Bookmail: The Desert Fathers

Two weekends ago, Deb Nance at the blog Readerbuzz mentioned the book, The Desert Fathers: Sayings of the Early Christian Monks, and I told her that it looked “intriguing.” She then offered to give me her copy of the book, if I sent her my mailing address via e-mail. I did and this past week received it, along with a letter from Deb, or Debbie, as I now learned she also likes to be called. With her permission, I have included the letter here along with a photo of the book:

First, I must comment on her cursive writing: exquisite, but not a complete surprise as she was a school librarian for many years. My own handwriting, and even print, is atrocious, completely and utterly ruined by years of working at newspapers and making my own chickenscratch shorthand that even I couldn’t, and still can’t, decipher at times. It is the reason at work I prefer to leave notes on the computer.

Second, to Deb’s comment about some of the sayings being “downright odd,” I have to say just based on the cover that I’m not surprised. I didn’t really look at it when I first got the book, but then a day or two later, I looked…what the heck?!? According to a description on the back of the book, the cover is “A Hippocentaur showing St. Anthony the Hermit the way to to St. Paul the Hermit, detail from the Livres des Merveilles (c. 1412) by the Master of Boucicault and Master of the Bedford Hours, in the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris (Ms. francais, 2810, fol. 91) (photo AK London).” To see the full photo from the manuscript it was taken from, click here. My wife’s two cents: “So he’s getting directions from a centaur. Maybe St. Anthony should have hung out with some people once in a while.”

I don’t think this is one I’ll be reading in one sitting, but instead will read it “in bits and pieces,” as Deb suggested, and I might not finish it in its entirety. That said, I do look forward to perusing it over the next few months. Thanks again, Deb/Debbie, for sending me the book and the thoughtful and well-written (in both form and content) letter.

One Foot In The Grave, but I’m still reading

Last weekend, I joined the “My Own Books Reading Challenge,” which started Friday, which I also happened to have off from work, and ends May 15. So….I read and finished my first of 10 books that I selected for the challenge. The book was Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew J. Sullivan and while it wasn’t as good as my first seven books read this year, it still was a pretty good mystery by a first-time novelist, who is an award-winning short story writer. I’d be interested in seeing his next work.

My next book for the challenge is The Uninvited by Dorothy Macardle, which my friend John highly recommended. After that, I have six others that I mentioned last week and two others: Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith by Barbara Brown Taylor, which I’m reading every Sunday during Lent, and Now and Then: The Poet’s Choice Columns, 1997-2000, by Robert Hass. I am planning to read those two periodically over the next two months. I did start on Leaving Church, but as I’m only two chapters into it, I can’t tell you much about it yet. I haven’t delved into the Hass book yet, but might do that this afternoon, I’m thinking.


Besides reading, I’ve been watching One Foot in the Grave on Britbox. The TV show, which aired mostly in the 1990s, is a British comedy about a man who is forced to take early retirement at age 60 and thinks his life is over. I find it kind of funny that I am discovering this right before I am turning 50 and feel a little (okay, a lot) like Melissa Firman, another Sunday Saloner, who wrote how she feels about turning 50 this year that ti-i-i-ime is (not really) on my side. My sister thinks I’m being dramatic about it, and to a certain degree, she is right, but I also understand and empathize with what Melissa says in her blog post.


Last weekend I also received a lot of feedback and comments on my decision not to read one book for the challenge and read another instead. To see what prompted the discussion, scroll down to the end of the original post and then read the comments, if you want. I always encourage comments and do my best to respond to each and every comment. When you sign in, leave a link to your blog or edit it so there is a link and I will visit your blog if I don’t already have your blog in my feed reader.

In other blog-related news, I updated my theme so if you are visiting from a feed reader, come visit my blog on a browser on your desktop, laptop or mobile device. I used a photo from a vacation to the Bahamas (our only vacation to the Bahamas) in 2006 for the header as I did with my old Facebook page. I think with that, I’ll leave you, thinking warm, happy thoughts of being on a beach in the Caribbean (which I just learned I didn’t know how to spell).

So how was your week? Reading, watching, listening to anything good? Share that and any thoughts on this post in the comments and if you have a blog, share your link to the linkup for the Sunday Salon over on the group administrator’s blog. If you wish to also post a link at Facebook, you can also do that.

Joining The “My Own Books” Reading Challenge

I am joining Anne Bennett of the blog My Head Is Full of Books for a reading challenge: the “My Own Books” Reading Challenge, which starts this coming Friday, March 15, 2019 and runs through Wednesday, May 15, 2019. The goal, according to her sign-up blog post, is to read one to 10 books that you own by May 15. They can be ebooks, audiobooks, or print. From there, you write the titles of your 10 books on slip of paper and draw one slip at a time to create your reading order. Publish the list on your blog or on Facebook, link back to the sign-up post, sign up on the linky there. For more on the challenge, visit Anne’s original post.

Instead of 10, I am planning on reading eight books for the challenge over the approximate eight weeks (one a week) and two others: Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith by Barbara Brown Taylor, which I’m reading every Sunday during Lent, and Now and Then: The Poet’s Choice Columns, 1997-2000, by Robert Hass, that I am planning to periodically over the two months. The other eight, in the order I selected at random, are:

  1. Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew J. Sullivan
  2. The Uninvited by Dorothy Macardle
  3. Look to the Lady by Margery Allingham
  4. Death in Disguise by Caroline Graham
  5. H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald
  6. The Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell
  7. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson
  8. You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me: A Memoir by Sherman Alexie When They Call You A Terrorist: A Black Lives Matters Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors & Asha Bandela, with a foreword by Angela Davis.

The interesting thing to me about the order that I randomly chose them is that my second, third, and fourth choices are all from books recommended to me or given to me by a friend John. Or, in all three cases, maybe both. He was a neighbor of ours when we lived in the suburbs of Philadelphia more than a decade ago and he and I have continued a literary conversation every few months via phone.

My fifth, seventh, and eight choices I have had on my TBR for more than a year, and in the case of Astrophysics and Hawk, I have started them but not finished yet. My first choice is one that we have at our library, but that I bought so that I could read when I wanted. I guess that time is now.

Today’s plan is to read blog posts from many of you and Leaving Church as mentioned earlier. Later today, I will be going over to a neighbor’s to watch NASCAR. This coming Friday, which just happens to coincide with the start of the aforementioned reading challenge, I happen to be off from work, so you know what I will be doing…

Reading, y’all!

You want to join in? You still got time. Go to the links above and join us.

How has your reading week been? What do you have lined up next?

Update (10:22 a.m., March 10, 2019): In the comments below, about an hour ago, Heather of the blog Froodian Slip mentioned that Alexie “is one of THOSE guys…”. My initial response was “I didn’t hear about him being one of THOSE guys, but sadly so many.” I didn’t mean it as flippantly as it sounds and then proceeded to Google Sherman Alexie and #metoo. Boom! ‘It Just Felt Very Wrong’: Sherman’s Alexie’s Accusers Go On Record Based on that article, with stories corroborated by NPR, I decided to choose When They Call You A Terrorist. It also feels right, especially in light of my just watching The Hate U Give last night. I didn’t rewrite the books on strips of papers and choose again. I just went with the order I already had.