Tag Archives: literature

Revealed! Book Club Choices for March

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 the wonderful Brooklyn indie WORD, BN.com, Amazon (I’m an affiliate of all three), or your favorite local bookstore. Or visit the library! Drumroll…

An outstanding book about happiness or habits:

Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey

Buy from WORD; BN.com; Amazon.

An outstanding children’s book:

Meet the Austins by Madeleine L’Engle

Buy from WORD; BN.com; Amazon.

An eccentric pick:

The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein

Buy from WORD; 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?

In a few weeks, I leave on my book tour and that means…lots of time for reading! I love to read on airplanes, but it’s crucial to have a great book. I’ve been poring over my book list, to decide what to take. High stakes. Any great suggestions?

So if you’re in San Diego, LA, Plano/Dallas, Denver, San Francisco, Princeton, Washington DC, Wellesley, New Haven, NYC, Cedar Rapids, Doylestown, Toronto, or London, I’m headed your way. Please come, tell your friends! A lot of these events take place in bookstores…and you just can’t spend too much time in bookstores.

Happy March, and happy reading.

How Laura Ingalls Wilder Got a Rebel To Learn His Lessons

I’m a huge fan of children’s literature (in fact, I’m in three reading groups where we read children’s and young-adult literature), and Laura Ingalls Wilder has always had a special place in my heart.

So I was thrilled when I found out that her book Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography, was being published. I raced through the book last week; so fascinating. For instance, it turns out Nellie Olsen was an amalgam of three annoying girls.

I was particularly struck, however, when I read a scene that also appears in These Happy Golden Years. Which I know like the back of my hand, by the way.

Laura is fifteen years old, and teaching school, where one of her pupils is Clarence. He’s older than Laura, very smart; “he was quick in speaking and moving…[and] had a way of speaking that was almost saucy.” He misbehaves occasionally, but the bigger issue is that after the first few days, that he refuses to study, and tells her “It’s no use trying to learn such long lessons.”

Laura is frustrated, because she knows that he could learn the lessons if he tried, but he won’t.

When Laura asks her parents for advice, Ma says, “It’s attention he wants.” Now that I’ve figured out the Four Tendencies, I disagree. I think Ma was nearer the mark when she also observes, “Better not try to make him do anything, because you can’t.” (If you want to read about the Four Tendencies–Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, and Rebel, or take the Quiz to determine your own Tendency, go here.)

From the description, I’d say that Clarence is a Rebel. He can’t stand for someone to tell him that he must do something; when he hears this, he resists, even though he’s a smart kid who wants to learn.

But when Laura changes her approach, he changes.

When Laura gives others their assignments, she tell him, “This doesn’t mean you, Clarence; it would make your lesson far too long…How much do you think you can learn? Would three [pages] be too much?”

In this way, she does two things. First, she leaves the choice to Clarence, and gives him freedom. Rebels want to act from choice and freedom.

Second, for Rebels, the impulse “I’ll show you!” is often very strong. They tend to respond to a challenge. When she suggests that he can’t master three pages, he thinks, “I’ll show her.”

The Pioneer Girl version shows this dynamic even more dramatically. There, Laura reports that she said, “‘Is that too long Clarance? Perhaps it is and better take only to here. I really don’t think you could learn so far as I first said,’ and he would exclaim, ‘Oh yes I can teacher.’ He had now gotten to the point where he would add a little more to my first suggestion and learn it too, to prove that he could.”

Within a week, Clarence has caught up to the other pupils.  He studied at night to master the material.

It’s very useful to understand the Four Tendencies, because Rebels — and Upholders, Questioners, and Obligers — really have very different perspectives on the world. If we want to be persuasive, if we want to work and live harmoniously with other people, it’s helpful to understand their ways of seeing things.

Ah, how I love Laura Ingalls Wilder! The end of my book Happier at Home is an homage to her and her brilliant work. Of everything I’ve ever written, I must say, the last few pages of Happier at Home are definitely among my favorites.

Have you ever found a way to communicate with someone — so that a point of conflict vanished? It’s not easy to see the world through someone else’s eyes.

Revealed! Book Club Choices for February.

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 the wonderful Brooklyn indie WORD, BN.com, Amazon (I’m an affiliate of all three), or your favorite local bookstore. Or visit the library! Drumroll…

An outstanding book about happiness or habits:

Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success by Adam Grant

Buy from WORD; BN.com; Amazon.

An outstanding children’s book:

The House Without a Christmas Tree by Gail Rock

Buy from WORD; BN.com; Amazon.

An eccentric pick:

Forty-one False Starts: Essays on Artists and Writers by Janet Malcolm

Buy from WORD; 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?  An Autobiography by Anthony Trollope; Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls; Dear Genius by Ursula Nordstrom. So good!

These days, I can’t talk about books without making a pitch for my own forthcoming book, Better Than Before. I love all my books equally, but I do love this book.  As I’ve mentioned before: for book publishing these days, pre-orders give a big boost to a book. If you’re inclined to buy Better Than Before, it’s a huge help to me if you order it now. You won’t be charged, of course, until the book ships.

Revealed! Book Club Choices for January.

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 the wonderful Brooklyn indie WORD, BN.com, Amazon (I’m an affiliate of all three), or your favorite local bookstore. Or visit the library! Drumroll…

An outstanding book about happiness or habits:

An Autobiography by Anthony Trollope

Buy from WORD; BN.com; Amazon.

An outstanding children’s book:

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

Buy from WORD; BN.com; Amazon.

An eccentric pick:

Dear Genius by Ursula Nordstrom

Buy from WORD; 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? What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami; Miracles on Maple Hill by Virginia Sorensen; and The Official Preppy Handbook edited by Lisa Birnbach. So good!

These days, I can’t talk about books without making a pitch for my own forthcoming book, Better Than Before. I love all my books equally, but I do love this book.  As I’ve mentioned before: For book publishing these days, pre-orders give a big boost to a book. If you’re inclined to buy Better Than Before, it’s a huge help to me if you order it now. You won’t be charged, of course, until the book ships.

Happy 2015, happy January, and happy reading. I’m due for a trip to the library, and I just realized that it will be closed tomorrow…

Six Things I Learned While Recording the Audiobook for Better Than Before

This week, I’ve been recording the audiob0ok for Better Than Before. I did this once before, for The Happiness Project, and once again, it was an interesting, unsettling process.

Here’s what I learned about myself and my book:

1. I can’t stand the sound of my own voice. Whenever they replayed aloud something I’d read, I had to leave the room.

2. My fear of finding typos was largely unnecessary. I found a few minor typos: in two places, a missing m-dash in front of an author attribution at the beginning of a chapter, and one reversed single-quote mark. If you buy the book, see if you can spot these. (Newsflash: my editor says we may be able to fix these, in the nick of time! Stay tuned.)

3. I have a growly stomach, even when I’m not hungry. Several times, I had to re-read a sentence because “stomach noises” could be heard. But turns out that I’m not the only one with a loud stomach. Look in the photo. See how I’m sitting with a pillow in front of my stomach? They keep the pillow there, for just this reason.

4. I have a hard time saying the phrase “video arcade.” Video arcade. Video arcade. Video arcade.

5. I’ve been mispronouncing the name “Archilochus” my whole life. Not that it comes up very often. But still. (If you’re thinking, “Gretchen, why did you mention Archilochus?” it’s because I quote the line that I love: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.”

6. Something happened when I read the b0ok aloud: loss of meaning. This is an uncomfortable stage that I pass through with every book, at the end of the process. I’m reading the book, and I start thinking, “This writing makes no sense. This book is a string of non sequiturs. How will anyone have any idea what I’m talking about?” But other people seem to understand the book just fine. Just as my name starts to sound like gibberish, if I say it over and over, I guess that on the 100th reading of a book, it starts to dissolve into nothingness. I have to trust myself, that what I wrote makes sense.

Many listeners wrote to me to say that they were disappointed that I didn’t read the audiobook of Happier at Home. I didn’t do that book myself — though I’d read The Happiness Project — because someone convinced me that listeners enjoy the experience more when a book is read by a professional. But in my case, at least, it seems as though many people preferred to hear me read it.

I enjoy doing the recording myself. It feels so…professional.

Do you listen to audiobooks? I read somewhere that most audiobooks are listened to in the car, but that people are starting to listen to them in more places. My younger daughter loves audiobooks; she listens to them before she goes to sleep.