Thursday, September 30, 2010

Book Lovers Unite!

We're heading into the good 'ol Canadian winter months --- if I'm interpreting the frenetic squirrel behaviour around my place correctly, there may even be an early arrival of the white stuff.

I can hear the groaning.

Well of course it's not coming from those types --  the ones who automatically conjure images of downhill skiing, snowboarding or ice-hockey.  Those 'fist-pumping, high-fiver's' who actually (Ugh!) celebrate five month long, record snowfall winters.... y'know?  The ones who don't necessarily HAVE to drive to work everyday in the slush and worry about salt damage or the endless refill of their windshield wiper fluid or (Ugh! again) forgetting to use the antifreeze kind.
Yeah.  Not those types.
But hear ye now all groaners.  I have a plan, now that I'm older and proverbially wiser than those types.
I'm going to adjust and reconfigure the use of cold winter evenings.

Oh, I still might be prevailed upon to make ONE snowman or shucks, maybe even a snow-angel or two in the backyard if the wee peeps in my life hanker for it.  Consider THAT a done deal!  
As I will ensure the wood pile in the garage is high and dry for those toasty evenings around an open hearth and I will surely go ahead and roast wieners & marshmellows there too.
I might even ask my cautious hubby for permission.
Maybe not.
And I am DEFINITELY going to 'squirrel' away a good stock of reading material which at long last, leads me to the point of this blog post:
I'm going to recommend some books that have come highly recommended to me by fellow book lovers.
Books that have made definitive, lasting impressions on me.  
The wonder(ful) kind of books that I try and collect in hard cover for my personal library - 
so we can grow old together.
But there is a story behind this first recommendation.  Of course there is.  
It is only appropriate that a good book should inspire spin-off stories is it not?  
Hit the link above for the story line but remember, 
it'll be a spoiler for those who prefer to have a rousing story unfold by itself.
I took The Book Thief  to southern Germany this past June where I spent THE most undisturbed (aka quiet) two and a half weeks of my adult life at an alternative therapy cancer clinic with Momsie.  
It was all a tad surreal - reading a book about Nazi Germany while IN Germany (in the very territory described in the book!)  surrounded by so many wonderful German people....
...with the flight path of the nearby Luftwaffe  directly overhead the Leonardis Klinik - watching the fighter jets practise their thrilling drills --
Not the old relics shown above and below.   The incredible (Mach 1 type) fighter jets that flew over my head could be heard mere seconds before being seen and quicker than my shutter speed, disappeared as tiny dots on the horizon with only the terrifying speed of sound to betray their passing.  
I was utterly fascinated and equally frustrated in not being able to capture their image.
And if that was not enough to induce goosebumps (which incidentally, it did) - it turns out our Cook for the duration of our stay at Leonardis was none other than the archeologist Ludwig Hauber listed in this article:

At 88, retired Air Force Lt. Col. Stanton Rickey needed no help climbing aboard a World War II bomber Friday to commemorate a reunion with history.
It was the two Germans with him, however, who held the links to his past.
Rickey and his European guests were brought together for this occasion after the Germans recovered pieces of the B-17 Flying Fortress that Rickey was flying when he was shot down during a raid over southern Germany on July 18, 1944.....

It's a good thing Mom and I were two of very few people staying at the clinic since Ludwig would regularly emerge from the kitchen to wile away the hours with his passion for WWII history.  And not a wonder he felt encouraged to do so --- I could only stare in wide-eyed wonder at the way actual history and historical fiction was colliding for me that week.  Added to the curious details of that experience was having Victor (our mad-cab driver) serve as personal historian about the American involvement in the war --- in the respectable English he had learned from the influx of Americans living at the army base in his hometown of Bad Heilbrunn, an army base only recently dismantled.  
Seriously, I felt like I was 'living' inside the book by the end of that journey.
Oh! the places you will go (thanks Dr. Suess) when you read.  
Next in line:

 The Ladies No. 1 Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith.
The twelfth in the series is due to hit the market in March 2011.
And don't even THINK about reading them out of sequence.  
This gem of a book, incredulously discarded at a local thrift store was happily re-discovered by a good friend and foisted upon me a few months ago.
Here's just one of many glowing appraisals:
"Delightful....It is hard not to be seduced and intrigued by this delightful series. 
I wouldn't even try to resist."
Indeed not.
 I am presently on a glorious breakaway from routine and somehow -without fail! - found myself, AGAIN with hubby in a specialty bookstore.  A familiar knowing glance steered me immediately off to the Used Book Section first.  I stood stock still in front of SIX hard cover first editions.  SIX of the twelve in hard cover for SIX bucks apiece.  My beloved sidled over with two things:
a kleenex to catch the drooling
and two strong arms to carry the load to the cashier.
I feel so --- understood.
Mo Willems is another must read author especially if you have kids 
anywhere in your periphery.  The same thrift store 'finder of gold' introduced me to these books last year and I wouldn't be much friend to anyone else if I didn't pay it forward.
Willems illustrates his own books in a manner that leaves you breathless from laughter.

 He also happens to be of Dutch descent and in his Knuffle Bunny series writes about a family trip to Holland to visit Opa & Oma.

Completely irresistible whether you are 5 or 50 --
that's all I have to say.
So there you have it, all my fellow 'winter's coming' whiners.
The beauty of a great book is the chance to travel the world and/or live vicariously from the comfort of your recliner.
So, if you don't like reading in front of a blazing hearth with a favoured choice of libation and company?
Go visit your doctor and find out what's wrong with you
OR hey,
....Go skiing instead.
Steer clear of the trees and if you break a leg?  I'll be down with my bag of books and have you up running and going places in no time.

p.s.  Looking back over a fairly long and extensive history of book reading/collecting/devouring,
I'd have to conclude that my all time favourite are the writings of Jan Karon.
(see link below)
Her work is nothing short of heart-stopping hilarious and divinely edifying at the same time.
Don't even get me started on these books.
I cannot recommend them more heartily.  Google her.
Gobble the hundreds of excellent reviews.
But by all means, do yourself a great favour and discover this for yourself!
The Mitford Series by Jan Karon

C'mon baby, light my fire!
.... I might do some knitting too.

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