Reading for Me

The Books I Have Read…..Just for Me

The View from My Reading Chair – Mar 21

Spring Break 2020 has been very unusual. Most of the week was spent sitting in the Geriatric Ward while watching updates about the COVID-19 crisis unfold before our eyes. Schools are closed for the rest of the semester. Bars, movie theaters, and businesses are closed all over the country. Restaurants are permitted to offer pick-up and delivery only. Americans are encouraged to shelter in place while practicing “social distancing” in an effort to stall the spread of Coronavirus. There are currently 22,000 reported cases of COVID-19 in the United States. Things have certainly been strange this week and there is no clear end in sight. The world wonders if things will ever truly return to normal.

Needless to say, I have been a little distracted this week. Early in the week, I managed to do a little reading of Potok’s In the Beginning but quickly became distracted. Other than that, I managed to do a little listening to Julie Andrew’s memoir Home on Audible. I anticipate completing much of the memoir while driving back to Plainview this weekend.

My hope is that I will be able to get back to a regular reading routine in the days ahead as I also make the transition to online teaching since WBU announced on Thursday that we will transition all face-to-face classes to online only instruction for the remainder of the Fall term.

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The View from My Reading Chair – Mar 7

Not much change to report about my reading this week. I met my minimum reading goal 5 of the past 7 days. But I’m a slow reader, so 30 minutes with my nose in a book does not result in huge progress.

What happened on the other 2 days? A whirlwind trip to El Paso to finish up some recruitment. It was productive and may lead to some students for WBU, but there was no time to read…..and I’m exhausted. Slowly building back up to a normal routine while trying to get everything taken care of.

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The View from My Reading Chair – Feb 15

This was another long travel week for me again. This time, I found myself in San Antonio at the annual conference of the Texas Music Educators’ Association. My responsibilities centered around sitting in the WBU recruitment booth with my best friend as we talked to alumni, friends, and potential students. My hopes were high for my reading life this week since there would be lots of down time.

Sadly, I was mistaken. The booth was more active than I had remembered it in recent years. By the time Anthony and I returned to our hotel for the evening, our bodies were so tired that the only thing we wanted to do was plop on our beds and watch a little mindless television. Being a reader was not going to happen.

Part of the problem continues to be the book that I am working my way through. I do not look forward to jumping into the pages of The Long War. But I continue to plow through because it is part of My Library Shelf project at Unger Library and I’m not quite ready to throw in the towel on that one. Now, it’s a matter of principle!

I got home late on Saturday evening (Feb 15) and immediately crawled in bed. Now as I look forward to a new week and write yesterday’s post, I have a renewed outlook for the week ahead that is not filled with extended travel….but it is still there. On Thursday evening, I will drive down to Denton to play a lecture recital for Robert Cardwell’s dissertation presentation. I think this trip will be a little different. I’ll be traveling alone — Anthony doesn’t have a need to go on this trip and Ryan has to stay for opera rehearsal since he also missed rehearsals last week for TMEA. That means I will be the only one in the room and will have a little more control over the silence. Plus the recital is not going to be nearly as demanding as the college fair was. Here’s hoping that I can begin to get back to the routine of daily reading and continue making progress toward my personal reading goals.

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#3: Read for Your Life (Pat Williams)

In November, 2008, I first read Read for Your Life: 11 Ways to Transform Your Life with Books. Nearly 12 years have passed and I decided to pick the book up again and read it with fresh eyes. My impression is the same — it is a simply written, challenging defense of the importance of reading for the sake of the individual, society, and future generations.

Pat Williams’ resounding challenge throughout Read for Your Life cannot be mistaken. Devote an hour of every day to the activity of reading. He takes things a step farther, eliminating magazines, newspapers, and romance novels from the list of qualifying materials. A minimum of one hour devoted daily to real texts — the latest novel, classic literature, or non-fiction of all kinds. Williams’ statement throughout is clear. He doesn’t care what you read (well…that’s sort of true….), he just wants to see you read.

Once the challenge is made in the early pages of the book, the remaining pages examine the impact of reading and how to make reading a part of your life. The reasons are what you would expect. Reading exercises your brain and helps you age better mentally. Reading allows the reader to further their own education. Reading models important behavior for the young. It informs us of the past while examining the present and preparing for the future. Reading is a way of conversing with many of the greatest minds our world has ever known. Reading changes us.

The tips are simple and rather obvious, but they are presented in such a way that you want to buy into the principle. Get up earlier in the morning. Use reading as a way to wind down at the end of the day. Rotate through several different tomes to avoid getting bored. Read books that interest or challenge you. Break your reading sessions up throughout the day. Never go anywhere without having a book nearby. Always have a new book on hand — the anticipation of the new book helps to encourage you to finish the one that you are currently in. Williams goes so far as to suggest reading in the car while sitting at a stop light. I’m not so sure about that recommendation, but I get the idea.

Before reading Read for Your Life again, I had decided to change my yearly reading goal. Instead of challenging myself to read a certain number of books (although I do have a goal of 40 since that seemed achievable), I decided to focus on reading daily. My goal was 30 minutes every day in 2020 and I’m sticking with that. So far — as of today, January 15 — I’m on a 15 day streak. What has been shocking to me is how easy it has been to actually permit myself to read for 30 minutes each day. Most days, I’m hitting 60 minutes without a struggle. I have several books in play at the same time (currently I’m reading 3 books), but I still find myself devoting most of my time to one book at a time. If I can maintain this pace, I’m excited to see just how many works I can complete in 12 months. The regularity of reading may be the key that I’ve been missing as I have sought to develop a well-read life.

Read for Your Life was published in 2007. Some of the statements about ebooks and the use of tablets are clearly outdated. The descriptions of bookstores and libraries are from a day gone by. Despite the aspects of the book that don’t hold up a decade after publication, the book’s message is still clear. Williams’ love for books permeates every page and is infectious. I challenge you to pick up a copy and have a read for yourself. I have a sneaky feeling that you might just find yourself accepting the challenge of daily reading yourself. Let’s see just how it changes our lives together — one book at a time.

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Welcome 2020!

Happy New Year, my reading friends! My reading life (and thus, my writing here) was very sporadic during 2019. I’m ashamed to admit that I only read 21 books last year. My goal was 35. Obviously I fell short. That’s never a good feeling.

Recently, I viewed Brandon Vogt’s online seminar about how to double your reading next year over on Brandon has some really neat ideas to share and I found the seminar worth the $1 that I had to pay for a trial subscription. (I promptly cancelled because none of the other videos seemed that relevant to my personal faith journey, but I do think it is worth a look. The videos seem to be done at a very high caliber.) After considering Brandon’s statements, I decided to take the challenge and set a goal to double last year’s reading. That means I’m setting a goal of reading 40 books in the next 12 months. What can I say? I like round numbers and just couldn’t bring myself to looking at the number 42 all year long. LOL

What will that mean? It means some changes in mindset for me first of all. Rather than trying to read a book every week, I’m simply committing to reading at least 30 minutes every day. I’ll have several books going at the same time so my reading can go wherever my interest leads me. “Reading” will also include audio books….so my time in the car can also be used toward my reading goal. I really don’t know how this is going to go for me. Having so many books going at the same time might be a total disaster. I just don’t know. Currently, I’m working my way through 3 books: 1) a novel from My Library Shelf project, 2) a massive biography of the composer Johannes Brahms, and 3) an audiobook.

I plan to use this blog as an accountability tool. The brief book reviews you have come to know (and hopefully love) will continue as I read through the year. In addition, I am going to post each Saturday with an update of how the reading has gone for the week. I’ll admit when I haven’t done much reading and share the challenges I’m facing. I’ll also share glimpses into some of the reading that I am really enjoying and what is sitting in the pile waiting for my attention next.

I hope you will join me for the journey. As always, I love to hear from you and to get your responses to the books. Now it’s time to put the iPad away and transport myself back to the story of a few women who have found themselves in the undesirable position of being food tasters for Hitler during the war….but I’ll tell you more about that one in the days ahead.

Happy reading!


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My Library Shelf Update (#1 & #2)

On October 18, 2019, I returned to the Unger Public Library in Plainview and selected another library shelf for my reading project. I had completed most of the books on the previous shelf and the remaining books were rather offensive to my reading palette. So rather than force myself to read things that I had such a distaste for, I opted to simply find another shelf. The new shelf contains 29 books and covers authors in the POI – PRA range. I was only familiar with the two classics contained on the shelf.

I began my reading with the first volume of a 5 book science fiction series, The Long Earth by Terry Pritchett and Stephen Baxter. The novel was certainly out of my normal comfort zone and not something I would typically read on my own. However, it was a fun departure and I enjoyed Pritchett’s writing style. There are several of his books (outside of the series) on the list. I’m looking forward to exploring more of what he has to offer.

Then it was time to pull a treasured paperback from my home library and read the next book from My Library Shelf. I returned to My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok and immediately recalled why I first fell in love with this novel while at Pepperdine. The exploration of the intersection of faith and art is compelling and in many ways parallels my personal struggles, especially as it relates to dealing with family who simply do not understand my art and the sacrifices it requires. I’ve probably spent more hours interacting with Potok’s text than I should have this week, but I simply could not put the book down! I need to process the text a little more before launching into the other Potok novel on My Library Shelf – The Gift of Asher Lev. I have a feeling that will be part of my Christmas break reading.

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The Whispering Muse (Sjon)

Under normal circumstances, I probably would not have picked up this book at all. However, several years ago after first relocating to West Texas, I embarked on a journey that I refer to as My Library Shelf. The concept is very simple at its core. Following a few guidelines that I had established (no more than a certain number of books by the same author and at least one classic novel), I selected a random shelf in my local library with the intention to read through all of the books housed there on that day. As a result, I have encountered some charming novels that I would have never read on my own. I don’t read exclusively from My Library Shelf; rather, I return to it when I simply don’t know what I want to read at the moment. With my busy schedule, the size of the novella was appealing. Unfortunately, that was one of the few things I enjoyed about the book.

The Whispering Muse is an Icelandic novella that tells the story of Caeneus, the second mate on an ocean freighter, transporting paper to India. Caeneus’ tale is tied up in the Greek myth of Jason and the Argonauts. I have never been a fan of mythology and could not get past the unbelievable plot with its many twists and turns. The only reason I continued reading The Whispering Muse was because I wanted to mark it off of my list. Turning the last page and realizing I was done was the best part of my experience with this novella. Now, on to something else that I will hopefully enjoy more!

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18th Abduction (James Patterson)

It was time for me to return to the stories of The Women’s Murder Club and I am so glad that I did. In this installment, Lindsey and the other women are attempting to find three young prep school teachers who have been kidnapped without a trace. Meanwhile, Lindsey’s husband, Joe, encounters of survivor of the Bosnian genocide who is convinced that she has seen the face of one of the soldiers on the streets of San Francisco who killed her husband and young son and held her captive in a rape hotel.

Is it possible that the two cases are intertwined? When the war criminal is discovered, it becomes necessary to catch him in a crime in order to see him deported and forced to stand before the ICC to answer for the horrors he has brought on so many. The first of the teachers is found dead in a rent-by-the-hour hotel….and Lindsey and the SFPD know that they are racing against the clock to save the other women.

Just when you thought you could easily predict exactly how Patterson’s novels would unfold, you encounter a brand new world in 18th Abduction. And this reader could not be more pleased with the outcome!

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True Colors (Kristin Hannah)

I continue returning to Kristin Hannah’s novels and I continue to be impressed. She is quickly becoming one of my favorite contemporary novelists and her book True Colors is probably the best book I have read this year. It is packed with unexpected plot twists, wonderfully developed characters, and themes that are extremely relevant to our society today.

True Colors follows the lives of three adult sisters who continue to struggle with their identity after their Mother’s untimely death in their childhood. Trying to balance their personal lives with the issues related to being a family while caring for their father and the family ranch proves to be too much at times. After a string of undependable ranch hands, the girls hire a stranger passing through town who appears to be capable, but there is also an air of mystery, intrigue, and danger surrounding him.

The new cowboy is Dallas Raintree, a Native American. The girls’ father immediately demands that the no-good man be fired before he brings trouble to the family ranch. Dallas begins to flirt with one of the sisters; they fall madly in love and marry. Dallas’ reputation in the close-knit community, however, does not improve with his marriage.

When a local woman is murdered, Dallas is the obvious suspect. He is arrested, tried and convicted despite his assertions of his innocence. His young wife uses her limited resources to have the sentence overturned with no success. As she struggles to come to terms with her situation, she also struggles to raise the couple’s young son who acts out with violence and rebellion.

Is Dallas guilty of murder? Can a tattered family be reunited despite opposing views? Does anyone care to look beyond their preconceived ideas about an individual based solely on their appearance and actually search for truth? All of these questions are raised and answered beautifully in True Colors. The reader will laugh, cry, and gasp while experiencing the highs and lows of life in this quiet northwestern town where animals are cared for, people live at a slower pace, and everyone is given the chance to let their True Colors shine through.

A must read for everyone! You will not be disappointed.

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After Anna (Lisa Scottoline)

B541AFA0-9FB7-4998-8FFA-424D18EB8E33I finally managed to finish a novel this week! It’s an exciting accomplishment to say the least. This time, the novel was Lisa Scottoline’s After Anna. This gripping family drama tells the story of Noah, a pediatric allergist, and his wife, Maggie. Maggie lost custody of her infant daughter after her powerful ex-husband had her declared unfit. An unexpected call reunites Maggie with Anna, her long-lost daughter. Anna moves into Maggie and Noah’s home in hopes of beginning a new family.

Things do not go smoothly for the family. As the novel opens, the reader finds Noah on trial for the murder of Anna. When the prosecution’s witness reveals that Anna had accused Noah of sexual abuse while she lived in his home, Noah’s fate seems to be sealed. As Maggie deals with her own grief over the loss of her daughter and her marriage, she receives another disturbing phone call. Just when you think you know where Scottoline’s story line is headed, an unexpected twist lands in your lap, making After Anna an enjoyable read from start to its dramatic finish.

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