The next two reads on my Journey of 100 Books will probably prove to be quite different from each other. One is to entertain me. The other is to make me think. That’s my usual pattern for reading.
For entertainment I am diving into Homeplace by Anne Rivers Siddons. So far I’ve read two books by Siddons that I liked (Heartbreak Hotel and The House Next Door) and one I absolutely could not drag myself through (Fox’s Earth). So far the balance is in her favor. Until the balance tips I’ll keep reading her.
For the thought provoking side I’m taking up Thoughts in Solitude by Thomas Merton. Thom is deep. He was a Trappist monk until his untimely death. He is also controversial in Catholic circles mostly because of how much he draws from Eastern religion later in his career. Thom makes me think. He makes me think about my inner self and, as the staunch social commentator that he was, he makes me think about the world around me, and how the two are inextricably woven together. I have of late been considering the depth, or perhaps the shallowness, of my own interior life and Merton is always good about showing sides of myself to which I may be prone to turn a blind eye.
These next two steps in the Journey of 100 Books will be interesting. I’m already getting the itch whenever I drive by a bookstore or yard sale. I’ve fallen off the wagon once and blamed it on a special occasion. I am determined to get through my 100 books already owned before buying more.
Here’s to the next fork in the road.
Shogun was not at all what I expected and in this case it was a pleasant surprise. I went into it expecting a swashbuckling adventure full of western attempts to colonize the East, lots of sword and gun fighting as the conquering westerners came to civilize and bring order to a heathen and pagan land. The book turned out to be nothing of the sort. Continue reading
I had once gotten it into my head that I wanted to be a Benedictine Oblate. I felt this after being swept up by the romance of Kathleen Norris’ The Cloister Walk. I dove in. I found a monastery in Indiana that took long distance oblates and began my investiture. Basically I was supposed to pray daily, read as much of The Liturgy of the Hours as I could fit into my normal life and read prescribed selections from the The Rule of Saint Benedict each day.
It didn’t take me long to discover that I was not, never had been, and never would be that disciplined. Continue reading
The Artist’s Way, while it contains some gems, is an overall disappointment. I’ve started it several times and it took me this fourth time to get all the way through. I had previously blamed my inability to finish it more on myself than on the work in general. The book taken as a whole comes across as pop psychology mixed with a heavy dose of New Age philosophy. There is a lot of talk about nurturing the inner child that is our real artist, the child’s inability to accept raw criticism and how this creates emotional scar tissue. The inner artist child needs to be protected and nurtured and needs to have its hand held and be tenderly led through the miasma of the psyche of the growing artist. She even goes so far as to equate poorly delivered criticism to sexual abuse, and projects that don’t materialize to miscarriages from which the artist suffers as much as the woman who lost a child. That was where she lost me for good. Continue reading
I have never been one to read only one book at a time. I usually have at least two, often three books going at once. While I have been fairly dedicated to getting through Shogun lately I have been thumbing through a few other volumes that I keep by my reading chair. These are usually books on spirituality or motivation, poetry collections or theology.
One book that I’ve pulled off the shelf to start again is The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It is a book about unblocking creativity. For those new to me I am a writer, or rather, a would-be writer. I do, however, carry a lot of baggage from the life behind me; Continue reading
In the spirit of full disclosure I hereby admit that I’ve already fallen off the wagon. But I do claim extenuating circumstances. As part of our 25th Anniversary week my wife and I visited the Carl Sandburg home. Sandburg was a fascinating man and being in the midst of his greatness was heady. His home still has his collection of literally thousands of books; paperbacks to leather bounds, research tomes to pop novels, floor to ceiling, corner to corner. I came to realize that I had no Sandburg in my collection whatsoever. And it was a special location. And a special occasion. And the proceeds go to the fund to keep his house in good nick for future generations. So I bought. But I only bought three and one is his biography autographed by the author. And I figure I’m still on the first book of the hundred (Shogun is one incredibly long novel) and because I was spending money from a recent insurance settlement I didn’t use any of the funds set aside from the Book Journey project.
So, with all these excuses as my armor I draw a line in the sand and recommit myself to the original plan; no more book purchases until I’ve read one hundred books already in my possession. And three of those hundred may turn out to be by Sandburg.
I suppose if you’re going to have an addiction to something there are worse things to be addicted to than books. I have been a book addict ever since I learned to read and Mom started taking me to the local library. There is a downside to a book addiction, however, and that takes place when you walk into a bookstore. A book addict cannot walk into a book store (or yard sale, or flea market, or library sale, or the local thrift shop) and buy just one book. I buy several. On the surface that doesn’t seem bad, however, before I’ve read all the books I’ve bought I’m in the bookstore or other venue again buying more. I buy them faster than I can read them. Many don’t stay. If I start a book and find I don’t like it or I like it but know I’ll never read again it goes to the book exchange where I trade it for yet more books, or they get passed on to other readers or donated to a library. For a while I played at Bookcrossing but it was a short lived fascination. Once, when I was between jobs and desperate to pay the light bill numerous boxes of books were sold at the local flea market. So it isn’t as if I have rooms full of books. Just one room and an overloaded Kindle. I have in the vicinity of 600 books not counting reference tomes. I have 600 books bought for the sheer pleasure of reading books. Of this 600 there are books I have already read because if I really like a book I will keep it either to read again or just because I liked it so much I find joy in knowing it is there to remind me of how much I enjoyed it even if I don’t intend to read it again. There are also books that my wife has brought into the household; some I want to read, some I’ve read, and some I wouldn’t touch unless it was to move them to a less conspicuous place. Still between my house and my Kindle there are approximately 600 books, 75% of which I have not read. So I set myself a challenge. I would not buy another book until I have read 100 books already in my possession. Continue reading