Sunday, September 27, 2015

On Being, Poets, and Irish Writers

I recently listened to an episode of a podcast called On Being, a discussion of the "animating questions at the center of human life" led by Krista Tippett, a Peabody Award-winner.  This episode in particular struck me because in it she interviewed John O'Donohue, an Irish poet who passed way suddenly in 2008, and the opener was so stunning, and so moving, I knew I had to listen to the whole thing.

There are many poets that I love, but there's something to me about Irish writers, equalled only by the Russians, that captures the human spirit - the suffering as well as the beauty.  O'Donohue's writing is no exception.  Below is a recording from the podcast of O'Donohue reading one of his poems, called Beannacht, from his collection Anam Cara.

If you're interested in listening to the whole podcast, you can do so on the OnBeing website or on iTunes (the episode is titled: John O'Donohue: The Inner Landscape of Beauty).  If you're looking for more, find his collections and sit a long while with them - that's what I plan to do.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

10 Questions

Instead of doing a Top Ten Tuesday today, I thought I'd pull out some answers to the 55 Questions post that went around for ages last year and the year before.  Fifty-five questions is a TON, and scrolling fatigue is real, so here are ten, in no particular order.

Bad book habit?
Leaving them flopped open facedown to keep my place. 

Do you have an e-reader? 
Yes! 2011 Amazon Kindle, still plugging along. Love it.

Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?
Several at once.

Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog? 
I think I’m more aware of “popular new releases,” which I’m not sure is a good thing. I keep a notebook and a space on my phone to jot down notes/how I feel about a book as soon as I finish it, which is definitely a good thing.

Can you read on the bus?
Nope. I do audiobook-read on the bus, though. 

Favorite place to read? 
Anyplace you can people watch.

What’s your policy on book lending? 
I once lent my copy of Gone With The Wind (which I’d read on a train ride from St. Petersburg to Sochi and which had a lot of sentimental value) to another girl on my trip and never saw it again. Now my motto is: only books I’m not crazy about to begin with.

Do you dog-ear your books? 
Only in desperate situations.

Do you write notes in the margins of your books? 
Not usually – I underline.

Do you break/crack the spine of your books?
Yes! Spine crackers unite! Best way to break in (my own) books.

Did you participate in the 55 Questions challenge? What would your answers be?

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Top Ten Fall Classics (on a Wednesday!)

*Since Monday and Tuesday were Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year), this week's post is a bit delayed! To those of you who celebrate, L'Shana Tova u'Metukah!
This week's topic is a freebie, and I knew that it would be a great time to bust out some fall classics.  These are my old standbys, the ones I pull out when the weather starts to get cooler and all I want to do is cuddle up inside with a mug of tea, my cat, and no distractions.  Spooky, damp, windy, fraught with moral angst and beloved characters -- are there books that better capture fall?

Monday, September 7, 2015

Paired Reading

In the last few truly delicious-weather days of summer break, while on the hunt for a perfect (free!) spot to sit and read, I realized something.  The two books that I was reading paired nicely together.  So nicely, in fact, that the more I read one, the more I wanted to re-read the other.

Obviously, this is not a new phenomenon, but I haven't noticed it very much in my own reading.  It was doubly surprising when it happened because I was reading two non-fiction books at the same time, which is unusual for me.

The first of these two books was The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America's Wealth, written in 1996 by Thomas Stanley and William Danko and wildly popular among the personal finance crowd (and other crowds, too).  It was a look into the lives and habits of America's millionaires, but shockingly different than what you or I may have expected.  After publication, it was critiqued and criticized, and with all of the financial changes the world has seen in the last nineteen years, some say outdated.

The second was Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project.  I'd heard of The Happiness Project, but had never read anything by Rubin before, and I picked it up as the dreaded "The library is closing in five minutes" message rang out over the loudspeaker - a rushed library choice is a bit like Russian Roulette.  Better Than Before speaks to the nature of habits: why some are easier to maintain than others, why certain people have trouble building "good" habits, and what it takes to make and keep them.

So what was it about both books that was so fascinating and enjoyable?

Several things, I think.  Each came with a practical approach to understanding how and why people are the way they are.  The millionaires in The Millionaire Next Door seemed to have mastered the habit-building that Gretchen Rubin discussed in Better Than Before.  Combined, the ideas of self-control, hard work, and slow growth blended together beautifully.  Each offered examples of how habit-building or wealth-building worked for others - and could work for the reader - and the voice of each of the narrators was immensely readable.  (So readable, in fact, that I went out and borrowed The Happiness Project as soon as I could, and went on the hunt for Stanley's later books.) Was this the kick I needed to think about habits I want to build, or did it just coincide nicely with the beginning of fall and all of the changes that come with it? Either way, it worked for me.

Have you ever read books that pair together well, or either of these two books? What were your thoughts?