Solving the simple mysteries of life

Let’s face it, I can be a snob. But I’m also not afraid of admitting when I’m wrong. And boy was I ever wrong about the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith. I would see piles of the books at bookstores and Costco and think, “If there are so many of them, they can’t be very good.” And not just so many, but so many on the bestseller list. To me, that’s a sure kiss of death.

But then I read one when I was a freelance book reviewer at the Detroit Free Press and I was almost immediately struck by the simple charm of the stories and the characters. I have since read nearly everything Smith (or should I call him McCall Smith, or is McCall a middle name. That question flummoxed me for a while, but I finally settled on putting his books on my shelves under S for Smith) has written. Continue reading “Solving the simple mysteries of life”

90 percent not caring

HappierThere was a time when I, stupidly, let negative people and their games into my head. I recognized what was happening, but I couldn’t help myself; so much seemed at stake.

That’s when I first read a self-help book. My wife suggested a work by Dr. Wayne Dyer. I don’t remember much about it, not even the title, but I took away some techniques I use every now and then when I face challenges. Then I listened to a book by Marianne Williamson. Again, no clue what the title was, but I added a few aphorisms to my self-talk (the best one: Why do I care what people I don’t respect think of me?) that can talk me out of a funk. Self-help books are not a staple of my reading list by any stretch of the imagination, but I dive in every once in a while. Continue reading “90 percent not caring”

Reading aloud

When the kids were younger, I read them novels aimed at children. We read, among others, the Narnia books, “The Neverending Story,” “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane,” “The Tale of Despereaux” and several of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books.

Just before bedtime, we would gather on our big bed. First me and two kids, then me and three kids and finally, me and four kids. I’d ask a few questions to see what they remembered from the last time we read and we’d tackle a chapter or two. Sometimes they’d beg for more, sometimes they’d beg me to stop. These nightly sessions had the potential to devolve into bickering (“He’s hogging the blanket!”) or giggles (“Who farted?”) or anger (“Who KEEPS farting?) but I kept at them because I felt I was doing something they would remember, or would get them interested in reading. Continue reading “Reading aloud”

Ian McEwan’s ‘The Children Act’

A new Ian McEwan novel is a true event for me. I don’t care about its subject, and I don’t care about the length (which is saying something), so I don’t even read the flyleaf copy: I will read anything he writes. I look forward to his “Collected Grocery and To Do Lists, 1970-84” coming out in 2017. Continue reading “Ian McEwan’s ‘The Children Act’”