Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Lovely Libraries

I never got around to posting about our trip to the UK in June, but one of the best things we saw was the incredible library, The Long Room, at Trinity College in Dublin. It was jaw-droppingly beautiful, books floor to ceiling, and had this rich, lush quality that made you feel smart just sitting and soaking it in.

We weren't allowed to take photos, so I went in search of one online and found the super-cool site called Curious Expeditions. It was the Librophiliac Love Letter post that left me drooling, but the whole site is worth exploring.

I had no idea there were so many take-your-breath-away, GORGEOUS, I-want-to-live-there libraries around the world.

*Photo from Curious Expeditions

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Books That Shape Us

I've been thinking a lot about those few select, amazing books that define who we are. The ones we read over and over, whose characters own our hearts and souls. The books that come along at critical points in life, from childhood on up, to help us make sense of the world. Books that are beloved because they took us to magical places, or revealed certain truths, or held a mirror up for us to examine our lives, both trials and triumphs.

I've blogged before about childhood favorites, including Trixie Belden and Bread and Jam for Frances. Cleary and Blume were staples, along with Cynthia Voigt and Shel Silverstein. Others I didn't discover until college, like the Narnia books (I know!) and Lloyd Alexander's Prydain chronicles and Susan Cooper's Dark Is Rising series. A kid lit class in college opened my eyes to an entire world of authors I'd never known: Ursula Le Guin, Diana Wynne Jones, Roald Dahl, Zilpha Keatley Snyder, Frances Hodgson Burnett. I became a regular at used book stores. It was a second childhood, a Renaissance, that's still going strong--and still shaping who I am as both a reader and a writer.

The talent of today's authors is no less jawdropping. I have to fight with myself over every new Megan Whalen Turner book, whether to gobble it up or savor every page.

Where did it all start? With my mom. She passed away this summer, and the last few years of her life were so tough on her. Circumstances required that I assume the role of caregiver, and it deeply strained the relationship between us that I'd always cherished. But a little distance has granted me a wealth of perspective. I've been able to reflect on her legacy, on the many gifts she bestowed, not the least of which was a love of reading. I don't remember how often we read together, or how consistently, but I do know that after every doctor's appointment to treat my persistent tonsillitis, she took me to the drugstore to pick out a new book. She read aloud to me, classics like David Copperfield and Alice in Wonderland and Little Women. And she indulged my frequent trips to the library. She didn't mind that I brought home armfuls of books. She raised an eyebrow but didn't fuss during my many obsessive phases, from ghosts to poetry to classical LPs.

The past fews years I've been watching my oldest son, now 11, devour books. He prefers series, like Fablehaven and Harry Potter and The Secret Series (This Book Is Not Good for You), because he can revisit familiar characters like old friends. I can't help but agree.

However the landscape of publishing changes in the next decade, I hope he'll always have a book in his hand. And I hope my mom knows, somehow, that every time I pick up a book, a part of her is there with me.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


How could I not post on this really nifty date, especially with so many interesting things going on in the Hayes household?

Loving the gorgeous fall weather. Vivid blue skies, crunchy, colorful leaves, pumpkins and mums and that crisp morning air. Divine!

We made our annual trek to the pumpkin patch on Friday, mostly for the photo op. The grocery store would be easier (and cheaper!), but some traditions are non-negotiable.

Our house is nearly sold, at last! Don't want to jinx it, but we're due to sign the papers in less than two weeks. Boo-yah! It will be nice to have that stress off our plates.

I have tickets to an Oprah taping on Friday! How cool is that? Now that we're Chicagoites...Chicagoers...residents of the Chicago area, I had to try for tickets, and lo and behold, I scored some through the web site! The taping could be just about anything, I reckon, but just the experience should be once-in-a-lifetime.

Two family birthdays this month, one next month, and company for Thanksgiving. Several work trips for hubby coming up, including another to India.

Oh, and a possible writing breakthrough soon. Perhaps. Time will tell, but it's been a great month so far, so I'm crossing fingers and toes.