Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Time once again for a look back at the year's reading. Did I meet the goals I'd set for myself? Well, since my reading goals are not too strict I don't have a lot of problem meeting them - the one thing I had wanted to do which I didn't end up doing a lot of was rereading old favourites (hopefully the Flashback Challenge will help me with that in 2010).
I posted a list of ten great books a few weeks ago, for Weekly Geeks, books I enjoyed and thought were well worth the time spent reading them, but who knows how many will appear on my best-of list now? And next month I could have a different list also...there are too many great books in the year to only love a few. ;) I had a great reading year -- I found so many excellent reads, which was very satisfying. Last year those kind of reads were a bit scarcer on the ground.
Here is a statistical look at my reading in 2009.
Books Read 2009: 180
By women: 119
By men: 54
non-gendered reading (multiple authors, etc.): 7
In Translation: 7
1 German, 1 Norwegian, 1 Chinese, 1 Portugese, 1 Quebecois, 2 French
Challenges undertaken: 5
Challenges completed: 2
Review copies read: 18
Library copies read: 137
My own books read: 29
(far more books bought than read on my shelves this year!)
Best of the Year
The Post Office Girl / Stefan Zweig
Broken / Karin Fossum
Martin Pippin in the Apple Orchard / Eleanor Farjeon
Come, thou tortoise / Jessica Grant
The Children's Book / A.S. Byatt
Making It Up or Family Album / Penelope Lively
The Blythes are Quoted / LM Montgomery
Incident Report / Martha Baillie
The Good Mayor / Andrew Nicoll
The Day the Falls Stood Still / Cathy Marie Buchanan
Script & Scribble / Kitty Burns Florey
In Bed with the Word / Daniel Coleman
Read for your Life / Joseph Gold
Where our Food comes from / Gary Paul Nabhan
The Little White Horse / Elizabeth Goudge
Puppet Master / Joanne Owen
Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter / R.J. Anderson
1000 Shades of Blue / Robin Stevenson
Next year? Well, as my last two posts prove, I am going to sign up for a lot of challenges, read some of my own books, and hope to enjoy continued reading and blogging relationships. Can't wait to add to my own tbr when I read everyone else's end of year lists as well!
I also enjoyed taking part in the Year of Readers project in 2009, but did feel as if I wasn't really doing enough to raise money. Still, the total raised is a few hundred dollars, which will help PLOW a little bit. Thanks again to Jodie at Bookgazing for that great initiative.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Here are the rules:
1. Choose 20 books from your TBR list (or tome, if you are like me), and post them on December 1, 2009. If you'd like, you can tell us why you chose each book (I'm sure you can guess what I'd "like").
2. Read those 20 books.
3. Oh, did I mention? You are not allowed to buy any of them. If you don't already own them, you must beg, borrow, or steal them in order to read them
.4. Oh, I guess I forgot the other difficult part: you are not allowed to buy any new (or used. No, you can't get around it that way) books until you have read (or attempted to read at least 30+ pages) of all the books on your list.
5. There is one exception to the rules (because I am a fair kinda gal and belong to 2 book discussion groups): you may buy books you have to read for book discussion groups before you have read all 20 on your list, if you can't get them any other way (i.e. your library system doesn't have them and employs the Sloth Express to deliver all interlibrary loans). However, I highly recommend that you encourage your book discussion groups to read books from your list of 20.
6. And then that final thing: write a blog post about each book as you finish (or decide you can't finish) it.
This sounds like the perfect Challenge to me, and I have spent much time over my recent days off going through my shelves, deciding what I want to read right away. I've decided to count only books I currently own, no library books or borrowed ones. And I am starting on January 1st, as this week I still have my annual holiday trip to the Big City and its bookstores coming up.This is my working list, and I won't necessarily be reading them in the order they are listed:
This is a classic of Ukrainian Canadian literature that I was lucky enough to find at a local used bookstore last year. I want to read this one, and it is one for my Canadian Book Challenge reading as well.
Foodie writing, by an author whom I love. I read her Apricots along the Nile, about her childhood, some years ago (loved it) and this is the next stage in her life. Great writing, and recipes!
A new Canadian novel that I serendipitiously found a copy of. Must read! A man dies and ends up working for a huge romance publisher in an afterlife limbo, not realizing he is dead.
A memoir of two summers, by a Maritime author I adore
I received this from the publisher about six months ago and still haven't read it. It was the first winner of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, and it looks so good.
8. Ursula, Under / Ingrid Hill
11. The Ballad & The Source / Rosamond Lehmann
13. Angel / Elizabeth Taylor
I've had all the above for a long time, intending to read them - they are all by, about, and thematically concerned with, women and women's lives.
15. All the Names / Jose Saramago
Do I need to give a reason to read Saramago?
16. Four letters of love / Niall Williams
I've had this a long time, supposed to be fabulous and the author is Irish - I like that.
20. Any of the titles I own by Penelope Lively which I haven't read yet - because I adore Penelope Lively and intend to read every single one of her titles sooner or later. My greatest reading discovery of 09! (titles include:
And there are my twenty. There are many more that I may reach for if one of these doesn't catch my fancy, including
Embers / Sandor Marai
The Deadly Space Between / Patricia Duncker
The History of Love / Nicole Krauss
Must Write / Edna Staebler (diaries)
Pursuing Giraffe / Anne Innis Dagg (nonfic)
Thanks, Emily, for hosting such an inspiring challenge!
Monday, December 28, 2009
Science Book Challenge -- it's as easy as pi! (love the slogan)
One of my favourite challenges, for 2010 I have a number of science books around the house which I really want to get to. I had all these on my list for last year, but ended up reading three totally different titles. So I'll try again with these three:
Mauve / Simon Garfield
The story of William Perkin, a young inventor in the mid 1800s who discovered how to make dyes from coal tar, accidentally. He was really searching for a way to create artificial quinine.
The Arcanum / Janet Gleeson
About the Western discovery of how to make porcelain
Empire of the Stars / Arthur I. Miller
One of my favourite topics: astrophysics and how discoveries are made or affected by the personalities involved, with all their human failings.
I'd also like to get my hands on a biography recently voted top science book of 09 by physicsworld.com, the story of Paul Dirac. It's entitled The Strangest Man, written by Graham Farmelo. (there is also a lecture available by Farmelo on this topic) This era of physics is one of my favourite scientific subjects to read about, so will have to locate a copy of this one. All I know about Dirac presently is what I learned from one of my favourite nonfiction reads of last year, Gino Segre's Faust in Copenhagen.
Colourful Reading Challenge
This is going to be totally random, probably all books I read for other challenges or just pick up for fun. The Challenge is to read 9 books all with a different colour in the title throughout the year. I have my Science Book Challenge pick above, Mauve, and one I have TBR for the Canadian Book Challenge, Vera Lysenko's Yellow Boots, to begin.
Yellow Boots / Vera Lysenko
Green Dolphin Country / Elizabeth Goudge
Mauve / Simon Garfield
The Woman in White / Wilkie Collins
What's in a Name 3
I've done this challenge for the last two years (though this year I didn't quite keep up!) I love its random selections. These are some of the ideas for titles to choose from - they may still change throughout the year! This year the categories are:
A book with a food in the title
Honey and Ashes / Janice Kulyk Keefer (memoir)
Plum Bun / Jesse Redmon Fauset
Daalder's Chocolates / Philibert Schogt
Read: The Spice Necklace / Ann Vanderhoof
A book with a body of water in the title
The Waves / Virginia Woolf
By the Lake / John McGahern
The Seduction of Water / Carol Goodman
Read: Cool Water / Dianne Warren
A book with a title (queen, president) in the title
Sir Charles Grandison / Richardson (also for Chunkster)
The Case of the General's Thumb / Andrey Kurkov
Mrs. Dalloway / Virginia Woolf
Read: Queen of Hearts / Martha Brooks
A book with a plant in the title
The Blue Flower / Penelope Fitzgerald
Read: The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag / Alan Bradley
The Betrayal of the Blood Lily / Lauren Willig
A book with a place name (city, country) in the title
Read: The Road to Lichfield / Penelope Lively
The Enchantress of Florence / Salman Rushdie
Return to Paris / Colette Rossant (nonfiction- food writing)
A book with a music term in the title
The Ballad and the Source / Rosamond Lehmann
Music of a life / Andrei Makine
Song beneath the ice / Joe Fiorito
Read: Trumpets Sound no More / Jon Redfern
All about rereading. This one has different levels of reading to choose from, but I think I'll sign up at the Literati level, six or more books. This is because I want to follow their suggestion of rereading childhood, high school, and adult choices.
Childhood Selections: this year I want to reread the entire Anne series by L.M. Montgomery, since I just finished the new publication of the restored Blythes are Quoted.
High School level: There are a few books I may choose from -- I haven't reread To Kill a Mockingbird since high school and might like to try that. But there are non-school books I'd like to revisit, including Watership Down or maybe Elizabeth Goudge's Green Dolphin Street, of which I remember very little - I think I was too young when I first read it.
Adult choices: There are two books I'd particularly like to reread - Virginia Woolf's The Waves, and Gwethalyn Graham's Earth and High Heaven.
Updated: actually read
As for me and my house / Sinclair Ross
Green Dolphin Country / Elizabeth Goudge
Anne of Green Gables / LMMontgomery
This was the first challenge I ever participated in, and I think it is time to give it another go. I'm only going to sign up for the Chubby Chunkster level, which is three books over 450 pages in 2010. I may read more but am just starting with this. Some ideas for the books I'm going to read are:
Middlemarch / George Eliot (880 p) [read]
The Terror / Dan Simmons (765 p)
Sir Charles Grandison / Richardson (1159 p)
Gold Bug Variations / Richard Power s (635 p)
Celestial Harmonies / Peter Esterhazy (841 p)
Ursula, Under / Ingrid Hill (476 p)
Updated: Actually read:
Green Dolphin Country / Elizabeth Goudge (575 p.)
Gaudy Night / Dorothy Sayers (557 p.)
Our Mutual Read
I love the name of the Challenge, and its potential for spending lots of time with Victorian literature! I think I will sign up at
Level 2: 8 books, at least 4 written during 1837 - 1901. The other books may be Neo-Victorian or non-fiction
And here is my list which is only a starting point:
Middlemarch / George Eliot
The Woman in White / Wilkie Collins
The Way we live now / Anthony Trollope
Bleak House / Charles Dickens
News from Nowhere / William Morris
Sylvia's lovers / Elizabeth Gaskell
Two on a Tower / Thomas Hardy
Trumpets Sound no More / Jon Redfern (NeoVictorian)
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Here's a book we all need as we head into another year of reading from our vast lists. [Steve Leveen's Little Guide to your Well Read Life ]
The Weekly Geeks assignment this week caught my eye:
What are you passionate about besides reading and blogging?
March has arrived, Spring is getting closer, hurrah!
It's back! April brings with it the status of National Poetry Month, and I am going to celebrate once more, just I have in 2007 and 2008, by posting a poem daily.
In this strange and short novel by Portugese speaking Angolan author Agualusa, our narrator is a gecko.
This Sunday I had a very pleasant outing; a few of us from work decided a while ago that we would like to go down to another theatre town in the area, Niagara-on-the-Lake, to the Shaw Festival.
I am so thrilled - not only is it Canada Day, and I have the day off - but it is once again the start date for a great reading Challenge, the Canadian Book Challenge 3.
As always, John at the Book Mine Set, host of the excellent Canadian Book Challenge, does things in style.
Again with Penelope Lively! I know, I am going through a definite Lively phase.
It's already October, I can hardly believe how time has been flying!
Anyone who has been reading this blog for a while will know of my love for Alexander McCall Smith.
[The Blythes are Quoted] is the restored, full version of a collection first published in 1974 as The Road to Yesterday.
A pretty accurate vision of the year: authors, books, challenges, a few mentions of the seasons, and a little extracurricular cultural outing in June. Leave a comment if you try it so I can see your yearly report as well!
Friday, December 25, 2009
to all my lovely bloggy friends!
In the middle of the table was a Christmas tree, alive and growing, looking very much surprised at itself, for had not Tom dug it up from the plantation whilst they were at church, and brought it in with real snow on its branches? The rosiest of apples and the nicest yellow oranges were strung to its boughs, and some sugar biscuits with pink icing and a few humbugs from Tom's pocket lay on the snow, with a couple of gaily coloured texts and a sugar elephant. On the top of the tree shone a silver bird, a most astonishing silver glass peacock with a tail of fine feathers, which might have flown in at the window, he wouldn't say Nay and he wouldn't say Yea.
Susan was amazed. If an angel from heaven had sat on the table she would have been less surprised. She ran to hug everybody, her heart was so full.
They had been so busy getting ready, for Tom only thought of it when Dan was telling him the station gossip of Mrs. Drayton's Christmas tree, they had neglected the dinner.
"Dang it," Tom had said, "we will have a Christmas tree, too. Go and get the spade, Dan."
The ground had been like iron, the tree had spreading roots, but they had not harmed the little thing, and it was going back again to the plantation when Christmas was over.
The turkey was not basted, and the bread-sauce was forgotten, but everyone worked with a will and soon all was ready and piping hot.
The potatoes were balls of snow, the sprouts green as if they had just come from the garden, as indeed they had, for they too had been dug out of the snow not long before. The turkey was brown and crisp, it had been Susan's enemy for many a day, chasing her from the poultry-yard, and now was brought low; the stuffing smelled of summer and the herb garden in the heat of the sun.
As for the plum pudding with its spray of red berries and shiny leaves and its hidden sixpence, which would fall out, and land on Susan's plate, it was the best they had ever tasted. There was no dessert, nor did they need it, for they sipped elderberry wine mixed with sugar and hot water in the old pointed wine-glasses, and cracked the walnuts damp from the trees.
~from The Country Child by Alison Uttley
Thursday, December 24, 2009
The postman came through the wood with a bundle of letters and Christmas cards. He stood by the fire and had a cup of tea, and admired the decorations whilst Margaret opened her cards with cries of happiness, and excitement. She didn't stop to read them, she took out all the cards which had no names on them and popped them into envelopes. Then she readressed them, dexterously reshuffling and redealing, so that the postmans should take them with him, a thrifty procedure.
Susan had a card which she liked above everything, a church with roof and towers and foreground covered with glittering snow. But when it was held up to the light, colours streamed through the windows, reds and blues, from two patches at the back. She put it with her best treasures to be kept forever.
It was nearly time to start for church and all was bustle and rush as usual.... Down the hill they went, Mrs. Garland first, Susan walking in her tracks, through the clean snow, like the page in 'Good King Wenceslas', along the white roads unmarked except by the hooves and wheels of the milk carts, to the tune of gay dancing bells to the ivy-covered church.
Inside it was warm and beautiful, with ivy and holly, and lovely lilies and red leaves from the Court. The rich people wore their silks and furs, all scented and shining. Susan looked at them and wondered about their presents. She had heard they had real Christmas trees, with toys and candles like the one in Hans Andersen, which stood up in a room nearly to the ceiling. She would just like to peep at one for a minute, one minute only, to see if her imagination was right.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
The Science Book Challenge (hosted by Scienticity/Ars Hermeneutica) - easy! 3 science-y books throughout the whole year! I love this challenge and always join in
Emily's Attacking the TBR Challenge - read 20 books from your TBR before buying anything new - can read your own, or borrow them, just not buy them. Boy do I need to do this - more space on my shelves would be great!
What's in a name 3 - I love this challenge, and need to continue on with it next year as well
Flashback Challenge (via Eva) - rereading some old favourites is part of my plan for 2010 anyhow, so this is the perfect fit
Colourful Challenge I like random challenges and this one sounds really fun
Chunkster I haven't done this in a while, but I love a good long read
Our Mutual Read Because who can resist more Victorian reading? ;)
Just a few I'm thinking of! Lists to come...
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Perhaps the real problem was November. Blame it on November in Saskatoon. This was the first of five long months of winter. The lows had been hovering around minus thirty C for three weeks straight, but really winter had only just begun. The last withered leaf disappeared on Hallowe'en. The first big snow came on All Souls' Day. Now the wind blew through everything, even the plaster walls of James's sad old apartment. Seasonal affective disorder. It sprang not from the sudden absence of light, but from the imagination turned morbid. The foliage out on the prairie, the pussywillows out on the sloughs, the leaves on all the elms and maples lining the streets: none of these would ever return. Never, says Lear. Never. Never. Never. Never. He wasn't talking about the death of Cordelia, he was talking about November in Saskatoon, maimed and dusty survivor of the Great Depression, huddled between the prairie to the south and a fringe of parkland, clenched beneath the black uncaring cosmos like a cactus in the wind.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Proust & the Squid: the science of the reading brain / Maryanne Wolf
This is another selection in my current streak of books about the purpose of reading in our lives. This one differs a little as it focuses on the neuroscience behind the process of reading, and looks at it also from the point of view of the brain which can't quite figure out that process, the brain of dyslexics.
I found it overall an engaging read; neuroscience is intrinsically fascinating to me, and to have neuroscience and reading in the same book, well, how could it get better than that?
The book is set up in three sections: the first, a look at how reading and writing evolved in history; the second, a look at how the brain deciphers written language and shapes itself to become a reading brain; and the third, a discussion of what can be learned about the brain and reading through the study of dyslexic brains.
I love this kind of writing; reading is obviously very important to me, personally and professionally, and this gave me a lot to think about. The first section, on the development of writing and alphabetic systems in human history, ties in to a couple of other books on my shelves (and doesn't reading one thing always lead to more?). I'm currently reading Joseph Gold's The Story Species, which also discusses this topic, and have Leonard Shlain's The Alphabet and the Goddess on tap. Looking at how the actual form of writing, whether alphabetic or ideographic, affects the brain, Wolf draws many conclusions about the process of deciphering text. This then leads in to the second part of the book, a discussion of how children's brains are shaped by learning to read, and how the brain adapts itself to support the reading function. Not knowing the science behind this topic, I can't say whether it is all as straightforward as is presented, but Wolf writes very compellingly, and has many endnotes to support her argument. (which of course leads to more reading...)
The last section of the book was focusing on dyslexia, Wolf's area of study. While it was interesting and certainly showed how passionate she is about this topic, it was of slightly less immediate interest to me. Educators might find it very helpful, however, and parents of dyslexic children certainly would as well. I enjoyed this book - her writing is very readable despite some of the dry research she is sharing. This is a good book to pick up if you are interested in the development of reading itself and how our physical structure supports our cultural invention of reading and writing.
If you are intrigued by the science of the reading brain there is also a wonderful website called On Fiction which is all about the psychology of reading and links to hundreds of other books and research that you might like to explore.
Tom at A Common Reader sums it up very nicely
Eva at A Striped Armchair gives it her seal of approval
Jess at Start Narrative Here takes a look
Friday, December 11, 2009
There are always some touching sentiments in AMS' books, things that make me pause and look at them twice. Here's a quote from a chapter in which roomates Caroline and Jo go to Caroline's parents' house for the weekend:
[Caroline] knew why her friend was crying. She was crying because she was far from home, and who among us has never wanted to do that? There need be no other reason; just that. We cry for home, and for flowers on tables, and biscuits in little tins, and for mother; and we feel embarrassed, and foolish too, that we should be crying for such things; but we should not feel that way because all of us, in a sense, have strayed from home, and wish to return.
Just as Freddie de la Hay was missing him, so too was he experiencing that sense
of incompleteness one feels when a familiar presence is suddenly no longer there. Such feelings can be profound and long-lived, as when we lose a close friend or a member of the family – at that level, we are in the presence of true grief – or they may be less substantial, more transient, as when a shop or coffee bar we have grown to like closes down, or a favourite office colleague is transferred. These may seem little things, but they constitute the anchor-points of our lives and are often more important than we imagine. If we lose enough of these small things, we risk finding ourselves adrift, as William now felt himself to be.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Toronto: HarperCollins, c2009.
I've read both of Vicki Grant's earlier novels for younger readers, about the wonderfully funny Cyril MacIntyre and loved them for their humour and for their main character. This one is a bit different: it's for an older audience, and the main character is a teenage girl. However, the sense of humour and the importance of family ties are still in evidence.
We have Robin, a girl who is a bit overweight and feels rejected by her thin, beautiful and busy tv talk show host mother, Mimi Schwartz, and overlooked by her father and his new family. It seems to her that she has a closer relationship with their long time housekeeper than with her own mother.
Robin finds a ring and a photo hidden in her mother's room, both of which are from a school in small town Nova Scotia. As a New Yorker who believes that her mother was brought up in Brooklyn, this confuses Robin mightily, and she decides that she will take off to Nova Scotia alone instead of going to her father's for the weekend as she was supposed to. She has no problems with finding the money to do so, but once she arrives in Nova Scotia she realizes she is woefully unprepared for the realities of being on her own in a small, rural setting without cafes and buses and people everywhere.
She comes across a friendly face even though she doesn't realize it at the time: she hitches a ride with a young man driving a dirty old brown van, and begins to have visions of disaster.
The self defence expert said I'm supposed to poke the guy in the eye with my keys.Lots of research at the small local library follows, along with the beginnings of romance, and Robin discovers her mother's secret. The conclusion is not exactly a surprise but the story is well drawn and entertaining. (and for all you fellow Canadians, for some reason I couldn't help picturing Dini Petty as the mother). A fun and light read, despite a few more serious issues coming up in the storyline.
Like I know where my keys are. I never know where my keys are! I bit my nails down to the quick last night so they're not going to be much good either. ...
He turns into a driveway in front of this old ramshackle house. He stops the car. He goes, "I think this is what you want," and leans his big body across mine....
I don't remember what they tell you to do at this point. All I know is that I'm not going to let anything happen. There's no way. My body knows that even better than my head does. It's like a reflex or something. I punch the guy as hard as I can right in the face. He goes flying back. ...
I say, "Don't hurt me. Please don't hurt me. I've got money."
He goes, "Me? Hurt you? What are you talking about! You're the one who just punched me in the face! I'm on my way home from work, minding my own business, when some nutcase flags me down and punches me in the face!"...
The guy's got very white teeth. They almost glow in the dark. I wish I'd noticed that before. I would have been a lot less likely to think he was a psychopath, had I seen those teeth. (My impression is
that homicidal maniacs don't have a lot of time to spend on dental hygiene.)
Toronto: Doubleday, c2009.
I really like some of Joan Clark's adult books: her novel Latitudes of Melt is one of my favourite books of the last few years. She is also known for her young adult books, but unfortunately I didn't find this one all that compelling, despite its possibilities. It is about a young man, Jim Hobbs, who walks away from Toronto (and his dysfunctional family life) after a power outage and widespread chaos. He hitches a ride and makes it all the way to the Prairies, where he finds an abandoned farmhouse and decides to stay awhile. He camps out there, and meets Miriam -- one of his neighbours from the commune the next farm over. Majestic Farm is a religious compound, complete with patriarchal structures, young women who are not allowed to leave the farm and are made to cook and clean and bear children, restrictive and archaic societal rules, and so on. It felt a little heavy-handed and and a bit old fashioned, and I never really felt a connection to any of the characters. So while it was an interesting enough idea, I can't say I was overwhelmed by it. Just a so-so read for me.
I've also read a few other teen novels, ones which need little explanation as they are so well known. First of all, I finally got my hands on John Green's Paper Towns. I enjoy John Green's writing so much, and found Paper Towns to be fascinating and fun, yet with a mysterious character at its centre to intrigue the reader. Although I still like An Abundance of Katherines best of all his books, this one was certainly entertaining.
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
You Want Me to Do What? Journaling for Caregivers / B. Lynn Goodwin
Mustang, OK: Tate Publishing, c2009.
I was offered a chance to review this book as a part of a WOW (Women on Writing) blog tour. I jumped at it because I love the topic of journaling, and think it is a very valuable part of self care. I was interested in seeing what B. Lynn Goodwin had to say, as she experienced firsthand the strain of caring for a parent with Alzheimer's, as well as having a background as a writer and English teacher.
This was also the first time I've read an ebook entirely online. I wondered if I would have trouble adjusting to the format, and truth be told, I did find it a bit discombobulating to read the entire book in electronic format. I am just used to paper copy and do prefer it. However, this kind of book is well suited to the e-format, as it has brief blocks of text and lists of questions with a lot of white space left for filling in answers, in the paper copy, or I suppose once you've printed off a page of the e-copy you've bought. In any case, reading it was not difficult, even if I am still more comfortable with hard copy.
But on to the content -- both my sister and I read this ebook; I have a background in libraries & literature, while my sister (K) is a Recreation Therapist specializing in seniors health (she runs a senior care business called Wayfinders). Both our impressions follow:
Me: Lynn introduces the book with a little information about the health benefits of journaling: to reduce stress, open up perspective, reduce feelings of powerlessness, to work through the range of emotions stirred up in the experience of caregiving. Journaling allows the caregiver some space for vital self care. She references some of the major research into journaling, including that of Dr. James Pennebaker. The value of journaling is made explicit, reassuring anyone who may feel that sitting down to write about their own feelings is somehow a bit flaky or self-indulgent (not my view but I know some people who would have difficulty focusing on their own emotions).
K: I agree that this ebook could be a very useful tool in support groups. Caregivers are not only dealing with the ever-shifting demands of Alzheimer's, but also with years of pre-existing family dynamics. In a support group, people may feel less guilt and fear at expressing to themselves the negative emotions they are feeling because others are doing the same exercise.
Me: She follows this introduction with a huge number of prompts, which are beginnings of a sentence to lead journallers into writing. For example, a few prompts are "The truth is...", "Yesterday I believed...", "It's hard to admit...", "If need be..." What should be mentioned is that she leads workshops in this area, and this is a kind of workbook which grows out of that experience. I think that this book would work really well in a group format, with a facilitator guiding the writers. Anyone in a caregiving situation who is accustomed to journaling or to any kind of self reflection could easily pick up and use this book as is, but if the person has not developed the habit throughout their lifetime, some guidance would be helpful. Also, a group setting may also appeal to people with a more kinesthetic or auditory learning style, while a visual learner would probably have the most success using the book on their own.
K: As a support group facilitator, you could use some of the open ended prompts as a way to stimulate discussion and problem solving amongst the group, in addition to using them as journalling prompts. Additionally, this stylized journalling could be turned into a creative arts program for those in care that have maintained their cognitive capacity, or even as verbal prompts to stimulate reminiscing activities with Alzheimer's clientele.
Me: From a literary perspective, I feel that this brief workbook is something to use in a hands-on setting. People new to journaling or just too tired to search out their thoughts while staring at a blank page could benefit from the prompts, which are intended to trigger recollections or awareness of what the journaller is feeling. It follows in the line of many journaling books, but in a more practical and immediately usable format; it's light on theory and heavy on the guided prompts. There is also a more literary bent at the end of the book: there is a section on turning your journaling into publishable writing. Lynn runs a website called Writer Advice, and her focus on writing and publishing comes through in this book as well. I am a big fan of journaling, but wonder whether turning the kind of personal writing which comes from journaling into publishable writing is always possible, or even desired by many who may be put off by the idea of having to create something considered publishable. I believe that journaling is a valuable and meaningful habit to cultivate, however, and enjoyed seeing Lynn's perspective on the topic, particularly how it applies to the needs of exhausted caregivers.
K: Having worked with family caregivers for many years as part of the professional care team this would be a handy resource to be able to share with certain ones, but the suggestion also carries a risk: I have met many that merely suggesting this type of an approach to self care would be perceived as insulting - why on earth would they need to do this? They have a COMPLETE handle on everything that is going on. Another risk is that it means actual writing that someone else could stumble across and read - once written, twice shy! Suggesting this resource could very well put someone on the spot and make them feel like they're not doing a 'good job'.
To maximize the various uses of a book such as this, a good recreation therapist could introduce it as a communication program and integrate the family into the program, and as they see the positive impact of using verbal journalling with their loved one, they could then be provided this book as a resource to use at their leisure, in their own personal time.
Over all, this book is full of information that could be used in many different settings, with caregivers and beyond. In a workshop setting, a facilitator could introduce basic techniques, elucidating the uses and benefits of journaling for people who may not be naturally inclined to use the written word as a coping mechanism. This is a good beginners resource for individuals looking to explore the journaling path.
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
The five books which will be under discussion for Canada Reads are:
The Jade Peony by Wayson Choy (defended by Samantha Nutt)
Good to a Fault by Marina Endicott (defended by Simi Sara)
Generation X by Douglas Coupland (defended by Roland Pemberton, aka Cadence Weapon)
Nikolski by Nicolas Dickner, trans. by Lazar Lederhendler (defended by Michel Vezina)
Fall on your Knees by Anne Marie Macdonald (defended by Perdita Felicien)
These are all sturdy Canadian reads, all quite well known already, I'd say, except for perhaps Nikolski (which is, incidentally the only one I've read from this list, and I quite enjoyed it). There is always the question, is Canada Reads there to promote lesser known or older books, or just to talk about books which are familiar and more easily accessible? I guess it just goes by panelist choice, but the only book I'm enthused about this year is the one chosen by the one writer on the panel.
But I do have to admit, I don't usually read along with lists like this, so it really doesn't matter too much what I think: I know that each of these books will by this time have a waiting list at my library. Do you have a favourite on this list? Do you read along with Canada Reads, or is there another similar event in your area that you follow?