Tag Archives: letters

Book Club Choices Revealed! Three Excellent Books to Read in June.

Because nothing boosts happiness more than a great book, each month, I suggest:

  • one outstanding book about happiness or habits
  • one outstanding work of children’s or young-adult literature–I have a crazy passion for kidlit
  • one eccentric pick–a widely admired and excellent book that I love, yes, but one that may not appeal to everyone

 

Shop at IndieBound, BN.com, or Amazon (I’m an affiliate), or your favorite local bookstore. Or my favorite, visit the library!

For all the books I choose, I love them; I’ve read most of them at least twice if not many times; and they’re widely admired.  Drumroll…

A book about happiness, good habits, or human nature:

Gnomologia: Adagies and Proverbs; Wise Sentences and Witty Sayings, Ancient and Modern, Foreign and British by Thomas Fuller

Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon.

 

An outstanding children’s book:

Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo

Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon.

 

An eccentric pick:

The Selected Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder edited by William Anderson

Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon.

 

Some readers have said that they wished that I’d describe and make the case for my book choices, instead of just providing links. I’ve noticed that many times, when someone describes a book to me, I want to read it less. And often, weirdly, the better a book is, the worse it sounds.

Nevertheless, because so many readers have requested it, I’ve decided to give a bit more context for these choices in the book-club newsletter. So if you’d like to know more about why I made these selections, check there. To get that free monthly book-club newsletter, and to make sure you don’ t miss any recommendations, sign up here.

If you read last month’s recommendations…what did you think?

Revealed! Book Club Choices for November. Excellent Reading.

First, a moment of self-book-promotion — feel free to skip.

I’m excited, because the Better Than Before Day-by-Day Journal just hit the shelves. Part resource, part tool, part keepsake — it will help you change your habits. To watch a short video where I show the book and describe its design, go here.

Now, for the recommendations! Because nothing boosts happiness more than a great book, each month, I suggest:

· one outstanding book about happiness or habits

· one outstanding work of children’s or young-adult literature–I have a crazy passion for kidlit

· one eccentric pick–a widely admired and excellent book that I love, yes, but one that may not appeal to everyone

Shop at IndieBound, BN.com, or Amazon (I’m an affiliate), or your favorite local bookstore. Or my favorite, visit the library! Drumroll…

 

A book about happiness, good habits, or human nature

Plant Dreaming Deep by May Sarton (a journal)

Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon.

 

An outstanding children’s book:

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder. (I was astonished to realize that I haven’t yet recommended this book, one of my all-time favorites. Also the inspiration for some of the best writing I’ve ever done in my life, on the last page of Happier at Home.)

Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon.

 

An eccentric pick:

Pure Heart, Enlightened Mind : The Life and Letters of an Irish Zen Saint by Maura O’Halloran

Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon.

Some readers have said that they wished that I’d describe and make the case for my book choices, instead of just providing links. I’ve noticed that many times, when someone describes a book to me, I want to read it less. And often, weirdly, the better a book is, the worse it sounds.

Nevertheless, because so many readers have requested it, I’ve decided to give a bit more context for these choices in the book-club newsletter. So if you’d like to know more about why I made these selections, check there. To get that free monthly book-club newsletter, and to make sure you don’ t miss any recommendations, sign up here.

In any event, I assure you that, for all the books I choose, I love them; I’ve read them at least twice if not many times; and they’re widely admired.

If you read last month’s recommendations…what did you think?

And please, send me your recommendations! Recently a reader told me about a a Noel Streatfield book that I’d somehow missed, and another reader gave me many science-fiction entries for my library list. I love getting suggestions.

What Did Flannery O’Connor Pray For?

Often when I read, I’m struck by something, but I’m not sure why.

I’ve read The Habit of Being several times — it’s a collection of Flannery O’Connor’s extraordinary letters. O’Connor is one of my favorite writers, but I can hardly bear to read her fiction; it makes my head explode.

On July 1, 1964, O’Connor (who was a devout Catholic) wrote to Janet McKane:

Do you know anything about St. Raphael besides his being an archangel? He leads you to the people you are supposed to meet…It’s a prayer I’ve said every day for many years.

A week later, she wrote McKane a follow-up letter, with the prayer, which reads in part:

O Raphael, lead us toward those we are waiting for, those who are waiting for us: Raphael, Angel of happy meeting, lead us by the hand toward those we are looking for. May all our movements be guided by your Light and transfigured with your joy.

O’Connor died of lupus two weeks later.

I’ve often thought about this idea, that was clearly so  important to O’Connor — the prayer for being led to the people you are supposed to meet. This struck me as an oddly specific domain for an angel — and why did this matter so much to O’Connor?

But yesterday, I was at an event, and someone told the story of how at a networking event, she’d met a guy, and she told him, “You should meet this other guy I know,” and she’d introduced them, and now they’d started a huge project together.

This chance meeting, and her introduction, had transformed their lives.

As I heard her tell this story, it suddenly became clear to me: for O’Connor, working on her writing, sick, weak, living with her mother in Milledgeville, Georgia, because she couldn’t manage to live on her own, the hope of “meeting the ones we are looking for” would have been enormously important.

We’ve all waited and hoped for a “happy meeting” to occur.

It’s a very important thing, to play the role of making introductions, connecting people, helping to lead them to the people they need to meet. It can be such a huge thing in a person’s life. I myself set up someone I hardly knew on a blind date, and the two people ended up getting married.

As I’m thinking about O’Connor…I wonder if her prayers to meet the person she was looking for was tied, at least in part, to her art.

On March 4, 1962, she wrote to Father J. H. McCown:

I’d like to write a whole bunch of stories like [“Everything That Rises Must Converge“], but once you’ve said it, you’ve said it, and that about expresses what I have to say on That Issue. But pray that the Lord will send me some more. I’ve been writing for sixteen years and I have the sense of having exhausted by original potentiality and being now in need of the kind of grace that deepens perception, a new shot of life or something…

Sometimes this type of renewal comes from an encounter with another person.

Has anyone ever made an introduction for you, that transformed your life? Or have you ever played that role for someone else?

 

From Ray Bradbury: “Love What YOU Love!”

A thoughtful reader send me a link to a wonderful site, Letters of Note — “correspondence deserving of a wider audience.” In particular, she pointed out a letter that writer Ray Bradbury wrote to a fan.

The line that caught my eye was: “Love what YOU love!” It’s constantly a surprise to me just how challenging this is. Why is it so hard to know ourselves, and to act in accordance with our own interests, temperament, and values? Several of my resolutions, Personal Commandments, and Secrets of Adulthood are meant to help me remember just this: “Just because something is fun for someone else doesn’t mean that it’s fun for me–and vice versa,” and “I can choose what I do, but I can’t choose what I like to do,” and of course, most important of all, “Be Gretchen.”

In my case, for instance, when I allowed myself to admit my passion for children’s literature, a gigantic new part of my life opened up — with new friends, new projects, and more fun. Not to mention when I made the even bigger change, and switched from being a lawyer to being a writer.

I remind myself of this as a parent, too. Did Ray Bradbury’s parents think his time was well spent collecting Buck Rogers comic strips? Maybe not — but in fact, this was excellent preparation for him. When I see my older daughter spending hours taking photos and short videos of herself, I do find myself thinking, “Shouldn’t she being doing [fill in the blank]? “Wouldn’t this precious free time of childhood be better spent [fill in the blank]?” But I really resist the temptation to tell her to do something else. After all, Elizabeth Craft, my own brilliant sister, once said to me, “I just wish I’d spent more time watching TV as a child.” Because she now writes for TV! And even if my daughter’s activities aren’t preparation for her work as an adult, well, if that’s what she enjoys, then that’s what she enjoys.

This is my mantra, for myself and for my children: Love what YOU love. (And I do love Ray Bradbury.)

How about you? Have you ever struggled to acknowledge what you love? Lost sight of it for a time?

I’m working on my Happiness Project, and you could have one, too! Everyone’s project will look different, but it’s the rare person who can’t benefit. Join in — no need to catch up, just jump in right now. Each Friday’s post will help you think about your own happiness project.

*The Happiness Project is now in paperback! (can’t resist mentioning: #1 New York Times bestseller). As I’ve mentioned before, if you’re inclined to buy the book, it would really help if you’d buy it NOW, because early sales are so important for books. Buy early and often!
Order your copy.
Read sample chapters.
Watch the one-minute book video.
Listen to a sample of the audiobook.