tea, sun, and holiday success

photo Sri Lanka was gorgeous. Gorgeous, warm, fascinating, and fun.  It’s always a pleasure to travel somewhere for a happy occasion (we were there for a wedding), and to travel somewhere new, where you might never have gone, is an extra treat.

Of course, for me, a large part of the planning for the trip involved what books to take, which friends I could depend upon to have extra books I could borrow, and, now how much money I was willing to budget to spend on books for the iPad.  The iBookstore is still fairly minimal (especially if you don’t necessarily read books of the NYT best seller list), but I can normally find at least a few, and the ability to buy a new book from an hotel room and read it within a few seconds is…dangerously pleasant. As soon as there are more books available, and e-book formatting gets more consistent, the iPad is going to be one more thing that makes it far too easy to spend money on books.

iPad aside, the most successful book of the trip was definitely Connie Willis’ Blackout–Willis is one of the authors I feel is criminally unknown. She’s one multiple awards for her short stories and consistently turns out fascinating, funny, and wonderful books, but it’s rare to find more than one or two of her books on the shelves at a bookstore and libraries are rarely any better. Continue reading

a family story, the roots of reading, and margaret atwood

atwoodThere is a story, in my family, that takes place when I was ten years old.  Although it’s about me, I don’t actually remember it, and I had to hear it the first time from my father.  He was using it to illustrate a point he wanted to make to a bookstore clerk who was…concerned…that my then twelve-year-old self was buying “older” books along with my young adult sci-fi and fantasy (I actually can’t remember the book that prompted the conversation, although I had had issues a few times at the library and at school with “reading about my level”.).

So, as I was standing there, my dad explained why he didn’t think I needed policing in my book choices:

Well, when she was ten, I walked into the den and saw her reading Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.  When I mentioned that she might want to read that book when she was older, and it would make more sense, she looked up and told me ‘Oh, it’s okay; this is the second time I’m reading it.’ At that point, I decided she could read what she wanted.

And you know what? I could.  Continue reading

reading, royalty, and the written word: Alan Bennett’s The Uncommon Reader

uncommonreader Alan Bennett’s The Uncommon Reader is one of those books that seemed to be everywhere at once.  Everywhere except the library, obviously, where the wait for the book was over a month. After reading it, I completely understood why it took so long to be returned: if the previous library-users have the same impulses I do, they waited to return the library copy until they had a copy of their own–because after reading this book once, I just knew it had to live in the house permanently.

Bennett’s Uncommon Reader is separated from the common man by years of breeding, tradition, and training.  She is, in fact, so far away from the common man that she rarely notices the emotions or reactions of those around her. Of course, when you are Queen of England, it must be easy to lose sight of what may happen to regular people so confusion about the rest of the world is perhaps to be expected. Confusion about libraries, though, and reading is a universal trait, I think, and one that Bennett mines with aplomb to create what is basically a love story about books and words. Continue reading