The Book Nook

THE BOOK NOOK: An inglenook is a cozy bench or nook tucked in next to a large open fireplace, popularized in Arts & Crafts homes such as the Wright inglenook pictured below. We agree that an inglenook is an ideal place to cuddle up to a good book! Please post a description of your favorite or latest book describing why you like it, and other members will comment. See How To Post for help or to join our book-blog group, a network of long-distance friends and bibliophiles.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

An Invitation to Poetry

  • Favorite Poem Project official Website

  • When poet Robert Pinsky was named the 39th U.S. Poet Laureate in 1997 he began the massive Favorite Poem Project which provided the material for these three books, the first being America's Favorite Poems. The third, An Invitation to Poetry, is my current read.

    The project was basically travelling across the country collecting common people's favorite poems, which were read and recorded into a massive archive at the Library of Congress. There is also a set of video documentaries. Each book presents a collection of poems from all types of poetry, each with a short introduction by the person who named the poem as their favorite. So, for instance, there will be a paragraph at the top of the page where someone describes how they loved this poem in college and still have it memorized, how it reminds them of their father, for instance. That introduction is then attributed with their name, age, job, and city/state they live in. Then below that you will find the poem.

    An Invitation to Poetry includes a DVD on which a selection of people introduce, then read their favorite poems in person. It's wonderful, and brings the poetry, the spirit of this project, and the spirit of our country, alive. I highly recommend this as the first of these three books to get. The book's table of contents helpfully cross-references with the DVD track listing.

    In honor of Poetry Month this April (which is now), run out and get this book, and pop in the DVD. Give yourself 20 minutes at least to do this. If you would like to, play the introduction on the DVD, and listen to Robert Pinsky talk about the origins of the project, it's significance, and to his own favorite poem. (He's a great poet, and I recommend his books sometime, too.) If you don't have the time, go directly to the first selection, an excerpt from the Walt Whitman poem Song of Myself. (It has to be an excerpt, the poem is 20 pages long!) Choose this and listen to a guy in Massachusetts talk about why he likes the poem, and the work that he does as a construction worker laying gas pipes. Then listen and watch him read his favorite stanzas of Song of Myself right there on his tractor. It may occur to you that this is an ordinary guy you might see working along the road or pass by anonymously in the grocery store any day. Watch him emerge from anonymity to significance as his strong Boston accent bends Whitman's early 19th century words and his white teeth flash in an occasional smile.

    Every day in April I plan to "watch" another poem. There should be just enough.

    I just love the concept of this project, and wish I had participated too. I can relate to the enthusiasm the people feel for their favorite poems. When I try to narrow down to one favorite poem, I find it very hard. Maybe 6 poems, that I could do. I really do feel like the Favorite Poem Project acheived it's aims of celebrating and promoting poems in America, in that it showed poetry really is already enjoyed all across the country in diverse walks of life. It's a pleasure to read the reasons people list for why they like one poem or another, and some of my favorite poems are already included. It's like sharing, in a community, in what is normally a secluded and private activity, the reading of poetry. I think that's why this book is so exciting; it breaks out of the social constraints placed around poetry. Like the way people won't share how much they earn, or never ruminate with friends on the truly difficult aspects of parenting. People just don't talk about poetry much, you have to go out of your way to get to a poetry reading on Tuesday night in a coffee shop downtown somewhere, to do that. So this book gives me a piece of that community.

    Tuesday, January 09, 2007

    I'm Not the New Me

    It's about time we had a memoir on this site, right? I'm Not the New Me has been billed as a book about Wendy McClure's journey to lose weight, and it is, sort of. It's also about life, relationships, getting by, and the random observations that make it worth getting up in the morning. I started reading Wendy's website (which was actually the basis for the book) a couple of years ago, and I can't say enough good things. She's funny, irreverent, honest, and brave enough to put her whole life on display.
    Anyway, the book. INTNM chronicles Wendy's life from the realization that she's "fat" (from looking at pictures of herself doing karaoke), to the decision to join Weight Watchers, and follows from there. She starts her website as an online journal to help track her weight-loss progress, not knowing who--if anyone--will read. She ends up forming a whole network of virtual friends (Inglenook, anyone?) that gives her support through all of her adventures.
    So much about this book resonated with me. Body image issues, check. Relationship struggles, check. Life as a single person in Chicago, check (yes, I can still remember those days!). One of the great things about this
    book is that her thoughts, her observations--they could be mine. There's such a ring of familiarity, so many things I've thought or wished or done. There's something to be said for branching outside one's comfort zone for reading, but for me, I'd rather read something I can really relate to, and this book is about as good (and fun) as it gets in that regard.
    Oh, and one of the best parts of the book is that she includes a center section of full-color 1974 Weight Watchers recipe cards. They're beyond awful. Some of them are downright gruesome. McClure's commentary on the recipes really completes them. In fact, her second book, The Amazing Mackerel Pudding Plan, is entirely WW cards with commentary.

    Wednesday, December 13, 2006

    In the Bleak Midwinter

    I bought In the Bleak Midwinter when it first came out in paperback, in early 2003. Something about it caught my eye and I remember thinking, "Wow, that's a really interesting premise." Then I put it on the shelf and promptly forgot about it until late June 2004, when I was looking for something to pack in my hospital bag before my first son was born. I ended up reading it in one big gulp, and it made the hours fly by while baby Liam snoozed beside me. In a way, I was really mad at myself for waiting to read this book and missing out on something great for so long...but I was also glad, because it meant there were two others in the series that I could read right away instead of waiting to find out what happens next. But I digress.

    Explaining the premise of the series really doesn't interest many people. Clare Fergusson, newly-ordained Episcopal priest, moves to the Adirondacks and her new congregation in the small town of Miller's Kill, and solves mysteries with local police chief Russ van Alstyne. I've got you hooked now, right? But the series is so much more than that. The mysteries (The mystery of the first book is that a newborn is abandoned outside Clare's church. The search is on to find the baby's mother, and murder isn't far behind.) are engrossing and tightly written. They're not easy to figure out, but not impossible either.

    The real strength of Spencer-Fleming's writing is the relationship between Russ and Clare. I don't want to give too much away, but the friendship between the two of them and the ethical and moral struggles they face together are absolutely compelling.

    Spencer-Fleming has said in interviews that she had an outline for five books in this series. Well, there are five books out now, and I sincerely hope there will be a sixth. Happy reading!

    Friday, November 10, 2006

    Little Earthquakes by Jennifer Weiner

    Little Earthquakes is my favorite book from my favorite up-and-coming American author Jennifer Weiner. A cross between “chick lit” and contemporary literature, Weiner’s work is easy to read, intelligently written, and features realistically motivated heroines who are easy to relate to and inspire me to cheer them on. Weiner’s first book, Good In Bed, features a plus-size heroine who finds love and self-acceptance. Her second book In Her Shoes was made into a movie recently. Little Earthquakes shows Weiner’s developing skill in characterization and story-telling as she interweaves the tales of four new moms who find friendship and support in each other as they discover the difficult, often funny, realities of marriage and new motherhood. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to reading more of Weiner’s books as they come out. See the link to her website on this blog. Feel free to comment on any of her books, I’ve read them all. --Valerie
  • author Jennifer Weiner’s Website
  • Wednesday, November 08, 2006

    The Inglenook

    An "inglenook" refers to a "little room within a room," or an enclosed hearth surrounding a large fireplace. This has its origins in practical medieval architecture as a space for cooking or gathering for warmth. It can most popularly be found in modern lodges, or Arts & Crafts homes or Prairie homes, as a cozy bench or corner tucked in next to a large, open fireplace.

    For a fascinating article describing the history and structure of the quaint inglenook, follow this link to the This Old House website:
  • This Old House article describing origins of the inglenook

  • Pictured here is an example of an inglenook in Frank Lloyd Wright's Heurtley House in Oak Park, IL (above, right),...

    ...and a room within a room inglenook in a Stickley Arts & Crafts home (at left),...

    ...and a medieval Tudor inglenook at Manor House in Monkton Combe, Somerset, England (at right).

    Monday, November 06, 2006

    How To Post To This Blog

    How To Comment & Discuss On This Blog

    Anyone can comment on any book on this blog. You don't even have to be a member, your book-group friends can also participate. It's super easy!

    Once you read the book description, look at the small text at the bottom of that description. Click on "0 comments" (or it might say "3 comments" or however many comments have been made). A new window will open on your computer screen. There, you can read the comments that others have made about that book.

    You can then write a comment, too, or reply to any of the other comments. Just page down through the comments or pull the blue bar along the right side of the window down until you get to the end of the comments. A box will appear, labeled Leave Your Comment. Write your comment in that box. Just type normally.

    Under the comment box it gives you options under the heading Choose An Identity. If you are logged in to Blogger as a member of the Book Nook, your identity will automatically be chosen. If you have trouble logging in, you can choose Anonymous and just sign your name in the comment box at the end of the comment. Please do identify yourself for book discussions.

    If you are a friend of a Book Nook member and not registered to Blogger, please choose Anonymous and sign your comment within the comment box with both your first name and how you are connected to our network of friendly bibliofiles! (For instance: This was a great book! --Sally, friend of Val from her local book group.)

    If a word verification is included, you need to type the characters you see as instructed. This is a guard against spammers.

    Last, click on the orange bar labeled Publish Your Comment.

    How To Become A Member Of This Blog