OMG! An actual reading update

Here’s a rare thing on my blog, which shouldn’t be for a blogger who once upon a time identified himself as a “book blogger”: An actual update on what I’ve finished lately over the last couple of months and what I am reading now.

Finished

  1. A Month in the Country by J.L. Carr. May 10
  2. The Last Bow, the Sherlock Holmes short story collection, which also includes the short story of the same name, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. May 29 – reading in the second volume of a collection of short stories and novels
  3. Every Living Thing, the last part of the All Creatures Great and Small series, by James Herriot. June 14

In Progress

  1. Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver Started May 6
  2. The Best Poems of Jane Kenyon Started June 6

To Be Read

  • The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – which, when finished, will mean I have read the entire Sherlock Holmes canon by Doyle and also is in the second and final volume of the collection I’ve been reading from since last year.

My birthday month begins…TODAY!

As I have done the last few years, I’m celebrating my birthday, which is June 9, all month long, starting today. Unlike last year, where I celebrated big for my 50th birthday with a few trips here and there throughout the month, including a weekend trip with my wife to wineries on Seneca Lake in upstate New York, this year understandably I’m keeping the celebration low-key. We only have one trip planned: next Tuesday, on my actual birthday, to visit with family about 60 miles away since the counties in Pennsylvania we live in have gone “green.” Of course, we’ll be practicing social distancing, but it still will be good to see them.

Other than that, I am off four days from work this coming weekend, with at least for June the library where I work being closed on Sundays and Mondays for quarantining items and cleaning of the building. I took Tuesday as a vacation day and just have Saturday off. We’re doing curbside pickup for now, if you’re wondering.

Other than that, for the weekend, I’m going to give myself a goal of finishing the All Creatures Great and Small series by James Herriot that I’ve been reading the last few years. The last book in the series, at least in the American version, is Every Living Thing.

Throughout the month, I plan on continuing my phone-free Sundays. I also will be continuing to read the second volume of two of the complete Sherlock Holmes novels and short stories. Yesterday I finished the collection, His Last Bow, and now only have The Case-book of Sherlock Holmes left.


In terms of chronology in the canon, the short story “His Last Bow” is the last appearance of Sherlock Holmes and is after he is retired and living in the country. I think is a fitting end for Holmes, especially as the story is at the cusp of World War I and with Conan Doyle giving the detective perhaps the best lines of the canon, as he says to Watson:

“There’s an east wind coming…such a wind as never blew on England yet. It will be cold and bitter, Watson, and a good many of us may wither…But it’s God’s own wind none the less, and a cleaner, better, stronger land will lie in the sunshine when the storm has cleared.”


As for today, it is the end of my wife’s work week and the end of my weekend. So we’re keeping it chill here, as I’m extending my phone-free Sunday, and my wife is joining me. Our only exception is Scrabble Go. And even though we’re not going to wine country in New York this month, there will be wine, including today.

So I’ll leave with this ditty in celebration of wine:

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday, phone-free Sunday!

Two Sundays ago, I tried something new: putting my phone in the desk drawer all day, with all notifications shut off except if a person calls twice within 15 minutes. Then I tried it last Sunday too. I had moderate success, only beginning to cave toward the end of the day to check my phone. So now I am going to do it again tomorrow to end the month on a lovely note and try to make it a tradition.

I should explain…or maybe I shouldn’t, but I will anyway…that for me a phone-free day does not mean a “media-free” day in terms of other devices or being unplugged. For example, tomorrow I plan on reading or continuing to listen to the Sherlock Holmes short stories to which I’ve been reading/listening on my Kindle. I might watch some movies or TV shows on one of the streaming services we have on our TV. I might listen to music on my laptop. I might mow the rest of the lawn that I didn’t finish earlier today with our electric mower (I’m kidding, we have a gasoline-powered mower, but I was trying to go with the unplugged theme).

My phone-free day definitely does mean a media-free day, no quotes, though in terms of news. For some reason, I’ve never been tempted to check news on any of the streaming channels on our TV or on my Kindle or on our electric mower that I don’t have. I only am tempted to look on my phone.

Also I might do all of those things mentioned above. I might do none of them. I don’t know yet. I just know that I won’t be on my phone so don’t call or text me, please. I’ll be “indisposed.”

60 days and counting…

On the day that I am posting this, Saturday, May 16, 2020, it is the 62nd day I have been mostly staying at home after the library where I work closed on March 15. Initially, it was closed through March 29, then “until further notice” after the governor of our state issued a stay-at-home order later in March.

Last Saturday, as planned, I finished listening to the end of a 1981 NPR Radio adaptation of A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr. Then on Sunday, I read A Month in the Country by J.L. Carr, a short novel that a friend recommended to me the previous week. Out of the two, I enjoyed the second more than the first, which in hindsight is because a post-apocalyptic radio drama during a global pandemic is not what the doctor ordered.

That said, I did enjoy listening to the radio drama, which was very well done, the last two weekends. So I think later today, after posting this, I’ll continue to listen to The Complete Sherlock Holmes: The Heirloom Collection, as narrated by Simon Vance, that I got as part of an Audible trial.

I’m not much for audiobooks, but several years ago, I first encountered Vance, thanks to Jennifer of the then book blog, The Literate Housewife, now on Instagram. I even got four audiobooks of him narrating James Bond novels by Ian Fleming, perhaps winning them? through a contest Jennifer was having (to be honest, I don’t remember). I also have two others narrated by him: Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl and A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, which I never have read, but want to…and maybe listen to…some day.

As for the rest of the week:

  • Tuesday: I had good sessions with my therapist and registered dietitian, with whom I already had started via video and phone before mid-March.
  • Wednesday: Kim and I went for a walk to Barbour Rock at the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, which is near where we live.
  • Thursday: Kim and I had a “Zoom” with two of her sisters and their husbands to discuss the final season of Game of Thrones, which one of Kim’s sisters and her husband just finished watching. Bonus: Zoom gave us extra time so we were able to talk for an hour and half.
  • Thursday: We bought the final season of Schitt’s Creek on streaming so we don’t have to wait until October when it comes out on Netflix.

We plan on finishing up Schitt’s Creek on Monday, which will be apropos for me in light of what I am about to tell you. It was one of the first shows I began binge-watching (reruns up until this final season) when I entered what has been mostly self-isolation and now will be the show with which I end my own version of quarantine…

…because on Tuesday, I return to work at the library as we are slowly reopening in phases with the first one being the acceptance of checked out materials from the public, starting on Wednesday and running through Friday. I should note that my wife, a 911 dispatcher, has not stopped working at any point.

At the library, we also will be preparing for limited services, but not until we make sure we are following the guidelines for the “Framework for Reopening Public Libraries” as was released by the Office of Commonwealth Libraries, which is under the Pennsylvania Department of Education, only yesterday. The Framework, in short, provide guidelines to help ensure the community‚Äôs health and safety. If you really want to know more about the plan in our state for reopening libraries (and other businesses as well), I encourage you to check this link. I will add here, though, that I might not be able to answer your questions about the framework or our library’s own plans for reopening as I haven’t been back to work yet and I’m not sure how it is all going to “work.”

During the Zoom, one of my brother-in-laws, who also is returning to work next week, asked me if I was nervous about my own foray back into the work environment. I told him I was a little, but also excited, which is true. But I honestly can say that I just want our library to reopen limited services, such as curbside pickup, to start because I know it will benefit our community, both old and young (and yes, those in between too).