Ruth Ozeki’s The Book of Form and Emptiness was a real challenge to read.
To begin with, the narrator of this novel is a Book. Yes, you read that right, a book; a story, the story of Benny Oh, a young boy who hears the voice of the Book, his story. His mother Annabelle, is never the same after the death of Benny’s father, who is killed in a grotesque accident–meaningless and bizarre. In the novel she becomes a recluse and a hoarder. Benny takes “refuge [from his strange life] in the silence of a large public library.”He meets a homeless, wheelchair-bound philosopher and poet and a mesmerizing young woman, both classified as imaginary friends by the psychiatrist who takes on Benny’s case, but who turn out to be real people he met at the library. (Even the reader comes to doubt Benny for one awful moment–I did.)
There is a run in with CPS, incarceration in a mental hospital for Benny, and a job loss for Annabelle. All of these semi-unrelated events come together in an implausible but satisfying ending. The novel is at times humorous, and at times heartbreaking . Above all, the book is difficult to read, and I am still trying to decide whether sticking with it was worth the huge effort.
First Line Fridays, hosted by Reading Is My Superpower asks participants to copy the first line or two of a book they want to read, are reading, or have read in order to tempt someone into reading the book also. Here are the first couple of lines from…
As the subtitle states, “A Bookshop Keeps Many Secrets.” Indeed, this is a book filled with secrets, and the unveiling and solving of them provides many twists and turns for the reader as the author tweaks the formula of the stand-offish, girl who works in the bookshop. This girl, Loveday Cardew mostly sorts and seeks book “finds” from the boxes of donated or purchased books for the bookshop she works at. The tattoos of the first lines of books which decorate her body brands her as a girl with secrets in her past. Into this murky background comes Nathan, poet and gentleman. Foiled against Rob, the discarded, surly previous lover, who seems bent on revenge, Nathan is every girl’s dream-come-true.
Three suspicious boxes are delivered for Loveday to sort through, which slam her back into her foster care past and the horrible act which alienated her from her mother. Secrets abound, are revealed, and misinterpreted, swirling around Loveday until the action-packed, hold-your-breath conclusion.
Here are the first lines:
“A book is a match in the smoking second between strike and flame.
Archie says books are our best lovers and our most provoking friends. He’s right, but I’m right too. Books can really hurt you.”
I read this 2020 publication on my Kindle, and I know I would have found more comfort and joy in reading it were I to have read it in a good, old-fashioned, print volume.
Another Book about Books, one goal of my “read-more-of’s” for 2021 has been called ” a love letter to stories and reading.” (Nina Subbe) There are endless recommendations of books the author read and loved. As she describes her journey from bookseller to author, Ms. “R” comments, “Reading has saved my life, again and again, and has held my hand through every difficult time…” Part memoir, part advertisement for the joys of reading, the book presents a “funny and joyous exploration of how books can change the course of your life.” My Advanced Writing class wrote their Essay #2 on a Cassandra Claire quote that warned them that “Books are dangerous…because they can change your life.” The author, here, preaches the same message, illustrating how books shaped her early years, chose her career path, and brought about her destiny. Dear Reader is a “celebration of the written word.” It is “a life told by and through books.” My TBR list expanded by several British authors and many “must reads” titles. What a fine reading experience for anyone who loves books!
If a book is about books or reading, it hits my TBR pile or folder. Reading in Bed’s cover grabbed me immediately, as did its title–something I do frequently.
Georgia, recently widowed, and Dido have been best friends for years. The novel opens with the two women returning from a book convention/fair/retreat. As they separate and return to their homes in different towns, each re-evaluates their everyday, “normal” life apart from the literary world they have just left. Georgia is lonely, odd-friend-out at all gatherings, struggling with her relationship with her daughter; and Dido finds “evidence” that her husband of so many years may be having an affair. Through all the details of their lives, their connection with each other remains sturdy and strong.
Georgia has a side-plot, an eccentric, elderly cousin of her late husband”goes completely off the rails,” and it is up to Georgia to step in and “do something.”Dido also has a side-plot, the marriage and family life of her children and grandchildren, and shockingly, the true story behind the “assumed” affair of her husband. There are enough twists and turns in the plot to titillate the most demanding reader. Both women find themselves “…turning to a well-loved book or a true friend” to get through the situation.
As one critic cited, Reading is “an insightful, witty book about life, friendship, and love.” I loved the book and everything about it, making it a darned good read!
This 2019 publication is an “unforgettable story about a sleepy southern town, two fiercely independent women, and a truly magical friendship.” When I saw this “teaser,” I definitely wanted to read the book. Anything that is about the magic of books is right up my alley.
Sarah Dove is the librarian of Dove Pond, North Carolina’s public library, a member of the town’s founding family, The Doves, and the “charmer” mentioned in the title. Dove Pond “has seen better days,” in fact, is dying, and Sarah is looking for someone to save it. The books, who have “spoken” to her since childhood, tell her that savior has arrived.
Enter Grace Wheeler, a “displaced city girl.” Is she the savior that Dove Pond so desperately needs? Can Grace rescue Dove Pond? Does she even want to? Known to some as “The Dragon Lady,” Grace moves into town with her foster mother, “Mama G” and her niece, Daisy in tow, on the same block as Sarah, and right next door to Trav, an unlikely love interest. With this mix and the town’s resentment of Grace as city manager, fireworks are bound to happen!
This lovely, nostalgic memoir/reading list is written by a “born and unrepentant bookworm.” A book for all readers who love books and all things “bookish,” Bookworm deals with both British and American authors. It describes books Mangan loved from ages one to three when she was still being read to (Most were UK authors and unfamiliar to this American reviewer.) and books from the time she learned to read, to her choices during her “coming of age period,” both physically and intellectually, as a reader.
The books mentioned range from Barbar the Elephant (She did not like it.) to Bette Greene’s Summer of My German Soldier. (She describes herself, as a discriminating reader, thinking this one was “dense, beautiful, astonishing.”)
One of the best “to the reader” asides of the book, and there are many delightful ones, comes near the end where Mangan gives advice to parents of bookworms: “We are rare and we are weird…there is nothing you can do to change us…Really, don’t try. We are so happy, in our own way…Be glad of all the benefits it will bring, rather than lamenting all the fresh air avoided, the friendships not made, the exercise not taken, the body of rewarding and potentially lucrative activities, hobbies, and skills not developed. Leave us be. We’re fine. More than fine. Reading’s our thing.”
This was a most enjoyable Book about Books, a continuation of a challenge left from 2019. It was a gift from Deb Nance of Readerbuzz.
Although my main emphasis for 2020 is to complete Dollycas’s 2020 Alphabet Soup Challenge, author edition, to read 20 books in 2020 recommended by fellow bloggers, and to clear my TBR shelves to a manageable number of books (which I have already done), I still continue 2019’s goals of reading more non-fiction as well as Books about Books.
The Book I completed tonight is Charles Lovett’s The Bookman’s Tale, which is described by the cover as A Novel of Obsession. An old-fashioned romance, book-themed mystery, and dramatic who-done-it, aka Agatha-Christie-style, ending, this novel was a fun read. At a little over 300 pages, it alternated chapters between Peter, the protagonist, as a young man; Peter as a bereaved widow; and bookbinders, booksellers, and book forgers who were contemporaries of Shakespeare. Throw in the protagonist with a new love interest trapped in an underground tunnel (that connects two enemies’ manor houses) and arriving the end to be met with a self-confessed murderer aiming a pistol at them, and the reader is on his way to a bang up ending. (Sorry, I couldn’t restrain myself!)
Lovett wrote this book in 2013, but it appeals to readers of all sexes and all ages who enjoy books, bookstores, booksellers, and revelations from those who are obsessed with the authorship and collecting of books. It is an excellent read.
Join in with those of us bloggers who participate in First Line Fridays by copying the first line or two of what you are currently reading. Get responses from readers as to whether they’d be “hooked” by those lines.
Today’s Friday First Liner is from Charlie Lovett’s The Bookman’s Tale, yet another of my Books about Books reads:
“Wales could be cold in February. Even without snow or wind the damp winter air permeated Peter’s topcoat and settled in his bones as he stood outside one of the dozens of bookshops that crowded the narrow streets of Hay.” BRRRRRR. Read on and find a warm story of a true bibliophile.
Tuesday Teaser is hosted by The Purple Booker and asks participants to copy a sentence or two from where they are currently reading in hopes of teasing other readers to read the same book.
My teaser today is from one of my Books about Books challenge, Charlie Lovett’s The Bookman’s Tale.
“In a box in the dusty back room of a local antique shop, Peter discovered an early edition of George McDonald’s fantasy novel, At the Back of the North Wind. The book was illustrated by the Pre-Raphaelite follower, Arthur Hughes…This would be the first book Peter would give Amanda…a perfect candidate for rebinding.”
I am following Peter, an introverted book collector and binder who meets the love of his life, Amanda, only to lose her later in the book. There is mystery, romance, and bibliophilic devotion involved in this 2013 novel.
I read a large number of books about books, bookstores, libraries, librarians, and everything “bookish” last year. It was a fun indulgence and one that I really enjoyed. Recently, at our local library, I spotted a book with a “body-builder” guy lifting a huge load of books titled, The World’s Strongest Librarian. Looking closer, I read the subtitle,”A Memoir of Tourette’s, Faith, Strength, and Family.” Josh Hanagarre, the book’s author tells his fascinating tale of how he became a librarian, manages his Tourette’s, has a fairly “normal” life with a wife and family, and is a champion weight lifter and expert at strengthening exercises.
After I had read the first few chapters which described a happy, uneventful boyhood in a family-centered, Mormon home in Utah, I began to read of his devotion to his Mormon faith and thought, “Uh-oh, here comes a lot of Mormon propaganda.” I almost put down the book, but I’m so glad I didn’t. Told honestly and sometimes brutally, Hanagarre describes his onset of Tourette’s and his loss of faith. (No, he doesn’t miraculously get it back and everything ends happily ever after–another interesting turn of his story.) His acceptance of his disability and his control (to a degree) of it through excruciating exercises and weight lifting provides a tale of courage, perseverance, and determination.
Although the anecdotes about peculiar happenings and patrons of a big city library are expected, Josh’s handling of both proves he is “not your average librarian.” The book is humorous, touching, introspective, and interesting the entire way through. I am going to count this memoir as my non-fiction read for February (The Church of Small Things being my January non-fiction read.) I had originally hoped to read 12 non-fiction books in 2020 (the same number I aimed for and exceeded in 2019), but now I am aiming for one non-fiction book per month.
Have you read any non-fiction lately I would enjoy? Please let me know in the reply section below.