Sunday, February 26, 2017

So Many Books, So Little Time

This is going to be another double treat blog. At least I think of it that way.

I was reading So Many Books, So Little Time, A Year of Passionate Reading by Sara Nelson and was making notes since I thought it was interesting enough to blog about. I even decided to use the title for this blog.

However, before finishing it, I found My Ideal Bookshelf at the library and peaked inside. I knew immediately that I had to write about this also. The subjects were so similar they could be combined into one blog.

My Ideal Bookshelf was edited by Thessaly La Force with art by Jane Mount. It was published in 2012 by Little, Brown and Company.

I haven’t finished it yet, but have read enough to recommend it to people who like to read. It is fun to see what other people read, why and what they have enjoyed the most; especially if you are nosy (excuse me – curious) like me.

This is not just a list of books. Each of the contributors comments briefly on why they chose these books for their ideal small book shelf.

Contributors included many writers, but also artists, chefs, fashion designers, entrepreneurs, humorists, producers, architects, dancers, illustrators, doctors, musicians, photographers, singers, app designers and many others. They are in alphabetical order, so it is easy to find people who interest you if you don’t want to read them all.

I skipped most chefs since I am not too interested in cooking at this time. As the book says, our tastes in what we read changes often depending on what is happening in our life.

LaForce stressed that this is just a snapshot of the person, a moment in time. What someone choose in the future could be very different than what they choose today.

In So Many Books, So Little Time, author Sara Nelson stressed that she wasn’t going to write 52 book reviews, but was trying to get on paper what she had been doing in her mind, matching up the reading experience with the personal one.

Her book reminded me of a blog I wrote in March of 2015 about Tolstoy and the Purple Chair, My Year of Magical Reading by Tina Sankovitch. For 365 days, she read, often until late at night as a way to overcome her grief. The project and published book were in memory of her sister Anne-Marie Sankovitch. It was published in 2011 by Harper Collins Publishers.

Both books are similar in that the authors share their love of reading and their personal feelings about the books they read, but both are very different.

My attention was captured by a sentence in the chapter Great Expectation, when Nelson said, “I’ve already decided to take one biggest book instead of the usual three or four I often pack as insurance against being caught – can you imagine? – with nothing to read.”

She chose a book to take on vacation to a lodge in Cavendish, Vermont. Not a normal lodge, this was the compound where Nobel Prize winning author Alexander Solzhenitsyn and his family had lived. Once there, Nelson found the humorous book she was reading no longer seemed appropriate. There she found Solzhenitsyn – Soul in Exile, which became her first book for this project.

Discussing by Anne LaMotte she said, “Bird by Bird is without a doubt the single best self-help guide I’ve ever read,” calling it funny and wise.

Reading this book, she felt she was in the presence of somebody who knew what she was feeling every time she sat down to write.

Bird by Bird was a book about “what it’s like to be stuck and how to get unstuck.”

I read this book years ago and it is still one of my favorites and is on my bookshelf.

There are many other books and authors I enjoyed reading about in this book, but I will let those interested make their own discoveries.

So Many Books, So Little Time was published in 2003 by G. P. Putnam & Sons. Sara Nelson is an editor, reviewer, wife, mother and a self-admitted compulsive reader.

Nelson said her goal in 2002 was to chronicle a year’s worth of reading, “to explore how the world of books and words intermingled with children, marriage, friends, and the rest of the ‘real’ world.” I found the book and the books she mentioned thought-provoking.

Both books provide insight into why we like certain books we read and dislike others, plus give us ideas about other books we might want to read. I’ve added quite a few to my reading list, agreeing with Nelson that there are so many books and so little time to read them.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Rainbows Come and Go

Anderson Cooper’s book Dispatches From the Edge was so interesting I had to take notes. I wasn’t  doing much blogging at the time I read that book, so I just filed my notes.

I learned in November that Cooper had another book published in cooperation with his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt. The Rainbow Comes and Goes, A Mother and Son on Life, Love, and Loss was published in 2016. I read it and decided it was good, so here is my
blog about both books.
I enjoyed it, but personally preferred his first book. I might be prejudiced, since I was a journalist although I was never in the same league. However, I could understand some of what he was talking about and his feelings. Both books are well worth the reading, but I will start with my favorite.

My notes stated that I found Dispatches From the Edge very moving. “The world has many edges and it’s very easy to fall off. Keep moving in order to live. Keep cool, stay alive.”

Cooper had been a journalist for 15 years when he wrote that. He had covered wars in many areas, including Sarajevo, Baghdad, Soweto, South Africa. He wrote: “Every war is different, every war the same,” and “I set up barriers in my head, my heart, but blood flows right through them…”

After covering wars and disasters throughout the world, he found Katrina harder because it was home, in the USA. This shouldn’t happen here.  He mentioned seeing bodies left on the streets, tied to lampposts. They were people, not just bodies or corpses, he wrote.

He questioned the lack of planning and lack of quick response, as well as the question of race. I was in New Orleans this past year and as we drove past the Astrodome, those questions came back to me. I hope they are being addressed. New Orleans is a beautiful and exciting city.

“In the midst of tragedy the memories of moments, forgotten feelings, began to feed off one another. I came to see how woven together these disparate fragments really are: past and present, personal and professional, they shift back and forth, again and again.” Writing about the Day of the Dead, he says “There is so much laughter, even in the midst of all the loss. It’s the way it should be – no distance between the living and the dead. Their stories are remembered, their spirits embraced.”?

Interspersed with his stories are questions about family and fears. Cooper was constantly moving, filling the hours, “feeling but not feeling.”

Glad he was a Cooper and not a Vanderbilt, he let few people know who his mother was during his early career. His father died when he was 10 and later he lost his brother.  How these early personal events affected him is revealed in this new book, The Rainbow Comes and Goes.

The lovely title comes from a poem by William Wordsworth. It was quoted by Gloria Vanderbilt when discussing how her life had so many ups and downs. Approaching 92 years old when this book was being written, she said that she looks for and appreciates the rainbow times.

 The mother and son, who had not shared much personal information in the past, started communicating more on her 91st birthday. This changed their relationship and bought them closer together.

The book cover says that this is a revealing glimpse into their lives. Yes, it was. Sometimes, I felt like I was eavesdropping on a private conversation. I was a little confused at the beginning of the book, as the conversation goes back and forth, without any he said or she said. But soon I was able to easily tell who was speaking.

Mother and son talked about her childhood and the famous custody case. She was referred to during that time as the “Poor Little Rich Girl.” They discussed their mistakes, successes and losses.

They talked about how they were alike and yet so different.

“We like to think we are our own people, but sometimes it seems we are just playing out a script that was imprinted in us long ago.”

 “The rainbow comes and goes. Enjoy it while it lasts. Don’t be surprised by its departure, and rejoice when it returns.” Vanderbilt wrote. Her son liked the image, but wanting more security prefers to prepare for when it goes, to be able to survive until better times come again.

Both Cooper and Vanderbilt are writers. He is anchor on Anderson Cooper 360’ and a correspondent for CBS’s 60 minutes. She is an artist and designer and has written eight books and many magazine articles.