Reading for Me

The Books I Have Read…..Just for Me

The View from My Reading Chair – Feb 22

Greetings from Denton, Texas! I’ve been in town for a couple of days to collaborate with my friend, Robert Cardwell, in his final lecture recital for the Doctorate of Musical Arts degree from the University of North Texas. The program went off without a hitch and he passed his oral defense. Yeah!

The week has been busy (obviously), but I have managed to get back into a reading routine. Still haven’t finished any of my current works, but I think I should have a couple finished in the next few days. I certainly hope so! It feels as though I have been plowing through some of these for an eternity.

The Long War is coming to an end. I’m within a hundred pages of the novel’s conclusion. Every time I read the next installment in this sci-fi series by Terry Pratchett, I am reminded of just how much I don’t like the genre. Unfortunately, I have several more of Pratchett’s works to read on My Library Shelf project. That may be the thing that is the undoing of that shelf.

While driving, I returned to my audio book. I am enjoying You Should Talk to Somebody About That, but it seems as though is an exceptionally long listen. I’ve been listening off and on for almost a month and I still have 4 hours to go! I’m devoting most of my drive home tomorrow to the book and should get it finished this week. Probably not going to pick up another audio book for a while. I’m just not in the car often enough to make any progress through the books in this format.

At the beginning of the week, I returned to a perennial favorite in the area of time management. Getting Things Done always helps me get organized when I feel as though my world is crumbling around me. I picked it up again on Sunday and started working my way through it. I’ve not read much of it in the past few days because I’m trying to get The Long War off of my reading list at the moment. If I pick up anything else at this moment, I know that it will be a while before I return to the horrible novel. And one of the things on my to-do list this week is to finish that blasted book!

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The View From My Reading Chair – Feb 8

Well, the inevitable finally happened this week. After a wonderful daily reading streak that had lasted for 33 days, I missed my first day of reading in 2020 on Monday. I knew it would happen eventually. There are so many things that can get in the way of pleasure reading. It was only a matter of time.

What happened? Those who follow my personal social media accounts saw the pictures. On Sunday, I traveled to El Paso with my best friend for a couple of days of high school visits and recruiting. Monday was a long day — 3 high school visits, a business dinner, and then processing the exciting information we received at dinner. Maybe it’s just me, but I find it extremely difficult to read a book when I am around other people. I can’t block them out to dive into the written word. If I’m with a good friend, the act of reading can be rather rude. The book will be there later; my friend won’t be.

So, no reading for 2 days this week. I wasn’t horribly upset by the turn of events because I found myself looking forward to getting home and returning to my reading schedule. Love for reading had not diminished. My time was just at a premium for a moment. Unfortunately, I anticipate facing a similar dilemma in the coming week. Anthony and I will hit the road again on Tuesday — this time, we will take on San Antonio and the Texas Music Educators’ Association’s annual convention. It is a different kind of work, but it is still going to be challenging to fit quality reading in. I’ll pack a book in my backpack and see what I can accomplish during those long days at the recruiting booth.

Once again this week, I didn’t complete a book. I’m about halfway through The Long War and ready for it to be over. I’m ready to move on to another novel. I’ve also found myself drawn back into the Brahms biography as the week came to a close. I am enjoying learning more about the composer, but that is such heavy reading that I can’t do much of it at a time. My goal for the week ahead — even with the travel ahead — is to finish The Long War as well as the Young Adult novel that sits in my TBR stack. I’m anxious to dive into some of the books that are piled high on the corner of my kitchen island as well. So many books… little time.

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The View From My Reading Chair – Feb 1

What a week this has been! The school semester’s third week came to a close and I found myself frantically trying to get everything done as I prepare for travel in the coming weeks. As a result of my work life, my reading life took a hit this week. I did not complete a new book at all this week.

Things could have been much worse though. There were nights when I was simply too tired to read a single page….much less 30 minutes of reading. As soon as I saw the streak on my habit tracker, I found inspiration to push myself for 30 minutes of reading. I couldn’t let my streak come to a halt just before I reached a solid month of reading! And I’m happy to say that my streak is still alive with 31 total days of consecutive reading as of the time that I am writing this post! (I’ll get day 32 finished in just a few minutes as well.)

Since I have not completed a book this week, what have I been reading? I continued to make some progress in the Jan Swafford biography of the composer Johannes Brahms. I really do enjoy reading this work, but it is a slow read for me. I began working my way through The Long War as well, but I’m struggling to connect with the storyline so far. Honestly, nothing is really striking my reading fancy at the moment. That makes me a little nervous about my reading life in the next few days. I’ll be traveling with my best friend to do some recruiting in the El Paso schools. It has always been a challenge for me to read while I’m on the road — especially when traveling with another person. I’m gonna grab my book light and see if I can keep the streak going while I’m away. I know that I will eventually run into a day where I don’t make my goal….but I don’t want to even think about that day’s arrival any time soon!

So what’s my plan? I’m trying to push through The Long War, but I’m not going to take the Brahms with me on my road trip. That’s just not good reading for me while I’m out of pocket. I’m trying to decide if I should grab another novel or some non-fiction to see if a change of genre will grab my attention a bit more. I’ll figure all of that out tomorrow though. Right now, I’m beginning to feel the first effects of a very long day in the office (yep…..on a Saturday!) and want to make sure that I get my reading in for the night before I drift off to sleep.

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The View from My Reading Chair – Jan 25

I am one tired puppy this morning! Last evening, my colleague, Richard Fountain, and I performed a recital of Piano Duo rep celebrating the sounds of America. It was a massive program — including Rhapsody in Blue as well as The Symphonic Dances from West Side Story — so I’m feeling pretty beat up today. My back aches. My eyes are very heavy. If this post doesn’t make a lot of sense today, I hope you will understand why!

In spite of the busy week leading up to last night’s recital, I was able to continue making progress in my personal reading. I finished Dear Evan Hansen which I totally adored! The rest of the week was mostly spent with The Yellow Birds. I use some pretty strong words — HATED IT! — to describe my feelings about this war novel that touted itself as a modern All’s Quiet on the Western Front. When I wasn’t working my way through those novels, I continued slowly working my way through the Brahms biography I’ve been reading for a few weeks.

I gathered my energy for a few minutes this morning to return this week’s two novels to the library and to pick up a couple of new ones. I know, I know…..I have a massive TBR stack after last weekend’s visit to the bookstore, but I am not quite ready to dive into any of those. I have some travel coming up soon and will probably carry my personal paperbacks on those trips. So what’s in store this week? I decided to continue working in YA literature and wanted to check out Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25 by Richard Paul Evans. My local librarian told me it is the newest series that some of our students are beginning to work their way through. I have no idea what is in store for me here, but I thought I would give it a shot. I also picked up The Long War by Terry Pratchett that is a part of My Library Shelf project. It’s the second volume of the sci-fi series. I’m hoping that both of these will be rather light reading after the heavy topics covered in The Yellow Birds. I need some fluff in my life! I’m also hoping that a little lighter reading will encourage me to get back into Swafford’s biography of Johannes Brahms with a little more gusto this week.

Okay…time to hit the books and get reading again!

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The View From My Reading Chair – Jan 18

It’s been a busy week here in Plainview, TX with final preparations for today’s piano competition taking much of my time. Still, I managed to keep up with my daily reading goal — and that makes me very happy!

This week I finished Pat Williams’ Read for Your Life and I continue to be moved and influenced by what I read. It is still amazing that you can return to a book that you read almost 10 years ago and the text continues to resonate and challenge.

I decided it was time for a little YA reading and picked up Dear Evan Hansen at the local library. I am aware of the score for this musical hit, but I didn’t know much about the plot — except for Evan Hansen’s arm cast. I’m a little over 200 pages in and completely mesmerized by the story. I should get it finished this weekend before diving into The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers as the next installment in My Library Shelf project.

Of course, I’m still working my way through the Brahms biography. Haven’t made much progress on this front this week. I just couldn’t think about investing mental energy into something so studious in this exhausting week. I’m planning to get back into the biography this week. I really want to make some more headway in that one.

I treated myself to a nice lunch in Amarillo this afternoon after the piano competition. Since I was so close, I simply had to step into Barnes and Noble to see if there was anything that I needed. My TBR pile is already huge, but I added three new titles to the stack today.

Some more light reading for when I’m ready to move out of fiction for a while. Of course, these will come after finishing the Brahms!

So, 2 1/2 weeks into 2020 and I have completed 3 books — only one of which was an audio book. I think I’ll have 2 or 3 more completed by the end of the month….assuming next week’s Piano Duo recital does not need massive amounts of work. It probably will, but I am still determined to do at least an hour of reading every day. I’m hoping for more than just 60 minutes. Any chance I can reframe my job to involve more reading time?

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The View From My Reading Chair – Jan 11

Life has returned back to normal this week. I made my return to Texas and have been busy ever since! With that said, my reading life has been rather healthy this week.

I have completed my first two books of 2020 while back in Texas.  You can find my reviews of Karamo and At the Wolf’s Table here on the blog. One audio book and one novel there…..not too bad if I do say so!

I am continuing my reading adventure with three additional books at the moment.

  1. Maybe You Should Talk to Someone (Lori Gottlieb) – I’m reading the audio book, so I anticipate this will progress rather slowly. Now that I’m back in Plainview, there isn’t a lot of driving to be done and I don’t really enjoy listening to books when I’m in a place where reading from the page is possible. It’s an interesting book so far, but I’m consuming it in small chunks.
  2. Johannes Brahms: A Biography (Jan Swafford) – With opera camp on my plate this week, I’ve not really wanted to do much musical reading at all. I have progressed in the story to the point where Brahms first meets the Schumanns. I have enjoyed the analysis of the early piano works and hope to have a chance to do some listening to them this week.
  3. Read for Your Life (Pat Williams) – This book first began my journey toward increasing my personal reading habits years ago. Although some of the data is a little dated, I think Williams makes powerful arguments about the importance of reading in our personal lives. I just started reading it last night and I’m not very far into it…..but I don’t think this one is going to require much time.

You notice that a novel is not currently occupying a place on my shelf. I started a work of fiction this week and did something that I rarely do — I put the book away and decided not to read it now. I was especially shocked since it was I Am the Clay by Chaim Potok, the very author that I praised in last week’s update. Oh well…..I think I was just too tired when I tried to start reading the book. I’ll find another novel to add to the mix in the next day or so.

There you have it……I’ll have more updates for you next Saturday (if I don’t return sooner with a book review).  Until then, just keep reading…..


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The View From My Reading Chair – Jan 4, 2020

Happy New Year! I hope that each of you have gotten your personal reading journey off to a good start with the beginning of 2020. As promised in my New Year’s Day post, I will offer brief weekly updates on Saturdays throughout the year as an accountability on my own reading in addition to the regular posted reviews.

I’m working my way through 3 books right now.

1) At the Wolf’s Table (Rosella Postorino). This novel is the latest installment in My Library Shelf project. For any new readers, I was challenged to read my way through a shelf of my local library that was chosen at random (with a few stipulations, of course). The shelf had to include at least one classic novel, a minimum of 10 unique authors, and no author could be represented more than 7 times. Unger Memorial Library in Plainview has a limited selection, so I had to bend the rules a tiny bit….one author (Terry Pratchett) has 12 books on my current shelf. Still, I’ll be exploring works by 13 authors in the process.

At the Wolf’s Table is the story of a group of women who find themselves commanded to serve as food tasters for Hitler in Nazi Germany. The women eat the glorious food prepared for the dictator and are then observed for an hour to see if they are the victims of poisoning. If they show no ill effects, the meal is taken to Hitler’s lair. I have about 100 pages remaining in the novel and will share my thoughts in an upcoming post this week.

2) Johannes Brahms: A Biography (Jan Swafford). Is it really surprising that I would begin the year with a biography of one of my favorite composers of the 19th century? I actually started reading this work several years ago when I discovered that my copy was defective and was missing over 150 pages! I finally got around to replacing the book earlier in the Fall semester and just began to re-read it while in Arkansas for Christmas break.

The Brahms biography will be one of my biggest reads for a little while – clocking in at just over 600 pages. I’m reading rather slowly and making notes along the way, so this one will probably remain a fixture in my weekly updates for a while. I’ve made my way through the first 75 pages of this fascinating examination of the composer’s life and work.

3) Karamo: My Story of Embracing Purpose, Healing and Hope (Karamo Brown). Audio books have long been part of my reading routine. I especially enjoy “reading” memoirs in this format when the author reads his own words. I first encountered Karamo as a cast member of MTV’s The Real World. Now better known as a member of The Fab Five of Queer Eye, his story is one of struggle, addiction, and triumph. I’ve got about 2 hours of listening left and should have it done early on my drive back to Texas on Monday.

So….I anticipate two reviews coming up in the days ahead that will give a little more detail about the books and my responses to them. Until then, continue to enjoy your own reading journey.


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Spring Reading Update

The Spring semester proved to be a bad term for my reading life. Since the beginning of 2018, I have only read 9 books. This is the worst showing I have had since beginning this project to increase my personal reading. The only things that have been neglected more than my reading life this year are my blogs. This post is my attempt to do a little course correction here at Reading for Me.

It would be impractical to attempt to write meaningful posts about my responses to the books I have read since my previous post (my review of Kristen Hannah’s Nightingale in March). So I have opted to simply give a brief summary of the five books I have read in the months since that review and return to my normal routine with Book #10.

Without further apology, here are the books I have most recently read.

#5: A Ned Rorem Reader (Ned Rorem) – I have long been fascinated with the American composer Ned Rorem. While bringing back his Barcarolles for performance earlier in the Spring, I decided to dive into this collection of essays and recollections by the outspoken man. Some were fascinating. Others were merely an opportunity for the writer to put meaningless drivel on the page. I plan to read the Rorem diaries at some point, but I think I have had enough of this man’s ego and ramblings for the moment.

#6: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (C.S. Lewis) – Working for a Christian university means I get a four-day weekend for Easter. The weeks leading into the holiday had been extremely busy, so I decided to scale back my literary selection and enjoy this simple tale of sacrifice and redemption. No matter how many times I read this book, I always find myself crying when I see Aslan on the table, willingly giving himself over to the White Witch. This is simply a masterful retelling of the Gospel.

 #7: Prince Caspian (C.S. Lewis) – Since the first volume of The Chronicles of Narnia was such a good experience, I decided to continue reading through the series. I know this is not the order that the books were published in…..and it’s not chonological either. Honestly, I am not sure why this order was recommended, but I’ve started it now. Plans are to return to Narnia later this summer.

#8: The Sacrifice (Joyce Carol Oates) – While on Easter break, I discovered Half-Price Books in Austin. This was one of my finds on my many trips to the various locations. The Sacrifice is the enthralling story of an African-American girl who is found by local police after she has allegedly been raped and left to die. Her abused body also contains racial slurs that were left by her attackers. The girl names her attackers as a group of white police officers based solely upon her recollection of what she thinks were badges. The case takes on a life of its own as it becomes the rallying cry of Civil Rights attorneys and religious leaders. In light of the multiple accusations made against police departments throughout the country in recent years, The Sacrifice felt as though its story had been pulled right from the headlines. Another contender for the best read of 2018!

#9: Waking the Spirit: A Musician’s Journey Healing Body, Mind and Soul (Andrew Schulman) – Andrew Schulman is a classical guitarist who found himself facing death in the ICU after complications during surgery. His wife saw that he was slipping away and did the only thing she could think of to reach him — she inserted his earbuds and began playing the music that was at the top of his iPad’s playlist: The St. Matthew Passion by J.S. Bach. Schulman made an incredible recovery that his wife, his physicians, and the patient himself attributed to the healing power of music. Waking the Spirit follows Schulman’s return to the ICU after his discharge and recovery; he returned not as a patient, but as a medical musician. The book is filled with powerful stories of how music has aided some of the most seriously ill patients in their recovery — offering physical healing as well as pain relief for the body, mind, and spirit. Schulman’s combination of anecdotes with supporting evidence from the fields of medicine and music therapy are riveting and written in such a way that the layman can easily follow the argument. A great read for anyone interested in the field of music therapy.

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Reading Update – August 23, 2017

I am still working my way through Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. At this point, I have read roughly 375 pages of the novel and am just over half way through.  As I continue reading, I am understanding why those who have recommended it over the years have held the book in such high esteem. It is superbly written and the character development is insightful and authentic.

Let me tell you a little about what has happened so far without giving too much of the plot away. The twin boys, Marion and Shiva, have entered their teen years as a government coup has occurred in Ethiopia that involved members of their safe world. While both boys are central to the story, at this point, everything centers on Marion. His interest in medicine and surgery are growing — making for constant comparisons between the child and his deadbeat Dad. Marion’s sexuality is blooming as he begins to have his first encounters and all of the questions and confusions that accompany them. In an instant of danger for themselves and their family, Marion and Shiva must make a decision that has lasting consequences beyond anything they could have imagined. Marion must now deal with the personal demons that haunt him as he struggles with the ethical implications of his choice while keeping a potentially explosive secret from everyone.

Cutting for Stone is a pleasure to read. It is not a beach-read though. My reading pace has become significantly slower through this novel because each page contains a scene that will have consequences for our characters as the story progresses. I find myself taking my time in order to make sure I don’t miss a word. That means that my daily reading goal is only 50 pages…..and there are days when that lofty goal is too difficult to accomplish. I would love to finish the novel in the next week….and I think it’s possible now that I’m entrenched in the drama…..but it may be just a little too much to accomplish now that the fall term is underway.

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Reading Update – August 16, 2017

After finishing Behold the Dreamers, I was ready for something lighter. That means I returned to James Patterson. After spending a couple of days with the next novel in the series, I realized that I probably would not be able to finish the book before leaving the Geriatric Ward on Sunday. Since I only borrow these novels from a library and hadn’t gotten very far into the reading, I decided it was time to make a trip to the bookstore and change directions.

Now as I’m sitting on my couch in my Plainview apartment, I have a stack of books sitting next to me that I’m looking forward to reading. Listening to book reviews on the drive back to west Texas also meant that my TBR list grew (that’s “To Be Read” in case you are wondering). So with packing, driving across state lines, and slowly returning to my normal work routine, I am slowly making a dent in reading my latest novel — Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese.

The novel has been recommended to me by multiple people in the past few years. There was always something about the title that caused me to pause. I also tend to shy away from books that are longer than 400 pages; every time I’ve attempted a book much longer than that, I tend to lose interest before I reach the end and find myself stuck or trying to plow through when I really want to walk away. With its 650 pages, I am hopeful that Cutting for Stone will be a different story. I have only managed to read a little over 150 pages so far, but I am engrossed by this story and Abraham Verghese’s prose. I suppose that may be one of the reasons the novel was a national bestseller. I also find it very intriguing that this work was Verghese’s first novel.

So I’m going to continue reading….and I’ll tell you more about the story in a future post.

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