Friday, January 29, 2016

The Cozy Book Corner #1: The 'Lost' Art of Reading

Welcome to my new Friday feature!

In each bi-weekly post, I will be 
exploring my thoughts on several 
book-related topics.  

This is the first of several posts about that wonderful activity we bookworms take for granted -- the reading process itself. 

I recently came across a 2009 article archived on the Los Angeles Times website; its author states that reading is a lost art.  David L. Ulin, Book Editor of the Times, begins his article with the sad observation that he is actually finding it difficult to sit down to read.  Reading is an act of focusing the mind; as he puts it, "...the ability to still my mind long enough to inhabit someone else's world, and to let that someone else inhabit mine."  He then goes on to write something so beautiful it takes my breath away: "Reading is an act of contemplation..."  He expands on this, of course, but this part of the sentence strikes me as an exquisitely beautiful thought.  Reading is, indeed, an act of contemplation.  We contemplate other realities, thus transcending our own.  We enter other worlds, seduced by the magic of language, or we explore and perhaps embrace new philosophical, psychological, or religious thoughts. 

How very sad indeed, that most likely due to the pressures and sheer "busyness" of our lives, as well as our technological world, we could possibly find it nearly impossible to immerse ourselves in a book...  According to Ulin, reading is an act of slowing down, and I definitely agree.  Paradoxically, however, I think it's also an act of speeding up, for the mind makes pictures and connections as it reads.  Sudden insights might come to a reader, as a previously difficult passage suddenly makes sense.  Beautiful fantasy landscapes full of magical wonders beckon, and one can almost touch them.  When a reader is really "into" a book,  and the act of reading is suddenly interrupted, s/he can feel a real shock on being returned to "the real world".  This is true whether one is reading fiction or nonfiction.

I don't quite agree with Ulin when he says that reading is a 'lost' art, however.   There are, after all, millions of books in print all over the world.  Furthermore, Kindles and Nooks are selling very well, although I will certainly never buy either one, since I do prefer to hold a real, printed book in my hands.  The point remains that the act of reading is alive and well.  In spite of all the activities taking up our time, we ardent book lovers will always make some time to read, even if it's on the morning and evening commute (I'm referring, of course, to those who take trains or buses to and from work).  Ulin says he reads primarily at night, when the household has quieted down, but even then, his mind wanders. 

Ulin wistfully recalls his childhood experiences with reading, and how easy it was for him to become totally lost in a book back then.  Now, as an adult, he has to make a conscious effort to get into the proper frame of mind, but he hasn't stopped reading.  To a person who loves reading, it's an activity as necessary as eating or even breathing. 

I do my best reading late at night, too, often staying up until 3:00 AM.  Everything is so quiet...and I am then able to really dive into whatever book I'm reading at the moment.  Sometimes, when I happen to glance at the clock, while stifling a yawn, I am surprised to see that it's way past 3:00 AM!

To a die-hard bookworm like me, it's simply unthinkable not to make time to read at least an hour every single day. In fact, I can get pretty irritable if I don't manage to read my minimum daily quota. However, I can relate to what Ulin is saying in his article; there have been times when I have not been able to concentrate on the book in front of me as much as I'd like to. Sometimes, this is because the book I'm reading has failed to hold my interest. If it's a novel, then the author has not succeeded in persuading me to suspend my disbelief. If the book is nonfiction, then it might be that the author is not skillful enough in presenting his/her topic in an engaging manner, at least for me. There might be statements in  the book that I feel are totally ridiculous, for example, and not backed up with sufficient data. 

Unfortunately, there are those times when I know that some real-life worry, which had been hiding in  the back of my mind all day, suddenly surfaces, and just at the point that I want to forget reality in order to immerse myself in the book. So these are the times that, no matter how enticing the book, I simply cannot let go and make the plunge. Still, I persevere. I would never dream of giving up reading! So I would say that, far from being a 'lost' art, it's simply one that has to be cultivated, even 'courted', at certain times, as one might do with a reluctant romantic prospect.  

Now I'd like to throw some questions out to you, my readers.  How easy is it for you to get lost in a book?  Are you able to find enough time to read?  What advice would you offer to other readers who are having difficulty finding the time to read, and being able to focus on a book?  How would you compare your ability to immerse yourself in a book when you were a child, as opposed to now? 

You can access Ulin's article

What's your opinion on this topic?
Please leave a link to your blog
so I can come over and comment on one of your posts!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Observed In The United States

Wherever freedom and the right to exercise it are honored, so will be the memory of the great Martin Luther King, Jr., leader of the American civil rights movement, who was born on January 15, 1929, and was cruelly assassinated on April 4, 1968.   He followed the nonviolent example of Mahatma Ghandi, and, like him, ironically died a violent death.

Sadly, not every employer in the U.S. chooses to honor the memory of this unforgettable man.  He is indeed honored by those whose moral compass compels them to do so.

Dr. King's famous speech, "I Have a Dream", which he delivered at the 1963 Washington, D.C. Civil Rights March, rallied every citizen who truly believed in racial equality.

His stirring speeches have been gathered into several books, one of which I have listed here.  I have also listed a biography written by 'the reporter who became the unofficial chronicler of the civil rights movement', Marshall Frady.  Also included here is Dr. King's compelling account of the 1963 Birmingham campaign, Why We Can't Wait, as well as a recently-published book on Dr. King's last year of life.


 Martin Luther King, Jr., A Life
Trade Paperback, 224 pages
Penguin Group, USA
December 27, 2005
American History, Biography, Nonfiction
Politics, Social Justice

Book Synopsis

Marshall Frady, the reporter who became the unofficial chronicler of the civil rights movement, here re-creates the life and turbulent times of its inspirational leader. Deftly interweaving the story of King’s quest with a history of the African American struggle for equality, Frady offers fascinating insights into his subject’s magnetic character, with its mixture of piety and ambition. He explores the complexities of King’s relationships with other civil rights leaders, the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, and the FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover, who conducted a relentless vendetta against him. The result is a biography that conveys not just the facts of King’s life but the power of his legacy.

A Testament of Hope:
The Essential Writings and 
Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Trade Paperback, 736 pages
December 7, 1990
(first published 1986)
American History, Politics, Philosophy, 
Nonfiction, Social Justice

Book Synopsis

Here, in the only major one-volume collection of his writings, speeches, interviews, and autobiographical reflections, is Martin Luther
King Jr. on non-violence, social policy, integration, black nationalism, the ethics of love and hope,
and more.

Why We Can't Wait
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Trade Paperback, 256 pages
Beacon Press
January 11, 2011
(first published 1963)
American History, Politics, Philosophy,
Nonfiction, Social Justice

Amazon US/Amazon UK
Amazon CA
Barnes & Noble
The Book Depository

Book Synopsis

Often applauded as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s most incisive and eloquent book, Why We Can’t Wait recounts the Birmingham campaign in vivid detail, while underscoring why 1963 was such a crucial year for the civil rights movement. During this time, Birmingham, Alabama, was perhaps the most racially segregated city in the United States, but the campaign launched by Fred Shuttlesworth, King, and others demonstrated to the world the power of nonviolent direct action. King examines the history of the civil rights struggle and the tasks that future generations must accomplish to bring about full equality. The book also includes the extraordinary “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” which King wrote in April of 1963.

Death of a King: The Real Story of 
Martin Luther King Jr.'s Last Year
(with David Ritz)
Hardcover, 288 pages
Little, Brown and Company
September 9, 2014
American History, Biography, 
Nonfiction, Politics, Social Justice

Book Synopsis

 A revealing and dramatic chronicle of the twelve months leading up to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination.Martin Luther King, Jr. died in one of the most shocking assassinations the world has known, but little is remembered about the life he led in his final year. New York Times bestselling author and award-winning broadcaster Tavis Smiley recounts the final 365 days of King's life, revealing the minister's trials and tribulations -- denunciations by the press, rejection from the president, dismissal by the country's black middle class and militants, assaults on his character, ideology, and political tactics, to name a few -- all of which he had to rise above in order to lead and address the racism, poverty, and militarism that threatened to destroy our democracy.
Smiley's Death of a King paints a portrait of a leader and visionary in a narrative different from all that have come before. Here is an exceptional glimpse into King's life -- one that adds both nuance and gravitas to his legacy as an American hero.

Famous Dr. King Quotes
"I have a dream that my four little children
will one day live in a nation
where they will not be judged by the color
of their skin, but
by the content of their character."

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness;
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate;
only love can do that."

"The ultimate measure of a man  is not
where he stands in moments
of comfort and convenience, but
where he stands at times of challenge
and controversy."

"Our lives begin to end the day
we become silent about things that matter."

"I have decided to stick with love.
Hate is too great a burden to bear."

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
Online Links