Consistently Inconsistent

Oh dear, no. Please tell me it isn’t really April already. I promise I only blinked for a moment. Okay, maybe two.

I have to admit that I’m completely failing in my intention to read two books a month. I should have read six books by now. Hmmm. Okay, I’m nearly half way done with Made to Crave. I’ve started The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR. And I bought If You Build it Will They Come. I haven’t purchased the business license that would enable me to actually start purchasing books wholesale and selling them on-line. Like so many other aspects of my life right now, everything seems to be progressing at a snail’s pace. My perfectionism reigns supreme.

Yes, I want to delve into this list of beautiful books. But I want to do it while lounging in an overstuffed chair, sipping a warm coffee laced with French Vanilla Coffeemate, soaking in a ray of sunlight, surrounded by silence and tranquility. Did I mention that I have three young boys and I’m currently living with my parents? Parents who’s house is not exactly boy-proof? And I homeschool these energetic little people, so there is no such thing as silence. Except when the boys are sleeping. Unfortunately, they are not nocturnal, and so there are no warm rays of sunlight beaming through the windows and I don’t need to encourage my insomnia by drinking coffee at 9:00 at night. And so, when I have a few spare moments that I could spend ingesting a chapter or two, I recall the perfect image I so desire to create, and tell myself that tomorrow is another day. Tomorrow the boys will suddenly have the urge to grab a book and sit with me in the sun room, quietly reading their own volumes, so I can have the perfect picture I so desire. Deep down, and not so deep down, I do know that THAT is NEVER gonna happen. But I cling to it. I have to let go of the perfectionism.

I did take one little baby step away from perfection tendencies: I purchased an e-book. I have the Kindle app on my iPhone, and I have the couple of freebies and the Odyssey which cost maybe $1.99, but that is as far as I was willing to go with the whole e-reader thing. I love books– real books. Real, hold-em-in-your-hand, smell-the-paper-and-ink, highlight-with-an-actual-highlighter, dog-ear-the-pages, lay-it-on-your-chest-to-reflect-on-a-poignant-passage books.

But I needed to jump start my intention, so I downloaded Made to Crave via the Kindle app. I’m too lazy to go through the steps of highlighting, and there is SO much I could highlight. It is a wonderfully encouraging and empowering read. I’ll write more on it when I actually, ya know, finish it. But I’m reading it. On the treadmill, standing in line, waiting for church to start, lying in bed battling the insomnia. It’s convenient. It doesn’t smell or feel like a book, it isn’t the unrealistic, utopia-like vision I see in my mind’s eye. But I’m reading, and good enough is just going to have to be good enough during this season in my life.

So, I’m not on track. And I’m not okay with it. I actually used the word “failing.” I don’t know if I like that word. Yes, the perfectionism stands in my way, once again. But I’m not defeated. I haven’t given up. I haven’t resigned my intention, so I haven’t failed. I will read 24 books this calendar year. (In all fairness, I have read several great books so far this year. I read to my boys, and they’re primarily Newberry Award winning books. But I’m not counting those toward my total). I’m not where I want to be, but I’ll get there. Or, at least, I’ll get as far as I get.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a book to read. What are you reading right now?

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A New Page

Welcome to 2011.

Yes, it’s a new year. And thank goodness for that!

I love fresh starts. It’s like Anne Shirley so wisely stated: “Tomorrow is always fresh, with no mistakes in it.”

While we’re already more than a week into the new year, it’s still pretty fresh, still full of newness. And in keeping with the “fresh start” theme, I’m making some radical changes in my own life. I feel like a gardener in Spring, surveying a barren patch of earth and seeing it for all it’s possibilities.

On a professional level, I’m tilling and planting in pursuit of growth. I love to write, and want to do something constructive with that passion by finding opportunities to share my creativity. For the past year, I have had the pleasure of working with a dear friend in opening a yoga studio in a little town in Kansas. Writing and designing advertising and business materials reignited the spark of my creative spirit, and I refuse to allow anyone or anything to extinguish it. The story ideas sprouting in my mind finally have room and sunlight and fresh air to thrive and flourish, and the words are finally formulating and finding their way on the white of my laptop screen. I also love books, and to justify the time I want to invest in reading them, I’m determined to get my on-line bookstore up and running. I recently purchased the dustedcover.com domain, and am in the process of lining up my ducks and stocking up on books. It’s an exciting endeavor, though also a little overwhelming. But more exciting than overwhelming.

On a personal level, I’m pruning and grafting. Trimming out diseased branches, and introducing new, healthy opportunities that might flourish and produce fruit down the road. I am blessed with some tremendous support, freshly tilled ground, and the rains and winds of adversity to encourage deep roots and strengthen my resolve. The Master Gardner has seen me through storm after storm, and while I may have lost a branch or two along the way, He has kept my spirit strong and continues to nourish my soul. God is so good.

And so, I look forward to this new year, this fresh start, with great anticipation for new things to come. And I hope, and pray, that you are doing the same.

While I refused to come up with any resolutions for the year, I did decide to sit down and make a list of 24 books I plan to read before the year’s end. Two books a month. It’s not a resolution. I don’t do resolutions. But I want to read with intention, and so this is a list of intentions:

1. The Bible. I really want to read the Bible all the way through, cover to cover. To guide me through this, I’m using a guide I printed out from oneyearbibleonline.com. I actually started it in November, but since one of my little people used my printed out guide as a palette for his artwork, I went ahead and printed off a new one and will just start from scratch.

2. Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis. During the past year, I’ve tried to absorb as much C.S. Lewis as my jobs as wife and mommy will allow. There are some great podcasts of Master’s level courses on the life and theology of Mr. Lewis on iTunesU to enrich the experience of reading his works.

3. America by Heart, by Sarah Palin. I like a lot of things about Sarah, and I’m looking forward to learning more about her through her latest book.

4. Edward R. Murrow and the Birth of Broadcast Journalism, by Bob Edwards. I’ve always been a fan of Mr. Murrow, and still hope to attend the Edward R. Murrow School of Broadcasting at Washington State University. While the medium he helped to create has become something so much greater than he could have ever imagined (or hoped for), he must be acknowledged as a true, modern-day pioneer.

5. Gulliver’s Travels, by Jonathan Swift. In keeping with the theme of dusting off the covers of old and new classics, I want to read this one out loud to my little men. Sure, there was a movie based on the book made recently. But I just can’t stand Jack Black, and the movie is never as good as the book. But now that they’ve seen the trailer for the movie, they might take a little more interest in the book.

6. Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, by C.S. Lewis. My parents dutifully purchased the complete set for me when I was about 10. I never finished reading them. This past year, I read the first two books to my kids before we watched the movies, and they really enjoyed the books, and then watching and seeing how the movie was similar and understanding the story more than they might have otherwise. And they’re very good at coaching my British accent, since I give each of the characters a different voice when reading to them, and you just can’t read the dialogue of the King and Queen of Narnia without an accent. We haven’t seen the new movie yet, so this one will likely move up the list pretty quickly.

7. Broke, by Glenn Beck. This may come as a surprise to some, but I’m actually a staunch Conservative. Hmmm… might not be good for business to bare my political soul, but it’s who I am. I’ve never read any of Beck’s books, but I want to better understand the financial workings of the government, and I know he’s done his homework.

8. Get Known Before the Deal, by Christina Katz. This is one of those books I’ve had for a while, and just haven’t taken the time to read. It’s about giving yourself a platform for your writing. I wonder if she recommends starting a blog…

9. A Little Princess, by Francis H. Burnett. Okay, I’m cheating a little bit on this one since it’s already on the list of books that I’ll be reading to my boys as part of their homeschool curriculum this year. I loved the Shirley Temple movie as a kid, and yet I never read the book! Another classic revived for a new generation. Though, not one my boys are thrilled about since it’s about a princess. But I told them there’s a monkey in it, so they’re cool.

10. Cleopatra: A Life, by Stacy Schiff. This is a newbie to the publishing world, but we were learning about Ancient Egypt in our schooling earlier this year, and so now my Egypt radar is on high alert. “They” say that the more you learn, the more you realize how much you have to learn, and I certainly did not learn much about ancient civilizations as a kid. (One of the many benefits of homeschooling, is that you get to learn and re-learn along with your little people.)

11. Surprised by Joy, by C.S. Lewis. I think I may have mentioned that I’m diggin’ Lewis.

12. Emma, by Jane Austen. I’m a girl, and I’m a girl who loves books, so it’s a foregone conclusion that I love Jane Austen. I haven’t read Emma yet, so it’s long overdue.

13. If You Build It, Will They Come: Three Steps to Test and Validate Any Market Opportunity, by Rob Adams. Should probably have read this before buying a domain name, but ah well. My dad read this one and recommended it.

14. Made to Crave: Satisfying Your Deepest Desire with God, Not Food, by Lysa TerKeurst. I just heard her on Focus on the Family radio the other day, and she has a relate-able story to tell. I want to write something clever here about how I never use food to satisfy anything other than a rumbling tummy, but I can’t stop thinking about tiramisu.

15. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain. Another one of those classics that I want to expose my kids to but haven’t actually read myself yet. I know there was a Tom Sawyer movie made not too long ago. It couldn’t possibly be as good as the 1938 version.

16. The Odyssey, by Homer. Another selection inspired by recent exposure to his stories as we work through the year’s homeschool lessons. So much to learn! And I downloaded this one for cheap on Kindle for PC.

17. Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell. Hmmm… I’ve read this one before, but it’s been more than ten years. Why don’t I own this one yet? I have the movie– LOVE the movie. Yes, I definitely need to read that one again.

18. How to Grow a Novel, by Sol Stein. I need to read more books on writing, and my favorite author, Francine Rivers, recommends this one.

19. The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR, by Al Ries and Laura Ries. This is one of those books that I’ve had for years, and just haven’t made the time to read. I just hope it isn’t already irrelevant.

20. Bringing Up Boys, by Dr. James Dobson. I bought this when I found out my first child was going to be a boy. I remember skimming through it while sitting in the doctor’s office waiting room prior to a prenatal checkup, but can’t recall having cracked it open since then, despite adding two more boys to the mix. Wish I had actually read this one sooner- could have saved myself many a headache.

21. The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It, by John Seymore. Someday, I’d like to live on a farm. Have some chickens and sheep and a milk cow, an organic garden, can my own fruits and vegetables and almost never have to go the store except for things like sugar and whole grain wheat. And Fat Free French Vanilla Coffeemate. Okay, I probably couldn’t hack it as a country girl, but it’s good to dream. And I did make butter a few weeks ago.

22. Homeschooling for Dummies, by Jennifer Kaufeld. Yes, I was homeschooled, and I am currently homeschooling my three little men. But I’m homeschooling because I want them to have the absolute best, most well-rounded education they could possibly have access to, and I don’t know everything. (Shhh- please don’t tell them!)

23. The Gathering Storm, by Brock and Bodie Thoene. Before Francine Rivers was my favorite author, this husband and wife duo held that not-so-coveted place in my literary heart. This is the first book in a new series just published last year. It’s been a while since I’ve ready any of their work, and so they more than deserve a spot on the list.

24. 1/2 Price Living: Secrets to Living Well on One Income, by Ellie Kay. Considering my changing personal circumstances, I probably should be looking for a book entitled, “1/4 Price Living,” but this looks like a good place to start.

So, now you know what’s on my list. What’s on yours?

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The Problem with Perfectionism

I am a perfectionist. You wouldn’t know it by looking at me, but I am. I’m not one of those perfectionists who kill themselves to achieve perfection in every nitnoid corner of their personal and professional lives. I’m more of that perfectionist that says, “I can’t do it until I have the time/space/energy/resources/etc. to do it perfectly.”

The problem with such perfectionism is that nothing every gets done. As a stay-home mom homeschooling three little people and still trying to create some sort of life for myself, time/space/energy/resources are in very, very short supply. And so, here sits my Dusted Cover, itself collecting dust. Nearly another victim of my perfectionism. I want to write a blog about books, and then even sell some books on the side in order to support my book addiction and make room on my bookshelf for new reads, and for the past two months I’ve been mulling over and over in my mind about how to do this, and what book to write about next. I mean, I barely wrote about Bridges of Madison County– should I do a full review of that before tackling another book? Or do I pull a different book off the shelf and do a review on that? Should it be a book I’ve read recently? You see how self-defeating this process can be.

So, I’m done. Not with the blog– with this perfection crud. This is not going to be another one of those great ideas I had that never came to fruition because the box of excuses won out. I’m not going to re-read this posting a dozen times before clicking the “Publish” icon. Ugh. Spelling and grammar errors. I really hate spelling errors– especially in a book/writing blog. Mmmm… if you promise not to point out my every spelling glitch, I’ll promise to just push the little blue button, kay?

 

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The Bridge that led to Madison County

I love reading. As a kid, I can remember my mom expressing frustration over buying me a new Mandy book which I devoured within hours of it entering the house. Why did she bother buying me books, she said, when I read through them so fast?

Today, I’m living in a two-room extended stay hotel with my husband and three young boys as we try to find a house to rent or buy in the Richmond, Virginia area. To say that I’m bored out of my mind is an obvious understatement. We recently make a quick stop into a local Goodwill store to stock up on some inexpensive reads. In doing so, I discovered some classics that I had always wanted to read, but had never taken the time, as well as some more recent trendy books that I would never have paid full price for. I grabbed a pile of books and dove in.

The first book I read was The Bridges of Madison County, by Robert James Waller and first published in 1992. Frankly, I knew nothing about it except that it had been a movie which I thought starred Robert Redford and Barbara Streisand (I’ve since learned that it actually starred Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep, so it might actually be worth watching since Clint also directed it). Is Bridges a modern American Classic? Mmmm… perhaps I’m not qualified to declare it as such, but it seemed like a worthy read, and it was the shortest of the books I had selected, so I cracked it open first.

Not really knowing anything about the story, I had no expectation of what I would find between the covers, except for a PG-13 excerpt on the back dust cover. It only took two days of driving around town hunting down houses (just to clarify-my husband, Tom, did the actual driving) to finish the book.

The book was… okay. I was more forgiving of what I would call poor story telling because the author using the first chapter to detail the events that led to him writing this story. I’ll admit that I was taken in by his assertion that the story was real, that the grown children of one of the story’s main characters had come to him with their dead mother’s diaries and mementos, asking him to share with the world her tragic story of love denied. I bought it, hook, line, and sinker– until I Googled photographer Robert Kincaid.

When Bridges was first published in 1992, the world wide web was in its very infancy. Those were the days of AOL and chat rooms and internet-by-the-minute. There was no Wikipedia or Snopes or book review blogs. The common man had no tools at his disposal with which to do their own fact checking. Yet, here we are, 18 years later. A whole new age of technology. Had Wallers published his book today, it might never have seen the light of day. He may have had to self-publish, or his story might have been released on only an electronic version. He probably wouldn’t have been able to sell the movie rights to his book, since on-line blogging and facebook Virtual Bookshelf reviews would have been critical of the premise of the story. My, how times have changed.

But it got me to thinking: where are the book reviews for those books of the non-technological age? New books are marketed everywhere, but what about those books published twenty or more years ago? Oh, you’re sure to find information on the classics, but what about the everyday, reading-for-entertainment books that one would now find on the shelves of their neighborhood thrift store?

So that is what I want to accomplish with this blog. Here I will share with you the older books I read and whether they might be worth your taking the time to scour dusty shelves to track down a copy for yourself. In a time of Kindles and iPads, it may be worthwhile to dust off the neglected covers of forgotten stories, breath in the scent of musty pages, and rediscover the books that perhaps were never quite discovered. I’ll also review newer titles, and would love your recommendations.

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