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Friday, May 31, 2013

Summer Reading Log: The Alchemist

My first summer book (yes, I know it's still spring) is Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist. It's the story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy, and his quest for his destiny. On his journey to discover this destiny, he encounters a king, a thief, a crystal merchant, an Englishman/student, and, as the title suggests, an alchemist. Each character plays an important role in Santiago's discovery.

The Alchemist is a simple book, and I am late in reading it. It was released in the 1990s. I remember seeing it in bookstores, reading about it in magazines, hearing friends talk about it. Perhaps I wasn't ready for magic of the story. Maybe the personal revelations that come about when one reads a story like this were going to be too much for me at the time. My subconscious was right in having me wait until age 37, this particular point in my life, to read about Santiago's journey from Spain to Egypt.

In Santiago's story, every movement, word, and encounter are vital. Before I read, I wondered if this was just going to be one of those "young man" stories that I'd read a thousand times before and found only halfway relatable. Indeed, The Alchemist focuses on a young man's journey and his heart, but his yearnings are universal: purpose and love.

With its simple and magical language, The Alchemist brings alive the search for meaning and all the human trappings that humble us along the way. I am even recommending this story for my rising fifth-grader, who loves fables and fantasies.

Have you read this book? What do you think?

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Summer Reading

Now that I am mostly over my haircut trauma (but only mostly, as my patient spouse will agree), I can focus on logging all the books I'm reading this summer (summer being the time between school getting out and then starting back up again). I am not really a great book reviewer, but I am going to blog about the books I read and my opinions of them for those who might be interested. The other night, my mother-in-law asked me if I'd kept a notebook of all the books I'd read in college and I was sad to report that I didn't. Some I am sure I must have enjoyed beyond just their academic value. But it's been almost 15 years and I don't remember a lot of them.

I'm keeping a log of the titles to turn in at my local public library, which has a great adult reading program with gift cards and Kindle Fires as prizes. I've talked in the past about my trouble with reading fiction (I lack the patience), so I've been forcing myself to read a fiction book each month. My book-heart is really in memoirs that aren't all feel-goody and then in books about nature, especially birds and bugs. I was never interested in being a field biologist, so I can't explain my fascination with those books except that when I was very young, my mother worked at the University of Kentucky bookstore and got us this little set of beautifully illustrated reference books specifically about bugs and birds. I spent hours looking at them as a child (even as a teenager) and still, when I am at my mother's house, like to pick them up again.

My girls are doing the summer reading program here as well (they have a GREAT prize room for kids!), and our library offers free movies in the comfort of their lovely indoor theater, so we can escape the heat of the day. Earlier this week, my spouse and I went to see Grease on the big screen there.

I really think my favorite thing about this move has been moving around the corner from the library.

Check back here in a couple of days for the first few books in my Summer Reading Blog!