Friday, January 20, 2017

For Today and Every Day

Your love of liberty—your respect for the laws—your habits of industry—and your practice of the moral and religious obligations, are the strongest claims to national and individual happiness, and they will, I trust, be firmly and lastingly established. 
George Washington

A republic, if you can keep it. 
Benjamin Franklin

The Inauguration of George Washington (1789), from the National Archives

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Don't You Just Love Synchronicity?


One of my favorite things about reading is stumbling on some obscure reference and recognizing it as relevant to something else I'm working on or thinking about at the time. It gives me that tingly, visceral feeling of being a single neuron in a vastly larger network of consciousness; for just a moment I can glimpse how the network connects its billions of points.

The latest example of this favorite feeling of mine is a single phrase in my current book, Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better. The subtitle is Wise Advice for Leaning into the Unknown, which strikes me as a bit trendy for the timeless spiritual teaching of a Buddhist nun. I suppose the whole "leaning in" thing optimizes search engines and sells books, so perhaps the trendiness can be forgiven.

Before I digress even further: in the introduction to the book, Seth Godin mentions author James P. Carse's book Finite and Infinite Games: A Vision of Life as Play and Possibility and spends a few brief paragraphs contrasting games that are played to win and games that are played to be played. This seems like a strange concept, at first, until you think of something like music or dancing: Nobody in the orchestra is trying to win the music, right? And no one who dances is trying to finish the dance ahead of all the others. The point of playing is playing. The point of dancing is dancing. And part of the point of both is collaborating with the others who are playing and dancing along with you.

I found this concept really intriguing the first time it was explained to me, and what a delightful moment of recognition to see it mentioned here. Sure enough, a few seconds of searching revealed the book on the TBR shelf, awaiting my renewed attention.

Maybe this year is the year I'll get to it. The signs are pointing that way.

Oh, and did I mention that Kayak Guy brought me belated roses for our anniversary earlier this month? There's a much more deliberate connection between the date and the roses, but I'll take it.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Reading Naturally Challenge 2017: My Sign-Up


I'm definitely having fun with this one--to show what's possible with the categories--and looking forward to each of these in a different way.

It's my first year hosting the Reading Naturally Challenge, so if you'd like to sign up, please check it out here.

My level: Immersed in Nature (7 or more books--all from the TBR list!)

1. Plant Related: Plants as Persons: A Philosophical Botany - Matthew Hall
2. Classic: A Sand County Almanac - Aldo Leopold
3. Set in a Wilderness Locale: Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness - Edward Abbey
4. Spiritual: The Earth Path: Grounding Your Spirit in the Rhythms of Nature - Starhawk
5. Dystopia Flavored: Apocalyptic Planet: Field Guide to the Everending Earth - Craig Childs
6. Outdoorsy Heroine: Flight Behavior: A Novel - Barbara Kingsolver
7. Skills Related: Joy of Backpacking: Your Complete Guide to Attaining Pure Happiness in the Outdoors - Brian Beffort
8. Current Issue: The New Normal: An Agenda for Responsible Living - David Wann
9. Water Related: River-Horse: Across America by Boat - William Least Heat-Moon
10. Orion Book Award Winner: 2012 winner: The View from Lazy Point - Carl Safina
11. Biography or Memoir of an Environmentalist or Conservationist: A Naturalist in Florida: A Celebration of Eden - Archie Carr

That last one's a bit of a stretch, but Archie Carr was personally acquainted with the creatures and places he wrote about, not just as an author doing research but as a long-time Florida resident who spent his weekends at a remote cabin in the sandhills of Ocala, very much like Aldo Leopold's "shack" in Wisconsin. I've been lucky enough to visit the cabin, which is not open to the public, and it is a gorgeous, inspirational place that makes one's heart swell with the natural beauty of Florida.

Here's a brief video of the cabin as it is today, after restoration. You can see more pictures and short videos, and read a lot more about the cabin here. It's a Florida treasure.

Dread & Read Challenge 2017: My Sign-Up


This one is dear to my heart. It's both the point and the punishment of list reading that to finish the list I have to read books that I wouldn't choose for myself. Like those class assignments in college, it certainly exercises my reading muscles. 

Sometimes that works out splendidly (The Siege of Krishnapur being a shining example). And sometimes it doesn't (here's all I have to say about How Late It Was, How Late).    

I won't even tell you how long these books have been hanging over my head. Okay, okay, for some of them it's been decades. That gave me the idea of hosting this challenge. (Sign up here if you're in a similar position.)  

Now I can hardly wait to put them behind me, and maybe be pleasantly surprised along the way. Let's hope so! 

Per the challenge incentives, I've chosen a sweetener for each one. 

For a book-related treat: Vernon God Little - D.C.B. Pierre (Booker Prize) 
For a practical treat: Schindler's Ark - Thomas Keneally (Booker Prize) 
For an indulgent treat: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest - Ken Kesey (Radcliff's Top 100 Novels)

The fact that I'll have to buy it for myself does nothing to dilute the happiness of getting a treat for finally doing something I said I'd do anyway. 

Dread & Read Challenge 2017 - Progress & Reviews


Here's where you can follow your progress toward those dreaded reading goals. (If you want to join this get-it-over-with challenge, sign up here.)

I'm determined to move some of those perpetually looming books off my reading lists this year. How about you?

Here's how it works: Let me know your progress in the comments on this post as the year goes on, including a review link or some comments about the book. When you knock those books off your TBR list, you'll get a sweetener in the mail as you reward--in case having them in your literary rear view mirror isn't enough!

Still plenty of time to sign up! You can be the first! 

J.G. at Hotchpot Cafe (sign-up post)