Month in Review: September 2017

Posted October 8, 2017 by Lory in blog housekeeping / 36 Comments

As more dreadful and inconceivably cruel events confront us in the news, reading and blogging increasingly feel like whistling in the dark. Is this pursuit too frivolous to continue? What good does it do, in times such as these?

I can’t answer for you, but it still does do me good. A powerful post from Roof Beam Reader (who moved to Las Vegas just two months ago) spoke eloquently about words and connection and carrying on. At Reading the End, there’s a new chance to share “Something on Sunday” that gave us joy or kept us going. And in my reading, I am constantly meeting striving, hurting, hoping people who inspire me to try to live my own life a little better every day.

Sometimes I just need to read something that helps me to escape the overwhelming, insoluble problems of the world, it’s true. But ultimately I don’t feel that reading and blogging are escapist pursuits. By freeing us from outer circumstances for a while, they lead us into an inner world where we can gain strength for the struggle again.

Words can fail us at at times, when even reading and writing and speaking can no longer bring consolation. But for now, they are part of my lifeline. What about you? What has kept you going this month?

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Reviews

 

Other Books Read

  • Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death by James Runcie – Mount TBR
  • Cocktail Time by P. G. Wodehouse
  • The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands – Mount TBR
  • Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan – Around the World, Mount TBR
  • Hillbilly Elegy by J.D Vance – Review to come
  • The Little Grey Men by B.B. – Mount TBR
  • The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale – Reread, Mount TBR
  • Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos
  • One Half from the East by Nadia Hashimi – Around the World, Mount TBR
  • Some Tame Gazelle by Barbara Pym

 

Other Features and Events

Shared in the Sunday Post hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer, the Month in Review linkup at The Book Date, and the Monthly Wrap-up Round-up hosted by Feed Your Fiction Addiction

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36 responses to “Month in Review: September 2017

  1. While sometimes (okay, oftentimes) blogging seems like a business and work, I do enjoy my endeavors and pursuits (despite blog comparing). My creation and what I’ve made makes me happy and proud, so I will keep on blogging even when the world is in chaos. Reading is equal measures enjoyable and an escape for me, but I do think a lot of the characters we read have such hope even in their own circumstances.

    • It’s important to do what makes us truly happy, and to keep the creative spark alive. This is a way of doing that, for me.

  2. “By freeing us from outer circumstances for a while, they lead us into an inner world where we can gain strength for the struggle again.”

    This speaks to me. It seems whatever it is I am reading, even if it’s classic literature, something shows up that gives me an instructive or humorous solution to a contemporary issue.

    • I agree — in fact, if I find something totally irrelevant, I’m not likely to keep reading it. And such relevance has nothing to do with how long ago it was written.

  3. As you recall, I asked myself if book blogging was a worthy pursuit upon the election of Donald Trump. Many folks urged me to continue. I think that it is worth it. At this point, I agree that keeping up the positive ad constructive side of life is important. I do try to reflect my concern about the world into my blogs, if that is worth anything.

    • I do think it’s worth something. I appreciate having this forum where we can share our views — whether about life or literature. It all connects somewhere.

  4. Books have always played that role for me: lifeline, emotional haven, the place I can go to refresh my spirit before returning to the fray. After losing my church community a week ago (longish story which you can read here), I turned as I often do to some old favorites, in this case, a well-loved romance series set in a small town, which emphasizes both the need for community, and the ways a healthy community supports its members: the ways in which we are connected, and the responsibility that goes along with that. Rereading the series didn’t magically make my troubles go away, but it made me stronger, more able to deal with them.

    So from my perspective, reading and blogging and sharing a love of books with others are all worthwhile. Books, particularly fiction books, may not appear to matter when measured against the very real and overwhelming issues facing our country and our world, but in their ability to both provide a safe refuge for a time and to inspire us with what is possible, books are more than important: they are vital.

    • I’m so sorry about your church closing, but I love your story about how books gave you some solace in that sad event. More than mere escape into a virtual reality, they can create real experiences that help us to recognize and foster what is valuable in life. I can’t imagine living without them, certainly.

        • That’s OK, I looked back at your Sunday Posts and found it. I hope you will find a new church to connect to, although it sounds like it will have to be some distance away — which makes feeling connected to the community more difficult.

  5. Work has kept me going–teaching and running the college writing service. I don’t mean to fall into the trap I see many of my friends in, however, claiming that they’re “too busy” for politics because of how busy work can keep us.

    • I hear you. I subscribed to that view for many years but I’m trying to become more active in at least a small way. If we don’t do something, then other forces will move in that want to take away our power to do anything.

  6. I think you’re right, reading and connecting to other readers via blogs and other social media, really can be a lifeline in difficult times. It’s important to remember the world isn’t entirely terrible, and reading and connecting really does built empathy and understanding. So, I’m glad to have it as a recourse during hard times.

  7. I’m definitely with you about blogging feeling a little pointless, especially when it’s so hard to express what we’re feeling right now. But it does help to know others feel the same! And reading is the thing that keeps me sane, even if it may not make a difference in the world.
    I’m so glad you enjoyed Return of the Native, it’s one of my favorite books, and Eustacia Vye one of my favorite characters.

    • She is a great character! So tragic though. It made me sad that she had no other way to express herself other than through her choice of male partner (a very limited choice, on Egdon).

  8. I’ve been meaning to read Hillbilly Elegy and White Trash, which I see listed under your “Currently Reading” tab, since before they were each released. I’ve been dealing with those “I’m too busy” excuses, too, though. Although, I don’t know, moving across country and starting my new career is maybe not simply an “excuse.” Do I get a mulligan? I had to step away from blogging for a while, both because of psychological/emotional issues and because of my schedule with work and completing the dissertation, but in the last couple of months I knew I needed to get back. Now that I am, I’m starting to feel like “me” again… starting to feel excited about (my) life again, even when there’s so much to be angry and upset about. Of course, I’ll have my little blog space to express those feelings, too. (Thanks for linking my post, by the way. I’m glad some have appreciated it).

    • Of course we’re busy with our lives, which is (or SHOULD be) the whole point of political life…making life possible for ordinary people. How horrible is it that we can’t trust the process to work in our best interests, or even in the direction of plain common sense? But that’s our world now, and we all have to cope as best we can.

      Thanks for your post, I really appreciated it. I’m glad blogging can be a space of refuge and renewal for you – it surely is for me.

  9. Reading and writing are not escapist — far from it as the only way forward for us as the human race is to communicate ideas and weigh them in the balance — but I can see how some of those who don’t do much of either (and I’m not including tweeting and such) might think it all is. We mustn’t give way to despair and the naysayers for without hope what chance of a future? As Pandora’s boxes are continually propped open by ill-wishers hope is what we must treasure.

  10. danielle hammelef

    When I read, I can relax, travel, learn new things about the world and it’s different cultures and lifestyles. Books help me to see and think about the world differently.

  11. I felt a bit of a blogging slump in September as well… I just didn’t want to add to the “noise” so I was second guessing all of my ideas. I’m not sure what my deal was, exactly… but luckily I’ve snapped out of it and blogging is fun for me again 🙂

  12. There was an interesting article in the Atlantic about the benefits of reading (
    https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/11/the-psychological-comforts-of-storytelling/381964/) – I don’t know if you’ve seen it? But amongst other things it re-stated the claim that reading fiction in particular raises people’s empathy. I would say that in a land whose current leaders are so profoundy unempathetic, that makes reading and writing about books a political act and thus far from a frivolous or self-absorbed pursuit.

    Culture is very important, we should never think otherwise. And your blog, with its thoughtful and respectful discussions, is a good place to be. 🙂 Anything that gives people strength, as you so aptly put it, is worth doing.

    • I have seen that study mentioned, but I wonder whether one has to have a capacity for empathy to begin with — an interest in others and willingness to change. This probably depends on an experience of care and safety in very early childhood, so that fear and insecurity doesn’t cause one to cling to one’s own point of view. Otherwise all the reading in the world can’t make a difference.

      It’s strange to see this psychological conundrum writ large, with Trump and the Koch brothers for example, who so harmfully are playing out their fears and inner emptiness on a world stage. And yet, all one can do is to hold to the things that are good and life-giving, of which reading is certainly one.

      • That’s a really good point, Lory: perhaps we read fiction because we are inclined to empathy anyway, rather than the other way around. Even so, and it does modify my argument a bit (!), being the antithesis of Trumpism in having the kinds of experience you describe in your post, and sharing ideas, are imporant beyond personal solace – and I do think personal solace is important, by the way. I suppose I’m thinking a bit of that theory of parenting that you model the behaviour you wish your child to learn – we have to be the society we want, and keep on being that. Or is that wishful thinking?

        ‘Otherwise all the reading in the world can’t make a difference’ – this made me so sad and for the first time I really pitied Trump. Some experience he had as a tiny child must have damaged him very deeply for him to be what he is.

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