Saturday, September 30, 2023

Where Do You Find Your Book Reading Inspiration?

"Happiness is a crackling fire, a cozy book,
a cup of hot cocoa, and an autumnal nook."

October is almost here, and autumn is drawing nearer to the cozy centres of our lives. Those places where warm nourishing food is prepared, where enticing books gather in piles, and where cozy corners invite, and we don't really mind that long cool evenings are about to descend. For book lovers, like squirrels busy gathering nuts for winter, we search far and wide for reading materials to match the mood and the season.

Where do you go to find your book reading inspiration? I do have a few favourite places that are guaranteed to inspire me. Of course, the local library and bookstores are a given—lovely places to visit and browse—but what I'm thinking of today are those spots I visit online that usually have me coming away with lists of inspiration. Here are five places I enjoy visiting:

1. The Queen's Reading Room. "Discover new books each season & meet the extraordinary people who create them." This is HM Queen Camilla's book club which is wrapping up its eleventh season. Her Majesty The Queen picks four favourite books per four seasons (Jan to Mar, Apr to June, Jul to Sep, Oct to Dec). Recommendations are a mix of classic and new published works. A sample of the books I have read and enjoyed from previous seasons include: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, and Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Paris by Paul Gallico. You can find The Queen's Reading Room on her website and Instagram page.

2. Parnassus Books in Nashville, TN. This independent bookstore, owned by author Ann Patchett, gives weekly updates about current releases. I started following Ann and her shop during the pandemic. It's always a breath of fun to watch as she and Sparky (her dog), along with staff members, share enthusiastically about their latest favourites. Ann can be found on Instagram and the store website which includes Staff Picks, Ann's Latest Picks, and musings on the Parnassus blog. Her latest novel Tom Lake was a great read, and I absolutely loved her book of essays These Precious Days.

3. Politics and Prose Bookstore in Washington, DC. I first came across this bookstore a couple of years ago when I signed up for an online author interview with Canadian writer Louise Penny. Louise had chatted about writing her latest Gamache novel All The Devils Are Here. It was held during the pandemic, and one good thing that came out of this terrible season, so many in-person events had to be presented as Zoom events. Which meant a person living thousands of miles away could attend, and that's how I came to know about this bookstore. I still check back on their website once in a while to see what new books they are talking about. They continue to do their events online. 

4. The Enchanted Book Club with Hayley Solano. If you've watched any of Susan Branch's recent interviews with Hayley, you will know about The Enchanted Book Club. The book club "is a kindred community that reads a different classic every month... perfect for fans of Jane Austen, Anne of Green Gables, Little Women". Hayley also presents online events with beloved authors, hosts literary travels (Paris is on the list), and more. The book selection for October is Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy. I'm enjoying revisiting some of the classics I so loved as a girl and young woman. They are still a joy to read. You can find lovely Hayley on Instagram and her website.  

5. Miranda Mills on YouTube and Comfort Book Club. Miranda from Yorkshire, UK, posts weekly vlogs about her favourite books and seasonal living in the English countryside. I love watching her weekly enthusiastic videos... my bookshelves are filling (as we speak) with her delightful cozy and 'comforting' recommendations. Miranda and her mom, Donna, host the monthly Comfort Book Club. ←Click there and you'll find the books selected for discussion in upcoming months. September's selection was an old classic Goodbye, Mr. Chips by James Hilton. For October, Miranda has selected the new release Marple: Twelve New Mysteries, which are short stories by current authors written in Christie fashion. Miranda can be followed on Instagram and her YouTube Channel.

I'm wondering, do you have favourite online places where you find inspiration for your reading life? Could you share below?

To close, Elizabeth Lawrence wrote in A Southern Garden (2001), "Even if something is left undone, everyone must take time to sit still and watch the leaves turn." Oh yes! Let's sit still and watch the leaves turn on our trees and turn in our books.

I'm wishing you a beautiful weekend,

Photo credit:
Image by FreeFunArt on Pixabay

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Autumn Reads & Creating a Library Catalogue

"Ah, September! You are a doorway to
the season that awakens my soil."

Now that it's officially autumn and the days are cooling and more colourful, I find myself eagerly turning towards those books that make me feel cozy. When leaves start to jig in the brisk winds—and what fun it is to watch them while we sip our tea in the sheltered area of the garden—it makes me want to pull my sweater closer and settle in with a book that is rich in colourful autumn descriptions. I like books that draw me into the season, whether it's poetry, a nature anthology, or novel. I like books that evoke a sense of place and offer a place that shelters. And I like books that inspire me to create and do something fresh with my days.

My collection of autumn books is small but growing. Miranda Mills on her lovely YouTube channel often has me clicking through to purchase yet one more of her wonderful seasonal book suggestions. Goodbye, Mr. Chips and The Fortnight in September are two I bought this year on her recommendation. I have already read both and loved them. Here are a few other of my favourites for this time of year:

Anne of Windy Poplars
by L.M. Montgomery
(chapter one opens in autumn)

by Susan Branch
(a lovely seasonal recipe book)

Autumn Anthology
edited by Melissa Harrison
(seasonal essays and poetry)

Cat Among the Pigeons
by Agatha Christie
(novel set as a new school term begins)

Death Comes to Pemberley
by P.D. James
(the Darcy's host a ball in October)

The Fortnight in September
by R.C. Sheriff
(a family takes their annual holiday)

Garden Maker 
Growing a Life of Beauty & Wonder with Flowers
by Christie Purifoy
(see autumn harvest chapters)

Goodbye, Mr. Chips
by James Hilton
(this classic is set in a boy's school in England)

The Life Giving Home
Creating a Place of Belonging and Becoming
by Sally and Sarah Clarkson
(see the autumn chapters)

Nature Writing for Every Day of the Year
edited by Jane McMorland Hunter
(short daily seasonal pieces) 

Recipes for a Sacred Life
True stories and a few miracles
by Rivvy Neshama
(not autumnal, but nice reading)

Roots & Sky
A Journey Home in Four Seasons
by Christie Purifoy
(look for the autumn section)

by Rosamunde Pilcher
(novel set in Scotland in the autumn)

The Stubborn Light of Things
A Nature Diary
by Melissa Harrison
(see autumn entries)

creating a library catalogue

On other news concerning my books, as you may recall, we are in the midst of some house renovations, painting and replacing worn floors. So, at some point, my books will all need to be boxed and moved for paint jobs and new flooring installation. Perhaps that's what's driving me to get them catalogued—with a master list I'll know where to find them when I want something particular. It'll be weeks (maybe months?) before things sort back into that 'everything's-back-in-its-place' stage.

In all the years that I've owned books—and I've had books to call my own since I was a little girl—I don't think I ever created a list or catalogue. I might have done as a girl. I left the children's books for my younger siblings when I left home and took only a few young adult favourites. I housed my small collection on a shelf, dusting and lovingly caretaking them. I always knew what I had and where they sat. Everything was strictly alphabetical by last name. No worrying about categories or separating fiction from nonfiction.

But over time the collection grew. Now I have quite a few, even though I cull what I no longer want or need. My mind doesn't always remember exact titles or authors as brilliantly as it did once, so if I am to keep track, I need a simple catalogue: two main sections, fiction and nonfiction. I separate children's fiction from the general adult fiction; otherwise it's all alphabetical by author's last name. Under nonfiction, I have five categories: Christmas/winter, General, Poetry/essays/anthologies, Reference, Writing. Also alphabetical by author. No Dewey decimal system... as much as I appreciate the fellow who designed that wonderful system.

At present count, I have nearly 800 books—which still doesn't include my food/cookbooks or my large coffee table and art books. The catalogue includes: title, author, category/subject, year acquired, where it's situated, if it's lent out (which is rare).

My mind boggles to think of the number of books I've gathered over the years. Dozens upon dozens bought, read, eventually given away with hundreds more still nestled on shelves under my roof. I've noticed something while creating this list. It brings renewed order to my books, and it gives peace of mind; which in turns creates impetus to re-read my way through my own library. Bring on winter!

Quite a few books are as yet unread, many of them found at library sales and thrift stores. I am a happy collector of books. They bring me joy, whether or not I've read them. When I scan through one, I'm always filled with that anticipation of the day I'll read it in earnest. I just know it'll be good, otherwise why would I hold onto it for so long—it's been years for some. 

I have learned not to force read books when it's not the right timing. I sincerely believe there is a right time and place to read certain books. And reading them when we're not quite ready for them can turn what should have been a joyful or life-giving experience into a loss. How do I know when it's not the right time? When the words drag on, when I read the same page over and over because I can't quite get into it. When my heart isn't in it. So, how do I know when it is a right time? When I'm drawn into the writing, either by the beautiful writing itself or by the topic that is so relevant to me at the time. When I'm instantly engaged and I feel like my soul is being watered and fed. When the still small voice says, read this now. I have read books when I wasn't ready for them and at the time I said, yah, it was okay, but meh. And then times passes, maybe even years, and I will be pulled back to the book (grateful I hadn't chucked it into the give away box). I'd start reading and this time it would blossom in my heart, and I'd think, well, I obviously wasn't in the right space when I last read it, this is so good, just what I need! Learn to listen to that, is my bit of unsolicited advice.

It's Sunday evening as I'm wrapping this up; I meant to have this posted earlier in the weekend. I glance out my study window - the sky is stunning. Our September has been glorious. Makes me so glad to be alive to see and experience it. Now, I want to wish you a beautiful week ahead, one filled with glimpses of heaven in unexpected places. Be well, be grace-lifted.

Heart hugs,

Photo credits:
(Top)Image by Manfred Richter from Pixabay
(Bottom) Image by CongerDesign from Pixabay

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Embrace Something New

"Autumn shows us how
beautiful it is to let things go."

I love this time of year—it makes me feel spirited and creative and alive. There really is something in September's atmosphere. Along with the deep blue skies, warm but not croaking hot days, the smell of harvest in the air, long shadows, and leaves dancing on the crisp breezes, something about it all makes me feel hopeful about life. And it comes with a readiness to begin again, which perhaps stems from childhood school days when a new school year created that frisson of new beginnings. New pencils, new notebooks, and days still new with no mistakes in them.

So... let's fling off the remains of the old season. Believe something good is about to happen. Something that will jostle and startle our wonderment at being alive. And give our minds new patterns to play with and get us out of the rut.

Today I'm inviting us—you and me—to engage in the simple pleasure of embracing something new. Putting aside some of the usual routines and choices, and without thinking about it too much, doing something a little different, even if it's just for the day.

Don't study the menu when you go out for lunch. Close your eyes and point to a spot on the page. Order it, even if you've never tried it before. And if it isn't quite to your taste, well, that's okay, isn't it? You've pushed the boundary, explored a little, maybe even created the start of a new blog post.

This morning choose something other than your favourite mug, blouse, or pair of earrings. Select something you haven't used or tried for a while. See with fresh eyes. Do you still like it? Has your soul outgrown it?

Don't take the same route on your walk or trip to the grocery store. Take some other leafy street and crunch through a pile of dried leaves.

Don't listen to the usual radio or streaming service. Choose a listening style not your usual taste. Appreciate it, even if it's for just a few minutes.

Don't call your mom, sister, best friend to chat about the same old things. Introduce something new to chat about. Ask what she's reading, what she remembers about autumn days in her girlhood, what made her feel happy today.

Don't sit in your favorite chair when reading or watching television. Pick a spot elsewhere in the room. Look around from that vantage point. Maybe you'll see something that should be fixed, rearranged, or tossed. Or you'll see something lovely you've not noticed before. A couple of quarters, perhaps?

With it being just days before Autumn's Equinox, will you embrace something new to celebrate the new season? Will you share something with us?

"I can be a light in darkness;
I can be a patch of blue sky;
I can be the pink hydrangea
alive on a cool September day."

Wishing you a beautiful week ahead.

Photo credit:
Top Image by Brigitte Werner from Pixabay

Saturday, September 02, 2023

Friday Five on Saturday: Little Joys

"September is dressing herself in showy dahlias
and splendid marigolds and starry zinnias."

It's the little things giving me joy this week. These heady dahlias were photographed last autumn at the St Albert Botanic Park. Their late summer display still makes my heart go zing.

How can it be September already? I love this gorgeous month of the year so I'm not sorry it's arrived. As I begin to put away the summer things, I want to browse my shelves for books that suit the season and start shifting our meals of summer fare to more hearty and warm dishes. Some folks 'sniff' at all the pumpkin spice items available this time of year. Me, I'm eager for that first autumn latte. Which could even be this afternoon. I have always loved the pumpkin spice of pies, so why not add it to muffins, waffles, and beverages.

I started this post on Friday so please consider it a Friday Five on Saturday. Happy Weekend!

One - Sunsets and long shadows 

September's sunsets and long shadows are usually a favourite delight at this time of year. But some days the sun is hidden in smoky skies—some days there are no shadows. And when the sun shines, it's amber orange. Still, trees are turning, and tiny piles of leaves gather along street curbs, enough to scrape one's toes into and hear a crunch. I've haunted the shops looking at new notebooks and pencils; let me just say I had great restraint from buying more, remembering a small pile of notebooks I bought last autumn still waiting to be pressed into service.

Two - Gently used book finds

Had the urge to pop into the thrift store for a quick look around the book section. In about five minutes, maybe ten, I had five books in hand—buy four and get the fifth free. Then I had a book to drop off at the library, and after a fast glance at their sale rack, the two Dorothy Gilman Mrs. Pollifax mysteries were added to the pile.

Driving home with my treasures, I giggled to myself, thinking I'm like a squirrel, stashing provender for winter. Food for the mind is as necessary as food for the stomach. There's a gleefulness to seeing my shelves bulge with new reading possibilities. I don't think of myself as a book hoarder, though someone else around here might think they should take my temperature. Ha!

Three - Bees in the Joe Pye Weed

The other morning I was standing by this 10-foot king of a plant called a weed—it's a gorgeous weed— watching the bees in the blossoms. I don't hear their hum as well as I used to, but the sight of them continues to give me a thrill. Alas, when I went to take photos this morning, every last hummer had gone elsewhere. So we're imagining their presence today.

Four - A stubby 8B pencil and a greeting card box

Why does this 8B sketching pencil give me joy? I don't know exactly, except I love holding it in my hand when I'm reading. In case I need to gently underline or mark a passage. It needs to be short and stubby, well-used. I've laid the pencil on an old greeting card box, which gives you an idea of its cute short stubbiness. That box once housed a lovely set of greeting cards I ordered years ago from Victoria magazine. They were paired with translucent creamy velum envelopes. I never quite got over how exquisite they were - a real joy to write in and send out.

Five - Repurposing a scented soap box 

I found a beautiful box of scented soap which smells like 'the scent of a garden in bloom'. When I set the bar out in our bathroom, I could smell it on the air for days. I was loathe to discard the box; not only was it pretty, it smelled good even empty. So, I cut it up into tiny bookmarks. They are now tucked inside books I'm reading, and when I open the pages I still get that tiny whiff.

"But the days grow short when
you reach September."

Before I sign off, I wanted to mention that I won't be around for the next week or two. We're doing some home reno projects which means our house will be a little upside down. I probably won't get to a blog post. So I'll take this time to wish you a beautiful month ahead. I hope it's filled with tiny pleasures and a few big ones too. Stay safe, be well.

Wishing you a beautiful day,

Photo credits:
All photos are mine, except the
Trees at Sunset by Mabel Amber from Pixabay