Throwing the List Out the Window!


I feel like my recent reading choices have been dictated by supernatural forces. There are books on my night stand that I planned to have read by now, but I am being pulled in other directions as if by an invisible string. 

Two examples:

The first book that “cut” to the front of the line came from this new column in the Sunday New York Times Book Review called By the Book. By the Book is a weekly short interview with a well known person focused entirely on what they are reading, what they plan to read, books that influenced them. Last week’s interview was with Colin Powell who (surprisingly) would like to have lunch with J.K. Rowling. Not surprisingly, one of Powell’s favorite books is The Armed Forces Officer by Brigadier S.L.A. Marshall.  I’d be overjoyed to have lunch with J.K. Rowling, but that’s where Powell and I part ways. I have no interest in reading The Armed Forces Officer.

I digress. Another recent By the Book subject was Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love. As a child, Gilbert loved the Wizard of Oz series. “I think Dorothy,” she says, “may be the only little Midwestern girl you could ever put in the same archetypal category as Odysseus or Siddhartha. She was absolutely totemic for me.”  I love that Gilbert put a “little Midwestern girl” in the same sentence as Odysseus.

Gilbert was also asked what she’s been reading recently. Her answer was a book I’ve had on my shelf for about four years with every intention of reading: A Three Dog Life by Abigail Thomas. Gilbert describes it as “stunning.” Now that I’ve read it, I agree. I’m not sure I’d recommend A Three Dog Life for the beach bag – it’s not a “light” read. A series of essays Thomas wrote after her husband’s traumatic brain injury, A Three Dog Life is wise and inspiring. It is a memoir you will want to hold on to long after you read it.

After reading Thomas’s book, I planned to return to the official summer plan, but that was not to be…looking through Oprah magazine’s summer reading section, in a note about the magazine’s contributors, the writer Aimee Bender is asked “which book reminds you of summer?” Bender’s answer was Tove Jansson’s The Summer Book. “It’s pure loveliness – a subtle chronicle of sand, tides, boats crabs, and all-around island living.”

The Summer Book!  I’ve had this book on my shelf for an embarrassing number of years and always tell myself I’ll read it during the summer. The creator of the hippopotamus-like characters, the Moomins, Tove Jansson was a Finnish writer and illustrator. The Summer Book takes place over a summer (of course) on an island on the Gulf of Finland. It’s about a six-year-old girl, Sophie, and her grandmother. The novel is told in a series of short chapters and it’s about everything – life, death, nature, bugs. As Philip Pullman said about The Summer Book, “this is a marvelous, beautiful, wise novel, which is also very funny.”

I really am going back to my planned summer reading, but wait….what’s that review on the kitchen table?


3 thoughts on “Throwing the List Out the Window!

  1. You quote Bender as saying “It’s pure loveliness – a subtle chronicle of sand, tides, boats crabs, and all-around island living.”

    I find Bender’s comment very amusing indeed. Having spent all my life’s summers on a Baltic island and having read the Summer Book several times, I must point out that in the Baltic (and in the book), there are neither crabs nor tides. Sand, yes, to some extent but the island featured in the Summer Book is, just like my island, just a rock.
    But there is no denying the book is very good!

    • Thanks for your comment. Having never been anywhere near the world of The Summer Book, I took Bender’s word on the crabs and tides!
      But…I was glad to get the view from someone who spent their summers in what sounds like a beautiful corner of the world.

  2. Hi Shelley,
    Thanks again for your great blog.

    As usual, my free-association comments that I got while reading your blog:
    Speaking of Elizabeth Gilbert, was I the only person on earth to hate Eat, Pray, Love for its insidious egocentricity? But, here is a brilliant – and should I say, genius talk of hers from TED I saw sometime ago. I think this could help some of your young writer’s to find their voice:

    Hope your summer is fabulous. I’ll keep reading you online, but I’ll miss you in person!

    Note my non-Inly email and keep in touch. xo

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