Tag Archive - Booklist

Booklist: Picture Books

Picture Books are a world unto themselves. It is here, most often, that children will wet their literary toes. In the best of them, illustrations and words dance in and out of one another with ease. The one illuminates the other. Sometimes they frolic, at other times they waltz. But always, the two are one.

I hope your childhood was resplendent with beautiful picture books. Books that tickled, and provoked, and nourished your imagination. Books that taught you to love words. The way they slither and slide, the way they play, the way they sing. I share here a few of our favorites. Please tell me about yours. I do have a little granddaughter who is already in love with books. She will need to know them.

The Complete Tales of Beatrix Potter For the elegant language, the sublime watercolors, and mostly for the endearing characters who peopled the lives of my children and me for a season, I owe a great debt to Ms. Potter.

The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne The writing is clever. The characters  thoroughly loveable. The misadventures goodhearted and fun. And, don’t be surprised if you find yourself on a bridge someday playing Poohsticks.

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown I can still recite the whole of it from memory, I read it so many times. When I asked Kelsey about books from her childhood she would like Kenzie to have, it was the first one she mentioned. A sweet benediction. A deep breath of quiet.

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr., John Archambault, and Lois Ehlert Thus far, this is Kenzie’s favorite. I don’t know if it’s the bright colors or the lilting cadence but she gets so excited when I pull the book out. An alphabet book with rhythm.

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Burton My husband (Mike Mullican) loved this book as a boy. Obviously. Never mind the one little letter difference in his name. It is a story of loyalty and love. A step back in time to a world less complicated.

Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak This Caldecott winner was one of my childhood favorites. And I passed my love of it on to our children. (Kelsey covered our copy in Christmas stickers one year. I have never been able to part with it.)

All the Eric Carl Books, especially Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, The Very Quiet Cricket, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar Eric Carle’s beautiful tissue paper illustrations can still take my breath away. Stunningly gorgeous! I love looking at all the details in them. Whether paired with Bill Martin’s rhymes, or simple stories of industrious insects, these books captivated my children. Kenzie is already a fan of Brown Bear, Brown Bear.

Blueberries for Sal and Make Way For Ducklings by Robert McCloskey Books remembered, again, from my own childhood. Simple, sweet stories along with glorious Caldecott winning illustrations made these books that we read over and over. Nothing beats an early morning reading of Blueberries for Sal just before heading off to the blueberry patch.

All the D’Aulaire books  The Caldecott winning husband and wife team of Ingri and Edgar D’Aulaire created sumptuous, whimsical picture books. Mostly biographies of American luminaries like George Washington, Abe Lincoln, and Pocohontas. But their book of Greek Myths is one of the best I’ve ever read. And you can’t beat their illustrations.

When I Was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant Much of this story is my story. Baptizin’ in the old swimmin’ hole, fried okra, outhouses, breaking beans on the front porch. If it is not your world, pop by for a visit. Rylant tells a compelling story and the illustrations are lovely.

You Can’t Take a Balloon Inside the Metropolitan Museum by Jacqueline Preiss Weitzman and Robin Glasser An unwieldy, runaway balloon has a number of misadventures out and about New York while its owner peruses works in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In a very creative “life imitates art” approach, the scenes encountered by the balloon mimic the art works observed by the little girl. Such fun!! And there are no words. You must supply the story yourself. A great pre-reading book.

The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado Lucado has written a number of lovely children’s books, but this one is my favorite. The truth that the Incarnation is good news for everyone, especially those who feel left out, is winsomely told here. And the paintings are magnificent.

Mama Do You Love Me? by Barbara M. Joosse A mother’s love has no limits. Nothing her child does could ever change that. That is the message this book tells with its lovely illustrations drawn from the native Inuit culture of Alaska.

Love you Forever by Robert Munsch and Sheila McGraw I’ll admit the concept of an elderly mother climbing a ladder into her son’s room at night is a little far-fetched. And yet, the truth of this book has always over-ridden its impracticalities. Another of the books Kelsey asked for specifically. I guess the truth got through to her as well. 🙂

Yonie Wondernose and Henner’s Lydia by Marguerite De Angeli De Angeli lived in an Amish community for a while. With these books, she takes us there as well. And we see inside the life of a little boy and a little girl. Their mischief. Their longings. And the beauty of their simple, but rich lives.

The Day Jimmy’s Boa Ate the Wash by Trinka Hakes Noble and Stephen Kellogg “How was your class trip?” Kinda boring. Until the cows started crying.” “Why were the cows crying?” And so begins a rollicking backward adventure that any child (or any adult for that matter) will find HYSTERICAL!

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff Maybe I like it so much because it reminds me of the way I do housework. One thing leads to another…. My kids loved this whole series of books about inevitability and circuitous thinking. Great fun.

OK. Your turn. GO!!!

 

 

Un-booklist

Firemen no longer put out fires, they start them. It is their job to eradicate any clandestine stash of books that may be found. The powers that be have decided it is dangerous to allow people to think for themselves. Therefore, they will be told what to think. And nothing poses a greater threat to manipulation and propaganda than books.

This, in brief, is the disturbing and eerily plausible world presented by Ray Bradbury in the book Fahrenheit 451. Brave souls who attempt to preserve books face imprisonment or even death. But there is a remnant…an outcast group of scholars and intellectuals living like hobos on the periphery of civilization (if you can call it civilization). They know that a culture that does not think is destined to implode eventually. And when that time comes, they will be needed.

Each of these men carries with him the books that will be needed to rebuild the world. But, he carries it inside him. Books like Plato’s Republic, Marcus Aurelius, Machiavelli’s The Prince, the writings of Albert Einstein and Albert Schweitzer, the Magna Charta, the four Gospels… have been committed to memory. Astounding, but not impossible. A recent film, The Book of Eli, explores a similar premise.

Today’s “booklist” post is a little out of the ordinary. I am posting no list. Rather, a question. If it were up to you to contribute one or two books to the rebuilding of a world that had lost all, which would it be? What truth, what idea or story is so pivotal to who we are as a human race that you would be willing to eat its words in order to pass them on?

I would like to make one stipulation in order to keep things interesting. I know that most of us would want to be sure the Scriptures would carry on. However, if you choose to memorize Scripture, will you be so kind as to specify a book? One of the Gospels, perhaps, or the book of Proverbs, et al…

I listened to Fahrenheit 451 on audio, mostly on a trail run I did a few weeks back. The finish wrecked me and left me sobbing on the trail. There has been a monstrous battle, and our outcasts are now walking back toward the smoking remains of the city to begin the long work of redemption. Our protagonist, Montag, formerly a book-burner, has told the group earlier that he can contribute most of the book of Ecclesiastes and parts of Revelation. As he begins to search within himself for words appropriate to this hour, he lands on these. May they inspire you…

To every thing there is a season…
A time to break down and a time to build up
A time to keep silence and a time to speak…

And on either side of the river was there a tree of life which bore twelve manner of fruits and yielded her fruit every month. And the leaves of the trees were for the healing of the nations….

Booklist: On Writing

Sometimes writing is like magic. Ideas, words, come from some place outside of me and flow through my hands onto a page. I look at them in astonishment. As though someone else had written them. But most of the time, writing is work. Hard work. And talent and instinct only carry one so far.

There is a craft to writing. And if I want to tell stories that impact others, I must learn this craft. I have had the great good fortune to know some gifted writers personally. Their advice has been invaluable to me. But, I have also benefited from the teaching of authors who have generously put their thoughts about writing on paper for all of us. Here are some of my favorites.

On Writing by Stephen King I have this book in hard copy and on audio. I am listening to it right now for the 3rd or 4th time. In the first part of the book, King tells his story. In the second, he builds a “tool chest” for writers. Both parts are indispensable. Whenever I get whiny about not being able to find time or space to write, I remember King, after a long day of teaching, sitting in the utility room with his typewriter on his lap.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott Irreverent and funny, Anne Lamott is a pleasure to read. From the “shitty first draft” to publication, she is with you all the way. And every now and then she drops a passage like this:

Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve thought there was something noble and mysterious about writing, about the people who could do it well, who could create a world as if they were gods or sorcerers. All my life I’ve felt that there was something magical about people who could get into other people’s minds and skin, who could take people like me out of ourselves and then take us back to ourselves.

Me too.

A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver Do not be deceived. Poets are not the only writers who will benefit from the wisdom of this Pulitzer winning author. She has much to say about nourishing our creative sensibilities and will inspire and provoke you with her words. So many quotable phrases, but this is one of the best:

For poems are not words, after all, but fires for the cold, ropes let down to the lost, something as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry. Yes indeed.

The War of Art and Do The Work by Stephen Pressfield Each of these books provides an unapologetic kick in the pants and urges us to stop being willing victims of resistance, and get out there and create. The principles are applicable to artists of all types, as well as entrepreneurs, CEO’s, missionaries, anyone who has a call to do something in this world.

If you were meant to cure cancer or write a symphony or crack cold fusion and you don’t do it, you not only hurt yourself, even destroy yourself. You hurt your children. You hurt me…Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.

Elements of Style by William Strunk and E. B. White “Omit needless words.” It is one of the principles of composition in this much revered standard of grammar and good taste. It is also the practice of its authors. Succinct and elegant. Indispensable.

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron Subtitled “Creativity as a Spiritual Practice”, Cameron’s book guides us on a path of recovering our creative voice. Through “morning pages” and a number of other creative practices to help us know our true hearts, she helps unleash that which is buried within.

Steering the Craft and The Wave in the Mind by Ursula LeGuinn The first is a practical guide to various elements of writing like point of view or sound (“the slither and crunch of onomatopoeia” for instance :)). The second is a collection of essays and speeches on “the writer, the reader, and the imagination”.

To me a novel can be as beautiful as any symphony, as beautiful as the sea. As complete, true, real, large, complicated, confusing, deep, troubling, soul enlarging as the sea with its waves that break and tumble, its tides that rise and ebb.

Mystery and Manners by Flannery O’Connor A marvelous look inside the mind of one of the most perceptive and eloquent writers ever to tell the peculiar stories of the south. It is philosophy as much as anything. Like her stories. Good, wise, true.

Our age not only does not have a very sharp eye for the almost imperceptible intrusions of grace, it no longer has much feeling for the nature of the violences which precede and follow them.

Letters To A Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke Candid and intimate advice from one of my very favorite poets. On art, and beauty, and finding the poetry inside oneself.

Booklist: The Art Books

I am fascinated by the artistic process. I love to watch an artist at work. To see him ponder, create, evaluate, adapt. To be there as the work comes to life under his hands is like magic. Almost as exciting is to plunge inside the mind of an artist by reading his words. Or by reading stories about his life…interactions of artists and how they influence one another, etc….

A fairly generous section of my personal library is devoted to art and artists. Here are a few favorites:

Concerning the Spiritual in Art by Wassily Kandinsky “Colour is the keyboard, the eyes are the hammers, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand which plays, touching one key or another to cause vibrations in the soul.” Kandinsky’s vibrant, energetic works have always captivated me. His theories about colour, about the artistic process, and about the effect of both on the soul are equally compelling.

What is Art? by Leo Tolstoy “Art is not a pleasure, a solace, or an amusement ; art is a great matter. Art is an organ of human life, transmitting man’s reasonable perception into feeling.” Tolstoy has a tendency, from time to time, to meander and wag on. But golden nuggets like the above keep you digging through it because there is SO much wisdom here. Provocative, sometimes controversial, contemplative, rich.

Walking on Water by Madeleine L’Engle Cosmos from Chaos. Art as Incarnation. Art as a reminder of the glory and magic we knew as children. Lavish Grace. All from a great friend to artists... “In art we are once again able to do all the things we have forgotten; we are able to walk on water; we speak to the angels who call us; we move, unfettered, among the stars.”

The Annotated Mona Lisa by Carol Strickland This survey of the history of art introduces the reader to the major artistic eras as well as representative artists. Explanations are succinct and surprisingly thorough. If you are one of those folks who has always wanted a basic understanding of art, but does not know where to begin, begin here.

Michelangelo and the Popes Ceiling, The Judgement of Paris, and Brunelleschi’s Dome by Ross King Part history, part inside view of the artists at work. Learn about their idiosyncrasies. The maneuvering and jealousy. Extraordinary genius. All set against the culture of their time. King is a great storyteller. Good stuff.

Refractions by Makoto Fujimura “God desires to refract His perfect light via the broken, prismatic shards of our lives.” A talented avant garde painter, Fujimura is also an important voice with regard to the integration of faith and art. Stories largely drawn from post 9/11 New York illustrate how God relentlessly pulls beauty from ashes.

Beauty the Invisible Embrace by John O’Donohue “This is the spirit that beauty must ever induce, wonderment and a delicious trouble, longing and love and a trembling that is all delight…” Poet and priest O’Donohue explores the theme of beauty from a distinctly Celtic perspective. He looks at colour, music, nature, dance, death, and finally the beauty of God. Gorgeous contemplations delivered in sumptuous prose that threatens at any moment to flower into poetry.

Blue Arabesque by Patricia Hampl This is a beautifully woven tapestry of stories and contemplations regarding the “uninterrupted gaze” and of thoughts that bud and unfurl. Hamply tells us of Delacroix, Matisse and Picasso, carrying us with them into middle eastern harems, and to the light of the Cote d’Azure.

For Children:

Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists series by Mike Venezia Each volume tells the story of an individual artist. There are hilarious cartoon illustrations that tell the story with great fun. There are also reproductions of  some of the artist’s works. Venezia  has a series of Musician/composer books, as well. My children loved these. As did I. Highly recommended.

Museum 123 and Museum ABC from the Metropolitan Museum of Art These beautiful volumes are a counting book and an alphabet illustrated with marvelous works of art. I am already using the counting book with Kenzie who is only 3 months old. Not sure she is getting the whole number thing, but she loves looking at the paintings.

OK, you know the rules. You have read, now share. Tell us all about art books you love.

*Painting at the top of the post by Wassily Kandinsky

Booklist: The Boy Books

Reluctant readers.
Sometimes.
Boys.

Unless….

…unless you introduce them to books like these. Read them aloud. On the porch. In a treehouse. In a tent. With a flashlight. Snuggled together in bed. Make gifts of them to your boys; beautiful hardcover editions that they will treasure. Here are some family favs. I can hardly wait to hear yours.

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George Young Sam Gribley runs away from home and lives for a year in the Catskill Mountains. He makes his home in a hollowed out tree, trains a falcon to hunt for him, sews a suit of deerskin clothes, and wrests a living from the land. What little boy does not want to live this life? We also loved the sequels, On the Far Side of the Mountain and Frightful’s Mountain. Incidentally, George wrote a great many engaging books from a naturalist perspective, including the Newberry winner, Julie of the Wolves. We have read most of them. Marvelous all.

Rascal by Sterling North I watched Joshua’s eyes grow wide as we read about young Sterling’s collection of wild animals, at the center of which was a baby raccoon. For a few days, he was Sterling. Rascal was his very own. And when there were tough decisions to be made, those were his too. Incidentally, we bought Jake a stuffed raccoon because he loved this book so much.

Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices by Paul Fleischman Poems about insects. Fascinating and fun. And all told in two voices. So you and your son can read in tandem. Voices weaving over and under, into and out of one another. It is an intimate and delightful experience to breathe a poem together. Try it!!

The Redwall Series by Brian Jacques This was the first group of books Jake asked for as a gift. He devoured them. When I began reading them aloud again with Joshua, Jake sat in. Because he loved them so. Set in a middle ages landscape, peopled by animals, this is a delight for boys becoming men.

King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table by Roger Lancelyn Green Knights and armor, dragons, swords and daring deeds. So much that little boys love. And honor. You will have the opportunity to negotiate that with them. To imagine themselves in the place of these men. What would they do?  *I favor the Green edition because it is clean and uncluttered. We have read Mallory as well; beautiful but cumbersome.

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham “Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing—absolutely nothing—half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” Mole, Toad, Badger…boats, carriages, and motorcars. And questions about how we choose to live life. About fear and fury.

Black Ships Before Troy and The Wanderings of Odysseus by Rosemary Sutcliff (Homer)  Gods, heroes, monsters…all the fodder of little boy dreams. Epic stories…The Iliad and The Odyssey…made approachable by the art of Rosemary Sutcliff. Seek out the gorgeous hardcovers with illustrations by Alan Lee.  Marvelous! Sutcliff wrote wonderful historical fiction of her own, most of which is boy friendly.

Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard Atwater Joshua’s favorite book ever. Quirky and thoroughly delightful. Do NOT judge it by the new film. Two very different things. Mr. Popper dreams of adventure. But he is a man with responsibilities. No worries. Adventure is coming to him. Humorous and heart warming. A precious book.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien Joshua’s other favorite book ever. 🙂 “There is more to you than you know, Bilbo Baggins.” It is a message we all need to hear. We all need desperately to believe. That when push comes to shove and we are tested, there will be glory in us.

The Magician’s Nephew, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, The Silver Chair, and The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis We read and loved all the Chronicles of Narnia. But Joshua was very particular that these were the ones I should include. He would also have you know that seeing the movie does not equal reading the book. That liberties were taken, especially in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, that were not to his liking. Magic, quiet heroism, and characters who bury themselves deeply in your heart.

Homer Price by Robert McClosky A world of simple pleasures, innocent boyhood fun. Rural, small town America of almost a hundred years ago now. Misadventures. Accidental heroics. And great good humor.

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls A little boy works, and saves, and schemes to buy two coon hound pups. He faithfully trains them and gives them his whole heart. And they give their hearts to him. Love. Costly love. This is a difficult book with hard things. Read it aloud with your boy. Give him a chance to talk from the heart to you. Walk into the door this book will open. It’s alright to stop reading to cry. Ask me how I know….

My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett Unlikely heroes. Whimsy and absurdity. And dragons. A great first chapter book.

The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare 13 year old Matt helps his father build their homestead, then must stay and protect the claim….alone….while his father goes to fetch his mother and sisters. There will be unexpected complications and what is asked of him becomes more arduous than any of them could have imagined. He will build meaningful friendships with a native tribe, and they will exchange understanding and good will. He will also have to make hard decisions about keeping impossible promises.

Also consider Speare’s The Bronze Bow, a compelling story of anger, and grace, and Jesus.

Detectives in Togas by Henry Winterfield A mystery. A comedy. And a memorable romp through Ancient Rome.

 

Your turn! Tell me about the books your boys love. Please!

Booklist: The LOST Books

So, here is the plan. For the next few Wednesdays…til such time as I run completely out of ideas….Wednesday will be booklist day here on the old blog. Posts about books are always among my most popular, and are sources of great reads for me personally. If you are a bibliophile, or a wanna-be bibliophile, or even if you don’t know how to spell bibliophile :), check back each week. You never know what you might find. And I NEED your input!

This weeks premise: You just bought a ticket on Oceanic flight 815. (For those of you who did not watch the television show LOST, your flight is going down. Sorry.) Let us assume that you know you will end up on a deserted island. (THEY asked you to believe things much more far-fetched than this.) You have room to pack ten books. Turns out you are the only reader on the plane. So these are the books you will read and re-read over and over for the next few years. What will they be?

This is not a list of your “favorite” books, necessarily. Some books are great for a single read, but do not bear repetition. Which books can you give yourself to again and again? I chose to include no more than one book by any particular author, but this is not necessary. Here’s my packing list (as always, in no particular order):

On the Incarnation by St. Athanasius Truth be told, if this were the only book I had, I would have plenty to contemplate. The introduction by C.S. Lewis could occupy the first year. Then perhaps, I would be ready for Athanasius. So much that is essential to all you and I believe about God, and most particularly about His Son, are articulated here….compellingly, artistically, completely. Profound and rich.

Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton There have only been two or three books I have ever read that I immediately read again. This was one of those. So much to digest here. Truth conveyed in a compelling voice. One that gets inside and rattles around and won’t be quieted. One that will expand your mind and create new receptors of truth. So that you might see more completely. More deeply.

Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God I can’t imagine a life without poetry. My original list had several poets. It broke my heart to remove some of them. I kind of wanted to cry. (And, hypothetically, if I were to include another it would be Thirst by Mary Oliver. :)) But Rilke is the voice that has most clearly spoken my heart’s cry. In words that I could not find, but so desperately needed. I have screamed his words. I have whispered them. I have prayed them. It is this collection in which I found him first. And it is this dog-eared, tear-stained volume that I return to again and again.

A Book of Hours: Thomas Merton compiled by Kathleen Deignan and John Giuliani I have read many volumes of Merton. He is kindred spirit. A fellow yearner after God. But one so far ahead of me on the path. I tentatively put my feet into his footprints…and hope that some day I will sprawl at the feet of God with such reckless abandon as did he. I select this particular volume because it is a potent distillation of his words. Any single paragraph gives me food for a day. I have copied prayers from here to my phone so that they are with me always.

Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art by Madeleine L’Engle I mourned her death as though we had known one another. Because in my heart there was a dream….that someday she and I would linger over tea and talk. About life. About art. About God. So approachable she seemed.  So honest. So real. It was folly, I know. But read the book and see if you don’t feel the same. Such lovely nourishment herein. Deep breaths of beauty. To fan the flame of creativity within me. To help me ardently pursue the sometimes elusive beauty around me. Madeleine L’Engle is a worthy guide.

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky Thus far I have only read it twice. But I hope that, before the end of my life, I will have read it many times. Such deeply layered characters. No villain is beyond redemption. No hero is without weakness. And the stories that weave them all together, ahhhhh. So much to explore. Each time nuances emerge. So obvious one wonders how it was hidden before. As we bring to it our hurts, our longings, our loves, it gives to us something we were not ready for on the last reading.

The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis Limiting myself to only one by Lewis was quite difficult. But in the end, I had only to consider how many times I had re-read each, and this was the obvious choice. Around half a dozen times thus far. And not nearly done. Some of the characters live SO close to my heart that I can not read without being drawn completely into the story. Pages blur and I am there. Answering the questions. Feeling the fear. The wonder. The…joy.

I will not lie to you. This book has caused me considerable pain. But pain of the best sort. The kind that wounds to heal. Destroys to bring life. Kills to resurrect. (If you should elect to give it a go, I encourage you to push past the first few chapters which might seem slow. Do not give up early. You can’t imagine what awaits you! Press on!!!!)

Beauty The Invisible Embrace by John O’Donohue It is my husband who has a confirmed Irish bloodline. Hello! MULLICAN!! But, when I read John O’Donohue, I feel I am reading a kindred soul. I have done three complete readings thus far, but have gone back and perused underlines and notes far more often than that. The way that he interlaces beauty, and nature, and spirit, and God together throbs deeply within me. His words are like a washing of sweet spring rain. Like the scent of lavender and roses. I read it as gift to myself. As a cleansing of the soul.

Candide by Voltaire Yes, he was ingenius. Yes, he was the poster-child of the Enlightenment. But, he was also one of the most brilliant satirists to ever live. I laugh myself silly all the way through the book. Sometimes I agree with what he is spouting, sometimes not. But always I am in awe of his artistry…his ability to tell an evocative and entertaining story in which is enmeshed all that he believes about the world. I would read it for fun. You don’t believe me? I double-dog dare you to try it.

Lilith by George MacDonald It would be fair to say that I read it the first time kicking and screaming. It had been recommended by my counselor. How’s that for vulnerability? Because I needed to learn how to die. And he knew Lilith could show me how. I knew lots of facts about my situation. But it was a story that would take me where I could not go by myself. I have read it since. And seen layers I did not see on my first visit. Like a complex and beautiful landscape through which I hurtled the first time in search of that death scene that would be life to me. I know there is more still to be found. I would bring Lilith. She has been been a true friend.

The Bible Not because it’s the Sunday School answer. Not because it’s the “right” answer. But because it’s the right answer. Comfort for those who mourn. Provocation for those who are self-satisfied. Correction for those who would do well, but are misguided. And I have been all. Stories without end. And poems. And prayers. The story of God. Of His Son. Of His people. Of the lost, the weary, the desperate, the courageous, the audacious, the confused, the rebellious, the restored, the healed, the ones who persist in hope. You. Me.

P.S. Yes, I realize most of my books have a faith connection. Coincidentally, so do I. Though I read books from many faith, or non-faith, perspectives, the ones I choose to live with, to roll around in, to let crawl all up inside me, tend to be those written by a questing heart, imperfect to be sure, but relentless in pursuing the things of God. No apologies.

Your turn. The LOST books. Go!!

Before They Leave…

My baby is going to school next year. My fourteen year old. We have come to the end of home-schooling. Which means, I am mostly done choosing the books he reads.

I’m panicking a little.

Because he shared much of his childhood with teenaged siblings, he and I had fewer long lazy days on the porch pouring through wonderful literature. I realize there are still a few books that we have not read that he simply must know…for the wisdom within, for the whimsy, the magic…for the common language it gives us as a family. So I am playing catch up. He has been a good sport as I drag books along on road trips. As we snatch lazy summer afternoons for a little explore. It has been sweet to see him fall in love with the same characters his brother and sister loved so well. And it has been sweet to hear the excitement in the brother’s voice when he gets to hear the story again.

Certainly we have read books over the years that were specific to a given child and his/her interests. But there are a few books I would have all of them experience before they leave home. I thought I would share some of those with you. I implore you to share yours with me. For the grandbabies, you know. 🙂

In no particular order:

The Complete Tales of Beatrix Potter Each child had favorites, but we read them all. Over and over. For simple eloquence, for the delicious watercolors, for sprinkling every wild rabbit, squirrel, and duck with tiny grains of magic, this one is a must.

The Complete Tales and Poems of Winnie the Pooh “Well,” said Pooh, “what I like best — ” and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.

And there you have it. A cuddly contemplative with the most delightful turns of phrase, friendly adventures, and loyal pals.

The Chronicles of Narnia Magic, Honor, Courage, Grace, Loyalty, Love…all wrapped up in the most marvelous stories. If there had been fifty, we would have joyfully read them all.

The Phantom Tollbooth We just re-read this one on the way to the beach, all of us laughing out loud. Terribly clever, hysterical at times, yet subtly profound.

A Wrinkle in Time I should admit that I have an inordinate fascination with Madeleine L’Engle, her fiction and non-fiction, but truthfully this is one of my son’s favorite books ever. If your brain has gotten dusty; if you live within rigid confines of thinking; this book will blow the dust off and expand your view. And take you on the adventure of a lifetime.

My Side of the Mountain I read this story of a little boy who lives in the Adirondack Mountains for a year, by himself, providing his own shelter, food, and clothing by his cunning and hard work, and I watch my children’s eyes. I know they want to run away and do the same thing. I might want it a bit myself. I commend to you the entire trilogy.

Julie of the Wolves Another book (and series) by the same author, Jean Craighead George. Survival, again. Choices. And an intimate acquaintance with the natural world and with a way of life that is too quickly vanishing from our earth. Fascinating.

Rascal Small town America. A little boy collects a whole menagerie of animals, including one clever, mischievous and much beloved raccoon. A story about love…and about letting go.

Homer Price An automatic doughnut making machine run amok. Pet skunks who foil bank robberies.  A gigantic ball of string that leads to a marriage. Just a sampling of the good clean fun in this charmingly quirky book. (by Robert McCloskey, author of two more of our favorites, Blueberries for Sal and Make Way for Ducklings)

D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths Brilliantly illustrated by Caldecott winners, Edgar and Ingri D’Aulaire, this gorgeous book provides a remarkably thorough introduction to the great legends of Ancient Greece.

The Wheel on the School A Dutch fishing village. School children who dare to dream audacious dreams. Learning that sometimes the way to find something is to look everywhere it could not possibly be. A crusade that galvanizes a community. And storks.

The House of Sixty Fathers Set in China during World War II, this is a world of Sampans, rice paddies, houseboats, hunger, fear, and kindness without bounds. (Meindert Dejong, author of this and  The Wheel on the School, is one of those authors we love so, we have checked out everything he wrote from the library. They are all wonderful.)

Black Ships Before Troy and The Wanderings of Odysseus Rosemary Sutcliff’s enchanting re-tellings of The Iliad and The Odyssey. I bought the gorgeous hardcovers with Alan Lee’s stunning illustrations for each of my children so that they can share them with their own children some day.

Where the Sidewalk Ends
If you are a dreamer, come in.
If you are a dreamer,
A wisher, a liar,
A hoper, a prayer,
A magic bean buyer.
If You’re a pretender,
Come sit by my fire,
For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.
Come in! Come in!

No child should grow up without the whimsical wordplay of Shel Silverstein.

From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiller Art, a mystery, Michelangelo, and two brave kids running away from home to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. What could be better?

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Fanciful and fun, to be sure. But also deep and difficult. A book to wrestle with. Together.

This is, of course, only a smattering of the books we have read over the years. If you would like to see a few more favorites, click the Bookshelf tab above. Not all the books in any category show up at any one time, but if you click the category title, it will take you to my LibraryThing page where you can see the rest if you like.

Thoughts That Breathe, Words That Burn

A poet’s work is to name the unnameable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world, and stop it going to sleep. ~Salman Rushdie

My mother fed me poetry as a little girl. I vividly recall the illustrations of The Sugarplum Tree, The Purple Cow, and The Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat. There were some she recited by heart. These were my favorites. Especially The Raggedy Man. I hear it even now in her voice. She opened a space in me for words that sing. Words with rhythm. Words that conjure vivid images. Words that capture longing.

As I have grown older, I have found poetry to be nourishing, healing, troubling, provocative, stimulating, and delightful in turns. Charles Baudelaire contended that a healthy man might go several days without food, but not without poetry. I rather think he might be right. In honor of National Poetry Month, I will be sharing, in the coming days, favorite poems. Today, I would like to introduce you to a few much beloved poetic voices. I invite you, yay verily I implore you, to share your favorites with me.

A poem begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness. ~Robert Frost

I have only come to know the work of Mary Oliver over the past year. My, what a gift she has been to me! Her keen observations of the world around her and her fascination with all things living are a delight. And her raw explorations of the inner world have caused me to feel less alone…more understood.

Poetry… should strike the reader as a wording of his own highest thoughts, and appear almost a remembrance. ~John Keats

When I read the work of Rainer Maria Rilke, I sometimes feel like he has been inside my head, inside my heart. Unspoken anguishes, cries, longings in me find a voice in his words. Some have become prayer for me.

Poetry is the revelation of a feeling that the poet believes to be interior and personal which the reader recognizes as his own. ~Salvatore Quasimodo

Thomas Merton wrote a number of poems. But his was such a poetic soul that even his prose often sings like poetry. His chasing after God, his desire to be wholly devoted, and his frustration with his failings all resonate with me. It is my own story. He too is a lover of God’s glorious creation. His evocative descriptions carry me into the scene. I hear the drops of water, I feel the breeze, I smell the sea.

The poet doesn’t invent. He listens. ~Jean Cocteau

Billy Collins writes poems that are whimsical and engaging. He writes about the most ordinary things, but he looks at them askance. And I see them as if for the first time. And sometimes, just when I think I am simply having a rollicking good time, he plants a bit of truth inside me that I was not expecting.

Poetry is nearer to vital truth than history. ~Plato

The first Taylor Mali poem I encountered was a piece called “What Teachers Make”. It was enough. I became a devoted fan. Mali is a lover of language, and he wields it like a rapier. He will make you laugh. He might make you uncomfortable. He will definitely make you THINK. Mali is writing a poem a day for the month of April. You can read them here. You simply must visit his Youtube channel and allow him to deliver his poetry to you in his own voice. It is a remarkable experience.

A poet looks at the world the way a man looks at a woman. ~Wallace Stevens

For John Keats, beauty and truth are indistinguishable. His words pierce me with their loveliness and yearning, and make me glad of the wound. If you are also a lover of Keats, you might enjoy the artful film, Bright Star, which treats of his enigmatic relationship with Fanny Brawn.
A poet is, before anything else, a person who is passionately in love with language. ~W. H. Auden
The phrase “word play” takes on new meaning when you read the works of Shel Silverstein. My children and I have spent many delightful hours with his poetry. It is at once whimsical, ironic, and just when you least expect it, poignant. I especially commend to you The Giving Tree and Where the Sidewalk Ends.
Better than any argument is to rise at dawn and pick dew-wet red berries in a cup. ~Wendell Berry
Perhaps it is Wendell Berry‘s southern sensibilities that appeal to me. He sings of the agrarian culture I grew up in with much the same sense of wonder in which I perceived it myself. The images he conjures up might seem romanticized, unless you have known cool southern nights with dew on the grass or warm, freshly tilled earth. Then you know that no words will ever be romantic enough.
Poetry is thoughts that breathe and words that burn. ~Thomas Gray

List of Candidates 2011

Old_book_-_Timeless_Books

Since reading Steve Leveen’s tiny treasure of a book,  The Little Guide to Your Well-Read Life, I have kept a perpetual “list of candidates”.  Herein I record books I positively want to read before I die…preferrably sooner than later. 🙂  It helps insulate me, somewhat, from disappointing, purposeless impulse reads.

As I spend the week before New Year’s Day reflecting on the year past and anticipating the year ahead, I revisit my list.  I remove books recently read.  I add a few titles I have scribbled on a note or in the back of a book.  I rescue treasures hastily punched into my phone during a conversation with a fellow bibliophile.  I survey the offerings of a couple of authors with whom I have really connected this year.  Then I dream of delicious hours to come as I enter into conversation with brilliant and creative minds, and as gifted storytellers weave a tale around me, and in me.  I want to begin all of them.  Now.

I share here the titles on my list at present, and implore you to tell me what is missing.  Some of my favorite reads this past year came from you.

A Book of Hours: Meditations on the Traditional Hours of Prayer by Francis Colling Egan*
Encounter by Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh
The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Davita’s Harp by Chaim Potok
The Chosen by Chaim Potok*
Waiting for God by Simone Weil
Thirst by Mary Oliver*
A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver*
Rules For the Dance by Mary Oliver*
Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Expury
Phantastes by George MacDonald*
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor
Story by Robert McKee
The Naked Now by Richard Rohr
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
Nine Parts of Desire by Geraldine Brooks
A History of Byzantine Music and Hymnography by Egon Wellesz
The Sparrow by Maria Doria Russell
The Saffron Kitchen by Yasmin Crowther*
Wild Iris by Louise Gluck
A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard*
The Way of the Heart by Henri Nouwen*
Crossing to Safety by Wallace Earle Stegner
The Time of Our Singing by Richard Powers
Reflections on the Revolution in France by Edmund Burke
Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom
Father Arseny: Priest, Prisoner, and Spiritual Father, Vera Bouteneff Translator*
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas*
Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe*
Peace Like a River by Leif Enger*
Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions by Edwin A. Abbott
Mother Gavrilia: The Ascetic of Love by Nun Gavrilia
All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
The Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers

*Completed

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