Category Archives: I Love Books!

17 Books of LOVE: The Ties That Bind Are Not Just Lovers


LOVE COMES IN MANY FORMS. Human connections give life meaning.  We celebrate romantic love on Feb 14th. Seventeen (17) books reviewed briefly in this post, depict love and bonding in many different relationships and ages, and the grief of loss when it is gone.

An Available Man by Hilma Wolitzer (2012).
How do I learn to live as a widower?  One man’s journey of  how he navigated his new life as a widower, following the loss of his beloved wife. The reaction of others in his community as they responded to his changed status as a newly single man, was believable and often humorous.  Realistic depiction of grief and loss; risking new relationships.  A charming man to invite for a dinner party.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion (2013).  
Socially challenged man searches for love.  A funny, touching story about a brilliant genetics professor with Asperger’s who sets out to find a wife.  I laughed aloud in places as he meticulously plans his strategy, and as his plans often go awry.   Australian author.

The Republic of Love by Carol Shields, Harper Perennial, (1992).
Finding someone in later life: The author is a master at noticing minute details of living, both emotional and material.  Fay and Tom find love and connection in later life.  Story depicts human need to have a special someone to share life.

The Rockin’ Chair by  Steven Manchester (2013).
Leaving a legacy of love:  heart-warming story of love, family, forgiveness, continuity, place, home and creating a legacy.  Everyone should have a grandpa John to go home to….

Finding Home by Jackie Weger (1987, 2014).
Love of family, search for belonging:   A story about a quirky and determined woman … a good-ole-girl with a big heart… who sets in motion a plan to find a home for herself and her large family.  So many funny parts I laughed out loud…and rooted for Phoebe to get her man and her house…and find a place to belong along the way.

The Illegal Gardner by Sara Alexi (Greek Book Collection 1) (2012). 
Non-romantic  bonding between two socially different individuals based on interdependent needs:  Takes place in a small Greek village.  An English woman’s journey, along with her Pakistani gardener, an illegal immigrant refugee with limited options for his family. Their chance meeting and ensuing working relationship provides comfort and meaning to their lives.  Themes: gardens, human needs for connection, opportunity, mutuality of relationship.

Forever Interrupted by Taylor Jenkins Reid (2009).  Young love and loss; bonding between women: A heart-breaking novel of two young adults who meet, fall in love and marry and hours later the bridegroom dies in a freak accident.  Is she a widow, when she hasn’t had time to even be a wife?  So truthful about the vagaries of grief. Hope and affection is discovered in unexpected places for mother and daughter-in-law.

Walk Me Home by Catherine Ryan Hyde (2013).
Bonds between sisters, connecting with strangers to create a new family:  Two sisters begin a long walk across states after their only parent is killed, to find an old boyfriend of their mother’s that they think would care for them now.  Their adventure takes them into Indian country where they meet a unique and no-nonsense Indian woman, who changes their lives.

11/22/6 by Stephen King, (2011).
Love story set in 1950’s: Time travel and attempts to right some wrongs in the past, e.g., killing of President Kennedy. Time travel to 1950’s is detailed in food, fashion, dance, customs, technology.  King must have been a jitterbugger by his detailed description of this dance 50’s style. Secondary theme is a love story.

Fortune is a Woman by Elizabeth Adler, Dell Publishing (1992).
Lifetime  bonds among three strong women: Settings from China to San Francisco to rural New Mexico. Story of how the lives of three strong women connected over years.  Unexpected events from start to finish  keeps you turning pages.  I didn’t see the ending coming.

Somewhere in Heaven: The Remarkable Love Story of Dana and Christopher Reeve by Christopher Anderson, Hyperion (2008).
A true love story.  This biography is a love story of two exceptional individuals whose lives continue to inspire.  Presents challenges of living every day paralyzed from the shoulders down… and what happens to the body.  Given this huge burden, it is amazing what Dana and Chris accomplished together!

1929: (Book 1), by M.L. Gardner (2009).
Bonding of friends during times of economic disaster to survive:  Story of three  American couples (all friends) who lose their wealthy lifestyle in the 1929 stock market crash, and must now find a way to survive poverty, and to rebuild their lives. Story focuses on what happens to them, their servants and in-laws during the years after 1929. Depicts the real life situation that many families experienced in our grandparents generation, as a result of the 29′ crash….the abject poverty for so many, the greedy who took advantage of events, and efforts to survive..   The  1929 series consists of 6 books, but I recommend only Book 1.

I know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (1969).
Family, Community and learning to love self.  Powerful memoir from African-American writer of her early years. Compelling narrative raises questions about love, abuse, racism, home, country and family.  I heard so much about this book, I wanted to read it.  I’m glad I did.  Maya died last year in NC.

Where the River Ends by Charles Martin (2008).
A haunting story of love and letting go.  A final journey of an artist and the love of his life, who is dying of a terminal illness.  They steal away from her possessive family (the Senator, ) and take a harrowing last trip (at her request) up the river from SC to Georgia, in a small boat.  Her body dies a little every day, but she radiates joy, as they meet interesting people and share experiences along the way. Would you have done it?

A Gentle Rain by Deborah Smith (2007).
Love comes in all sizes; appreciating differences.   A warm, fuzzy love story of rural life in North Central Florida.  Eccentric characters include lovable, mentally challenged and other unique and strong characters.  Rich girl seeking her birth parents, arrives at farm and quickly makes herself indispensable. You will cheer for main characters, even though you just have to overlook too many coincidences and just enjoy the tale.

The Magic Hour by Kristin Hannah (2011).
Adult-child bonding. A child arrives in a small town in the American Northwest, who can’t speak, and doesn’t show normal social behaviors. Major focus of story is the building of bridges of communication between a woman psychiatrist and the feral child.

Tuesday’s Socks by Alison Ragsdale (2014)
Risking first love at 64 years.  In the Scottish town of Pitochry, Jeffrey finds a path to change the ordered life he has led and risk change that will lead to big life changes.  His day socks, a loving mother and a mysterious dog urge him on his journey.  This story is slow moving, but fits the rhythm of Jeffrey’s structured life and the baby steps he takes to finally change his solitary life.  Characters are believable.  A first novel by this author. Some lonely folks may need a push, sometimes more than once, to take a leap of faith.













Little Free Libraries: One Book and One Community at a Time

 “To be caught up in the world of thought – that is to be educated” (Mary Webb, 1924).

The Little Free Library was born in 2009, when a Wisconsin man built a small replica of a schoolhouse, in memory of his mother who was a teacher who loved to read, and he installed it on a post outside his house. Todd Bol was inspired to create his little free library by the philanthrophy of Andrew Carnegie, who financed the building of over 2,500 libraries in the 19th century.

 As school children, we learned about Andrew Carnegie, the richest man in America in the 1800’s, who not only built libraries worldwide, but also gave the land and construction money to build Carnegie Hall in New York City.  Carnegie came to America from Scotland as a poor young man, made his fortune in steel manufacturing, and then gave away nearly all of his vast fortune to establish foundations and projects in research, education and science throughout the world. Many are still in existence

In a few short years, Bol’s idea of Little Free Libraries has caught the public’s fancy, and little free libraries are appearing in coffee shops, residential neighborhoods, churches, train stations and bus stops in rural and city communities throughout America. By February 2015, Little Free Libraries had grown to over 25,000 in many countries throughout the world, including Sri Lanka and India.

“Books are the carriers of civilization” (Barbara W. Tuchman, Authors League Bulletin, 1979)

Todd Bol’s inspiration to create his little free library is yet another contribution paid forward for the benefit of individuals and communities worldwide…promoting literacy and learning…and possibilities for living.

Books …allow us to learn to sympathize with (others),… (and) to learn truths about ourselves, about our own lives, that somehow we hadn’t been able to see before” (Katherine Paterson, The Horn Book, 1991)

The memory of being read to, is a comfort I carried with me to adulthood.  One of the greatest gifts my Mother gave me and my sister and brothers was a love of books. Our adventures with books began early. She weaned her babies from the breast by reading to them, and she took her children to get their library cards when they could walk.  Research suggests children who read perform better in school.  And a child who has difficulty reading has significant handicaps in life.

“There is no substitute for books in the life of a child” (Mary Ellen Chase, Recipe for a Magic Childhood, 1952).


.“Books, to the reading child, are so much more than books – they are dreams and knowledge, they are a future, and a past” (Esther Meynell, A Woman Talking, 1940)

Books introduce us to far away places, occupations we might never have understood, cultures and new knowledge that enrich our lives.

Our neighborhood installed a Little Free Library this Summer in our Spring Park community.  We are still learning to use and value our little library. If you want to build one in  your neighborhood, this is what we have learned so far about making our little free library a learning and recreational resource for our families::

  • Consult the international web site for information on building a Little Free Library.
  • Identify a neighbor who is willing and able to build the little library
  • Install library for maximum accessibility by members of the community.  Our neighborhood installed our LIffle Free Library on a post at the community pond and park near street access and the walking trail.
  • Identify a neighbor to serve as the neighborhood librarian (weekly check to add or remove books)
  • Register your library on the web site and order an official Little Free Library sign
  • Set community guidelines for operation of library: Ours simply says
    “Take a Book!  Leave a Book! Share a Book!  Books for adults and children should be suitable for a community of families. Books  in the Little Free Library change from time to time as new books are added, and some return back to be re-circulated. Books will be retired to another neighborhood after a period of time in our own library.”

In  some communities,  the availability of the Little Free Library has spawned books clubs, reading tutors for children, writing groups, and relationships with regional public libraries.

Little Free Libraries hosting books… free and accessible…passing it on…. sharing neighbor to neighbor…community to  community.

“Just the knowledge that a good book is awaiting one at the end of a long day makes that day happier” (Kathleen Norris, Hands Full of Living, 1931)

Sue Marquis Bishop 2015

How to Celebrate Books this Week!


1. READ A BOOK TO A CHILD. It may start interests that enrich his or her whole life.

2. SPEND AN HOUR in an independent bookstore – and buy a book or two to help ensure independent booksellers will be there for us in the future.

3. LEAVE A GOOD STORY in a public place for someone else to enjoy – leave a note with the book – “This book is to be read, enjoyed and passed on”.

4. BROWSE A LIBRARY SECTION you haven’t explored…new treasures are there to be discovered.

5. VOLUNTEER TO READ A BOOK at the library or elementary school for Children’s StoryTime – it will stir memories of your own youth and take years off your day.

6. WRITE A BOOK REVIEW AND POST for a book you read and appreciated to direct new readers and to acknowledge the author.

7. TAKE A BOOK TO THE PARK OR THE PORCH for a restful afternoon outdoors. Goodbye Winter! Hello Spring !

8. JOIN A BOOK CLUB in your community or online if you would enjoy discussing books you read.

9. BUY A SPECIAL BOOK for a friend.

10. USE YOUR OWN WORDS…write a letter to an old friend you have missed and send U.S. mail…start a gratitude diary…draft a poem…start your family history…respond to a blog post.

What Do You Consider a Good Book?


BOOKS! Books! books! So many books… offering promises of new vistas to imagine and new paths to walk. What grabs your attention in a book? What is it about a story that leaves you with lingering memory traces, to feel and review once again, long after the book is finished?

I APPRECIATE DEPTH in any book, fiction or non-fiction. In fiction, I am partial to stories with lots of dialogue (as in Hemingway), but yet, I can be mesmerized by a book with little verbal interaction among characters, such as An Unnecessary Woman, I am reading currently.

I DON’T ENJOY fiction with stereotyped jargon, two-dimensional characters that are not very interesting, a story line too predictable or simplistic, a boring theme or plot, or no plot. I welcome a good story in a locale that is new and unfamiliar to me.

MY INTERESTS extend well beyond fiction, however, and I tend to choose books from a wide variety of topics and genres. I find it most satisfying when I learn something new from reading, or the author stimulates my thinking about a dilemma or circumstance in a different way.

A HOUSE WITH BOOKS seems a little warmer and inviting somehow.


MY KINDLE rests on my bedside table so I can read a few paragraphs or chapter of an e-book before sleep. I love the bright red cover. I tied a red ribbon around it. When I untie the ribbon to read, I feel as if I have opened a gift… which of course I have. In addition to the ongoing gift of adventure, my son Jon gave me the Kindle.


MY DAUGHTER SUZANNE crocheted a cover for the Kindle and the charge cord, so I can use it as a travel case. So pretty and practical too! I take it with me when I have appointments that I know will keep me waiting (such as medical clinics and airports).


I KEEP ONE OR TWO books (with actual pages to turn) in the living room near my favorite chair, so they are available when I have time to sit with a cup of coffee or tea.


I TYPICALLY READ 60 to 100 books a year. I have listed below a sampling of ten books I read recently that captured my attention for one reason or another.

THE COLE TRILOGY: THE PHYSICIAN, SHAMAN, and MATTERS OF CHOICE, (3 books) by Noah Gordon, Barcelona Books. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the stories of physicians with healing hands in one family tree, from medieval to modern times. The first book, The Physician, was the best, taking place in ancient Persia, England and Scotland. Historical elements interwoven: medicine, medical training, care of bubonic plague victims, practice of Islam, Christianity and Jewish religions in ancient times. Second book was delightful as well, taking place in 1800’s in Scotland and American with Indian culture and American civil war. The third book was OK, just not as dramatic as the first two.

CHASING CHINA: ONE WOMAN’S SEARCH FOR TRUTHby Kay Bratt (2010). A fictional story of a young woman of 18 who travels to China to find the story of her birth. The author lived in China for 4 years and every place and incident involving children were observed by her and incorporated into the story. A beautiful and troubling picture of China today.

THE KITCHEN HOUSE by Kathleen Grissom, Simon & Shuster (2010). A believable story with a big cast of characters you can care about and root for… and several nasty villians. Set in Pennsylvania plantation for most of the story (partly in city of Philadelphia). Features the lives of negro slaves and an indentured Irish girl and the white family in the big house and how entangled their lives become. Story told from view of a slave and the indentured servant. Brings alive a dark period of our history.

SERENA by Ron Rash (2008). Harper-Collins e-books. Powerful story by Western NC author. Serena is the most black-hearted woman villain literature has seen for many years. Story takes place years ago in North Carolina and Tennessee when mountains were being clear cut by lumbar barons, leaving waste lands in their wake. Depicted hard life in the lumbar camps. There was no action Serena would avoid to get her way. A movie is in the works.

THE WRITING LIFE by Annie Dillard, Harper Collins e-books. Just what the title says, snippets about her writing life demonstrating it is a plodding, frustrating and yet meaningful endeavor.

THE ROSIE PROJECT: A NOVEL by Graeme Simsion, Simon & Shuster. A funny, touching story about a man with Asperger’s Syndrome who sets out to find a wife. (Asperger’s is a high functioning form of autism which can lead to difficulty in social interactions.) Easy to cheer for the main character and his Rosie.

A GENTLE RAIN by Deborah Smith (2007). BelleBooks. A warm, fuzzy love story of the rural area in North Central Florida, an area tourists flocking to Florida resort areas do not really know. Eccentric characters include lovable and talented mentally challenged and other unique characters. Rich girl joins rural farm seeking her birth parents. Story is full of coincidences, and rich girl has more talents than supergirl, but still the characters shined through this story. This story reminds us to value and acknowledge the talents of each of us.

UNBROKEN: A WORLD WAS II STORY OF SURVIVAL, RESILIENCE AND REDEMPTION BY Laura Hillenbrand. In recent years, my husband and I have occasionally enjoyed a book together by reading to each other in the evening. This was a book we read a couple of years ago. USA Today newspaper reported today that Angelina Jolie was planning to direct a movie based on Unbroken. The is a true story about an American hero, Olympian track star in 1932 Olympics in Berlin, pilot, and former Japanese prisoner of war during WWII. Louis has lead an amazing life! The historical research Laura Hillenbrand did for this book is as impressive as her book on Seabiscuit. Louis is 97 years old now. Apparently, he is a neighbor of Jolie too. If you read this book, I predict you are not likely to forget it anytime soon.

Take a Mountain Retreat to a Literary Festival

ARE YOU INSPIRED BY BREATHTAKING SCENERY? Do you like books? Do you enjoy conversations on intellectually stimulating topics? Do you need a vacation? If the answer is yes, and you are in the regional vicinity of the North Carolina mountains, I have a splendid suggestion: make plans to attend this year’s Carolina Mountain Literary Festival. Or plan long range for next year’s – it’s usually in September.

THE 2013 ANNUAL CAROLINA MOUNTAIN LITERARY FESTIVAL is scheduled for September 12-14. Now in its 8th year, the festival is held in the mountain town of Burnsville, North Carolina. Burnsville is a small town nestled in the beautiful NC mountains, near Mt. Mitchell – the tallest mountain east of the Mississippi, near the Blue Ridge Parkway, 30 minutes from Asheville, NC and 2 hours from Charlotte, NC. The town is charming, organized around a town square that hosts many festivals and community events throughout the year. The largest is the Mt. Mitchell Festival held the first weekend in August every year.

THIS YEAR, ELIZABETH KOSTOVA is the keynote speaker at the banquet on Saturday evening at the conclusion of the Thursday-Saturday event. Kostova is author if the bestseller “The Historian” and her new novel, “The Swan Thieves”. Over 40 authors are scheduled for the conference this year. This literary festival has the flavor of the mountains – easy paced, nourishing, engaging – focused only on authors and readers who love books in common – with time to chat, question, learn and share in small groups.

MULTIPLE SESSIONS ARE HELD in various venues throughout the town. Walking a few steps, or a block, in the warm September air, with views of the mountains always in sight, is part of the magic. Some sessions are held in the new town hall; or upstairs at the JAVA Café; or the historic brick library, lovingly restored from an old high school; or Mary Jane’s bakery and cafe with organic foods, fresh baked bread and live music at noon; or the tea lounge over the sisters shop where they create lovely stationery with the paper they create.

ARTISTIC DIVERSITY REINS AT THE FESTIVAL – authors of fiction, non-fiction, graphic novels, and writers of songs, plays and poetry are here. I have been to six of the festivals and have enjoyed each one – always learning something. When my sister attends with me, we choose one session that we know nothing about, so we are stimulated to learn something new – and it has always been rewarding.

SO, I AM HAPPY TO BE HERE in this special place, with time to spend with others talking about stories and books – for the whole weekend! There are dozens of small literary festivals in the country that do not get national advertising attention. Most small ones are held in out of the way amazing places. I recommend seeking them out and planning a visit in the coming year. You will be rewarded in unexpected ways.

IT IS THE END OF SUMMER, but the leaves are just starting to drift to the ground. I will share some pictures of this beautiful place – in Burnsville, North Carolina.

Website at


Photo by SMB

When I was a wee one, mother weaned me from her breast by reading, my back propped against her chest and a magical picture book in front of us.

When I was a toddler, so I was told, trashing a scrap of paper with writing on it brought on tears of anguish.

When I was three, my mother read the “Night Before Christmas” so often,that I could say it by heart – for all of my life, and her 92 years.

When I was young, I sometimes used words to let out my anger.

When I could read, I had my own library card.

When I went to bed at night, my family said “I love you”, and I was lulled to sleep,
with the softly droning voices of adults, in low conversation.

When I was in junior high with awakening hormones,I wrote poems and stories of adventure and romance.

When I listened to lyrics and song, images of love blossomed.

When I was in college, written and spoken words introduced me to science and art.

When I married, I said, “I do”.

When I was knee deep in my career, words enabled me to maneuver, lead, negotiate, compromise, propose, manage and teach.

When I retired, words in books were my companions in leisure.

In the afternoon of my life – if I could – I would take back any words that diminished another, and

“Thank you.”
“It’s your turn.”
“I’m sorry.”
“You are right.”
“You are so talented.”
“I value our friendship.”
“I am so proud of you.”
“I love you.”

Sue Marquis Bishop 2012

A Home Without Books? Impossible

I AGREE WITH THOMAS JEFFERSON when he said, “I can’t imagine a life without books.” My mother read to me and her three other children from the time we were babies. I consider it the greatest gift a mother can give her children. It has made a difference in my life and my love of learning.

MY LOVE AFFAIR WITH BOOKS really began in earnest when I received my first library card as a preschooler. As I looked up at the rows and rows of books in tall bookshelves, I felt a thrill of wonder and adventure that has never really left me when I visit a library or bookstore.

ADVENTURE AND ANIMAL STORIES AND FAIRY TALES fueled my imagination as a child. As a pre-teen, I loved books with strong female characters creating, exploring or solving mysteries like “Nancy Drew” or “Peggy Parker: Girl Inventor” (although Peggy Parker has too much racial stereotyping to recommend it to young girls today). When we wanted to know more about a topic, we consulted our encyclopedias. Today, we consult the internet – a vista on the world.

AS A TEEN, I was introduced to so many new books on classical literature, biographies, history and poetry. IN COLLEGE, the world of science, clinical practice and research appeared in books. I have kept a few books that were important to me in my life’s journey – books that opened new ways of thinking or feeling, promoted understanding myself or the world, or focused my appreciation for nature and humanity. As I chose a career in nursing and then the academic world of teaching, practice and research, books have been companions in my chosen work, and not just for leisure.

I associate a COMFORTABLE HOME WITH THE PRESENCE OF FLOWERS, CANDLES AND BOOKS. Books can be found in several places in our home – bookshelves in the family room, home office, guestroom and a cookbook shelf in the kitchen. Just one or two books can be found here and there, near comfortable and well-lit reading nooks, and on bedside tables. One of my favorite places to read in the Summer is in the rocking chair on the screened porch overlooking the mountains. In winter, I prefer to read in a cushy, jade green, Queen Anne chair near the fireplace in the living room.

I AM PUZZLING OVER an article in a home décor magazine suggesting ways to decorate with books. The author recommended buying books from a flea market that were all of one color, so the bookshelves would look color-coordinated with the room. SHE’S KIDDING, RIGHT? Another idea I heard on a TV segment was to turn all the books backwards in the bookshelf so the white was showing and the colored backs wouldn’t show. GOOD LUCK WITH FINDING A BOOK ON THOSE SHELVES.

OTHER DECORATING IDEAS I have heard include making lamps of books, or tearing the backs off books to frame as a picture. The most astounding idea I read once, in a marketing campaign for a bookseller, was to purchase books that would impress others. As someone who values books for learning and leisure, I can’t envision finding any of these suggestions acceptable.

Two years ago, my son bought a KINDLE for me. I love it.! Mine is in a snazzy red fabric cover that looks like a book (of course!). My KINDLE can store 3,000 books, is convenient for traveling and easy and quick to upload new books (less than one minute). When I am at home, I keep the KINDLE beside my bed to read a few minutes before sleep. Although I am enjoying e-books, I still purchase other books that are in various places in my home. If I am in another room with time to read, I may pick up the book and read for a few minutes. A few of my favorite books I read this year include: “Personal History” by Katherine Graham, “The Physician” by Noah Gordon and “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand.

Booksellers are losing market share and publishers are transforming operations, as we navigate through the transition of how we are to store, access and use information. One thing we can agree on, THE FUTURE WILL LIKELY NOT LOOK LIKE THE PRESENT.


Sue Marquis Bishop 2013