Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A Book of Days

I have already pulled off my shelves three books that I bought in 2012 and that I have been saving to read this year. 

It has been a few years since I have read daily from a 'book of days'. One year I read the daily diary entries in the anthology The Assassin's Cloak compiled by Irene and Alan Taylor. Another year it was Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach. And then there was the year I started each day with a meditation from 365 Tao by Deng Ming-Dao.

This year's book is Darwin's Orchestra: An Almanac of Nature in History and the Arts (1997) by Michael Sims (author of The Story of Charlotte's Web that I so loved). It offers a daily reading of essays by Mr. Sims on such varied subjects as: January 1 - Gary Larson's Far Side cartoons; May 22 - Singing insects; September 4 - Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit; and December 19 - Doctor Doolittle. 

It looks to be an entertaining and informative way to begin each day.

The second is really a 'book of months': The Shape of a Year (1967) by Jean Hersey. I bought this fine hardcover book at a used book sale last summer and instead of reading it in one big gulp, I thought I would follow month-by-month Ms. Hersey's chronicle of events in her life on her farm in Connecticut. I love reading this type of book and look forward to spending the year with Ms. Hersey, her family, her neighbors, and her gardens.

The third book is a whopper: The Art of the Personal Essay - An Anthology from the Classical Era to the Present (1994) selected and with an introduction by Philip Lopate. I already owned a paperback copy of this 770-page collection. It was so unwieldy to read that I never quite got around to finishing all the wisdom it had to offer. When I found a hardcover edition at the same summer used book sale as above, I snapped it up. 

I will keep this one - it is heavy - on my new desk and dip into it again and again. I can't wait to read the likes of Seneca (On Noise); Robert Louis Stevenson (An Apology for Idlers); Virginia Woolf (Street Haunting); and, M.F.K. Fisher (Once a Tramp, Always).

It is going to be a great year.


  1. Wonderful! I like the sound of all of those.

    1. Hi Cornflower. Yes, I am going to enjoy spending the year with all three. You will be getting reports, I am sure!

  2. Belle, Happy New Year!

    I am especially interested in The Shape of a Year. I love these chronicles of farm life. I have a couple of books by Gladys Taber that may or may not be similar to Hersey's, but they have disappeared. I will have to try and find a copy of Hersey's books.

    I also have Lopate's book and did read quite a few essays in it, but, as you mention, it is a huge book, and I'm quite sure I didn't finish. I wonder if I still have it...

  3. Oh dear, Kat. I hope you can find Ms. Taber. Her 'Mrs. Daffodil' was such a fine book. I just stumbled on the Hersey book and so glad I did. I am looking forward to reading her this year.

    And, yes, the essay book needs to rest on a desk in order to be read comfortably. It will be like being back in school!

  4. I have the Lopate book as well and one year read a number of essays in it thinking I would read one every Sunday. Unfortunately I never did manage it that year, but I still have the book to dip into again. The MFK Fisher essay is wonderful! I love the sound of Darwin's Orchestra--love the idea of daily readings. A book of diary entries or letters would be cool, too! Happy reading!

    1. One year I read an entry a day in "A Writer's Diary"; comments on writing and books from Virginia Woolf's diaries put together by her husband, Leonard. I loved getting a glimpse into her creative mind. Diaries and letters need to be taken in small chunks or else they all start to run together.

      I have read a couple of MFK Fisher's books and enjoyed them so much. I must put her back on my list.