Friday, October 14, 2016

In Which I Take Stock of My Reading Pile

As so often happens when I can't quite settle on one book to read, I find that I end up reading way too many at the same time and still check titles out from the library.

Here is a sampling of a few that are crowding my tabletops right now.

Beside my reading chair:

Emma by Alexander McCall Smith - This is the book I pick up at two in the morning when I wander down my hallway to the living room knowing sleep has deserted me for a while. It is the modern retelling of the Jane Austen classic. I am sort of familiar with the basic premise. (I saw the movie.) Anyway, I love AMS and being in his company in the middle of the night is soothing.

(If you haven't read my account of meeting Mr. McCall Smith, you can do so here.)

Plum Pie by P.G. Wodehouse - This is a collection of short stories or it may be selections from a few of his books, but in any case, I am always happy to be in Mr. W's world. This is also a good one to pick up in the case of insomnia. In between the stories, he writes short (undated) commentaries on what is going on in the news of the day under the title Our Man in America. One is an item from a small town in North Carolina about the theft of 25 church pews and the pulpit. He wonders how the thieves plan to fence these hot pews. In another, he bemoans the discontinuation of the autumn Woolly Bear Hunt in which specimens of the caterpillar of that name were collected and examined in an effort to predict the mildness or severity of the coming winter. 

When Books Went to War by Molly Guptill Manning - Although I don't belong to a book club, a friend's group is reading this and he thought I would be interested in it. I am, but I have barely read past the introduction. It has to do with the free books sent to American troops during World War II. There were 120 million small paperback books - known as Armed Services Editions - printed for the reading enjoyment of soldiers and sailors. I wrote about a similar book, As You Were that was edited by Alexander Woollcott. It was one of my best used book discoveries ever! (You can read about that here.) My friend has invited me to attend the club's meeting and bring my vintage find. A sort of Show and Tell.

Beside my bed:

Madam, Will You Talk? by Mary Stewart - I remember reading Mary Stewart's suspenseful books in high school. Her novels seem to be making a comeback. This was her first and has all the characteristics that I remember: a young woman in a perilous situation not of her making, terrific place descriptions, and excellent prose. I have to remind myself to slow down and enjoy her sensory details - the song of the cicadas of an evening, the aroma of a morning cup of coffee, the glint of light on the river - and not rush along to find out what happens next. 

Image result for three men in a boat kindle cover

Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome - This is my second reading of this classic comic novel. It's difficult to describe the events and meanderings that go on here but basically three fellows take off on a holiday in a boat up the River Thames. There is also a dog. You will just have to read it to get the full effect of this wonderful adventure published in 1889. It is as fresh and lively as ever.

Anything interesting on your reading tables? Are you enjoying one book or, like me, many? 


  1. None of your books are on my bedside table, but I've read two of them: When Books Went to War and Three Men in a Boat.
    I also look for woolly bear caterpillars each fall to determine whether winter will be short or long - except that I can never remember if more black is long winter or short. And you do not want to be driving behind me in woolly bear season because I swerve around them!

    1. Hi, Joan. I look for the woolly bear caterpillars too! And of course one does not want to ever squash one!

      Didn't you love Three Men in a Boat? A combination of straight travel guide, history lessons, and a warning of what not to do when boating.

      BTW, I enjoyed your photos of Longwood Gardens (those waterlilies were tremendous - both in size and in awe. And your trip to Maine looked so refreshing. I was ready to try and make my way there.

    2. I did love Three Men in a Boat. I'm glad you liked the photos. We're still trying to figure out if we can rent a house in Maine for a year. We're all but retired and all our pets are gone, so there's not much keeping us in Philly - except our families. Maybe spring, summer & fall in Maine and winter in Philly?

    3. Sounds perfect. I love your plan. I have a friend who spends her summers in Montana. She rents a house on a ranch, does hiking and fishing and lots of reading. I love the idea of spending a big chunk of time somewhere else and really getting to know the area.

  2. I'm afraid I too am infected with the If-one-is-good-lots-must-be-better disease. Or maybe it's an inherited gene, because my aunt also suffered from it. I have two books I've started on my family room coffee table, one in the magazine rack, one on my Kindle, and two in my nightstand. We don't eat the same meal every day, so why should we read the same book every day, right?

    Perhaps I've made a mistake by discovering your blog. I want to read every book you discuss. I already downloaded the Jeeves book and discovered many Wodehouse books on, so there you go. Now I'm curious about what went on with those three men in the boat; I love reading about WWII; Mary Stewart's "Madam, Will You Talk?" is waiting for me in the garage (along with 2,000+ other books), and I need to wash my windows before it gets cold.

    Last year I saw a couple of those black catepillars and they were entirely black. I thought winter would never end. But could someone tell me why I can't squash them? I don't, but not because of the unknown dire consequences which await me if I do. Just curious. Do they turn into fairies or what?

    1. Hi, Patsy. You may be right about the 'gene' thing. My mom always had multiple piles of books and magazines about the house. I hope you like Mr. Wodehouse. He is a friend who never disappoints!

      The woolly bear caterpillars sort of turn into fairies: they become fat, oranges moths. Unless you squash them, and then they just become a blob in the road.

      Good luck with your window washing. And a garage full of books? Sounds like a lovely place to sit for a spell.

      Thanks for your comments!

  3. I've always got more than one book on the go--a book for every mood, I suppose. Mary Stewart and P.G. Wodehouse are two of my favorite authors, and I've read Three Men and a Boat, though my memory of it is fuzzy. I just finished reading H is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald (beautifully written, a book I'll keep) and The Year of Living Danishly (enjoyed it very much). This means that I get to choose a new non-fiction/memoir-ish type of book, always a great pleasure.

    I don't have a garage full of books, but I have some closet shelves that are beginning to groan under the weight of the books I've bought but haven't read yet. This year I've bought a lot of books, and though I do read from my shelves, I'm not keeping up!

    1. Hi, Kathy. One can never go wrong with Wodehouse! I did finish the Mary Stewart book. Gee, I couldn't count the number of cigarettes that her characters lit, smoked, and extinguished. Definitely from another time!

      Glad you enjoyed the Year of Living Danishly. I did too but am not ready to move there!

      I have bought few books this year. Mostly using my Kindle to checkout selections from the library. I love that I can download a new one in the middle of the night (if need be...). And I have downloaded quite of few of the free classics from Early Bird Books. As I get older I find I am drawn to re-reading books that I enjoyed years ago. Safe and comforting!

    2. P.S. Kathy, just catching up with your blog and your trip to California. I am reading 'The Joy Diet' and love photo and the quote!

    3. I'm not ready to move to Denmark,either--the long, dark winters would do me in, I think. But I wouldn't mind visiting! I don't do as much rereading as I used to (so many books, so little time!), but every year I revisit a few favorites. They're like old friends.

    4. I used to never reread but I find the oldies really are the goodies!