thoughts on books: to kill a mockingbird

From the first time I read it at about age 10, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee has been one of my favorite books and I have given it a 5/5. What makes this book special to me is getting to know Scout and the relationship between Scout and Atticus. It’s like visiting an old friend. Yet, this book has come under criticism now because of how it deals with racism. I’m of mixed feelings about some of the criticism. It would be interesting to reread it now after the recent focus on systemic racism and view it from a different perspective.

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thoughts on books: the master and margarita

Great book! I’m not sure how I first heard about this book, but I seem to be drawn to the Faustian story of selling one’s soul to the devil – not sure what that implies about me. I also enjoy Russian literature – there is something very rich in best of Russian novels. When I read Mikhael Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita in 2014, it was the second story about Stalinist Russia I had read within a couple of months (Animal Farm was the first), so I was primed. While The Master and Margarita is a novel, it is based on the experiences of the author and represents a commentary on the oppression experienced by creative people in 1930s Moscow.

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thoughts on books: war & peace

Yep, I went there. What can one say about War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy? The scope and length of the book was enormous – my version was spread across three books! I have to give this one a 5/5.

The characters were interesting and multidimensional … and numerous … and had two or three names of the following flavors: full formal name, shorter formal name, traditional nickname or individualized nickname. As with Russian novels, making sure you can follow the character names is important! In addition to the epic story about Russia in the early 1800s and their dealings with the French, each of the main characters also undertook a journey – many of which were as gripping as that broad international struggle.

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thoughts on books: slaughterhouse-five

Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five was one of those books that I put off reading – maybe the title scared me off. When I finally read it in 2014, I ended up rating it 5/5.

I really loved this book – it’s fascinating to see Billy Pilgrim’s life story unfold as a series of vignettes at several points in time. The time-travel element contributes to the sense of both coping with the reality of everyday life and processing the horrifying memories of war – in this case the destruction of Dresden in WWII. It took Vonnegut years to get this book together and the only way that he could tell his story was through this character and this method of storytelling. It’s a book that is, on one hand, an absurd and fantastic journey, and on the other hand, is painfully poetic memoir.

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thoughts on books: the grapes of wrath

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck was another reread for me – I read it as a teenager and then again at age 49. I enjoyed it as much this time as when I read it 30+ years ago and was just as indignant at the policies, practices and behaviors of those who held the money. And I ached for the families who had to pack up and leave their homes and who met cruelty and heartbreak as they tried to resettle. It’s such a beautiful book with a fundamental message of decency, published in 1939.

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thoughts on books: 1984

The first time I read 1984, I was in high school. It stayed with me. The idea that people would follow someone like Big Brother – too much to process. The notion that facts and memories could be “replaced” with alternate versions. The audacity of erasing the past. The use of doublethink and Newspeak to make the opposite seem correct and to diminish language and thought. Relentless surveillance. Turning family, friends, neighbors and coworkers against each other. Of course, when George Orwell published the book in 1949, these points may not have been so hard to imagine. I didn’t experienced World War II and rise of fascist or authoritarian governments during that period. Yet, the presence of dictators in countries around the world and the rise of similar disturbing political movements and conspiracy theories in recent years have made me think of this book so many times. For anyone who believes that a book published more than 70 years ago cannot speak to us today, read this book. When I reread it in 2013, I rated the book 5/5 stars.

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thoughts on books series

I love to read and about seven years ago, I took on the challenge of reading rereading some “classic” books. I made it through quite a few before my mother came to live with me. Once she arrived, I had less time for reading and little bandwidth to think about the high-concept reading. Rather than reading serious books, I either focused on light-weight books or on puzzles and games. I thought I was starting pivot back to books a couple of years ago but didn’t make the transition. So, I’m trying again.

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what happened to that book you were writing?


Last year, when I took my 6-month break (that became a 12-month break), I had planned to work on a book. I would write a little story and my mother, who has done arts and crafts all her life, would work on the illustrations. This lovely little book would be shared with family and friends. The book should have been done by now … but it’s not. What happened? Continue reading

counting the changes and making trade-offs

hourglass-1425727_1280This post will be something sort of a stream of consciousness, as this is how I am processing change these days.

Accepting change is not always easy. There are trade-offs, so even if we are moving toward something great … or at least better … the loss of what we know is a bit unsettling. What if my new gig doesn’t work out? What if I don’t like it? What if I didn’t think through all the ramifications of change?

In the past, changes in my life usually were initiated by me – I decided when to move or when to change jobs or how to spend my time. As I’ve gotten older, there have been significant changes and, more often than not, I’m on the receiving end of change. This seems counter-intuitive – I should be more in control, not less, right? (more…)