The Bibliophile Safari

My teenager rolled her eyes at me. You have a problem. I was leaving the bookstore with seven new books. Piles teeter haphazardly in my study. I read a lot and I read weirdly. I visit the library once a week and I can’t leave a bookstore without new books, even more so when it’s an independent bookseller. It might be a problem, but I don’t care. Today, apparently, is designated Book Lovers’ Day. Uh, isn’t that every single minute of every single day?

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This morning my husband asked me why I was reading a university-bound paper on the inventor of the Hmong written language. I shrugged. I was just interested in it. It was too early in the morning to explain the journey. I’d read Mai Der Vang’s collection of poetry, Afterland, which made several references to the Hmong language. I started to look up translations, when I discovered that Hmong written language hadn’t even been invented until 1959 – by a self-proclaimed messiah named Shong Lue Yang, nicknamed “The Mother of Writing”.

What was the point of tracking down any book I could find on the guy through inter-library loans? Curiosity. I’ve written that I’ve begun to see reading as part of my job as a writer. But this was reading without purpose – my absolute favorite kind. I just unraveled a story, sought out the threads, and now will know something I didn’t. It doesn’t end there, though. Like getting caught in endless link-hopping through Wikipedia, I now have more books I want to read. The Shong Lue biography weaves mythology into historical events, so I’ve requested books on Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam.

At some point, I’ll be done following the threads and pick up entirely different ones. This organic reading process gives me great joy. It combines my love of research and reading and surrounds me with a kaleidoscope of ideas.

So in honor of yet another made-up holiday, here’s a list of some of my all-time favorites:

Fiction

Nonfiction

I have eschewed all social media except for this blog, but have decided to become more active on Goodreads, because reading is so much my happy place. I’m trying to update my lists and will write only nice things about books I like, so I intend on being completely useless as a critic. That being said, I’m not sure how it all works, but if you send me a friend request, I’ll be happy to connect.

What are some of your all-time faves?

 

51 Comments on “The Bibliophile Safari

  1. I need a “love” button for this post. Like you, I am driven by curiosity and just plain love of reading so you never know what might end up on my bedside table. I recently read a review of a book written by a French author and translated into English by two different translators. I want to read both translations just because I’m curious about the different interpretations of the same story.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I have a hard time understanding incurious people. And what’s so delightful about it, is that the more you learn, the more you realize how much more there is to learn. I have numerous books in French, Russian, Spanish, and German, because I try to read original text. It’s ridiculously difficult for me and I haven’t gotten all the way through a single one, but I like trying!

      Liked by 2 people

      • I don’t understand incurious people either. All I know is, they sure are missing out on a lot. I love that you try to read books in different languages. You’ve inspired me, I think I’m going to give that a try myself! 😊

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t read a lot of Non Fiction, but I totally agree with you, about curiosity. With Fiction I love to be transported to different places and meet new characters. I also love to learn about different ways of writing and it gives me inspiration for my own writing. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks – you’re right to point out the usefulness for writers. I like to read from every genre for the same reason – finding ways to improve my own writing. I find myself reading less for entertainment these days, but inevitably a good book removes one from this world, like a vacation in a chair!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m an Austen girl, Agatha Christie, great gatsby, the children’s hour, all the light we can not see, I know there are more…I might need to do a list…

    Liked by 1 person

      • I think she’s so brilliantly written! Her view of how to solve crimes is actually revolutionary….I loved the way she compared people she knew in st Mary mead to situations she encountered…the whole people have certain qualities sort of thing. I’ve wanted to write a blog about that, but I want to sit down and reread the marble books first

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  4. Have you read any books by Robertson Davies, Michelle? He is an extraordinary Canadian author–was, actually, he died in 1995. For years, my husband would cringe at my very vocal outrage every October when they announced the Nobel Prize for Literature and continually overlooked Davies. His masterpiece is The Deptford Trilogy, composed of Fifth Business, The Manticore, and World of Wonders. Each book can stand alone, but together they are breathtaking in their insights, stories, writing…and their vastly different approaches. I reread the trilogy about every 7 years and it always manages to speak to where I am in my life at that moment. I’m going to look for a few of your favorites that I haven’t read yet.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I just requested The Deptford Trilogy from the library upon your recommendation. I also requested The Merry Heart, which is a collection of his speeches and essays. Thanks!

      I read an article about the Nobel prize and all the goings on with the politics, scandal, and ideological bickering. I’m thinking Mr. Davies was likely well out of it – they’ve even cancelled the 2018 Lit award due to the scandal.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I get you on the bookstore addiction, but then I realize I have a lot of books in my shelves that haven’t been read yet. Favorite Fiction – Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison; The Color Purple, Alice Walker; Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston; White Teeth, Zadie Smith; A Fine Balance, Rohinton Mistry; A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens; A Man Called Ove, Fredrik Backman; The Secret History, Donna Tartt; All The Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr; all J.R.R. Tolkien books and Game of Thrones series, George R.R. Martin. Fave Non-Fiction – Team of Rivals and No Ordinary Time, both by Doris Kearns Goodwin; The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin; I’ll Never Be French (no matter what I do), Mark Greenside; and I Feel Bad About My Neck, Nora Ephron.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There’s no doubt that I own a lot of still-to-be-read books. It was always my fantasy to have my own library. We visited Sir Walter Scott’s home in Abbotsford and he had a couple of rooms just lined with books, including his study.I nearly swooned with envy. I know that ecologically and consumer-wise, it’s wrong, but having one’s own library seems to me to represent the epitome of wealth. I recently visited my mother who insists, each time, on showing me her “library”. Maybe it’s genetic!
      So many of the books you listed I’ve enjoyed, too. I completely forgot about Zora Neale Hurston on my list. But then, it would be hard to do a comprehensive list – it would cause too much blog scrolling!

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  6. I love to read non-fiction, and I love fiction when it’s really good–All the Light We Cannot See was one of my favorites, along with The Book Thief and Out Stealing Horses. I recently read a couple of Ta-Nehisi Coates books thanks to your blog, and right now I’m reading Toni Morrison’s The Origin of Other and Aldous Huxley’s The Divine Within. I’ll read about anything because, like you, I know I have so much to learn about the world. One of my favorite authors is the novelist and environmentalist Wallace Stegner, and I find Terry Tempest Williams’ writing really resonates with me also.
    Always love choosing books from fellow bloggers recommendations. I have found some of the best reads of my life doing so. Thanks for sharing yours. I’ve been meaning to get back on Good Reads and update my reading list. Maybe I will catch you there.
    I have a funny story about Beloved. When it was something a lot of my friends were talking about I got a book from the library that I thought was it, but it turned out to be a kind of soft porn romance novel by a British author, and I kept thinking, WTH is everyone so excited about with this book? On that same note, haven’t bothered with Fifty Shades of Gray, as I already know it is not a genre that I am interested in. Life is too short to read crap, lol.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I enjoy reading Terry Tempest Williams. One of my favorite “environmental” books is A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold. It’s a simple book based on the art of observation. I haven’t read Wallace Stegner’s work, so I’ll keep him in mind.

      Funny story about your search for Beloved! I did read 50 Shades, because of all the white middle-aged women tittering on about it. I lost respect for some of my friends’ reading tastes (and no longer trust them for recommendations). I didn’t care about the salaciousness of the subject – I was absolutely appalled by the writing and that anyone could overlook it, for badly written erotica. Just like this last election, I felt an unmitigated sense of embarrassment for my demographic group.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Twain is also one of my top favorites. Every few years I reread A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court. It’s such a wonderfully bizarre mix of comedy and tragedy, although the end is difficult to get through.
    And I work in a library. Like you I can’t leave a bookstore without books, but every day–sometimes every hour–I walk by carts of books, either new arrivals or older volumes in need of repair, and think, I’d like to read every one of those. In fact reading through your list of favorites I couldn’t help noticing the ones I haven’t read and thinking, those should be on my to-read table right now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is one of the reasons I tend to shy away from book reviews. I did a loose calculation of the books on my list that I currently want to read and I would have to do some Evelyn Wood speed reading to get them in under the average age of my death (81 years – giving me about 30) and it would like mean giving up things like hygiene and social interaction (and if you think I hadn’t thought of the possibility of going for it…).

      Mark Twain is so sharply funny. I never much cared for Tom and Huck, but his short stories and essays are great pick-me-ups. One my favorite essays is “Corn-Pone Opinions”. Seems timely as ever.

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  8. Dunces and Vonnegut are our only overlaps on books I’ve even read let alone favourites. I started God of Small Things but put it down. My head wasn’t there. I’ll try it again at some point. Most of the others are on my to-read list. My list of favourites is long and could change over time: E.M. Forster, Hitchiker’s Guide, High Fidelity, Barney’s Version. Some books like Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin were a full, exhilarating experience, though I wonder what it would be like a second time. I loved Exit West from last year and plan to re-read it soon. Will it be a favourite or just a good book? It’s like picking your favourite child, this exercise! But now you’ve got me thinking.
    As for Good Reads, I can take it or leave it. I use it to keep track of my thoughts on books I’ve read, but I really do take the reviews with a grain of salt. Here’s to actual, knowledgeable book critics, I say. But look for me there!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have to laugh, because sometimes when I put together list, I pick more high brow or literary works. But a full list would reveal the entire “trilogy” of the Hitchhiker’s Guide, Harry Potter, and Alfred Hitchcock stories. And the lady porn I read on my Kindle. Best to go with my aspirational reading…

      I’ve added to Exit West to my reading list. I’m not sure what I’m doing with Goodreads at this point, but I’m going to explore and fiddle with it a bit. If it ends up being a time suck, it might get pitched with the other platforms.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Ross – I started and finished Exit West this morning. Glad I picked it up after reading your comment. I love economical writing and his choice to use minimal magical realism to move the story along and keep it from being drug down by transitional traveling was great. It was a bittersweet story with a big theme. Thanks for mentioning it!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Y’all are making me jealous. I recently relocated and super downsized. I had to give away my 100s and 100s and 100s of books. Handing off my favorites was hard! “Guilty pleasures” like Stephen King (loved The Stand and the early Gunslinger books and IT and his new Bill Hodges series) and old favorites like Tolkien and John Irving (Garp!) and the Hitchhikers Guide. Of course, I love Harry Potter. And anything by Margaret Atwood or Fredrik Backman or Elizabeth Strout. I just read Less by Sean Greer. Loved it. And I’m still blown away by John Steinbeck (especially the Grapes of Wrath) and Toni Morrison (the Bluest Eye is my fave) and Things Fall Apart. New faves include Americanah, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Frye …. Thanks to everyone for some new titles to look at/for!

    Like

    • That would be a traumatic experience for me! But you survived. Hopefully you have a public library you can access. I try to remind myself that with public libraries, there is unending wealth, but I admit, there is nothing quite like being in your home surrounded by books. I’m a fan of Elizabeth Strout as well.

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  10. the best thing to do on a wintry night is to sit by the fire place reading and one might not know why they grab the book they grab to read; the point is to be taken into a different time, different world!!

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  11. Pingback: On the Verge of a Wild Irrational Gallop | The Green Study

  12. This one resonates, too! One of my only regrets is that I will never live long enough to buy all of the books that I own, and will own. Many of your favorites are my favorites, too. Although my all-time nonfiction favorite is Women Who Run With the Wolves. That’s my Bible, and I return to it over and over again.

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  13. I am a bookworm myself. I prefer reading fantasy/fiction novels and sagas. I LOVE to disconnect from the real world and live a million adventures.
    I am from Spain, so my “classic books” are different from the ones I can find in the United States, so… a few weeks ago I purchased the whole saga of “A series of unfortunate events”. I know it is supposed to be for kids. But I am enjoying it so far!

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    • As I’ve been reading more translated works, I’m always interested in what each country/culture regards as “must reads”.
      Books for kids on the market now are so much better and more sophisticated than what was available to me as a kid. I’ve enjoyed reading everything from Rick Riordan’s series to the Erin Hunter Warrior series – mostly to pay attention to what my child was reading, but I enjoyed them as well.

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  14. I am so glad that I came across your post. When I was younger, high school age, I would constantly be reading instead of studying like I was supposed to. I like reading a lot better because it would take me to new places and give me some peace that I never had as a student. I would be constantly shamed by my family for my reading habits and the lack of any other hobbies. I truly believed that reading would help me as a writer in the long run. I had so much joy in reading, now not so much; which is such a shame. But now I’m reading again whatever tickles my fancy. I am so glad there are people out there who can’t be shamed and continue to love reading like you do!

    Please keep sharing your lists and if you come across any awesome Japanese authors translated into English write a post.

    Thanks for writing Michelle! 😀

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    • Thanks for your kind words. I was very fortunate that there were people in my family who read on one side. On the other, not so much, so I did get the “why is your nose always stuck in a book?” jibes. I used to get in trouble in class for reading and not participating in class discussion.
      One of the books on my very lengthy list is called “Woman in the Dunes” by Kōbō Abe. I’ve made a concerted effort to read more works in translation, because it hit me how myopic my reading had been most of my life. This has opened a whole new world of wonderful literature to me, for which I’m grateful.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I am so glad that there are others out there who love to read just as much and have similar stories! 😀 Thank you for your response and the book recommendation 😀

        Liked by 1 person

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