Posts Tagged With: literature

Best Books Ever, At Least for This Week

Someone asked me for a list of my favorite books. Or maybe it was, “If you were stranded on a desert island with only three books…” I don’t know. They demanded a quick answer and I had none.

Happy Children Playing Kids

(Photo credit:

May as well ask a mother to pick a favorite child.

Apparently, I’m just a fraud, masquerading as a literary aficionado.

And yet if someone knew nothing else about me they’d need to know that I. Love. Books.

When we pack up to move, the book boxes outnumber the kitchen boxes. Surely I have a shelf of favorites. Actually, I have categories of favorites. And not just genres. Books are favorite reads because of character development, or amazing descriptive writing, or a compelling storyline. Books are favorites because I recognized myself and my quirks in a particular character, or because the writing felt familiar and comfortable. Favorites find their way into my heart through no reasoning whatsoever. Some are such masterworks of genius I read them just to remind myself that such art and perfection exists.

My yearly goal is to read twenty-five books. (That’s two a month plus one for we math illiterates.) That’s been going on for upwards of thirty years. And some years I read much more than that. Being conservative, that’s 750 books I’ve read as an adult. As a kid and a teen I read like most people breath and I didn’t keep track of them. A book a day during the summer, perhaps? Given that impossible to estimate number, lets round it up to a thousand books I’ve read. Narrowing that down to ten favorites seems impossible.

Just as a sort of point of honor, I read all of these before they became movies, or musicals, or whatever else they’ve morphed into.

Yet, in the spirit of answering last night’s book club question, here is a list of a few of my favorite books, in no particular order. (If they have a star, it’d be in my “deserted island” backpack.)

  • To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee*
  • The Thirteenth Tale – Diane Setterfield
  • Les Miserables – Victor Hugo*
  • The Book Thief  -Markus Zusak* (Surprising narrator)
  • Last of the Mohicans – James Fenimore Cooper*
  • The Time Traveler’s Wife  – Audrey Niffenegger
  • Charlotte’s Web – E. B. White
  • The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon (The best first lines of a novel ever!)
  • Out of Africa – Isak Dinesen*
  • Ender’s Game  – Orson Scott Card
  • Matilda – Roald Dahl*
  • The Whistling Season – Ivan Doig* (Stunning!)
  • The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck (Yup Mr. Beck, your favorite author made the list, aren’t you a proud teacher!)
  • Ella Minnow Pea – Mark Dunn
  • Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stevenson
  • A River Runs Through It – Norman McLean* (Better than a hike in the woods)
  • A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens*
  • Banner in the Sky – James Ramsey Ullman
  • A Prayer for Owen Meany – John Irving
  • Life of Pi – Yann Martel
  • Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
  • Caleb’s Crossing – Geraldine Brooks
  • The Scarlet Letter – Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Talk Before Sleep – Elizabeth Berg (Beautifully heartbreaking)
  • Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis
  • A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
  • Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe – Fannie Flagg (Towanda!)
library shelves

(Photo credit: jvoss)

I feel like I’ve left hundreds of my beloved children behind. I also realize after reviewing my list that it’s all fiction. I do read non-fiction, they just don’t fall into my favorites lists apparently.

Simply reading the synopsis of each book will entertain you, I’m certain of it. Pick one or two that you haven’t ever read then get back to me about what you thought. I’d love a dialogue like that.

I ramped up my reading goal this year to thirty-six books. That seems reasonable. Three great reads a month. Okay, maybe they won’t all be great. But the more I read, I figure, the more likely I’ll find some real gems to cherish. I’ve read eighteen so far, so given that it’s the beginning of July, I’m right on track.

If you have a favorite you think I need to read or you don’t see here, I’d love to know about it. Please leave a comment so I can enjoy  and share the treasures you’ve found among the world of reading.

I’m always looking for another favorite.

Categories: Books | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

I Can Never Get Enough

The Daily Post from WordPress, offered up a writing prompt that I couldn’t resist. “Tell us about a book you can read again and again without getting bored — what is it that speaks to you?”

Some books never lose their ability to instill a sense of wonder. When you own two or more copies of the same book that’s a big clue that it’s a keeper, a novel I want to read again and again and again.

The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig is just such a marvel. His prose rolls, dances, sings, pirouettes, lilts, surprises, soars and weaves magic in the air. Every page presents a fresh perspective, a nuance never thought of, the use of a word custom designed for his sentences.

Cover of "The Whistling Season"

Cover of The Whistling Season

His descriptions and explanations don’t overshadow or standout or get in the way like some writer’s “big words” tend to do. No, in The Whistling Season you’ll find yourself transported to the time and place, sights, scents and sounds of the very world he presents. Mr. Doig is a magician with words, deft, precise, entertaining and awe-inspiring.

Characters in this novel become your neighbors, your friends, your relations. You find yourself caring more deeply than you ever thought possible about a person on paper. Your heart will race, you’ll break out in a sweat, you’ll want to close the windows to shut out the weather blowing from the leaves of the book.You’ll feel as if you’re on that horse, crouched behind that outcropping, walking through that field, sitting in that very classroom.  Even more, you’ll want to wrap your arms around these people and protect them from the heartaches, the struggles, the meanness, the chill, the noise and the progression of time. You’ll have to hold yourself back from cheering, restrain your tears and keep  yourself from singing along.

Rereading The Whistling Season lets me relive a life I never actually lived. I’m transported and entranced any time I read a even a short passage from its jewel-laden pages.

If you’ve ever wondered what excellent writing looks like, feels like and sounds like, here is your chance to find out. You’ll be charmed, captivated and  bound up in the very seams of this book.

Categories: Books | Tags: , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

What Are You Reading?

My Mark Twain collection

Someone else’s Mark Twain collection. Sigh. I’m a bit jealous.  (Photo credit: terryballard)

Here’s another elementary school find, lovingly posted above the library doors. Being the book addict that I am you can understand my liking for this quote.

“The man who does not read good books

has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.”

– Mark Twain

Of course, Mark Twain would say something like this since he was an author, a brilliant humorist, a curmudgeon and a bit egocentric.

American writer Mark Twain (1835-1910) in 1909

The author, Mr. Twain, looking grouchier than usual for this photo, probably because he had nothing good to read that day.

I’m always a little taken aback, speechless actually, when someone tells me they don’t read books. The reason has never been that they can’t read. It’s that they have no interest in reading.

I stand there, mouth hanging open as if they’ve just transformed into an alien life form as I watched. How can one not read books? That’s like saying you don’t breathe oxygen, or eat food, or that you’ve given up sleep! At least it is for me.

Torture for me would be to put me somewhere with nothing, and I mean nothing, to read. I can entertain myself, if I have to, with the back of a cereal box, product labels, a newspaper, recipes, lists, rules, captions, advertisements. I just need words to read!! I can’t go very long without them.

But I prefer a good book. Literature. Thought provoking, inspired, well written. I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before in past blog posts, at least a dozen times or more. For which I apologize. I’m a little obsessed. I’m sorry.

Lately I’ve been reading “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” which is eye-opening and surprising and wonderful and sad all in one. I’ve got a list of lighthearted novels to pick from after that. I need something to lift my spirits, make me laugh and shine some light into the darkness. After that I’m thinking of tackling “Don Quixote,” but I’m not sure. That may have to wait until summer.

Are you reading anything good?

Care to share with me?  Fiction or non-fiction. I’m always looking for my next good read!

Categories: Books | Tags: , , , , , | 9 Comments

Crawling Between the Seasons

Here’s another selection culled from my personal book of poetry. Look here to see a previous entry.

The editor in me wants to change it, correct bits, rewrite or hide it. The blogger in me thinks this is simply who I was when I wrote it and it shouldn’t be changed. I’ll let you decide.

So, here it is, a poem about a sunset. It was written a long, long time ago, another lifetime ago.  I can still remember the sunset, feel the cool air, feel the me I was.

Wish I’d taken a photo. Maybe this poem serves as a replacement for a photograph. A snapshot of my much younger self, daring, confident, certain of my view of the world and ready to share it.

Categories: Poetry | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A View from Younger Eyes

I once fancied myself a poet of sorts. I let go of that idea for a long time. Then, I recently came across a book of collected poems by my younger self. Each poem was typed, then cut out and carefully pasted into a blank book.  The gold lettering, hand-pressed to the outside cover and spine, still looks pretty good. It’s the most professional look I could manage given the technology of the time.

Now I could key in an address, get out my credit card and order up a professionally printed, bound, self-authored, illustrated book. Maybe someday.

There’s an honest quality to the typewritten page. The corrected type speaks volumes. The indentations that punctuation make into the paper  give the poem a tangible finality.

The temptation to edit and polish the poem before sharing it was strong. But, I like the unjaded, unedited perspective of youth. To quell the editor in me I simply photographed the poem from the page in my book to share right here.

- Kami M Tilby

– Kami M Tilby

I’m not sure I have it in me anymore to write poetry. It’s a stark, open-bellied, sense of exposure  to write a poem. There isn’t any excess verbiage to hide behind, no explanatory prefacing. It’s like a literary photograph. The writer must say, “This is my perspective, this is what I saw, nothing more, nothing less. Take it or leave it.”

Categories: Outdoors, Poetry, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Confessions of An Unrepentant Addict

Hello…   “hello.”

My name is Kami…  hi, Kami.”

I.. am… a book snob…    “Amen sister, tell it.”

Shelf of Used Books

(Photo credit: TheDarkThing)

It’s true.  I’ve been inhaling books since before I could crawl, at least I’m pretty sure of it. Every memory in my life seems to have one thing in common.  There is a book involved somehow.

Here’s what clued me in to my “problem:”

My hairstylist, (yup, you Jill) asked me for a book recommendation.

Easy! I’m thinking.  Then she adds a few restrictions.

Nothing depressing

Nothing deep

Nothing I have to think about once I’m done

No mystery

No worry

No drama

Nothing difficult

Something light, entertaining,

Like a sitcom.

That puts a bit of a challenge on the request.

I left an hour later having given her nothing but some cash for the lovely hairstyle.

I had failed at giving a book recommendation! How could I live with myself?

The closest I came to her requirements was a Young Adult book called “Faith and the Electric Dogs.” But it had been a long time since I’d read it.  It was probably too much of something.

Oh, the shame!

Dang it! Why hadn’t I suggested “Hunger Games?”

I had resisted reading those when EVERYBODY was drooling all over themselves reading them.  I was not going follow along blindly like those hoards of crazed lunatics reading “Twilight Books,” no matter how much my most respected bibliophiles recommended it.

About two years after the rush ended I gave in and read the first one.  Then I was like a kid three days after Halloween who’d vowed to make the candy last until at least Christmas.  You got it; I devoured all three of those books. Barely ripped the wrappers off for the speed I was trying to take them in.

Afterwards I felt like a book glutton. I had binged on the literary equivalent of fries, burgers and shakes. It was time for crunchy veggies and clear filtered water and home-baked wheat bread. I needed some classics; Hardy or Tolstoy or Steinbeck or even Dostoevsky to set the world back on balance.

Here’s the thing

I worked for a writer as a typist. (Back in the day, yes, in the dark ages before personal computers were in every pocket and on every flat surface.) This writer was a professor at the university I attended, but wrote under a pen name so as not to put the job at risk.  How would writing put a professor’s job at risk? Well, the novel was a Harlequin or Silhouette romance novel.  I use the word novel very, very loosely.

After submission the manuscript came back to the professor with a rejection form-letter, which included the basic equations for creating a book for their company. The heroine must be x,y,z but not d,e,f. The hero must have a,b,c but not j,k,l. The plot must….the story can’t….the characters need to….  It was so exacting that we considered trying to write a computer program that would write the novels.  They probably do use a computer program now.  Why waste real man hours on that kind of formulaic book?

I probably just offended everyone in the known world. May as well keep going…

But before you all judge me harshly hear me out.  I’ve read westerns, in fact, I love me a good Louis L’amour or Zane Grey once in a while.  I’ve read Michener and liked it. A mystery occasionally is good for variety.  I dig into memoire from time to time. I peruse non-fiction with some regularity.  And, I count historical fiction as part of my ongoing educational pursuit. I even check out a NY Times bestseller from the library on occasion. I even imbibe in Science Fiction if it’s well done.

I don’t always confess to reading them on my Goodreads account though.

Would a chocolatier confess to eating Hershey’s when his palate has the Swiss and Dutch equivalents of nirvana to compare?  Would an affineur, a cheese expert, admit to imbibing in processed cheese on a burger? Would a vintner chug a box of ten-dollar wine and then brag about it?

Not likely, but it’s possible.

When the words of language masters have danced through your head, played on the fields of your mind and painted landscapes across your memory, nothing else fills the need anymore.  Once you’ve had the good stuff, the literary caviar, then flat characters and simple plots with predictable endings or gratuitous anything just doesn’t cut it anymore.

I need the straight lines, the pure stuff, the real talent.

Yes, I am a book snob. I admit it.

And I don’t care if I ever get over it.

Categories: Books | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Writer and Reader: A Work of Heart

English: Picture of an open book, that does no...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“I have come through this many of my allotted days, watched the passing of life on earth, made something of it and nailed it to the page. Having written, I find I’m often willing to send it on, in case someone else also needs this kind of reassurance. Art is entertainment but it’s also celebration, condolence, exploration, duty, and communion. The artistic consummation of a novel is created by the author and reader together, in an act of joint imagination, and that’s not to be taken lightly.” – Barbara Kingsolver, from “Careful What You Let in the Door” in her book of essays High Tide in Tucson

I love hearing that an author has respect for and interest in her readers. Maybe that’s why all the books I’ve read by Barbara Kingsolver resonate me with, regardless of the topic. She trusts her readers to bring thought, wisdom and intelligence with them when they open her book.

There are many authors whose works I’ve read that left me with a similar sense of collaboration. Surely that’s where the sentiment of “the book is always better than the movie” comes from. No movie maker can duplicate the combined imagination and interface of writer and individual reader. What happens in the space called reading is uniquely personal and potentially magical.

As solitary as reading appears to be on from the outside, surprisingly, it’s actually a relationship and an alliance. Thanks to authors like Kingsolver and many, many others, there are countless opportunities to be part of of such creative adventures.

Long live the written word!

Categories: Books, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Getting to Know Me. A Trifecta Challenge of Sorts.

As a new blogger I’ve explored other blogs, blogging ideas, blog challenges and blogging prompts. What a surprise huh?  Ran across this one called Trifecta with a different twist that I want to keep following.  The questions and answers below are part of my participation in Trifecta. So without further ado, fan fare, annoyances, or advertising, here are my answers to ten fascinating questions.

Size comparison between the famous ceratopsian...

Size comparison between the famous ceratopsian Triceratops and a human (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1. What is your name (real or otherwise)?

 Kami Tilby.  It’s real. Really. Otherwise, I’d make up something like Hortense Decrepit.

2.Describe your writing style in three words. 

Fluent, Fluid, Funny-ish.

3.How long have you been writing online?

Two months and 6 days as a blogger.   Overly long status updates on Facebook for 2 years. Snarky comments on Facebook for 3 years.

4.Which, if any, other writing challenges do you participate in? 

I rocked NaBloPoMo in November.  I’m a dabbler in the Daily Post, meaning I post daily, but don’t often respond to specific topic challenges on WordPress.

5.Describe one way in which you could improve your writing.  

Be less timid; write like I’m a rock star with a million followers who hang on my every word.

6.What is the best writing advice you’ve ever been given?

A)  Keep your butt in the chair and write!  B) Limit adjectives and adverbs. C) Read great literature.  And D) a twist on the Kindergarten classic, “show, don’t tell.”

7.Who is your favorite author?  

I love Anne Lamott. I swoon over Geraldine Brooks! Ivan Doig‘s descriptions leave me breathless. Anna Quindlan and Anne Tyler are exquisite.  Elizabeth Berg reads minds and hearts. Richard Ford, Barbara Kingsolver, Marilyn Robinson, write with rich, evocative, flowing prose. Leif Enger, oh my, you have to read his books. Ann Tyler, covers it all. Thomas Hardy, is all pain and stark beauty.

8.How do you make time to write?

I give up two hours of sleep every morning.  Sometimes I give up  bedtime too.  Depends.  My best writing seems to happen when I’m only partially coherent. Which, come to think of it, is most of the time. I must be a brilliant writer. Or delusional.  Or very sleep deprived.

9.Give us one word we should consider using as a prompt. Remember–it must have a third definition.  Incandescent. Then, I could write about myself, on a good day, slightly delirious and self-aggrandized, and with a bit of a God complex. Or not.

10. Direct us to one blog post of yours that we shouldn’t miss reading.

What happened to the trifecta idea?  Fine, if you’re going to limit me to just one post.  It would  have to be “The Good, The Bad, The Not So Pretty of Parenting Moments.” Although, be assured this is not a mommy blog.

There you have it.  Me in a Meme.

I’m not usually so me, me, me.  But I couldn’t help myself. Embarrassing.

(Seriously, you should check out one of those writers I mentioned in number 7.  You can’t go wrong with any of them. Sure, you can wait until after Christmas, but no longer.)

Categories: Writing | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Taste of Wisdom and Insight


Today I’m sharing some quotes that resonated with me when I read the book, “Let’s Take the Long Way Home” by Gail Caldwell.  This is a book I recommend to anyone.  In fact, I think it’s time I reread it myself.

Cover of "Let's Take the Long Way Home: A...

On Being a writer:

“If writers possess a common temperament, it’s that they tend to be shy egomaniacs; publicity is the spotlight they suffer for the recognition they crave.”

“…not without reason did an old friend refer to me as the gregarious hermit.  I wanted the warmth of spontaneous connection and the freedom to be left alone.”

Insight about Relationships:

“It took me years to grasp that this grit and discomfort in any relationship are an indicator of closeness, not its opposite….we had great power to hurt each other, and because we acknowledged this weapon we tried never to use it.”

“dying doesn’t end the story; it transforms it.  Edits, rewrites, the blur and epiphany of one-way dialogue.  Most of us wander in and out of one another’s lives until not death, but distance, does us part – time and space and the heart’s weariness are the blander executioners of human connection.”

The Real Reality:

“…the world as we see it is only the published version.  The subterranean realms, whether churches or hospital rooms or smoke-filled basements, are part of what hold up the rest.”

About Dying:

“Suffering witnessed is a cloudy and impotent world: The well, armed with consciousness, watch a scene they cannot really grasp or do much to alter.  Suffering is what changes the endgame, changes death’s mantle from black to white.  It is a badly lit corridor outside of time, a place of crushing weariness, the only thing large enough to bully you into holding the door for death.”

Enduring Loss:

“Caroline’s death was a vacancy in the heart, a place I neither could nor wished to fill.”

“like a starfish, the heart endures its amputation.”

Categories: Books | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

It’s Gratituesday! Booking It Big Time.

It’s Gratituesday!  Today I am thankful for school librarians and bookmobile drivers/librarians.  These are the people who helped me find the already written words that would shape the person I would become.  The results of their labors would probably surprise them.


Bookmobile (Photo credit: revger)

One of my most vivid memories of the bookmobile which came to our elementary school not often enough, in my then young opinion, offers evidence of the twists a guiding hand can take.

The general guideline, the bookmobile driver/librarian said, was that books at your eye level were the books you would be able to read easily.  My eyes scanned the shelves running the length of the bus-sized van, and my body turned to look at the back of the vehicle filled floor to ceiling with books.  I wondered if I could ever read them all.  Then my body turned a bit more to follow the rows of books toward the driver’s seat and found bookshelves even tucked in near there.

I read some of the titles at my eye level.  Thin books, with chapters, large printing.

I let my eyes wander above eye level and saw fat spines, bulging with words in small print. I swear I could almost hear voices saying, “read me, read ME, choose ME!”  But then I had a vivid imagination.  I let my hands run along the base of that shelf, fingers brushing the spines of the above eye level books.  That touch was a promise I was making to them, that I would be back, soon, to take them off their shelf and home to mine for a visit, a get to know you week, a sleepover.

That first day I was a dutiful student.  I selected books at my eye level and envied the tall kids in the class.

Next time!  Next time the traveling library pulled in beside the artesian well water fountain and opened its doors to me, I would be ready.  I would write my name and stamp the card for one of those bigger kid books and I would read it all. I would practice what to say to the driver when she protested my book choices.

I wanted tall stories, wide vistas, big characters.  I would have them and so much more.

How grateful I am for those additional choices the bookmobile brought, especially when the school library had exhausted itself on me. The salvation of a bookmobile visit over summer break was sometimes all that got me through those long summer months.

Well, that may be exaggerating it some. But then, it seems I’ve always wanted more than the average.

I am thankful for that mental meals-on-wheels filled with books, filled with other worlds, filled with wonders.

Categories: Books, Gratituesday | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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