In my view, as a writer, lawyer, and former bookseller, there are no bad books*. Every book serves a purpose and should spark a conversation. The American Library Association has designated September 18-24, 2022 as National Banned Books Week. Learn more about challenges to books and advocacy from the ALA.
“Schools provide safe spaces to talk about controversial issues, and literature presents characters portraying human experience in all its richness and contradictoriness. Reading is a way to take in the difficult situations and understand them.”
— novelist Julia Alvarez
* There are some badly written books, of course, but that’s a different thing altogether!
“….I think the imagination is the single most useful tool humankind possesses. It beats the opposable thumb. I can imagine living without my thumbs, but not without my imagination… All of us have to learn how to invent our lives, make them up, imagine them. We need to be taught these skills; we need guides to show us how. If we don’t, our lives get made up for us by other people…
“The minds of animals are a great, sacred, present mystery. I do think animals have languages, but they are entirely truthful languages. It seems that we are the only animals who can lie. We can think and say what is not so and never was so, or what has never been, yet might be. We can invent; we can suppose, we can imagine… “
~ Ursula. K. Le Guin (1929-2018) on imagination, from The Wave in the Mind: Talks and Essays on the Writer, the Reader, and the Imagination
Although we are mainly writers here, you know I think we can learn a lot from artists in other fields. The singer-songwriter Kate Bush is known for taking risks, for never producing the same album twice, and pushing herself with each recording.
When asked about her willingness to take risks in art: “This is what art is all about, isn’t it? It’s a sense of moving away from boundaries that you can’t escape in real life.”
When asked about how she’s changed as an artist, she said, “The making of an album leads inevitably to big discovery. And I think that discovery is used best when it’s used on the next album. It’s all a big learning process. Each album is like starting from scratch, but from a new plateau.”
The historian David McCullough died this past week. He’s known for his presidential research and biographies, as well as other work. He saw history as the study of human life, including art, and I was particularly struck by this advice he gave:
“I paint all the time. I love it. And I highly recommend it for everyone. Get out there and paint. It’s good for the soul. But I also particularly stress to people who say they want to become writers, young people, take a course in drawing or painting because it helps you to learn to see, to look, and that’s what writing is often about.”
— historian David McCullough (1933-2022), in an interview with Jeffrey Brown of the PBS Newshour, aired Monday, Aug 8, as part of its coverage of his passing
“In The Emotional Craft of Fiction, I wrote, ‘How you feel in writing is how we will feel in reading.” To be vividly alive is to be open to everything: unrestrained, honest, brave, awake and aware.’ – Don Maass, literary agent and teacher, on Writer Unboxed. I highly recommend The Emotional Craft of Fiction (2016), and all Maass’s books on the craft of writing.
Catch me this weekend at the Bigfork Art Festival, on Electric Avenue in the Village!
Like me, Pepper Reece believes that every retail shop is a little sweeter — and a little more successful — when it includes books, whether it’s books on wine and wine country travel in a wine shop, regional art in a gallery, or local ghost stories in a coffee shop! In the Spice Shop, Pepper’s haven in Seattle’s Pike Place Market, you’ll find shelves and shelves of cookbooks, especially those that focus on spice or cooking for whatever holiday she’s celebrating! You’ll also find a healthy dose of foodie fiction, combining two of her favorite things — yours and mine, too!
In Peppermint Barked, Pepper sends a customer with a daughter just learning to cook home with Mark Bittman’s classic How to Cook Everything and Ian Hemphill’s go-to compendium, The Spice and Herb Bible. The customer adds a copy of Dorie Greenspan’s Dorie’s Cookies to the stack for a friend, then treats herself with David Lebovitz’s Drinking French. Not coincidentally, three of those four are go-to books in our house. And while we don’t have a copy of Dorie’s Cookies yet, I do love her classic Around My French Table, not least because it includes a recipe for a fabulous pepper steak from Bistro Paul Bert, a restaurant we discovered on our first trip to Paris in 2009 and revisited in January 2020. It also includes the marvelously simple recipe for chocolate mousse from the back of the Nestle’s chocolate bar sold in France, which we make often. (My girl Erin Murphy, from the Food Lovers’ Village mysteries, adds a Montana flavor to it with huckleberry syrup. Here’s the recipe for her Huckleberry Chocolate Mousse.)
Of course, Pepper loves a good mystery, too, especially one with a foodie theme. In Peppermint Barked, she’s enjoying the delicious combination of crime, retail, and food served up by Cleo Coyle, Ellen Byron who also writes as Maria DiRico, and Maddie Day aka Edith M. Maxwell.
And as always, she calls on her spirit guide, the medieval monk and herbalist Brother Cadfael, from the oh so good series by Ellis Peters that she discovered in a box books and videos her parents left in her storage locker before heading off to Costa Rica.
Here’s what Pepper was reading in The Solace of Bay Leaves and Chai Another Day, along with Parts One and Two of Pepper’s Bookshelf, dishing on her discoveries in the first three books of the series, Assault and Pepper, Guilty as Cinnamon, and Killing Thyme.
I’m deep into Book Seven as I write this, and I can tell you, she’ll have some great fiction to recommend as well as some intriguing nonfiction diving into Seattle history.