July 17, 2015
Within the last two weeks, I read two books about Christian missionaries traveling to alien worlds. I recommend them both. Both are works of fantasy, yet both are grounded in reality, providing wonderful character studies and handling deep philosophical questions.
In The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber, Peter, an English pastor, is chosen by a powerful multi-national corporation to act as a missionary to the Oasans, people on a planet newly colonized by earth. Peter must leave his beloved wife, Bea, and their cat, Jacob. Bea introduced Peter to Christianity and their marriage has been one of deep love and total companionship. The difficulty of their separation and what it does to their relationship is one of the main focuses of the novel. The “aliens” that Peter ministers to are thirsty for knowledge of Christ, and we wonder why. We also wonder about the powerful muti-national corporation and its motivation for sending Peter. And what about the previous pastor who disappeared? And the linguist who taught the natives English and also disappeared? While the novel is suspenseful, it isn’t action-packed. The stress on Peter and Bea’s relationship also causes stress on their faith, and this is where the book excels. Its examination of love and faith in crisis is fascinating.
The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell is also an examination of faith. Father Emilio Sandoz had it and lost it: why? Father Emilio Sandoz is one of a crew of Jesuit missionaries sent toward Alpha Centauri after radio signals demonstrate that intelligent life exists on a planet in that area of space. Sandoz is the only survivor of the mission. The book alternates between “past” and “present.” In present day, Sandoz is being interrogated by the Jesuits to discover what went wrong. He is accused of some horrible crimes. In alternate chapters, we learn about the discovery of the radio signals, the recruitment of the crew (all wonderful characters, that we readers fall in love with; Sandoz being the most wonderful), the trip across space, until the past meets up with Sandoz’s confessions. What went wrong? How did everyone die? How did Sandoz “go bad” ? This book has action, great characterization, and incredible world building. The author, Mary Doria Russell, has a PhD in biological anthropology, and uses her knowledge well. The development of the setting on the new planet–the cultures and languages and interactions of the races–is brilliant and probably my favorite part of the book.
I was disappointed by the endings of both books. However….
After thinking about the ending of The Book of Strange New Things for several days, I changed my mind. It ends exactly how it should. I didn’t “get” it at first, but I do now.
The Sparrow puts so much emphasis on what went wrong, what horrible thing happened, that its discovery was anti-climactic for me. I still recommend the book.
I highly recommend both books. So, get reading!
March 6, 2015
For the past several years, my ladies book club has decide to spend the months of December and January reading children’s novels that have a chance at the Newbery Medal. We do a bit of research, come up with about 15 to 20 titles, then share the books. We meet in January and talk about our favorites. The Newbery Medal is announced at the end of January.
This year, the book I liked most was Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin. The story is about an autistic girl and her dog. It is a beautiful, beautiful book. I was extremely disappointed when the Newbery Medal was awarded to Kwame Alexander’s Crossover, a book I hadn’t even heard of.
Well, I just finished reading Crossover, and I am delighted that it won the award. It is a wonderful novel-in-verse about two African American brothers who love basketball. I’m not male, I’m not African American, and I don’t much like basketball. It doesn’t matter! The story is brilliant and the writing inspired. Alexander’s poetry jumps off the page and sings in your head. Some poetry you have to read aloud to hear it as poetry, but I could hear the cadence and the rhymes in my head even in silent reading.
Crossover is not only a book for people who love to read, it is a book that will appeal to those who hardly ever read. So, hats off to Kwame Alexander and the Newbery Award committee. Great book. Great choice.
July 21, 2014
The first Little Free Library was started in 2009 in Wisconsin. Since that time, more than 15,000 Little Free Libraries have been built.
I am happy to announce that my family has built a Little Free Library:
Our little library is near the end of our driveway (so the snow plow doesn’t knock it over in the winter). Books are available to anyone who walks by and wants to borrow one. The Little Free Library works on the honor system. Readers can borrow and return a book, or swap books.
People ask: Aren’t you worried that someone will steal the books? The answer is: a free book cannot be stolen!
My little free library is filled with books for both children and adults representing a variety of genres. My friend Sally helped paint the library and suggested the text above the door.
If you are ever in my neighborhood, stop by and borrow a book! To learn more about Little Free Libraries, visit the official website.
June 20, 2014
Are you an obsessive reader? Do you realize you need to exercise more than you do, but feel like you don’t want to give up your reading time? You don’t have to!
Here are several ideas to keep your body healthy and fit and keep your mind engaged in a good book.
The stationary bike. This is obvious. Reading and spinning. I do this about once a week during the school year—take my book with me to the YMCA, get on the bike, set up the workout, and read. After 30 minutes or so, I close my book and go shower. The exercise happens. The reading happens. I’m a happy camper. But not everyone has access to a stationary bike, so….
Walking and reading, inside. I’ve been doing this for most of my life. As a teenager, I was insecure about my weight, but wanted to spend my free time reading. This activity helped me stay healthy, feel good about myself, and not lose valuable reading time.
How: In a large room, walk in a circle while reading. Don’t have a large room? Create a “track” and walk from room to room on the same path. Have stairs? Walk up and down those stairs while reading.
Warning: If you have never walked and read at the same time, begin slowly and carefully. You need to be able to read while still being aware of your surroundings.
Am I the only one who does this? It seems so reasonable to me, but others seem to find it odd. Inside works for when the weather is bad. It is a good option for those of you too embarrassed to read and walk outdoors.
Walking and reading, outside. First of all, leave the car at home and walk places—even if you don’t take your book. But why not take your book? Combining errands and walking and reading just makes sense.
I often walk to and from work with a book in hand. A grocery store, a drug store, a movie rental place are all within a mile for me, so I walk there while reading. A thirty minute walk, with a book in hand, feels like about five minutes.
If you live in a big city, you will have lots of opportunities for walking and reading. No need to worry what others will think. Everyone else will be texting and won’t even notice that you are holding a book and not a phone.
If you live in the suburbs, you might think this option doesn’t work for you. On the contrary! Take a walk and read. I realize many suburban streets don’t have sidewalks, so you’ll need to walk on lawns or the edge of streets. I say, be that eccentric person in your neighborhood. Life is too short to pretend you aren’t different. Embrace your passion for books!
Live in the country? Wander your quiet roads with a book. Look up from time to time to greet the horses or sheep. Fresh air, exercise and a good story. This is what life is all about.
Warning: If you have never walked and read at the same time, practice inside. You need to be able to read while still being aware of your surroundings—don’t fall off a sidewalk or walk into a car!
Audiobooks? Yes, yes, yes. I know many of you are thinking: exercise while listening to a book. For those of you who listen to audiobooks, there are many exercise options. So far, audiobooks have not become a part of my life. I like to see words on a page. But for those of you who do like audiobooks, think of all the ways you can exercise and listen. Don’t limit yourself to listening to your book while driving places.
Do you have other suggestions for combining exercising and reading? Please let us know!