The things that are saving my life right now

Anne over at Modern Mrs. Darcy recently suggested listing The things that are saving my life right now. Here’s her explanation of this idea:

The idea comes from author Barbara Brown Taylor. In her memoir Leaving Church, Taylor tells about a time she was invited to speak, and her host assigned her this topic: “Tell us what is saving your life right now.”

It’s easy and often tempting to rattle off a bunch of things that are killing us: “My sore feet are killing me.” “All this snow is killing me.” “I have a couple of clients right now who are trying to kill me.”

Yes, we complain a lot when things are going badly. But what we may fail to notice is all the things that are going well. It’s easy to pull our hair, look skyward, and yell, “Why me?” when we feel overwhelmed. But we almost never ask “Why me?” when things go well. We accept the good things as our due without acknowledging them.

So Modern Mrs. Darcy’s challenge is a chance to set things right, to appreciate the good things as well as the bad. She has invited us to put together our list and post a link to it over at her blog.

Here are some things that are saving me right now.

A little bit of sunshine

Winter can get pretty dreary here in the Pacific Northwest of the USA. But last week we had a few periods when the sun actually broke through. A little bit of sun doesn’t mean that the day won’t also include some rain, but just those fleeting periods of sunshine improved my mood and reminded me of the promise of spring and summer, which are truly glorious here.

Still crazy after all these years

My husband is one of the kindest, most generous people I’ve ever known. And he loves me. ME! Out of the whole big wide world, he chose me to spend life with. I still marvel at this miracle every single day.

Getting to know our daughter

Our daughter was born and grew up in St. Louis, MO. She left there for college in Tacoma, WA (University of Puget Sound), fell in love with the area, and never came back. We visited enough to know that we, too, loved the area and decided to retire here. And here we are! We have enjoyed immensely seeing our daughter more than once a year and being able to spend holidays together. Since she left home right after high school, we never really spent much time with her as an adult. Getting to know the woman she has become continues to be extremely gratifying.

A brighter world

I had cataract surgery on both my eyes last fall, and since then the world has been a much brighter place. Cataracts smothered my vision so gradually that I didn’t notice it for a long time. But when I realized that I could no longer appreciate subtle differences in colors, I knew it was time for me to do something about it. After I had the first eye done, I would frequently cover one eye and look through the other one. I could not believe the vast difference between the eye with the new lens and the one without. And now that both eyes have new lenses, my reading glasses require a much milder prescription than before. I am so looking forward to seeing all the flowers this spring and summer.

Retirement

What a luxury it is to be able to choose what I want to do and when I want to do it (and to choose to not do many things I don’t want to do). Having relocated to a different part of the country for our retirement has given us a whole new world of stuff to learn about it. Sometimes I feel like a kid in a candy store.

Travel planning

We didn’t take much time to travel when we were younger. Life was just always too busy. To make up for that, we have committed to traveling frequently in our early retirement years, while we can still move around fairly easily. There are just so many interesting places to visit, so many peoples and countries to learn about, so much glorious nature to see.

Books

There are so many good books out there that I haven’t read yet. Finishing one and picking up another is one of the true joys of my life.

Silver and gold

Make new friends but keep the old.
One is silver and the other’s gold.

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I’m sure I’m leaving out a lot, but all of these things remind me how good my life is. I look forward to checking out other peoples’ lists on the Modern Mrs. Darcy website.

What about you? What things are saving your life right now?

Reading Suggestions

David Bowie’s Top 100 Books

Bowie’s top 100 book list spans decades, from Richard Wright’s raw 1945 memoir Black Boy to Susan Jacoby’s 2008 analysis of U.S. anti-intellectualism in The Age of American Unreason.

his list shows a lot of love to American writers, from the aforementioned to Truman Capote, Hubert Selby, Jr., Saul Bellow, Junot Diaz, Jack Kerouac and many more. He’s also very fond of fellow Brits George Orwell, Ian McEwan, and Julian Barnes and loves Mishima and Bulgakov.

I’m not sure if I could even put together a list of the top 100 books I’ve read, especially one as wide-ranging as this. Read it and be humbled.

Six Religion Books Headed to the Big Screen in 2016

I wasn’t sure I’d find anything I’d be interested in on this list, but I was wrong. One book that depicts the persecution of Christians in Japan during the seventeenth century is being made into a movie starring Liam Neeson. And—and this surprises me—a new film of Ben-Hur is due out in August.

The 10 Most Anticipated Book Adaptations of 2016

Get the scoop on these:

(10) Silence (TBA 2016)
(9) A Monster Calls (October 14)
(8) Inferno (October 14); Dan Brown’s Inferno, not Dante’s
(7) The Divergent Series: Allegiant (March 18)
(6) The BFG
(March 23)
(5) The Jungle Book (April 15)
(4) Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (November 11)
(3) The Girl on the Train (October 7)
(2) Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (November 18)
(1) Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (December 25)

The 27 Most Exciting Books Coming In 2016

Jarry Lee has put together this list of both fiction and nonfiction for BuzzFeed. Her descriptions make me want to read every one of these:

What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi
High Dive by Jonathan Lee
The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee
The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan
The Lost Time Accidents by John Wray
We Love You, Charlie Freeman by Kaitlyn Greenidge
What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell
Ways to Disappear by Idra Novey
In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri
Zero K by Don DeLillo
Girl Through Glass by Sari Wilson
Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa
LaRose by Louise Erdrich
Hunger by Roxane Gay
Bullies: A Friendship by Alex Abramovich
Modern Lovers by Emma Straub
Private Citizens by Tony Tulathimutte
The Veins of the Ocean by Patricia Engel
What Lies Between Us by Nayomi Munaweera
The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
Blackass by A. Igoni Barrett
The Lightkeepers by Abby Geni
Sudden Death by Álvaro Enrigue
The Narrow Door by Paul Lisicky
You Should Pity Us Instead by Amy Gustine
Night Sky With Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong
Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer

My 10 Favorite Books: Gloria Steinem

This is one in a number of lists by people asked what 10 books they’d take with them if they were marooned on a desert island.

Gloria Steinem very practically answered:

“If I were marooned on a desert island, I would want a book on edible plants and building a raft, but here are 10 I would choose for the pleasure of big and new understandings.”

I love that phrase, “big and new understandings.”

Anyway, read why she chose these books:

The Mermaid and the Minotaur, Dorothy Dinnerstein
Exterminate All the Brutes, Sven Lindqvist
Two Thousand Seasons, Ayi Kwei Armah
The Sacred Hoop, Paula Gunn Allen
Trauma and Recovery, Judith Herman
At the Dark End of the Street, Danielle McGuire
The Color Purple, Alice Walker
Sex and World Peace, Valerie Hudson, et al.
The Woman Warrior, Maxine Hong Kingston
Dark Matter, Robin Morgan

Dylan Thomas Prize 2016 longlist revealed | The Bookseller

The International Dylan Thomas Prize 2016 longlist has been revealed, including Granta senior editor Max Porter’s debut and two books that were shortlisted for the 2015 Man Booker Prize

The £30,000 prize, designed to ensure a “Welsh link with the great global phenomenon of contemporary English writing”, is now in its 10th year. The prize is open to poetry, drama, novels and short story submissions, and across all genres. Specifically for those aged 39 and under, it is hoped the prize will help “savour the vitality and sparkle of a new generation of young writers”.

Source: Dylan Thomas Prize 2016 longlist revealed | The Bookseller

Ta-Nehisi Coates, Lauren Groff Among 2015 NBCC Finalists

The National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) nominated five finalists in six categories–autobiography, biography, criticism, fiction, nonfiction, and poetry–for the outstanding books of 2015.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, who already won the National Book Award and the MacArthur “genius” fellowship with Between the World and Me, is up for the NBCC Award for criticism. Also among the finalists are Fates and Furies author Lauren Groff (fiction), H is for Hawk author Helen Macdonald, SPQR: A History of Rome author Mary Beard (nonfiction), and Elizabeth Alexander, author of The Light of the World (autobiography).

Source: Ta-Nehisi Coates, Lauren Groff Among 2015 NBCC Finalists

You can read the complete list of NBCC Award finalists for the publishing year 2015 here.

On Novels and Novelists

Joyce Carol Oates: ‘People think I write quickly, but I actually don’t’

Joyce Carol Oates, often described as “America’s foremost woman of letters,” recently talked with writer Hermione Hoby for The Guardian. At age 77, Oates has written more than 100 books and has been a Pulitzer finalist five times.

What Hoby calls “a pronounced gothic streak” runs through much of Oates’s fiction. Hoby explains why by quoting a passage from the afterword to Oates’s 1994 collection Haunted: Tales of the Grotesque:

“We should sense immediately, in the presence of the grotesque, that it is both ‘real’ and ‘unreal’ simultaneously, as states of mind are real enough – emotions, moods, shifting obsessions, beliefs – though immeasurable. The subjectivity that is the essence of the human is also the mystery that divides us irrevocably from one another.”

Hoby says that Blonde, Oates’s fictionalization of Marilyn Monroe’s interior life, is often regarded as her best novel. My book club back in St. Louis read it several years ago and loved it. We also read and loved her novel We Were the Mulvaneys, which remains one of the most memorable books I’ve ever read.

Michael Connelly Chooses ‘The Long Goodbye’ for WSJ Book Club

Prominent mystery writer Michael Connelly has chosen Raymond Chandler’s novel The Long Goodbye for the Wall Street Journal Book Club. Connelly credits this book with launching his writing career. He was majoring in construction engineering in college when he saw Robert Altman’s 1973 film adaptation of the novel. He bought all of Chandler’s novels, read them back to back, then changed his major to journalism and creative writing.

Amazon Series: BOSCHAlthough Connelly has written some stand-alone novels, he is best known for his fictional detective Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch of the Los Angeles Police Department. The Bosch novels are the basis for Amazon’s series Bosch, starring Titus Welliver. The series’ second season will be released this year.

There’s a link in this article for joining the WSJ Book Club, but I think you have to be a subscriber of the paper to sign up.

Inside Lisa Genova’s medical best sellers

Lisa Genova was trained as a neuroscientist, but she has left that career behind to write full time. She self-published her first novel, Still Alice, and sold it out of her car trunk because she couldn’t land a literary agent or publisher. That book was eventually picked up by a major publisher, and Julianne Moore won an Oscar for her portrayal of the lead character in the film version.

Still Alice tells the story of a Harvard neuroscientist who develops early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. While most writing about Alzheimer’s features the point of view of care givers, Genova’s novel portrayed the experience of the patient. Genova has written three more books about neurological conditions: Love Anthony, about autism; Left Neglected, about traumatic brain injury; and Inside the O’Briens, about Huntington’s disease. Her next novel, she says, will be about ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

10 underrated novels from great authors

Sure, you’ve heard of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer, but what about Pudd’nhead Wilson? Read about this less well known work of Mark Twain, along with underrated novels by the following writers as well:

Fyodor Dostoevsky
Cormac McCarthy
Haruki Murakami
Edgar Allan Poe
George Orwell
Stephen King
Graham Greene
James Salter
Richard Yates

J.K. Rowling reveals statue she marked after completing ’Harry Potter’

J.K. Rowling recently revealed on Twitter that she defaced a statue in her Balmoral hotel room after finishing the final volume in her Harry Potter series. See the evidence here.

A good sport about the whole thing, the Balmoral has renamed the room the J.K. Rowling Suite and protected the statue inside a glass case. This is certainly a case of “there’s no such thing as bad publicity.”

Herman Wouk Says He’s A ‘Happy Gent’ At 100

Herman Wouk has written a lot of famous novels, including The Winds of War and The Caine Mutiny, which won a Pulitzer Prize. Now, at age 100, he’s issued a spiritual memoir, Sailor and Fiddler: Reflections of a 100-Year-Old Author.

It’s a memoir, he says, that “sums up what it means to be a writer.”

Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

17 Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes You Never Hear

While best known for his “I Have a Dream” speech, King’s legacy included much more than that.

Memorable words here.

Alan Rickman’s Best Bookish Roles

On Thursday, January 14th, Alan Rickman passed away from cancer and leaves a horrible gaping hole in the entertainment world. As every Harry Potter fan (and casual observer) knows, Rickman was most well known for his role as Severus Snape, the villain-turned-redemptive-hero that plays a central role in the film adaptations.

Source: Alan Rickman’s Best Bookish Roles

Bill Gates Blogs About Books

New York Times writer Katherine Rosman introduces us to the book area of Bill Gates’s blog, Gates Notes, in Move over, Oprah: It’s the Bill Gates book blog. Gates also writes about issues such as health care and education on the blog, but, according to Rosman, “his book reviews tend to generate the most attention.”

Blogging about books grew out of Gates’s years-long practice of “scribbling notes in the margins of books he was reading” and emailing recommendations to colleagues and friends. A few years ago he decided to post his recommendations on the blog. While his recommendations often involve books about science and public health, he has also recommended history, memoirs, and some novels.

Gates told Rosman that he reads about 50 books a year and that he prefers “old-fashioned books on paper” over digital readers. He usually avoids posting negative reviews, “explaining that he sees no need to waste anyone’s time telling them why they shouldn’t bother reading something.”

In Bill Gates on Books and Blogging Rosman continues with more information from her email interview with Gates. To her question about the role reading plays in his life, Gates answered, “reading is still the main way that I both learn new things and test my understanding.”

Gates lists the six favorite books he read in 2015 for Drake Baer in Bill Gates just revealed his 6 favorite books of 2015.

2016 Reading Challenges

I had a poor reading year in 2015, managing to complete only 28 books of a goal of 40. But this year I should have more time to read, so I’ve once again challenged myself to read 40 books this year on Goodreads. I set and exceeded that goal in 2013 and 2014, so I’m pretty confident I can achieve it this year as well.

The only feature of the Goodreads challenge is the number of books you plan to read. If you’re looking for a more structured challenge that will expand your reading horizons, here are three:

The 2016 Reading Challenge

Modern Mrs. Darcy challenges you to “read 12 books in 12 different categories in 12 months.” Her challenge includes the following categories:

  • a book published this year
  • a book you can finish in a day
  • a book you’ve been meaning to read
  • a book recommended by your local librarian or bookseller
  • a book you should have read in school
  • a book chosen for you by your spouse, partner, sibling, child or BFF
  • a book published before you were born
  • a book that was banned at some point
  • a book you previously abandoned
  • a book you own but have never read
  • a book that intimidates you
  • a book you’ve already read at least once

Modern Mrs. Darcy also offers you some free downloadable forms to help you track and complete the challenge, including a list of these categories and a reading journal (look for a link in the right sidebar).

Take 2016’s Ultimate Reading Challenge!

Macy Williams at PopSugar also has a challenge designed to “help you read a variety of books this year.” Her list of categories is a bit longer than Modern Mrs. Darcy’s, so I’m not going to reproduce the whole list here. But you can download a printable list of the categories and check each one off as you complete it.

The 2016 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge

This challenge has 24 tasks, which means you’ll have to complete two a month to finish by the end of 2016. As with the previous two challenges, you can download and print a list of the categories.

There’s also a Read Harder group on Goodreads, and you can “check in all over social media with the hashtag #ReadHarder.” You even have the opportunity to participate in a live Read Harder book group if you live in one of these cities:

  • HOUSTON
  • NEW YORK CITY
  • PHILADELPHIA
  • LOS ANGELES
  • CHICAGO
  • GLASGOW
  • BOSTON
  • WASHINGTON, D.C.

If you need help finding books to fulfill all the categories, there’s a link here to a list of recommendations from the New York Public Library.

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You might be able to find some suggestions for these challenges from 32 New Books To Add To Your Shelf In 2016, which covers new releases through May.

Bestselling Books of 2015

Harper Lee, Marie Kondo, and Jeff Kinney topped the print bestseller lists in 2015 for adult fiction, adult nonfiction, and juvenile books, respectively. Here are the 20 bestselling books of the year in each of those categories.

Source: Bestselling Books of 2015