Friday, August 28, 2015

Traveling to South Korea via iPhone*

Even If the Sky Falls Down by Susan Jackson Bybee

3 words: lively, interconnected, vivid

Our Bybee** wrote a book, guys, and reading it was one of the most enjoyable reading experiences I’ve had all year. 

It’s pretty darn thrilling when someone you know (even if you haven’t actually met the person) writes a book—and you love the book. 

It made me slow down and savor it.

And while the voice of the book was clearly that of Lily, the narrator, I could sense the sprightliness of Bybee’s style—that quality that makes her writing such a pleasure to read.

The story: Lily is an American teaching kindergarten in South Korea, whose injured ankle sends her down a path toward an entirely different job.

From the beginning of the book, brief character sketches interweave with Lily’s narrative. These vibrant vignettes are the oral histories of older people in South Korea, many of whom have endured great hardships. They read like tiny short stories, and they pack a punch. I know several of them will stay with me for a long time.

As Lily’s story progresses, the character sketches link in to her narrative, and the storylines all merge in a very satisfying way.

I love a story that takes me to a new place and introduces me to people I’d recognize if I ran across them out in the world. Add a lively first person narrative, and I’m hooked.

The good news is also this: Even when you’re done reading the book, you can visit Bybee at Blue-Hearted Bookworm to hear that delightful voice saying things that are smart and funny and unexpected and comforting and delightful. 

*my eReader of choice these days

**claiming her as one of our book-blogging tribe

Friday, August 21, 2015

Conjunction junction...

Geekier than presidential cookies

Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen by Mary Norris

3 words: smart, exuberant, geeky

One part memoir, one part grammar & punctuation handbook, one part investigative journalism (she gets to the bottom of the mystery of who added the hyphen to Moby-Dick).

My fellow book geeks: rejoice.

Mary Norris is a New Yorker copy editor who writes about words, her work, and her devotion to the #1 pencil.

I knew I could be her friend when I read: “…I had ordered so many pencils that Cal Cedar threw in a free sharpener. I loved having it with me, to sharpen pencils on the go or to whip out in a cafĂ© if a friend’s point had gotten dull.” (191)

Whipping out a pencil sharpener: I could be that person.

Add to that some smart explanations about punctuation, and you’ve got yourself a book nerd’s dream book.

And if you’re a New Yorker fan, there are some delightful anecdotes. One of my favorites dealt with the squeamishness of editor William Shawn: “According to Ian Frazier, the sentence incorporating as many Shawn taboos as possible was ‘The short, balding man wearing a wig took his menstruating wife to a boxing match.’” (p. 163)

If you’re a video type of person, you can also check out her Comma Queen videos 

Yes. I’m serious. The first one is about the comma.

I was enchanted.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Happy house

Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon a Project, Read Samuel Johnson, and My Other Experiments in the Practice of Everyday Life by Gretchen Rubin

3 words: domestic, inspiring, pleasant

It's only 92 degrees as I post this, so: HEARTH.

My home’s been a regular little hive of domesticity in recent days (which makes it sound like I’ve been baking bread and whipping up souffles and generally using my kitchen, which I assure you is not actually taking place; also: no flower-arranging).

But ever since I read Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I’ve been changing my life by tidying up. 

Crazy but true: this stuff actually works.

[Update: I’ve KonMari’d my clothes, and a wonderful friend helped me build a dresser to accommodate my little bundles of clothes, and I am almost frighteningly happy every time I open my closet (which now actually closes).]

And then I turned to Gretchen Rubin for some more home life inspiration, because I’m on a roll here.

I really liked Rubin's earlier book, The Happiness Project (liked it even more than expected).

And I knew I’d like this one, too—once I was feeling settled enough to read it. 

(I’m currently feeling wildly, contentedly, excitedly settled, so I went in.)

Rubin covers some similar ground as Marie Kondo (removing clutter), and she builds on some ideas in her own Happiness Project (building shrines: gathering together objects that remind you of happy times).

But the book goes beyond the physical aspects of home, to encompass things like giving warm greetings and farewells, and suffering for 15 minutes.

This 15-minute suffering concept intrigues me. Basically, the idea is: we can stand almost anything for 15 minutes. So spend 15 minutes a day on one of those odious tasks you keep avoiding, and the thing’ll actually get done.

I might also convert it into “relax for 15 minutes”—because sometimes that’s the thing that doesn’t get done. 

I'm putting "Read for 15 minutes" on my to-do list for tomorrow. (As if I'll stop at 15...)