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Oh, dear!

Posted Monday, August 13, 2007, at 11:55 PM

Eeek! It has been a while since I've updated my blog. I wish I could say there was one especially good excuse, but really, there were just several lame excuses: a guest bedroom to rearrange, miles to run, laundry mountains to tackle, a birthday party to throw, insurance claims to file, a final Harry Potter book to read, and, oh yeah--my children to raise. Well, I haven't finished raising my children. I've got a minimum of fifteen years to go before the last one leaves the nest, but the rest of that "To do" list is getting shorter.

I finished reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows last week, and having allowed myself some reading for pure fun, I am now turning to what one of my writer friends calls "the guilt shelf." The book I have currently chosen is "A Lantern in Her Hand," by Bess Streeter Aldrich. This is a book my mom has tried to get me to read for about as long as I have been able to read books with no pictures, and in the past, I always fell asleep somewhere around page four. This time around, I have breezed past the first four chapters and still have the urge to keep reading, even without the aid of a gallon sized iced coffee. Who knows? There may be hope that I can tackle some of the other books on my guilt shelf, so that the next time I admit to having majored in English, I'll know what other people are talking about when they start listing their favorite literary classics.

So, let's hear it, readers: favorite books from your guilt shelf? Most painful books you attempted to read from your guilt shelf? I promise not to reveal your identity to any of your past English teachers.


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Try Willa Cather's "One of Ours". (Actually any of Willa Cather's books are painful to read - but if you can just get through the first couple of chapters, you'll be hooked.) I haven't read Aldrich's "A Lantern In Her Hand", but I have read "Miss Bishop".

-- Posted by mccook mom on Tue, Aug 14, 2007, at 11:00 PM

I love it! An admission from a fellow Nebraskan that Willa Cather's books are "painful to read!" She's another author I have not been able to get into and have been plagued with guilt over it. I think I attempted "A Lost Lady" and "My Antonia," but I will try "One of Ours." Thank you for the recommendation! How did you like "Miss Bishop?"

-- Posted by saveryhinze on Tue, Aug 14, 2007, at 11:13 PM

The last book I read from the "guilt shelf" was "I know this much is true" by Wally Lamb, about 4 years ago, while trying to score points with a dumb girl I was dating. I read the whole book, but it didn't go very well. After about page 2 or 3 I decided to skip to the last page to see if it ended with a bang... sure enough on the last page the author indeed spells out exactly what he "knows is true," and it was really stupid... something along the lines of "you can see evidence of god because there are round things like balloons and balls and stuff." Anyways, I did read the entire book just in case the woman asked me some questions about it, but only in a half-hearted, shuffling-my-feet-to-the-electric-chair kind of way. After that, I decided not to keep a "guilt shelf" and only read what I wanted and if something sounded dumb to just tell the person recommending it that I have too many things to read at the moment, which is really not a lie, because when I can't sleep at night and the shots of bourbon don't work, I go on Amazon.com and order things that sound interesting. So, a week or two goes by and I get a package I don't remember ordering and I open it and I get a book that looks interesting to me... it kind of feels like I am getting a personalized note from myself in the future.

-- Posted by billconrad on Wed, Aug 15, 2007, at 4:30 AM

Oh, and things didn't work out with that girl.

-- Posted by billconrad on Wed, Aug 15, 2007, at 4:31 AM

Well, Lori -- here's the problem. I know I loved "Miss Bishop" because I didn't put it in the "give away" box, but it's been several years and I can't remember the whole story line. So I started reading it again last night, so I'll let you know in a few days.

And Bill - I've read Wally Lamb's "She's Come Undone" which I think was an Oprah pick. That should have been my first clue. I think you have to be somewhat mentally unbalanced to appreciate his work. (Not to say that I'm not -- but just in different ways than he is.)

-- Posted by mccook mom on Wed, Aug 15, 2007, at 10:12 AM

Well, Bill, I'm proud of you for declaring your rights as a reader. It took me many years to recover from my guilt after four and a half years of being fed feminist prose and literary classics. My recovery authors of choice: Christopher Rice, Steven King, J. K. Rowling (of course), Alex Kava, Sara Paretsky, and Anne Rice. But next time there is a girl to impress, let me know and we'll do some brainstorming for chic-impressing titles that would be less likely to make you snooze. Oh...and if she likes "The Bridges of Madison County," run away.

-- Posted by saveryhinze on Wed, Aug 15, 2007, at 2:49 PM

When I want to take a 4-5 hour adventure, anything by Clive Cussler or John Grisham will do! Otherwise, some of my favorite authors are M.M. Kaye, "The Far Pavilions,"; "Diapers On A Dateline," by Pegge Hlavacek, and "Freedom At Midnight," by Larry Collins and Dominick Lapiere.

Miss you guys!

-- Posted by happyincolorado on Wed, Aug 15, 2007, at 10:15 PM

"Diapers on a Dateline!" That's one of the most intriguing titles I've ever heard. Must put that on my reading list.

-- Posted by saveryhinze on Thu, Aug 16, 2007, at 2:29 PM

Peggy Hlavacek? Did she have Omaha ties?

Looking for good books about homesteading in western Nebraska or Eastern Colorado. Anyone have a suggestion?

-- Posted by teachermom on Fri, Aug 17, 2007, at 10:58 AM

According to the book jacket:

Margaret Lyons ("Pegge Parker") was a newspaper reporter in China when she met and married CIA agent Douglas Mackiernan. Pegge was evacuated with their newborn twins in 1948, and Douglas was killed by Tibetan border guard. In 1951, Pegge met John Hlavacek in Pakistan. They were married in 1952.

When they met, John was the United Press Bureau Chief for India and Pakistan

Pegge wrote "Diapers on a Dateline" in 1960, but the manuscript remained in storage until John rediscovered it in 2000. He decided to publish the book for family and friends, as well as anyone interested in the life of an American newspaper family in India during the 1950's."

After reading the book in 2004, I contacted John in Omaha....I was very interested in meeting them both. Unfortunately, John reported to me via email that Pegge had dementia and he was now her caretaker.

Pegge and John are still in Omaha as far as I know, but, then have not been in touch with John in about 2 years.

It is a wonderful book!

-- Posted by happyincolorado on Fri, Aug 17, 2007, at 11:33 PM

Wow! Quite a story! Is the book still in print and available?

-- Posted by saveryhinze on Sat, Aug 18, 2007, at 8:23 PM

Yes, I purchased one several years ago. I believe I saw a book review in the Omaha World Herald and consequently got the book.

Hope you can find it....if not, let me know. I am sure John would be able to tell you where to find the book.

-- Posted by happyincolorado on Sun, Aug 19, 2007, at 9:13 PM

Thanks for the update on Pegge Hlavacek. I think John and Pegge used to do a travel show on local tv in Omaha. I will see if I can find the book. I like reading books that I can connect with. Thanks for the recommendation.

Still looking for homestead stories for Eastern Colorado or Western Nebraska.

-- Posted by teachermom on Mon, Aug 20, 2007, at 8:14 AM

It depends on what you are looking for but Ralph Moody wrote stories of early settlers in eastern Colorado (Brush to Denver) in his "Little Britches" stories. My elementary teacher in eastern Colorado read them to us when I was in grade school and it was fascinating because some of the people mentioned had descendants who lived in the area and went to school with me. I don't remember the specific names of the books but I think several of them had "Little Britches" in the title

-- Posted by oldnewcomer on Tue, Aug 21, 2007, at 11:43 PM

Yes, Willa Cather may be a little hard to read, but she's well researched & very literary. My favorite of hers is "O Pioneers" (where the heroine IS the land), which was well done as a Hallmark movie 12-15 yrs ago. Another excellent one is the short, little-known "Alexander's Bridge" - suspenseful and interesting given current happenings.

I think I've read most of the Aldrich books as I give tours at her Elmwood home - she's a down to earth, hearth-type writer - not fancy but good.

I don't have many books on my "Guilt Shelf" (except maybe "War & Peace" and some Shakespeare tales), but an all-time favorite is "Coming Home" by English author Rosamunde Pilcher, about a young English girl coming of age in the WWII era. The characters & families are developed & described so endearingly and with such English oriented detail, that they become your family. When I finished the book, I

was depressed and missed them! "The Shellseekers" book follows Judith's

later years and I highly recommend it.

Another favorite is "TImeline", a Michael Crichton book - set in both

modern day and 13th century France

with some machine glitches. It also

was a great movie. (Always like to see if my imaginary characters "look" like the movie versions!)

And where do you find time to read?

My compliments, honey!

LincMom, Lincoln, NE

-- Posted by nsavery on Thu, Aug 23, 2007, at 8:54 AM

Boy, do I know what you mean about missing characters when you finish a book! "The Book of Ruth," by Jane Hamilton was one that made me so weepy when I was finished reading it. The main character was such an ordinary person, but the book was so beautifully written. I really FELT everything the character went through. Sigh. :)

I'm loving "A Lantern in Her Hand" this time around. As far as when I find time to read, I've learned to live on less sleep and a lot of coffee. ;)

-- Posted by saveryhinze on Thu, Aug 23, 2007, at 9:30 AM


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