a girl and her boy

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Tag Archives: books

Reading the Stacks 2011

I have a lot of books. I always have. I’m an English teacher and an avid reader, so it makes sense. With all the moves the last few years, my shelves have been going through a lot of changes and I find myself for the first time with more books that I have not read on my shelves than vice versa. This is unsettling. The books call out to me at night when I’m sleeping, begging to be read. When I sit with one book, another flies off the shelf and lands in my lap and whines. I need to quell the voices and buckle down and read the volumes on the shelves that haven’t been cracked since considering their adoption at various bookstores.

So this year, along with blogging every day and knitting solely out of my stash, I issue the challenge of reading exclusively from my stacks all the unread or half-read books. I thought about writing a list, but that would be massive. Instead, I’ll write a list of ten books at a time to work through and as I cross books off, I’ll add more at the bottom.

The following list is comprised mainly of books I’m partway through already and just need to focus in on and finish. I have a bad habit of starting a new book while I’m already reading another and thus spread my attention too thin. I do that with knitting, too.

1. Savage Beauty:  The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay. Nancy Milford. Current status:  104 of 509 pages.

I began reading this one in the fall and I pick it up from time to time and read a chapter. I’m really enjoying learning more about one of my favorite poets and fellow Mainer.

2. Look Homeward, Angel. Thomas Wolfe. Current status:  69 of 508 pages.

Wolfe is a great and vivid writer but his exposition is thick and takes a lot of effort to trudge through. That’s one of the reasons I’m stuck at under 100 pages.

3. Stress Less:  The new science that shows women how to rejuvenate the body and mind. Thea Singer. Current Status:  11 of 254 pages.

I went to the book talk at Brookline Booksmith when Thea Singer was there. When introducing her book, she said that the tag line was the publisher’s idea and not hers. She wanted it to be “stress is the new biological clock.” The publishers won. The book has good science and great common sense ideas on how to manage stress.

4. Sense and Sensibility. Jane Austen. Current status:  120 of 365 pages.

As I expected, I’m thoroughly enjoying S&S. Austen rocks.

5. Swann’s Way. Marcel Proust. Current status:  0 of 444 pages.

This has been on my to-read list and by my bed for long enough. Time to cross it off!

6. Heavy Words Lightly Thrown:  The Reason Behind the Rhyme. Chris Roberts.

Gabe and I have been taking turns reading chapters out of this book out loud. I’m hoping we can finish it up in the next week or two.

7. The Fountain Overflows. Rebecca West. Current status:  0 of 313 pages.

I bought this book a few months ago for a book club. The event was cancelled and I then put off reading the book. I’m still very intrigued by the summaries I’ve read and look forward to my own reaction to this classic book.

8. Wizard and Glass, volume Four of The Dark Tower. Stephen King. Current Status:  119 of 668.

King is a master writer. I love everything I’ve read by him so far and he inspires me as a writer and a reader.

9. Everything’s Eventual:  14 Dark Tales. Stephen King. Status:  0 of 459 pages.

It’s a King book. I can’t wait to crack it open!

10. Azumanga Daioh. Kiyohiko Azuma. Current status:  483 of 675 pages.

This is the entire manga series in one volume. I watched the anime version back in 2005 or 2006 and befriended the characters. Reading the story in manga form is like reminiscing with old friends. It’s been a great experience. Azumanga Daioh is a slice of life manga following a cast of five friends through their three years of high school.

Read the Stack 2011 - Stack 1

Stack 1

* * *

What are you currently reading? What books are on your list to read right now?


Book Notes

I’ve been working on quite a few books lately, as I’ve mentioned a few times in previous posts. Here are a few thoughts on what I’m reading.

The Waste Lands. Stephen King.

I think I read this book in three or four sittings. I began reading the Dark Tower last summer and find the progression of the plot and the development of the characters fascinating and inspiring. The Gunslinger, the first volume of this long novel, while I understood the role it played in setting up the novel, for King was inspired by Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, a single book in 3 volumes, it was a challenge at times to finish. The Drawing of the Three was better in that there was more plot action and characters to develop Roland, the protagonist. The work of these previous two volumes came clear in The Waste Lands. The Waste Lands has catapulted the action to a higher level and though I was appreciative of the The Dark Tower before, I am now truly hooked.

Look Homeward, Angel. Thomas Wolfe. Page 75 of 544.

I grew up with a hardcover library cast off volume named The Face of a Nation:  Poetical passages from the writings of Thomas Wolfe (1939). I read it under the sheets of my bed with a flashlight, enchanted by the language. I even wrote a few poems inspired by his themes and rich diction. I’ve always wanted to read one of his novels since reading those passages.

And now, I’m reading Look Homeward, Angel, a reading experience I’ve looked forward to for years, and I’m stuck on page 75. His language is rich, but at over 500 pages, it’ll take me a while to sift through each paragraph to uncover all the layers in each sentence.

It seems as though Wolfe is adept at describing things and moods better than people’s inner landscapes. At close to one-fifth through the novel, and halfway through part 1, I don’t really know the character’s very well. Maybe this will change as I journey further into the work.

However, that said, I *do* like this book. A lot. I am pretty sure Heinlein got the title of his book, Stranger in a Strange Land, from Wolfe. And it wouldn’t surprise me if the creators of Family Guy read Look Homeward, Angel, and were inspired by Eugene Gant, the protagonist, as a baby for the character of Stewie:

He wondered savagely how they would feel if they knew what he really thought:  at other times he had to laugh at them and at their whole preposterous comedy of errors as they pranced around for his amusement, waggled their heads at him, tickled him roughly, making him squeal violently against his will. The situation was at once profoundly annoying and comic:  as he sat in the middle of the floor and watched them enter, seeing the face of each transformed by a foolish leer, and hearing their voices become absurd and sentimental whenever they addressed hi, speaking to him words which he did not yet understand, but which he saw they were mangling in the preposterous hope of rendering intelligible that which has been previously mutilated, he had to laugh at the fools, in spite of his vexation.

I’ll finish it, but I need to take a break from it.


So that’s where I’m at. I’m also nibbling on Savage Beauty and Pride and Prejudice. I’ll write on those ones probably next week.

Happy reading!


P. S. Don’t forget Michelle’s give away! Today is the last day to enter.

It's a snow day.

Public Garden, Boston. Photo by Sally Chen. From Boston.com’s Facebook album.

We got about 18″ here in Boston so far, and the snow will continue until late tonight. Perfect day to snuggle in under the red fleece blanket I bought freshman year of college and sip on coffee and finish reading The Waste Lands by Stephen King. Gabe’s gone in to the office for a few “freebie” hours.

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Austen Love. <3

When, and what, was your first introduction to Jane Austen? For me, I was staying with some family friends between my second and third year of undergrad. I’d picked up and tossed aside the novels a few times, heard lectures on it, and was told just how awesome the novels were, but I didn’t buy it.

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Book Notes

With all this time on my hands, I’ve done a lot of reading and book collecting lately. I’ve made some progress on my cryptozoological adaptations of classics, but not enough to really get going on that project. This post is entirely dedicated to my reading adventures of the last two months. These are not formal reviews, just a few notes, thoughts, and comments.

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Thanks and Thanksgiving

Thank you for all the support and well-wishes! I truly appreciate the warm thoughts and community your comments provided.

In theme with the season and my present mood, here is a list of things I am grateful for (both serious and silly):

    • my 27 years of life experience
    • having a reliable car that I don’t have to pour money into
    • chocolate
    • tea! tea! tea!
    • baskets full of wool
    • not having to worry about where my next meal will come from
    • having a stable full time position
    • colorful marker pens
    • having a loving and supportive husband
    • having the best running buds (both in real life and pen pal)
    • the ability to run 3 miles and more
    • books that challenge my brain and make it hurt
    • the ability to write to express my thoughts and feelings effectively
    • a plethora of interesting knitting patterns
    • Ravelry
    • Knitty
    • a warm house to live in
    • a wood stove to feed 🙂
    • living close to work so my commute is short
    • a loving and supportive group of friends (online and IRL)
    • being a teacher with all the vacations and benefits that come with the job
    • my wonderful, zany, energetic, silly, forgetful, thoughtful students
    • my supportive colleagues
    • all my woolens
    • allergy medication
    • my positive and negative experiences that make me the strong and caring person I am
    • my health
    • my life

      What are you thankful for?

      Blood Spatters and Updates

      So, after typing out my frustrations last night I felt a lot better. I know that I’ll recieve adequate care, eventually. I have an appointment with my PCP tomorrow to discuss the issue and we’ll go from there. I’ll keep you posted on the journey.

      In other news, the English department took all the sophomores to see the Portland Stage Co.’s production of Julius Caesar. We were on the bus with fifty-nine fifteen-year-olds for an hour headed to Maine’s most hopping city. It was an amazingly positive experience.

      The production was amazing. There were about four schools in the audience watching the drama unfold through big-screen projections, acting, sound effects, and special effects. They were enthralled, they were impressed, and they were intrigued. So many of the students started asking great questions that get at the heart of this tragedy like “why did the play begin with police giving people a hard time in the streets?” and “why did it seem like Brutus didn’t know what he wanted? he went back and forth through the whole play.” and “what did Caesar to do to piss off all those people enough for them to assassinate him?”. Like I said, great questions. I told my class that we’ll be starting this play soon and that answers will come shortly. If only I could begin every unit like this! What better way to inspire true interest in the lessons?

      One of the most appreciated scenes was the assassination scene. The actors gave an amazing performance and the house used a thick red liquid to make the scene even more real while Caesar was being stabbed to death. This red liquid made it into several scenes and the students were instantly somber when they saw it.

      The students expressed a seemingly sincere interest in performing this and other plays. Seriously, what more could I ask for when teaching Shakespeare?

      Apples Apples Everywhere

      one of our trees

      one of our trees

      I have the terrible burden of having three apple trees to make pies, sauce, and jelly from. What a hardship. Oh, what a load to bear. In the last week we’ve made three apple pies and they keep getting better as we learn the quirks of our apples.

      Our first pie, the one we baked when my brother came to dinner, was very juicy and the apples didn’t cook to the point of being soft. So we modified. Instead of cutting the apples in quarters like usual, we cut them into eighths and increased the flour by a tablespoon and now they are coming out beatifully.

      ugly apples are healthy and happy apples

      ugly apples are healthy and happy apples

      The pie I am enjoying while writing this post is what we call a Crunch Apple Pie. Essentially, it’s an apple pie with a crisp top. Allan made the crust from scratch this time, too. He did a great job.

      While out and about yesterday, we stopped by the antique store in town after a silver tea set caught my eye. Once in the store, we found a Foley Food Mill. It came home with with a small adoption fee of $19. Very soon I’ll be making and canning my own apple sauce!

      the cover to Dame Darcys Illustrated Jane Eyre

      the cover to Dame Darcy's Illustrated Jane Eyre

      Speaking of errands yesterday, I poked my head into our local book store, Apple Valley Books, and came home with Dame Darcy’s Illustrated Jane Eyre. I love how the illustrations emphasize the Gothic elements of this classic Victorian novel. I’m bringing this in as a teacher reference and teaching aid. The illustrations will help students get into the novel and it helps them set the mood for the book. Most students start this book thinking it’s just another boring old novel. And for them, with that mindset, it is. But with the proper frontloading, they can have a very different experience. It is my hope that this book helps get students into the Victorian Gothic genre. It’s one of my favorites.

      There was also a copy of Dracula illustrated by a different comic artist but I didn’t have the cash to pick that up, too. Next month!

      the preface image to Dame Darcys Illustrated Jane Eyre

      the preface image to Dame Darcy's Illustrated Jane Eyre

      I am a busy little bee.

      I certainly have been a busy little bee these last few months. I haven’t been posting very often, which is kind of how I expected things to go, so much of my news is new. I’m going to run down the list of what I’ve been up to and then I’ll go from there:

      • I moved out of my apartment into a house in the next town over (I posted pictures of the house) and gathered my stuff that’s been stored at three different locations over the last year or two.
      • As I moved out of my apartment two weeks before we could move into the house, we spent some time visiting family all over Maine.
      • Camp Week with some of Allan’s old friends from high school. That was a bit of an adventure.
      • Settled into the house. While doing this, both the Passat and the van we were using to move had to have their batteries replaced – leaving us stranded both times they went.
      • Finally got some planning done for the Wedding (details later in this post!) and have spent the last few weeks being a road warrior getting stuff ready.
      • And now that I’m settled in the house, I’ve been spending the last week or two at school for 4-5 hours a day doing planning and preparation for the new year.

      Phew. I’m tired just typing what I’ve been up to this summer. I’m glad I didn’t add teaching summer school to the mix.

      And it’s really no wonder I’ve done very little pleasure reading and very little knitting over the last two months. I’ve been too exhausted to devote mental or physical energy to it.

      But now that I’m settled again, I’m back to both. For pleasure reading, I picked up Jeanette Winterson’s book Lighthousekeeping (2004). I have enjoyed Winterson’s work since I read The World and Other Places for literary analysis course in college back in 2001 and this book is no less thrilling, enchanting, moving, and haunting than the others. This novel tells the story of a young orphan, Silver, and her dog, DogJim. After her mother dies, she goes to stay with the lighthousekeeper on the coast of Scotland. There she is raised to appreciate, create, and tell stories. At one point, the lighthousekeeper, Pew, says to Silver: “I can teach you — yes, anybody — what the instruments are for, and the light will flash once every four seconds as it always does, but I must teach you to keep the light. Do you know what that means?” I didn’t. “The stories. That’s what you must learn. The ones I know and the ones I don’t know.” “How can I learn the ones you don’t know?” “Tell them yourself.” This entire novel is truly about the power of storytelling in people’s lives. I haven’t been enchanted by a book like this in a long time.

      In knitting news, I picked up the cowl-neck braided-cable vest again a few days ago and made incredible progress. I’m finishing up the back and shoulders and then all that’s left is the cowl and the arm holes. It fits very well. Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos since it’s been dark and rainy the last several weeks, including today.

      I’ve also picked up the gift socks again. I had to rip it out, though, as I lost track of where I was and the last three rows had glaring errors. It’s a good thing I’m a process not a product knitter! 🙂

      Now, the big project I’ve been working on is planning the Wedding! It’s been forever since I even mentioned it on the blog. I’m getting married Friday evening (Aug. 8th) at my home and the reception is in a neighboring town at a bed and breakfast. A local baker is making our cake, complete with sheep cake toppers and basket-weave designs in the frosting. And, on top of this, the baker is also making sheep chocolates for all of the place settings! The reception will be for brunch, like I’ve been wanting all these months. And as far as the dress goes, I went for the green one I posted so long ago.

      So that’s what I’ve been up to. I’ve barely been running but I plan to get back into the habit now that I’m settled and my schedule is starting to get back to normal.

      That’s it for now!

      Library Trip and Reading List

      It’s Tuesday. And as I posted this morning, that means book day! I went to my local library today and picked out a great big stack of ’em. I really can’t wait until this weekend so I can start poking my way through. Here’s what came home:

      The Afternoon Tea Book by Michael Smith – This book has a gorgeous two-tone cream and ivy green cover with a classic British painting of a man and woman having tea. This is what hooked me initially. Green is my favorite color and I love tea. Then I started looking through it. It has a whole section on the history and lore of tea. The pages are full of images that look like wood cut prints. It’s a beautiful book and should prove a joy to read.

      The Human Story: Our History, From the Stone Age to Today by James C. Davis – I picked this one out because, simply put, I love anthropology, culture studies, and learning. That and I simply don’t know enough about our collective history. As a teacher, I feel it is important to be as educated as possible so I can help build bridges. I hope this book is a bridge-builder.

      Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books by Azar Nafasi – I have heard so many good things about this book which is why I picked it off the shelf initially. And then, as I looked at it closer, it grew even more on me. A memoir in books is an interesting way of expressing an existance and experience. Another book I love, Inkheart by Cornelia Funke has a similar idea captured therein. One of the characters, Meggie, was noticing that her older books seem heavier and thicker than they were when they were new. She figured this was because of all the memories trapped between the pages. I, too, can trace my life story through the books I’ve read. I can’t wait to read this one.

      The next three are cook books I can’t wait to flip through.

      The Vegetarian Family Cookbook by Nava Atlas – The cover caught my attention with the slate blue bowl holding a hearty and delicious looking soup. I then flipped through a little and it looked like it has some good stuff in it. More to come on this one soon.

      No Red Meat by Brenda Shriver and Ann Tinsley – Allan and I eat very little red meat to begin with, but I thought it would be nice to get some ideas and think about variations on current favorites.

      Almost Vegetarian: A Primer for Cooks Who are Eating Vegetarian Most of the Time, Chicken & Fish Some of the Time & Altogether Well All of the Time by Diana Shaw – With a title like that, who couldn’t take a peek or take it home? This describes our diet perfectly! Just flipping through the pages, I noticed lots of little boxes with tips and descriptions, so this should prove to be a highly valuable book to inform my cooking and dietary practices.

      The photographs were taken about two months ago when there was still snow.