Bookshelf

We Are All Made of Nouns*

2 Min read Short take 1 Book rec AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Spotify iTunes * We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect. Anais Nin. In Anna Quindlen's new book, Write for Your Life, she says that people are "made of nouns, live by verbs, and enlarge and...

Reading for Foodies

5 Min read 2 Book recs, memoir and craft Improve writing immediately AVAILABLE IN PODCAST Spotify iTunes * "Buy me five, ten, okay? That's 50, make it a 100," my mother says, leaving a Ben Franklin on the counter with two packs of TJ's peanut butter cups.* I order the...

“Old Age is Not for the Young”*

6 Min read 2 Book recs, by elderly writers Serial comma 10,000-hour-rule Explicit language, 13 to 103 AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Spotify iTunes * If you believe 10,000 hours of practice will help achieve mastery, say, on the violin or as a volleyball player, then the...

Books I Love

5 Min read 17 Books, 19.5 including mentions in footnotes Genres: Memoir, Essays, Fiction, Writing, Love, Poetry, War Toolbox, Texture in writing Contemporary and classic books from the top of my stacks, my more current reading. * The most common question I get is,...

What Book Would You Take to a Desert Island?

7 Min read 2 Book recs Film rec Article abstract, on Virtue and Vice* Toolbox, Improve writing, ages 9 to 99 AVAILABLE IN PODCAST Spotify iTunes * What book would you take to a desert island? I didn't know and hadn't given it much thought until Saturday when I told my...

Charlie Munger and the Art of Swearing

5 Min read EXPLICIT language, Ages 13 to 103 True Story, investing Toolbox Essay and book rec, Ursula Le Guin Patton's Speech AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Spotify iTunes * Charlie Munger was making the rounds with investors. A living icon in the investing world, he was some...

The Sentence Fragment

3 min read Toolbox, Ages 9-99 Improve writing immediately 2 Book recs: on writing and on essays AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Spotify iTunes * (1) When you haven't seen someone you love for a while, you notice them anew. The tongue that touches the side of the mouth. The wisps...

Thoughts on Music and the Brain

5 min read True story 2 Book recs Songbook Collection AVAILABLE ON PODCAST on Spotify on iTunes Each morning, Simba crosses the end of the driveway tail first, three feet above the invisible fence. He is set down in the grass across the road, then walks his porter on...

On the Double Negative, Circular Definitions, and Children

4 min read Double negative 2 Book recs, 1 short story Roe v. Wade A Double Negative by Lydia Davis At a certain point in her life, she realizes it is not so much that she wants to have a child as that she does not want not to have a child, or not to have had a child.*...

“The Q-tips Are for Your M4” and the Art of the Paragraph

3 Min read Writer's toolbox Improve writing immediately Book rec AVAILABLE ON PODCAST On SPOTIFY The Q-tips are for your M4, Norah's uncle said as she held them up when unpacking her 7.62 ammunition canister. Norah reached in the green ammo can and took out 100 feet...

“Django with One Finger,” a Living Music Icon

4 min read Book rec Music in Prose Songwriting AVAILABLE IN PODCAST I finished Willie Nelson's memoir or musings from the road, as he titled it. The book is a short reflection on a long life, punctuated throughout with song lyrics and crude jokes and notes from family...

On Puppies and Babies: a “Communion with Terror”

4 min read Book rec AVAILABLE ON PODCAST AT THIS LINK I have a Kong chew toy but I prefer to eat my bed. Three dog beds, seven stuffed toys, multiple socks, countless tissues and trash, the corner of my coffee table, a small remote, a pair of Hoka running shoes. I’ve...

Most Underused Punctuation Mark in American Writing*

Short take Writer's Toolbox Em-dash Book recs So says the lexicographer and usage genius Bryan Garner. My desk copy of the 4th edition of Garner's Modern English Usage states on page 750, "The em-dash is perhaps the most underused punctuation mark in American...

Books for Mothers and Daughters

Short Take, 2 min read Mother's Day Book recs, ages 9 to 99 AVAILABLE ON PODCAST CLICK HERE It's a gray day full of drizzle in Connecticut though it's not as cold as it has been. The yellow lilies in the porch planters are in full bloom and they remind me of my...

Exercises in Style: a Writing Tribute

3 min read Book rec Writing Toolbox Wordplay Ages 9 to 99 AVAILABLE IN PODCAST HERE Titles begin with letters as human forms Narrative One day at about midday in the food line, behind the checkout of a more or less busy Costco, I observed a person with a very big...

1000 Push-ups? Getting Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

6 min read Memoir rec Work-outs, push-ups and running AVAILABLE ON PODCAST CLICK HERE On Spotify On iTunes Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. That’s the short take on Living with a SEAL*, 31 Days Training With the Toughest Man on the Planet. Jesse Itzler, the...

Bedside Counselor on Parenting in Anger, in Two Translations

6 min read Book rec Prose for emergencies Writing feature AVAILABLE IN PODCAST, CLICK HERE For solace and for counsel, I have several books I find myself returning to again and again, and to this one, most recently, as my third child prepares to leave home.* For...

Writing on the Road and the Creative Process

5 min read 4 book recs on writing 1 novel Toolbox, Ages 9-99 AVAILABLE IN PODCAST Spotify iTunes Google Podcasts     How do you write on the move? A computer and phone work for me. When I'm not in the TreeHouse I miss my books, dictionaries, and style...

Sex Over 70 Years and the Synecdoche

7 min read, EXPLICIT content 2 Books 2 Rhetorical devices The Music in Prose - THL feature focused on writing that 'sings' and why AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Spotify ITunes Google Podcasts It's a double entendre, this letter's headline, but it's fitting. I'm not...

Adult Child and a Zen Koan

2 Min Read 1 Book Rec 2.5 Zen Koan** Em Dash* AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Anchor.fm/emelle Spotify iTunes My adult child--an oxymoron when you consider that there is no single word for grown offspring in a language with 171,476 words of which 47,156 are obsolete, but please...

Love in a Sad Cafe

5 Min Read 1 Book Rec The Music in Prose   AVAILABLE IN PODCAST Anchor.fm/emelle Spotify iTunes The Music in Prose is a regular feature of the TreeHouseLetter. The idea for this came from my work on music and language, considering just what it is about the...

A Valentine Canine and the Circle of Life

3 Min read 2 Book Recs AVAILABLE  ON PODCAST Anchor.fm/emelle Spotify iTunes   Herz is a good name for a dog adopted on Valentine's Day, especially for a shepherd mix because Herz is the German word for heart. The dark face and fawn body resembles the Belgian...

Thay’s Miracle: Short Take on a Long Life (Thich Nhat Hanh)

AVAILABLE ON POCAST Spotify iTunes Anchor.fm I read the book No Death, No Fear: Comforting Wisdom for Life after my father passed away.  The author was the Zen Master and spiritual leader Thich Nhat Hanh, who died this month. He was born in my mother's central...

The Sexy Semicolon, Really?

AVAILABLE ON PODCAST iTunes Spotify Anchor.fm Loved and loathed, sexy and sinister may not be modifiers that come to mind when you think of the semicolon. Cecelia Watson argues otherwise in her deep dive on this misunderstood mark, concluding a decade of research,...

Poetry for Emergencies: Lain S. Thomas at Daybreak

AVAILABLE ON PODCAST iTunes Spotify Anchor.fm   Sometimes I wake in the middle of the night and I’m scared. It’s not often and I usually can get back to sleep. I’m lucky that way because people do suffer from insomnia and my waking is not like that. An overactive...

A New Year: Goals Versus Habits

Available on Podcast iTunes Spotify Anchor.fm   The  New Year means resolutions and goals, or so it has for me for decades. My father would ask my brother and me as children what our resolutions were. This has been a good practice to reflect on the prior year and...

Alaska Mountains Will Spoil You for All the Rest

AVAILABLE ON PODCAST iTunes Spotify Anchor.fm   Alaska mountains will spoil you for all the rest. Two weeks in Southeast Alaska re-shaped a life-long sense of this remote place, which earned its statehood over sixty years ago in 1959. The fjords and mountains...

Spirits of the Fall: Episode (3) Visits From Beyond

AVAILABLE IN PODCAST iTunes Spotify Anchor.fm     This is the third episode in the series, Spirits of the Fall: True Stories of the Season, eerie occurrences, real-life horrors, ghosts and second sight.     Visits From Beyond   Last Night I...

Birthday and Death Day, Catholics and Customs

PODCAST AVAILABLE iTunes Spotify Anchor.fm     September 2 is a special day for me, the birthday of my daughter and the death day of my father. The cemetery is beautiful. I’ve always had a special regard for cemeteries in spite of the ghosts and the...

Are We Killing the Fat Man? The Corona Trolley Dilemma

AVAILABLE ON PODCAST SPOTIFY ITUNES ANCHOR.FM THE TROLLEY PROBLEM The Trolley thought experiment, first put forth by the philosopher Philippa Foot, pits two schools of moral thought against each other: deontological ethics and utilitarianism. In simple words, the...

Solzhenitsyn and the Gulag – A Russian Novel About Your Life

What can we learn from the Gulag? About the military, about the body and soul? AVAILABLE IN PODCAST iTunes Spotify Anchor.fm     Walking up Hawks Hill near my home, I discovered a pebble in my shoe. I had taken a couple of them out of my right sneaker before...

A Book for Everyone, Even Nonreaders and Grinches

PODCAST INTERVIEW Anchor.fm Spotify iTunes   PODCAST SUMMARY  (please click on links above for full interview)   I talked with editor, writer, and friend, Hayley Swinson, about books and how they help us get into the spirit of the holidays.  She shared a...

Little Free Library – One Year Anniversary

Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. Joseph Addison   One year ago my children and a couple of West Point cadets helped install our little road-side library, digging a two foot hole, steadying the large bird feeder shaped box and its post with...

ON WALKING – Sedaris, Gornick, Cadogan, & Thoreau

  I've come across the topic of walking in my reading, especially lately, as well as over the years.  Writers walk and maybe the converse, while not logically true, is true on occasion. Walkers write. I need to walk, I must walk, but like my need to run, I am...

A Remedy Much Desired – Suicide & Three Poems by Max Ehrmann

Fun, colorful, classic. The first two clash with the third, because when we think of classic, especially in fashion, we think modest, elegant, subdued.  Designer Kate Spade made the trio possible for professional women, the idea that classic could also be fun and...

Deep Work, Digital Detox, and the Year of the DOG

Deep Work If you haven't read Cal Newport's book Deep Work, Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, I recommend it. A friend gave it to me for my birthday and I finished it in a day, putting off any type of work to imagine the lasting impact of getting in the...

Little Free Library – Charter # 46480 – For the Love of Reading

The Little Free Library (LFL) is up, in the yard, along the road, by the wooded end of our lot. It is full of books of all kinds, fiction, non-fiction, young adult, children's, and even an Inaugural Poem, mind games, and a field guide. It is open for fall and school...

Spring Cats – Feline Poetry & T.S. Eliot

    This spring cats are everywhere, in my reading, on my whiteboard, in illustrations.  I came across Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot in Haslams, a sprawling old book store in St. Petersburg, Florida.  The subject didn't appeal to me and...

Unity or Chaos? C.S. Lewis on Stage in NYC

On Thought & Existence Do you believe that thought is a collection of atoms rolling about at random in a bony skull? or that the arrangement of such atoms for physical and chemical reasons happened at random? Because if you’re waiting for an answer to this...

A Lifetime in Books – Sandy’s List – Daedalus’s Bookseller

I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.  Jorge Luis Borges When I travel I visit local bookstores, often the highlight of a trip.  Footnotes from the World's Greatest Bookstores is a collection of tales and colorful illustrations by writer and...

The Daily Stoic – Only They Truly Live

  Of all the people only those are at leisure who make time for philosophy, only they truly live. Not satisfied to merely keep good watch over their own days, they annex every age to their own. All the harvest of the past is added to their store. Only an ingrate...

The Nordic Chronicles – The Norwegian, the Doctor, & the Terrier

How can you tell the difference between a Norwegian introvert and a Norwegian extrovert? When she's talking to you a Norwegian introvert looks at her feet. A Norwegian extrovert looks at yours. I read this years ago, though the joke was about the Finnish. The...

On Riddles & Language – A Cabinet of Curiosities by Roy Sorensen

Assassination Proof? As Nero became more powerful there appeared to be no limit on who he me could eliminate -- even his mother. His philosophy teacher, Seneca, warned Nero that there was someone he could not kill. Who was it? (Sorensen) This riddle felt appropriate...

Which President Succeeded His Successor? – Boston by the Books

“Tell me what you read and I'll tell you who you are" is true enough, but I'd know you better if you told me what you reread.  François Mauriac   BOSTON FOR BOOK NERDS Boston by the books meant a visit to four bookstores and two stationary shops this past...

A Toast for All Times – Weddings & Graduations – Marcus Aurelius

The flight to Seattle from JFK was perfect, a clear day across most of the country.  I had a window seat behind the wing on the left side of an Airbus 320, or the south side going west, giving me a bird's eye view of the good old U.S. of A. My neighbor slept and most...

What is a Good Life? – Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

Stop philosophizing about what a good man is and be one. The Roman emperor (161 - 180 AD) Marcus Aurelius wrote this in his personal notes. Considered the last of the Five Great Emperors and regarded as the philosopher king by historians, Aurelius left a legacy in his...

Why Read The Martian?

  Here’s something to consider: girls reading science fiction, and more interesting, girls liking science fiction. The ladies in my book group met last night to discuss The Martian by Andy Weir. Yes, it’s a book. The movie came AFTER the book. SCIENCE The science...

“Do you feel lucky?” – The Luck Factor by Dr. Richard Wiseman

Here’s a story I shared with my teen-aged daughter when things weren't going so well in class. Martin and Brenda Martin stopped by the coffee shop one morning before his meeting. On his way in, he noticed a five pound sterling note by the door and he picked it up. He...

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee – a Reader’s Guide

What modern classic makes #4 on the banned book list? It’s on 8th grade reading lists around the country. The author’s ‘new’ novel was released this summer and stirred up a controversy, maybe because Harper Collins made historic sales of more than 1.1 million copies...

Born to Run, and Fall – Oso and Athena – Big Runners

The cement gutter seemed to rise towards me after my foot caught on a perfectly fine stretch of road across from the Chevy dealer. It happened so slowly, the images were a series of stills. My center of gravity was beyond recovery and my legs were like drying pasta,...

Interracial Love, the World Child, and Pearl Buck

The name Josui Sakai sounds lovely; it rolls nicely on the tongue, JOH SOOEY  SAH  KAI.  Josui left the United States with her parents during WWII to avoid being placed into the Japanese American internment camps, a decision her father made. American born and raised...

A Year of Reading

If you could see a summary of the food you digested in 2014, you might find some surprises:  17 pounds of chocolate, 47 of bottles of wine, 5.7 servings of red meat a week, 1.3 fast food visits per week, the venial sin in this quarter is fried chicken or Five...

Where Are the Tough Teachers? Mediocre Music & Why We Need Mr. K

I drove to my son's winter concert listening to Yo-Yo Ma's holiday album with musicians Chris Botti on trumpet and Natalie MacMaster on fiddle. I wanted to get into the holiday spirit, but perhaps I set myself up for disappointment. The school's preparatory ensemble...

Train Dreams – Denis Johnson – Here’s Why I Steal Books

I steal books.  It doesn't happen often and if possible, I make a confession, appealing to the owner's sympathies and good will. I replace the books when I can, though one librarian was not happy about it. The surroundings have as much to do with it as the writing and...

Toni Morrison’s Beloved: Should Books Get a Rating Like Movies?

Parents get upset about the book Beloved and here's why.  In the first chapter, Toni Morrison wrote about the five men who were "so sick with the absence of women they had taken to calves." Go ahead.  Read it again; I had too.  My reading group picked this as part of...

What would Don Quixote do? Quixote on Families and Greatness

Don Quixote himself will answer this question, and I promise to relate such counsel as faithfully as this modern, wretched hand will permit. You may ask, "Who cares what Quixote thinks or does?" The sane madman and the wise fool (Sancho Panza) are two of the most...

Quiet: the Power of Introverts – Susan Cain – in the Top 10

  This makes my top 10 list. Here’s why. With her book, Susan Cain gave me a gift as lasting and substantial as any literary work I’ve read. Every now and then you read something that reaches you, touches you deeply in ways you could not imagine. Quiet does that...

Ten Books That Stayed With Me, a Facebook Meme

"Ten books that stayed with me" is a post circulating on Facebook.  I write about books on this site, so when a friend asked for my list, I thought I would share them here too. Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling  (favorites in series...

Invisible Cities – Italo Cavino – Constructs of the Mind

Italo Calvino was the most translated Italian author of his time and a contender for the Nobel Prize in Literature.  Published in 1972, Invisible Cities (link to book) is considered Calvino's masterpiece.  It's a slender 165 page volume, but beware.  The words and the...

In the Heart of the Sea – Philbrick – Couples Book Night

As part of an "inaugural town-wide reading initiative," our library chose In the Heart of the Sea, the Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex for its first selection.  Nathaniel Philbrick earned the National Book Award for this retelling of the fateful 1819 voyage from...

My Antonia – Willa Cather – an American Beauty

In My Ántonia, Willa Cather writes about our American past, its western expansion, rugged living, and the indomitable spirit of the men and women of the late 1800s.  The character of Antonia embodies all this, but the book is so much more. It's a portrait of our...

The Sybil – Par Lagerkvist – Summary & Review

The Oracle of Delphi and the Divine in All of Us The Swedish author Par Lagerkvist won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1951 and this story is worth your time;  it’s just 154 pages and readable in a day.   Some readers get upset because he combines Greek paganism and...