New Year’s Eve
Jen Campbell’s Weird Things People Say in Bookshops is a light, clever read. It’s a collection of the strange things people say and the odd questions they ask. Boy, are some people clueless.
It’s a collection of dialogs and a fun amusing read, but not something you have to read cover-to-cover.
Here’s some examples:
“CUSTOMER: Hi, I just wanted to ask: did Anne Frank ever write a sequel?
CUSTOMER: I really enjoyed her first book.
BOOKSELLER: Her diary?
CUSTOMER: Yes, the diary.
BOOKSELLER: Her diary wasn’t fictional.
BOOKSELLER: Yes… She really dies at the end – that’s why the diary finishes. She was taken to a concentration camp.
CUSTOMER: Oh… that’s terrible.
BOOKSELLER: Yes, it was awful –
CUSTOMER: I mean, it’s such a shame, you know? She was such a good writer.”
“CUSTOMER: I read a book in the sixties. I don’t remember the author, or the title. But it was green, and it made me laugh. Do you know which one I mean?”
“CUSTOMER: If I were to, say… meet the love of my life in this bookshop, what section do you think they would be standing in?”
“CUSTOMER: OK, so you want this book?
THEIR DAUGHTER: Yes!
CUSTOMER: Peter Pan?
THEIR DAUGHTER: Yes, please. Because he can fly.
CUSTOMER: Yes, he can – he’s very good at flying.
THEIR DAUGHTER: Why can’t I fly, daddy?
CUSTOMER: Because of evolution, sweetheart.”
“Customer: I’m looking for a book for my son. He’s six.
Bookseller: How about this one – it’s about-
Customer: Yeah, whatever, I’ll take it.”
While the story started out intriguing, Ichigo Takano’s Orange soon presents a lot of shilly shally-ing. This manga, or Japanese comic book, is about Naho, a high school student, who receives letters from her future self. The future Naho lives 10 years ahead of the present and somehow wants to advise the present Naho on how to prevent the cute new boy at school from committing suicide. Naho’s got a crush on the new boy, Kakeru, but she’s quite timid about that. Another boy, of course, has a crush on her and can see the chemistry between Naho and Kakeru.
Kakeru moved because his mother committed suicide so now he must live with his grandmother in the countryside. There’s never any mention of his father, which seemed odd. Kakeru feels responsible for his mother’s death. If he had only gone straight home after school that one day . . . The other characters have no special characteristics.
The story starts out intriguing, but Naho’s ever-present hesitation and questioning of the letters from the future make her extremely indecisive. Since the story goes for 384 pages, I expected some resolution. There wasn’t any. It ends with “to be continued.” So who knows whether Naho and her pals’ efforts changed Kakeru’s future. It doesn’t seem worth reading another 300+ pages, many of which will probably be repetitive to find out.
The art is pretty standard Japanese manga style. More creativity in the art would have helped, but I don’t think the publishing companies care.
Today our Great Books club discussed The Education of Henry Adams written by John Quincy Adams’ grandson (John Adams’ great grandson). It’s a memoire of Henry Adam’s youth with tales of a boy, who like many, didn’t see a lot of benefit to schooling.
Throughout Adams’ includes reflections on how he first thought everyone had presidents in their family, that that was no big deal. He spoke of how around his home his father Charles Adams, a diplomat, would discuss high-minded ideas with virtuous men. As you’d imagine his family socialized with the best and the brightest.
One story I liked was how one day while visiting his grandparents, little Henry refused to go to school. His mother was having no luck with the feisty Henry. Suddenly, the door to his grandfather’s office opened. John Quincy Adams put on his hat, took the boy by the hand and without a word delivered the boy to school. After that, Henry went to school though he didn’t feel it improved him much.
At one point his family moved from Massachusetts to Washington, DC. He was shocked an appalled by the state of things in this slave state. The streets were dirty, the place smelled and the poverty was shocking. He was overwhelmed by the injustice of slavery all around him.
When he was 16 he went to Harvard, of which he thought little. There were no admission standards at the time and the school was something of a club for the elite. He wrote of himself in the third person:
Adams debated whether in fact it had not ruined him and most of his companions, but, disappointment apart Harvard College was probably less hurtful than any other University then in existence. It taught little, and that little ill, but it left the mind open, free from bias ignorant of facts, but docile. The graduate had few strong prejudices. He knew little, but his mind remained supple . . . what caused the boy the most disappointment was the little he got from his mates. Speaking exactly, he got less than nothing, a result common enough in education.
According to Adams, and I generally agree, is that the more people you pack into a class, the less you’ll learn. I’m no fan of the lecture courses with 100 or more students, which is what Adams had at Harvard. I do think one on one or small group interaction. Adams was lucky to be born into a family and circle that had so many great thinkers I wasn’t surprised that Adams learned more at the dinner table than in a classroom.
The book was lively and a wonderful glimpse into an important era in U.S. history. Adams’ style was brisk and engaging.
Written by Miek Wiking, The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well technically isn’t a Christmas book, but the concept of hygge, (pronounced hue-guh) roughly means coziness in Danish, has a chapter on Christmas and tells us that Christmas is the epitome of hygge. The book consists of several short chapters that explain all the facets of hygge including candles, comfy clothes, hot drinks, baked goods, handmade crafts, and natural settings, essentially all things comforting.
The book is fun to read and the concept is easy to put into practice. As I write now, we’ve got the fire going in the fireplace, a couple candles, poinsettias and a tree (waiting to be decorated) in the corners. Mulled wine rather than red wine would complete the hygge, but I’m American, not Danish so give me time.
It’s easy to see how Christmas promotes hygge, especially if your family adheres to the hygge principle of not discussing intense topics.
I first got the audio book, with the author reading it, which is great, but I wanted to get the recipes and spelling of the names of people mentioned like Poul Henningson, so I checked out the book from the library. I enthusiastically recommend both.
By Liesbet Sleger, A Child in the Manger is a wonderful book to introduce young children (2 – 4 years old) to the story of Jesus’ birth. It’s a simple telling with few words that’ll need explanation.
The illustrations look almost like a child’s drawing with their bold outlines. The colors are cheerful as is the tone.
For a few other Jolly posts:
The Nutcracker, retold by Jean Richardson and illustrated by Francesca Crespi, is a beautiful retelling of of E.T.A. Hoffman’s tale. They simplify the story and it’s not as scary as the original.
It’s a good nighttime read to prepare a child for the ballet. The pictures are charming and the story can be read by a child.