Tag Archives | reading

Gentle Reads for Autumn Days

Village Diary by Miss Read

The morning fog is rolling in and the leaves are turning here in the Pacific Northwest, a sure sign that we are well into autumn. Despite my trepidation that winter will soon close in, I’m so enjoying this season. My knitting needles have come out, my tea is once again served hot, and my library bag is bulging. The cozy spirit of this time of year demands, I think, gentle reads. Here are some favourite authors I always return to when the weather cools.  Continue Reading →

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Mystery Monday: Jason Goodwin’s Investigator Yashim

Jason Goodwin's Investigator Yashim Mystery Series

Today is Monday, but don’t despair. I’m taking the edge off the start of the week by reviewing an excellent mystery series: British author Jason Goodwin’s “Investigator Yashim” books.

Let’s begin with a little biographical note on Mr. Goodwin. I think the first thing to say is that he likes tea, which makes him our sort of person indeed. (Actually, his first book was all about tea.) He studied Byzantine history at Cambridge University, which I imagine took a lot of well-steeped black tea to get through. In addition to writing a very readable history of the Ottoman Empire, Mr. Goodwin has written five books in the Investigator Yashim series, to which we shall now turn.

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My 2 Favourite Book Podcasts

1950s Bush Radio
Cool radio, isn’t it? You can purchase it here, podcasts not included.

I’ve always loved walking, but since I became the proud (and slightly exhausted) owner of a dog, walking has became a necessary routine in my day. While I love to listen to birds, lawn mowers, and muted piano playing, sometimes I get bored of these usual sight and sounds. Enter the podcast, saviour to all commuters, travellers, and dog-walkers!

Today, I’m sharing two of my favourite book podcasts.

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3 Pinterest Book Boards

You must all know by now that I am, first and foremost and forever, a reader. Raised on a diet of Nancy Drew and Anne Shirley, tremulously stepping into adulthood with the help of Jane Eyre and Bertie Wooster (disparate, I know), and flowering (hopefully) under the watchful eye of dear Hemingway, Chandler, and Fitzgerald (where to stop?), there is good reason that I own seven pairs of glasses.

It’s not only the words inside of books I love, though. It’s also a book’s appearance. There are few sights more aesthetically pleasing than a beautifully designed book cover. Unless, of course, it’s a stack of many such books on a table, shelf, or windowsill. Indeed, I think books are the ultimate decorating tool: no room should be without them, and every room looks better with them.

I have three Pinterest boards devoted to books: Books, Books & More Books, A Place to Read, and Interiors: The Library. Out of my 61 Pinterest boards, I think they are probably the ones I pin to most of all. So if you too love book visuals, I would heartily suggest following me there! And if you come across new books, shelves, or libraries that I need to see, please share your pictures with me!

Here’s a little sampling of what you’ll find on said boards. It was sure hard to choose only a few!

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5 Tips for Reading Shakespeare

William Shakespeare's King Lear One of my favourite of Shakespeare’s plays, my copy of King Lear dates from 1922. 

On April 23rd, 1616, William Shakespeare died. If you’re any good at math, which I’m not, you’ll know that that was 400 years ago. This milestone is a terrific excuse for Bard lovers to produce even more material about good old Will.

I happen to be one of those Shakespeare enthusiasts, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know the frustration his work often elicits. His position in the Western canon means that he is frequently assigned to high school or college students, many of whom suffer through “thee” and “thou,” and leave Shakespeare 101 with a decided bias against the Bard.

Now I, as I’ve said, happen to love Shakespeare. Perhaps this is because I had a series of excellent high school teachers and college professors who taught his works in ways that were exhilarating, provocative, and memorable.

Whatever the reason, from these happy experiences I’ve gained a few suggestions on how to make your own Shakespeare experience a fulfilling one. Here they are, and I hope they help you!

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Author Spotlight: Barbara Pym

Let’s say it’s a drizzly, early fall afternoon in London, 1948. In a flat in Pimlico, a woman sits quietly revising a novel.We ring the bell and, although uninvited, the kettle is put on, bread and butter are brought out, and we sit down to chat with author Barbara Pym.

Should I stop this little fantasy here? Maybe you haven’t heard of Pym? I hadn’t until Alexandra McCall Smith (Mr. No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency) championed her 1952 novel, Excellent Women, in a 2008 article in The Guardian.

What luck I did find her! Pym is an author whose oeuvre I dread finishing, only to know that I will read her again and again.

Great, you say. But what does this Pym write about? First of all, if you’re into the school of “write what you know,” Pym’s your woman. What she knew, broadly, was this: church life, academic life (she read English Literature at St. Hilda’s College, Oxford), Italy and the Wrens (she was posted to Naples in 1944), and anthropology (from her work at the International African Institute in London).

From this collection of experiences, Pym sets down a group of characters (the more you read, the more familiar they become) and lets their lives cyclically unwind across the seasons of a year.

Much has been made of Pym’s focus on the everyday, the small detail (it’s hard to find her named without coming across Jane Austen at the same time). This is true. The minutia of life is gently and methodically enacted in her works but, despite the cups of tea and cake, the clergymen, and the — dare I say it — feminine details, Pym is not saccharine. She offers dry humor and a touch of modern existentialism, but always with a deft hand. There is never too much of anything in Pym’s world. Moderation rules. I think this is what is attractive to me, at least, in her work. Just as she lays her plots against the natural balance of the year’s unfolding, her characters’ navigate a post-WWII world that, through glimpses, we can see is precarious, but which we also discover was liveable and well-lived.

For more Barbara Pym:

The Barbara Pym Society (must of the above biographic details are taken from their excellent site).
Alexander McCall Smith’s article

And finally, two of my favourites:


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Rain, Come Again


“The best thing one can do when it’s raining is to let it rain” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

If you’re caught outside in it, your umbrella flapping wildly, your pant legs soggy, you likely won’t love rain so much as I did today. The wind beat a steady wallop of the wet stuff against the windows, thrashing the branches of the barren trees and making me thankful for my warm cup of tea and dry feet.

This is the time to draw in, to find the softest corner of your favourite chair, and hug your Darjeeling while the world clashes around outside. It is the best of excuses to close the door on the world, even for a little while.

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Whenever I think of the film Amelie, I am immediately reminded of the little garden gnome that packed up his rucksack and traveled ’round the world (a phenomenon in existence prior to the said movie making it famous). If you loved the liberation of the homely gnome, you will be very charmed by the setting free of your favourite books. As the explanation at bookcrossing.com says:

… you can register any book you have on the site, and then set the book free to travel the world and find new readers.

Leave it on a park bench, at a coffee shop, at a hotel on vacation. Share it with a friend or tuck it onto a bookshelf at the gym — anywhere it might find a new reader! What happens next is up to fate, and we never know where our books might travel next. Track the book’s journey around the world as it is passed on from person to person.

I just love this idea; it combines the fun of seeing where physical objects travel to (as in WheresGeorge.com) with the satisfaction of sharing a new book.

Now all I must do is decide what book to pack up and send out into the world… What would you choose?

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To Begin with a Book

I shall start with a large ‘hello’ to my readers, who must all be new, as this is my first post! Thank you for taking the time to share with me anything that I find beautiful, pleasing, delightful, or soothing. Essentially, anything to dull the rough edges that life sometimes has to offer. I hope to see you often and, hopefully, to hear from you.

Enough of introductions, however; let me get right to the meat of today’s post.

With the weather drippy one moment and Christmas-like the next (think low clouds that oddly seem oddly brighter at night), I’ve been in the mood for cozy reads. I crave nothing overly physiological, mind wrenching, or altogether modern. Rather, give me words that drop me into a scene filled with fires, dogs, gentle people…Yes, the cliche that is coming to your mind is what I’m after.

I therefore recommend to you The Haunted Bookshop by Christopher Morley. This charming tale reunites us with the characters of Morley’s Parnassus on Wheels, particularly bookseller Roger Mifflin. In Morley’s second outing, he plants Mifflin in a Brooklyn bookstore, allowing his main character to expound on books and book selling. There is also an easy mystery, a little romance, and lots of coziness.

I have yet to read Parnassus on Wheels; hopefully it proves as enjoyable as The Haunted Bookshop.

Here are some helpful links should you wish to explore the Parnassus world a little further. (Morley himself seems like quite an interesting fellow; he was a Sherlock Holmes enthusiast, as well as the author of Kitty Foyle).

Free ebook (!): http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/172

Christopher Morley: http://www.online-literature.com/morley/

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