My Own Personal Sabbath #26

Almost every Sunday since mid-May 2020 with a few exceptions, I have been taking my own personal Sabbath, where I tune out of the news and social media and turn off my ringer and all notifications on my phone. Throughout the day or the next day, I share what I am reading, listening to or watching during my Sabbath day.

I am starting the day with quiet music as I often do on Sundays, many times with Sleepy Hollow on WXPN from Philadelphia. Today’s selection, though, is inspired by music I heard on this morning’s show. It was gentle acoustic guitar music, a little on the ambient side, and then in a review on Pitchfork this morning, I rediscovered the artist Nathan Salsburg, who just released two albums of instrumental acoustic music, Landwerk and Landwerk No. 2, made up of eight pieces.

Later today, I plan on dipping into the Inspector Montalbano series by Andrea Camilleri, with the fifth in the series, Excursion to Tindari. Last week I learned the Free Library of Philadelphia (FLP) added the series to its ebook collection and it was, and is, like Christmas for me, since the series is on my bucket list of series I want to read. I’ll leave you with one of Salsburg’s pieces from his latest album:

It’s a little after 2 p.m. now and after a short nap, I’m reading again. I started late this morning with Excursion to Tindari as planned. This afternoon, after about 50 pages in, I realized that while I had not read this one, I had watched it. For a short time, we had MHz Choice, which had the show Inspector Montalbano on it. I saw the episode based on the book, so I knew where the story was going.

So…now I’m on the sixth one in the series, The Smell of the Night. I’ll report back later on how it’s going.

It is a little after 4 p.m. and I am halfway through The Smell of the Night. Neither have I seen this episode of Montalbano nor do I think I have seen any others after the Excursion to Tindari so I should be good, which also this book is thus far, from here on out.

Last report of the day here at 8:30 p.m.: I finished my first book of the year, The Smell of the Night, by Andrea Camilleri. It was good, as I expected that it would be, and I have the next one, Rounding the Mark, already checked out from FLP. I’m ending the day with the end of Season 12 of Criminal Minds, to which I recently returned. I had been watching a few years ago on Netflix but then stopped when they were didn’t have any seasons past 12. This weekend, I learned Hulu now has later seasons and so I’m finishing 12 on Netflix, then going to 13 on Hulu.

How did you spend your Sunday? Read, watch, listen to anything good?

My First Book of 2021

Yesterday, I shared My One Word for 2021; today, I share my first book of the new year as many others do today and share with Sheila of the blog Book Journey who posts the photos today. Like my one word for this year, my first book of the year is the same as last year:

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, as translated by Gregory Hays: I borrowed a copy of it for free from Prime Reading in late 2019. But when I tried it, I had a difficult time reading the archaic translation. I then came across several reviews mentioning a modern translation by Gregory Hays, who also wrote an extensive introduction. It was the perfect book for 2020 even though I doubted it and tried another book that didn’t work.

With there being a lot of aphorisms in Meditations, last year I read a chapter a day over two weeks and journaled on one or two passages each day. While I enjoyed that, I think this year, I’m not going to put any time constraints on how long I’ll read and journal on passages. It might be a month or two or even three (GASP!). I’m also combining two other companion volumes to Meditations:

  1. How To Think Like A Roman Emperor: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius by Donald Robertson
  2. The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and The Art of Living by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman

The first, like Meditations, I will read at a leisurely pace and finish when I finish, maybe even reading on a new tradition I started last year on Sundays: My Own Personal Sabbath. The second, and this might shock you (again GASP! ) since it’s a daily meditation, I will read throughout the year.

So that is the book or books I’ll be starting 2021 with. However, the first book that I’ll probably finish will be (keeping it Italian) Excursion to Tindari, the fifth in the Inspector Montalbano series, by Andra Camilleri as translated by Stephen Sartarelli. The Free Library of Philadelphia (FLP) recently added the series to its ebook collection and I couldn’t help but put several on hold, many of which already have come in. I read the first three or four years ago via interlibrary loan at our library, but then gave up because I didn’t feel like waiting for all of the rest. Like Richard Stark’s Parker series, Camilleri’s series is on my bucket list of series to read, but with so many in both series, I can’t afford purchasing all of them. So when I saw that the series now is available to borrow at FLP around Christmas, it was, and is, Christmas to me.

Do you have a first book you plan to start out the year with? If so, what is it? If not, what are you looking forward to reading in 2020? To see what Sheila and others selected, visit Sheila’s blog post.

My Top 5 Nonfiction Books Read in 2020

This month I’ve been joining Kim and Tanya of for their annual event A Month of Faves, at least for a few topics. Earlier this month, I posted “My End of Year Bookish Plans.” Last week, I posted “These are a few of my favorite moments in 2020“, “These are a few of my favorite things (at home) in 2020,” and “These are a few of my favorite (Christmas) things.” To learn more about the event, visit Kim and Tanya’s introductory post on the event.

Today’s topic is Part 2 of favorite books that began with Part 1 on Monday. While I could have fit them all in one post, I decided to break my favorites into fiction and nonfiction, starting with fiction Monday and nonfiction today. Yesterday, I threw in my own topic not part of a Month of Faves: The Series That Didn’t Stick For Me In 2020, with series either I read the first one or abandoned in the middle of the first or sometimes second one.

Without further ado, here are my top 5 nonfiction books read in 2020 (in the order I read them across the year):

  1. Meditations: A New Translation by Marcus Aurelius as translated by Gregory Hays
  2. A Call To Conscience: The Landmark Speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
  3. Blue Horses: Poems by Mary Oliver
  4. Every Living Thing by James Herriot
  5. Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn

If you detect a theme, you are correct, sir (or madam). While I intentionally selected Meditations as my first book of the year, I didn’t intentionally select the theme of meditation for my entire year. However, as the year progressed, perhaps because of the Spring lockdown, it naturally fell that way. It was helped along by an invitation from Deb Nance of the blog, Readerbuzz, and host of the weekly Sunday Salon to an online six-week introductory course for Christian Meditation hosted by a group in Houston, Texas. The group is part of The World Community for Christian Meditation started by followers of the late Benedictine monk John Main.

As for the non-meditation books, not necessarily non-meditative:

  • the speeches of MLK came at just the right time.
  • Every Living Thing is the last in the All Creatures Great and Small series that I have been slowly making my way through over the last few years. I thoroughly enjoyed the entire series, some of which I had read as a teen, but not all of the series.
  • Blue Horses wasn’t the only poetry I read for the year, but for some reason, it just worked for me, maybe because of the title poem below.

Maybe our world will grow kinder eventually. As this year ends, and we enter 2021, at least that is the hope. I don’t know about you, I’m trying to stay positive hard, but it’s not easy. I guess it’s good to remember the words of that great Canadian philosopher Red Green:

What were your favorite nonfiction books read this year?