My 2019 new year goal was to read a biography of each of our U. S. Presidents, in chronological order. It’s July and I am up to our fifth President, James Monroe. I was sidetracked along the way. So, let me share with you what I have been reading.
I am an avid reader. Always have been. Reading books has saved my life. But I digress…more about that in another post.
Bruce is a prolific reader and we love to talk with each other about what we read.
We get the Sunday New York Times. Bruce reads it. I only read the Magazine and do the crossword puzzle. It takes me until Thursday and I complete about 95%, with Bruce’s help. Freddy helps, too.
We buy The West Springfield Record, our local newspaper at the corner store, every Thursday. This week’s edition has a long article about one of my favorite authors, Gladys Taber, a sort of native daughter of West Springfield. She wrote more than 50 books and wrote popular magazine columns in The Ladies Home Journal and Family Circle. I have read about 20 of her books. They are memoirs or journals of her life, raising her daughter, working as a journalist, creating a rural life in Connecticut, away from NYC, with her friend and her children. She wrote in a lyrical way about nature, love, loss, housekeeping, pets, children. She died in 1980 and her books are out of print. Search for her books in libraries as I did. Check out Gladys Taber; you will not be disappointed.
We get lots of magazines. The New Yorker is my all-time favorite. My nephew and his wife give us a subscription for a Christmas gift every year. Bloomberg Business is an easy way to keep up about what’s going on in the markets and the economies around the world. Yoga is inspiring. Catholic TV magazine. We are not Catholic, but we watch the mass each evening and the magazine let’s us know which priest is serving~we have our favorites. This Old House gives practical advise. Simple has good recipes as does Shape. Better Homes and Gardens and Country Living for recipes and decorating. Birds and Bloom, a gift from Bruce’s sister, filled with great photos and tips for attracting birds to your backyard.
We also get Poetry, a monthly. I don’t read poetry; I don’t get it. Bruce does. And, we get The Daily Word. It is a small booklet filled with biblical passages and an uplifting message for each day of the month.
We go to the town library about once a week and take out a cookbook or two for inspiration, even though we have lots of cookbooks.
In January, I started my presidential journey with His Excellency: George Washington by Joseph J. Ellis.
Next up, our second President, John Adams by John Ferling was a great read and especially interesting as he was from Massachusetts. His relationship with Thomas Jefferson was played out in this book as well as in American Sphinx about Jefferson by Joseph J. Ellis. Jefferson was full of contradictions; an absolutely fascinating read. Our fourth President, James Madison, by Richard Brookhiser, was an easy read.
In these books, I learned about the forming of our nation, the particularly genius minds of the time, how intractable differences were worked out [relationship with Britain, states rights versus federal government, central bank] or ignored [slavery], diplomacy, the conditions which led to the Revolutionary War. I learned about the formation of our two party system and the beginnings of the Democrat and Republican parties. Madison was quite a political animal, I mean, strategist. He assembled one of our nation’s first political parties, the Republicans, who became today’s Democrats.
I am up to our fifth President, James Monroe, another Southerner. He was not a very interesting person nor President from what the historians say and there are only a couple books written about him and they are not well written, lacking and biased. I have chosen to read James Monroe: The American Presidents Series: The 5th President, 1817-1825 by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. and Gary Hart. It was written in 2005. Monroe is known primarily for two things: being the last of the southern, Virginian dynasty, following Washington, Jefferson and Madison and for issuing the Monroe Doctrine. The Monroe Doctrine, written by John Quincy Adams, is a statement of principles that the western hemisphere was to be considered closed to European intervention. I look forward to reading it and getting back on track. I estimate I will be reading the American presidents for the next few years.
This is how I got off track in the Spring. It is my habit to read a spiritual book during Lenten season. In the past I have read Keep a True Lent by Charles Fillmore and The Week That Changed the World by Ernest C. Wilson. I highly recommend these books for reading any time of the year. This year I choose, regrettably, The Real Christ by Bernadette Roberts. It is 620 pages and it took me forever to read. I hated it, every single page, but I kept on reading it til the bitter end, because that’s the kind of person I am. This is what the synopsis says: “The Real Christ is simply the E=MC of theology, unfolding the deepest mysteries of the Trinity with profound clarity. This is a must read book for anyone who has struggled with remaining a Christian or grown frustrated with the banality of what seems to be the “Jesus industry” of corporate Christianity.”
WTF??? Had I read that, I never would have started this book. I wasted my time on this awful book. What more can I say? Except that I still felt the need to fulfill my yearly Lenten habit of reading a spiritual book. So, I read The Forty-Day Fast: A Spiritual Journey to Eliminate Toxic Words From Your Life by Tim Cameron. This book was a mere 258 pages. The premise of the book is that when you eliminate negative words [judgment, sarcasm, negativity, complaining and gossip] from your mouth, your heart will change and ‘ye shall be transformed’. Definitely sound advise…I may need a refresher.
I saw an interview on PBS with a writer, Glory Edim, about the importance of telling stories about women of color. She edited Well-Read Black Girl: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves. Of course, I had to read it.This is a beautifully curated collection of stories by and about women of color.
Next, PBS aired “Les Miserables”. I watched it and recalled fond memories of when my 6th grade teacher, Mrs. Smith, read this book, by Victor Hugo, to us each Friday afternoon. So, I decided to read it. All 1070 pages of it. Truly considered one of the greatest novels of the world, I enjoyed the universal moral theme of redemption, but did not enjoy slogging through French history and the French Revolution[s]. You can see how my mind gets caught going down these mazes….
Next up…While trying to find a good book about James Monroe to read, [remember my original goal] I started The Voyage of the Beagle by Charles Darwin. It’s a Harvard Classic, don’t you know? Here’s a description:
When HMS Beagle sailed out of Devonport on 27 December 1831, Charles Darwin was twenty-two and setting off on the voyage of a lifetime. His journal, here reprinted in a shortened form, shows a naturalist making patient observations concerning geology, natural history, people, places and events. Volcanoes in the Galapagos, the Gossamer spider of Patagonia and the Australasian coral reefs – all are to be found in these extraordinary writings. The insights made here were to set in motion the intellectual currents that led to the most controversial book of the Victorian age: The Origin of Species.
I am still reading it, haven’t finished it, yet. We are now at Tahiti; I trust we will be ending our trip soon.
But in the meantime….We were watching PBS Newshour and heard an interview with Arthur C. Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute talking about his latest book, Love Your Enemies: How Decent People Can Save America from the Culture of Contempt. It sounded so interesting I was compelled to read it. I found this book refreshingly challenging and for me it echoes back to our founding fathers and the way they acted and dealt with conflict. Brooks’ premise is that we should not try to agree more; disagreement and competition are secrets to excellence. He offers suggestions for bridging divides and mending relationships, rather than feeling contempt and demonizing our enemies. I recommend this book to all of us who want to work towards a better civil discourse with our brothers and sisters.
And then, lastly, on Saturday, July 6th, I was at the West Springfield Public Library with my Nepali friends, when I saw an intriguing title: How to Raise Successful People: Simple Lessons for Radical Results by Ester Wojcicki. 336 pages. I am not a parent; I don’t have children. Yet, I am a grandmother [to Bruce’s daughter’s children], I volunteer in the 3rd grade at a local school, and I am a friend to 3 Nepali children. I want to be the best role model I can be. This book is about bringing out the best in people based on the values of trust, respect, independence, collaboration, and kindness [TRICK]. I recommend it as “a must read” for parents, teachers, managers and anyone who wants to have a positive effect on the development of others.
So, there you have it friends. That’s what I have been reading. Tell me what you have been reading.