An Eclectic Mix of Good Books for Bookish Adults

October 16, 2014

” . . . there were many hours when Humphrey was left all alone, which he did not mind in the least, for he was by temperament a bookish child, and the child who is at home in the world of books never lacks for companionship, entertainment, or adventure.” — Jacqueline Kelly, Return to the Willows

Detail of painting by Jeff Weeks, "Three Moons," Bainbridge Art Museum

Detail of painting by Jeff Weekly, “Three Moons,” Bainbridge Island Museum of Art

Detail of painting by Jeff Weekly, "Girl Behind the Books," Bainbridge Island Museum of Ar

Detail of painting by Jeff Weekly, “Girl Behind the Books,” Bainbridge Island Museum of  Art

I read a lot of books, and here are a few from recent months that I consider quite unique and exceptional:

What We See When We Read by Peter Mendelsund.  This book provides much food for thought about the inner world of reading.  Mendelsund says, “We imagine that the experience of reading is like that of watching a film.  But this is not what actually happens — this is neither what reading is, nor what it is like.”  He talks about how fictional characters are revealed incrementally, gradually materializing in our imaginations from a few distilled facts.  Our mental  images of them can remain quite vague, but our feelings about the characters are more firmly defined, and therein is where we find meaning.  This is true for me.

The sketchiness is part of the charm of reading.  That is at least part of the reason that seeing a film adaptation of a favorite book is often disenchanting.  “One should watch a film adaptation of a favorite book only after considering, very carefully, the fact that the casting of the film may very well become the permanent casting of the book in one’s mind.  This is a very real hazard.

When we read, we go back and make adjustments to our reconstructions of characters based on the play of elements and new details. And we each bring our own experiences to bear on our imaginings.  That is one reason why re-reading a novel can be a new and rewarding experience — we’ve changed since our last reading, and our impressions of the characters change, too.

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Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant by Roz Chast.  Many, many people like graphic novels, but I have never been drawn to this genre.  I can remember reading just one graphic novel, Persepolis by Marjane Strapi, which was also an autobiographical story — very good.  However, I highly recommend Chast’s memoir to anyone who has cared for or is caring for elderly parents.  This is a poignantly honest portrayal of her role as daughter, a role that is constantly changing as her parents become increasingly frail and lose their ability to cope with living independently in their New York apartment.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman.  This novel is a heartwarming testament to the healing power of community, even when “community” is a pesky, boisterous family who insinuates itself into the quiet life of a widow next door.  Ove, at 59, has recently lost his wife and then is involuntarily forced to retire from his job.  Life holds no meaning nor the promise of anything worthwhile, and Ove has practically become a hermit.  He decides to kill himself, but before he can get the job done, he is dragged back to life by the intrusiveness, and loving kindness, of his new neighbors.

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Worn Stories by Emily Spivack.  In this book, Spivack has collected stories about special garments people have held on to over the years.  She says, “We all have a memoir in miniature living in a garment we’ve worn.”  What a fascinating idea for a book.  The stories will make you think about the provenance of clothes in your closet and their meaning in your life.

 

 

 

 

 

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3 Responses to “An Eclectic Mix of Good Books for Bookish Adults”

  1. Elisa Says:

    Thank you for sharing these books.

  2. Diana Studer Says:

    just gone hopefully to the tada online catalogue of our future library. I can find 3 other books by Roz Chast. Perhaps they’ll add this one soon.


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