It's past 1 pm, and my part in the Fourth Annual 48 Hour Book Challenge is done. I'm glad for the chance to have given myself permission to read in lieu of other activities. For awhile now, I've focused on guitar and sewing to the exclusion of reading, and while I don't regret that focus, reading has always been my first love. When I was very little, I was puzzled by grownups quietly holding rectangular objects in front of them. When I grew older, I memorized books so thoroughly that I thought I knew how to read. I was a bit disgusted in first grade when the teacher called me up to read to her and I didn't recognize the words. My mom told me that she said to someone, "I'm afraid Farida will never be a reader." [Edited to add: What I should have clarified with this vignette was that she was worried I wasn't going to be a reader because I didn't show much interest in reading in first grade, not that I wasn't going to be able to read. My mom at first didn't recall this vignette, but once she realized the intent of my words, the memory started to come back.]
Between first and second grade, I moved from the suburbs where I'd lived at my grandmother's house back to the house on the mountain in the middle of the woods. I looked at the familiar books on the shelves and realized that this time I really did know how to read them. I was seven years old, and still stumbled over a lot of words, but knew enough to be able to figure out words in context.
My mother brought home a stack of books from the library, and I read them. She brought home more books, and I read more. Books became an escape. I trust that plenty of good readers have had satisfying school experiences, but I was not one of them. In looking back, I wonder if I would have been such an avid reader had I not been so miserable in school. Summers were a welcome relief. Aside from one interesting week at a Brethren bible study camp*, I had unfettered time to read.
Enough preamble! Here is the finish line and here are the results of my 48 Hour Book Challenge:
June 5, 2009
The Princess and the Goblin—George MacDonald
I first read this book as a child, and enjoyed it just as much as an adult. I didn’t realize as a child that Princess Irene’s great grandmother in the book was a powerful Mary figure, but I do remember then as now longing for such a wise, magical presence in my life. I’d forgotten some of the humorous bits in the story. My favorite one is when Curdie, the miner’s son, grabs at a goblin’s foot and the goblin thinks a beast from the wall came out and licked him.
Total time: 1 hour 10 minutes
The Lizard Cage—Karen Connelly
Months after it was loaned to me, I finally read this gripping story of Teza, a Burmese prisoner jailed for his political songs and the 12 year old boy he befriends and helps set free. I’ll be thinking about this story for awhile. It’s beautifully written but brutal. My friend begged me not to rush through this book, so I slowed down a bit so I could prove to her that I retained important details.
Total time: 4 hours 20 minutes
June 6, 2009
Salt: A World History—Mark Kurlansky
I grasp history so much better when I read about it with a particular focus. The history of salt is as much a history of condiments as it is about the one rock we eat. My favorite apocryphal story told in this book: a shepherd in France left his cheese and bread sitting in a cave for a week. When he returned, Roquefort cheese was invented.
Total time: 2 hours
The Story Biz Handbook: How to Manage Your Storytelling Career from the Desk to the Stage—Dianne de las Casas
I wish I’d had this book two years ago! Fortunately, I’ve already done some of the things de las Casas recommends in terms of the website and online social networking. However, why did it never occur to me to have a preprinted introduction card to give to presenters? I am going to read this book more in-depth after the challenge is over, make notes, and begin to implement some changes bit by bit. I need a boost to my storytelling career, and this book is going to be key to helping me. I think Adrienne Furness would appreciate this book.
Total time: 2 hours
I bought this sequel to Wise Child when it first came out, read a couple of chapters, and then put it down because it didn’t engage me. Years passed, and library books took precedence over purchased books. I loaned this book out twice without having read it myself! Now, for the 4th annual 48HBC, it’s read. I didn’t love it, as I still wasn’t engaged in the way I was with Wise Child and Juniper. Was that because this one was largely plot-driven whereas the others allowed for time to discover the characters? Is it because I am reading it as a 37 year old instead of as a teen? I don’t know. It’s Furlong’s last book, and I want to love it more, but as it stands, I appreciate it for bringing some closure to the Wise Child and Juniper stories.
Total time: 70 minutes.
By These Ten Bones—Clare Dunkle
This spooky story about a werewolf in a Scottish town was published between Dunkle’s 2nd and 3rd books in the Hollow Kingdom trilogy. I didn’t enjoy it as much as the HK trilogy, but I appreciated Dunkle’s weaving in of the supernatural with Catholicism. I found the werewolf love story to be evocative of how women can rationalize relationships with dangerous men. There’s always a gentle side to them that no one else sees!
Total time: 50 minutes
Urn Burial—Robert Westall
This book always makes me hope there really are aliens in the universe. I first read it as a teen. A shepherd discovers a gravesite of an alien that looks like a cat, only much more evolved, and soon after, large dog-like creatures start terrorizing the village where he lives. The big revelation about the nature of the universe is not unexpected, but it's still exciting nonetheless.
Total time: 1 hour 45 minutes
June 7, 2009
The Herb of Grace (also known as Pilgrim’s Inn)—Elizabeth Goudge
This is the middle book in the Eliots of Damarosay trilogy, reprinted by the Elizabeth Goudge society. Goudge has a knack of giving her characters far more prescience than most people would have in real life. It’s an alternative to third-person omniscience that is sometimes intrusive but mostly works. Whether writing for children or adults, Goudge’s best stories involve children in some way.
Total time: 3 hours
Total Reading time: 16 hours 25 minutes
Social networking time: 1 hour
Writing time: 90 minutes
TOTAL for 48BC: 18 hours 55 minutes
*Regarding that camp: On day five, I asked a camp counselor, "Are we ever going to learn any regular camp songs?" I'd read Yours Till Niagara Falls, Abby, by Jane O'Connor and expected from camp a large assortment of new songs. The "Austrian went yodeling..." cumulative song was the only non-Praise song I learned that whole week. Don't even get me started on the Letter from Jesus that a camp counselor read and my nine-year-old self took quite literally. Oddly enough, I didn't have access to a chapter-book that whole week.