Friday, September 30, 2011


"Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting and autumn a mosaic of them all." - Stanley Horowitz

Fall in the Sonoran Desert - Arizona

Fall at Lake Tahoe - California

Ahhhhh, fall is in the air.  I know this because the daylight hours continue to back down, and with that, the temperature pattern begins to recede.  In some places it is cool and crisp with leaves changing colors.  In other places it is cool and damp with a lot of rain in the forecast.  In still other places folks – me included - are finally getting a chance to get out of summer heat hibernation and start their fall and winter outside activities.  Whatever category you find yourself in, you may also find yourself with extra time for…..dare I say it…. reading?

Fall at the Kankakee State Park - IL
It doesn’t seem to matter where you are geographically; it just seems you always busier in the summer months.  Vacations, children’s activities, summer holidays, family reunions, many things make us have a tendency to grab that small, light reading material that we can get through quickly.  Now that days are getting a little shorter, and outside activities are becoming a little more sporadic, don’t be afraid of that big book on the shelf.  Embrace the large, heavy, volume you had pushed aside for lighter summer fare.  Fall reading is kind of like fall clothing – just a little bulkier.  We’ll save the real heavy stuff for when snow starts falling.
Fall in Cuyahoga County - Ohio
I did a little searching and found some favorites for fall reading, and lo and behold several of my favorite books EVER were on the list!  Of course how and when they became my favorites are really a mystery to me…it just seems like they always were.  Because they are some of my favorites and because I am writing the blog (ha ha) I’m going to list them first.  That by no means lessens the other books in the list; it’s just that this blogger decided to take liberties with the order of things.  Please feel free to comment and give us your fall favorites – I always welcome suggestions.  Enjoy your weather - whatever that may be - and enjoy your reading.

 East of Eden by John Steinbeck

"First published in 1952, 'East of Eden' is the work in which Steinbeck created his most mesmerizing characters and explored his most enduring themes: the mystery of identity, the inexplicability of love, and the murderous consequences of love's absence. A masterpiece of Steinbeck's later years, 'East of Eden' is a powerful and vastly ambitious novel that is at once a family saga and a modern retelling of the Book of Genesis."

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
"One of the best-loved stories of all time, 'To Kill a Mockingbird' has earned many distinctions since its original publication in 1960. It won the Pulitzer Prize, has been translated into more than  forty languages, sold more than thirty million copies worldwide, and been made into an enormously popular movie. Most recently, librarians across the country gave the book the highest of honors by voting it the best novel of the twentieth century."

The Heart of Autumn by Robert Atwan (Editor)

"Illustrated throughout with graceful pen-and-ink drawings of fall foliage, this volume features a selection of some of the world's most acclaimed poets from Gerard Manley Hopkins, Emily Dickinson, and William Wordsworth to more contemporary poets including e. e. cummings, Robert Bly, and W. S. Merwin."

“Aftertaste: A Novel in Five Courses,”  by Meredith Mileti

 This is a delicious book about a woman who has it all and loses it (figuratively and literally), only to learn the true recipe for love and happiness. The heroine, Mira, is a NYC restaurateur whose life is skewered by her husband’s infidelity. She retreats to Pittsburgh to be consoled by her family and friends. Think “Eat, Pray, Love,” with a lot more eating. This book is not for weight watchers—it’s about food, glorious food.   You will be salivating by page one (Meredith, you had me at, “Cooked rare, and topped with goat cheese and a fried egg so fresh its yolk oozes orange!”).

That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back  By Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum

 America is in trouble. We face four major challenges on which our future depends, and we are failing to meet them—and if we delay any longer, soon it will be too late for us to pass along the American dream to future generations.   In That Used to Be Us, Thomas L. Friedman, one of our most influential columnists, and Michael Mandelbaum, one of our leading foreign policy thinkers, offer both a wake-up call and a call to collective action. They analyze the four challenges we face—globalization, the revolution in information technology, the nation’s chronic deficits, and our pattern of excessive energy consumption—and spell out what we need to do now to sustain the American dream and preserve American power in the world. They explain how the end of the Cold War blinded the nation to the need to address these issues seriously, and how China’s educational successes, industrial might, and technological prowess remind us of the ways in which “that used to be us.” They explain how the paralysis of our political system and the erosion of key American values have made it impossible for us to carry out the policies the country urgently needs.  

11/22/63: A Novel By Stephen King

 A high school teacher from Maine travels through a time portal to 1958, and then spends the next five years on a mission to stop the assassination of JFK.

Any new book (especially one weighing in at 864 pages) from the king of horror is a major event, but he may have outdone himself this time with a premise that asks, "What if would could go back in time and change history?"

Farther Than I Meant To Go, Longer Than I Meant To Stay  by Tiffany L. Warren

As President of Grace Savings and Loans, Charmayne Ellis is an established, polished professional. Although she has reached great success, her ridiculing mother and wise cracking younger sister won't let her forget that she is a 36-year-old, overweight, unmarried woman.

In an attempt to help, Charmayne's best friend, Lynette, is obsessed with setting her up on a series of pity-driven blind dates. When a drop-dead gorgeous man, Travis Moon, shows interest, Charmayne's caution light blinks like crazy. But out of loneliness and pressure from her family Charmayne ignores her gut feeling and gets married. Yet instead of marital bliss, Charmayne begins to discover new things about her husband that force her to question her marriage and her faith in God.

Friday, September 23, 2011


Sharing stories...that's what draws readers to book clubs.  Book clubs not only stimulate lively discussion but sometimes even inspire meaningful personal insights. 

I am an avid reader who enjoys most genres, because of my involvement with book clubs for a number of years.  I always tried to make sure I rotated the type of book to make sure I included interests from everyone in the group.  I sometimes find myself after a particularly rousing book discussion wondering if the author had any idea when writing the book how it would be studied and dissected and debated.
I have never shied away from books that may be controversial, as evident with our upcoming discussion of The Help by Kathryn Stockett.   Although this book is a work of fiction, a lot of it is based on the life some women actually lived during the 60’s in the South.  Believe me; I can hear some of the arguments now.  Some of the best book discussions I have had the honor to host were books that would be considered challenging in a diverse book club setting. 

One controversial book that especially comes to mind as one of the best discussions – Keeping Black Boys out of Special Education by Jawanza Kunjufu.   In addition to our regular book club members, we had in attendance:  the head of special education from the local high school, 3 high school teachers, two ministers, and a mother who had a child that had been placed in special education.  There were about 20 people total – a large group for a book discussion – and it was very enlightening to say the least.  The group was very diverse – Black, white, Hispanic, young, old, men and women. 
I’ll give you one more that was a great discussion, albeit controversial….The Long Shadow of Little Rock by Daisy Bates  This book talked about the nine Black students in 1957 preparing to go to Little Rock Central High School to attempt what seemed impossible -- the integration of public schools.  I followed up the book discussion with a documentary showing Little Rock Central High School 50 years later, and the piece de resistance was the library brining in one of the Little Rock Nine - Elizabeth Eckford - to talk about her personal experiences during that time of conflict, hope, anger, and change!  A standing room only crowd filled the library that evening.  We had people come from many surrounding areas to hear her speak.  It all started with an idea for a book discussion for Black History Month and grew.....

Of course, not all the books are or will be controversial, some are just fun.  We'll talk about some of those next week.  Until then....keep reading.  ;-) 

Additional information on The Little Rock Nine:

Additional information on Keeping Black Boys out of Special Education:

Friday, September 16, 2011


Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings

These are a few of my favorite things....

Well, most of you know the rest of the song.  It happens to be one of my favorite songs of all time, and I recently found out it was also one of Michael Jackson's favorites. It has to be one of the best works of Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein II.  I am swept away to a much younger, innocent age every time I hear the first few notes of the music....but if I'd had half a chance, I would have tried my darnedest to convince Mr. Hammerstein to include a well written murder mystery, a juicy romance novel, a revealing tell all biography or autobiography, or a believable work of fiction into one of the stanzas of the song.

Many of us consider books our favorite things.  We can retreat into our own little corner of our imagination as we turn the pages.  There is nothing like curling up with a good book late in the evening after a day of working or rushing around with our families or one of a million things we fill our days with.  There is something special about the time you set aside for yourself with whatever book you are reading at the time. 

I knew I was totally hooked on reading when I began making sure I had a paperback tucked inside my carry-on luggage whenever I went on vacation.  Even though when my children were young I didn't have as much time on my hands to read, there was always a book nearby - just in case.  I also find that although I'm older now, I seem to remember a lot more of the stories I read...darn those kids and their constant distractions:  Mom I need help with my homework!  Mother, where is my football uniform you said you would wash?  Mama I hurt myself, waaaaaaa!  Oh yes, and let's not forget the husband with: Honey, are we going to have any dinner tonight?  Disruptions, disruptions, disruptions!  How is a person supposed to remember their place in the book - I never seemed to have bookmarks and refused to desecrate a book by folding down a corner of the page; and how is a person supposed to remember what they read when they are constantly being interrupted.  Well, my life is different now that my husband has retired and I decided to sit right down with him (and live on 'his' fixed income), I can pick up a book and actually almost finish it sometimes before I have to put it down. 

I read for many reasons:  to learn, to grow, to laugh, for entertainment, for solace, for hope, for strength. 

Reading for me, is spending time with a friend.  A book is a friend, and you can never have too many good ones.

In closing,  they are definitely a few of my favorite things. 

If you feel the need to hear the rest of the song, here it is:

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Be prepared to meet three unforgettable women:

Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a Black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen's best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody's business, but she can't mind her tongue, so she's lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Invitation To Bookclub Members

I know I have already asked you to come at check out the blog, but I actually need you to join the blog and try to post something so I'll know if there's anything else I need to do to get you connected.  Just something simple will whether or not you've acquired your book yet.

Online Bookclubs

Online Bookclubs
New wave discussions