING AT MT. OLYMPUS


Happy Summer ! Here we are officially, and it is glorious.  As usual, we made plans to go strawberry picking with our friends Laura and Robert and all our kids, but when we got to Mt. Olympus Berry Farm, we realized we missed the strawberries. Gargoyle says, "Strawberries all gone!". It was disappointing but we were cheered up by the prospect of blueberry picking instead, and got to work. 

It was a beautiful day and blueberries were plentiful and easy to pick. We lingered over the trees, took our annual photos, and brought the berries home for lunch and blueberry cake.  Summer, we love you.