We have gone through the four shelves on my dining room bookcase that contain my books; the final shelf are all Grace’s books, none of which are very exciting. Now we start in on the living room bookshelves.
Don’t mind the mess. This is the top shelf in this bookcase, and as such, the mess that you see above the books is usually quite well hidden from casual observation. I stick stuff up there when we’re about to have company, things that I don’t really have a place for, but I want out of sight.
Also on this shelf you can see my little baobab tree that I brought back as a souvenir from my time in Kenya, a baby dinosaur hatching from his egg that was a gift from a friend many years ago, and the little blue bowl that I made as a craft in second grade. It looks a sight better than the misshapen dish I made in the first grade, which I do believe my father still has and uses to throw random small stuff into on his dresser.
On to the books!
As you can see, this is my Diana Gabaldon shelf. I love love love the Outlander series. It’s a wee bit of fantasy and a tiny bit of romance. In it, a woman working as a nurse in World War II-era England finds herself transported to 17th-century Scotland, where she falls in love with one of the men she meets up with. The series follows her time in Scotland, a time in which many of the Highland Scots were still rebelling against the British crown, having been unified with that nation only a few years beforehand.
What I like about these books is the heroine, a woman named Claire Randall, isn’t a shy, quiet, retiring type of person. She’s spunky, full of life, and not ready to take orders from anyone — which always lands her in trouble in an era where the men rule and the women obey. She had been a nurse in the modern era, and she brings her knowledge of medicine with her. It breaks her heart in a way because there isn’t much she can do to heal the folks in 17th-century Scotland, not without modern antiobiotics and vaccinations. But she does her best and learns all she can about natural healing from those with that knowledge.
I devoured all five of these books as soon as I bought them a few years ago. I couldn’t get enough, though a few of the books dragged in the middle. They’re an amazingly fast read, especially when you consider the length of these babies. Outlander is nearly 900 pages! I don’t have the last book, however; I am holding out in hopes that a mass-market paperback that matches these five will one day be released. I’d hate to have to have one trade paperback and five mass-markets, though I do have four paperbacks and three hardcovers in my Harry Potter collection.
Next to my Outlander collection, you will see …And Ladies of the Club by Helen Hooven Santmyer. I have no idea where I picked this up, some thrift store or used book store by the condition of it, and I don’t think it’s in print anymore. This, folks, is an amazing book. I could not put this sucker down till it was done, which meant many, many nights of reading until the wee hours, till I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore. I was so sucked into the story that when an character unexpectedly died, I burst into tears and ended up crying myself to sleep. Even thinking about it now, I am tearing up. It’s well over 1300 pages, and I just kept going until it was done. When I turned over that last page, I felt so bereft and empty, but I loved every second of it.
The book is one of my favorite types of books — the kind that starts in one time period but follows not only that generation but subsequent ones. It begins by following two old friends that have just graduated from the local female seminary in 1868, and are invited to become part of a book discussion group that meets once a week. The novel focuses mainly on these two friends but also branches out to discuss the other ladies in the club, as well as the families of the women involved. Eventually one begins to form a picture of what is happening not just in their small town in Ohio with the advent of mechanisation, but where America was headed in the late 1800s. The changes in just the few generations spanned in this book are really amazing.
Also on this book shelf is Betty Crocker’s Hostess Cookbook, copyright 1967 and printed 1976. You know I’m a sucker for these kinds of things. The inside front cover reads, “Dear Hesitant Hostess, If you’re like most women, giving a party means many things to you. It provides an opportunity to entertain close friends, to let people you like discover each other. It offers you a chance to prove your prowess as a cook, to display your talent for decorating, to give your children firsthand knowledge of the social world. Most important, it’s a specail way of saying, ‘I like you’.” Well, I’ve got the cooking thing down. The rest of it, not so much.
Beside that is Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, since I love Jane Austen and own at least one copy of everything she wrote. At the very end we’ve got Lytton Strachey’s Queen Victoria, which was a wonderfully written biography of the queen. I’ve also got a book called Writing: The Story of Alphabets and Scripts just to the left of the hostess cookbook. I picked that up at a museum in Washington, DC, because I’ve always been interested in how man developed various scripts in order to write down his history.
So that’s another shelf for this week! And you thought I didn’t have enough books to keep going. Ha! We’ve got many more shelves to go, my friends. Stay tuned!