February 2015 Read-Alouds

We read and/or finished a couple of read-alouds this month, as well as one family audio book and another I read in order to discuss it with Hannah.  Without further ado (side note: has anyone else noticed how often people misspell that phrase?  I keep seeing it written “adieu,” which is funny since it would then mean “without any more goodbyes!”  Yeah, I’m a dork, but you knew that!)  Onward.  February read-alouds:

eggIf you’re looking for a fun adventure involving intrepid small town boys and {SPOILER ALERT!} a dinosaur that shows up in the 1950s, The Enormous Egg is for you!  We all enjoyed this story, and the kids begged for more chapters every night.  The book is fun, lightly informative, and well written.  I think it would make good independent reading for kids, but it does lend itself well to reading aloud, and to enjoying with other people, especially because you will feel the need to speculate as to how a dinosaur would fare in your own neighborhood.

tucketWe stumbled upon Gary Paulsen’s excellent series of frontier adventures in the course of studying westward migration, the Oregon Trail, and the California Gold Rush.  We read the first book of the series, Mr. Tucket, out loud together.  It’s fast paced, full of adventure, and rife with detail about wagon trains, mountain men, and Native American tribal life.  I won’t give away too much of the story line here, but I highly recommend this as a read-aloud, especially if you have kids who like adventure.  My older kids co-opted the rest of the series to read on their own, but I may finish the series too because I am intrigued!

ringWe got The Fellowship of the Ring on audio for a long car trip.  It’s a long book any way you look at it, but in audio form it is really, really, really long.  Jack has read the book and loves it, but I think the audio was so lengthy that it sort of lost all of us at various places.  It doesn’t help that we had it playing in the room while everyone was coming down with stomach flu like dominoes, so I don’t think anyone heard the whole thing.  However, the version on Audible, which is unabridged, is very well done and I do recommend it.  I’m glad we own it (or sort of do, however that works with Audible) because I think it’s one we will revisit in future years.

horseI started hearing and reading about all sorts of people loving Elizabeth Goudge.  First I heard about her on The Read Aloud Revival podcast, then I saw her mentioned on Carolyn Weber’s blog, and after that I kept seeing references.  So I got The Little White Horse from the library.  I kept thinking “you know, I would have totally loved this as a ten-year-old.”  And then it turned out it was a YA novel, so I passed it on to Hannah, who liked it.  The descriptions are good.  I wouldn’t say I agreed with every point of the implicit philosophy, but it was fine as “books that are kind of fairy tales and include unicorns” go.  I’m not sure I’ll read any more of Goudge, but I might.  It might be the sort of thing where you need to discover her at a young age.

What was your family’s favorite read-aloud this month?


Disclosre: This post contains affiliate links.


Posted in Kids Books, Reading, Week in Books 2015 | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

The Geography of Memory

memoryIn The Geography of Memory: A Pilgrimage Through Alzheimer’s, Jeanne Murray Walker describes her mother’s progression through Alzheimer’s Disease and the way in which that process illuminated and gave context to Walker’s own memories.

I recently read a fascinating article about how we can’t trust our memories and why.  It’s amazing how the memories we most fiercely believe are true are often demonstrably false, at least in part.  As I read Walker’s memoir, I often wondered how these events must have played out from her sister’s perspective.

During her mother’s illness, Walker lived in Philadelphia while her younger sister lived in Dallas, where their mother lived.  Walker sees herself as a caretaker, remarking again and again how she has flown halfway across the country, five or six times a year, and washed her mother’s laundry or packed up boxes.  Meanwhile, her sister, who also has a full-time job and family responsibilities, is passed over although her caretaking duties as the local child must have been immeasurably more involved and more burdensome.

I often felt annoyed on behalf of the younger sister, and even on behalf of their mother, who was subjected to Walker’s tendency to swoop in like she knows what’s best when she’s actually quite out of the loop.  However, while I didn’t find Walker to be a very likeable narrator, this is her memoir, and she is certainly entitled to write about her experiences dealing with a parent’s aging even from a distance.

Walker’s method of using her mother’s fading memories to examine how her own recollections shaped and impacter her understanding of herself, her parents, and her role in the family is well conceived and well done.  If you take the book more as a memoir and an examination of memory, and less as a book about what Alzheimer’s is like, it comes across better.  However, I still have some trouble recommending it, because I didn’t honestly like the book very much.

My grandmother has Alzheimer’s and I picked up the book thinking it would be insightful as to her condition.  It wasn’t.  I’m relieved that my mom and her siblings seem to be better at communicating than Walker and her sister were, but I’m sure that nothing really prepares you for someone you love leaving before they leave.  If you’re interested in Alzheimer’s, you might do better reading Still Alice (link is to my review).  Although it’s a fictional account, Still Alice does a better job of explaining and exploring the disease and its impact, whereas The Geography of Memory is ultimately much more about Walker than about the disease.

If you’ve read anything on the subject, what books on Alzheimer’s would you recommend?


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Posted in Reading, Week in Books 2015 | Tagged , | Leave a comment

“Majah, minah, and mediocah” takes on Sabbath

In her book Circle of Quiet, Madeleine L’Engle remembers a talk by Mary Ellen Chase, who said that all of literature could be divided into “majah, minah, and mediocah.”  Sometimes books are so terrible you stop reading, but often they are “mediocah” and you keep reading for the small handful of sort of useful takeaways.

sabbathI ran across this phenomenon recently in Wayne Muller’s Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives.  I wanted to love it.  I love the concept of sabbath, and who doesn’t want more “rest, renewal, and delight” in her busy life?  I read the book in bits and pieces, finding a few things here and there.  I disagreed with Muller on lots of theological points, thought several of his metaphors were dreadful, and found the vast majority of his suggestions to be silly, the sorts of things that earnest people who are taking themselves too seriously tend to do when they want to be deep.

I think Muller meant well, and there were a few good insights in the book, but overall it’s not one that I would recommend since there are so many other great books on the topic.

If you’re interested in Sabbath, here are a few different books I’d recommend instead of this one (links are to my original reviews):

If you’re interested in the idea of Sabbath, I’d love to hear other book recommendations on the topic!


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Posted in Reading, Week in Books 2015 | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

vitalThere are plenty of reasons to read fiction. We read novels to relax, to be entertained, to revel in the beauty of words, to unravel structure and technique, or to join in a cultural conversation. Every now and then I run across a book that reminds me of one of my favorite facets of great fiction: it can change the way we view the world.

The basic plot synopsis of A Constellation of Vital Phenomena didn’t initially grab me, so I’m glad one of the book clubs I’m in picked it for our February meeting. I’m guessing it will make my Year in Books list come December.

The book traces how the lives of a handful of individuals interweave and influence one another in wartime Chechnya. The story is haunting and well written, with an amazing capacity to convey both the harsh realities and the moments of beauty that break in on the lives of the ordinary people caught up in truly desperate situations.  The present action of the book happens over the course of only a few days, but the author skillfully uses memories to provide historical context and deepen the character development and their relationships to each other.  The structure of this book is so well done and so deliberately chosen that the timeline feels intuitive and you’re never caught wondering where you are in space or time.  I’m not sure how that would come across in the audio version, but in the print copy it worked brilliantly.

I lived in Europe during part of the timeline of this novel, spent time in Russia in high school, studied Russian language, history, and literature in college, and of course had a more western perspective on Islamic extremism in the years following 9/11. I knew about Chechen conflicts, but I viewed the country with a distant lens.  Because of that background, my perspective on Chechnya was really challenged by A Constellation of Vital Phenomena. My previous understanding of Chechnya was based on what I had read about historical and geopolitical issues from a primarily western point of view, so getting a feel for the country, the history and origins of its issues and conflicts, and the personal costs of each maneuver from the Chechen people’s viewpoint was invaluable.

One strength of the novel is in showing the human costs of both the influx of Wahhabi ideas into the Chechen rebellion and also the senselessness of the Russian response to what they perceived as terrorism.  The question of how to define Chechen nationalism when the people are Sufi or Catholic and the money is Wahhabi and/or Arab is complex: are the rebels a nationalist movement or a terrorist group? And how could the Russian response be justified in either case?  The book doesn’t get deeply into that issue, but rather focuses on the fact that whether a village is being “liberated” by the rebels or “liberated” by the Feds (Russians), normal people are always caught in the crossfire.  You can see pictures online of mass devastation and completely obliterated cities, but the novel’s ability to focus in on individuals–on one little girl, one university professor, one doctor, one artist–adds critical nuance.

Throughout my reading of the book and afterwards I kept being struck by what courage and determination it must take to keep surviving, maintain your humanity, and even raise children over decades of terror, uncertainty, and deprivation.  Even though circumstances have improved in Chechnya somewhat, I find myself praying for Chechens and their country because of how massive and lengthy an undertaking it will be not just to rebuild the cities but to heal as a people and a culture.

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena would be a great accompaniment to The Locust Effect (link is to my longer review), which is a powerful and also perspective-changing nonfiction discussion of the effects of violence and human trafficking. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena illustrates how senseless violence, lack of reliable and just law enforcement, extreme poverty, and human trafficking impact normal people when countries are in crisis.

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is a great story, with memorable characters and excellent writing.  But it’s also a high impact, thoughtful, and ultimately hopeful book that will expand your understanding and deepen your knowledge of the world.  I highly recommend it.


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Posted in Reading, Week in Books 2015 | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President

destinyIn my ongoing quest to listen to audiobooks my husband liked so we can talk them over, I recently finished Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President.  Josh loves presidential history, and this is a particularly good selection.

Prior to reading (hearing, whatever) this book, I hadn’t been very familiar with James A. Garfield.  Although he wasn’t President for long, I was struck by what a gifted, humble, and good man he was.  That combination is not the norm nowadays, so I was fascinated by the account of how Garfield rose from poverty and obscurity to high office.  I also admired how Garfield was a man of strong principles, and yet was also a great uniter of people (another trait sorely lacking in our milieu).  I wonder what he might have achieved had he lived out his term of office.

While a biography of Garfield, this book also weaves in profiles of the assassin who shot the President, the physicians whose pride kept them from accepting medical advances that might have saved Garfield’s life, and the inventions and advances that either had their start or gained an audience by virtue of Garfield’s wound.

The kids listened to parts of the book with me, and we had some really interesting conversations about pride and believing in things you can’t see, and checking with the Bible to see if God is really telling you something that seems crazy or wrong.  Josh and I had more in-depth conversations about the medical aspects of the case and what responsibility the physicians bore for Garfield’s death given that their malpractice is what actually killed him.

Destiny of the Republic gives a great feel for the post-Civil War period in America–its politics, popular opinion, and progress.  After reading the book, I feel like my understanding of that era is deeper and much more informed.  If you’re a fan of history–especially political or medical history–I’d recommend this book.

Side Note: My friend Amy also reviewed this book recently and gave it high marks–check out her review too.


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.


Posted in Reading, Week in Books 2015 | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Eliza’s Favorite Board Books

IMG_3958Eliza is 21 months old and she loves books.  She sits with us while we read for school, and she plays with Duplos while we have our family read-alouds, but she really, really loves her board book collection.  Because I remember the hours I spent reading picture books to her older siblings back in the days when I wasn’t responsible for anyone’s progress in math, spelling, or Latin, I have a goal to read at least 10 books JUST for Eliza every day.

It doesn’t take long to read a board book with a baby on your lap.  Even reading a short stack of 10 is pretty doable.  Some days I read a couple of books every time we’re in her room (wake-up, nap time, diaper change, etc) and some days we sit down in the rocking chair and just read for half an hour straight.  And the unexpected bonus to having older siblings is that Eliza has multiple voices reading to her.  It’s not just me and Josh–the older kids all enjoy reading books to the baby too.  And when no one is available, Eliza can often be found hiding in cabinets sitting in her room looking through her books page by page, prattling a few words or an inflection to IMG_3955sound just like we do when we read them out loud.

We have a collection of board book favorites, and mostly we just read them over and over again.  Kids like to know their books well, so I curate the collection carefully.  There’s no reason to have poor illustrations or mediocre text if you’re only going to have 20 or so board books around.  Here are Eliza’s favorites:

barnBig Red Barn – This may be my most favorite board book–I read it almost every day and never get tired of it.  I love the cadence of this book, as it goes around the farm introducing animals.  The language is great, and the pictures are sweet and memorable.  Eliza’s favorite is the little pink pig.  She finds him on every page and says, “Mama!  Piiih!”  Then she sort of snuffle snorts in an attempt to make a pig noise.  It’s adorable.

kissKiss Good Night – In this book, a mama and her little boy go through the bedtime routine and she forgets to kiss him good night.  Let’s see, what did she forget?  “Oh I know!  Kiss good night, Sam!”  My older kids still sometimes do good night kisses this way “Kissing same ONCE (smack) then TWICE (smack, smack) then TWICE more…AGAIN, cried Sam!”  You really have to act out the kissing while you read the book, or else it wouldn’t be as good.

goodMy Good Morning Book – I had this book when I was a little kid.  I don’t have any particular memory of my parents reading it to me, but I know the pictures and lines like the back of my hand.  Eloise Wilkins’ illustrations are so sweet and timeless, in spite of being obviously set in that curious late 70s/early 80s decor.  This is another book that is often quoted by the big kids, for some reason whenever they put on running shoes.  “Daddy helps me with my sneakers.  I let HIM tie the bows!”

greenWhere Is the Green Sheep? – This book of opposites featuring sheep and one missing character is fun and quirky.  Some of the opposites are normal “here is the near sheep and here is the far sheep” and some are funny, like the sheep who is scared to go off the high dive.  The sheep are kind of wild and crazy, but that makes it fun and memorable.  Eventually the green sheep is discovered, not to worry.

bedTime for Bed – I was about to write “we don’t go around quoting books ALL the time at our house…” but actually we do.  Our favorite line from this one is “Good gracious me!  You’re STILL awake!”  Great illustrations of mama and baby animals, sweet aren’t-you-sleepy type text, and it’s a win.


bearMy Friend Bear – One reason we love this book is the very particular voices we use for the bear and the boy.  We have a big loud dufus voice for the bear, and a squeaky high pitched voice for the boy.  In between are the great rhyming couplets and fun illustrations that do a great job of conveying emotion.  This is a really fun book to read!


sleepCan’t You Sleep, Little Bear? – I like the illustrations of the baby bear in this book, as he pretends to try to sleep and is really turning somersaults and standing on his head and using various familiar delay tactics while his daddy bear is just trying to finish the last couple of pages in his “big bear book.” Can we not relate?  A sweet story with great illustrations.


harryHarry the Dirty Dog – This story doesn’t make a lot of sense, because surely families recognize their own dogs even when the dog gets dirty and changes from a white dog with black spots to a black dog with white spots.  Fortunately, a bath sorts it all out.  If you have a reluctant bather, I suppose this could be an incentive.  Otherwise, it’s just a fun story with cute pictures.


jeepSheep in a Jeep – This book has very simple rhyming language that manages to be really funny.  Not as simple as you might think!  The funny pictures of silly sheep are great.



friendsHow Do Dinosaurs Play with Their Friends?  We have a couple of board books from this popular series, and enjoy the sly reverse psychology “Does he throw his friends’ coloring books in the air? No!  A dinosaur doesn’t!  He knows how to share!” and fabulous pictures of dinosaurs existing as members of human families.


stStellaluna – What happens when a baby fruit bat accidentally winds up in a bird’s nest?  A very interesting story contrasting bats with birds, and about being who you are not having to be just like your friends.



artDancing with Degas, A Picnic with Monet, A Magical Day with Matisse, In the Garden with Van Gogh, and Quiet Time with Cassatt – These great books, which come individually or in a set, feature paintings by famous artists with loosely related rhyming text.  The text is fine, but the early association of the paintings with the artists is really great.  The whole set is well worth owning.


As I put this post together I remembered writing a board book post when the big kids were little, and noticed that we have lost a couple of favorites.  Pat the Bunny, where are you!?!

What are your family’s favorite board books?

I’m linking up at Modern Mrs. Darcy’s monthly Quick Lit list, because board books are REALLY quick lit!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Posted in Kids Books | Tagged , | 12 Comments

Know When to Hold ‘Em, Know When to Fold ‘Em

WhenThat wisdom obviously applies to never counting yer money when yer sittin’ at the table (thank you for your insight, Kenny Rogers), but also to making the most of the time you have available to read.

After I finally gave up on Owen Meany, I devoted more thought to dropping books.  Maybe my general plan of quitting a book if I don’t feel engaged by page 50 wasn’t detailed enough, since it didn’t kick in for that book club selection.  Once I started framing my reading time as a limited but very valuable tool for living the life I want to lead, it was easier to come up with a framework.

Know why you’re reading.

First, I think it’s valuable to decide what you’re in this for.  Sometimes you want to master a particular subject or skill, like a foreign language or how to garden organically or how to structure a book proposal.  Sometimes you have a more nebulous goal like giving yourself space for an intellectual life or making time for restorative leisure.  For me, reading is all of that (except for the gardening–I’m over that phase!), but in any case it’s not just passing time mindlessly.  That’s what TV and the internet are for.  :)

Be mindful of your time.

In the last newsletter I wrote about finding pockets of time for reading, so I already know I don’t usually get great swaths of time for books.  But because I love reading I sometimes lose track of what I’m actually doing with the time I do have.  Being mindful means I’m trying to stay more attuned to how what I’m reading fits in to my goals.

Ask yourself some questions.

Depending on your reading goals your questions may vary, but this is part of making your reading time more valuable for YOU.  If a book was a best seller, or won a prize, or is beloved by everyone in your book club, or was given to you by your mother-in-law, that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be a great fit for you personally.  And that’s ok.  To make the most of my time, I’m trying to make sure that what I read fits me.  Here are a few of my questions:

  • Is this book inspiring me?
  • Is this causing me to think differently or more deeply about an issue, a culture, the way I live my day-to-day life?
  • Is what I’m reading challenging me?
  • Is the language or content or structure exercising my mind?
  • Is this book expanding my understanding?
  • When I read this, am I increasing the truth and beauty in my life?
  • Am I learning anything from this book?
  • Is this book sparking my creativity?

My reading purpose is to make space for beauty, creativity, and the life of the mind in the midst of my responsibilities as a wife, mother, teacher, and professional.  It’s to interact deeply with ideas and be changed by what I read.

This leaves room for lots of different books.  Literary fiction, narrative non-fiction, history, Oreo sci-fi/YA fairy tales…as long as my mind is working and I’m really feeling restored and energized, I’ll keep reading.

But, if I need to cut my losses, that’s all right.  I can walk away from books that aren’t good fits for me.  I’m not letting anyone down if I choose another book that delights or challenges me more.

Hopefully I’ll do better in the future at applying this framework before I start to seriously regret lost time!

What are your criteria for deciding not to finish a book?

Posted in Bookmarked Life, Contemplation, Reading | Tagged | 2 Comments

The Glass Cage

glass cageIn The Glass Cage: Automation and Us, author Nicholas Carr examines the philosophy, ethics, and consequences of automation, and suggests a more considered alternative approach.

Automation, Carr writes, is the use of computers and software to do things we used to do ourselves.  Used wisely, it can relieve us of drudgery so we can do more creative and fulfilling work.  However, most people don’t devote much thought to wise technology deployment or use, and so quite often automation has the negative effect of reducing human creativity–shifting the human in the equation to a routine monitor rather than a strategic craftsman.

Carr gives plenty of well-researched examples.  Starting with auto-pilot in airplanes, then proceeding on to other technologies from Google cars to Facebook, Carr explores the tacit philosophies driving different programs and the effect that uncritical use has on human users.  His research points to drops in ability to think strategically, to leverage memory, and even to the way habitually using GPS negatively impacts the hippocampus.

While I found the brain science sobering, I was particularly interested in the philosophical arguments Carr puts forth.  Carr notes that “every piece of software contains hidden assumptions” and is designed according to someone’s view of the world.  For example, I feel protective of my hippocampus, but was really sobered by the studies about how map apps change the way people view themselves in relationship to their cities–even extending to the connections they feel to others in their communities.  The discussion of the philosophies driving social media platforms was likewise sobering.  This review is too short to devote adequate space to Carr’s discussion of the way Facebook is changing the meaning of integrity and the notion of self, but that section is worth reading even if you skip the rest of the book.

Ethical conundrums were another interesting component of the book.  Like many people, I suppose I succumb to automation bias, because when I heard about Google cars (the car drives itself) I thought that sounded great–I’d be freed up to read or something instead of driving.  But Carr points out that automation requires ethical programming.  And who gets to decide the ethics programmed into your driver-free car?  He raises several thought experiments that illuminate examples: what if your car has to choose between running over an animal or a 30% risk of running the car off the road and damaging it?  What if the animal is your dog?  What if it’s not an animal but your child?  What if the risk to the car and to you as an occupant is much higher, like 80%?  What if you have another child in the car with you?  Who gets hurt?  And who decides how that programming is done?  You as the owner?  The car manufacturer?  Politicians?  Philosophers?  Insurance underwriters?  Automation bias leads us to assume that all new technology is good technology, but that’s not necessarily true, and technology always has to exist and function in our imperfect world.

Ultimately Carr does not advocate eschewing all technology, but he does think we need to think much, much more carefully about creating and adopting it.  Rather than putting our priority on technical advancement whatever the costs, he thinks that technology should be designed and used with a goal of advancing “social and personal flourishing.”  Of course, the meaning of that phrase could be debated.

In any case, I think Carr’s admonition to think carefully about our technology is valid.  While I don’t find myself quite as alarmed as he is about some technologies, I appreciated the encouragement to think more deeply about the way I use technology and the philosophies I am–wittingly or unwittingly–adopting when I use it.  The Glass Cageis a worthwhile read for anyone involved in modern life, and I recommend it. I agree with what Carr writes in his conclusion:

“We assume that anyone who rejects a new tool in favor of an older one is guilty of nostalgia, of making choices sentimentally rather than rationally. But the real sentimental fallacy is the assumption that the new thing is always better suited to our purposes and intentions than the old thing…what makes one tool superior to another has nothing to do with how new it is. What matters is how it enlarges or diminishes us, how it shapes our experience of nature and culture and one another.”

How careful are you about adopting and using technologies? Do you feel like using certain technologies has changed your way of relating to the world?


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Posted in Reading, Week in Books 2015 | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Life is too short for Owen Meany

owenIf you’re looking for what would be a mediocre short story but which was inexplicably drawn out into a banal 600 page novel…

Or if you’re interested in a cast of flat characters joined by one bizarre and unbelievable cross between The Brain from the Animaniacs and Yoda and that little goblin in Zelinsky’s version of Rumpelstiltskin, and who is annoying in a mind numbingly boring way…

Or if you have always wanted to read a mediocre novel that purports to deal with the theme of belief but which was written by an author who admits not having had any personal religious experience, with a resulting two-dimensional, hollow presentation that winds up not being about faith or much of anything else really…

Or if you want to find out why so many Americans don’t read books after high school because they are forced to read painfully boring examples like this one…

Have I got a book for you!  

Otherwise, do yourself a favor and skip A Prayer for Owen Meany.

One critic said A Prayer for Owen Meany was the best American novel in years.  I presume that was meant as a thinly veiled insult to all American authors past and present.  Because if the critic was serious then by all means we should read foreign fiction exclusively.  Fortunately, mankind has not yet discovered the universe in which A Prayer for Owen Meany is the best of anything, so no need to flee for the hills just yet.

I fought through 300 pages of this lackluster book.  Normally I try to drop things like this by 50 pages in, because once I go beyond that point I have a hard time accepting the sunk time cost.  However, this one was a book club selection, and I desperately wanted to finish so that I could attend book club. Plus I wanted credit for the time I had already wasted!

But I resented it. Every single moment of it. Finally, I decided that life is too short and my time is too precious to keep going.  A Prayer for Owen Meany was not expanding my understanding, teaching me anything, giving me any insight, or feeding my soul with truth and beauty.  There are so many wonderful volumes much more worthy of my time.  Hopefully my book club won’t kick me out, but I can’t bring myself to finish the selection this month.

Have you ever tried to power through a book you didn’t like, only to give up after you spent a regrettably long time on it?  What strategies do you use to avoid this sort of thing?


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Posted in Reading, Week in Books 2015 | Tagged , | 5 Comments

What IS a bookmarked life?

Bookmarked Life Sidebar ButtonIf you’ve seen the new site design (if you read in a reader or over email, click over to the full site to see what I mean), you may have wondered at the new subtitle, “Building a Bookmarked Life.”

Writing book reviews here is one way that I process the books I read, and really take the information I learn into my life–whether it’s a life tip from a non-fiction book or a better understanding of a culture or time period from a piece of fiction.  I don’t just want to read for diversion–although certainly reading is a worthy leisure activity purely on its own merits!–I want to be changed and challenged by the books I read.

As our culture becomes more and more geared toward quick hit information, I think it’s getting harder to really interact with ideas unless you’re careful to keep up your ability to interact with longer arguments and deeper stories.  I’m not satisfied with superficial “three ways to revolutionize your productivity by Tuesday” type articles or 30 second clips purporting to explain global issues.  I don’t think other people are ok with it either.  

But how can we fit in what Plato called “the examined life?”  I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a lot of time to sit around contemplating my navel.  Life is full and moves at a fast pace.  I get that–I have four kids, I homeschool, I have a job, I keep this blog and a few other personal writing projects on the side…and I know some of you are way more busy–but I think that makes it even more important not to skate by on the surface of life.  I’d love to spend hours a day reading, but even though I don’t have that kind of time in this phase of my life, I pick up a book when I can and consider what I’ve learned as I go about my day.  What I make time to read has changed me and has had a profound impact on the way I do all of life.

The bookmarked life is about carving out time–whether long chunks or a few moments here and there–to read more deeply, to think about ideas more carefully, and to let what you read impact you and make your life richer.  It may seem like we can’t afford to make time for that, but I sort of think we can’t afford not to.

Posted in Bookmarked Life, Contemplation | Tagged , , | 2 Comments