Sweet Tennessee!

Sweet Tennessee!

October 14, 2011

Three Books on My Must-Read and Reread Sometime.. List

When i first 'invented' this blog, my main aim was to write about books.  Books that i've read and loved.  Books that i've read and disliked for one reason or another.  Or books that i haven't yet read, but want to read 'someday'.  Got off the track there quite a bit, and have talked about many things, but only two of my posts.. or thereabouts.. have been about books.  Fiction or non-fiction.  I still plan to write about many things.  Whatever happens to be on my mind on a particular day.  Trust me, my imagination is 'crazy'.  In a good way... so i think about lots of things other than books!  Good or bad.  But on this particular overcast, rather dreary Friday early evening, my thoughts return to... books.  LOL  I remember when Friday evenings were for thoughts of other things.  Going out, for instance.  What i would wear.  Where my friends and i would spend our (very late) nights out.  Not anymore.  Don't get me wrong.  I'm not a 'total' stick-in-the-mud 'all the time.'  But at my older, though not old :) age, i've become quite laid back.  I enjoy staying in more often with S and relaxing.  Just reading, talking with him, and maybe watching an old film.  Anyway.  There i go again.  Getting off the subject at hand.  Books!

There are three that i've recently read.. all of them for a second time.. that i want to highly recommend to you all.  By that, i mean that reading these books was not only enjoyable, but profoundly thought provoking.  Perhaps i'm at a stage in my life when i'm looking for more in a book than entertainment?  Though they're entertaining in their own way, all are about a journey of some kind.  Physical, emotional, philosophical.  The excellent writing in all of them is a sheer pleasure to read.  You'll travel to the far reaches of the world by way of beautiful words and images.  I'm not listing them order of favorites.  Just as i think of them..

The first one is 'Angle of Repose' by Pulitzer Prize winning author Wallace Stegner.  Where do i begin?  In absolutely magnificent prose, Stegner creates characters who are uniquely American in character..(sounds odd, i know, but it's true,)  and follows them as they make a life on the Western Frontier.  Four generations of a family with the fictional historian Lyman Ward telling his grandparents' story.  And what a story!  You will get lost in their lives and the vast American West.  It may make you want to experience moving West yourself, or maybe want to take a long vacation out here if you've never been.  I read this book for the first time when i was twenty three.  Loved it then, but it has much more meaning for me now.  I moved to Oregon with S sixteen years ago this month.  Didn't appreciate the West back then.  I was too homesick for Maine.  Maine is a wonderful place, but the world is so much bigger than that.  And the American West is especially huge and sometimes overwhelming.  I've grown to love it 'out here', and now know that we did the right thing making our own journey West.  Perhaps i should have reread 'Angle of Repose' fifteen or sixteen years ago.  It may have cured my homesickness sooner..  :)  But as it is, i read it again three weeks ago.  Long, lovely passages about the difficulty of life on the early Frontier.  Certainly much harder then than in '95 when we moved here.  Stegner's writing will make you appreciate nature.. all of it.. even the not-so-nice things no matter where in the US you live!  When i was done reading, i had a good, cleansing cry.  Not from sadness; from happiness.  Made me appreciate the world and everyone and everything in it that i know and love.  Read it!  You won't be sorry.  :)

'The Snow Leopard' by Peter Mathiessen.  Another profoundly magnificent book.  Non-fiction.  Not many non-fiction books i enjoy, let alone enjoy this immensely.  Magical.  Reading it is like going on one's own pilgrimage.  It's about a journey to Nepal in a quest to see (possibly) a Snow Leopard.  It was 1973 when Mathiessen traveled there with the biologist George Schaller.  You may recognize Schaller's name if you're a fan of National Geographic!  Highly.. (can't say how highly) recommend this book.  It truly will change the way you see the world.  Sounds corny, but i'm right.  I know i am.  And when i'm right.  I'm right.  :D  Schaller's and Mathiessen's journey was life testing because of the difficulty of the region and climate.  It's a book about the wonder of nature and the need for humans to respect it.  I won't say if they actually see the elusive Leopard.  No spoilers here.  I'd love for you to enjoy the beautiful, yet difficult journey of these two,  fairly young at the time, men.

One of my favorite passages from 'The Snow Leopard' i want to share..  'Disputing the path is a great copper-colored grasshopper, gleaming like amber in the sun; so large is it, and so magical its shimmer, that i wonder if this grasshopper is not some old naljorpa, advanced in the art of taking other forms.  But before such a 'perfected one' can reveal himself, the grasshopper springs carelessly over the precipice, to start a new life hundreds of feet below.  I choose to take this as a sign that i must entrust myself to life, and thanking the grasshopper, I step out smartly on my way.'............ Gorgeous writing.  :)

And the third book i recommend is titled 'Far Afield' by Susanna Kaysen.  She is better known for her autobiographical novel 'Girl Interrupted.'  I, however; have never read that one.  Before i read 'Far Afield', which is fiction, by the way, i'd never heard of the Faroe Islands, where the story takes place.  Cold, out in the middle of nowhere.  A cluster of islands.. 'belonging' to Denmark.. in the North Atlantic.. situated between Denmark and Iceland.  Jonathan Brand is an Anthropology student who has decided to do his graduate fieldwork in this remote place.  :)  It's a novel about an emotional journey as well as a distant one.  There's a lot of humor in this book.  Found myself laughing fall-out-of-my-chair style often.  Talk about a different culture.  The customs. The humans themselves.  I found myself wanting to persuade S to take a vacation there (in the summertime of course,) the first chance we get!  A little chilly, but light almost 24 hours a day if we go there during the 'right' time of year honey!  Think i'll wait until after Christmas to mention it to him.  :)  Anyhow, after quite a few misunderstandings and mishaps, Mr. Brand falls in love with the Faroes and their people!  Kind of like the way i fell in love with Oregon.. after a long and rather torturous courtship!  :)  If i had to compare the book to a similar television show; i'd choose Northern Exposure.  I think this book came first though, but i'm not entirely sure.  Anyway, you'll especially appreciate the episodes in the book, (not the TV show,) when the locals try to set the anthropology student up with some local women.  It's time for Jonathan Brand to find a wife!  And the food the Faroese eat!  Quite a foodie myself, but not sure i'd dare.  All around a profound read about what makes a culture and civilzation told in excellent writing with much humor.

So there it is.  And i've been too long winded as usual!  Three books that you 'should' read.  Quite enriching.  All three.  This post has taken me a looooooong time!  Guess i'll end it all for this Friday the Fourteenth of October, Two Thousand Eleven... M.. for Many More Must-Read Books!