The Song of Our Syrian Guest

I love antique books. Everything is delightful about them. Beautiful graphics, gorgeous covers, even the hue of the pages that have been kissed by time, and what can I say, I cannot resist the scent of an old book. Someone should just come up with a perfume or air scent reminiscent of it.

Last Christmas my niece gifted me an antique copy  (1904 – 505th printing) of The Song of Our Syrian Guest by William Allen Knight. The gorgeous illustrations/prints are by Charles Copeland. This is one of the best gifts I have ever received in all my life. What a treasure it is! I gasped when I saw it, page by page, but moreover, I was delighted when I read it. Everything is so beautiful and detailed about its pages – the lovely ornate print, the simple black and white illustrations that reveal so much, and the soft palette of the cover and some of the print.  The book is about psalm 23 from the point of view of a shepherd, and how  the imagery of the psalm has a real purpose and meaning that a shepherd would know. This has been my favorite psalm; I never knew that I would read it in a whole new different light, and find so much more in it. I recommend this little gem to any reader. It is a treasure for sure. If you can get a hold of an old copy, better. I hope you do. You will not be disappointed. My niece decorated the first page with a dry flower, which I think gave it a special touch. I will treasure it forever, and it will have a prominent space in my collection. Here are some pictures so you can appreciate its beauty.

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Photo by M.A.D.

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Photo by M.A.D.

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Photo by M.A.D.

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Photo by M.A,D,

As a Reader, What Captures Your Interest, What Bores You?

Reading is one of the simple pleasures in life. I consider it a blessing as well. I’ve loved reading since I can remember. When I was a child, I remember reading anything I could get my hands on, books, comic books, fliers, labels, signs, shampoo bottles … . When I was sick, my aunts would buy me coloring books and books, and I fondly remember a book that had colorful pictures of all kinds of animals, and a brief information about each animal. It was the first time I learned about an okapi, and an ornitorinc. Look them up, these are some of the most unusual animals on our planet. The memory of those pictures never left my mind.

When I read I don’t put a number on how many books a year I have to read. It becomes a chore and ruins the experience for me. Instead, I carefully select what I want to read, usually according to my mood. Also, I don’t hurry to read the latest best seller. I approach reading with ceremonial disposition. It is a special time, an enjoyable and pleasurable experience. To be able to transport myself to a world created by a writer’s imagination, and visualize it, almost being inside it, is something quite special and amazing, a miracle of the mind, a connection between writer/author and reader. Isn’t that wonderful?

A well written story captures my interest. One that flows effortlessly in my mind as I read, and also, one that paints vivid images, whether via description or character’s recounts. I enjoy a medium pace, not to fast, but also not so slow that I might lose interest. I have put down books and never pick them up again because I became bored reading an extremely long description in almost every other chapter or too many twists and turns that made the story “too made up” for my taste. Other readers might enjoy this, of course. I enjoy a story that has balance between description and dialog. Contrary to popular opinion, you can tell me from time to time, you don’t have to show me all the time. It becomes exhausting. As a reader, balance is the key for me. Stories that go into too much technical detail tend to bore me, unless the information is crucial for understanding the story. If the lingo is being thrown without a purpose or direct correlation, I start skipping pages. When I catch myself skipping chapters, I stop reading the book. Many years ago, I would force myself to finish a book that I was not enjoying only because I had started reading it. To reach the ending was a must, almost a sacrilege not to do it. It was pure torture. Through the years, I made peace with my reader-self and finally understood that it is fine to stop reading a book that I am not enjoying. There are many books I want to enjoy, and life is too short.

The Christmas Box Collection

This post should have been written in January, however, I think it is never too late to praise a good read. During the Christmas season I usually read a holiday related book. Last year I read a few. I enjoyed The Christmas Box Collection by Richard Paul Evans so much that I must talk about the experience. It has been sitting on my bookshelf for some time, and finally, I was able to enjoy it. Many of you might be familiar with it since it has been around for some time, but for those of you who are not, I think it will be an enjoyable experience to read it. Although it is by no means a cheerful set of stories, these all relate to one another, and are a bit different from your regular holiday read.

The Christmas Box Collection includes three stories: The Christmas Box, Timepiece, and The Letter. I loved all three stories. I loved that these are so well written that I could not put them down. In addition, I found myself being transported to the settings and seeing everything so clear in my mind, effortlessly, and this made the reading experience more enjoyable. I also found myself immersed, enjoying the writing style of this author. It is an author that I would read again. I am not going to include on this post a summary or what each story is about because that will ruin the reader’s experience; however, I can tell you that if you want to read something different and meaningful over the Christmas season The Christmas Box Collection will not disappoint you.

What I Read

I’ve been asked before what kinds of books do I read, and my answer always comes as a surprise. I describe my reading as being all over the place. I read everything that peaks my interest. In my library, you will find positive thinking books, self-help, fiction, physics, science, religion, classic works, reference books, financial education, and even fairy tales. I don’t think I have a favorite genre or category; I read what seems interesting. The fiction category is very wide, and I prefer mysteries but will also read inspirational stories, as well as light hearted ones. I stay away from romances unless they are more infused with mystery, adventure, or the supernatural. I don’t like overly romantic novels, and certainly dislike explicit ones or erotica.

Over the past couple of years I’ve read a lot, mostly with the intention of going through the backlog of books that have piled up over the years, although I am always reading something. I like to read hardcopy. I tried to get used to e-format but could not. I found myself losing interest in what I was reading, and even not wanting to go back to the ebooks I had started reading. I honestly don’t know why this is, and if I have not embraced e-reading by now, it is not going to happen. I find that I have a short attention span for e-reading but I can sit with a book in my hands for hours. In the meantime, I am not buying any more books until I force myself to make a dent on my library shelves. Instead, I will keep a list of new books I want to read. Some books I will keep, some I will read a second time, and other books I will give away. I will keep antique tomes because they represent a collection I’ve started and would like to keep growing. I will keep any new editions of the classics.

I am also not a fan of audio books, unless it is in the self-help/positive thinking category. When I used to drive everyday to work, I listened to those, but not so much these days. These days I’d rather sit with a book and enjoy the feel and scent of its pages, the scent of a story.

One of my oldies

My Best Friends are Not Human

They were there when I needed them.

They were by my bedside when I was sick.

They comforted me when I felt lonely.

They were with me during my childhood, and throughout my entire life.

They are here now, and offer comfort any time I go to them.

They offered guidance and knowledge.

They taught me how to dream, and sometimes, they made me laugh or cry.

It has been a lifetime friendship, one I will treasure forever.

Books are my friends.

 

*A true story

Charmed Again and Again

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway – published by Scribners in 1952

That is one classic that I can read more than once with much enjoyment. Although written long time ago, it still reads fresh. I love Hemingway’s word rhythm and the way he paints a picture in my mind. He transports you through time and place, and plays with your senses.

I was able to find an old copy sometime ago, and it is one of my forever books. It is missing the dust jacket, but I love it just the same. It might appear as a first edition, but it isn’t. It is missing the Scribners seal and the letter A on the copyright page. It is valuable to me. I know I will keep reading it from time to time, and probably on an August or September afternoon; it seems a perfect read then.

If you have not read this classic, I invite you to read it. Maybe you can try it for this summer. You will not be disappointed.

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My Forever Books

I love books. I love to read. Since I can remember. I am an eclectic reader. I read different genres, pretty much anything that will hold my attention, from fiction to self-help, to finances, reference, anything and everything. After I read a book, it will either be put aside to be read again much later in the future, probably years, at least one more time. It will be donated or given away to someone, or kept for reference for some time. However, there are books that I loved so much the first time I read them, that I know for sure they will have a permanent place on my bookshelves. I will revisit them all my life. I call them my forever books. I would love to share some of these on this post.

Although the Bible, some of the classics, and (important for me) reference books will be permanently on my bookshelves, I am referring to the books that on that first reading, enchanted me somehow. Here are a few.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

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I wish I had kept the early copy when I read this one as a child.

 

Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach

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The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo

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The Grievers by Marc Schuster

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The Last Hunt by Cliff Burns

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The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway

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How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie

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The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

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Love the book, but much more because it is a gift from my sister.

 

These are just a few that will be forever on my bookshelf. I enjoyed them immensely. As you can see, they range in topic, genre, and time written. To me, reading is almost a religious experience, and I understand that every reader experiences and interprets a book in a very personal way, and therefore, a book can touch lives and entertain in countless ways. This is why reviews are not as important as we think they are. The same books that I love so much, another reader might dislike. I may love a book, but that doesn’t mean that I will like or enjoy other books from the same author in the same way. I might read them, and enjoy them very much, however, not necessarily give them a permanent spot, reserved only for those enchanting tomes.

As an author, I am in a different state of mind and “being” every time I write, so I think it would be unusual that I would write in the same way or with the same degree of inspiration all the time. To expect the same degree of inspirational awe from an author every time he/she publishes a book is like expecting coffee to taste the same all the time (I love coffee), and maybe that is why I’ve never understood traditional publishing. On the same note, as a reader, I approach a book with different intent at different stages in my life. It seems so as I mature. Life takes on another color, another flavor, and things evolve in importance. Although a story remains as it was written, another story lives and breathes in between the lines, waiting for the reader to find it and give it the meaning that is so unique and special to each person. That is why I am so careful with my opinion of a book, and any reviews are only my experience with, my view, my take, on a book that I enjoyed reading. My interpretation, that is ultimately influenced by the stage I am in life, and my surroundings, as well as all the thoughts, feelings, and emotions that accompany it. A good example is The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. I read it when I was around 10 years old, maybe earlier, and at that time I thought it was the most exciting adventure I had encounter in the pages of a book. I lived it, and I loved it. I read it again as an adult, and I got so much more out of the same story. The story in between the lines emerged.

I hope I have inspired you to give these books a try, if you haven’t done so already. On a future post, I will share some of my dearest collections that I treasure and will also keep on my bookshelves forever.

What I’m Reading Now

1999 – Jeff Herman – You can make it big writing books

That is the book I’m reading now. I bought it many years ago, and never got into it. I bought it when my thoughts were around the idea of publishing a book going the traditional route. Although it is an older book, and I am not interested in pursuing traditional publishing, I find it is a good read and interesting. If you are considering traditional publishing this book gives you a glimpse of the work, publishing experiences of many top writers in the industry. If you are contemplating a writing career or are interested in learning more about the traditional publishing experience from many traditionally published authors, this book is good for that. It is brief and set up as a series of short pieces of advice from 60 bestselling authors who have been in the industry for years. They talk about their writing experience, beginnings, as well as offering advice to the reader.

Most likely, by now there are more/better books on traditional publishing but I had that one sitting on the shelf for a while, and decided to give it a try. So far, I am enjoying it. I have a goal of reading everything in my bookshelves that still calls on my curiosity. I have gotten rid of everything else that does not. I will continue to share any other interesting books that I get to read.