Here, read this: All the Light We Cannot See

Chances are if I time traveled back to any of the summers between the ages of 8 and 18, I'd find young Annie completely surrendered to a really good book. I'd be stretched out and nestled into the crevice of the front room sofa, tunneling through a page-turner. I miss those long languishing reading days, don't you? It's not just that adulthood has laid claim to those long stretches of unfettered time. It's also harder to find that kind of deliciously immersive read.

I had planned on posting something else for our quick Tuesday post today but I'm midway through All The Light We Cannot See and (a) all I want to do is go dive into the story again and (b) I have to spread the goodness and say: Go, friend. Read this book.* 

I don't want to overtell or oversell so I'll keep it brief and straight forward. Ten years in the writing, the novel is the story of a blind French girl and a young German orphan boy as they try to navigate the events surrounding World War 2 and beyond. Doerr's language is lyrical and rich and delicious; he kindly balances that richness with short, engaging chapters alternating perspectives and time frames. I know it's pretty risky to recommend a book I'm not completely done reading but I'm fairly confident it's going to follow through for me. And for you.  

Here, don't just take my word for it, listen to these guys (but beware the spoilers):

New York Times review 

Washington Post review

Boston Globe review

 and a Powell Books interview with author Doerr

*No, really. Go read it. I'll wait. Come back and we'll chat. I'd love to hear what you think.*

The Book Chief?

"A story was a form of telepathy. By means of inking symbols onto a page, she was able to send thoughts and feelings from her mind to her reader's. It was a magical process, so commonplace that no one stopped to wonder at it. Reading a sentence and understanding it were the same thing; as with the crooking of a finger, nothing lay between them. There was no gap during which the symbols were unraveled. You saw the word castle, and it was there, seen from some distance, with woods in high summer spread before it, the air bluish and soft with smoke rising from the blacksmith's forge, and a cobbled road twisting away into the green shade..."
 Ian McEwan, Atonement 

Question (no right or wrong answer, just curious about what works for different families): do you keep tabs on what your big kids and teens are reading or have you given them book autonomy (and if so, at what age)? How much do you monitor or have veto power on what they read? Guide their selection?
And do you ever still read aloud to your big kids? 

p.s. I'll admit that I pulled The Thorn Birds off my parents' bookshelf and read it when I was pretty young. And most of it went right over my head...

A few good gems

Friday finish line! Happy May to you all. I feel like this is the time of year when the northern hemisphere and the southern hemisphere overlap for a few short weeks (days?) with similar temperatures as the north heads to summer and we here in the south head to winter. Let's all high-five as we pass each other, shall we? The northerners enjoy cheery tulips while the southerners tuck our tulip dreams to bed and plant the bulbs for next year. On to a few good gems for this weekend:

Aren't  these botanical posters  fantastic? I'm seriously longing for a couple of them to (finally) fill the vast empty wall space above our sofa.

Aren't these botanical posters fantastic? I'm seriously longing for a couple of them to (finally) fill the vast empty wall space above our sofa.

  • This cookie cutter set is pure genius! You can set the message of choice to customize them to the occasion. Put me down for a set, pretty please.
  • Ina's lemon chicken has been a big favorite lately in my kitchen. It's terrifically good and simple, one of those meals you can serve on an ordinary weekday, a special occasion, or take to your friend who just had a baby.
  • "Don't touch me," said Canada. "I won't!" said the US. So they moved 20 feet apart. Radiolab on the clear margin of land between the two. (Radiolab is always a big favorite around here with Sam.)
  • I can't wait for my next trip to NYC to try out Taza's guide to the Upper West Side and Morningside Heights. (And, hey!, I was born in NYC and we lived right there on the border between the two. I was a grad school baby and although we only lived there a few years, I like to consider myself a New Yorker at heart, haha.)
  • Did you see that the Pioneer Woman took a college trip with her daughters to Texas A&M? (Sarah! To Houston! Your BFF dreams may just be realized.) It'll be fun to follow right along while they navigate to the big college launch--especially since it looks like the timing will coincide with Maddy's college search and launch.

Reading: Oscar and Lucinda (Peter Carey), the 1988 Booker prize winner about a couple in 19th century Australia--I love it so far!

Also, just finished The Storied Life of AJ Fikry (Gabrielle Zevin), an enjoyable literary beach read. Essentially a love letter to books and the reading life.

Listening: to the brand-new Australian digital radio station Double J and it's pretty good--a mix of new music gems and indy faves over the past decades. Great for music lovers and if you like both remembering old, off-the-beaten path favorites and discovering new songs. You can listen online here.  

"Life begins to divulge a steadier destination"

I inherited a copy of The Letters of EB White at some point. The copy I have is satisfyingly tattered, a book that my parents gave to great-Grandma Brockbank in 1977 (the inscription is on the inside cover) and then later, meandering down through the line, it was given to me.

I'll admit I've harbored a little long-held literary crush on Elwyn Brooks White. It started, of course, with Charlotte's Web and The Trumpet of the Swan. I can’t get enough of his New England wit and quick humor, his ease with sentiment and words. I knew he could write well but his letters provide this open window to his personal relationships and reveal much more of his warm soul and side glancing winks.

On Being* recently posted the following letter that re-sparked and reminded me of my EB White fangirlhood. Mr. White wrote it to his young niece, Judy, in the midst of her uncertainty about her life's path. Who hasn't been there at some point? Who wouldn't love to get a letter like this? 

"I know just how you feel, Judy. Frustration is youth's middle name, and you mustn't worry too much about it. Eventually things clarify themselves and life begins to divulge a steadier destination. In a way, our lives take form through a simple process of elimination. We discard what we don't like, walk away from what seems to inspirit us. My first job was with the United Press, but I knew within half an hour that my heart was not in it and that I would never be any good at gathering straight news under great difficulties and with the clock always running out.

Your majoring in English was no mistake, even though you do not become a critic or a publisher's assistant or a playwright or a novelist. English and English literature are the rock bottom of our lives, no matter what we do, and we should all do what, in the long run, gives us joy, even if it is only picking grapes or sorting the laundry. 'To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.' I agree with Mr. Thoreau himself a victim of youthful frustration. You seem to me a girl whose head is on straight and I don't worry about you, whether you are majoring in English or in bingo. Joe, my son majored in English for two years at Cornell, then realized that what he really liked was boats. He transferred to M.I.T., took a degree in Naval Architecture and now owns and operates a boatyard in Brooklin — hauling, storing, and repairing and building boats. Keeps him busy 24 hours of the day, and keeps him outdoors, where he prefers to be.

We've just had three great gales here and are still picking up the pieces and sawing up the fallen trees. Aunt K. is not well, and there isn't much the doctors can do for her, as her trouble is in her arteries.

Thanks for your nice letter — I wish I could write you a better reply, but your question is essentially unanswerable, except by yourself, and you supplied the answer when you said you wanted to live fruitfully and honestly. If you truly want that you will assuredly bear fruit and be an adornment to the orchard whatever it turns out to be.

With love,
Uncle Andy

*Have you discovered the wonderful radio show/podcasts/blog called On Being with Krista Tippett? The conversations and interviews with interesting people mostly center on belief (it was originally called "Speaking of Faith") and "what does it mean to be human and how do we want to live." It's a gem.

Always more books

image via

image via

I know that I've linked to several book lists recently, but really -- when it comes to books -- I can hardly help myself. A few days ago my SIL brought over a whole stack of books and set them on my coffee table. I repeated in my head, "I will not read. I will not read. I will not read." But then later that evening I picked up just one measly book. I was just going to check out the back blurb. I promise! And it was about a husband's secret. So then I just wanted to read enough to find out the SECRET. And then boom! Before I knew it, I'd read the whole book. It's a sickness. I'm sick. But I do LOVE it.

All of this to say, HERE is another great book list for your book-hoarding pleasure. I like this list because it includes a good bit of solid, contemporary fiction, which is often missing in "favorites" lists. In fact, when I went to find the link, the article was listed under "Chick-lit versus Lit-Chicks," a combination I find a fascinating. I enjoy myself some chick-lit, but I want it to be meaty and substantial and leave me thinking. Many of the books on this list fit that bill. And many I haven't read at all -- I'm filling my Amazon cart WHILE I type this.

As you read this I'm off for two days of camping with 200+ teenagers. Pray for me!

A few good gems

Friday greetings! I've spent the week in Utah visiting my college girl and getting in some Spring skiing. It's been great fun, and I'm not sure I'm ready to return to normal life just yet. Luckily, Annie and I have our first annual Nest & Launch retreat planned for next week -- meaning Annie and I are meeting up in Austin to dream up ways to make this little site bigger and better. We will be co-posting on Monday, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy a few good gems to get your weekend started.

Parker wondering why I won't let him go down the run that is closed. Um . . . because it's closed. It was an issue of some dramatics.

Parker wondering why I won't let him go down the run that is closed. Um . . . because it's closed. It was an issue of some dramatics.

I loved reading through this book list and proving the BBC wrong. I got 63, but I have an advantage having taking 1,634 Victorian lit classes. And several Shakespeare classes. And a James Joyce class. I was essentially forced to read this list. But now that I'm older and wiser, I'm anxious to get working on the other 27 books.

I loved this article -- "There's little doubt that 'do what you love' (DWYL) is now the unofficial work mantra for our time. The problem with DWYL, however, is that it leads not to salvation but to the devaluation of actual work -- and more importantly, the dehumanization of the vast majority of laborers." Yes! Plus, sometimes work is just work -- something that needs to be done regardless of passion, or interests, or personal inclinations. 

Along the same lines, this Huffington Post article about "the one thing Christians should stop saying" looks at how an oft-repeated phrase is just plain wrong. Any guesses? Check it out. I'm totally on board.

Have you seen Jimmy Fallon's latest "Ew!" episode with Michelle Obama. Getting a spot on "Ew!" is number one on my bucket list.

Made this Baked Salmon Stuffed with Leeks for dinner last week. It's super easy and tasty, plus you definitely get bonus points for presentation. It's little work and big glory, which is precisely what I'm going for in my cooking. (Scroll down a bit in the link for the recipe.)

I'm thinking of attempting this Rainbow Petal Cake for Easter. It's so Spring-y. And Rainbow-y.

Oh Captain, my Captain, I'll be ordering this t-shirt soon. 

And that's it. I'm off . . . wish me luck driving through the mountains!

A few good gems

Happy Valentines weekend, all! We woke up this morning to a flash mob of paper hearts taped to our front door and garage for Maddy (well done, boys). This weekend's also my anniversary because 24 years ago G and I thought it would be romantic and sweet to get married two days after Valentines Day. In practice, it actually increases the probability that one or both days get short shrift around here but still. It's definitely one of my favorite times of the year.

Oh and did I ever tell you about the time I accidentally proposed marriage to myself?

The New Yorker cartoon, Roz Chast

The New Yorker cartoon, Roz Chast

Okay, on to a few good gems to fuel your weekend. If I could, I would tie them in a red ribbon, attach a paper heart and leave them on your doorstep with a box of conversation hearts:

Speaking of conversation hearts, I love today's Google doodle by This American Life's Ira Glass. When you click on the hearts, you can hear clips of love stories. (The doodle is just on US Google but the link above is for international readers and it even includes a bonus story they had to cut. And here's a video about the making of the project.)

Saturday Night Live's Garth and Kat really want to sing you a Valentines serenade (and if you have trouble streaming this one, here's another link):

Is it the end of the college roommate? The Atlantic takes a look at the rise of the private dorm room and how it may change the college experience. (I'll say! Without college roommates I would have missed out on some wonderful friendships and crucial life and relationship lessons.)

I laughed in total recognition at this Onion (spoof) article: "Area woman said 'sorry' 118 times yesterday." I have to stop myself from this all too often. (Sorry.)

A town that's building life around sleep? Sign me up.

How love rewires the brain. (I might have already posted this. Let's not dwell on what that might say about my brain...)

We are really excited to host a French exchange student next month. My rusty high school and college French skills need some updating, though. I was thinking that this list of 17 feel-good French films you can stream on Neflix would be a good place to start (plus fun).

Have a marvelous weekend, friends! See you back here on Monday.

Reading: Just finished Kelly Corrigan's Glitter and Glue (so good) and Gretchen Rubin's Happier at Home (liked it, too). 

Eating: These ham and cheese sliders are super easy and magically delicious. Also perfect for feeding a crowd.