MY LFE WITH BOB by Pamela Paul: A Review

This 2017 publication represents my favorite genre, Books about Books. Bob is not tall, dark and handsome; in fact, Bob is not even a man. BOB stands for Book of Books, a “bound record of everything [the author] has read or didn’t quite finish since the summer of 1988, my junior year of high school.” Each chapter revolves around the title of a book that coordinates with a period n the author’s life.  I once read a book that revolved around fashions, which declared that women might forget names and dates of certain events n their lives, but they will always remember what they were wearing. This author catalogs periods and events in her life by what she was reading at the time.

The introduction states, “Bob offers immediate access to where I’ve been psychologically and geographically at any given moment in my life… Each entry conjures a memory that might otherwise have gotten lost or blurred with time.” The first book remembered is  Brave New World, read in high school, and continues from there. Books place the author in Paris, Thailand, and many places around the world, and the reader is given a glimpse of the author’s life through her reactions to the books she reads.

For me, this was a fun read that satisfied my inner book-nerd and allowed me to enjoy a memoir at its most creative form.  I give this one five stars our of five stars.

BOOKS ABOUT BOOKS CHALLENGE 2019 and previously read Books about Books

I took on an informal, personal challenge inspired by a Random House list and a post by Deb Nance of Readerbuzz to read as many books about books as I could during 2019. Here is a list of what I read:

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks.  I listened to this one by audio book and enjoyed it immensely. The narration was exceptionally well done.

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett was a non-fiction account of a criminal who stole first editions and antique books and the detective who finally arrested him. It was a fascinating look into the criminal mind and the obsessive mind of the detective who never gave up.

The Little Paris Bookstore by Nina George, a novel by Nina George was one of my favorites. I mean, books, Paris, a book-doctor who could “prescribe” a book for what ails you–what’s not to love ? I read this prior to 2019, but enjoyed it so much I had to mention it in this post.

I digested the Jane Austin Book club in movie form and was a delighted by the romantic and klutzy hero.

Prior to 2019 I enjoyed The Fault Is in Our Stars and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, both selections from our Third Tuesday Book Club.

The End of Your Life Book Club by Schwalbe was a non-fiction/memoir centered around books that I enjoyed enough to recommend to the book club. They enjoyed it too.

A few years back, a student recommended Marcus Zusak’s The Book Thief. I rarely read a book a second time, but I re-read it in 2019 after seeing the movie, and I nominate it as a “Best Read of a Lifetime.”

The Library Book by Susan Orlean was another I read (as soon as it came out) and recommended to my book club. Another book club I frequently sit in on also read it, and the verdict was unanimous, best non-fiction of 2019!

The Bookshop on the Corner by Jerry Colgan was an audio book I listened to in 2019. It was a attention-keeping endeavor I enjoyed greatly. Often when I listen to an audio book, my mind wanders, not with this one, I cared a great deal about the characters and wanted to know what happened to them.

Prior to 2019, I read 84 Charring Cross Road by Helene Hoff, a classic, epistolary that speaks to bibliophiles everywhere.

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon was part of my Alphabet Soup Challenge of 2019, and was an intriguing read.

Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine brought me to a new-to-me author and back to fantasy after a long hiatus from this genre.

Parnassus on Wheels and The Haunted Bookshop by Christoper Moorely were classics I read and listened to (in backwards order) in 2019. Although I read Haunted Bookstore first, then listened to the characters’ back story afterwards, it was a wonderful reading experience overall.

Recently I finished and placed in my Little Free Library both Life with Bob by Pamela Paul (Bob stands for Book of Books) and Goodnight June, a speculative novel by Sarah Io (an author I had never read but expect to seek out in 2020), based on the children’s classic Goodnight Moon.

All of these books are reviewed on PWR, so type ones you are interested in into the search bar at the top of the post and start reading some Books about Books in 2020!

 

BOOKS ABOUT BOOKS CHALLENGE CONTINUED

Recently I read and reviewed The Haunted Bookstore by Christopher Morely, a classic from WWII days. It led me to the audiobook of Morely’s previous book, Parnassus on Wheels. Parnassius tells the story of Roger Mifflin, bookstore owner extraordinaire, before his bookstore days and how he met and courted Mrs. Mifflin. Like a tinker of those days, Mifflin traveled from town to town, selling used books instead of pots and pans, his gaudy cart pulled by a decrepit old nag, Pegasus. [His] “delight in books and authors is infectious.”

When he visits a local author and “gentleman farmer,” he finds the author off gathering material for his latest book and the author’s sister capably running the farm in his absence. Parnassus is the story of HER adventure.  She is a delightful recently-turned “feminist”–from the perspective of the early 1900s. She buys Parnassus on Wheels and travels (unescorted) with Mifflin as her passenger and guide, and the rest is a hilarious narrative that brings together the two perfectly matched individuals whom we meet as a couple in The Haunted Bookstore.

I seldom use the word “quaint” when I describe a book, but this lovely pair, Parnassus on Wheels and The Haunted Bookstore are just that–and a darned fine read!

ANOTHER BOOK ABOUT BOOKS: A Review

Recently I read another “book about books,” Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine, book two of “The Great Library Series.” Originally written for young adults and in the “steampunk” tradition, the book appeals to young and older readers alike. It is an Alternate History, where the great library of Alexandria survived, instead of burning, and by the time of this novel, it is all-powerful and in complete control of all knowledge. Personal ownership of books is forbidden although people have access through tablet-like devices to the words and world of books. This situation makes black-market books, especially old ones, very big business.

The story opens as Jess, a young bookrunner, is being chased by Library Gardas and automatons across the busy marketplace. With the help of his twin brother, Brendan, who is described as “a schemer,” Jess escapes. Shortly afterward, the boys’ father sends Jess into “Library Service” to spy on its activities and to determine the location of ancient books, so Brendan can steal them to further the family’s illegal business. Jess’s training is rigorous, and he ends up making friends with other candidates who compete against him. Exciting book-related and library-related adventures ensue, and one turns the pages with anxiety and even dread at times. Action-fueled scenes bring the fatal “Greek Fire” of the alchemists, an encounter with an inklicker, and many encounters with bookburners The Library is seeking to prosecute.

Jess and his friends are well-drawn, and the author makes the reader care about what happens to each of them, even the ones who at the beginning are arrogant or worse. Characterization, a skill I seek in every book I read, is second only to the fast-paced, breath-holding pace of the action and plot. This is a fun read and promises much in the next book of “The Great Library Series.”

FRIDAY FIRSTLINERS

First Line Fridays was begun by Ms. B at Daily Rhythms and has been kept alive by several bloggers who carry on the tradition of recording the first line of a book they are ready to read.  Here’s mine from Rachel Caine’s Ink and Bone of The Great Library series:

“Ephemera”

“Text of a historical letter, the original signed of which is kept under glass in The Great Library of Alexandria and listed under the Core Collection.

From the scribe of Pharoah Ptolemy 77 to his most excellent servant, Callimachus, Archivist of The Great Library in the third year of his glorious reign… Pharoah has also heard your words regarding the unaccompanied admission of females to this sacred space (The Great Library) of the Serapeam, and in his divine wisdom refuses this argument, for women must be instructed by the more developed minds of men to ensure they do not wrongly interpret the riches that the library offers. For a perversion of such things is surely worse than the lack of it.”

Oh my, exclusion of women even back then! This is one of several books I am reading within the category of Books About Books. More on this at a later date.

KEEP READING, and share with us your first lines this beautiful, sunny Friday.

ANOTHER BOOK ABOUT BOOKS

Continuing to read my”Books about Books” list inspired by Random House, I warily approached The Library Book by Susan Orlean. Knowing only that it was non-fiction, and was about the 1986 fire at the Los Angeles Public Library, all I could think of was all those books going up in smoke. Since I was attempting to read more non-fiction in 2019 anyway, I ordered The Library Book from my local library. The red, very “plain” book cover told me it was a “…riveting mix of true crime, history, biography, and immersion journalism.” (Booklist)

Orlean, the “immersed journalist” of the book’s cover was touted as a writer for the New Yorker and other magazines. The statistics on the book jacket confirmed my original fear that it was an awful, awful occurrence–400,000 books totally destroyed and 700,000 more damaged.  Each chapter was headed up with copies of one or more old-fashioned card-catalog cards, each relevant to something within the chapter. The story immediately introduces the reader to Harry Peak, a part-time actor. His looks, his movements, and his thoughts immediately engage the reader’s curiosity. Library Book does include a brief history of libraries, but this information was never boring and often fascinated me with details the author must have enjoyed unearthing. Orlean takes the reader along on her interviews, her speculations then discoveries, and her frustrations in researching and writing the book, which was one of my favorite parts of reading the book.

The investigation, the court snafus, the intricacy of the actual event that took place on April 28, 1986, supplies fascinating reading to book-a-holics and library fans like me.

BOOKS FOR LIVING by Will Schwalbe: A Review (Subtitled “Some Thoughts on Reading, Reflecting, and Embracing Life”)

After reading and enjoying Schwalbe’s book, The End of Your Life Book Club, I jumped at the chance to download this 2016 publications and discovered my new favorite genre of book–books about books. These are varied musings and thoughts about books that made an impact on the author’s life. Also, Schwalbe adds relevant connections of often-read books to modern-day life . The chapters are arranged by book titles which are the jumping-off-place for the author’s essays. He deals with all kinds of books, from E.B. White’s classic children’s book, Stuart Little, to the recent bestseller, Girl on a Train; from Victorian classic, Dickens’ David Copperfield, to the the YA novel (and movie), Wonder. Each essay is thought-provoking and relevant to the reader’s own reading life.

My favorite essay was about a book I’d never heard of before, Yutang Lin’s 1937 book, The Importance of Living. Lin, a contemporary and friend of Pearl S. Buck (The Good Earth), writes his advice and philosophy of living a “good life.” Schwalbe quotes from Lin’s chapter, “Slowing Down” which “spoke to” and fascinated me. I have always considered myself a “driven” person, a person compelled to take action, to “do something” about things and life in general. Lin’s advice is to consider life in a more meditative, calmer way, taking charge by observing, contemplating, and experiencing life, not being a slave to it pressures and stress.

The book guided me into thinking things I would never have considered before and made me think more carefully about what books I have read, am reading, and want to read, and their influence on the way I live my life.

Sunday (Evening) Post

Instead of going through what I’ve finished, what I’m continuing to read, and what I’ve begun, I want to give a summary of the January challenge I gave myself– to read six books before February first in an attempt to get a few books off my TBR list/shelf.

Here are the six books that led to a successful meeting of the challenge:

  1. The Whole Cat and Caboodle, a cozy mystery by Sofie Ryan that was due back at the local library. It is the first in Ryan’s “Second Chance” series featuring Sarah Grayson, who owns a second-hand shop (Named Second Chance) in a small town.  I chose the book because of the cat on the cover. (Of course there is a cat, this is a cozy mystery!) Sarah hangs out with her grandmother’s friends (Think The Golden Girls…) and one is found with her current beaux (of dubious reputation), his head lying on her shoulder, “deadder” then the proverbial doornail. Is her Grandma’s friend guilty of murder?  That’s what these funny, endearing “girls” are determined to find out.  Sarah’s reaction is not to get involved, but she can’t help herself, and she meets two prospective love interests (to be further developed as the series progresses) as she becomes entangled in the mystery.  The book is a fun “escape read” and provided just what I needed as I geared up for a new semester.
  2. Running Out of Space by S.J. Higbee, a sci fi thriller, adventure-story for YA and for those of us older readers who still feel like young adults. This book was reviewed Saturday on https://powerfulwomenreaders.wordpress.com
  3. The Beekeeper’s Daughter by Santa Montefiore, also a library loan (chose it because the title “sounded familiar” and it was large print.)  It will be reviewed on PWR soon.
  4. Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance, a book club “assignment” recently reviewed here on PWR.
  5. Morningstar, A book about Growing Up with Books by Ann Head, which will be reviewed soon on PWR. I chose it because of one of Deb Nance’s Readerbuzz posts featuring “Books about Books.”
  6. Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love and Life in the Stacks, written by librarian, Annie Spence, which contains hilarious and sometimes pensive letters and break-up notes to various books in her reading life as she culls them from the library shelves. Kirkus Review writes, “…begs to be read with a pencil in hand.” So true! It writes, “Spence will make you think of old favorites in a new way.” Warning: This clever, slim little book will expand your TBR list!

There it is–my successful completion of the January attempt to return books checked out over the holidays to the library, read the selection for two book clubs (They both chose Hillbilly Elegy.), and start in on TBR’s I already own. PWR readers may see an overlap of books because I took on “The Alphabet Challenge” another blogger was continuing shortly after I began my own January-Six-Book challenge, and read accordingly.  More on that challenge in another post.