Category Archives: Uncategorized

‘Brené on Comparative Suffering, the 50/50 Myth, and Settling the Ball’

So this is a podcast, not a book, but listening to this was so hugely helpful for coping during the pandemic, that I felt compelled to share it. It’s worth 25 minutes of your time. She identifies tools and strategies for use when experiencing exhaustion and difficult emotions. Sound familiar?

From Brené: “We have collectively hit weary. This is especially true for the brave folks on the front lines of this pandemic and for the people who love and support them. And, it’s also true for all of us. In this episode, I talk about strategies for falling apart, staying connected and kind, and giving ourselves permission to feel hard things.”

On your favourite podcast app, subscribe to Unlocking Us by Brené Brown, and go to the episode for March 27 entitled: “Brené on Comparative Suffering, the 50/50 Myth, and Settling the Ball.” Subscribing to podcasts is free.

Bookish Ideas for the Homebound!

As many of us are homebound for awhile and public services are closed, I thought I would pass on some ideas and open up some dialogue around bookish ways to stay reading and active! Here are some ideas I came up with. Have you thought of other ways to enjoy books during this season that you could share in the comments? Happy reading everyone!

  1. Public Library Apps for Ebooks and Audio Books
    With public libraries shut down, if you have a tablet or smart phone, you can download Libby or Overdrive to access ebooks and audio books. All that’s needed is the app on your device and your library card number. It’s a tremendous resource that can keep you reading and listening indefinitely!
  2. New Book Order
    Why not treat the whole family to a brand new shiny book each from Amazon or Indigo. Check with your local independent bookstore as well, because they may have closed for the time being, but would still appreciate your business, and be able to deliver. Often they will have a phone number to call if you have questions about selections. Placing a book order can be a nice family activity and the anticipation of the arrival of the order can feel so hopeful!
  3. Bookshelf Work and Pleasure
    If you feel like reading, pull down one of those books that you bought but never got around to reading–they have been patiently waiting for you! If you feel like a project, go through your collection and do some weeding. Make some room for the new books you just ordered! If there are board games on the bottom shelf, get them out, dust them off and play them, although you may want to pass on Pandemic and Taboo for now (too soon) and stick to Sorry, Scrabble, or Sequence.
  4. Coffee Table Books and Travel Books
    Have a look at those giant books with gorgeous pictures and some writing that you were given as a gift or picked up on a trip but haven’t looked at in ages. Put them back on the coffee table! Page through the Travel books and fondly remember your vacations to those locations.
  5. Reading Aloud
    Peruse your shelf for books that are delightful to read out loud like Picture Books, Children’s chapter books, or series, or anything really, and take turns reading to each other or to the whole family.
  6. Cookbooks
    If you have a bunch of these and haven’t used them to discover new recipes lately, here is your chance. Pick one new recipe from each book you own, and if you can’t find any recipes that excite you in a book, put that one on the weeding pile too!
  7. Crossword Puzzle Books
    Grocery stores and pharmacies (which will still be open) have magazine racks that include puzzle books, and if you don’t enjoy crosswords, there are ‘variety’ versions that have NO crosswords and lots of other puzzles like crypto-quizzes, anacrostics, word searches, etc. It’s a great way to keep your brain exercised while taking a break from a screen!
  8. Scrapbooking
    Do you have boxes of old photos just waiting to be sorted and sifted through? Are there treasures hiding there that deserve to be selected and featured? There are online services that will make a scrapbook for you if you send them an envelope full of photos, or ‘do-it-yourself’ by accessing any of the online photo book apps. You can have hours of fun working on a project with your family, or by yourself, while creating keepsakes for the future!
  9. Craft Books, Knitting Books, Construction Books, Home Decorating Books, Sketching Books, Art Books, Sewing Books, Home Tidying and Organising Books, etc.
    Maybe it’s time to finish those crafty projects you once started or begin new ones while listening to an audio book as you work!
  10. Random or Planned “Reading Hour”
    Whether you randomly ring a bell or plan for a particular hour of the day, why not have everyone drop what they are doing and read uninterrupted for an hour. It might even end up going a bit longer…:)
  11. Write a Book
    Well, maybe not a book, but certainly a paragraph, or a short story, or an illustrated children’s book–throw out an interesting story starter like these, and when finished, share your creations by reading them aloud:
    -What if you could be a household appliance? What would you want to be?
    -What if you could spend twenty-four hours with anyone in the world?
    -What if you could begin one new tradition in your family?
    -Would you rather wear uncomfortable shoes or a hat that’s too tight?
    -Would you rather live a life of luxury or be known for your generosity?
  12. Dictionary Game
    Do you have a dictionary on that bookshelf?  Have one member of the family be the leader and find a word that they don’t know in the dictionary. Have them write the definition on a piece of paper. Have the other players write the word (spell it for them) on a piece of paper, and have them each come up with their own definition for it. The leader then collects all of the papers, mixes them with the real definition, and reads them out in random order. Players choose which definition they think is the correct one, and the leader keeps track of who chose which definition by putting the person’s initials on that piece of paper. Read through the papers twice before voting. The leader gets two points if no one selects the correct definition. The players get two points for each player who chose their made up definition. A player who does choose the correct definition gets three points. Rotate being the leader each round. Have fun!

Happy New Year Fellow Travelers!

Reading is time traveling, armchair touring, education, relaxation, curiosity, escape, comfort, imagination…and much much more…fill in whatever describes your reading life.

It’s not a competition, not about how many, what genres, how fast, whether to reread or not, old books, new books, hard copy or audio listening…it’s about reading by yourself or out loud to others, using Libby, buying hard covers, patiently waiting for holds, sharing stories, chewing on board books, hoarding books, weeding books, going to book clubs….there are as many ways to enjoy books as there are readers. And all are unique. One of my favourite things to do is peruse bookshelves in people’s homes. Book collections are diverse and distinct, revealing so much about their owners.

This year we bought a small RV that carries us to places both unfamiliar and familiar. When we are on the road we are at turns surprised, entertained, bored, compelled, confused, engrossed, distracted, intrigued, at peace, amazed by beauty, saddened by decay, happy with brilliant sunshine, or wondering about some looming clouds…a bit like the reading life…it’s a journey and always an adventure!

Thanks for another year of traveling together. Looking forward to seeing you on the trail in 2020!

True Confessions of the Hilarious Kind

How did this happen?????

This is so truly embarrassing that I just have to share it with you. I have already failed miserably in my New Year’s resolution to be more measured about what I check out from the library. And we’re not even halfway through February yet! In my New Year’s post, I outlined a plan to limit and ration holds to avoid library book hoarding, a really great idea that I was so excited about, and now look what I have in my house! And to top it off, I have e-books waiting on my Overdrive Bookshelf and I just purchased one on my Kindle as well. This is too funny!

Now, there are reasons for this, let me explain, only because it will make me feel slightly better: (excuses excuses)
– book club meeting coming up
– got tickets for Canada Reads so I want to read as many on the shortlist as I can before the debate
– picked one up from a library display when I went in to pick up a hold (just one!), except I did this a few times…
– an extra hold I slipped in, because really what’s one hold a month and surely it wouldn’t come through right away?
– thinking I would just quickly finish off a series because they were both sitting right there on the shelf!

Oh well, back to the drawing board. There’s no harm done, as long as I remember to renew…:) but I’m back to keeping book piles in various rooms so no one really knows how many I have out…shhhhhh!

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year readers!! It’s been another great year of conversation around books. Thanks for being with me on the journey!! Since many of you are library users like I am, I wanted to share an idea I’m going to try in the new year to rid myself of what I will call library hold gluttony…a bit like this guy–notice he has one between his knees, one under his arm, and one in each hand…

The problem I have is this: when I hear of a great new title I tend to immediately put it on hold, but then awhile later a whole bunch of books arrive all at once and I go home both thrilled to have so many shiny new books winking at me, but also sad to know that I’ll never be able to read them all before they are due back!! It makes me feel ‘book hoarder shame’ and makes me resent not having enough time to get to them all. Maybe that happens to you too!

So, here’s my plan for putting books on hold at the library from now on. It involves using the suspension function which delays the arrival of holds until whatever date I choose; it’s designed to maintain holds while preventing a costly book pile up while on vacation. What I’ve done is put twelve of my ‘wish list’ books on hold but then suspended them so that they’ll be released just one per month, which should be manageable. I can always un-suspend them earlier if I have more reading time and want them sooner, and since books continue to move up the priority list while suspended, I might just get them right away when I do unlock them. Actually, having books dole out more slowly may have the side benefit of getting to all those titles on my own shelf that I haven’t read yet, in addition to the ones I have on loan from friends–these are also glaring at me, begging to be read. So we’ll see how it goes. Not a New Year’s resolution, but a simple system which I hope will solve my little book hoarder problem.

However, having said all that, the really really important thing  is just to enjoy the love of reading in the new year and let the book FOMO go, especially now when all of the Best Books of 2018 lists are coming out and the TBR list seems overwhelming. It just isn’t possible to do it all. Just be grateful for whatever book holds your bookmark at the moment. Relax, breathe, and enjoy…it’s all for the love of reading! Happy 2019 everyone!

‘The Novel Habits of Happiness'(#10 Isabel Dalhousie series) by Alexander McCall Smith + Other Stories Recently Discovered!

While catching up on this #10 of a favourite series, I made a discovery. Alexander McCall Smith wrote some in-betweeners about Isabel Dalhousie for Penguin Random House’s Vintage Shorts, an interesting collection by established authors and newcomers. Exclusively electronic in format, these short stories can be accessed free on ebook from your local library with Overdrive, or else purchased from Kindle or Kobo, although they could just as easily be left out of the series as well.  A full listing of all of the books in the Isabel Dalhousie series, including the additional short stories can be found here. Isabel Dalhousie is a philosopher in her early forties and lives alone in an aging house in the south of Edinburgh. Thanks to a large inheritance left to her by her late mother, she is able to work for a nominal fee as the editor of the Review of Applied Ethics.

I love reading lighthearted series like this in a busy season because the characters and setting are already familiar. The reading is light but only because it deals with the quotidian. As an Emeritus Professor of Medical Law at the University of Edinburgh, McCall Smith is no slouch. There is a lot of philosophical thinking and reasoning mixed up in these novels. Alexander McCall Smith is the master of the everyday moral dilemma and he makes it so very amusing.

Here are the short stories:

The Perils of Morning Coffee (#8.5) Isabel once again gets into trouble by being friendly and helpful in her community. She is reminded not to jump to hasty conclusions about people and eventually gets to the truth of the situation. As one reviewer on Goodreads said, “A little puzzle and a few misconceptions mixed with a bit of philosophy and a touch of humour.”

At the Reunion Buffet (#10.5) School reunions can be fraught. The author gets at the curious nature of meeting up with people 20 years later, sometimes with those we didn’t get along with in the first place! Old grudges and alliances along with petty feelings, are sure to surface and wreak havoc on what should perhaps be a happy occasion.

Sweet, Thoughtful Valentine (#10.7) This was my favourite of these three short stories. Isabel is confronted with an ethical conundrum around promise keeping. It involves an interesting painting that she discovers in an auction house, while searching for a gift for her husband. As ever, Isabel can’t reason out what the best course of action might be in the situation and wants to get involved in something against her better judgement.

‘The House of Unexpected Sisters’ by Alexander McCall Smith

The usual investigative crew is at it again, with many of the usual friends and villains. Tea is served and the story continues. Botswana is once again richly portrayed and described. The African sunsets are magnificent and a simple serene backdrop to the complicated activities of humans, especially those in need of  The No. 1 Ladies Detectives Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi!

Precious and Grace trip through the mysteries with the help of an extended family which should by now be familiar to you if you have followed the series. Mma Ramotswe learns some unexpected things about herself in this 18th instalment and has to face up to some unsettling stuff, which she of course does with her usual wisdom, grace, and style. Mma Makutsi’s  husband’s furniture store name describes this series best–‘double comfort.’ Like I always say, we all need a series at times! 🙂

Author Feature: Lauren Winner

Lauren Winner is an American historian, author and lecturer. Her interests are in Christian practice and Jewish-Christian relations. She was born and raised Jewish and then later converted and became an Episcopal priest. She is presently Assistant Professor at Duke Divinity School.

Winner’s writing, which I have encountered in various books and publications, is academic and approachable at the same time. She is honest about difficult issues in her own life while she speaks of relationship with God. Life and faith are messy, and our journeys are not perfect. Spirituality can suffer slumps and desolation and Winner offers unique insights into how to reconnect with God in ordinary everyday ways.

Here are the books, most of which I have read:

Girl Meets God is about Winner’s journey from Judaism to Christianity. The child of a Jewish father and a lapsed Southern Baptist mother, Winner chose to become an Orthodox Jew. But even as she was observing Sabbath rituals and studying Jewish law, Lauren was drawn to Christianity.  The twists and turns of Winner’s journey make her the perfect guide to exploring faith in today’s complicated world.

Still: Notes on a Mid-faith Crisis is a second memoir where she talks about the period following the breakup of her marriage and her mother’s death, during which she experienced doubt and despair. Elegantly written and profound, Still offers reflections on how murky and gray the spiritual life can be while, at the same time, shows us how to see the light we do encounter more clearly.

Real Sex: The Naked Truth about Chastity will be especially valuable to unmarried Christians struggling with the sexual mania of today’s culture. In a culture of  “everybody’s doing it,” Winner speaks candidly, with honesty and wit, about the difficulty and importance of sexual chastity outside of a committed relationship. She confronts cultural lies about sex and challenges how we talk (or don’t talk) about sex in church.

Wearing God: Clothing, Laughter, Fire, and Other Overlooked Ways of Meeting God is about little known (or used) metaphors for God. Is God more like a cardigan sweater or a fire that burns but does not consume? Going through overlooked images of God, she offers a unique sensory exploration of relationship with God that is new and refreshing.

Mudhouse Sabbath is an invitation to spiritual discipline. In this slim volume she highlights how Jewish practices can inform Christian discipline and outlines eleven spiritual lessons that Judaism taught her. Winner feels that Christian practices would be enriched, would be thicker and more vibrant, if some lessons were taken from Judaism. Spiritual disciplines do not save us, but they are as important as piano etudes are to a concert pianist or muscle strengthening to the athlete.

‘Canada Reads 2017: The Battle of the Books’

I am proud to be Canadian at all times, but in March I always feel a little bit more proud because of Canada Reads. Every year a panel of celebrities duke it out to try to answer the question, which book should all of Canada read? It is a literary debate but spills over into a discussion about the issues that are facing Canadians from coast to coast to coast. A big thumbs up to Canada for being dedicated to the important place that books and reading have in our lives.

This week five books were digested, dissected, debated, and discussed. And the winner was…Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis. See my review of this book here. Humble the Poet did a great job of defending it! It was not the book I had hoped would win. The Break would have been my choice. See my review of that book here. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to read the other contenders but I still might. All of the books are worth reading and if you missed the whole event, you can still find it at It’s worth a listen. And today it was such fun and a great privilege to be in the studio audience at CBC with daughter Kristin. Happy reading Canada!

‘You May Want to Marry my Husband’ by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

A very fine and beloved author died too young yesterday of ovarian cancer. She loved the pleasures of everyday life evident in her writing (Encyclopedia of Ordinary Things). She had a magnificent sense of humour evident even in her children’s books (Little Pea). Ten days before she died she wrote a dating advertisement for her husband of 26 years in The New York Times entitled:

You May Want to Marry My Husband

The piece reflects her generous spirit and her affinity for bringing people together. It is heartbreaking but you won’t want to miss it. Read it and hug someone near and dear to you after you do.