July 21, 2022
THE AMBUSH OF A GOOD BOOK
A good novel is an invasion;
it marches in and you try
to resist, to put it down
but eventually you surrender,
and it burrows every word
into the thickest parts of you,
in an ambush of emotion
so that years later,
you think of them
not as characters at all,
but your own memories
of a life you got tricked
was your own.
~ Samantha Reynolds
Long time readers will know I’ve long been an enormous fan of bentlily, the daily poetry project by Samantha Reynolds. My first post featuring bentlily was on May 12, 2013 and I’m so pleased to report that all this time later, she’s still going strong with daily inspiration, laughs and, well, heart-sprongs, for lack of the right word. Poet I’m not. There is a rumour a book will soon appear. You can bet I’ll be back to report on that. In the meantime, couldn’t resist sharing this gem with you, fellow readers. I know you’ll get it!
Been ambushed by anything special lately?
June 5, 2022
This little blog seems to come in waves; I land on the shore when I have good goodies I can’t resist sharing. “Oh Reader magazine – For the Love of Reading“ is one such goodie. I’m here to encourage you to take a peek into its pages – you won’t be disappointed!
The magazine’s editors probably best describe its mission: “Oh Reader is not so much about books themselves (although we do love them with almost indecent fervor); it’s more about the lives of those who read them. Because the books we read shape who we are as people.
Oh Reader is a magazine about reading, for and by readers. It looks deep into the art of reading—why we do it, how it affects us, who we are when we read, and how we’re all connected through words.
Expect insightful stories, hilarious observations, fascinating interviews and a lot of word-nerdery. We publish four times a year, in print and online, so you can read any time.”
A great gift for the book lover in your life but be sure to treat yourself too. Each edition is entirely unexpected. Some recent features I enjoyed include: love stories established on a shared love of reading and traveling, odes to the likes of Nancy Drew, Roald Dahl, and Judy Blume, grateful tributes to the words that got one through a tough time, photo essays featuring reading chairs and books and beverages, and always a shout-out to new releases for the ever expanding list.
The magazine is printed on beautiful paper with lovely illustrations and photos throughout so a real life copy is my preference but digital options are available as well. Hope you can find a copy for your bedside table. (Locally, I have had success finding issues at Save-On Foods of all places! Well done, Save-On!) Happy to become an old-fashioned subscriber to this one though.
October 4, 2021
Under these covers, it’s all the same. Does the cover influence your decision to select and read a book? Just a little food for thought. These are books that all look good to me but I may be more inclined to choose one cover over another. Typically, the North American and the United Kingdom covers vary. And sometimes, the UK and Canadian versions are the same while the US version differs. And let’s not even get started on Down Under. It’s all a matter of marketing! Apparently, tastes are different in different parts of the world. Any preferences? Can you tell which is destined for which market?
September 19, 2021
Our first big soggy storms of the season have hit now and the above quote from the pages of Bella Grace seems a good fit.
As Summer winds down I find myself reflecting on my reading over the last few months. I’ve realised not all of my best reading has been within the pages of actual books. While my Summer Reading List and all of its associated best intentions may be less accomplished this year, I actually feel I’ve discovered some of the best writing I’ve read in a long while; small joys found unexpectedly. It’s all been book-related though and may lead to even more book reading so don’t ever think I’ve gone cold on my beloved caressable pages!
And so, as we hunker down on a dreary day, I am sharing a few of those unexpected joys of reading I encountered this Summer (may all the links connect forever and ever!) Each of these lovely finds deserves a blog post of its own but for now, please be introduced, tap on the links, and enjoy.
Rob Walker – The Art of Noticing – The Art of Noticing is a book but the newsletter associated with it has grown legs of its own and is a worthy addition to any inbox; so many pondering prompts within. I loved a piece written about the interesting conversations we may be missing due to our dependence on Google. One regular feature is called Dictionary of Missing Words in which we’re asked to pay attention to the “sensations, concepts, feelings, slippery things – that could be named but don’t seem to be” For instance: “The feeling you have when hearing the garbage truck outside and you haven’t put the garbage can at the curb yet …” Rob Walker The Art of Noticing Newsletter
Katherine Centre – Katherine Centre is a novelist whose books (Things you Save in A Fire, How to Walk Away) are colourfully queued up in my TBR pile. The gorgeous covers alone! Sigh. I became more motivated than ever to read her books after encountering her essay: The Joy of Reading. Read the whole thing because I guarantee you’ll love it but here’s a little glimpse: “Because stories are, at their cores, emotion machines. They can make us laugh, make us cry, make us angry, make us fall in love, make our hearts sprint with fear. They distill human experience, and capture its meaning, and connect us to our humanity like nothing else can. They are the closest thing we have to magic.” Find the essay here on her website.
Ann Patchett – We know her and love her for Bel Canto, State of Wonder, The Dutch House… and I yearn to visit her bookshop Parnassus Books in Nashville. Her fresh essays in The New Yorker and Harper’s were a Covid era delight for me and for so many others. I beseech thee, pour the tea and sit down for a spell to read these heart wrenchingly beautiful essays.
Cup of Jo Blog – I stumbled upon this blog over a decade ago. We were all new to blogging then and Joanna Goddard seemed to have an early grip on what it was all about. She has built an awesome (in the true sense of the word: eliciting awe) community of readers who comment freely and often and without fear of judgement. The comments are abundant because Joanna, beyond her own candid insightful writing, has gathered a stable of extraordinary writers and essayists who prompt unbridled engagement with their contributions. Oh, you’ll have the window opened to makeup trends and fashion faux pas and learn what to feed a vegan in 30 minutes or less but the real meat (if I dare say) of the site is in the honest and perceptive writing about small moments in Life. I respect and enjoy every one of the writers but Caroline Donofrio inevitably strikes a chord. Here are two of her Cup of Jo essays that I consider keepers: (And don’t forget to read the comments!)
Kelly Corrigan – Kelly is an idol. She communicates the truth of so many in a disarmingly genuine way. I have read and loved every one of her books (The Middle Place, Lift, Glitter and Glue, Tell Me More) and now, her podcast and TV show are musts too. I will wind up this far-too-lengthy post with a video link to a speech (subtitles can count as reading too!) given by Kelly. The conclusion might just be the best part (tissues required). The Walker School Commencement Speech.
(A reminder that this post is riddled with links – connect with any/all of the recommendations by clicking on the bold text)
April 24, 2021
Today is Independent Book Shop Day – a day for taking time to consciously support those little independent shops in which we reliably find books, conversation, comfort and more. (Like puzzles. Or cards. And maybe romance if you’re a character in a book.)
Though many of us may secretly dream of being book shop owners, in reality it is a very few who have the gumption and the grit to successfully bring these dreams to life and then keep them alive in hard times. I, for one, am extremely grateful to all those independent book shop owners and employees who rise to the challenge every day. This last year has been a doozy and I have so admired the innovation shown by bookshop keepers around the world who have creatively committed to keeping the rest of us joyfully connected with books and writers despite not always being able to even open their doors. Thank you all!
As a little toast to our favourite bookshops, here is a list of novels with bookshop themes. There are hundreds more I'm sure (share any favourites I haven't listed) but these are all fairly recent. I have a hard time passing up a bookshop or a bookshop book!
March 31, 2021
I’ve been sitting on this good news like a hen on an Easter egg! Janice MacLeod has recently released a scrumptious new treasure in her Paris series. Dear Paris – The Paris Letters Collection is absolutely beautiful and its release into the world couldn’t possibly be more aptly timed. We’re starving for some inspiration for imaginative daydreaming and armchair travels and this little beauty will have you off to dreamy Paris in a sweet sunlit second. A work of art (actually pages and pages of sumptuous art) this book is the perfect gift for Easter, for Mother’s Day, for birthdays, for “I-deserve-a-treat!” Day … any occasion.
Longtime readers will remember my initial infatuation with Janice’s work when it began with this “Swooning” post way back in 2014. The writing, the artwork, the creativity, the glimpse into her adventurous life … all add up to must-read status for any of her books but this most recent, takes the gâteau. Before the books, there was her gorgeous written and illustrated letter subscription service. It’s still going strong over here on etsy. Dear Paris is a collection of 140 of the most lovely of these colourful letters and, in the Publisher’s words …
“For readers familiar with the city, Dear Paris is a rendezvous with their own memories, like the first time they walked along the Champs-Élysées or the best pain au chocolat they’ve ever tasted. But it’s about more than just a Paris frozen in nostalgia; the book paints the city as it is today, through elections, protests, and the World Cup—and through the people who call it home. Wistful, charming, surprising, and unfailingly optimistic, Dear Paris is a vicarious visit to one of the most iconic and beloved places in the world.“
To Paris? Shall we? Mais oui!
March 22, 2021
… to a fun little collaboration between Bedside Table Books and Red Fern Book Review. Red Fern Book Review is an excellent new podcast related to books and ably hosted by one Amy Mair.
Our lives intertwined in a few ways but it was while Amy and I were both volunteering at a Used Book Fair that our mutual love for reading surfaced. As we sorted the books, we realized we shared very similar taste in our literary choices and have enjoyed sharing reading recommendations whenever our paths have crossed since.
A few months ago, Amy decided to explore the world of podcasting. Red Fern Book Review is the delightful result. And what was that about a collaboration? Well, Amy kindly invited me to join her “on air” and share my favourite book picks among the Spring Releases. It seems like only yesterday that I posted about all the great New Year releases and now we’re into Spring with another fresh crop. Tune in on Wednesday, March 24th for Red Fern’s newest episode and Bedside Table Books’ first Podcast tie-in post.
Meanwhile, if you’re looking for some fun book chat, catch up with Amy’s earlier episodes, here.
See you on Wednesday, with your headphones on!
November 2, 2020
I am not sure artist Marc Johns anticipated being a Covid-era charmer but, I must declare, discovering his whimsy and wit during this time has charmed me immensely. The illustrations are quirky and cute but the words are usually what seal (sorry) the deal for me. In investigating a little further into the source of these creations I was delighted to discover Marc and his family live nearby, on Vancouver Island. Not sure why this was so exciting to me as the world wide web makes us all essentially neighbours nowadays and I have no plans to set off stalking but I suppose it’s comforting to know these seals and gulls and people with banana ears are local inspiration.
If you fall for these little doses of cheer as soundly as I did then you can add them to your daily life by following Marc’s Instagram or Pinterest accounts, buying a calendar, poster, or other merchandise (merch as the cool kids say – I’m not cool enough to use the term but aspire enough to make mention) or buy one of his books. Visit Marc’s website here to learn more and may you all find a chuckle in his delightful work!
July 7, 2020
I think I can safely say most of us love a Saturday morning. My Saturday mornings have recently become even more special thanks to my friend Karen and the Bookless Club.
At the beginning of May, a new column written by the talented Jane Macdougall, surfaced in the Vancouver Sun newspaper. A few kind friends immediately alerted me to this delight, “The Bookless Club“, knowing it would be right up my alley. They were so right! They also know condo living has complicated my newspaper delivery so I’m not savouring my Saturday papers in the same way anymore and may have missed out.
Karen took things further and has devotedly and reliably (even when she’s road tripping!) snapped a photo of the column each week and forwarded it to me. This spark of joy, courtesy of Karen, makes my day. The texted photo arrives with a “Have a lovely day!” and a “This is a great one!” Sometimes we have a quick conversation generated by the article. The Comfort Food column prompted this exchange: “Honey on toast!” and “PB on toast fingers dipped in chocolate milk!”
What’s a Bookless Club you ask? Well, according to its creator, it takes the best part of book club which is the conversation and community but isn’t limited by a single focus; it’s not just one story, it’s an exchange of stories. Jane explains: “For me, author Carol Shields summed it up best when she said, “We want, need, the stories of others. We need, too, to place our own stories beside theirs to compare, weigh, judge, forgive and to find, by becoming something other than ourselves, an angle of vision that renews our image of the world.” The Bookless Club found its footing when, housebound in a Pandemic, Jane realised that “I miss conversation. My mind is going to weeds without it.”
The actual column is lively and facilitates thoughtful conversation just as Jane intended. The most recent featured the friendship between Jane’s son and his best buddy. “One of them brings the fireworks, the other one knows where the hoses are. One of them spits in the wind, the other one makes sure the getaway car is gassed up. I like to think they complement each other, that they’re good for one another.” Deep sigh. I loved this! Each week, Jane provides a prompt based on the column’s theme and the replies appear the following Saturday. Tune in and see the submissions to: “Are old friends best? Do you have friendships that go back to childhood?” Search the Archives for Car Loves, Precious Pandemic Pets, Memorable Travel Moments and more … all terrific.
Storytelling indeed connects us and Jane oversees a wonderful forum during a time when connectedness is most meaningful. Look her up, enjoy the well-written content, and join the conversation with your own stories. And, if you have a heart as big as my friend Karen, pass the article along to someone and make their Saturday!