Reading is a lonely pursuit and we can often forget that there are many of others throughout the world who love the land of books so much as us. Anna...moreReading is a lonely pursuit and we can often forget that there are many of others throughout the world who love the land of books so much as us. Anna Quindlen is one such person, and she kindly enough shares her thoughts on reading and readers in How Reading Changed My Life. There are chapters in this book about her voracious reading as a child, book censorship, the future of books, and the companionship between readers. The final topic is perhaps exemplified in my personal experience with this book. My copy is a well-read library book that some exuberant reader marked up with notes and underlinings. I liked seeing what touched this other reader--even though I didn't like the flagrant disregard for library property. Some of their favorite quotes were not mine and some of mine were not underlined at all. All the same, my eyes were drawn to their markings, and I took special notice of what they thought was worth noting. I felt like I got to know a little bit about the person who read this book before me, and I know the next person who will pick up the book will get a sense of them as well. That is why I love used books and library books the best. It is such a heavenly feeling to know that the book you are reading has been read before and will be read again. It is like a handshake between readers. We may not meet in person, but we can meet each other in the world of books. One of my favorite (not underlined) quotes in the book is about this connection between us--how one person can read a book and know that years before or years earlier that someone somewhere in the world has read these same words and experience the world of stories. Here is a portion of that quote: "But the act of reading, the act of seeing a story on the pages as opposed to hearing it told--of translating story into specific and immutable language, putting that language down in concrete form with the aid of the arbitrary handful of characters our language offers, of then handing the story on to others in a transactional relationship--that is infinitely more complex, and stranger, too, as though millions of us had felt the need, over the span of centuries, to place messages in bottles, to ameliorate the isolation of each of us, each of us kind of a desert island made less lonely by words." How Reading Changed My Life is one of those great books that makes readers feel less alone in the world. Read it and feel the companionship of reader who have come before and who will come after. (less)
I really enjoyed Amy Elizabeth Smith's journey's through Mexico and South America. I love learning about new cultures and the Jane Austen angle to thi...moreI really enjoyed Amy Elizabeth Smith's journey's through Mexico and South America. I love learning about new cultures and the Jane Austen angle to this book was just icing on the cake to this fascinating adventure. Reasd this book to get away and to learn something new about the power of literature and friendship.
(Dr. Smith made me long to visit Buenos Aires. All those book shops? It sounds like heaven. Also, it seems that there are folklore clubs. I'm a complete folklore geek and would love to visit one. I hate that we don't have any equivilants in the States.) (less)
With the present success of the British television series Downton Abbey, St. Martin's Press has re-released the classic memoir, Below Stairs. In Below...moreWith the present success of the British television series Downton Abbey, St. Martin's Press has re-released the classic memoir, Below Stairs. In Below Stairs, Margaret Powell recounts her career in domestic service and vividly recreates the world in which she lived.
As a child, Margaret Powell hoped to become a teacher, but her family was poor and there was no public assistance to pay for her education. Instead, she entered the workforce at the age of thirteen. For two years, she worked a series of odd jobs in her hometown of Hove, culminating in her dismissal from a laundry service for turning fifteen (the laundry wished to avoid giving her a half a crown raise). Her mother then decided it was time for her to enter domestic service. Margaret began her career with a position as a lowly kitchen maid but within three years, rose to the rank of cook through hard work and a bit of lying.
The joy I felt in reading Below Stairs had little to do with my fondness for Downton Abbey and much more to do with Margaret's unique voice and the world she describes so clearly. Through her no-nonsense narration, we are transported back to the time between wars. Margaret introduces the reader to a post-World War I England in which everything has changed and yet many of its people are still reticent about moving forward. Many of Margaret's employers were once something but are now forced to live on dwindling fortunes with only the good, old days to keep them company. Courtship no longer resembles that of Victorian England, and Margaret struggles to keep up as she searches for a husband. Women, in general, struggle to gain autonomy while society struggles with accepting them as independent, single women. Daily life now includes bicycling, car rides, cinema, and theater going. It’s a fascinating time, and Margaret allows the reader to experience it all through the eyes of a firsthand observer.
Throughout Below Stairs, Margaret guides us through her world with a straightforward and feisty voice. The reader becomes well acquainted with her and, by the last page, are reluctant to say good-bye to her and her world. (less)
Season to Taste is a semi-interesting memoir about one young woman's journey to come to terms with the impairment of her sense of smell. The book is a...moreSeason to Taste is a semi-interesting memoir about one young woman's journey to come to terms with the impairment of her sense of smell. The book is at its best when describing food with luscious adjectives, but too often it gets bogged down with the author's inability to structure her thoughts.
Season to Taste constantly jumps back and forth between Molly Birnbaum's everyday struggles with regaining her sense of smell and the science behind how the brain processes scent. I found the author to be slightly annoying, mainly for her inability to stay on topic. I never got over this annoyance because she really never gave the reader time to know her. Instead, any time the reader gets close, she begins spouting off more facts and figures. Interviews popped up at random times, jarring the reader out of the narrative. Overall, the book was just oddly paced and structured. I would have liked it much better if she had separated her personal life into different chapters from her interviews and research. The timeline is all over the place and indiscerible since everything is just meshed together. I wished she had spent more time recounting the stories of others who had lost their ability to smell. I found their stories to have much more flavor and emotional impact than her own.
I would only recommend this book to people who either have a condition similar to her own or are interested in the science of scent. Molly Birnbaum did bring attention to the much overlooked issue of loss of smell, and for that, she should be applauded. I only wish her book would have been written a bit better so it could have packed a harder punch.