September Reading List

Sunday, September 6, 2009


Here is a short reading list to occupy your minds with as the seasons make their shift. These are transitional books that seem to me to have the appropriate vibe for moving from the end of trustworthy, nurturing summer into that mystical changeling, autumn. If you read any of these, I would love to hear your take on whichever landscape(s) you chose to wander into. Some of these stories are old friends that I know and remember well. Some I haven't read in years and should probably pay another visit to. But all of them are books that I remember with a sort of fascinated but uncomfortable fondness. Transitions are never easy.

Till We Have Faces
by C.S. Lewis: This is C.S. Lewis's adaptation of the Greek myth of Cupid and Psyche, told from the perspective of Psyche's sister. A mere 324 pages, this achingly beautiful book is worth savoring every last syllable.

The Talisman
by Stephen King and Peter Straub: This is the story of Jack Sawyer, a unique individual capable of traveling between two worlds, and his quest to find the talisman that will save his mother's life. You will fall in love with the characters and be swept into an adventure to rival the quest for the Ring. Though quite a bit longer than my previous recommendation, it will keep you turning pages well into the night and wishing it would never end. It's no secret that I am a Stephen King fan, but this is, hands down, one of my all time favorites.

Watership Down by Richard Adams: If you were forced to read this in school, you likely were loathe to pick it up and then were won over by the end of the first chapter. I was lucky enough to have this book recommended to me by a family member whose taste I trusted and respected, rather than a high school English teacher, so I came to this book with an open mind. Yes, this is a book whose entire cast is made up of rabbits. No, I would not consider this a children's book in any sense of the word. It is dark and powerful and at times terribly frightening. There are psychological twists and turns that are a little too disturbingly human for comfort. Just trust me on this one, you will not be disappointed.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values by Robert M. Pirsig: This is one of those life-changing books that any sentient creature needs to read, and probably more than once. I won't lie to you, it gets rather heady at times and there are sections when you'll wonder if you should take a philosophy class to understand what the narrator is talking about. My advice is to keep reading. You'll get it. Just give yourself a chance. There is a solid storyline that's interesting enough to keep you moving through the heavier narratives, and every little piece of information you get as you go along is a piece in the overall puzzle. Don't be scared. I promise, you're smarter than you think. ;)

The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson: This collection of short stories is by one of the most unique authors I've ever read. The title piece, The Lottery was first published in 1948 in The New Yorker and caused such an uproar that many people cancelled their subscriptions and the magazine received hate mail for months after. Since then, however, this little short story has received such critical acclaim as to render it a classic. In case you've never read The Lottery, I won't say much about it here. You really should read it "blind" (without knowing anything about it) for the first time. But I can tell you that Shirley Jackson is a master storyteller and has a tendency to write about deceptively simple scenarios that seem just slightly askew, like walking into a room where the floor is just barely slanted. The stories in this collection all have a kind of disquiet that you can't quite put your finger on that seems to me to be perfectly paired with this time of year; the way the light shifts and the days begin to wane and the certain something in the air that is truly only perceptible to the more subtle senses, primarily the sixth.

Summer's End

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


It’s the first day of September and, although I know that fall is still a few weeks off, I can already feel it coming. The air has changed, have you noticed? And the light is dimmer now, more like a warming glow, instead of the brash bright heat we’ve been subjected to for the last few months. Summer is finally starting to wind down.

When I turned the page on my calendar today, I was greeted by a gorgeous photo of aspen trees in Colorado showing off their golden autumn dress. Here in the Bible Belt, the time for donning our fall colors isn’t due for a good month or so, but the sight of that photo made me smile and dream of the gilded yawn of summer before it drifts off to sleep.

The air outside is a bit crisper than usual for this time of year, and I suppose that, too, has influenced my change-of-season musings. All the flurry of back-to-school madness has calmed and there’s a little more time to stop and think; and to plan, of course, because to be too idle, even now, is a grave mistake. This is the calm before the storm. This is the time to be meticulous and set things in order. The holidays are right around the corner, and they show no mercy to harried, unprepared humans running amok in their attempts to complete all the promises they’ve made to themselves.

I think this year I will breathe it in. I will make myself slow down and appreciate the change in the light, the subtle drifts of the temperatures from warm to cold. And this month, as I plan and sort and hustle away the summertime goodies and prepare for the colder months like a squirrel, I will say goodbye to summer properly for the first time in ages. I admit, it has never been my favorite season, bringing on bouts of complaining come July and August of too much heat, too many bugs, too much bright light. And, when it’s all said and done, I have always left it so rudely, working right along into fall and winter, with barely a glance at its passing. But summer warms the bones and ripens the fruit and it isn’t right what little appreciation I’ve shown. It’s time to make amends and give this sunny, bountiful season some credit before it’s gone. Perhaps summer and I will be on better terms next year if I do.