I Cannot Live without Books

CannotLiveWithoutBooks

I think Thomas Jefferson said it for many of us when he said, “I cannot live without books.” He owned one of the most extensive private libraries in the United States and read every book he owned. Then he contributed his entire collection to get the University of Virginia library off to a good start. After that, he started building his own home library all over again. No wonder the souvenir shop at Jefferson’s home, Monticello, sells t-shirts with that saying on it.

I can still picture several of the children’s books I read at a very early age. And I’ll never forget favorites like Ben & Me and the multiple books in the Doctor Doolittle series. And later when I fell in love with Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, and Alice in Wonderland. As a preteen I started reading science fiction.

When my grandmother died, I had the pick of some of the books in her collection. Even though Tom Swift was out of fashion by then, he still fascinated me.

One of the most astounding things about my childhood and teen reading is the fact that I was never introduced to Charlotte’s Web or any of C. S. Lewis’s Narnia series. Fortunately, adulthood has made up for those lacks.

In college I had to do so much reading for my classes that I didn’t have time to read for pleasure, but when I started teaching school and got involved in handling book orders for my students, I fell in love with some of the books they were reading. The Pigman is one of the most interesting of those.

As a senior in college, I’d taken a contemporary fiction class that introduced me to John Barth’s The Floating Opera. Little did I know I’d end up living and teaching in the town that book takes place in, much less the same neighborhood.

I had several favorite authors in my mid-adult years (in addition to John Barth). Especially James Michener, who lived in the area while writing Chesapeake. My ex- got to meet him (at his home at that!),  but at least she was able to introduce me to Mrs. Michener once while out shopping. Nice, but not the same.

I still own nearly all of his books. I have no desire to reread any of them, but I can’t bare to part with my collection, either.

Another favorite was Nevil Shute, who was best known for On the Beach and A Town Like Alice.

I’d be hard-pressed to tell you my favorite authors and books now. I have too many. Not only do we have three or four bookcases filled mostly with fiction, the one in the living room is double-stacked (i.e., one row in front of another).

You said it, Mr. Jefferson. I cannot live without books.

What are your favorites, past or present? How about leaving a comment?

NOTE: I’ve only talked about fiction today. But the Bible is by far the most important book I’ve read and continue to read.

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I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” is only one of my two blogs. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on  “As I Come Singing.” Check it out HERE if you’re interested.  Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

If you enjoy my writing, you’ll find a number of things to read on my website.  Also music to listen to and music-related videos to watch.

My newest novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is available online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Go HERE for links to those places.
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Best regards,
Roger

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Authors Are Tough Readers

I’ve read a couple of novels this week. Lorena McCourtney‘s Dying to Read is a cozy mystery–cozy mysteries are ones solved by non-law enforcement people (e.g., Jessica Fletcher on Murder, She Wrote, and in this case an inexperienced private investigator)–and Christy Barritt’s Dubiosity is romantic suspense. I thoroughly enjoyed both of them.

I was already familiar with Christy’s writing because she’s a friend, and I like her writing so much I always ask for a chance to review a new book. I’d never read any of Lorena’s before, but in corresponding with her earlier in the week learned that the Kindle version of this book was free and decided I could afford that.

I’ve pointed out how much I enjoyed both of these novels for a very specific reason. Authors are tough readers, and it’s hard for us to read a book without stumbling at places where the author failed to follow one of the so-called rules of writing.

Generally, those are things a less knowledgeable reader won’t be bothered by. And I don’t mean misspellings or grammatical errors.

One example is using “s/she said” a lot. A more polished author uses what are called action beats to identify the speaker. For example:  He scratched his head. “I’m not so sure about that.”

Another is a failure to show, not tell. Instead of “He was angry,” say “He hit the table with his fist.” This is tough for a number of authors and would be authors. It can take a number of well thought out words to show.

Another thing I stumble over as a reader is the use of any form of the verb “to be.” The “He was angry” in the previous paragraph is an example of this.

I could list dozens of similar “rules” that writers are taught to obey–one is to avoid unnecessary uses of “that,” something I failed to do in the first part of this sentence–but that would be pointless. I’m not trying to educate anyone here about what good writing requires.

What I am trying to do is explain briefly that authors make tough readers because we stumble over abuses related to the rules we’ve been taught to follow, and we tend to be far more critical than normal readers.

That’s why I mentioned the two books I’ve read this week. Their authors are good. Really good. If they broke any of the rules, they did it so well I didn’t stumble.

The interesting thing is that authors tend to be especially critical of best-selling authors who consistently break the rules and get away with it. To which I can only say what I’ve heard a number of times, “Story trumps the rules.”

What about you? If you’re not an author–or even if you are–what makes you stumble when you’re reading a novel? Please leave a comment.

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I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” is only one of my two blogs. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on  “As I Come Singing.” Check it out HERE if you’re interested. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

My new novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is out now. If you’re interested, please check it out at Amazon.
Tentative-Front-Cover
Best regards,
Roger