Monday, March 29, 2010

summon me to shangri-la...

so i finished. secretly want to live in shangri-la forever. don't think it'll happen. the realist in me understands why it will never happen-but still REALLY wants to go to tibet now. let me know when you want to hear the rest of my soap box.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Trivia Pursuit

I want you all to know I thought of you last night. I was playing Trivial Pursuit with my family and the question was:
What James Hilton pocket-sized edition was first published in 1939?
I hope you all know the answer.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

How we read ... a lit theory question ...

I was listening to a talk this morning by a rather inspiring Mormon Bibliophile, Sterling W. Sill. I sincerely adore that man. In fact, it's hard for me to explain just how much Brother Sill influenced my life growing up. His dozens of books introduced me to the world of literature as it can (and should) be ... and prompted me to begin delving into worlds I may never had entered without his help.*

In this talk, given at BYU over thirty years ago, Brother Sill talks about the common link between "Bottle and Books." He begins by discussing two famines mentioned by Amos: (1) a famine of bread and a thirst for water and (2) a famine for hearing the word of God.

Bottles, Brother Sill explains, were invented shortly after the turn of the nineteenth century in France and allowed humanity to, largely, mitigate the problems associated with the first type of famine. Similarly, books have allowed us to capture the thoughts of the greatest thinkers the world has known and preserve them for future generations.

As Brother Sill explained:

Without books, God is silent, justice dormant, philosophy lame.

John Milton said, "Books are not . . . dead things, but do contain a potency of life in them to be as active as that soul was whose progeny they are; nay they do preserve as in a vial the purest efficacy . . . of that living intellect that bred them."

This, of course, we all agree with. We are, after all, Bibliophiles in name, word, and deed. We understand the why of reading.

But later on in his talk, Brother Sill hit on a topic that I've always considered just as fascinating: The how of reading.

While discussing King Henry's famous St. Cripin's Day speech in Henry V, Brother Sill prefaced a quotation from the play with the following observation:
That is, this is Shakespeare edited by Brother Sill. When Shakespeare does not say it as I think he ought to, I just cross off what he said and write it in as I think he should have said it. I do not read Shakespeare to please Shakespeare; I read Shakespeare to please me, and if he does not say it to please me I change it so that it does.
Now, a lot of book lovers would cry "BLASPHEMY!" to hear something like that. But is it?

It's been a long time since I've discussed any lit theory, but I initially tend to agree with Brother Sill. After all, we read books largely for our own benefit, understanding, and edification ... so why shouldn't we have the right create the story, words, or worlds that books offer "in our own image," as it were?

I guess one response is that, if we simply shut out those parts of the story that we don't like, we are missing on a key opportunity to expand our vision and experience a world we may never have dreamed of, i.e., the world the author is trying to show us.

So, with those preliminary thoughts in mind, my question for all of you is:

As readers, how much stock should we put in the author's purpose or intent as opposed to our own (I know there are names for each style of reading, but I can't seem to remember them at the moment)?

* NOTE: If you have the opportunity, you really must read some of his books. Many are available for $1-2 at Deseret Industries (if you have one near you ... lucky Utah people). If not, try Amazon.

New Book: Part II

Good afternoon my friends ... I'm sorry for the recent delay in my Bibliophile posting, but I'm happy to say I'm back on the horse and ready to (finally) help us choose a book to read by April 15.

From the initial poll (which, sadly, had only three participants), we've narrowed the choice to "Blindness" by Jose Saramago and "Lost Horizon" by James Hilton. The new poll (that I just put up) reflects these choices (with one vote allowed per person).

Let's have our votes in by Saturday and we can start next Monday.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

"I could have punched her in the face!"

This is a direct quote from a friend of mine. We were chatting last night and she shared this story. She was at B&N a week or two ago and stood by as a woman walked up to a copy of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE and said "Oooh! I wonder if this is based on the movie?"
I don't blame her. I could have punched her too.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Liz: I have two questions. :)

1. What scene in The House of Spirits did you most enjoy and which one made you the most uncomfortable?
I have to admit that the scenes that made me uncomfortable come to mind first, and with all of the icky and awkward scenes my top one was surprising even to myself. When Alba was helping with the student rebellion and they were stuck in the building for so long and then she begins to bleed I just kept getting that sick in my stomach feeling and I kept having to shack my head. The other uncomfortable scenes didn't cause such dramatic reaction.
My favorite scene was when Uncle Marcos takes off in his flying contraption and is presumed dead and then comes walking back into the house many months later. I caught the magic and excitement of this event in Allende's writing.

2. Is there a way to get emails when some thing is added to or changed on this blog?
I would feel much more connected that way but I don't know how to do it. I need someones bloggy knowledge.

Friday, February 5, 2010


SHANDY: So secretly I read PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES while I was on vacation. Not so secretly, I nominate PRECIOUS BANE by Mary Webb or LOST HORIZON by James Hilton.

MATT: I too have secretly read P&P&Z ... wicked delight, I must say (though I'm not so thrilled about all the similarly-themed novel recreations that seem to be popping up).

Also, I had no idea the whole "Shangri-La" concept came from "Lost Horizon" ... new things learned day by day (so they say :)

Liz: I say shame on you both for reading "that book"! *wink* I read the first 4 chapters and couldn't stomach any more of the desecration.
I am up for any of the already mentioned books. I am going to vote right now. :)

Monday, February 1, 2010

Call for Nominations: Book for Feb. 15 to March 15 ...

MATT: Well folks, I do hope that your time with "House of Spirits" has been both rewarding and (shall we say) haunting (seriously ... whew).

But even as we embark on a discussion of that fantastic tale, the time has come, my well-read friends, to talk of other things ... of shoes and ships and sealing-wax of cabbages and kings ...

And of what lovely literature the month of love shall bring ...

So, then, the question is, what should we read?

I would suggest, as possible candidates, "Essays" (by Michel de Montaigne) or "Blindness" (by Jose Saramago). Send along any other ideas and we can have a poll up by Friday, Feb. 5.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

5 Titles, a Disclaimer, a Statistic, a Question, and an Answer.

2) DESERT SOLITAIRE by Edward Abbey
4) CURIOUS GEORGE by Hans Augusto Rey

*Disclaimer* I may or may not be reading LA CASA DE LOS ESPIRITUS instead of THE HOUSE OF SPIRITS. It may or may not take more time than is currently allotted and I may or may not understand everything that I read therefore LET ME KNOW IF I'M DEEP IN LEFT FIELD AND HAVE NO IDEA AS TO WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT! I promise-I won't be offended if you call me out on it and I probably won't even cry myself to sleep over it.

Statistic. I didn't read a book for 2.5 years after I graduated. I'm still undecided as to whether or not that was the best or worst move of my life.

Question. There's a little voice behind my left ear that keeps telling me to apply for grad school. Therefore, I need to produce some writing samples. I'm open for suggestions. Any ideas?

Answer. I'm not so up on the contemporary literature. I guess I haven't learned enough from the past yet, but my aunt gave me a book for my birthday that has just recently come back into print. She said she read it in a book club in the 70s. It's name is PRECIOUS BANE. It's British, so it may be a little more known over there. I'm excited to read it though.

MATT: First off, definitely read LA CASA DE LOS ESPIRITUS ... I'm so intrigued by the concept of having one of the Bibliophiles reading a book in its native (non-English) language.

Second, what made you not read a book for 2.5 years? Incredibly curious ...

Third, writing samples are tough. And a lot of it depends on what kind of program you're applying for. Generally, though, I'd say go for something that highlights your creativity, is rather short (I'm not sure how it works in Grad school, but when I was helping select law clerks for next year, we paid almost no attention to the really long writing samples), and that really shows your penchant for all things awesome and grad school related. Sorry that's not particularly helpful ...

Fourth, thanks for the list ... I've never even really heard much about Desert Solitaire, much less considered putting in on my list. But, after a lovely purusal of Amazon and Wikipedia, it's definitely on there now.

Bookish Resolutions ...

Elder Joe J. Christensen gave a talk several years ago on "Resolutions." That talk included a number of fantastic insights ... but one of my favorites had to do with, well, books (this is a book club blog after all).

E. Christensen said:
This year, commit yourself to read good books . . . A few years ago, a disturbing poll indicated that 56 percent of college graduates ... never completely read a book all the way through following their schooling. At some point in our lives, we learned to read. But the question tonight is: Are we reading? Are we growing in wisdom?
Excellent questions, I must say. Now, I'm definitely in better shape that that 56 percent and probably read a fair bit more than the average individual (as a law clerk, I spend my entire day reading and writing ... seriously, that's pretty much ALL I do ... but I love it ;). But E. Christensen wasn't done there. Later in that talk, he said:
Suppose you were to read an entire book each week for the next seventy years. You would read 3,640 books. That sounds like a lot; however, reportedly, there are today in the Library of Congress more than twenty-seven million books.* One futurist - Toffler - said that books are spewing from the presses of the world at the rate of a thousand titles per day. That means that in seventy years there will be at least an additional twenty-five million volumes.

Can I say that again, with emphasis? With three-exclamation pointed, ALL-CAPS emphasis?


Two thoughts come immediately to mind after reading E. Christensen's quote there: (1) I need to read a whole heck of a lot more and (2) I can't possible waste much time reading drivel and junk (see D&C 88:118; 90:15).

So I decided that's what I'm doing this year - book a week for the entire year. And not just any books; this year, I'm focusing on the good ones (up on deck right now are 1776, Jane Eyre, House of Spirits - of course - The Inevitable Apostasy, and Blood Meridian).

But, of course, I need these books to be good - the best books. E. Christensen suggested later in his talk that people looking to improve in this area could
[a]sk a few respected people who you know are readers to share with you the titles of the five books, besides the scriptures, they feel have had the most positive influence in their lives.
And so it is that I ask all of you this question (because you are readers I respect):

What are five books that have had a positive influence on your lives?

Here are some of the books that would be on my list (all unabridged editions, of course ... and all on here because "positive influence" can mean so many different things): (1) Les Miserables, (2) The Infinite Atonement (by Tad R. Callister), (3) Things Fall Apart (by Achebe), (4) The Adventures of Robin Hood (by Howard Pyle), and (5) Siddhartha (by Herman Hesse).

Considering my love of all things social, my goal may turn out to be more difficult than I now realize (and I'm already considering it pretty darn tough).

Still, what's life if you can't at least aim for those stars?

Though I know that each of us have hectic lives of crazy, hazy insanity, I would love to hear the titles of some of best books in your lives (especially the lesser known ones) ... and invite all ya'll to join me in this 2010 quest for knowledge unbound (though of course, as a book club, we'll still only be reading about a book a month ;).

* NOTE 1: E. Christensen gave this talk in 1994. Currently, the Library of Congress has more than 32 million books on tap ... and growing.

Liz Merket:
I love the ideas Matt shared in this post. Reading is one of the most rewarding and wonderful things in life and I applaud his goal. I tried to do something similar (only 50 books for the whole year) in 2008. It was much harder then I thought it would be.

I figured that I would have a few slow reading months when life was busy but that I could make up for that in my vacation time. As I should have expected, the slow months were okay, but trying to make up for them was almost impossible. I made it to 48 books, but I had to include the ones I read to my students; some of which were good like Matilda, and some of which were awful, like Santa Paws. I also included less then great books, like Twilight and the Bones books because I like them, and I knew that after a year of reading 50 "great" books I might just hate reading (because a great book should tax your thoughts and time).

One thing that I really enjoyed about my year of reading was the list I had at the end. I am a very typical reader and I often forget the details and even sometimes the titles of books I have read, so having a one page list of what I read that year was great. I would recommend keeping a yearly list of all that you read, even if your goal isn't to read a certain number. I promise that the list will make you think more about the titles you choose and it will make you feel good about your reading at the end of the year.

I have been thinking about what my list of 5 books that influenced my life would be. This task was much harder then I thought it would be. At first I could only think of two, and then after a day or two, I had a list of more then 20. So, after much internal debate here is my list. (You should know it took a Herculean effort not to put an explanation or justification with each of these).

1) To Kill A Mockingbird
2)Anne of Green Gables
3)Bleak House
4)Their Eyes Were Watching God
5)The Secret Life of Bees