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Posts Tagged ‘fiction’

That’s not what we usually see, is it? More often we find articles about engendering the love of reading in kids.

So I was pretty impressed to find in the September 2017 issue of Family Circle an article about the importance of reading for pleasure. I assume that many of you reading this blog, as writers, are already immersed in a regular reading habit, but this short article with “how-to” tips addresses how we, as women, are pulled in so many directions that we often let reading slide. And it’s true; an inordinate involvement with our phones, TV, internet – not to mention the real-life issues of our families and work – can leave us feeling we have no time to read.

But a Yale linguistics professor, Kenneth Pugh, mentions the importance of reading for pleasure as highly important for our emotional health as well as strengthening our creativity. Tips on how to get back into reading include never leaving home without a book; literally penciling in time in our daily schedule for reading; swapping a chunk of our TV addiction for reading time; keeping a book on our nightstand, etc.

For anyone not sure of how to get back into reading, the article suggested as number one – your local librarian. Librarians are a fantastic source of knowledge of the books on their shelves and with a few questions, can have you in a book you love in no time. A good local bookseller can do the same. In addition, they recommended the New York Times Best Seller list, Goodreads.com, or 2017 Popsugar Reading Challenge. What I loved most about seeing this article is that Family Circle is a magazine with a huge circulation of about 17, 560 readers that reaches a very mainstream audience.

Reading – and reading for pleasure – is important. I find myself concerned about all these moms glued to their phones. What kind of inspiration is that for their children? I’m hoping that a family-oriented magazine like this one will inspire more than a few women to reconsider their habits and pick up a book – for themselves, and also to read to their kids.

 

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There are just periods when one cannot find the time – or brain – to post. Really, I’m kind of still in one of those, but I guess I had to share my love of books – and this amazing haul – with you book lovers out there. Today was day #1 of the annual Hunterdon County Library Book Sale. And below is what I brought home, limited¬†only by the fact that I literally could not carry any more. (Though the library folks said they’d be happy to help me get more to my car. ūüôā

This year, I went with a list – some MG/YA (since I continue to write children’s books, I always want to read the good stuff out there): a goodly bunch of fiction titles; and a selection from a list my friend had recently sent me from Buzzfeed entitled¬†37 Books with Plot Twists that Will Blow Your Mind. Hey, that sounded promising, so I perused the list, eliminated those I’d already read, and added those of interest to my library sale list. Now I was ready to go!

Amazingly, I actually found 6 from my list – The Westing Game – Ellen Raskin and Savvy – Ingrid Law (both MG/YA);¬†The Thirteenth Tale – Diane Setterfield; Fingersmith – Sarah Waters; and The Queen of the Night – Alexander Chee from the “plot twist” list. While I couldn’t find others from the Buzzfeed group, I did find alternative books by a couple of the authors, so picked upThe City of Falling Angels – John Berendt, in place of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and The Infinite Plan – Isabel Allende, in place of The House of the Spirits – a chance to check out new authors.

And then there were these that I just happened upon – The Silent Boy by Lois Lowry because The Giver and Gathering Blue were excellent; Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver because she’s one of my favorite authors; I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak because The Book Thief is one of my favorite all-time books and I promised myself I’d read something else of his and try not to compare; Forever – Pete Hamill because I love the premise and he’s an excellent writer; Morality for Beautiful Girls – Alexander McCall Smith as I love his #1 Ladies Detective Agency series; The Perks of Being A Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky (MG) – just wanted to read it; ¬†same for¬†Evermore – Alyson Noel (YA) and Ape House by Sara Gruen.

And then, The Art of Racing in the Rain – ¬†Garth Stein, recommended highly to me years ago by my dearest friend, since passed over; Pushing the Bear – A Novel of the Trail of Tears – Diane Glancy, because I know this will touch me deeply; and Louise Penny’s Still Life in excellent condition, a wee gift to my own town’s small local library for their shelves (I had to borrow the copy I’d read from the county library). And there you have it.

The two big questions: where will I put them all? and what will I read first after I finish the wonderful book I’m already reading? The first is a minor problem but solvable; the second – just a delicious conundrum. I wish you all happy reading – it is truly one of the riches in our lives.

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We all know that reading has incalculable benefits of every kind. And although it seemed so obvious when I read an article about fiction readers having more empathy, it never had occurred to me that way.

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It makes perfect sense that as we read about the experiences and feelings of others, putting ourselves into their shoes, we consider these things¬†from an entirely different perspective. But now science is bearing out that¬†each time we’ve opened a book of fiction we have been learning to understand and empathize with others in real life from when we first began to read.

Scientists have determined these results through studying the effects of reading on the brain through MRIs, polls, surveys and experiments. And when the book is more challenging, it helps us become smarter as well as more empathetic.

An example comes to mind. Some time ago I read Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris. Hannibal Lecter was a monster with no conscience and terrified many a reader of this novel. Later on I picked up the “prequel”, if you will, of this book, Red Dragon. What truly blew my mind about this book is that Harris, in describing the cruel childhood of Hannibal Lecter, actually made me feel understanding and empathy towards him. No small feat, but a comment on the power of the well-written word to do just what science is now proving – reading fiction engenders¬†empathy towards others, even in as extreme a case as this one, and this was a character of fiction. The implications of how this translates to the real world are immense.

So all you readers and writers of fiction – forge on. You are making the world a better place.

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If you had asked me 5 or 6¬†years¬†ago if I liked historical fiction, my answer would have been “Meh.”

Sadly, I was effectively turned off to all things history as a child, when my first learning experiences labeled “History” were nothing more than an endless dry and boring series of names, dates, places and events to be absorbed and later regurgitated on tests. In retrospect, our teachers had to cover 7 or 8 different subjects daily, so what were chances that any of them would be a real history buff and would teach us history with great enthusiasm and insight? Apparently, pretty slim.

KiteRunner-KHosseiniIt wasn’t until college when I had an exceptional professor who taught Contemporary Civilization in the context of art, (I was at an art school), and for the first time someone teaching history had neurons in my brain firing rapidly. History suddenly came alive! Unfortunately, at that point,¬†I had very little mental framework in my brain to hang it on. But I started to take an interest in the subject.

What really kicked my interest into high gear has happened in more recent years when I would come across a novel set in a particular place and time period, so rich and textured, that I wanted to learn more. One of those books was The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, and it sent me flying to the internet to learn about the Afghani people and what was transpiring in Afghanistan during the time this novel took place. I cannot recall the country of Afghanistan mentioned once in history or geography in my childhood education, but now, here was a piece of fascinating history.

ShanghaiGirle-LSee2The two novels that recently afforded me that desire to delve into¬†history were those¬†by author Lisa See, Shanghai Girls and Dreams of Joy.The first novel begins¬†when Shanghai was known as the Paris of Asia, and sisters May and Pearl were ¬†“beautiful girls”, models. With¬†their father having lost all their money, the sisters,¬†with¬†their mother,¬†must flee Shanghai as the Japanese invade China. The sisters were¬†forced to¬†emigrate to the United States¬†in arranged marriages. From their interment on Angel’s Island to creating lives for themselves and their families in Los Angeles’ Chinatown, we follow the complex relationship of Pearl and May and Pearl’s daughter, Joy.

In Dreams of Joy, Joy, now in college and angry at her family’s deception and distraught over one family¬†member’s suicide, secretly¬†runs away to China to find her true father. Her studies have convinced her¬†that Communism is the best of all systems, and she is determined to start her own life, although ¬†DreamsOfJoy-LSee2she is soon to be profoundly discouraged and isolated. Pearl leaves the states to search for her daughter, encountering endless roadblocks¬†along the way. The backdrop of much of the novel is the time under¬†Chairman Mao and The Great Leap Forward, a time of alleged progress in which a famine took the lives of¬†millions of Chinese people. (From Wikipedia – “The Great Leap ended in catastrophe, resulting in tens of millions of deaths,¬†estimated from 18 million to 32.5¬†or 45 million.¬†Historian Frank Dikotter asserts that “coercion, terror, and systematic violence were the foundation of the Great Leap Forward” and it “motivated one of the most deadly mass killings of human history”.)

Lisa See writes about family and relationships and this alone would have held my attention, but told against the backdrop of both China and the United States in times of political change and turmoil of every kind, I searched to know more. My knowledge of history is still spotty, but through the pages of beautifully written historical novels, I continue to learn. It seems history stands at my back door, always with a hand raised, always ready to knock.

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Did that get your attention? If you, (and your kids), love to read, don’t miss the upcoming Hunterdon County Library¬†Annual Book Sale!

It’s coming up this month on Saturday and Sunday April 20th and 21st at the National Guard Armory on Rt. 12 in Flemington. Check the library’s web site for location, directions and complete details.

Saturday, hardbound books are generally $2.00, paperbacks $1.00, and on Sunday, they’re half that. The main armory houses fiction, children’s books and YA, and the secondary building houses non-fiction. And it’s free as is the jitney transport back and forth from the county complex to the armory when their lot is full. Hard to beat if you love books. It is anticipated that there will be approximately 120,000 books for sale.

I understand that this event draws people from quite a distance, so even if you’re not “local,” come on down and take advantage of the wonder of books for what is truly a pittance.

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Here’s what I’ve found … I really do like reading a balance of fiction and non-fiction. I usually am reading one novel, be it adult, MG or YA, and also one non-fiction book (generally) of a metaphysical nature.

Recently, after finishing my last novel, I started reading Dying to Be Me by Anita Moorjani. I have been slowly working my way through Wayne Dyer’s Wishes Fulfilled a second time because it is so spot on, but I ¬†found I miss the thrill … the immersion in ¬†a story that I can’t put down. I want a book that nurtures my heart and soul as well as one that calls upon my mind and emotions and takes me places I’ve never been.

So I am going to Paris with the vampire Pandora by Anne Rice, a selection I’d made at The county library’s annual book sale. If you’ve never read Anne Rice, you will find her riveting. I read Interview with a Vampire, The Mummy and several others, but I loved the New Orleans Mayfair witches trilogy the best – The Witching Hour, Lasher and Taltos. They remain on my bookshelf as worth keeping and reading again. I’m looking forward to sitting with Pandora in a Paris caf√© where she recounts her history; she was once a highborn woman in Augustan Rome who later named herself after the Pandora of mythology and in time, came to pursue Lestat.

Balance restored. How about you? Are you a one-book-at-a-time reader or do you multi-read, too?

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