Books

On My Nightstand | NO. 2

August 14, 2017


Book reviews of the stories I’m reading these days:


Delicious by Ruth Reichl

When people ask for book recommendations, this is one of the first titles that pops into my head. It’s one of those rare books that combines so many of my favorite things into a single story. The publishing world, good food, travel, World War ll history, family businesses, and a host of characters spanning all ages and backgrounds. Characters that don’t remind me of anyone else I’ve read, characters I want to have over for dinner. You’ll fall in love with them too, and find yourself seeing the things around you in a different light, especially your spice cabinet. And isn’t that what the best writing does? Makes us look around with a newfound appreciation, or with an extra spoonful of understanding. Read it, Reichl won’t disappoint you.

 

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony DoerrAll-the-light-we-cannot-see

This may be one of the most powerfully written novels of World War ll historical fiction I’ve read. Often with multiple storylines, I struggle with preferring one to the other, rushing through one character to get back to the other. But in this, I was equally invested in both Werner and Marie-Laure. Writing from the perspective of a blindness added a whole new dimension of awareness and detail. He tells the story of World War ll where the world itself felt very dark and strange but in a whole nother way for someone whose world had always been dark and foreign. Doerr was able to take the blindness of a single child and shed more light on what those years were like in France than any other writer.

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Hustling Out of Community

January 10, 2017

As we reach higher and push harder, is our #hustle leaving community in the dust?

I did the run/walk to the back of the office in search of our IT Tech, arms full of archived issues, heavy hard-bound volumes stacked to my chin.

“Can you pull these images for print from the volumes I’ve marked?” I asked trying to flip open the top volume to show him what I needed. He’s a sixty-year-old man of few words, lengthy pauses, and uncommon brilliance. He took the volumes in slow motion, nodded once and turned the pages with a grunt of acceptance. It’s deadline week, which in the publishing industry means everything gets reworked down to the last minute.

“It’s for an article we’re running in this issue,” I said with a tone of urgency.

“Ya, I can do that,” he responded, “I just have to…” his voice trailed, while I nodded rapidly, hoping to alter the cadence of his explanation. Shifting my weight, balancing the volumes on my other hip, I glanced over my shoulder to make sure the publisher wasn’t heading my way with another issue change.

“You know, back when I first got started…” He launched into a story about the history of processing photos, and how, in the last three decades, he’s watched his department dwindle from 30 people, to himself alone. This man of few words, normally removed from everyday conversation, just kept talking, while I stood there trying to find my exit. Irritation radiated off me as his progress slowed, heavy laden with details I didn’t need to know.

The office was a swirl of sharp conversations, and hurried footsteps, and ‘will someone answer that damn phone.’ It hit me like a splash of cold water to the face, he was sharing a part of his story. They say you can read my face like a book, and I was ashamed of the page he was seeing; as I stood face to face with one of those inconsequential moments that can define you. What if in staying 10 steps ahead of the competition, I’m also five steps away from my community? Continue Reading…

Books

On My Nightstand | No. 1

August 3, 2016

Book reviews of the stories I’m reading these days:

book-review-julian-fellowes-snobs-downton-abbey
Snobs

by Julian Fellowes (Yes, that Julian Fellowes)

I packed this book on our annual family vacation to Lake Tahoe per the recommendation of my little sister McKenna. Here, I’m easily distracted by the scent of pine that permeates the air above the glacial blue waters of the lake; diverted by the massive granite boulders tossed haphazardly on the shore. So I’ve learned over the years to keep the reading light, books easy to pick up and put down in between lake swims and mountain climbs.

Despite my sister popping her head over my shoulder all week, gleefully asking how far I was, I was able to finish it. And yes, I loved it.

“The English, of all classes as it happens, are addicted to exclusivity. Leave three Englishmen in a room and they will invent a rule that prevents a fourth joining them.”
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Spring in Huasna Valley

February 23, 2016

porter-ranch-7

On a Saturday in late February, where the grass grows rich and fiercely green, you walk around to the back of an old ranch house, into a yard decorated with picnic tables. Dirty jeans sit side by side on bench seats, cowboy hats and shades obscure faces as the hum of conversation and laughter rises up through the old trees standing sentinel around history being made and remembered.

This isn’t my home, but it feels like it. Weathered barns, and drifting cattle, tables laden with food, and the late afternoon sun reflecting off the Coors Light cans held in tired, callused hands. People scoot down and make room, thanking you for making time to come by, and eat their food. And you wonder if this kind of generosity, this easy kindness grows best here in the fertile soil alongside the alfalfa fields, under the Spanish moss, romanticizing the brittle branches of drought tolerant trees. Where friends and strangers alike come early for a hard day’s work. Where a meal instead of money is payment enough; because before ‘pay it forward’ was a trending hashtag on Twitter it was lived out here, for a hundred years or more.
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Books

The Stories I Read

August 22, 2015

The Stories I Read
I’ve got a thing for the written word. For things beautifully phrased and well-said. For passionate opinions, and sarcastic quips. For monologues and simple sentences, for words that ask questions and tie-up loose ends, challenge thoughts and comfort hearts.

Growing up I was an under-the-covers-with-a-flashlight reader, and a novel-hidden-in-a-textbook reader. I’m a re-reader and an all-night reader; a never-leave-the-house-without-a-book reader.

And book people are my people. When I meet them it’s with barely suppressed excitement that I pull books from the shelves to share, and there’s a tendency to linger over the rows of titles that line the walls in someone else’s home. Shamefully enough I’ve found myself slipping from reserved to smitten upon hearing “I’ve been reading this book …” from a masculine voice. Continue Reading…

All Great Change

January 30, 2015

All Great Change - Stories I Meet

2014 was a great year. I got to travel and celebrate the marriages of close friends. I moved into a new place and I met the neatest people. I got my diploma, started a new job – and yet for most of it I felt like such a mess.

Sometimes everything is a mess; and somehow your cookie sheet ends up with the snowboarding gear and your hair dryer in the box of cleaning supplies. They say all great change is preceded by chaos. So maybe the being spread thin, and stretched beyond what you thought was possible – precedes all greatness.

That season of chaos, whether it lasts a few days or a few months, has a purpose. When you’re stripped down to the essentials, when you’re drained to the point of empty – the next season finally has room to fill you up deeper than before.

I know this because I’ve been in this season before. Because not so long ago I sat on my parents front steps, my car packed tight with everything I owned, and still no word that I even had a place to go.

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Thank You Dad

June 15, 2014

Thank you Dad via The Stories I Meet

Thank you for taking the time to fix the inconsequential.  Knowing you would make time to fix the plastic Breyer horse with the broken leg created in us a confidence that you could help fix the big things too.

Thank you for throwing us across the pool a thousand times.

Thank you for starting the biggest splash ball wars Twain Harte Lake has ever seen.

Thank you for packing us around on hikes, spending weeks at the lake, and driving a thousand miles to all our activities.

Thank you for being frugal enough to wear your work clothes til they were literally falling off you in tatters.

Thank you for taking pride in your appearance, you’re always the best dressed man in the room.

Thank you for telling us we were pretty when we came downstairs.  That assurance from you, made us need assurance from others a whole lot less.

Thank you for also keeping us humble –Your favorite joke of glancing at us in the morning as we stumbled half asleep into the kitchen and then jumping back in horror was not appreciated.

Thank you for teaching us how to work hard.  By not expecting less from us than you would a son, you taught us to not expect less from ourselves and in doing so you taught us equality.

Thank you for teaching us to be independent and self-sufficient.  That alone has affected every aspect of our lives for the better.

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Battles & Memorials

May 26, 2014

 

Photo Credit: LW's Photography via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: LW’s Photography via Compfight cc

He stood there knee deep in the slow current of the river.  The sun darkening his skin, a smooth flat rock rotated rhythmically in his hands.  He didn’t look at me as I sat quietly on a sun baked boulder, feet dangling in the water.  In a deep quiet voice my friend told me a long story, a story about a bronze medal, a story about a GPS coordinate tattooed on his ribs. He told me about disobeying direct orders. About the carrying of friends, one by one up the mountain to safety.  The best friend he lost and the ones he was losing – carried them all.

And a medal for bravery can hang heavy with loss and feel nothing like a reward. And hometowns and old familiar faces can feel more foreign than any base camp and battlefield a world away.

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