Why Do Only the Good Die Young?

Why Do Only the Good Die Young?

from Penguin Random House

After reading and thoroughly enjoying Heather Havrilesky’s How to Be A Person In the World, it got me wondering existential questions such as why do only the good die young? Is it true, or only something Billy Joel was telling his girlfriend to pressure her into being bad? Do we tell ourselves little cliches to make ourselves feel better, or are these little nuggets of wisdom something that should be considered?

I found reading Ask Polly’s Guide Through the Paradoxes of Modern Life, really quite empowering- especially for women.

Warning: some swear words in this book, but in all the right places!

I may not have the same problems as many of the youngish answer seekers in this book, like troubles in a romantic relationship or with work, but I still found common threads of useful self-help tips embroiled in her hard-nosed wisdom. When life is getting me down I tend to reach for books to provide me with answers that I can’t easily solve myself; answers to questions such as why do liars and cheats sometimes win? Is there really a clear line between good and evil?

I think if Polly was answering my questions she would say, I am imagining her tone now-yes, sometimes life isn’t fair. Get over it. Some people are good and some are bad and if you think that you are one or the other that is really a matter of perspective. Even if you think you are completely angelic, haven’t you done something bad before in your life? Lied to your grandmother? ( No) Put your finger in the dessert before it was served, just for a little taste? (Yes) And although these can’t really be considered bad acts, I think what Polly would advise, is that there is no clear line between absolute good and evil. Sometimes bad people don’t get caught, sometimes innocent people get sent to jail- that is the hard realities of the messy world we live in. It is a world filled with ass grabbers and liars.

Is there any consolation for this?

Probably not. But to make yourself feel better I suggest that you go for a long walk in the fresh air. Spend some time with good friends or allow them to take you for a spa day! Bake a pie. Tell your family that you love them ( and mean it!)  even when they have carelessly left a crusty lasagne dish on the floor next to their balled up dirty socks.

These small things will make you feel better. And you may see that the world is filled with goodness again.


ps need more feel-good advice?

Try Xandria Ooi- She overfloweth with wise wise words.



You Can’t Read One Without The Other

You Can’t Read One Without The Other


With all this intense and dreary winter weather it is really a great time to nestle down under a warm blanket by the fire and catch up on your reading.  It is nice to read in the steaming hot bathtub ( not with a library book of course) or bundled up with a mug of tea in your car waiting in the ferry line up. But sometimes don’t you feel that you have read all the great novels already? Does every novel you pick up seem dull and passionless?

Here is my remedy. Get book ideas from other books.

Some books,  I find just beg you to run out and pick up another.

For instance, you can’t read- Reading Lolita in Tehran, without running out to your local library and picking up…Lolita by Nabokov. There are also many other book suggestions in this book.

You can’t read Truth and Beauty without putting a hold on Lucy Grealy’s Autobiography of a Face. You can’t not read Gogol’s The Overcoat after reading Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake. And what about The Storied Life of AJ Fikry? It is filled with new reading ideas.

Here is a link to all of the great little nuggets of literary references from this sweet little novel. This list should keep you going for awhile.


Or how about After the Gingerbread Man you must run out to read the Stinky Cheese Man? Not sure if this is a good example., but I can’t think of what other books compel you to read more books… if any of you have any bright ideas let me know.

I always appreciate new book leads.

I would never have picked up The Daily Coyote without a recommendation from a dear reader of this blog- I feel a better person just for having read it. So thank you dear readers ( of this blog) and all readers in general. The Daily Coyote will also make you want to seek out the blog that gave her the material for her book.

This song will make you want to read even more books- My Baby Loves a Bunch of Authors by Moxy Fruvous…










When Breath Becomes Air

When Breath Becomes Air


I find that since I am no longer working in a library, I don’t seem to read as much. Being surrounded by stacks books all of the time must have compelled me to pick them up and read them.

Recently, though I did manage to put a hold on a very popular memoir titled When Breath Becomes Air.

I am not sure why I have switched from fiction to non-fiction and particularly memoir- style books. Lucky for me there seems to be a plethora of titles to choose from in this genre that I can’t get enough of.

And it doesn’t seem to matter what the subject matter is, if it is well written, I can’t put it down.

When Breath Becomes Air is the true story of a young surgeon’s account of learning that he has advanced stage IV lung cancer  (in his thirties!) and how he copes with the last short bit of his life. It takes the reader into the surgery room with him, giving an accurate account of the long grueling hours of being a neurosurgeon. It was his last wish to write a book and he managed to do so.  It was fascinating and funny, precise and sad.  This small book is packed with prose, I still can’t shake parts of it out of my mind- weeks later. For instance, Kalanithi states, after cutting up a cadaver, he later craves a burrito, because apparently, formaldehyde stimulates appetite. When Breath Becomes Air- I could say that title aloud forever, because it sounds like poetry to me.

Somehow if the story is true, I always find it fascinating. After reading Helen Macdonald’s,  H is for Hawk, I wanted to go out and begin to train a hawk. This was something that never crossed my mind before reading this memoir.

Wouldn’t it be great to have a hawk in the family to help hunt? I would be the wildcrafting (hunting) envy of all of my neighbours.

If you have any great suggestions for reading some good memoir, please let me know.



Oh What It Is To Have An Unruly Family!

Oh What It Is To Have An Unruly Family!

il_340x270.438058424_aao3.jpg (340×270)

Some days do you ever have the feeling that you are Tabitha Twitchet

from Beatrix Potter’s Tale of Samuel Whiskers and the Roly Poly Pudding?

Instead of my kittens getting rolled up in a sooty dough to be eaten by rats, I have one family member dragging himself across the bottom of the ocean while an angry seal tries to bite his fins. Another family member is hangin out in Bolivia of all places-while another is backpacking in Peru, joining biking groups called the Death tour! ( I only learned about this fearful name after being asked to download her trip photos after her cell phone was stolen).

Yes—-what it is to have such an unruly family- This is what Tabitha Twitchet says in her  frilly kitty bonnet, as she locks her children up in the cupboard.

Why didn’t I think of that?

If you are one of the lucky people who have families that sit around a Turkey at Thanksgiving, be grateful!

Some how this is not my family’s fate.  This weekend I opened up my house for an impromtu art showing.

This allowed me to talk to many different people all weekend long. I only felt a slight twinge that there were families reunited for the holidays- happily filing through my living room.

All I could do was plan for the day in the future when we will have a turkey dinner together.

Of course only after I wash the soots from the dough  that the rats have stolen.

Waste not want not.


Don’t Judge a Book By its Cover



Don’t judge a book by its cover. I made this mistake when once, bringing out an array of world language books for a library presentation, I picked out a few novels off of the library shelf. I tried to choose books with pretty covers. I knew the Korean book was about sewing children’s clothes but the Chinese fiction was harder to guess at. It was a soft covered book, on the larger size and covered with brilliant flower images.I was hoping it was something that might draw someone’s attention and it did. I saw a young woman pick up the book to look at it and I was pleased, I said-

Is this a good book? Have you read it?  And slowly and gently she tried to explain what it was about.

No, I have not read this book.

What is it about? I inquired.

Oh, it is about a girl, she said hesitantly.

Hmmn, I said,—you mean it is about friends?

No no, she replied, it is about a lady, how do I say it—  she is a bad girl— she is a lady of the night.


Oh really?  I said, feeling silly that I displayed it….this was an outreach in a local church after all. She continued to read the back jacket to me, well—eventually she becomes good.

I believe she was trying to ease my mind that I had chosen a really trashy novel. I was aghast! How did I choose a seemingly innocent book off of our shelves? I was aiming for gentle ( flowery) fiction and was far off the mark! In my defense, there were no pictures of handsome men or half-clad women on the front, only flowers!

And so— my lesson of the day;

Do not judge a book by its cover– although I often can’t help myself if it is really pretty.





Tolstoy and the Purple Chair-Book Review

image from booksbywomen.org

I have just finished a great little book- about reading books, titled Tolstoy and the Purple Chair. I admit I picked it up mainly because of the title. But once I started to read this little gem, I was hooked. It is the true story of a woman who sets out to read a book a day for a year— a daunting task for a mother of four boys. So I was quite skeptical at first of how she would accomplish her quest, and actually, the big question for me was why, why would she do this?

The reading I soon learned, was to help her stand still and understand how to deal with the grief after the death of her sister. She read for hope and comfort and it was her only perceived link that she shared with her sister. She explains in one chapter that her father was put in a sanatorium to recover from TB for over a year. To her she equates her reading challenge as a kind of sanatorium that helped her heal, to get herself back together.

She began her journey with the literary gem The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery- later she recalls that from this book she learned to find “moments of beauty” whenever she could.

She at first foolishly thought she could read during the day when her kids were in school, in-between laundry and making dinner. But the author soon learns the only time available in her busy schedule is in the evening after everyone is in bed. She wisely chooses books that are only an inch in width, about 250-300 pages, but when one of her sons tells her to read Watership Down, a 500-page tome, she rises to the challenge. Each book is reviewed and posted to her website daily.

After reading Sankovitch’s book I felt inspired to read more. I have a list the length of my arm of must read books from her and one of them is called The Novel Cure by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin.

I encourage you to read this book— you will be truly inspired.


On Author Talks and Why Reading Fiction is Important

I had the pleasure of listening to an author talk at the Central Library the other night.  I wondered if it was worth the trouble to take the C-train downtown instead of hanging out in my pajamas at home like I do every night. Gone are the days of my youth when I would go out dancing after midnight! The author that I was going to see was Barbara Gowdy— she was promoting her new book of fiction, Little Sister.

The audience I noticed was largely older women in groups laughing and talking. Barbara walked onto the stage with two pillows and went on to explain the constant pain she was in for many years, and how she had to write lying down in bed. Her stories were amusing and thoughtful. Once she burped and said, “oops, sorry I burped!” And I thought, what an adorable person! The audience at first was slow for the question and answer period, but soon got on a roll and someone asked her if she regretted anything or wished she had changed something after it was written. She said she realized that everything that she wrote or did, had to happen, and, as a result, the next book was created. I like how she also said that we are all different people at different stages of our lives, meaning perhaps the first book she wrote, that she claims were very serious–was written by a different her. She also discussed how many writer’s families, especially their mothers, don’t actually like their books.

And on the very hot topic of cultural appropriation, Gowdy says about her book The White Bone, she hopes that if some elephants read her book, they won’t be mad that she may have made mistakes in how they actually live their lives. She wrote The White Bone to help people understand the plight of the elephants–but says that she doesn’t think it had any impact at all. She added that one of Trump’s sons hunted and killed elephants for sport.

She also discussed the importance of reading fiction. Her example was that a man who only read cookbooks cheated on his wife with her close friend. He was surprised when everyone was upset and mad at him. If he read fiction Barbara went on to explain, he might have understood these basic truths about how life works. We all enjoyed her story of how her little sister came with her to the hospital to help her when she had a diagnosis of breast cancer. Her sister had a seizure in the hospital, was whisked away to surgery and was fine after. It was like her cancer saved her sister’s life, Gowdy said. An amazing story told by a truly fine storyteller.

I encourage anyone to attend any books talks that you are able. It made for a wonderful evening–it was definitely worth getting out of my PJs for a change.