Spring with Mary Oliver

March 20, 2014




Mary oliver

Mary Oliver simply writes the most beautiful, evocative poetry. The first day of Spring seemed like the ideal time to draw your attention to her spunky spirit and love of Nature. Gosh it was hard to narrow down the quotes from her poems – I have collected so many. You may recall her Peonies poem being featured here a few years ago. I encourage you to take a Spring stroll through the pages of any one of her books, savouring the images she paints with her words as you go. She has won many awards (a little one called the Pulitzer among them) and she is widely cherished though rarely appears in the media. Fortunately, she has made good use of her quiet time and has many volumes available, the most recent being these two:

mary-oliver-a-thousand-mornings   maryoliverdogsongs





“Why I Wake Early

Hello, sun in my face.

Hello, you who made the morning

and spread it over the fields

and into the faces of the tulips

and the nodding morning glories,

and into the windows of, even, the

miserable and the crotchety –

best preacher that ever was,

dear star, that just happens

to be where you are in the universe

to keep us from ever-darkness,

to ease us with warm touching,

to hold us in the great hands of light –

good morning, good morning, good morning.

Watch, now, how I start the day

in happiness, in kindness.”

― Mary Oliver


Happy Spring to you!

Books with Buzz

March 3, 2011

 There have been two book titles this week that have buzzed through an extraordinary number of my conversations. I’ve had an opportunity to read (and recommend!) one and am eagerly anticipating a reading of the second based on the enthusiastic commentary I’ve heard.


One Day by David Nicholls has travelled the globe by word of mouth in a way few other titles have. It follows the journeys of a man and a woman who meet in university during the 1980s and remain connected through the decades that follow. We are given a glimpse into their lives at various points, always on the same day – July 15th. This “one day” makes for an interesting device to move the story forward. From the author’s website: ” 15th July 1988. Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew meet for the first time on the night of their graduation. Tomorrow they must go their separate ways. So where will they be on this one day next year? And the year after that? And every year which follows? One Day is a funny/sad love story spanning twenty years, a book about growing up – how we change, how we stay the same.”

A big part of the appeal of the book is the realistic “warts and all” behaviours of the characters – these are people you will recognise and relate to in many ways.  “Honest” is a word reviewers have used frequently to describe the writing. You may be reminded of other beloved hip British writers: Nick Hornby and Tony Parsons.

Pop culture also plays an important role – the setting is London, England for the most part and references to the music and news of the times colour the story. In fact, David Nicholls has responded to repeated requests by actually posting a playlist of mix tapes (remember mix tapes? – now they’re playlists) that appear in the story. I love that! 

David Nicholls himself is an engaging fellow in his interviews and his sense of humour comes across on his website as it does of course in his writing. One Day is the third of his novels and like me, you’ll no doubt be inspired to search out the previous ones, Starter for Ten and The Understudy. Get thee to a bookshop – the movie version will be released in September. I refuse to tell you who is starring (even though she’s BIG!) as I’d hate to influence your own vision of the characters. Your fault if you look it up!


And now for a Canadian read … Room by Emma Donoghue. (“Canadian” because Irish-born Ms. Donoghue now lives in Canada.) Diplomatically, both of the author’s homes have honoured the book with Novel of the Year – the Hughes & Hughes Irish Novel of the Year and the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize for best Canadian novel.  I’ve yet to read this but am promised a copy shortly and can’t wait (no pressure on my book-loaning friend!)  Also short-listed for the Man-Booker prize, this book inspires animated conversations everywhere. I’m motivated to start turning the pages not as much by the topic which feels dark but by the creative style of the book and the actual writing within.  From the author’s website: “Jack and Ma live in a locked room that measures eleven foot by eleven.  When he turns five, he starts to ask questions, and his mother reveals to him that there is a world outside. Told entirely in Jack’s voice, ROOM is no horror story or tearjerker, but a celebration of resilience and the love between parent and child.” As with many new releases seeking to inspire the market to embrace them, this book has a solid presence in social media and very creative ways to engage with the story beyond its covers. Visit Room on the book’s website and take a visual journey through the eyes of Jack.

If you’ve read either One Day or Room share your comments with us!

Cozy Books

November 14, 2010

I’ve been craving a  “cozy” book lately – one of those lovely yarns filled with delightful folks who find themselves in a pickle or two over which they anguish and then happily resolve by the end. Sometimes there are charming towns filled with quaint cafes, blooming gardens, book shops and quirky old houses.  There is usually an eccentric character or two, a misunderstanding or a secret, maybe even a dramatic journey. I do enjoy challenging reads in which I develop an appreciation for something, someone, or somewhere new but as the sun and the temperatures sink, a cozy book craving inevitably strikes.

Here are some of  the  books I’ve cuddled up with and enjoyed:


Adriana Trigiani is a character unto herself and prolifically generates heartwarming and funny tales. I recommend starting with the Big Stone Gap series (and quickly – rumour is there is a movie in the works!)

Maeve Binchy is a classic in the genre. Light A Penny Candle was my first Binchy read and I have a clear memory of  racing through the last pages in the light of the headlights of the car following ours on a long drive home. Just that riveting. Fortunately for us, Maeve Binchy is also dedicated to her writing and provides us with new choices on a fairly regular basis.

Rosamunde Pilcher‘s The Shell Seekers is an all-time favourite. There is a sequel called September and many other stories as well that I’ve enjoyed but The Shell Seekers is the one of which I’m most fond. While Rosamunde has retired her son Robin Pilcher now writes similarly themed books.

A few new “cozies” are arriving on the book shop shelves and my wish list:


And so as you tuck your blanket in around you and get the fireplace going, which cozy books are you craving?

Books of our Youth

November 6, 2010

I was out shopping this week for my very special niece’s birthday.  Predictable, I know, but I ended up in the bookstore. I have so many great memories of books I read in my youth that I savour still and was inspired to share some with her as she’s been a good little reader from an early age.  A quick survey with some friends today revealed that I’m not the only one with precious memories of books we read long ago – what a fun conversation we had! My shopping excursion ended up with a classic favourite (Heidi) and I resisted (strongly) the popular, modern books covered in bubblegum pink with generous sprays of metallic stars. Perhaps the flashy new stories would be more appealing these days but I’m an old school Auntie and trust the stories that captivated us all those years ago will resonate just as strongly today. What are your thoughts? Are there any new books you think will stand the test of time?  Feel free to share your nostalgic favourites too!

My all time favourites from the day:


What to read next

October 13, 2010


So many new books to explore but so many timeless ones yet to enjoy as well. I’m turning the tables today – if you could recommend one book (or a few if so inclined) what would it be?  It could be a recent read from the bestseller list or an all time favourite … let us know what we should read next!


August 21, 2010

Starting a fresh book, with all that delicious anticipation, is a treat. Finishing a book and feeling sorry that it’s ended is relatively rare and an even greater pleasure. I believe the success of a story is in its emotional connection to the reader. I’ve connected with two stories this summer (so far) and felt privileged to have experienced them. My hope is that you will feel touched in the same way if you read them.

From my Paperbacks for Summer list (see entry on July 11, 2010) I read Same Kind of Different As Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore.  Like many, I often ponder the prevalence of homelessness and struggle to imagine the best way out for those who seek to leave that way of life. Same Kind of Different as Me takes the reader to this world – it is the true story of one man’s path from poverty to the riches of friendship and family. It is also the story of a very wealthy man’s own personal enlightenment through his involvement with one homeless man in particular.  There is so much more to the tale as the men’s relationship is fostered by the strength and love of a special woman. Have your tissues close at hand! A strong religious element flows through the story which may be important to some readers or distract others. I appreciated its role in the account but focused more on the relationships in the story.  This is a book I know I’ll reflect upon often and recommend for a long time.

The second book, from Summer is Here At last – Your Recommendations (posted on July 4, 2010) was Open: An Autobiography by Andre Aggasi.  I was loaned the book by a friend with whom I play tennis and whose reading choices I respect and, though it did appeal, it was mostly her enthusiasm that prompted me to pick it up and get reading. I’m so glad I did – what a riveting tale!  It certainly fits the “un-put-down-able” category, causing me to shirk many duties this week and to suffer the effects of late nights in order to get to its final pages.  Whether you are a tennis fan or not, this well-written personal story of physical and mental dedication, personal anguish, loyalty, and love, will capture your attention. A bookish aside from Andre’s final words in the acknowledgements:  “I was late in discovering the magic of books. Of all my many mistakes that I want my children to avoid, I put that one near the top of the list.”

What books have you connected with this summer?


Cookin’ the Books

June 22, 2010

I believe some of the most beautiful and interesting books on the market are found in the Cooking section of the bookshop. I’m certainly not much of a chef but some of my most treasured books are my cookbooks. For sentimental reasons, my Blue Ribbon Cook Book for Everyday Use in Canadian Homes published in 1905 will always have prime real estate on my shelf. Mine is the sixteenth edition and has my Grandmother’s handwriting  throughout its splattered, stained and yes, even burnt pages. (Possibly from a cigarette instead of the stove …? Those were the times!) My mother-in-law has her own mother’s edition on her kitchen bookshelf. I wonder how many of you are hanging onto a copy too …

A cook book can be so much more than just recipes. Here are a few I’d love to share with you:

        The Summer Book by Susan Branch

A work of art! Literally … Hand-lettered, watercolour-painted, personal story-filled and yummy recipes on almost every page! All of her books are sweet but this is my favourite.  

      Apples for Jam by Tess Kiros

I have given this as a gift but have yet to treat myself to a copy. It is also a visual delight and weaves a wonderful story of family and the meals that sustain and comfort throughout one’s life.

      The Pioneer Woman Cooks – Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl by Ree Drummond

Good heavens this woman is a hoot!  I discovered her incredibly successful blog at www.thepioneerwoman.com  and was inspired by her humour and photography skills to seek out her book. She is zany, but in the most charming and talented way.  She photographs and chats her way through every step of each recipe – for instance step 15 of PW’s Potato Skins is: ” Then simply place them on a platter, walk toward your guests and discover what it feels like to be the most popular person in the room. Field marriage proposals as needed.”  Hearty comfort food is the theme (she is feeding cowboys after all!)

     The Art of Eating by M.F.K. Fisher (50th Anniversary Edition)

Not actually a cook book per se, this is a collection of five of Fisher’s books of essays on cooking and life: Serve it Forth, Consider the Oyster, How to Cook a Wolf, The Gastronomical Me, and An Alphabet for Gourmets. I discovered Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher in a writing class (having passed away in ’92 she wasn’t in attendance – her writing was being reveredby the instructor) and was intrigued by her persona and the craft of her writing. Like Georgia O’Keefe and Coco Chanel, Fisher was a strong and charismatic woman with an abundance of talent and sharp wit.  Here is a little excerpt from a chapter called Pity the Blind in Palate: “Frederick the Great used to make his own coffee, with much to-do and fuss. For water, he used champagne. Then, to make the flavour stronger, he stirred in powdered mustard. Now to me it seems improbable that Frederick truly liked this brew. I suspect him of bravado. Or perhaps he was taste-blind.”


Feel free to comment on your favourite cooking titles too …

Bon appetit!


June 2, 2010

The weather isn’t inspiring but flipping the calendar page has been …  it’s time to think of summer reading! 

Many of us have rituals around packing and selecting books for extended stays away, sometimes to destinations remote. Have you begun your planning? I have a list on the go and will be sharing it with you here soon. Before I do, I thought I’d offer to collect some of your summertime reading suggestions and then put them together with mine in a “shopping list” of sorts for Bedside Table Books followers. To make it easy, here are two headings to get you started:   (E-mail your responses to bedsidetablebooks@hotmail.com and I’ll tally the titles and post here for all to see)

a)      Summer favourites I recommend:

b)      My top choices to read in Summer 2010:

The sooner you reply, the sooner I’ll get the list out … looking forward to your input!

The Snow Goose

May 27, 2010

Last week I came across an interesting endeavour on BBC Radio 4’s Open Book program:  a number of well-known authors had been recruited to put forth nominations of “forgotten treasures of the literary world – books that have been overlooked or become inexplicably out of vogue and which most deserved to be re-read and reinstated onto our bookshelves.”  The winning selection presented by Michael Morpurgo was a beloved book of mine, The Snow Goose by Paul Gallico.  The story recounts the relationship between a young girl and a reclusive lighthouse keeper who share in the recovery of an injured snow goose during wartime. The Dunkirk evacuation plays a significant role in the story. In fact “A story of Dunkirk” is the subtitle in UK editions. Short on pages this gorgeous tale is loooong on memorable heart wrenching emotion. I had planned this post already but when I woke up this morning to the news that today begins the 70th anniversary of Dunkirk I knew the topic was destined to be!  It is a wonderful book to read yourself but can also be shared with your older children and teens. It has been assigned reading in many schools. 

A quick review of the historical background according to The Telegraph:

The Dunkirk evacuation, dubbed Operation Dynamo, saw 338,000 troops rescued from the beaches of northern France between May 27 and June 4, 1940. It came after the speed of the German advance through the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and France left nearly half a million British and French troops trapped there. The rescue was led by the Royal Navy, which drafted in ships and boats of every size including pleasure boats, private yachts and launches. Described as a ”miracle of deliverance” by British wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill, it is seen as one of several events in 1940 that determined the eventual outcome of the war.

To read more about the Evacuation of Dunkirk and to see images read here.

To listen to the “Neglected Classics” piece on BBC Radio 4 and to hear an excerpt from The Snow Goose read aloud, click here.  The fascinating recent follow up on the Open Book  show is here. To learn more about the cultural impact of this story, click here.

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