Books Everyone Should Read

The greenhouse at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond, Virginia
The greenhouse at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond, Virginia

So. . . is there a difference between recommending books that I think everyone should read and my favorite books?  I would say yes.  There are books that I think have tremendous value to shape our lives and influence our thoughts, but they are not necessarily favorites of mine.  Many of these are favorites, but some are books that I think are worth reading even if I’d prefer to not read them again.  So here is yesterday’s list from 30 Days of Lists:

  1. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin – my very favorite book.  I liked how Gretchen improved the happiness with her life (without spending a lot of money to do lavish things) and how honest she was about what did and did not work for her.  I tried a number of things myself after reading her book and kept the ones that worked.
  2. The Creativity Book by Eric Maisel.  This was my first exposure to the idea that everyone is creative, no matter what we do in life.  Seriously, even accountants can be creative, although that’s easier to believe in the last ten years after all the fraud scandals!  The book has daily exercises to improve your creativity.  It’s not about writing, photography, or anything we would normally consider to be “creative”.  It’s about living right where we are and being creative in that space.
  3. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand.  It’s a hard book to read and has major sections that you get through only by rapidly skimming it.  Still, the lessons are incredible.  The two big eye openers for me was that I have to work for what I want and not expect anyone to give it to me (from when Dagney Taggert met John Galt in the valley) and that arrangements between spouses are nobody else’s business.  I thought that was incredibly insightful of Ms. Rand to acknowledge that there is value in women staying home and not “making money” and that such arrangements were between them and their husbands.  This served me well years later when I encouraged my favorite boy toy to quit his day job and pursue his art.  As far as I was concerned, it was no one’s business what the arrangement was between us.
  4. Gone, Baby, Gone by Dennis Lehane.  I actually quit reading Dennis Lehane’s books for a long time after reading this book.  [SPOILER ALERT] The book has a powerful lesson in it though, that we can do what is right legally and morally, but the end result devastates everyone and was a mistake to do.  I still struggle to reconcile that to my faith in God, yet I’ve seen it happen.  There are times when a judgment call needs to be made and things done because it is the right outcome, not because it’s the right law.
  5. Walden by Henry David Thoreau.  I’m amazed at the people who slam this book even though they’ve not actually read it.  It’s not an easy read and Thoreau is self-righteous and condescending in many places.  But whether you agree with what he writes or not, it’s thought provoking and will cause readers to examine their lives and beliefs.  If after that you don’t agree with him, at least know why you think and act the way you do.  For example, one of the things that Thoreau comments on is the need to live simpler lives.  My favorite boy toy and I clearly do not do that.  But I’m comfortable with that and that our lives are richer for not stripping down to absolute basics.  For more of my thoughts on that, see my blog post on why I don’t travel lightly.
  6. Laura Ingalls Wilder – all of her books.  Although the books are an idealized fictional account of her growing up, it gives an easy-to-read insight into growing up in frontier America, what families did to feed and provide for themselves, and how families interacted with each other and their neighbors.
  7. James Herriott – his first four books (All Creatures Great and Small; All Things Bright and Beautiful; All Things Wise and Wonderful; and The Lord God Made Them All).  These books are also a fictional account, but here it’s of a small town vet, loosely based on Herriott’s life.  However, there are a lot of life lessons in here, from dealing with difficult people and patients, paying attention to what he was doing, and being diligent even when things went wrong.
  8. Tolstoy and The Purple Chair by Nina Sankovitch.  After the death of her sister, Nina spent a year reading a book a day and blogging about it.  This book is more than moving on from grieving or even about reading.  To quote the book review that I did here, it is also about celebrating the life we each have to live.
Rose from the botanical gardens
Rose from the botanical gardens

I didn’t list The Holy Bible here.  I went back and forth on that.  Clearly it has value and everyone should read it for themselves, preferably the whole thing too.  But to me, the Bible is just a starting point.  Actually executing on it is difficult and takes a lifetime of figuring out what to do and how to do it.

I could add so many more books!  But this was what came to mind when I did the list, for the reasons that I’ve listed.

I’m interested in hearing what you – my wonderful and faithful readers – would add as a book (or books) that you recommend everyone should read.  Of if you’ve read one of these, what you thought of it and did it change your life?


Books are a uniquely portable magic.

Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

I can never read all the books I want;
I can never be all the people I want and live all the lives I want.
I can never train myself in all the skills I want.
And why do I want? I want to live and
feel all the shades, tones and variations of
mental and physical experience possible in life.
And I am horribly limited.
Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath


Weekly Photo Challenge: Adventure

View of the Smoky Mountains in Asheville, North Carolina
View of the Smoky Mountains in Asheville, North Carolina

The first picture I took in Asheville this summer was the view out the back of my hotel. It was Hour 1 of vacation, the first one I’d ever taken without my favorite boy toy (or sister). I was reluctant to do it, even though my boy toy encouraged me to have some time to myself.  It was just weird going without him, spending that much money, and being on my own for a vacation.  For me, this represents this week’s photo challenge of adventure.

I wrote this in my journal:

Driving down to Asheville, my emotions were all over about doing this.  But as I sit here on Wednesday, in an Adirondack chair overlooking the Smoky Mountains, I’m glad I did this.  I’m glad I came to the mountains instead of the beach.  Glad I’ve been able to hike, walk around, and take the shuttle from place to place.  Glad for the cool mountain air and low humidity and the greenery as far as I can see.

It’s been good to see and do different things, to walk and take pictures.  Good to get away from work and home into a different albeit very luxurious setting.  I’m glad to have done a shorter visit and have a such a great place to stay.  It’s been really worth it to have a nicer place, nicer food, and better safety.

I am enjoying this and being here by myself.  I’m glad I did it even with how much I disliked doing the drive to be here.

And the mountains.  Oh the mountains are great.  I’m glad I paid extra for a room that faces them.  To see them with everything I do here.

It was fun!  I took a lot of pictures, ate all kinds of delicious food, spent a lot of time outside, and was satisfied each night when I went bed.  I even took a trip into downtown Asheville to visit a local bookstore (during a rainy morning).  I did dislike the drive back and forth more than I expected, but it was worth the effort.

# # #

Today’s 30 Days of Lists topic is “every night before I go to bed”.  The list was pretty long, mostly due to the dogs.  But the short version is:

  1. Put the dogs out one last time
  2. Gate them into the kitchen
  3. Set the alarm and go upstairs (we’ve had several home invasions in our neighborhood, so we now use an alarm on the house)
  4. Brush my teeth
  5. Get in bed
  6. Turn out the light
  7. Read my iPad for a while
  8. Go to sleep!

Mmm, mmm, love that iPad for reading!


Light Summer Reading Recommendations

I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately.  It’s one of my very favorite things to do and summer is a great time for kicking back and getting lost in a book.

One of my fellow bloggers, Louise Behiel, recently published a great little romance called “Family Ties“.  If you get a chance, check out her blog.  She’s been doing a series on different types of personalities and while she meant it as an outgrowth of her job as a counseling psychologist, I’ve found it useful for understanding the people in my life.  Others have found it a great guide for developing characters in their fiction.

The book itself is not a run-of-the-mill romance.  Yes, there is some sex but it’s not the focal point of the story and it didn’t happen until well into the story either.  The story revolves around new neighbors getting to know each other, supporting each other, and falling in love as they solve the problems in each of their lives.  It was a gradual process of developing affection and love, much more like normal life than books often portray.

I’m also enjoying the Nell Sweeney books by P.B. Ryan.  The first one is available right now for no charge, but I enjoyed it so much, I bought all the other ones too.  They’re reasonably priced and the author does a good job of maintaining the tension between Nell Sweeney’s past that she conceals and her falling in love with her employer’s son (which does finally resolve in the last book of the series).

The story is set in Boston at the end of the Civil War.  Nell is Irish and encounters a great deal of discrimination for it, even though she is a governess for a wealthy and established family.  Her story is fascinating, from the obstacles she has overcome in her life to fitting into her new life and her ability to solve crimes.

[Note to my daughter – you can stop reading now and go do something else.  Go.  Go on.  Bye bye.]

[You too Mom.  Go.  Now.]

If you want some steamy reading, Lora Leigh’s “Nauti Boys” series will make you need a fan and something cold to drink.  The plots are much better than I expected.  The sex is a bit improbable, but I enjoyed it anyhow :)

So that’s some ideas if you have some free time.  If you’re more into non-fiction, here’s some reviews I did earlier this year for some other great reads:

Tolstoy and The Purple Chair by Nina Sankovitch

The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure

And for heavier summer reads, there’s always Walden by Henry David Thoreau or Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand.  They’re both great books, but it will take most of the summer to read them through.

Have fun!

Of course, woman doesn’t live by books alone, although I’d love to try it.  She still needs fresh air and exercise.  What better way to do both than with a trip to Colonial Williamsburg, exploring the gardens and stalking pictures with her favorite camera!  This is so great to only be an hour drive away from such a neat place.

Path in Colonial Williamsburg. It’s so much fun to go exploring!

Love Never Expires

In her sister’s obituary, Christine Grote wrote:

Annie never walked, she never spoke, and she never worked.  She filled our lives with smiles, and radiated light and love every day of her life.

Christine is a fellow blogger who recently published a memoir of life with her sister, Annie.  Annie was born severely brain damaged and lived 51 years, dying from cancer.

Her memoir, Dancing in Heaven, recounts the importance of Annie in their daily lives.  While Annie couldn’t talk or write, she communicated with them nonetheless.  Annie looked forward to time with her father, the antics of her siblings, and the love of her mother.

Christine tells one childhood story where she and her older sister, Carol, came running in the house to tell their mother about finding a baby bird.  Annie started laughing, spitting food all over their mother.  In another story, her father sat in the sand at the beach, with Annie between his legs so she could feel the surf as it rolled in.  Christine also shared a picture of this, and Annie loved it.

Annie’s parents kept her home for her entire life.  Her father build her special chairs to sit in, so that her head didn’t roll to the side.  They took her everywhere with them, from vacations to visiting family.  They tried school for a while, but the school system would not work with Annie’s needs and they finally withdrew her.

Christine writes in detail about Annie’s last days, of the frustrations of getting her diagnosed, then working with hospice so Annie could die at home.  For anyone who is coping with a dying family member (or friend), Christine gives good insight into what happens and the need to be vigilant in obtaining care.

Christine is candid about her childhood disappointments in Annie’s needs being met before hers, realizing as an adult that if she had been the one with brain damage instead of Annie, they would have taken care of her the same way.

I would encourage you to visit Christine’s blog, Random Thoughts From Midlife.  Christine is currently documenting coping with her father’s worsening Alzheimer’s.  She also shared her path to self-publishing, which is of great interest to anyone thinking of publishing in this way.

Christine’s love for her sister will never expire.  Her memoir is a lovely tribute to the life of this dear family member.

My picture today is me with my father, riding around on the miniature tractor owned by his younger brother.  Look at those big smiles!

© 2011 dogear6 llc

Word for tomorrow – WELCOMING.  If you prefer to work ahead, see the list for the week under “A Word A Day”.

Loose Thoughts

I have no particular topic for today, so thought I’d just throw out some loose thoughts.
  • I love doggy daycare.  It’s the best way to wear out the dogs and ensure a few days of somewhat more obedient dogs.  They love it too – they know that if I’m up before dark, they’re going out.  The daycare runs a doggy van out to a nearby apartment to pick up and drop off the dogs.  It doesn’t get any more convenient than that.
  • I can’t wait for this weekend.  I have things to get done, but I need some time off from the stress of working on tax returns.
  • I’m currently reading Tolstoy and The Purple Chair by Nina Sankovitch.  When her sister died, Nina grieved deeply and couldn’t get on with her life.  After several years, she decided to read a book a day for a year to reflect, heal, find enjoyment in her life and move on from grieving.  I’m very much enjoying it so far.  She is introspective and articulately shares her reflections on death, grief, and living life.
  • The peaches are so good this time of the year.  I eat them every day if we have them in the house.
  • I don’t think I’ll have another vegetable garden next year.  The peppers have lots of flowers, but no peppers.  The tomatoes are ripening nicely but either the squirrels eat them or they are rotted on the end.  We are eating very few.  The squash is still doing good though.  I’ve never done a flower garden, but I might try one next year.
  • I love Greek yogurt, especially Fage 2%.  It’s so rich and creamy.  I add a little granola, some fruit, a little honey and yum!
  • The passion flower around our mailbox is finally starting to bloom, nearly a month late probably due to the extreme heat this summer.
© 2011 dogear6 llc

Word for tomorrow – FAIR.  If you prefer to work ahead, see the list for the week under “A Word A Day”.