An endearing coming of age teaching story

When we are in school, we consider ourselves fortunate when we find ourselves in the company of inspiring teachers. We value them at the time, and if they are very good, then they stay with us for the rest of our lives. We may not remember much of what they taught us, but their example can serve to inspire us, to guide us in our lives. We connect with them in the classroom, and that connection, brought about by some magic we can never quite figure out, remains long after we have left behind the world of textbooks and exams.

History of American furniture a fascinating story

Oscar P. Fitzgerald’s American Furniture: 1650 to the Present (Rowman & Littlefield, 2018, 621 pages) is a door-stopper book, a behemoth with well over a thousand photographs, some in color, most black-and-white, and as promised by the title, a history of American furniture and craftsmanship since the time of the thirteen colonies.

Choose your summer reading carefully

The last 10 days have brought some broad swatches of time for reading.

Two novels have traveled from the library, visited my fingers and eyes, and returned to their comrades on the shelves. Will Durant’s The Story of Civilization — I’ve just finished Volume VI: The Reformation — keeps me out of trouble for 30 minutes a day, and old friends like Robert Hartwell Fiske’s The Best Words, Mark Helprin’s A Soldier of the Great War, Nina George’s The Little Paris Bookshop, and Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules For Life offer, as a Coca-Cola ad once put it, “the pause that refreshes.” 

Grab some books and keep the kids reading

Most of us, of whatever age, by a simple act of memory and willpower can revisit distant summers in our imagination and discover there the bright, shining pleasures of being a child. Trips to the beach, recreating Civil War battles in the woods surrounding my house, playing badminton and roll-the-bat in our side yard: these will remain a part of my interior landscape until death or dementia erases them along with the rest of me.

A visit to the library and some amazing finds

On my last visit to the public library, I picked up Kathryn Sermak’s Miss D & Me: Life With The Invincible Bette Davis (Hachette Books, 2017, 278 pages). Why this book? I have no idea. I was never a fan of Bette Davis, though I will say “Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?” left me shaken at the age of 12. Though I’ve only seen the film twice, scenes from that tale of deception and horror remain vivid in my mind. (For my younger readers, Bette Davis was a film star from the 1930s to the 1980s and twice won the Academy Award for Best Actress.)

Characters and music star in The Music Shop

Can there be a sadder sight than a man in his sixties sitting in a garden with tears dribbling down his cheeks?

But there I was on a gorgeous morning in June, sitting in a chair on the patio of my daughter’s house, blinking through a misty saline prism and leaking water like a broken spigot.

Judging a book by its cover

In Appalachia and the foothills and into the surrounding lands, we find log cabins — southern and rustic — constructed of hand-felled and -hewn logs from the rocky ridges.

— James T. Farmer III, “Foreword,” The Southern Rustic Cabin

Sense of time and place resonates throughout this novel

Sometimes a writer so imaginatively recreates a place and a people that the book becomes a time machine, sweeping us into the past so effectively that when we finish reading the last page we feel as if we truly have breathed the air of a different century.

In If The Creek Don’t Rise (Sourcebooks, 2017, 305 pages), Leah Weiss takes on one such ride into the recent past.

Audio books a real pleasure when traveling

For 16 years, I have made several annual trips between Western North Carolina and Front Royal, Virginia, a town located about 70 miles west of D.C. on I-66. My children all graduated from a small college in this town, and three of them have settled here. Over the years, I have come to know every rest stop, every exit, and many of the gas stations and fast food joints along I-81. I also appreciate beauty in this part of Appalachia, the mountains around Johnson City, the rolling hills of the Shenandoah Valley, the austere landscape in winter and the spectacular Irish-green fields and forests of late spring.

A nod to the genius of Thomas Wolfe

Where do I start?

What can I say of that young man whose wife had left him and who spent a month in 1975 in a shabby apartment in Storrs, Connecticut, reading Thomas Wolfe long into the night and finding hope and solace in his words?

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