July Lit List

 

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I’ve taken a bit of a hiatus from the writing life this summer. But the reading life is alive and well. Here’s what’s been on the shelf in July.

  • East of Eden, by John Steinbeck — I wanted to read a classic this summer, so when my son-in-law said he was going to read “East of Eden”, I decided to join him. The story is loosely based on the Cain and Abel account in Genesis, following several generations of a family in the Salinas Valley in California. I loved sinking into the 600 page saga and am still thinking about the characters a month later.
  • Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters, by John Steinbeck — The reading of Steinbeck’s classic was wonderfully enhanced by pairing it up with this book. Every day before starting to write, Steinbeck would warm up by writing a letter to his editor. On the left-hand pages of the notebook, he would jot his thoughts about the storyline and about his life; on the right side of the notebook, he wrote his novel. It was a fascinating look at the process of writing and how a great novel works itself onto the page. Steinbeck also regularly expressed concern for his two young boys, which was endearing.
  • Letters to a Young Poet, by Rainer Maria Rilke — I picked up this little volume because I’ve seen Rilke quoted so many times in other books.  I found most of those memorable sayings in the first six pages, but finished the rest of it in an afternoon.
  • Ex Libris, Confessions of a Common Reader, by Anne Fadiman — This is a series of essays about Fadiman’s love of books and reading. I especially related to the story about the author’s mother who proof-read her local newspaper, marked all the errors in red and sent a boxful of clippings to the newspaper office. I, too, am a compulsive proof-reader who thinks I’m helping when pointing out grammatical mistakes on billboards and menus.
  • A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems 1979-1997, by Wendell Berry — I don’t read much poetry, but because it’s Wendell Berry, I had to give it a try. I’ve been reading a few poems every Sunday morning since January and just finished this book in July. It’s nice to let a book linger once in a while. Poetry seems especially made for long, slow contemplating.

What are you hoping to read before summer has flown?

June Lit List

Books

Last month’s pile of books is on the dash board of our car, since that is where most of my reading took place in June. Road trips are perfect for tearing through the “Books to Read” list. PB and I spent many happy hours listening to audio books in North Dakota. Here’s what was on the bookshelf, and Ipod, this month.

  • As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride, by Cary Elwes —  If I had a nickel for every time one of our kids said, “Marr-widge…”, I’d have a tower of five cent pieces. This was an entertaining audio because all of the actors from “The Princess Bride” chimed in with this recounting of what happened behind the scenes in the filming. Cary Elwes was charming as the main narrator.
  • Andy Catlett: Early Travels, by Wendell Berry — I checked off another Berry book in my quest to read the entire Port Williams series in 2017. It did not disappoint.
  • Get Up!: The Art of Perseverance, by Andy Greenberg and Ben Biddick — This book has a special place in my heart because Ben is my nephew. But I would have read it even if his name wasn’t on the cover. Incredible story. Adam Greenberg was hit in the head with a pitch in his first Major League at-bat. This guy never gave up. Very inspirational!
  • Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life, by Steve Martin — This audio version was read by Steve Martin himself. In this book he shared how he spent 10 years honing his craft before becoming a “success,” and what he learned through the ups and downs of his famous career. (Language alert)
  • The Artisan Soul: Crafting Your Life Into a Work of Art, by Edwin McManus — I read this one extra fast because it ended up in my mailbox, but it wasn’t really for me. I raced through it before handing it off to the intended recipient. I think it was good, but it’s kind of a blur.
  • The Get Away Car: A Practical Memoir About Writing and Life, by Ann Patchett  and The Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text for Writing and Life, by Marion Roach Smith
    At the beginning of every summer I like to read a few books on writing and life, so these two titles obviously fit the bill. Then, I tell myself to stop reading books on writing, and just write.
  • The One-in-a-Million Boy, by Monica Wood — This book gets the prize for being the only one on the list without a subtitle. I listened to the audio version read by Chris Cuilla, a master at giving every character just the right voice, from the 104-year-old Lithuanian woman to the 11-year-old Boy Scout. It’s a heartwarming, funny, sad, hopeful story. I’m still smiling about the ending. (Language alert)

What are you reading this summer?

Here’s what was on the bookshelf last June:

Wednesday Words: The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry

Four Books

Wednesday Words: The Closer

 

Don’t Deride the Bride

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PB and I have officiated over, participated in and paid for enough weddings in the last 29 years to be semi-experts. Over the years we’ve learned that it’s okay to poke fun at the groom, it’s permissible to kid around with the groomsmen, and you can even tease the bridesmaids (a little bit). But you never, ever, ever deride the bride.

Deride: (v.) make fun of; insult

Never. Why? Because she is the bride. Because her husband wouldn’t stand for it. Because she is the dearest thing in his life. Because if you diss the bride, you are automatically offending the groom and inviting his wrath.

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The church is the Bride of Christ.

He gave His life for Her.

I think we’d better be careful how we talk about His Bride.

The word “church” conjures up all kinds of emotions for people. Some have fond memories of early Sunday school flannelboard lessons and singing “The B-I-B-L-E”. Others have an indifferent attitude about what they consider to be a boring, outdated cultural institution. Many walk away from church and carry painful experiences with them.

The church is messy and imperfect.

It struggles to be relevant while maintaining its integrity.

Yet, the church is Christ’s Beloved.

Don’t deride the Bride.

“For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready.”
Revelation 19:7

Go West

PB and I took a little jaunt to the west, logging about 3,000 miles. We drove 80 mph through Minnesota and North Dakota (yawn) before hitting the Big Sky of Montana, where we slowed down to take in the stunning views.

If I wasn’t a Wisconsin girl, I’d want to be a Montana girl. Why?

Mountains.

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Mountains are my new favorite thing.

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I have 5,000 pictures to prove it.

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I also have 1,000 pictures of buffalos. (Or is it buffaloes? Or buffalo?)

Don’t get me wrong. I love the bluffs and rolling hills of Wisconsin.

But….

…mountains.

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“I lift my eyes up unto the mountains…” Psalm 121:1

May Lit List

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Pathetic.

One measly book read in May.

Measly: contemptibly small, meager, or slight;
wretchedly bad or unsatisfactory.

Here’s the deal — I started to read six other books last month
and abandoned them all.

Some were ditched by page four, but I hung in there with one book until page 150.

Just couldn’t take it.

These things happen.

“There comes a time
when you have to choose between
turning the page

and closing the book.”
(Josh Jameson)

I closed six books and added the titles to my
“Tried and Found Wanting” list.

So, in my despair, I did what any dedicated reader would do —

I picked up Wendell Berry to restore my soul,

and my faith in a good story.

10 Things I Learned in May

1. Things grow when it’s time. Even though May was colder than usual, wetter than usual and not spring-time-y as usual, the leaves still came, the grass still got green and the flowers still bloomed. It was time, and poor conditions couldn’t stop them.

2. Of all the spring flowers, I like the wild ones best. I don’t know their names, but I say “thank you” every time I drive by a ditch full of these beauties. I know from experience that they last about 15 minutes once they are picked. It’s best to just admire them and let them thrive on the side of the road.

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3. Quote of the month: “When God wants you, He knows where to find you. You need not go and push yourself to the front; the Lord will bring you to the front when He wants you. Oh, for grace to work on unobserved….and only to be noticed when the hour suggests the need, and the need makes a loud call for you.” Charles H. Spurgeon

4. This Spurgeon quote has caused me to do some deep pondering this month. The same theme keeps popping up, so I know I need to sit up and pay attention. As a true “T” (Thinker — Myers Briggs) I will continue to process this and talk about it when I’ve got it all figured out. It may be awhile.

5. The Bradley family (my mother’s side) hasn’t had a reunion for 45 years. That means a couple of generations of ancestors have passed on since the last gathering.  That also means a couple generations of descendants have never met each other. That’s all going to change in July.

6. If there are ten swear words in the first four pages of a book, I close it and add the title to my “Books Tried and Found Wanting” list. Call me a prude, but cussing turns me off. I think it’s possible to write good literature without stooping to gutter language.

7. That being said, I had an interesting conversation with my son about the Apostle Paul’s use of Greek swear words in his letters. Evidently, even Paul wasn’t above using language with some shock value to make a point.

8. I’m envious of my almost 2 year old granddaughter’s hair. Soft, wavy and the prettiest color red.

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9. PB is the most generous person I know. I’m so glad I get a front row seat to his unselfish giving. Sometimes it seems like he gives and gives for no return. But then there are other times when his kindness boomerangs back in big blessings. I’ve been on the receiving end of his kindness and generosity for 38 years. He’s my biggest blessing.

10. I’ve been writing here at “a small drop” since February 2010. That’s a long time in blog-years. I don’t have hundreds of followers and I haven’t made a cent. That was never my intention. I just wanted a place to hone some skills and, hopefully, encourage a few people. I’m not sure what the next step in my writing life will be, but I feel the winds of change blowing. “a small drop of ink” may become smaller over the summer as I pray and discern where the Lord is leading. Thanks for reading!

hello summer

Kentucky Wonder

My grandpa, Elmer G Biddick, spent a lot of time in cornfields. When he was 11 years old (1905) he sold his first bushel of seed corn from his father’s fields to his neighbors. By the time he was in high school, he had gone into business for himself. He was the first to grow his own hybrid seed corn in Wisconsin. He was quite a man with a long list of accomplishments.

But I remember Grandpa, especially at this time of year, for something else.

When I see packs of seeds at the garden center, I look for this one:

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Grandpa had a garden in his back yard and he always planted Kentucky Wonder Beans. I don’t know why. They must have been top quality and dependable, just like him.

When he was approaching 90 years of age,
I asked him what kind of birthday cake he wanted.
His answer: “Kentucky Wonder Cake”.

Those beans must have been really good.

God bless all the seed-planters and garden-growers this spring.

May all the gardens be wonder-filled.

“Now the Lord God had planted a garden…” Genesis 2:8

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