Monday, January 18, 2016

Poolside Reading for 2016

I absolutely love to read, and have since I was a young girl. I read veraciously back then, consuming everything in our small Iowa-town library.  Some of my favorite gifts are still, as they were back then, a favorite book, or another book by a favorite author.

It seems, through my later years, that reading time was hard to come by.  A demanding day job by day, another set of books to keep by night and weekend for our family business; and two active young boys to keep up with (and feed!), all left me very little leisure time.

When we first moved to California, where nearly every back-yard, including ours, had a swimming pool, I was sure I had died and gone to heaven.  It became my "treat", my own little "me time", to slip out to the pool of a Sunday afternoon, with a tall glass of my super-sweet iced tea and a paperback, to stick my toes in the water, and get lost in the story.

I always told myself it would be "just for an hour".  Just one lovely uninterrupted sacred hour of immersing myself in some wonderful tale.  Usually, though, much of the afternoon would slip away while I was lost in the story.   I love the classics, and I re-read them frequently.  They're classics for a reason, don't ya know?  I love paperbacks, the who-done-it's and the mysteries and the love stories that transcend time and distance.

I love the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, and others like it.  The Chronicles of Narnia, etc.  And I try to re-read them about once a decade.  (I started to say, once a millennium......but that just didn't sound right!).   It seems that, at each decade, I view things differently, I think differently, and these treasured stories read differently to my changed eyes and thinking.

So those Sunday afternoons by the pool became a habit, a life-long habit, that I keep to this day.  One of our favorite pastimes during our many months in Hawaii, is to do just that.  Slip down to one of our fabulous pools, or step a few feet over to the sandy beach, with a cold drink and a good book.

Last year's list included some very special reads (which at this moment I realize I should write about); This is my current selection, and I find it interesting that they are (mostly) recommendations by people we've met on last year's travels.

"The Last Jew" (which would be more accurately titled, "The Last Jew in Spain") is set in 15th century Spain, where, as the Spanish Inquisition was sweeping the country, the expulsion edict was issued to all Jews.  Leave the country now, or face the consequences of not being born a Catholic.  

I have to side-note here.  Isn't that just so weird??  Even if you had converted to Catholicism, even if your parents before you were still in danger of being burned at the stake.  The intolerance of one religious group or set of beliefs for another's is something I don't think I'll ever understand......

Anyhow, this book was recommended to me by Clair, from Holland (even though she was quick to tell us she's really French!); with whom we shared a week touring the Galapagos Islands last spring.   When I meet interesting people, with interesting backgrounds, from interesting places, who lead interesting lives......I always want to know what they've read recently.  What their favorite book is, and why.  It tells you a lot about that person, and perhaps why they are so interesting......

Clair suggested this one when she heard that our previous trip had been to Spain.  The main character is separated from his family, some of whom escaped, and the rest of whom were killed, and he basically just didn't get out of Spain in time.  It was indeed fascinating that I got to see these cities, Toledo, and Cadiz and Gibralter and Seville, many of the cities that we had roamed and explored and fell in love with; that I got to see them through the eyes of someone who lived there, so far back in time, under such duress.  

Historical novels are fast becoming one of my new favorite genre's.

I also enjoyed it because he apprentices under a physician -- and with my background in the health and wellness field, it was fascinating to learn about their herbal remedies and salves and potions, all made with tree bark and plants and what grew in the jungle around them.  That was medicine then, folks.  No little white pills at the pharmacy.

Moving on ~ I was chatting with a lovely elderly Chinese couple who are our neighbors part of each year at Beach Villas.  He's a very famous architect, now retired (if I named some well-known buildings in some well-known cities, you would recognize them); and I notice he's never without a book when at the pool.  So I ask my new favorite question, "What are you reading, there, Ed?"  And he tells me that he's just finished "The Mayflower", and that I may have it next if I'd like, and he handed it to me.   Another historical novel just (literally) landed in my lap, just like that.  The first chapter is entitled, "They Knew They Were Pilgrims".  So they had me at "hello".

Next up are a couple of Eyewitness Travel Books for our upcoming Scandinavian trip. Mr. C is strictly an internet guy for these trips, but I still enjoy a travel book or two.  For one thing, I can take them to the pool!  I'm starting with what I could find in my local bookstore, which was London and Amsterdam.

Then there's a new one that was a gift from someone I'm newly acquainted with here in Hawaii.  When I asked that same pool-side question (it's a nice conversation stater), we talked for 30 minutes about favorite books, favorite authors, and had the electronic vs. "real" book discussion.  It was interesting to see that some of our reading had overlapped ~ "Catherine the Great", for example.  I'm trying to think, then, of some of my all-time favorites ~ "The Reliable Wife";  "Water for Elephants";  "Pillars of the Earth"; "The Art of Driving in the Rain";  "The Time Traveler's Wife";  and "The Secret Garden" by Kate ???  I can't remember.  She jumps on it!  It's Kate Morton, and she has a new one!  And she just finished it, she'll pass it on to me.  In fact, as we are finishing our conversation, her wonderful hubby jumps up, dashes to their Villa, and brings it down for me!   I'm elated!  (You would think I just won the lottery, I'm so delighted!)   I'm saving this one, like a Christmas present, just so I can look forward to it for a bit! Thank you Susan!

I'm immersed right now in "The Elephant Company" ~ a book that good friend here, who also travels like we do, recommended to me after a recent discussion on our Thailand trips, where I had my first experience with those wonderful huge gentle beasts, the elephants. (Thank you, Shirl!) So I put it on my Christmas wish list (thanks kids!).  See the post "Our Elephant Adventures, Parts I & II). This is a book about an "Elephant Guy", back in WWII, who went to work for the Burma teak industry, which used elephants for their logging operations.  It's utterly fascinating, I just cannot put it down.  Some of what I am learning to be true is what I felt that day with my "adopted" elephant. An instant connection, an unusual communication.  This guy was part logging supervisor, part veterinarian, and part biologist, and his observations and documentation on these marvelous mammals has taken it's place in history.  Mostly, I love that when he talks about how intuitive these animals are, how social they are, how curious they are, and how they communicate both verbally and non-verbally ~ that is confirmation for me of exactly what I felt from my Betty Lou.  She was talking to me, right from the start.

One last book (in this stack!) by Jodi Picoult.  She's a favorite author of mine, I've read more than a dozen of her books, and the reason I like her is that she changes my mind.  Each book is based on a different social issue, and she writes each chapter of each book from a different family member's point of view -- the mom, the dad, the daughter, the youngest sibling, all view this family crisis in a very different way.  And it's so well-done that, many times, I go in thinking I have my opinion planted firmly in place, and, well. Many times I come out the other side thinking something quite different.  Or at least having a more generous attitude toward something I was previously narrow-minded about. Sort of the walking a mile in another's moccasin sort of thing.

So that's it for now.  Lot's of good reading ahead of me.

But if you'll pardon me, now......I'm off to the pool with a cold drink and a good book.  But only for an hour. 


  1. Thank you for sharing. Such great recommendations. Fun way to get to know someone and share experiences. Nice article.

  2. Thanks, I'm so glad you enjoyed it. I'm learning that I can learn a lot about somebody by what they recommend.......And people who love to read are usually passionate about what they are reading!

  3. These are great reading suggestions! Thanks passing the info our way!

    1. I'll have to look for some of these on "audio book" for you!


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