41 Books and Counting

I love goodreads, probably because I’m an obsessive list maker.  Goodreads lets you keep track of books you’ve read, want to read, and are currently reading.  (I can even scan book bar codes from my iPhone to add to my lists thanks to their app!)  This was the first year that I’ve kept track of all the books I’ve read and my total count is 41 this year! I’m a little bit proud. I’ll try to finish four more before the end of December and make it an even 45.

Rediscovering the San Francisco Public Library had a lot to do with the number of books I devoured. Until this year, I hadn’t visited a library since college.  I forgot how libraries open my heart wide with the possibility. The smell, the beautiful architecture, the plastic covers on the hard backs, the wooden slab tables with green Banker’s Lamps at each seat. When we moved this summer, we moved within walking distance to our neighborhood branch. I had no more excuses.  I’d dragged my feet about getting a library card because I was happy to support our local bookstores. We have at least five in walking distance.  One of things I love most about San Francisco is the number of independent bookstores there are.

There was a problem though. Every once in a while I’d buy a book that looked great at the outset, only to find out 100 pages in that I wasn’t really going to love this one.  Since I’d bought it, I would dutifully press on making myself read page after page.  Eventually I’d stay away from reading altogether to avoid the drudgery of slogging through a book that just wasn’t for me. The only reward was the relief of being done with it.

I discovered a beautiful thing when I started visiting my library.  I don’t have to read books I don’t like.  After I’ve given a book a fair chance I can slip it through the book return slot without an ounce of guilt.  I can also request books from any library in the system – some 2.2 million books – and have them put on hold and delivered to my local branch. ALL FOR FREE.  Unbelievable.

Ink and paper books make my heart beat faster.  Whenever I check out a book from the library that I absolutely love, I’ll buy it to add to my bookshelf at home.

(C) Open Hearted

(c) Open Hearted

A Favorite Poem

Being Boring

‘May you live in interesting times.’ Chinese curse

If you ask me ‘What’s new?’, I have nothing to say

Except that the garden is growing.

I had a slight cold but it’s better today.

I’m content with the way things are going.

Yes, he is the same as he usually is,

Still eating and sleeping and snoring.

I get on with my work. He gets on with his.

I know this is all very boring.

There was drama enough in my turbulent past:

Tears and passion – I’ve used up a tankful.

No news is good news, and long may it last.

If nothing much happens, I’m thankful.

A happier cabbage you never did see,

My vegetable spirits are soaring.

If you’re after excitement, steer well clear of me.

I want to go on being boring.

I don’t go to parties. Well, what are they for,

If you don’t need to find a new lover?

You drink and you listen and drink a bit more

And you take the next day to recover.

Someone to stay home with was all my desire

And, now that I’ve found a safe mooring,

I’ve just one ambition in life: I aspire

To go on and on being boring.

– “Being Boring,” by Wendy Cope from If I Don’t Know

Book Heart: The Elegance of the Hedgehog

The Elegance of the Hedgehog on My Book Shelf

I read lots, and lots, and lots of books. Every once in a while I come across a book that sticks with me. I mark pages and write down quotes of scenes or passages or dialogue I want to remember. I realized there’s a common theme running through most of these pieces I’m drawn to. It’s usually an example of a fictional character learning to be themselves, coming in to their own, or accepting some part of themselves. It’s typically all about being open-hearted. Today is the first of the what will hopefully be many Book Heart columns.

Book Heart: The Elegance of the Hedgehog

By Muriel Barbery

I picked up and put down this book maybe five times over that many years. For whatever reason, whenever I did my annual paring down of the overflowing bookshelves, I held on to it. Something about the cover, the person who’d recommended it to me… I just wasn’t ready to let it go. I’m so glad I didn’t.

It turned out to be one of those books that makes you want to sop up every last word and phrase.  The plot revolves around the lives of two unexpected friends: Renee an apartment building “concierge” in France and Paloma a young girl who lives in the building.  Neither believes that there’s  a place in the world for their real self.  They construct a whole facade trying to get by as the people they believe they’re supposed to be.  Slowly the real hearts break through, and it’s quite a joy to witness.  Enjoy!