Book Review: The Midnight Library

The Midnight Library

The Midnight Library is one of the most fascinating fiction books I have read in a long while — and, yes, I know I am very late to this party. This book was published back in 2020. I bought it for another person to read, who raved about it, and then it came up with another person as a must read. The premise completely enticed me even without these recommendations, but it still took me a long while to come to it — to come to death, the potential in-between state between life and death, to choices, to where the path not taken takes someone, and more.

That’s right — the fictional idea that we can “die” and not yet “die.” That there is an in between state that begs the question between life and death. Nora, the protagonist, wants to die. The choices she has made have lead her to one big book of regrets and so she dies — not explicitly stated, but she completed suicide.

Yet, she finds herself in a library and it’s midnight — rather than the pearly gates of the afterlife. From here she moves in an ever shifting space of what has been and the opportunity to walk down all the paths she didn’t take and see how they played out. The idea is she is not dead — yet — there may be a story she finds that she wants to live out. This is a story of redemption even when one feels there is nothing about self to be redeemed.

One of the most interesting books she opens is the first one — a large, hefty volume of her regrets. Ah! Regrets! And this one is really accurate for Nora — thus why it is so thick. Regrets large and small about the life she has been living — everything from not exercising on any given day to not marrying the one and basically everything in between.

There is oh so much more, but it had me stop to think about my own book of regrets. If I found myself in my own Midnight Library, would the first book I open be one of regrets? Would the volume be thin, thick, silly, serious — how would I receive looking over the life I have been living essentially? Would the thickest, most urgent volume be the one filled with my regrets?

For Nora, the volume becomes overwhelming. Her volume was thick, overflowing with every move she made and many she did not make. Before she can begin to even open the books that will take her into her stories that she spent so much time regretting she has to face the regret first. Oh! What courage!

As the New Year gets ushered in, how are you perceiving life? Are you looking back at the old with regret? Is there space for what was possible and that you made possible for yourself.?Is there space to hold on to decisions you made that were intuitive and may have left you in pain, but was necessary for yourself in some way? Or when you made those decisions did the walls close in and you filled with regret — which then lead to paralysis to not be able to move forward?

Regrets. They can creep in and define a life. The Midnight Library concept is so special because it allows us to name the regret — well, it’s been written down for you in your great volume of regrets — and then to open up a whole different volume to see if you would have played that decision differently, what would come from it. We often think in terms of all the good we didn’t allow ourselves to have, but, quite possibly, it may have saved us a lot of heartache and wrongness that we just new even as we could not point a finger and name why specifically.

We are all walking the life we are crafting. From the everyday mundane tasks to choosing a partner and a profession — life is dynamic. The Midnight Library acts dynamically as well. Nothing is ever cast in ink either — you can jump out of one story and into another. We have agency, autonomy, and choice to open or shut our decisions, chapters of life, and more.

At the beginning of all things, let there be choice and suspend the regret. Think about it all written down in the great volumes of your Midnight Library — what are you missing in the other volumes by focusing on regret?

Book Review: Before the Ever After

Before the Ever After Book

Happy Football Season! Well, it doesn’t really feel like the season at all with curtailed seasons under the COVID pandemic. Yet, it is still the start of Autumn and with that, if you are in America, football is called to mind. I guess it may be the season that has me so intrigued by Jacqueline Woodson’s latest book Before the Ever After.

It’s a novel about a boy and his father, but not just any father. ZJ has a football star for a Dad. He is beloved by the kids in the neighborhood and to many millions more. He is an athletic star. Life is good and glorious — until it is not. The book moves into exploring his Dad’s CTE diagnosis when he stops remembering and starts forgetting their lives.

It’s an interesting topic to take on quite frankly. In America, we hold up our athletes as invincible heroes on and off the playing field. Most of us know, by now, how dangerous playing football is to the health of the players, but no one is around when their health declines. We are around to watch them play. Yes, even though we know they are risking their health and lives, we show up and watch them play week in and week out.

Once their glory days have passed, we often hear a news headline that somebody or other that we once cheered for with all of our hearts is now ill with a diagnosis like CTE. We feel bad, but our attention has flitted to the next great athlete on the field. This is why I think this book is edgy, as it takes you into the life of the family that has to deal with their glory days being over and how it is to live with someone so crippled by memory issues. All of a sudden it’s not the glory days the family yearns for, but the person who made those days up.

For our society that worships sports stars without a care toward their future ill health, this is a great book to begin to extend our understanding and empathy toward the consequences of these games we so cherish. This is a perfect book to give your middle school child and a great one to read together. There is a lesson from ZJ and his Father for all of us.

Organizing Books

Organized Books

It’s time for a summer project. Such as organizing books!

Or that is what I said to myself at the beginning of the summer. Here it is heading into mid-August and the season is flying by and I have barely begun.

My summer project was to organize all of my graduate school books, as well as to review all of my other books that I have been collecting over the years and give them some semblance of order alongside the school books. Books always seem to offer a juicy project to take on.

When I moved into my office last year, I literally dumped all of my academic books on to the shelves to deal with another day. They were quite an investment and so I wanted to make sure that at some point they were organized enough that I could find them and use them for future reference.

So, I have decided to break up my project into a few parts. First, organize the school books so that I can easily access them. Also, consolidate them into one area of bookshelves rather than taking up all of the space.

Second, go through my boxes of books looking for ones I can easily discard and keeping the others. Looks like they are also finding a home in my new office too. I want to know what I have and so it is essential to sort through the mess of it all.

Outside of my academic books, most books I read and give away or delete from my Kindle. Still, there are many books that I have been given and/or that I have bought that mean the world to me. These are the ones that are worth holding on to and spending significant time organizing over the course of a season.

Also, I know I will find some new books that I want to share with you. Even better!

Do you have a summer project like mine? Are you organizing something, getting rid of stuff, or accumulating more for a certain purpose? May your summer project be full of something good for you.

Often projects like these not only help organize our stuff, but also ourselves.

Book Review: The Hidden Life of Trees

The Hidden Life of Trees Book

I did something unique this summer and joined the “world’s largest book exchange” on a social media channel. Often I feel like these on-line exchanges with people whom I don’t know won’t go so well and so I never participate. Yet, when I thought of the chance to send a book to a stranger and then perhaps receive books from other strangers — my enthusiasm for the idea outweighed my suspicion. I sent off a book and then forgot about the whole thing.

Then, I came home and there was a box waiting for me with my own book from a stranger. It turned out to be The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben. Now here is a perfect book for me given I live in a Treehouse in the Pacific Northwest. We are surrounded by the magic of trees at home and in our area. So, of course, to learn more about their secret life completely intrigues me.

There are chapters on their family life, their luck in life, their communication, and more. It’s all about the trees that surround us quietly and yet have a rich life that often goes unnoticed. As I take a little break during this mid-summer week, this is the perfect book for me to be reading, especially as I appreciate the trees in their full summer bloom. Within weeks I will start to see Autumn on the horizon and the Trees’ leaves will appear tired readying to droop and soon drop to the ground.

Nature is a marvel. Grab this book and read all about trees and then marvel at their glory that surrounds you each and every day.

Book Review: Daily Rituals

Daily Rituals Book
What are your Daily Rituals?

Are you an artist? When I hear the term I think of a writer, or a painter, a cartoonist, and any other number of artistic fields that people endeavor into for creative fulfillment. On some level, this makes each one of us an artist. As artists we compose and all of us compose the days that make up our lives. We are creators!

As my own person, I think of myself as an artist — not only because I write, but because I am constantly creating the world I am dwelling in — from my home to my clothes to the things I watch and read to the subjects I take interest in to the way I move my body and more. I am creating my life each and every day.

Guess what? So are you!

That’s why a book like Daily Rituals by Mason Currey is so intriguing to me. This little book is a compendium of many artists and their daily rituals as related to creating their art. Although it is about their lives as artists, really it is about life. Peeking into how others create rituals that help them create is interesting to me. It makes me feel less alone on the path I am on.

I know my daily rituals, habits, and patterns — and I am sure you know yours as well. But what can I glean from another’s that causes me to think about something new or sparks interest in a new ritual to change up my days. Thus, creating in my days. Some of them are surprising — as some had no rituals at all, but rather an attitude toward the day. Others remark on how the ritual is not external, but rather within as to how one disciplines self to create.

Little tidbits of wisdom float up from this book. I happen to love books like this because you don’t not need to read it cover to cover, but rather just pick it up and open to a page and read about one artist’s daily rituals and put it down again. Another fun idea is to open the book to a random page and read about that particular artist. Most likely, your energy picked that page and that artist. The message is specially made for you at that moment. Take it in.

I bought myself this book on my Birthday five years ago. I must have been looking for an artistic muse and I found so many in one little book. Which I recommend to you for artistic inspiration.

What are your daily rituals? How are you using them to craft the life you truly love?

Book Review: The Blue Day Book

The Blue Day Book

Do you have blue days? Those days where it’s difficult to get out of bed, where it’s hard to rally a smile, or to even see anything as positive in your life.

We all have these days — I don’t think we would be human if we didn’t feel blue. And that’s why I love this little book from the 1990s that is called The Blue Day Book. It’s a quick read with lots of pictures of animals with a few words meant to cheer you. What I love is it takes less than five minutes to read and just gives a jolt of something funny and fun to lift one’s spirits on blue days.

I keep this little book on my bedside just so I can reach for it for a laugh or a positive message that cheers me up with some lighthearted humor and animals that make me smile. Often a bad day can just turn on something as simple as a Blue Day Book. We often forget to reach for simple things like this thinking it cannot help.

However, being able to do this simple act – like reading this book – can actually open you up and out of singing the blues and into a more positive frame of mind. Laughter can also do this and this book invokes laughter. Sometimes when we are feeling depressed though it is beyond difficult to reach for a book or a laugh. That is why it is no easy step to take.

However, I do recommend having a few fun and funny books within easy reach on any given day to lift your spirits in case you need them. It may not completely cure your blues, but it may take your mind away from them and allow something new to come in to feel during the day.

All these old books I am reaching for this summer learning that these oldies still offer a lot of wisdom for today’s pressures and feelings. Some days and things do not change.

Book Review: Gift From the Sea

Gift from the Sea Book
A Perennial Summer Favorite Book

Gift From the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh is a perennial favorite book of mine.

Although there are many print runs of this book, my book looks like this one, which was printed in the 1960s. My Mother gave this book to my Grandmother. She must have read it but it sat on her bookshelves for most of her life. However, one day she gave it to me. She tracked who gave the book to whom and on which date. Family history via a book.

In any case, Gift From The Sea is an absolute favorite book of mine. Anne heads to the ocean in the book and enjoys a few weeks of her summer there as she reflects on life via the shells she finds on the beach. It is definitely written in a different time, and it is very obvious that Anne Morrow Lindbergh was a woman of great means and privilege. She had many children, but had the ability and means to remove herself from her family and spend weeks during the summer contemplating what life meant to her, especially her path as a wife and mother.

Although dated, her ideas, thoughts, and the metaphor of the seashells that she uses still resonate. I pick up this book each summer and I underline the ideas and words that resonate with me that summer and I put my initials and the month and year beside what I have underlined. In this way, I am able to track my years by what was resonating at any given time for myself. It’s become a very cool way of looking at myself and the meaning I am making in my world through the years.

This book makes space for contemplation, reflection, and gentleness as we take this journey to find the meaning of our own lives. Reading this book annually is a tradition that I look forward to each summer.

Is there a book that calls to you and that you return to year in and year out? For me, it has to be Gift From the Sea. I highly recommend it to you.

The Nature Notes of an Edwardian Lady

The Nature Notes of an Edwardian Lady

Do you love nature? How about sketch drawings? One more question — do you appreciate each month and the beauty it offers to you all the year through?

If you have answered yes to any of these questions, but particularly if you replied yes to all three then this little book gem is for you. This is another old book that I have dusted off my shelf and found recent enjoyment in as it truly does follow The Nature Notes of an Edwardian Lady, Edith Holden.

Edith takes a year in her life and documents all of the natural moments she finds both in seemingly perfect quotes — even grounding us in the meaning of the months’ names – and drawing images that she finds in nature, much like the cover of the book. All throughout the books sketch drawings capture one’s eye as it takes in the birds, bees, and other critters and flora she finds on her way.

She breaks the year down by month and takes us through how the animals and plant life change as the months on the calendar turn. I was always drawn to her timeline of dates during each month. It won’t be every day of the month listed, but a splattering of dates where she does something or happens upon some unique aspect of nature. So charming!

It’s only a little slice of Edith’s life that we get to see, but it’s so full of charm. I believe it would be a perennial favorite — a book that can be pulled out again and again to become grounded in nature and even imagine your own year full of natural glory.

It’s summer – a perfect season to be outdoors and take in your own nature notes. Perhaps you will be sketching them, or recording your days in a journal, or just inspired by your own natural muses. It’s fun to pull out the books on your shelves that you’ve had forever and reread them to find meaning anew.

Book Review: Living a Beautiful Life

Living a Beautiful Life Book

Living a Beautiful Life – who doesn’t want to embrace beauty in their lives and create a beautiful way to live?

Alexandra Stoddard’s book Living a Beautiful Life is an old fashioned book that embraces this concept. She is sort of dated back to the 1990s, but when I pick up this book — again and again there are kernels of beauty that are easy to bring to our own lives. Basically, the 500 suggestions in this book are about bringing joy and beauty to our everyday.

This book has always sat on my bookshelf, as have so many others she has written. They all are written in an easily accessible manner, weaving the interpersonal with the design tips, the musings on partners, time, parenting, and more. Life seems to slow down when I pull these books to read. These are not the types of books to read from end to end, but rather as something to peruse for inspiration on any given day.

What makes your life beautiful? Can you find it in your everyday? Do you infuse your days with things that bring you pleasure? It doesn’t have to be anything big or extraordinary. It can simply be a favorite flower to look upon and care for, a beautiful piece of chocolate, a bubbly salt bath, writing a postcard to a friend far away, planting a vegetable garden, even picking weeds. Whatever you do in a day, engage it with beauty.

Although it feels like Stoddard’s day has almost past, I think there is a place for looking to the old ways of being happy, feeling beautiful, and taking time in the world to create joy that never goes out of style. I recommend her books to you and hope today — and always — you are living a beautiful life.

Antiracism Books for Teens

Antiracism Books for Teens
Photo Credit: Washington Post

Antiracism books for your teen is a brilliant idea this season!

Your teen has probably been home and studying for months by now. Hard to believe that school is almost out — given school is home and home is school. Still, summer reading season is almost upon us and with everything going on in America, this may be a great summer to have your teens read books that speak to themes of antiracism.

Whether working for social justice, seeking further understanding of the immigrant experience, or gaining knowledge around America’s unique racist ideas that are embedded in our systems, this list offers something interesting that will add appeal to your standard summer reading list.

Do you have younger childre? Then check out this list of antiracist books for children featured in the New York Times. Love this list as it breaks down books by age-appropriateness.

And for all of us, here is a great list to read through and that I believe teens will also appreciate as well. How many have you read?

Many people feel like if they are not protesting in the streets then they are not doing anything for the movement. Yet, reading books that are on these lists is one of the very first steps all of us must take in order to educate ourselves on our history, our past, the movements, and where we are headed into the future. Being well read on these topics is critical in helping to make systemic change in America.

Another idea is to pass along your books after you read them — that is if you bought your book. Share and recommend these books far and wide to all whom you know. It is important work to read, use our language to distill the ideas, and share with your friends and community.

Happy Summer Reading!