Take a look, it’s in a book……somewhere

This is a self-indulgent post in which  I record my reading list ( read, reading, and to be read);  consider how far I have travelled without leaving home; and  note very briefly what knowledge, useful or otherwise,   I have learned on my literary tour.

It is a post which is the equivalent of an entry I would have made in my version of a commonplace book, more than a decade ago, before the computer stole my soul.

READ (Where I have been; quite far it seems)

What I’ve learned:

Danger Music by Eddie Ayres

Music will out even in the most dreadful of circumstances, hence the establishment of the amazing Afghanistan National Institute of Music

 

 

The Wife’s Tale by Aida Edemariam

There is a rich tradition of poetry in Ethiopia, which is not well-known outside of Ethiopia. One particular  type of scholarly poetry is called q’ene and plays with the double meanings of words. It often introduces words from Ge’ez, the ancient Semitic language from which Amharic derives, now only used in the Ethiopian Orthodox church. So a q’ene will have a surface (wax) interpretation but also a deeper and richer (gold) meaning, giving it the title semenna worq (wax and gold).

 

Classical Music by Joy Cowley

Some books choose you. After all what are the chances of reading your life, as it is unfolding,  in the first sentence of the first chapter of a book which you selected randomly from a pile of donated books ~”My father is dead and it is raining.” Thus it was on both counts.

The Thunderbolt Pony by Stacy Gregg

Reading about recent earthquakes on my home turf still makes my heart race.

The Kettle on the Fuchsia by Barbara Harper

I am a  wimp. I would have been a useless pioneer. And it was interesting to realise that a  lack of aeroplanes and fossil fuels was  never a barrier to travel.

Island of Shattered Dreams by Chantal Spitz

This book is available to us thanks to translation by Jean Anderson, founder of the New Zealand Centre for Literary Translation.  To understand each other we need to read each other.

A Notable Woman edited by Simon Garfield

Data collection is nothing new. We have just changed the way we collect it. Before Google and Facebook,  there was the Mass Observation project.  Mass Observation was founded 75 years ago in 1937 by the South African poet, communist and journalist Charles Madge and two English eccentrics: the filmmaker and polymath Humphrey Jennings and the anthropologist and self-publicist Tom Harrisson. Formed in the aftermath of the  abdication crisis, Mass Observation sought to bridge the gap between how the media represented public opinion and what ordinary people actually felt and thought. The Mass Observation Archives are at the University of Sussex.

The Secret Life of Cows by Rosamund Young

Cows love to live in family groups and have a rich emotional life, not unlike humans.

Advice for Future Corpses by Sallie Tisdale

Was this the wisest choice of reading material for a Trans-Tasman flight? The book begins “Chapter 1 Dangerous Situation.  Right now: imagine dying.”   Turns out I can do that in mid-air though it did feel slightly uncomfortable.

Scribbling the Cat by Alexandra Fuller

I may never understand how  different people/groups/races  in a country can love their country more deeply and fiercely than they do their fellow man.  It’s a strange love that tears a country apart. And Scribbling the Cat is not a good thing to do.

READING (Where I am; in China and New Zealand)

Rewi Alley An Autobiography

Rewi Alley’s interest in China was piqued by his encounters with the Chinese Labour Corps  who worked tirelessly for the Allies during World War One.

To Read Maybe, One Day, Sometime…….. (Where I may go; New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the library)

Changing Lives  by Janice Marriott and Virginia Pawsey

The Curious Curiosity by Glenda Barnett who lives in North Devon and is better known to me as blogger Celia Ladygarden

Granite and Rainbow: Essays by Virginia Woolf

Wherein  I hope to read more excellent essays like ‘ Hours in a Library’  which is the source of this lovely quote about reading lists and notebooks.

 If we wish to refresh our memories, let us take down one of those old notebooks which we have all, at one time or another, had a passion for beginning. Most of the pages are blank, it is true; but at the beginning we shall find a certain number very beautifully covered with a strikingly legible handwriting. Here we have written down the names of great writers in their order of merit; here we have copied out fine passages from the classics; here are lists of books to be read; and here, most interesting of all, lists of books that have actually been read, as the reader testifies with some youthful vanity by a dash of red ink. We will quote a list of the books that someone read in a past January at the age of twenty, most of them probably for the first time. 

In conclusion: I want to  thank my sister-in-law and her sister who keep my bookshelves stocked with a wonderful, eclectic collection of excellent reading material. Without them I wouldn’t have read or travelled very far this year.

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115 thoughts on “Take a look, it’s in a book……somewhere

  1. Leslie

    So, you “let the computer steal your soul”! I had to chuckle. I still maintain handwritten journals and notebooks/commonplace books but more and more often I ask myself, why? – especially since I have accumulated so many over the decades….Your comment that you would have made a “useless pioneer” resonates. Whenever I read books about slaves, pioneers, immigrants….heck, just thinking about the lives of my ancestors of the preceding 2-3 generations leaves me feeling weak.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Good to know that not everyone has sold out to the computer! As to why we maintain journals/ commonplace books…is an hour or two of future pure joy, every now and then, a good enough reason? This evening, I happened to be looking for an old address and came across my commonplace book from the early 90s. For some reason, I had filled up the blank spaces between items with hand-written notes of things my children had said. I have spent the last hour howling with laughter. Then tucked in between the pages of the book was a Mother’s Day Card (report card) in which my child had printed a graph showing how much he loved me over a period of 4 years. 3 out of 4 years I did well because I scored 90%. But I had a poor score in 1995; only got to 70%. I am happy I kept my commonplace book, even though I had completely forgotten, until tonight, that I had done so. 😀

      Reply
      1. Leslie

        I’m really touched by your anecdote about the joy you found in uncovering details of things your children said and the way they graded and graphed their feelings for you as a mother – great memories that would surely be more blurry-to-nonexistent had you not kept a commonplace book. 💕

        Reply
  2. insearchofitall

    I’m afraid I’m going to be spending a great deal of time on this page. There is so much here I want to know more about. I’m never going to get any work done! I’ve learned a new term and will research it further. So many books, so little time. Dear me, I’m such a sucker for another book. It’s in the family DNA. ;( Thank you for sharing all of this and I’ll probably not close this page for days.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      I am glad you are on this post for a longer visit. If I were fortunate enough to visit you, you probably wouldn’t be able to drag me away from your bookshelves!

      Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      I am not sure how many people keep a commonplace books these days but I wonder if one could think of Pinterest as a modern day equivalent.

      Reply
  3. restlessjo

    Sometimes it’s nice to come back. I notice different things and sometimes have time to read interesting comments such as Cindy’s. I’d never heard the expression commonplace book before. And yes, the computer may well have stolen my soul too, but it’s definitely brought me some wonderful people. 🙂 🙂

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      I hope you were successful in finding some of Rewi Alley’s books. I was quite disappointed by the small selection I could find on our library website, considering what a prolific writer he was.

      Reply
      1. Su Leslie

        The Auckland library website is showing 71 titles for Rewi Alley as the author. I guess there will be some duplicates in there, but it does seem like a good collection.

        Reply
  4. Su Leslie

    What a wonderful collection of journeys, complete with lovely “postcards.” I’m particularly grateful for this post as I am very aware that my own reading has become terribly lacklustre and I found myself getting excited about reading several of your books. 🙂

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Excellent! Glad to add a little excitement. I am finding myself completely involved in Rewi Alley’s autobiography. The first half was exhausting in a way because he was constantly on the move. The second half is more reflective and my brain is able to keep pace with his activities!

      Reply
  5. utesmile

    It is wonderful to read, learn and travel in the comfort of your sofa and own home. Books give so much more than just an hour reading. You get inspired, you learn, you travel, you imagine, you laugh and you enjoy a good book!

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Absolutely, dear Ute. We sometimes grumble about the cost of books but even the most expensive books are actually a bargain considering how much we get out of them.

      Reply
  6. Clare Pooley

    I love posts about books, book lists and book reviews! I have not read all of this post yet but I will be back for more. I watched the video about the Afghanistan National Institute of Music – what a man Dr. Ahmad Naser Sarmast is! Trying to deprive people of music is such cruelty.

    Reply
  7. womanseyeview

    Such interesting sounding books here – thank you so much for sharing and I agree it’s even better when we can get recommendations or actual books passed on by friends and family. In recent years I’m part of a couple of book clubs and since we choose our booklist collectively this means I read books I wouldn’t have otherwise chosen. What a delight that has been and like you it has taken me many places.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Carol, lovely to have your comment. I haven’t ever been game enough to join a book club (mainly because I am a slow reader) but it does seem like a great way to expand and diversify one’s reading. I recently started to follow a book blog, The Mystique Books, https://themystiquebooks.wordpress.com/ which is reminding me of the wonderful book scene I found in New Delhi in the 80s. We are so spoilt for choice. What was your latest good read via your book club or otherwise?

      Reply
      1. womanseyeview

        Don’t get me started…too late since you have! I loved The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa; then there is The Headmaster’s Wager by Canadian Vincent Lam; The Hare with the Amber Eyes by Edmund De Waal is extraordinary and for a brutally honest look at the determination of staying alive while being a captive journalist in Somalia there is A House in the Sky by Canadian journalist Amanda Lindhout.

        Reply
        1. Gallivanta Post author

          I can see myself being captivated by all these books but it is The Hare with Amber Eyes which would be my first choice. It does sound extraordinary.

  8. J.D. Riso

    All, posts are self-indulgent, when you think about it. 😉 What an eclectic reading list. “Some books choose you.” So true, and what a lovely, simple sentence to begin that one.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Yes, I suppose it is true that posts are mainly self-indulgent but some of mine seem more so than others.
      Happily, kind readers like you have indulged me by finding things of interest in my personal reading tastes. 🙂

      Reply
  9. jennyredhen

    I am not going to buy anything more from Amazon since I saw a Bernie Sanders interview with an employee who revealed the inhumane working conditions and wages .. they arent allowed to speak to each other , etc etc ,.. they are treated like human robots .. and paid very poorly however apparently the medical insurance offered is good so many employees put up with the very poor wages and just for that.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      That is dire! And your comment is a good reminder to be a conscientious and careful consumer. I prefer to buy books locally or secondhand, if I have to buy them, but occasionally I do resort to Amazon, like maybe once every couple of years.

      Reply
  10. insearchofitall

    Oh my word! Such a lot of interesting information here. I’m afraid I won’t have enough time to read all the books already on my list and it seems there are so many more wonderful reads out there. What a fun visit. I’ll copy down all the names here of books to put on my wish list. 🙂 Blog land is a wonderful place to learn so much.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      It’s sad but true; our reading eyes are far bigger than our stomach eyes. 😀 But even if we read only a small percentage of the books we would like to, our lives will be enriched.

      Reply
  11. shoreacres

    All I can think is, “I need to read more.” On the other hand, much of what appeals to others never makes my list because I’m not so fond of fiction. It’s a strange thing; I don’t understand it at all. But I have a “to-be-read” pile that calls to me every time I walk by. One of these days.

    I was so distressed by the video about the music in Afghanistan. I wasn’t distressed by the music, or the award, of course. That such a thing’s been accomplished is wonderful. It was that censorship that got to me, again. There’s a creeping despotism in our country that is leading to the same thing: a narrowing of the definitions of what is acceptable thought, acceptable speech, acceptable art. If I could set the entire country down and have them read just one book, it might be The Scarlet Letter. I still remember the day a professor asked my class, “If you were to be branded with one letter, which would it be?” There’s a question to ponder, along with a number of variations: e.g., If your neighbors were to hang a letter around your neck, what would it be?

    Speaking of music, one book I have enjoyed (and am in my third re-read, because I’m out of my depth) is Haruki Murakami’s Absolutely on Music: Conversations With Seiji Ozawa. It’s actually quite entertaining. One of Murakami’s interesting convictions is that a sense of rhythm is critical for any — writer! Apparently he believes that “it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing” applies to literature as well as music.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      The Scarlet Letter is one of those books which is so often referred to that I am always confident that I have read it, until I realize that I haven’t. Will I ever read it? I am not sure but I can see why you would like the entire country to read it, especially at this time when there is a lot of ‘letter-hanging’ and ‘branding’ happening in all sorts of media (and maybe in real communities as well). Words matter, and very few people seem to understand how quickly they can be taken away from us; how the creeping can suddenly become a tsunami of restrictions. I will never forget the shock of waking one morning in Zambia to hear via the BBC that my beloved birth country, Fiji, which I had always considered peaceful and sensible, had been taken over by the military. In the space of a few hours, citizens had gone from freedom to military rule. Would reading and education have prevented that? Probably not. But somewhere there had been a massive failure of communication between people and Government, and between people of differing opinions.
      On a lighter note I am intrigued by Absolutely on Music. Like you I am not so fond of fiction (although I once was addicted to it) so this could be one to put on my to be read list. As for rhythm, I am fond of some music by Japanese jazz ‘great’ Sadao Watanabe. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=coyn8-2mMoQ

      Reply
  12. danniehill

    You have a hot with this post and helped a number of authors. I’ve add several of your choices to my list. It’s a great way to travel and learn. Thank you

    Reply
      1. danniehill

        Right now I only writing in my mind. I’ve been spending time offshore fishing by myself and it is very relaxing, until I catch something big, ha. I’ll be returning to Thailand soon to spend some extended time there and hope to actually put something on paper. In the mean time I read all the time. I looked at my comment to you and it finally dawned on me I was trying to say you have a “hit”. I guess I need an editor for everything I write. So very good of you th check on me and I really do enjoy your adventures at home!

        Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Not having jet lag is really wonderful but I must confess I do think about the possibility of real travel once again when I read your interesting posts. You are a great traveller. 🙂

      Reply
  13. Diane Taylor

    ‘Danger Music’ sounds like it could be the musical escape to joy, beauty and sanity as the literary escape was in ‘Reading Lolita in Tehran’. I’ve added it to my must-read list. Was there a book called ‘You Are What You Eat’? Someone could write a book called ‘You Are What You Read’. You have inspired me to start another reading list 🙂

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      For me, ‘Danger Music’ was an easier read than ‘Reading Lolita in Tehran’ but both, of course, show the strength provided by literature and music in difficult times. “You are what you read”…now that would be an interesting title! I wonder if that would make me a magpie? I often feel I am picking and collecting little bits from here and there. 😉

      Reply
  14. KerryCan

    My goodness, the places you’ve been and the things you’ve learned! My husband keeps a spreadsheet of books read every year and he always puts me to shame. But your reflections on the books add another, important element. I am reading fluff–right now I’m reading a brand new, wacky mystery, called Hope Never Dies, featuring Joe Biden and Barack Obama as the crime-fighting sleuths!

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      A spreadsheet of books; that is very orderly and admirable! And Hope Never Dies seems the perfect antidote to the current shenanigans of the US President.

      Reply
  15. jennyredhen

    have you read all thise books recently.? thats an excellent feat. I use my eyes all day in my work staring at a computer so at the end of the day its too hard on them to read a book

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Yes, Jennyredhen. this is my 2018 reading list. I really don’t have much time for reading but another blogger once suggested that if I read only 10 pages a night I would soon find my reading rate was quite satisfactory. And it’s true. So that’s what I do; just a few pages every night before I sleep. But if I worked on a computer all day I can imagine that I might struggle to do even those few pages.

      Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Pauline, my life would be so restricted without books. They have been my window to the world for as long as I can remember. Do you remember having a book in your school desk which you were encouraged to read if you finished your work early? I always finished my work early!

      Reply
      1. thecontentedcrafter

        Oh yes! 🙂 And it was a habit I tried to instill in my own students. I have read since before I can remember. My mother’s constant complaint was that I always had ‘my nose in a book’. I read everything I could lay my hands on and once I had a whole room as my personal library …. I don’t read quite like that any more – but yes, it is still my major way of learning and garnering information and inspiration.

        Reply
        1. Gallivanta Post author

          I am glad to hear you passed on the ‘book at the ready’ habit to your students. Hopefully it is still done in classrooms today. And how wonderful to have once had a whole room for your personal library. I am having a little day dream about that!

  16. Liz

    This is a brilliant post Mandy – so much to enjoy and savour. I have read it several times, each one revealing another nugget of gold. I love your reflection on the first line of a book mirroring your life – what are the chances. And all those travels – how marvellous. Here’s to many more journeys through the pages. 🙂 xxx

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Dear Liz, it’s rather disconcerting to read one’s life in a book but it turned out to be a very good book to read at that particular time! Joy Cowley is a wonderful writer; one of our New Zealand treasures. I am glad you found some nuggets in my post. I always find so many places to visit in your book posts. 🙂

      Reply
      1. Liz

        I’m so glad you highlighted this post Mandy, thank you. I love Letizia’s writing but somehow missed this one. Books about books – one of my favourite things to read about! Xxx

        Reply
  17. Clanmother

    Your posts are full of delicious ideas and possibilities. This is my second time around today. I have never heard about commonplace books – locus communis). To think that we have been scrapbooking for centuries gives me a since that we are all connected in our goal to acquire and preserve knowledge and wisdom. Your reading selection is marvelous. You and Liz continue to inspire me. Hugs!

    Reply
  18. cindy knoke

    Oh I want to read the cow book! Our free range cattle have funerals. I was so shocked by this the first time I saw it, that I wrote about it online, before I started blogging, asking if anyone had ever seen this. I never checked for a response. A year or so later it happened again, and lo and behold, I was shocked to discover pages and pages on online conservation about my query. There were incensed people stating that such a discussion was dangerous because it implied cows were sentient and they wouldn’t be able to continue their butchering business if people embraced this idea. But by far, the overwhelming majority were testimonies about people observing cow, horse, even duck grief, and how rewarding efforts to help the animals deal with their grief were. One of the responders I remember the most was a a young man who was in the west somewhere for education, but grew up as a Masai herdsman. He spoke about the incredible intelligence of cows, about their emotional connections with each other, and about his respect for them. I probably could still find this thread. It was 10 years ago when I posted it, right after I had moved to The Holler. Maybe there is more discussion. Now I know when a mama cow cries all night long for nights and nights on end, that a coyote has killed her calf.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Cindy, you would love this book. It would perfectly complement your own cow observations. With our mass farming methods I think we have become very disrespectful of cows and other creatures. We look at them as production units rather than individuals entitled to a full range of life. The Masai herdsman obviously understood cows very well. And just another thought, how awful that we use such expressions, as ‘stupid cow’, or ‘complete cow’; so insulting to the poor cow and the human.

      Reply
  19. restlessjo

    I’m sorry to say I haven’t read any of them. The Barbara Harper and Chantal Spitz seem the most likely choices for me from your selections. I’m even sorrier to say that these days my powers of recall when it comes to books is not great. I can read and totally immerse myself in a book and two weeks later when reading something else not bring the former to mind. It worries me somewhat. But then, I always was a vague, head in the clouds sort of person. 🙂 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Dear Jo, my powers of recall are terrible, which is why I keep these lists, or try to. My plot recall is shocking and my daughter teases me mercilessly about it. But I do recall that when I commented to you about my mother’s memory problems, you said that at 96 she has a lot to remember and keep track of. I thought that was very wise (and funny) and I am happy to apply that wisdom to my memory as well. 😀

      Reply
  20. Michele LaFollette

    Well, “self-indulgent” works, as I was very entertained by this post. First, WOW, I’d be embarrassed to share my reading list for the past 6 months. (There is a downside to spending so much time in the gym!) That first sentence in Classical Music says it all. I had a picture of you in my mind reading it and I was there to give you a hug. OH, NO on the cows. I’ve never been a vegetarian, but I’ve never really loved meat…an occasional hamburger or meaty pasta sauce is all. But, lately, I’m craving it due to the training. I remember how surprised my husband was when I started ordering steak when we went out. This happened to me once before…when I was pregnant. I will not read this book, and, horrible as it sounds, I think I’m going to try to forget that it exists. I did buy a new book at our local store yesterday and I will post about it when I’ve finished it!!!

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thank you for having a hug at the ready! I, too, enjoy a meat dish occasionally though not as much as I used to. My declining interest in meat meals has nothing to do with reading about the cows but something to do with the general flatness of flavour in meat hereabouts. Or maybe it’s the flatness of my old tastebuds! Enjoy your new book. I look forward to reading your post on it.

      Reply
  21. Steve Schwartzman

    I’ve been worried about Afghanistan for a long time. Foreign forces have temporarily kept at bay the barbarians known as the Taliban, but foreign forces can’t stay in Afghanistan forever, and it seems likely that sooner or later the Taliban will turn the country back into a fanatic, music-less religious dictatorship. Of course I wish the Afghanistan National Institute of Music well, but I don’t know if it will prevail.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      The Institute has survived so far against great odds but long term it’s hard to say. The greatest difficulties may arise when Dr. Ahmad Naser Sarmast decides it’s time to find a new Director. Will anyone else have his drive and passion?

      Reply
  22. Cynthia Reyes

    What a fun and insightful post. And a remarkable list of very different books. I have been engrossed in reading “Gaudy Night” by Dorothy Sayers. What a fascinating book!

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Ah! Dorothy Sayers! if I could find my old reading lists I am sure I would find Dorothy Sayers in one of them, and perhaps even Gaudy Night. Happy reading.

      Reply
        1. KerryCan

          May I be so bold as to say “get thee to the library”? From Wikipedia: The Daughter of Time is a 1951 detective novel by Josephine Tey, concerning a modern police officer’s investigation into the alleged crimes of King Richard III of England.

        2. Su Leslie

          I’d have to second that. I read it at school and have re-read it several times. I also like the Nicola Upson books (there are several, all featuring Josephine Tey as a character). Definitely worth reading as well-written “easy reads.”

        3. Gallivanta Post author

          I must try some more Nicola Upson but right now I am excited to have found Daughter of Time available on Gutenberg. So I will try to read it online but if my eyes tire of that I will search out a hard copy.

        4. Su Leslie

          That’s great to know it’s on Gutenberg. Every now and then I browse, but I don’t really enjoy reading on a screen, so it’s usually back to the library for me.

        5. Gallivanta Post author

          I don’t search Gutenberg much either. My daughter is always reminding me to do so. (The digital native forever at a loss over the ways of her digital-as-a-second language mother.)

        6. Gallivanta Post author

          And helping us understand Good Reads, although I still feel slightly uncomfortable with it; no idea why. But I attempted one Good Reads link in my blog to try and become more familiar with the site. 🙂

        7. Cynthia Reyes

          Y’know, I am not using it as much as I should. I wonder if people like me can only make a commitment to one platform at a time, especially if it feels like work.

        8. Gallivanta Post author

          Indeed! I am not good at multiple platforms either. And I can’t cope with more than 2 tabs open on my computer at a time. 😀

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