Monday, December 31, 2018

To All the Books I've Loved Before

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December 31, 2018

Dear Lovely Readers,

The time has come to close the book and extinguish the flame here at Belle, Book, and Candle.  My first post was seven years ago on January 1, 2012 and this is my one thousandth entry. As I do appreciate a tidy ending, it is fitting that I stop now.

Because of my immersion in books and bookish things these past years, I have read wider and had more experiences than if I had just been toddling along reading hither and yon. There is no way to recap seven years of writing other than to say that I have read many books, met numerous authors (I am fortunate to live in a city that values books and their creators), attended book fairs and other literary events, visited writers' homes and intriguing bookstores during two Grand Southern Literary Tours, spent luscious hours in libraries, bought a multitude of books, and added a terrific number of titles to my reading list thanks to your informed suggestions.

You have been with me on multiple retreats to the Abbey of Gethsemani and times spent in New Harmony, Indiana. I cherish the friendships I have made here. It has been a pleasure making your acquaintance and knowing that I am not alone in my obsession with books. I am happy that I could share my experiences with you all.

Thank you. My life is richer because of you. 

Happy reading,

P.S. Believe me, I won't stop reading or attending literary gatherings. I hope you won't either. I would love it if we kept in touch by email (bellebookandcandle[at]hotmail[dot]com).

Friday, December 28, 2018

Book of the Year - 2018

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Los Angeles Public Library
The Goodhue Building

It wasn't difficult to make my choice for Book of the Year: The Library Book by Susan Orlean. It is one that recently came into my life and comes with a pretty good story as to how I happened to acquire it. I wrote about the surprising circumstances of receiving the book here.

Now that I have read it, I have been recommending The Library Book to just about everyone I talk with. It is part mystery, part history, part biography, and always a tribute to libraries and books. It offers brief lessons in architecture, city planning, social issues, firefighting, arson investigations, and technology.

The idea for the book came about when Ms. Orlean learned of the fire in 1986 that practically destroyed the Los Angeles Public Library. Was the fire caused by accident or was it caused by "an open flame, held by a human hand"?

No matter how it began, before it ended, the fire had raged for seven hours killing 400,000 books and injuring 700,000 more. It was seven years before the doors of the rescued and renovated Goodhue Building opened again to patrons.

Ms. Orlean cannot write a stodgy sentence. Her description of the path of the fire as it roamed through the stacks consuming book after book and shelf after shelf left me with tears in my eyes. Her attempts to experience what it felt like to burn a book (fittingly, a copy of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451) was as traumatizing for me as it was for her. 

Here are fascinating facts about how libraries work, their history, and thoughts on their future. Ms. Orlean offers the personality-filled lineage of the heads of the Los Angeles Public Library (founded in 1872). She relates her many conversations with current staff members, department heads, and even the security guards who make their daily rounds.  

She writes of mobile libraries around the world including ones powered by donkey, burro, boat, train, or elephant. There is also a nod to the 1936 establishment of the Works Progress Administration's Pack Horse Librarians who for years served the small communities in the mountains of Kentucky, my home state.

She recalls with great fondness trips she made as a child with her mother to her local library. She explores the future of libraries as not just storehouses of material - not only books, but maps, music, art, genealogical sources, and films - but as information and knowledge centers. Town squares, if you will, where people meet and mingle, read and relax.

There are so many thoughtful features in the construction of The Library Book - from its cover that feels like cloth to the card catalog titles that open each chapter to the end papers - but, I won't spoil that surprise.

If you haven't yet bought yourself a Christmas present, I guarantee you won't go wrong treating yourself to The Library Book. This is definitely one you will want for your own library.

Friday, December 14, 2018

One Can Never Have Too Many

One can never have too many books about Paris and French life. As sometimes happens, when it rains it pours. In the past few days two books have arrived to sweeten my bookshelf concerning both.

Every Frenchman Has One is written by a woman who, depending on your age, you might or might not have heard of: Olivia de Haviland. Yes, that Olivia de Haviland, the award winning actress who starred in many films and might best be known for her role as Melanie in Gone With the Wind

In 1955, Ms. de Haviland married Pierre Galante, editor of the French journal Paris Match, and moved from Hollywood to Paris. This memoir is the result of her learning to adapt to la vie française. I haven't started reading it yet, so I can't tell who or what 'one' every Frenchman has, but I am eager to find out. At a mere 140 pages, I suspect this will be a breezy, delightful read.

Ms. de Haviland was born in 1916 and this book, originally published in 1962, was reissued in 2016 in honor of her centennial birthday. As of this writing, she is still living in Paris.

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Parisian Charm School is written by American author Jamie Cat Callan.  Raise your hand if you think you could benefit from a bit of Parisian je ne sais quoi. 

Ms. Callan, inspired by her French grandmother, has written several books about the allure of the French lifestyle. This latest one is set up as a series of classes. At the end of every chapter (dining, reading, travel, fashion, etc.) she includes a charm school lesson - something to think about - and a charm school pratique - something to do.

So here we have one book that looks at life in France decades ago and the other that offers a take on its more modern charms.

These deux livres should keep me entertained and amused over the holidays. Until next time, wishing you a

Joyeux Noel et Bonne Année.