What I’ve been up to [May]

Reading




A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L’Engle–I’ve been working my way through this book for a few months now. L’Engle writes meditatively and beautifully about life and art and faith. It’s a bit all over the place, as her non fiction works tend to be, so it’s hard to describe–but I do know that this book gave me hope. She has a great deal of faith that the best way to live is to do our best, to live well in the small things we’re given, and to search out beauty and quiet and love. I need those reminders.

Women’s Work by Elizabeth Wayland Barber–A fascinating nonfiction look at women’s work in the ancient Mediterranean world, specifically weaving, which made up a huge chunk of that work. Barber looked at various bits of evidence to draw a picture of how weaving worked and developed over time. It was a great reminder that so much that we take for granted now used to take mind-blowing amounts of work.

The Dangers of Temptation by James Runcie–One of the Sydney Chambers mystery books. I love these books, because they’re as much about Sydney’s life as a pastor, husband, father, and friend as they are about the mysteries he solves (each book contains six short stories/mysteries). We get to see each step of working through the mystery but also Sydney’s struggles to not be overwhelmed by everything else going on in his life. They’re relaxing, even soothing, because Sydney is really wonderful to read about and I love how much they’re about everyday life.

Goldenhand by Garth Nix–OH. MY. GOODNESS. What a wonderful addition to the Sabriel series!! We finally get to return to the stories of Lirael, Nicholas, and Sameth. It was beyond satisfying to see their stories tied up a bit more (and tangled a bit more), and the characters are all real-feeling and funny, and I got so invested! (I yelled at the characters a lot, but to be fair they’re pretty sensible characters and mostly don’t need it. I just get invested!) It was so easy to slip back into this world, but also great to see entirely new parts of it and meet new characters. Seriously, read the whole series (but in order!).

A Woman of Consequence by Anna Dean–I couldn’t resist when I saw that this was a Jane Austen-style mystery–and it was as good as it sounds. Dean did a wonderful job of capturing that Austen style of speech and description, and in true Austen fashion the characters and relationships took up as much, if not more, page time and thought as did the mystery. Dido Kent, the main character, was fun and spunky but also felt period appropriate in her beliefs and actions (other than maybe solving mysteries in the first place?). So much fun!

2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson–This was another fascinating book. Robinson imagines a world a few hundred years in the future when humanity has spread through most of the solar system and is in various stages of terraforming and colonizing planets, moons, and asteroids. He imagines all this in ways I’ve never seen done before, though: people get around the solar system by hitching rides on terraformed asteroids, for instance, that are full of various combinations of earth biomes, animals, and plants. Humans have undergone various genetic and physical changes as they’ve adapted to space and adapted themselves to increase life spans. Earth has accumulated problems and poverty as the rest of humanity has escaped to the rest of the solar system. He has a very good grasp of science that makes the future he imagines seem plausible, and a beautiful, wonderful writing style. It was a brick of a book, though, with a slow, sloooow plot that took frequent detours. It worked, really, for the book as a whole, but I did lose interest in the middle and pause in my reading for a few weeks. I was glad I picked it back up and finished it, even if the ending was a bit of a let-down after all of the build-up of the mystery (the solution was unexpectedly normal). But still, it was beautiful and fascinating and different from any other sci fi I’ve read.

Watching

Not too much (yes!). I’ve been working my way through Arrow, and rewatching bits of Grey’s Anatomy and Leverage. But nothing’s been blowing me away this month.

Listening

To podcasts, of course! I’m trying not to add any new podcasts, since my playlist is a bit overwhelming right now. But I’ve been especially enjoying BBC’s Newshour, which covers worldwide news. I’ve been going through some interesting-sounding old On Being episodes too, and they have had some amazing guests. Parker Palmer has been on there so many times! 

Music-wise… Maddie & Tae and Priscilla Ahn are two of my favorite modern artists that I’ve been rediscovering. Favorite songs: Maddie & Tae’s “Girl in a Country Song” and “Fly”, (but also “Shut up and Fish”) and Priscilla Ahn’s “A Good Day (Morning Song)” and “Dream”.

Doing

The weather here has been really wonderful, with nice temperatures and a mix of rain and sun. I’ve enjoyed getting to live with the windows open and walking everywhere possible.


Look who I found on my walk to the library!

Walking almost everywhere means I get to laugh at our local Canada geese and their attitude–especially because they left me alone!



Basically, I will never tire of finding flowers in unexpected places.



My best friend in town finished her thesis this month, and so we went out to celebrate together (a few times, really). But there are just so many interesting restaurants to check out! I got a German chocolate donut covered in chocolate chips, whipped cream, chocolate mouse, and drizzled chocolate, for instance. Hers had vanilla Oreos and raspberries.

And, of course, I’ve been spending lots of time in my local library, researching sermons and writing and just having a quiet place to work and be.



Writing

I had a devotion published in the Upper Room about God as a mother, and then wrote a blog post for them about my own mother.

If you’re curious about the idea of God as a mother, check out my blog post exploring the idea a bit more. I also wrote about craving quiet and the joys of reading again.


 

As always, I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer’s What I’m Into. Go and check out what other people did this May!

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On Reading Again

Reading has been hard over the last few months. I love reading, and I missed it, but I just couldn’t find a book that either sounded interesting or kept me interested. 

The amount of TV I’ve been watching didn’t help. For me, watching TV and reading a book are two entirely different experience: a book invites you in, to imagination and experiences and emotions. TV is, for the most part, a much more passive experience: there is nothing to imagine, no connections to make. There is only what is, playing out on the screen in front of you. And I know that’s not entirely fair: TV invites us into fully imagined worlds and visceral experiences that aren’t possible in books. But I find books far more participatory and inspiring.

Over the past few weeks, I have finally begun to read again. On a day when I was being kind to myself, I went to a public library and checked out a few books that sounded interesting. I did the same a few days ago, leaving with an impossibly large stack of books. There’s no way I’ll read them all before they’re due. But I had a few books in mind, and I had a lovely conversation with two librarians who recommended several more. It all made me feel generous. I may as well! And then I went home and read until midnight because one book was just so incredibly wonderful. I could have put it down, but I didn’t have any plans for the night, and it was such a fun book: I did a lot of laughing, and a lot of moaning and whisper-screaming at the characters. I still haven’t returned it; I finished it, but I enjoyed it so much that I don’t quite want to let it go just yet. 

Trying new books has felt too risky. I’m giving up time and emotions to something that might be awful. It might have a message that I hate. It might be just mediocre. 

But right now that risk feels OK. 

What I’m Into (April 2017)

Reading

Oh, boy. It was a good reading month; I read a lot of amazing books. I finished both The Iliad and The Odyssey this month, and loved them both. The writing was beautiful, and I loved the metaphors because they gave such a glimpse into life of the time–they were full of images of herding and weaving and all these tasks we never think about today. I love those reminders that life was so different in ways that we don’t even think about, like the hours and hours and hours of work it took to weave cloth (let alone harvesting of the fiber, cleaning it, spinning it, and maybe dyeing it) or prepare food. And both books were full of very strong, human emotions and characters.

I finally read The Handmaid’s Tale. What a powerful story. It was so well-written that I had to pause from reading every ten chapters or so; the emotions were just so vivid, even overwhelming. Offred was such a poignant, self-aware, and observant narrator. It was a good (and by good I mean haunting) example of how religious legalism often isn’t about religion at all; in the official religion there was no mention of Jesus, and barely any, really, of God. I was so blown away/horrified/intrigued by it that I held on to my library copy for an extra week, because I couldn’t quite bear to give it up, and have now spent several hours discussing it with various friends. I’d love to do some more of that, if anyone’s interested; seriously, leave a comment or email me.  I’m now intrigued by the Hulu show; I don’t have any way to watch it right now, but I’ve heard really good things. Anyone else seen it?

And I’m in the middle of a few other good books that I’ll save for next month.

Listening

This month I intentionally searched out fiction-based podcasts, and I found some amazing ones.

Clarkesworld Magazine regularly posts short stories from their magazine (science fiction and fantasy). They’re always narrated beautifully, and they’re really interesting stories.

Escape Pod also posts short stories from their magazine. They’re just sci fi, but they have really cool noise effects and good narrators.

ars PARADOXICA is a time travel story (yes, please!), which unlike the others is one long story continued in episode form. So far it’s been creepy and fascinating, and I love our spunky scientist narrator.

The Bright Sessions is another longer story, told entirely through recordings made by a psychologist trying to treat multiple patients with special abilities. It has such good voice acting! The wider plot has been slow-moving so far, but the characters are interesting enough to keep me listening.

Welcome to Night Vale has such a dry sense of humor and I love it. I’m not sure why it took so long for me to start listening to this; a lot of people I really trust listen. I thought it always sounded weird, honestly, which is true, but it’s also hilarious and strange and fascinating. Although I’m not sure if it’s fiction so much as a series of shorts set in the same town?

Whew! I really got into fiction podcasts this month!

Watching

The Arrow, because I finally got on board that particular fan train. I’m really enjoying it, because the novelty of having an intelligent character who makes overall good decisions is just too good to pass up. Besides, season 2 of Supergirl isn’t on Netflix yet.

Writing

I had an article published on Off the Page, on finding God in nature.

On the blog, I wrote about my Lent disciplines this year.

I did a lot of personal writing, and a lot of writing that hasn’t been published yet. I worked on a short story that I’m super excited about. I submitted to a lot of magazines, and so it looks like it was pretty quiet on this front, but I got quite a bit done.

Doing

Lots of dogsitting! I don’t have anyone’s permission to post pictures of their dogs, so you’ll just have to take my word for it that they were all adorable and so sweet (if not always obedient).

Carnegie-Mellon has a gorgeous campus; I walked around for half an hour, taking a phone call, and otherwise spent an afternoon buried in the library getting work done.


I enjoyed the fact that the weather has been warm and the plants are starting to grow and bloom again–so much so that I have no pictures of that, either! But it’s been wonderful.

That’s it for this month!

 

I’m linking up with What I’m Into at Leigh Kramer.

My Bookshelf–well, bookshelves

Kathryn at In the Depths of Dreams had an open tag on our bookshelves, which looked like so much fun! So, here goes…

Describe your bookshelf and where you got it from

Bookshelf? HA!

In my current apartment, not including the bookshelves I still have at home, I have four bookshelves:


The real bookshelves I inherited from various people; the top left bookshelf my roommate and I made from bricks and planks, because it is both cheaper and so much easier to move than a real bookshelf is. (Although I probably do own as many books as are in these pictures, most of these bookshelves I share with my roommate)

Also, some other places that I keep books since my bookshelves are always overflowing and disorganized:


Yes, those are boxes. I didn’t even take pictures of them all! 🙂 And piles. I love keeping the books I’m reading or soon want to read on my windowsill.. As you can see, they often migrate to my bed through the day.

How do you organize your books?

That’s optimistic. I do keep school and personal books separate, but I’m pretty willing to live in chaos. I organized my personal books by author when I moved in, but as you can see I didn’t keep to that organization very long. I know where my books are; I’m happy!

What’s the thickest/largest book on your shelves?

The Bible?

What’s the thinnest book on your shelf?

Any one of my Avatar: The Last Airbender comics.

Most expensive book?

Besides textbooks, probably my copy of the complete Chronicles of Narnia.

The last book your read on your shelf?

Sabriel, by Garth Nix.

Do you have more than one copy of a book?

Currently, no!

Do you have a complete series?

Many, many, many. These are the ones I have here:


Not pictured (they’re still at home) include:

  • Sherlock Holmes
  • Harry Potter
  • Hunger Games
  • Gregor the Overlander series, also by Suzanne Collins
  • Wrinkle in Time series, by Madeleine L’Engle
  • C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy

Star Wars series:

  • Heir to the Empire trilogy
  • The Jedi Academy trilogy
  • Callisto trilogy

What’s the newest addition to your shelf?

I picked these up from a professor who was cleaning out his office. Woohoo free books!

The oldest book on your shelf??

The inside says it’s from 1837. It’s a book of devotional stories.

A book you’d hate to let out of your sight? (a.k.a. no one is ever borrowing it, ever?)

Honestly, nope.

Instead, I just decided to brag about my beautiful books:


Those two are my most beautiful books, the kind where the book’s beauty just makes reading them that much more of a joy. These are Momo and The Neverending Story by Michael Ende in the original German. Momo has the most beautiful, breathtaking illustrations I’ve ever seen, and The Neverending Story has wonderful colors and illustrations that fit so well with the story. A close second to these two is my copy of the complete Chronicles of Narnia, which has all the original color illustrations.

Most beat up book?

My 1837 devotional. Unsurprisingly.

Most pristine book?

Most of them? I try to not be too cruel to my books.

A book from your childhood?

I don’t have any of those here, and I’m pretty brutal about cleaning out books. I’m not sure I have any from before late elementary school anymore, and a lot of my early books were borrowed from an aunt who has since claimed them back.

A book that doesn’t belong to you?

I actually don’t have any right now! However, my copy of I, Jedi by Michael Stackpole is currently with a friend.

A book that is your favorite color?

My favorite color changes with the day and mood, so probably all of them.

Any signed books?

Only Biblical commentaries. #seminaryproblems

 

Thanks for joining me! Now it’s your turn. Consider yourself tagged, if you’d like to give a bookshelf tour. Or let me know below-favorite books on your shelf?

Reflections on Reading, Lately

I used to be an absolutely voracious reader–in some ways I still am, when I give myself the chance, but I often don’t. Readings for school are overwhelming and draining, and sometimes take away all desire to read anything. Reading gives me ideas for my own writing, in a bad, all-consuming kind of way; reading changes my whole writing style if I allowed myself to become completely absorbed in the writing and style and world.

And that is my favorite way to read. I want to enter into another world, totally and completely. I want to enter into a world that inspires, that forces me to think and ponder and look for God in unexpected places. And in some ways that’s the root of why I haven’t read much lately: I have high expectations, and I’m afraid that those expectations won’t be met when I pick up a book I’ve never read before. I don’t want to waste my time on something that isn’t good.

I’m not entirely sure when the shift happened, when I realized that this was an utterly asinine reason to stop reading. But I’ve been reading, these past three weeks, and it’s been beautiful.

The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis This has always been one of my favorite Narnia novels–it’s just so clearly applicable to real life, day-in and day-out, unlike some of the more epic, battle-filled novels. I read this all in one day when I went home, where I have my nice copy of Narnia, which includes all the original illustrations. It was the first time in a long time that I’ve allowed myself to sink into a novel, utterly be absorbed by what’s happening and the world that’s being painted.

The Girl on the Road by Monica Byrne I picked this out of the library, based on the fact that it was a sci-fi book written by a woman and set in Africa. It’s intriguing: it’s set in the near-future, when the center of culture has moved to Africa and Asia and global warming is an acknowledged fact. The world-building is amazing. I still haven’t finished it; rather, I’ve been slowly savoring (by which I mean reading before I go to bed, forcing myself to put it down when I’ve read an hour longer than I meant to).

The Preaching Life by Barbara Brown Taylor Yes, it’s about preaching, but it’s also about the Christian life, and it’s beautifully written. Taylor writes vividly, full of Christian hope and joy but also achingly ????. I finished the first half, various essays on her own Christian life, all in one sitting, when I walked to the park last weekend. It was like drinking when I was dying of thirst; even when I felt full of insights and emotions and words, I couldn’t put it down. I’ve been using the second half, a collection of sermons, as part of my devotional practice this week.

Nameless book I read most of it while I was home and of course didn’t take note of the title, because I had no intention of writing this post at the time. It was a collection of short essays about established writers’ first experience of reading–not necessarily reading individual words so much as their first realization that reading is magical, reading is something that can show you whole new worlds. It was a great one to read as I was getting back into reading myself.

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver It’s heartbreaking and beautifully written and I’ve been reading it every chance I get.