Sunday, February 25, 2024

Creating A Book List: Would You Share Some Favourites?




"That is part of the beauty of all literature. You discover
that your longings are universal longings, that you're
not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong."
F. SCOTT FITZGERALD


On this snowy afternoon, I'm thinking about making a book list. I enjoy reading book lists—whether they are created by publishing houses, the New York Times, the local bookstore, or fellow bibliophiles. I cast my eye down the lists to see what's making someone's chart. I feel the delight when I recognize titles and maybe have read one or two, but mostly I'm looking for new books that sound promising.

A couple of years ago, I read a novel by Sarah Nisha Adams called The Reading List. A delightful tale of an aging widower and a lonely teenage girl who form an unlikely friendship through books. It starts with a mysterious list found by someone at the library. . . 'one lonely folded scrap of paper sitting on the desk . . . the lettering is neat, looping, warm, inviting' :


Just in case you need it :

To Kill A Mockingbird

Rebecca

The Kite Runner

Life of Pi

Pride and Prejudice

Little Women

Beloved

A Suitable Boy


Who made the list? Who left it at the library? And so begins this wonderful, heartwarming tale. I've  now collected the books on the list—some I had already, some I needed to find. Although I've read a few in the past, I wanted to read them in the order of the list and follow along as I reread Sarah's novel.

On a slightly different note, today I'm also interested in starting another book list—one with you, my blogging friends, in mind. If you are interested in joining in, this is what I'm looking for: favourite title(s) you enjoy in each of the following categories. They can be current favourites or books from long ago, fiction or nonfiction, current or classics, bestsellers or little known gems. Share your list in the comments section or on your own blog, whatever works for you.

I'll start:

1. A favourite (or two or three) from your childhood. Heidi, Anne of Green Gables, Pippi Longstocking, Mr. Popper's Penguins, Little Women, Pollyanna, Nancy Drew series, The Secret Garden, Little House on the Prairie, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Little Engine that Could, Egermeier's Illustrated Bible Story Book, Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen.  


2. A book you once read that you couldn't stop thinking about. I read Gone with the Wind when I was around eleven or twelve. I was so sad for Scarlett O'Hara when she became a very young widow and then had to act like an old woman—wearing horrid dark 'widow's weeds', no more pretty dresses, no more flirting with handsome young men, no dancing at parties. I was haunted at how awful she must have felt and still so young. Maybe it was one of my first experiences of feeling the pain of someone I met in a book. 


3. One book that shaped your life. Living A Beautiful Life by Alexandra Stoddard. I came across this book back in the early 1990s. It grabbed my heart when I read how we could live our lives more beautifully. This book and the original Victoria magazines were a godsend - they fed something deep in my soul.


4. A book you couldn't put down. The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister; A Time for Mercy by John Grisham; All the Devils are Here by Louise Penny; A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. 


5. A book that deepened your thinking. Ordering Your Private World by Gordon MacDonald; C.S. Lewis's writings; From the Father's Heart by Charles Slagle; Life of the Beloved by Henri Nouwen.


6. A book with a favourite heroine. Rose in Bloom by Louisa May Alcott. I read this book decades ago and loved watching young Rose growing up in this coming of age story. She holds a tender place in my affection.


7. A book that creates a safe place when you need rest in your soul. Jan Karon's Father Tim novels set it Mitford. 


8. A book that lifts your spirits and makes you feel happy.  Susan Branch's memoirs, The Isle of Dreams and The Fairy Tale Girl.


9. Something you want to read but haven't got to it yet. 1984 by George Orwell and The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky. 


10. A book you like to read over and over. Every December, I pull out Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher.


11. A book you just finished and loved. Homecoming by Kate Morton.
 

12. A book you just started and already know you'll like it. Growing Pains by Emily Carr, an autobiography of one of Canada's well-known artists. 


"I love the solitude of reading. I love the
deep dive into someone else’s story, the
delicious ache of a last page."
NAOMI SHIHAB NYE



Wishing you a beautiful week ahead,
Brenda
Photo credit:
Top image by Ylanite from Pixabay



Sunday, February 18, 2024

A Literary Hero (Part Two): Mother Teresa




"Lord, give me an open heart to find You everywhere,
to glimpse the heaven enfolded in a bud, and experience
eternity in the smallest act of love."
MOTHER TERESA


It was after attending a zoom event on the discussion of literary heroes that I stopped to consider who are my own bookish heroes. I always enjoy that kind of pondering, and it didn't take long for my list to form. 

In my first post on my literary heroes, I wrote about Lucy Maud Montgomery, so well-known for her creation of Anne of Green Gables. In my case, both Anne and Lucy Maud are literary heroes, Anne in my girlhood and LMM in my young adulthood. If you missed the post, you can find it HERE.

I should clarify what makes a literary hero for me. It's a person I met in a book, whether she/he is fictional or real life. These individuals made a difference in my life, and I looked up to them the way a child might look up to Superman. Through their lives, they showed me something about myself, something I needed to know. They showed me what a strong, courageous person looks like when they demonstrate selflessness and compassion amidst their own struggles, relationships, and disappointments. Usually their stories were unforgettable and stayed with me a long time, as I mulled their own discoveries about what mattered to them. I came to see that I wanted to emulate them in some way. 


Today I want to share another heroine—Mother Teresa—whose photo hangs in my mind's literary hero gallery. For many, she is a spiritual hero, but I think of her also as a literary hero, because her story and wisdom came to me through the books I read about, and by, her.

As a young woman, I was in awe of her loving service to the poorest of the poor in Calcutta, a woman who identified herself with human suffering and privation, giving herself so completely to loving God and through him loving her neighbour. What often grabbed my heart were the words she spoke with such humility and grace. Many of those wise words were etched on my heart and still resonate all these years later. Not only had I come to appreciate the inspiring things she said, but through one story she told, I found the courage to fully step into my own life, doing so without guilt or fear.

A little background to the story of how she became a hero for me. I don't know about you, but in my lifetime, I came across people who believed so strongly in their own passion and calling for their lives that somehow they implied everyone else should take up the same worthy mantle and follow in their footsteps... and if you didn't, you couldn't be doing 'God's will'. Unsure of what I should do with my own life as a searching young woman, that message settled in my heart and it caused me to worry and fret in the secret places of my mind 'how will I know... what if I miss my path'.

I wondered if Mother Teresa would be such a person, but one little story* showed me something different. The anecdote, as I remember it, was about a woman who came to work for a season with Mother Teresa. It came time for her to return to her own life and work—I think she worked in an elite beauty salon in a large city in Europe—and she wondered if she should give up her life and come work with Mother Teresa. Mother Teresa recommended she return to her home and continue her work among the privileged... because 'they need love too'. The woman went back to her own life.   *I have no idea anymore of where I read this account to confirm the details, but it's how I remember it all these years, and maybe that's best.

Those words lifted that sense of guilt I carried, where I wondered if I was pursuing the life meant for me, always with that niggle of worry it wasn't worthy enough. I settled into my life—into the joy of knowing where I lived and worked, whoever I worked with, these dear people needed love too. I never felt a calling to work elsewhere. I aimed to live my best life, walking in the beauty and love as best I knew how.

And that's how Mother Teresa became a heroine in my life. After that, I was ever on the look out for other wise words from this humble and influential woman. I found gems that kept me company along the way, including that lovely one at the start of this post which became the cornerstone for this blog. Here are a few others that continue to shine light for me:



"Never worry about numbers. Help one person
at a time and always start with the person nearest you."


"Not all of us can do great things.
But we can do small things with great love."


"If you can't feed a hundred people,
feed just one."


"I'm a little pencil in the hand of a writing God,
who is sending a love letter to the world."


"Now let us do something
beautiful for God."


I am so glad the writings of Mother Teresa came to me at a time when I needed the courage to settle into my own life path. She could never have known that her advice to one woman would help another who lived far away on another continent, in another world.

If you are interested in reading something about her, I recommend the little book Something Beautiful for God by Malcolm Muggeridge. Although biographical, it's more a tribute to her and includes a transcript of his conversations with Mother Teresa.

To close, I want to share a line I recently read in Margaret Dulaney's collection of memoirs To Hear the Forest Sing: "I cannot imagine who I might have been without the encouragement of certain sources of light along my own night's journey." This is how I feel about my literary heroes, I cannot imagine life without them.

Who is one of your favourite literary heroes?


Wishing you a beautiful week ahead,
Brenda
Photo credit:
Top photo by Annette Meyer from Pixabay
Floral graphic by antiqueimages.blogspot.com 
 


Sunday, February 11, 2024

Daybook: February Edition



"All you need is love. But a little
chocolate now and then doesn't hurt."
CHARLES M. SCHULZ


The last few weeks I have been in the middle of an editing project for an anthology my writing fellowship plans to publish later this year. The day I finished my assignment, I looked up and realized January had melted into the past, and here we were in February—with it being nearly Valentine's Day. I weary myself to lament yet again 'where has the time flown?" so I'm trying not to say it aloud this time. I'd much rather note from my window perch staring into the snow-covered garden that the daylight hours have l-e-n-g-t-h-e-n-e-d and the sunsets are pushing themselves further into late afternoon. The chickadees have begun their spring singing, and Madam Downy Woodpecker pecks busily for supper. I feel the joy of it splashing over my heart.   

During this season, with a few bumps along the way and still dealing with some health issues, the Daybook edition I used to post monthly slid right off the radar—which means it's more than high time to dust it off for a meandering muse here on the blog. Without further ado, let's begin...


FOR TODAY

Outside my window... What a difference a day makes. Yesterday our corner of the world was settled in thick grey stillness with no sign of sunshine. This morning the heavy clouds are gone, the sky is awash in that February pale blue, and the sun makes the snow sparkle.

In the garden... Everything is covered in fluffy fresh piles of snow. Birds flutter in the branches looking for spots to sit and soak in the sunshine. No sign of anything else in the garden - far too early for snowdrops or anything springlike.

I am wearing... black jeans, a black and white floral blouse, with a spritz of Christian Dior's JOY Eau De Parfum, which I received as a Christmas present from a certain someone. Every morning I give myself a wee spritz to start the day. The scent instantly lifts my spirits.

I am thankful... that when I experience a technical difficulty, I can count on there being someone else 'out there' who is likely experiencing the same issue. For several days I had problems with my email—new messages wouldn't load, and outgoing emails had an error code saying the message couldn't be saved to the 'sent' file. I finally realized the problem was not going away; a quick Google search, with a tiny prayer for help, brought me a simple solution. Those other more tech-savvy people with the same issue offered solutions that worked for them. It was a simple change in the settings, and all was rectified. Only the Shadow knows for sure what made it go off the rails in the first place.



Women Holding Things
by Maira Kalman

One of my favourite things... this past week was the arrival of a book I've had in my shopping cart a long while. I finally ordered myself a copy of Women Holding Things. What a lovely collection—her artwork is whimsical and charming, her tiny essays poetic. As one reviewer noted, Ms. Kalman is "an extraordinary observer of people". Through her art and simple text she explores what women tend to hold: from the ordinary and mundane through to the hurt feelings and heartbreak in relationships to the joy and delight of holding vases filled with flowers.

A favourite quote... from Maira Kalman's book:

"What do women hold?
The home and the family.
And the children and the food.
The friendships. The work.
The work of the world.
The work of being human.
The memories
And the troubles
and the sorrows
and the triumphs.
And the love."

I am watching... an Agatha Christie film found on YouTube The Case of the Middle-Aged Wife. This is one I have enjoyed several times. Maria Packington notices her husband is taking a too-active interest in the pretty young typist in his office. Maria becomes so unhappy about it she responds to an ad in the newspaper to ask Parker Pyne for help. I love his advice to Mrs. Packington, and I love how the story plays out. This was the first episode in the 1982 TV series The Agatha Christie Hour. Gwen Watford plays Maria Packington - you'll probably recognize her as Dolly Bantry, alongside Joan Hickson, in the Miss Marple films from that era.

My favourite vlogger is... Miranda Mills who vlogs about country living in Yorkshire, UK. She is a passionate reader and creates 'content that fosters connection between literature, art and the natural world'. Not only does she chat about books, but she shares recipes of yummy things she bakes. And she takes her followers on vlogging outings to interesting bookshops, lovely teahouses, museums, and literary places like Jane Austen's home. She is the charming and insightful hostess, along with her mom, Donna, of the monthly Comfort Book Club. You can find the current book she is reading for the monthly discussion HERE. Miranda is all about living a beautiful life - a girl after my own heart. For more, check out her YouTube channel HERE. She is also in Instagram, if that's where you like to hang out.

I am listening to... Classic FM which streams my favourite classical music all the way from England. Loving all things English, this gives me a little heart connection to my favourite place in the world.


I am thinking... about the books I have currently lined up to read. Just a little stack (😉) out of the couple of hundred shelved and also awaiting their turn in my lap. Books truly beguile me. Can one ever have too many books? I don't think so. Although I can hardly be tempted to the usual human vices, just mention books and reading, and I'm instantly in the line up. Of all the interests and passions I have enjoyed over my lifetime—many have come and gone—books remain the constant. I hope my home in the next life has a comfy, cozy, library with nooks and crannies stuffed to the rafters with all the books I never had a chance to read in this life. Plus, all the favourite volumes of which I never grow tired. That would be paradise for me. And to make it perfectly perfect, all my loved ones would be nearby, each one following pursuits for which their own hearts beat rapturously.

PS... I just love the photo above. The afternoon sunshine was streaming in on my bedroom floor. I gathered up the books I wanted to share and set up the scene. I am quite pleased with how it turned out. 

A list of the titles and authors in the photo above (in case it's hard to read):
The Country Child by Alison Uttley (children's);
The Sleeping Car Porter by Suzette Mayr (novel - Scotiabank Giller Prize winner);
Pictures at an Exhibition by Sara Houghteling (novel);
Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy (novel);
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy (novel - Winner of The Booker Prize);
Women Holding Things by Maira Kalman (art/essays);
The Bird in the Tree by Elizabeth Goudge (novel);
Snow Road Station by Elizabeth Hay (novel - coming of age middle-age story);
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard (biography/autobiography/literature);
Apples on the Windowsill by Shawna Lemay (meditations on still life, photography, beauty, marriage);
To Hear the Forest Sing, Some Musings on the Divine by Margaret Dulaney (memoirs);
A Rhythm of Prayer, A Collection of Meditations for Renewal edited by Sarah Bessey (prayer);
Square Haunting, Five Writers in London Between the Wars by Francesca Wade (biography/literature); Thin Places, a natural history of healing and home by Kerri Ní Dochartaigh (memoir/nature);
Windswept, Life Nature and Deep Time in the Scottish Highlands by Annie Worsley (nature/memoir);
Mrs. Van Gogh by Caroline Cauchi (novel).

I am hoping this week for... some nice weather, a continuous supply of small treats, joy in my work, and good things to laugh about with friends and family.

I am learning... it is best to take things one day at a time. As a Facebook friend, Colleen, often mentions: "Stay in the day. Just do the next right thing with love."

In the kitchen... Saw this little menu on social media attributed to Whitney Gaskell and her book Table for Seven. My mouth waters at what sounds like a delicious dinner to make and share with special people. It would be perfect for Valentine's Day. No recipes were given but I'm sure a Google search could come up with something similar:

"WARM GOAT CHEESE SALAD WITH PEARS AND WALNUTS

INDIVIDUAL FILETS EN CROÛTE

PARSLEY LEAF POTATOES

ASPARAGUS

CHOCOLATE POTS DE CREME"

- Whitney Gaskell, Table for Seven


Closing notes... I was Guest Blogging over on InScribe last week. I wanted to give you a chance to read my little post titled We Nourish Others in case you haven't seen it. I'd love to hear from you if you enjoyed the piece.

 

Too much of a good thing can be wonderful."
SUSAN BRANCH




Wishing you a heart-happy week,
Brenda


Photo credits:
- Top Image by boaphotostudio from Pixabay
- Tulip Image by TheGraphicsFairy.com
- Valentine Image by The GraphicsFairy.com
- The book photos are mine

Acknowledgement with thanks to Peggy at
The Simple Woman's Daybook for some of the prompts used in this post.