Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

I’m reading the Bible from start to finish for no other reason than that I’ve never done it before.

bible-fountain-1115

The Good Book ready for reading

Between attending Catholic school and being a lector at Mass, I’ve read parts of it. But never the whole thing.

I’m just over 500 pages in and if you’ve read the Bible, you know that’s not very far. Some thoughts on what I’ve learned to date:

·         I have no concept of Middle Eastern geography.

·         In biblical times, gold and silver were apparently lying around in big heaps everywhere.

·         It was a difficult period in which to be a woman.

·         In the Bible, people have huge families and live for abnormally long periods of time.

·         The Bible would be a lot shorter if it didn’t tell the same stories over and over.

·         There are many excruciatingly painful ways to die.

Since I’m approaching reading the Bible in the same manner in which I read any book, I didn’t go into it looking for hidden meanings or life-changing lessons. I’m just reading it. But since it IS the Bible, you sort of expect it to teach you something.

The version I’m reading is a study Bible which means in addition to the scripture, along the margins are interpretations of how biblical lessons can be translated into modern life. Some of these seem a little far-fetched but others are shockingly simple and make obvious sense.

I asked my best friend, who incidentally gave me this Bible many years ago and now works for a church, whether I could use a highlighter and write in it without being sacrilegious.

“Of course,” she said. “In its physical sense, it’s just a book, like any other book. It’s the words themselves and what they mean to you that make it spiritual.”

Since then I’ve highlighted a few verses and turned back the corners on a couple of pages I want to refer back to.

I haven’t experienced any epiphanies while reading the Bible but the exercise is making me more thoughtful in the sense that I’m thinking more about the world around me, my place in it and what I’m doing with my time on Earth.

Since I only read a couple of chapters every morning, I won’t be finishing the Bible any time soon. I figure there’s no hurry; it’s been around a LONG time and however long it takes me to read it is how long it takes. Like any Good Book, it’ll be worth it.

Have you ever read the Bible? What did you get out of it?

Mark Twain wrote “Tom Sawyer” more than 80 years before actors Jodie Foster and Johnny Whitaker were born. But when I picture Becky Thatcher and Tom Sawyer, I’m seeing kid versions of Jodie Foster and Johnny Whitaker. That’s thanks to a 1973 musical version of the novel which, while not the best adaptation of Twain’s work, is unfortunately the one that sticks in my head.

Any time you lift words from the page and set them in motion there’s the risk your interpretation will be met with “I don’t get it” or worse, “That sucked”. But if the alternative is that nobody will ever hear those words if you don’t do it, it’s a risk worth taking.

The founders of the poetry film collaboration project Motionpoems were worried that great poems were going unread because people just weren’t reading poetry. So maybe they’d be more interested in WATCHING it.

Motionpoems pairs contemporary poets with filmmakers to create short film adaptations of poems. Some are animated, others live action, some dark, some funny, some so far removed from what a reader might get out of just reading the poem that you might watch it twice because it’s so interesting.

See for yourself. In the waning hours of National Poetry Month and as spring is FINALLY coming to my corner of the Midwest, here’s the Motionpoem “Ecclesiastes 11:1” by Richard Wilbur, film adaptation by Faith Eskola for your viewing enjoyment.

If you find a Motionpoem that speaks to you, feel free to share it in a comment!

Extraordinary stories of ordinary people

Extraordinary stories of ordinary people


“That’s Mary Ford,” I said, pointing to the faded image of the Army nurse on the man’s tee shirt.

He nodded.

“She was my sister. She’s in here, too,” he said, holding up a booklet.

“I know. I’m the one who put her in there.”

We shook hands and both started crying.

In September of 2006, South Dakota dedicated its Vietnam War Memorial with a three-day celebration. Today, the state observes its first “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day”, an official state holiday to honor those who served in Vietnam.

I was on the planning committee for the 2006 event, the third war memorial dedication in our state. I’d worked on the previous two as well, for the World War II Memorial in 2001 (literally days after 9/11) and the Korean War Memorial in 2004. My duties were to design, write and oversee the production of all the printed materials like invitations, signs, apparel, name badges, banners, concert tickets and so on. And the commemorative program booklet which for the Vietnam War Memorial Dedication included the pictures and stories of more than a dozen South Dakota veterans.

Thousands of veterans, along with friends and family members, submitted photos and stories for the dedication website and a book “The Vietnam War: South Dakota Remembers” that was published in conjunction with the event. I read and reviewed all of them.

I knew some of those people. Dennis Foell, Nick Roseland, Dale Christopherson, the Harford brothers (Warren, Jerry and Doug), Dale Bertsch, Francis Whitebird. Others I didn’t, like Mary Ford. But their memories and images were no less compelling or personal to me.

Some Vietnam veterans wouldn’t attend that weekend and given the reception they got when they first came home after the war, that’s to be expected. Sometimes a “Thank you and welcome home” 30 years later is too little, too late.

There are moments from that fall weekend in 2006 that I will always remember. The biker with the Vietnam Veteran patch who saw the “committee” designation on my shirt and asked if he could hug me. I said yes. The quiet man who handed me his “Find a Buddy” card to hang on the board and whose “buddy” turned out to be the older brother of one of my friends. A few quick phone calls later, they were reunited for the first time since shipping out together. And meeting Mary Ford’s brother who had brought his family to the dedication in her honor because she couldn’t attend herself. The smiling, compassionate woman who’d entered the service on Halloween 1967 and served two tours in Vietnam as an Army nurse died in 1998.

It’s March 30, “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day” in South Dakota. Who are you thanking today?

That should last me the week...

That should last me the week…

Fifty percent of my household didn’t read a single book last year.

That was my husband. Early in our relationship, he eyed the overflowing bookshelves in my apartment and said, “I don’t read.”

“You’re illiterate? I can teach you,” I offered.

“I know HOW to read. I just don’t read books.”

I don’t know how this marriage has survived so long.

I was raised by readers. My sister’s a reader as are all of my closest friends. I’ve carted favorite books thousands of miles, been late countless times because I couldn’t put a good book down, and if given the choice between buying a dinette set or a comfortable chair and a reading lamp, I will eat dinner over the kitchen sink…then go sit in my chair and read. People who don’t read puzzle me.

A recent Pew Center Research Poll shows that 23 percent of adults didn’t read a single book in 2013. That’s up from 16 percent in 1990 and 8 percent in 1978. And according to the National Endowment for the Arts, only 47% of Americans say they read a book for pleasure in 2012.

Books give us knowledge, insight, inspiration, ideas, truths, lies, instructions, humor, emotional release, a chance to dream, an opportunity to escape, a place to go even if it’s just in our heads. Why WOULDN’T you read one?

RIF (Reading is Fundamental) was still a fairly new literacy program in the early 1970’s when I was learning how to read but its message was already solid: knowing how to read was the key to unlocking a world of doors and it wasn’t just a useful skill, it could also be FUN. I believed that as a kid; now as a bigger kid, I still believe it.

Maria Keller does, too. Maria’s a 13-year-old from Minneapolis, MN who founded her own non-profit organization to promote literacy. When she was 8, she started collecting used books and since then, with the help of thousands of people around the country, her organization Read Indeed has given 1 million books to schools, hospitals and community centers in 30 states and more than a dozen foreign countries. What can you say? The kid likes to read.

Anyone can spread the joy of reading. I recently received some literary love from my 9-year-old nephew who said, “Hey, I got you something” and handed me this:

Kid-approved reading material

Kid-approved reading material

It came from his school book fair; I also got a complimentary Minions’ poster and pencil eraser. Did you know that “Bello” is a popular greeting among Minions and that “Poopaye” is how they say goodbye? True that. I read it in a book.

Read any good books lately? Find me on Goodreads and we can compare notes.

The more you read, the more things you will know.
The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go. – Dr. Seuss

 

A snowy world, at peace

The author is Mark Helprin. The book is “In Sunlight and in Shadow.” And given the devastation caused by this past weekend’s blizzard, the passage below is an appropriate description of the bleak battle we wage with Old Man Winter.

“They had practically nothing but snow – the feel of it, the silence it imposed with an almost beneath-the-threshold-of-sound hissing as it fell, the way it lit the darkness even as it smothered sight. Snow was God’s scolding of the world for war. It suppressed and conquered legions and nations. It quieted continents, forced branches to bow in submission, and broke those that would not. It made a mockery of military power and pride in numbers, throwing into the world inexhaustibly its own soldiers, tiny crystals each with an inimitable identity, each fragile, temporary, frozen, resigned, but in such endless profusion that they could slaughter entire armies in absolute silence and bury them until spring. Snow muffled the sounds of soldiers who fought across it or waited in it; it sent them messages in its glistening whirlwinds; and like a wrestler who need not expend energy or breath, it effortlessly pinned them to earth.”

Thoughts are with you weary warriors still struggling in the white.

Carton 12 of 12 in the big move.

It costs more beer to get a dozen boxes of books carried across a front lawn than it takes to get a six-hundred-pound hide-a-bed couch shoved through a front door.

“ANOTHER box of books?” groaned the friends who were helping us move, as I handed over the last carton.

“It’s just paperbacks,” I said. “Did I mention there‘s beer?”

By the time we moved into our current house, I’d been amassing reading material for about 25 years. I am now 40 years into my collection. New selections are added and familiar tomes recycled continuously. I thought the Thompson library was pretty impressive until I read about Brewster Kahle’s little project to save the world’s books.

Kahle is an Internet entrepreneur whose goal is to collect one copy of every book ever published. With more books going digital, he wondered what was going to happen to all the hard copies? Now, he and his staff of 150 helpers are packing them away for safe-keeping in shipping containers in a warehouse in Richmond, California. They’re being digitized first but should something happen to the electronic copies, the physical ones, with covers and spines and pages you can turn the corners back on, will still exist. Kahle’s crew has half a million squirreled away already with a goal of 10 million altogether.

The number of books published since publishing began is many times more than 10 million. So how does he decide what to keep? For my own culling criteria, if I look at the book’s cover and know the butler did it with a candlestick in the dining room after finding out the mysterious woman he was having an affair with is really his cousin, it can go. But if I scan the book jacket and find one tidbit I don’t remember reading, it’s a keeper. My old books are usually passed along to other readers but there was one book that sucked so badly I actually threw it away. If I could have tracked down every copy of it and shredded them all to save the reading public from trudging through such crap, I would have. At least I was able to save one unsuspecting thrift store bibliophile from making the same mistake I did.

You can learn more about Kahle’s project at the Internet Archives, an online respository which includes archived text, video and audio. Another great resource for free audio books and stories no longer in print is Librivox, a site for which I’ve actually recorded some selections.

Mr. Kahle, best of luck to you in your efforts. I can’t imagine how much beer money it’s costing you to get the job done.

If you were saving hard copy books from extinction, what book would you make sure made it into the archives?