A good weekend to read (more books for 2014)

Everyone’s talking about the blizzard of ’78, since it started on January 25th that year. I never forget it, because it was my senior year in high school. Kind of cool, at the time, because it was a month past the Christmas break and we got more than two weeks off school again (and didn’t have to make up a single day of it.)

And now here we are in what is the worst winter I’ve experienced since we moved back to Indiana in 2006. I really don’t mind winter weather. I shop and stockpile carefully (which is not the same as hoarding, not by a long shot) and so I never have to do the frantic dash to the store for milk and bread. For one thing, being snowed in always makes me want to bake bread, probably because that’s what I always did with Mom when we had snow days. We’d make all the recipes we had been wanting to try, and bread was always part of it. I make much better bread these days, but that has little to do with snow days.

There is something about this kind of weather that slows everything down. I guess I could be productive and tackle a bunch of chores, but I never want to and I can easily talk myself out of it. Nope. What I mostly want to do is read.

And read I have.

10) ME BEFORE YOU by Jojo Moyes. I read so many book reviews, and put as many books on request at the library as I can, that sometimes when they come in and I pick them up, I look at them and wonder why I wanted to read it. This was one of them. But it is a book I will be forever grateful to have read. It was so good I went on the library site and immediately requested the other books they have. I hope they will be as good. It’s some of the best writing ever, told through the eyes of several different characters but mostly through Louisa’s, who has been hired to care for a quadriplegic man. Once she’s begun, she learns that her employer is hoping desperately that Lou, as she is mostly called, can make Will want to change his mind about assisted suicide. I found myself pulling for her; she had asked so little of life before this, and you can see her bloom and grow and care about things, really care, in a way she has never let herself do before.

It’s serendipitious, but the other two books I read were re-reads, one because I am going to lead a discussion on it next month and the other because it made that one come to mind. And both, I think, ring more true for me because of the weather, as you will see…

 11) BETTER OFF: Flipping the Switch on Technology by Eric Brende. (This is the selection for my book group.) How simple would you be willing to make your life? There are so many stories now about tiny houses, and so many worries about money that most of us are cutting back, cutting down, or even going without altogether. The kind of weather we are currently experiencing makes power outages a very real possibility, and while you can do without it if you must, you’re always relieved when all is up and running again, am I right? But would you choose to go off the grid for 18 months? What would you miss most? How many of the changes you’d make would become permanent?

And that made me think of an old favorite:

12) DRINKING THE RAIN by Alix Kates Shulman. Going through the breakup of her second marriage, Shulman moves to what she calls the nubble, a very simple, primitive summer home. No electricity, no running water (she has a pump) and no bathroom. And the longer she stays there, the more serene she becomes. Instead of hauling overpriced groceries on the ferry, she pulls Euell Gibbons from the shelf and learns what kind of plants and fish are edible; previously she had only ever picked enough apples for a pie or gathered a few raspberries. She has none of the appliances she was used to, and goes back to slower, simpler ways of making bread or squeezing juice. But far beyond nourishing her body, she feeds her soul. She slows down, and savors moments, and overcomes old fears and worries. She truly learns to live in the moment and enjoy what she has, even if others would marvel that she chooses to live with so little.

I can identify with that.

I had only ever read Shulman’s fiction before, and this book was a wonderful, eye-opening surprise. Later books of non-fiction were equally good. I can’t even remember the last time I read one of her novels, but I read this one, and A GOOD ENOUGH DAUGHTER, at least once every year.

Wicked winter weather is supposed to continue here through Wednesday….fortunately, as the saying goes, I cannot live unless I am surrounded by books. There is plenty to read here. Plenty to eat. We’re out of a few things, but we’ll live without cheese and potatoes until we can get to the store! We are warm and comfortable, and another good book awaits.

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