In which I introduce a new blog I will begin publishing soon … What are you reading?
This past summer, I finally got around to reading a book that had been highly recommended to me a while ago by long-time book pal, Judy Gardner. (And I’ve posted before about Judy here and here and here.)
The book, The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe, was better than just a good read for me … it was life-changing, in that it made me see a new approach to books and reading and sharing books that had never occurred to me before. There was a lot in there too about life in general, about how we interact with other people (albeit, fellow readers), family and friends, and how we deal with loss and grief. The book was so good that I immediately began recommending it to everyone I spoke with – kind of like a recent religious convert – bought a print copy to keep forever and ever, and borrowed another of Schwalbe’s books from the library. I wanted to read everything the man had written.
It was this second book, Books For Living, that gave me the idea for creating another blog. The following quote, from “The Final Word”, specifically planted the seed:
I used to say that the greatest gift you could ever give anyone is a book. But I don’t say that anymore because I no longer think it’s true. I now say that a book is the second greatest gift. I’ve come to believe that the greatest gift you can give people is to take time to talk with them about a book you’ve shared. A book is a great gift; the gift of your interest and attention is even greater.
Reading is a respite from the relentlessness of technology, but it’s not only that. It’s how I reset and recharge. It’s how I escape, but it’s also how I engage. And reading should spur further engagement. P. 255
And from the introduction:
We all ask each other a lot of questions: “Where did you go for vacation?” “How did you sleep?” Or, my favorite, as I eye the last bites of chocolate cake on a friend’s dessert plate, “Are you going to finish that?” … But there’s one question I think we should ask of one another a lot more often, and that’s “What are you reading?”
It’s a simple question but a powerful one, and it can change lives, creating a shared universe for people who are otherwise separated by culture and age and by time and space. p. 15
Note that Schwalbe says this question has the power to “change lives” … and that’s what I’m aiming for with this new blog. (No slouch me! I’m heading for world domination in a reading capacity!)
I will post my own contributions from time to time, and I do already have a few books in mind to recommend. But I’d really like to make this about you, the other readers out there who have a favourite book to talk about and that you just want to share with everyone. I’m looking for books that have really grabbed you, as happened to me with the book Judy recommended (above). If you have read or are reading such a book, please send me a message using the form on the contact page and we can discuss you posting to the new blog.
Remember, I’m not looking for reviews of books for this blog, but for titles of books that have really knocked off your reading socks, books that have made a difference in your life or that have been influential because of the ideas they present or the way they are written. (Great writing is also capable of knocking off our reading socks!) You just need to give me a brief explanation as to how you discovered the book and/or why it is one you believe others would find equally amazing. I will add links to the book and a cover jpeg to your text. Also, I will include a brief bio of you as a reader, if you wish.
I have already had the pleasure of “interviewing” a reader last week while she was still on Bequia and will begin this new blog with what she had to say about her current reading material. Once that post is published, and I’ve had a chance to tell you in another post what I have been reading, you’ll then have an idea of how I expect each post will look and the information that I’ll need from you to be able to post about what YOU are reading!
(Authors, please take note that this will not be an opportunity to showcase your own books. Let’s leave that up to my other blogs, Reading Recommendations and reading recommendations reviewed, okay? As I said above, these are not meant to be reviews but just a shout-out for any outstanding books readers happen to be reading. Thanks for your understanding.)
An Excerpt From:
One Woman’s Island, a Bequia Perspectives novel
Dudley picked us up from the beach at the prearranged time. I was
glad to have him there, too, as both children were exhausted from the
excitement, the sun, and the swimming and were fast asleep. Dudley
had to carry them to the taxi for us.
On the trip home, Verity said, “I lets dem sleep now den wakes
dem for later.” When I asked what she planned to do to celebrate,
she replied, “What everybody does do on Bequia—we goes to de
It suddenly struck me that, other than a mention in passing when
I spoke with the Litt sisters and Tex, I hadn’t made any plans myself for
the biggest night of the year. “Do you mind if I join you?” I asked. She
grinned in agreement, so when Dudley pulled up to Verity’s house, we
arranged for him to pick us up at around eleven.
He helped carry the still-sleeping children into the house. When
Dudley and I were alone outside again, I asked him about Verity’s
mother—his mother, too. “Dey don’ talk.” And that was all I could get
out of him.
He assured me, saying, “Verity be looked after. You no worrys ’bout
her.” His expression had become a scowl. It was obvious this was a closed
subject as far as Dudley was concerned, so I didn’t push any further.
By the time he returned later that night, Dudley was back to his
old jovial self again. The children were wide-eyed, if not yet wide awake,
and Verity had changed into a slinky leopard-skin-pattern dress I had
never seen before. That and the awkward high-heeled sandals she wore
made me look even frumpier than I already felt.
Dudley dropped us off in the Harbour then quickly drove away
to pick up his next fare—he’d be working throughout the night. For
Bequia taxi drivers, Old Year’s Night is the busiest of the year, their
time to make a lot of money, if they really hustle.
Verity, the children, and I walked through the crowds in the Harbour
to the walkway along the shore that would take us to the Frangipani
Hotel, the centre of the action at midnight on Bequia. It was a sea
of people we had to wade through, too; some already drunk but most
in good spirits and out to enjoy themselves with friends and family. It
did look too as though all of Bequia, and then some, had come out to
celebrate, and everybody wanted to be as close as possible to the Frangipani
bar when the clock struck midnight. A steel band performed
on a low stage between the bar and the walkway, and their pitch and
pandemonium increased with every passing minute, the pan players
physically exhausting themselves with their drumming.
The four of us chose instead to grab a seat on the low wall by the
shoreline and watch the promenade of people as we waited for midnight.
Melanie, Dave, Al, and Suzie passed by together.
Melanie and Suzie stopped while Al and Doc pushed on ahead.
“Mariana, hello!” said Melanie. “Would you like to join us? We’re going
to try and get a drink at the bar.”
“Hello, Mel and Suzie. Happy New Year. I’m here to celebrate
with Verity and her children”—I pointed at my neighbours—“but
“Okay then. Happy New Year to you!” The two women disappeared
into the crowd.
Suddenly, a moment or two before midnight according to my
watch, sailboats in the harbour began tooting their horns, and then
the ferry boats and other large working ships sounded theirs as well.
Boat flares shot off in every direction over the water and the steel band
increased its volume as it played a decidedly Caribbean version of “Auld
Lang Syne.” Everyone was happy, greeting one another, wishing Happy
New Year to all around them. It really was a joyous and festive occasion,
possibly the best New Year’s Eve I’d ever celebrated because it was so
simple and heartfelt.
After about fifteen minutes we decided it was time to get the
children back to the house and into bed for the rest of the night. The
two of them, even Ayayla with her limited sight, had sat wonder-eyed
throughout the midnight festivities, but they were beginning to yawn.
And causing me to yawn, as well.
We were making our way back along the waterfront to the place
where we’d arranged to meet Dudley when I heard a voice call out to
Verity from the dark of the bushes. She turned her head to the sound
and immediately sucked her teeth loudly—a gesture commonly used on
this island to indicate displeasure or disgust. She picked up her pace as
best she could in those awkward sandals and pulled the children after
her. The one voice became several as I realized there were others hiding
in the shadows calling after Verity with words I couldn’t understand.
Whatever they said seemed to be derogatory.
Melanie, Dave, Al, and Suzie passed me again before I could catch
up with the children.
“We’re on our way to the New York Bar for a drink now,” Melanie
said. “You sure you won’t join us?”
Al sneered. “Yeah, ‘Auld Lang Syne’ and all that shit!”
The others laughed. But Melanie said, “Don’t mind him, Mariana.
Do join us. After we finish that drink we’re heading, along with the rest
of the people of Bequia, to De Reef in Lower Bay, where we’re going
to dance until dawn.”
“Come on, Mariana,” Al chided. “You’re only young once. I’ll bet
Verity would love to dance all night.”
Verity had stopped to wait for me and heard Al’s comment. She
looked over at me, asking with eager eyes if she could do just that. She
had certainly dressed appropriately if she’d been hoping for willing
“But we’ve got to put these children to bed,” I pointed out. Verity
was looking disappointed when the four expats left.
Dudley caught up with us on the main road in front of the Anglican
Church, and I realized as we were driving away that we hadn’t met up
with Tex or the Litt sisters.
We were soon home again, the sights and sounds of the Harbour
far behind us.
As I was getting into bed, I thought about how enjoyable it had
been: no phoney celebrations with strangers, no false wishes for the
coming year, no expensive fireworks displays or decorations, no desperate
attempts to have a good time at any cost. Everyone celebrated the beginning
of the new year together—young, old, tourists, foreigners, expats,
locals, everyone enjoying the moment. That’s what Bequia is all about.
I lay awake in bed that night for a while and considered what
might be in store for me in the coming year. Whatever it was, I hoped
it would be better than a year that involved losing my husband both
physically and emotionally and being forced to redesign my whole life.
Anyway, I knew it couldn’t possibly get any worse. I reached out and
pulled Jerry closer to me and fell asleep to the sound of purring in my ear.