Friday, April 30, 2010

You Read to Me, I'll Read to You

One of our favorite activities together, right up there with game playing, is reading to one another. It started with Harry Potter (before the series got a little too dark for Margo's enjoyment), moved on to other series books one or the other of us knew well, and grew to Lord of the Rings proportions by the time we got married. In the past four years we have begun targeting masterpieces. Ones we have never read (or read and forgot) but that we have heard of many times, and maybe feared. Like Moby Dick, which we found very entertaining. Or Don Juan, the epic poem by Lord Byron, which took a little time in getting the flow right, but which was also very enjoyable. Sometimes it's a book that one of us has read and wants to introduce to the other, like Dune or Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Very infrequently we will give up in the middle of one due to one party or the other's objections. Like Mists of Avalon and Look Homeward, Angel.
You might wonder where we get so much time to read. Somehow it justs fits into spaces. Like when I am driving or doing dishes, or when Margo is cooking or knitting. And if the book is very good, we make time.
All this is to introduce our current reading, which I would like to keep updated as we go along with a reference from the sidebar. Once this post is buried under the many to come, that is.
Last month we finished Tai-Pan, by James Clavell. We read it because we liked Shogun so much. It was entertaining, even riveting at points, but not the grand read that Shogun is.
We just finished Saving Fish from Drowning, by Amy Tan. Having read a few others by her we both feel like this one is alright, is entertaining, but has not made us better people or expanded our horizons. This might sound a little foolish, but the latter two are the main characteristics of what we call a great book.
We just started The Continuum Concept, which was a baby shower gift from our friend Dawn. It has the mark of a book that will help us significantly in perspective for child-raising, and will alter the way we look at the world. Needless to say, we are very much enjoying it. Its one peculiarity is that the style is a bit text-booky, in terms of big words and long sentences. This means that I have to be the one to read, because I focus better that way.
And we have a list of all-time greats, which will hopefully grow. It is in no particular order.
Shogun, by James Clavell, was fascinating, enlightening, and held our attention for months. It really helped me understand the samurai origins of Aikido, and what bushido means. It gave us both a better understanding of life and death, and what honor is. In a way. One of the best stories I have ever read.
Autobiography of a Yogi, by Paramahansa Yogananda. I can't say much about it without making it sound lame. It is about saints and enlightened masters, how you get to be that way, and stresses that the capacity for love is the most powerful tool one can have. Besides that, and that it is at the top of our list, there isn't much more I can say to recommend it.
Our advice, if you want to find the best books in the library, is to talk to your librarian. We had great conversations with ours at the Willits Public Library almost every time we were there. One of the highlights was when we asked the head librarian, "Donna, we want to read some Hemingway. Which one would you start with?" Her answer was "None of them! I can't stand Hemingway!" She explained that her focus was the romantics, like Thomas Wolfe. Minimalists just weren't her cup of tea. But she did go on to consult the summer reading program's lists, and came up with The Old Man and the Sea. Which we liked just fine.


  1. I recommend The Help by Kathryn Stockett. I think your Mom has it, Dan. She's read it, too, and enjoyed it. It's Stockett's debut novel told in three voices: two black maids and one young white woman, in the era of the civil rights movement in Mississippi.

  2. Andrew and I used to read to each other quite often, especially on long car trips. Until Jefferson got old enough to be frustrated that he couldn't keep up with the story. But now he's just getting old enough to start in again. Small. On our last big trip we read Pirates! in an Adventure with Ahab! Which was just piratey enough for his attention and clever enough for ours.

    That said, what we learned from years of reading to each other. Some books are meant to be read aloud. Some just are not. Anything by Jane Austen is meant to be read aloud. We also really enjoyed reading Catch-22 aloud.

    Right now I am in love with Mishima and wishing I could have read Spring Snow to Andrew, as it is beautiful and I think he would love it. But Jefferson would definitely not put up with it. But it would go well with your exploring the history of Japan...

  3. I’m always looking for good titles to add to my reading list. Fun post! We JUST missed Kathryn Stockett ("The Help") in Central Oregon by like a week. The first time a big author visits we leave. I so agree with greeniezona on Austin.

    I randomly found a book called “French Dirt” in a used bookstore on San Juan and enjoyed it very much.

  4. Sorry: Austen! A friend just returned from a trip to Austin so I had that on my mind. (Yeah, blame it on that and extreme moving/unpacking fatigue.)

  5. Would like to place my vote for Ken Kesey's Sometimes A Great Notion and One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest. Some Other Place, The Right Place and Lightning Bug by Donald Harrington. All great reads.