Tuesday, November 30, 2010

"The greatest of these is Hope"

Life is very fickle.

At first, I thought I should write “I am very fickle.” That statement is indeed true - I change my mind more frequently than a rodent reproduces (which is to say a lot) - but I think, also, that life, such as it is, is just as volatile as me.

This blog has been plagued with my constant flip-flopping between complaints and praises of my escapades and adventures of the past three months. As of three weeks ago, I decidedly hated Vancouver and wanted to return home as soon as my money ran out. Lately, however, I’ve started to appreciate this city, the friends I have made here, and the simple fact that I am able to have this experience.

And so life is fickle. What I mean is, I inherently know all the good things about being here. I know that I am blessed that I am financially able to live here, that I am able to study under and meet renowned academics and authors and illustrators, that the people in my program are lovely and friendly and funny and all-around wonderful additions to my life. I know all of these things, but sometimes life makes you forget about them momentarily.

The age-old expression, attributed to the great Forrest Gump, that “shit happens” is true. No matter how much you like your current circumstances, no matter how careful you are to avoid the terrible, life makes you feel awful sometimes. And no amount of positive thinking can change that.

However, my point is this, and I do have one: No matter how bad the bad gets, the good always seems to outweigh it. Always. The smallest good thing - a spontaneously upsized coffee at Starbucks, an unexpected and cheery email from a friend you haven’t heard from in a while, hearing your favourite song on the radio - can turn the blackest day a few shades lighter.

I think this is because, if I were to define it, happiness is hope, and sadness is the absence of it. And I think there is nothing more tragic, more difficult, more painful in this world than to be without hope. If I think of times I felt genuinely sad and depressed, the common thread is that I felt hopeless. To be without hope is to feel as though there is nothing else but the feeling of emptiness, the belief that the void in your heart can never and will never heal. It is a scary, bitter thought.

I once heard someone say that they disagreed with 1 Corinthians 13:13 which says “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” They said that they believed hope was the greatest, because doesn’t hope give us the ability to love? And I thought that was quite profound.

I am pleased to report that I am very hopeful. A slew of recent events have most definitely lead me to feel so confident and fulfilled - there are wonderful people in this world, and I am privileged enough to know some of them and call them friends.

I am hopeful about my future. I have hope because there are people, smart people, who have hearts for the hurting, words for the downtrodden, and love for the empty. I am hopeful in Christ, because I cannot possibly know all there is about him, except that He is real, he is big and vast and knows no boarders or rules or regulations.

I used to think that I was a “glass just half” kind of person, a realist, but now I know that I am “half-full.” I am full of hope.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

On Eros

I was watching an interview with Stephen Fry at the Hay Festival of Literature and the Arts in Wales this past July, and he was asked to speak on the subject of eros, which in Greek means martial love, passionate love, with sensual desire and longing. I thought his response was beautiful and profound, and so I thought I'd share it with you.

Stephen Fry on Eros:

“When you’re a child and you watch films on television, you tend to wonder why it is that the action, the comedy, the adventure stops every now and again for this bewildering, baffling nonsense that is eros, that is love.

And then when you pass through childhood into adulthood there’s a part of you that sometimes questions why there is any other subject in the world. It is all there is to think about and talk about, love. It is, of course, everything within us, and the extraordinary thing about, and of course there are many shapes to it, the Greeks - I alluded to a couple of them,agape and eros and philia, of course there are many others, Greek words for it. There are many nuances of love.

And we know how important it is to us, so much so that we don’t even think about it, because we sort of almost couldn’t carry on living because of how important it is. And our dreams often tell us this. It’s fascinating how often one dreams about a moment of love or someone who is loved or lost or unrequited love will come back 30 years later and you think ‘Oh my God I’m not still... am I? I am.’ And I remember seeing a man of 106 being interviewed on his 106th birthday, he was in Norfolk and he was the oldest man in East Anglia, which we were very proud of. And the interviewer said, ‘Is there anything that makes you unhappy about being old, is it, you know do you [miss] your friends?’ and he said ‘Well it’s not my friends,’ but he said, ‘I still miss my mother.’

And I thought ‘Wow, well of course, of course you would!’ My mother, I’m happy to say, is still alive, but I’m sure I would miss her and I’d miss my father if he went. And there’s no reason why one shouldn’t. If you love someone you love them forever. It does... just because the string is cut doesn’t [...] it doesn’t mean that your emotional concern is cut. And love is, it’s just overwhelming.

[...] The real thing that I’m convinced is true is [...] what’s shocking about love is never the physical part of it, it’s the emotional part of it. It’s not - people may do all kinds of things with their bodies which may or may not disgust or alarm one, but it’s how much of themselves they subsume in another person, is something quite extraordinary. It’s so, I mean it’s the subject of most films and most songs. And yet it’s so extraordinary that we never stop to contemplate how bizarre it is that that’s what we give ourselves to.

And that is the secret of almost every human being you meet. If you meet someone who is an utter turd, and in life you will, don’t do that thing they tell you to imagine them all naked etc, and then you’ll have contempt for them; that’s not the point. Imagine the absolute truth of even the most aggressive, unpleasant, self-regarding, vain, unsympathetic person you could ever meet, and remember that they are not only desperate to be loved, but they are desperate to love. And I’ve never met a human being of whom that isn’t true.

And it’s so astonishing that we don’t even bother to think about it because it’s almost too much for our brains to take in, I think.”

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Eloquence of A Fall

As I was reading my nightly chapter of Bryson (ok, so I read two chapters today. I'm rewarding myself for being productive), I came across this hilarious passage and had to share.

Bryson's newest book, At Home: A Short History of Private Life talks about just that: the history of the home. Each chapter is named after a room in his current 19th century home in Norfolk, England, and deals with the history of how that particular room came to be, what it was used for, and other various interesting tidbits of information. He provides countless anecdotes (my personal favourites are about the monumental houses that insanely rich people insisted on building, which, in turn, collapsed) which are hilarious and of the sort that you would never have known, or indeed knew you cared to know, had he not told you.

The chapter I'm currently on is "Chapter XIV: The Stairs." Bryson recounts statistics about who and when and how many people fall down stairs yearly, and then talks about what must be taken in consideration when building a stair so as to ensure the least number of casualties. Here is a passage where he describes why people fall down stairs and are, generally, unable to help themselves once they start falling:

Let's look at a fall in slow motion. Descending a staircase is in a sense a controlled fall. You are propelling your body outward and downward in a manner that would clearly be dangerous if you weren't fully on top of things. The problem for the brain is distinguishing the moment when a descent stops being controlled and starts being a kind of unhappy mayhem. The human brain responds very quickly to danger and disarray, but it still takes a fraction of a moment - 190 milliseconds to be precise - for the reflexes to kick in and for the mind to assimilate that something is going wrong (that you have just stepped on a skate, say) and to clear the decks for a tricky landing. During this exceedingly brief interval the body will descend, on average, seven more inches - too far, generally, for a graceful landing. If this event happens on the bottom step you come down with an unpleasant jolt - more of an affront to your dignity than anything else. But if it happens higher up, your feet simply won't be able to make a stylish recovery, and you had better hope that you can catch the handrail - or indeed that there is a handrail. One study in 1958 found that in three-quarters of all stair falls no handrail was available at the point of the fall's origin.

Now if that's not the most eloquent passage about falling down a flight of stairs that you've ever read, then you read too much.


Sunday, November 21, 2010

An Italics-Worthy Adventure

I said I would write a post about my adventure to Powell’s, and I submit it thusly (warning: I use lots of italics in this entry. Beware):

I first learned about Powell’s from reading Don Miller, who you may or may not recognize as having the distinction of being both the author of great books such as Blue Like Jazz and A Million Miles in A Thousand Years and my favourite author. Don lives in Portland and has mentioned Powell’s in blog posts, live video blogs, and perhaps also in a book or two (I cannot say for certain this last fact. I’ll have to look it up and get back to you).

I had forgotten about this bookstore until sometime earlier this year. When I decided to move to Vancouver, a professor at MUN advised me I had to take a trip to Portland and go to Powell’s, a bibliophile’s heaven. Suddenly it was as though my whole purpose for moving to the West Coast was clear - I would go to the world’s largest bookstore, and get to meet Don Miller in the same trip. A flawless plan.

A bit of background: Powell’s is a bookstore. It is an enormous bookstore. What is so distinctive about it, however, is that it is the largest new and used independent bookstore in the entire world. Not only do they buy thousands of books a day, but they also house vast collections of rare books, as well as autographed copies, first editions, and out-of-print materials. And it’s independently owned. I should clarify that it’s not the largest bookstore in terms of floor space - that claim to fame belongs to a Chapters in Toronto. But it is the largest in terms of shelf-space - Wikipedia tells me it has “about 1.6 acres (6,500 m2) of retail space.” They also have six locations, including a store dedicated to just technical books.

So, clearly, this is my type of shopping experience. When Tammy and I walked into Powell’s, I was instantly overwhelmed. There were bookshelves everywhere. The front room, which is probably the size of an average mall bookstore, was dedicated solely to New Arrivals and Best Sellers. Before I had even scanned four shelves I had a basket filled with books, and I knew this would be a hard day on my wallet.

The store is divided into different coloured rooms - red, blue, orange, gold, purple, pearl, etc. Each room is dedicated to certain genres: the red room is children’s books, young adult fiction, animals, motherhood; orange is cooking, gardening, miscellaneous hobbies, sale books; purple is history, politics, philosophy, languages; pearl is art, drama. And these are just a sampling of the many, many categories. I mean, I didn’t know there were that many types of books even written! There was an entire hall dedicated to audio books! Shelves and shelves of CD books - unbelievable!

I had combed through the gold room first - new arrivals, best sellers, discounted classics - and then moved onto the red room. The great thing about Powell’s is that there are multiple copies of each book stacked among each other. Autographed copies next to first editions next to hard covers next to used copies of the same book. I found this particularly lovely, as the cover of a book is just as important as the content - who wants to own an ugly movie-cover book? So I spent a lot of time picking editions and covers of books carefully; if you can get an autographed hardback book for the same price as a softcover, why on earth would you not?

By the time I got to the blue room - literature, poetry, classics, reference materials - I was thoroughly overwhelmed. But I pressed on, a basket overflowing with reading materials, pondering which edition of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass would look best on my shelf and mulling over signed copies of David Sedaris’ Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim to find the best signature.

I decided early on to get some books that I’ve been meaning to get for a while, but also to buy books that I wouldn’t normally pick up for whatever reason - too expensive, have other books that are more “important” to read, etc. Luckily, the prices of new books Powell’s were kind of amazing, and their used books are in such great condition that you wouldn’t know they had been touched before.

So I picked up some essentials that have been missing on my shelf - Elie Wiesel’s trilogy Night - Dawn - Day, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, the poems of John Keats - as well as some books I have wanted but haven’t been able to justify buying before - Bernhard Schlink’s The Reader, the third in Ann Brashare’s Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, Bill Bryson’s newest At Home, Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights. I also picked up a bunch of books completely randomly - Jose Saramago’s All the Names, Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, a collection of essays edited by Nick Hornby called Speaking With the Angel, David Mitchell’s Black Swan Green - among others. I also managed to pick up a few gifts for others for Christmas.

My trip to Powell’s was, in a word, great. I didn’t get to give my full attention to the history section or the art book, so I obviously have to go back. Hopefully I’ll make it back to Oregon next semester sometime and be able to squeeze in another great trip to Powell’s.

In other news, MASSIVE shout-out to Wheels, who sent me a lovely little package. I received it in the mail this morning. It contained stickers, Rockets (my fave Hallowe’en candy), a mini-Newfoundland flag, and a letter! It was so nice to get her package, as I was not expecting it in the slightest! Who doesn’t love snail-mail, especially when it’s unexpected? I also received a card from Kayla’s Bible study group, several letters from Zaren, and a great care package from Mom since I’ve been here. THANK YOU all. It is so nice to be remembered via Canada Post! You don’t know how much it means, so countless thank yous.


PS - Buy the Glee Christmas album. OMG SO GOOD.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Family From America

There has been an almost unforgivable amount of time since my last post, but I have excellent excuses. Firstly, I had an enormous number of assignments to finish last week, and then I was off to Portland, Oregon to visit my cousin Tammy, her husband Jeremy, and her two kids, Maya and Declan. Forgiven? Thanks.

I left for Portland on Thursday. My flight wasn’t until 12:45, but I left campus at 09:00 because I kept imagining a bus breakdown or that the SkyTrain would stop running for some reason. But I made it to YVR with 2.5 hours to spare. Luckily I hadn’t caught up on the latest episode of America’s Next Top Model so it was a morning well spent.

The plane I learned, once we boarded, was one of those tiny 30-seaters with one flight attendant and aren’t worthy of a walkway that’s indoors. We had to walk outside and up those tiny plane stairs to get on, an experience I equate with the cheap, questionable EasyJet flights in Europe. My seat mate was a slightly balding older gentleman with  German accent. He was polite and apologized for mistakenly taking my seatbelt. The flight is only an hour and fifteen minutes, so we just had time to take off and get our complimentary tomato juice before we landed again.

The weekend in Oregon was just lovely, there really is no other word that would adequately describe it. Tammy and Jeremy live in Newberg, which is about a half hour from Portland and an hour and a half from the coast. The city itself is the picture of suburban America, with vineyards in and around the whole city, walnut and hazelnut groves peppering the outskirts, and the requisite family-owned diners that have been around since the 1950s.

Jeremy had the day off on Friday, so we took a day trip to the coast. It was the perfect day - sunny and bright and not too cold. Maya, who is four years old and very determined, packed her suitcase for the beach with a book and her swimsuit. When we got to the beach, she wanted to take her shoes off and put her bathing suit on, but Tammy said that it might be a bit too cold to swim in the Pacific in mid-November.

The Oregon coast is prettier than I imagined. Well, pretty is sort of an understatement. In the short 30 minutes that we drove along the coast, we went from beautiful sandy beaches with lots of rocks to climb, logs to sit on, and perfectly smooth sand to rugged, dangerous cliffs with enormous crashing waves. It was majestic. We stopped at Depoe Bay, where there is a dangerously low lookout, and got sprayed with sea water as the waves danced in the wind. It was amazing. We then stopped at another lookout called Boiler Bay. These cliffs had nothing on Cape Spear. Huge waves crashed against sharp, jagged rocks, while light blue water swirled underneath. Absolutely breathtaking, and definitely made me miss home.

Tammy and I spent Saturday in Portland. My main desire was to go to Powell’s, the largest bookstore (shelf space, not floor space) in the entire world. I’m going to dedicate an entire entry to my experience there, but I’ll just say this: OMG. But Portland itself is a great city. Even though it was raining and I didn’t see much, I feel in love with it. There is a part of downtown Portland that has free access to the Streetcar. I mean, you have to love a city that lets you use public transport for free! The city is nestled along the Columbia river (from which the Columbia brand-name gets its name), and it’s just amazing. The walk along the river is beautiful - trees and gardens along the path, and a marina filled with boats and quaint docks. Above the river are layers of bridges and overpasses. It’s this astounding juxtaposition of nature and industrialism. I wonder what Wordsworth would have had to say about it?

Another thing about Oregon: the coffee is amazing. I don’t know why, seeing as Seattle is the birthplace of Starbucks and coffee isn’t locally grown (probably the only thing they don’t grow, actually), but every cup I had was made perfectly. If I were to choose my favourite city of everywhere I’ve visited based solely on coffee, Portland would be by far the winner.

But as great as Portland is, and as good as my coffee was, and as happy as Powell's made me, the best part of the trip was spending time with my family. Tammy and I lived in the same city for a few years when we were much younger, and even though I thought she was super cool (I since know how wrong I am), we were never really close because we were too far apart in age. So it was a new experience to talk to her now as an adult, and to talk about our family and reminisce. It was also nice to get to know her husband, Jeremy. I met him briefly four years ago, but it was great to spend time challenging him to spelling games, learning about his work in the Navy, and just getting to know my cousin-in-law. (He’s wonderful, by the way. She made a good choice.)
It was also great to spend time with my baby cousins. Kids are exhausting, but there is nothing that warms the heart more than when a little girl begs her dad to let you put her to bed and read a story. I had a lot of fun playing games with Maya and Declan. Maya taught me some cheerleading moves, and Declan finally let me fulfill my childhood dream of playing with dinkies - I didn’t have any because I was a girl so I had to play with barbies and knitting. And it was so nice to get all the hugs. Nothing feels as good as a kid hug.

The whole weekend was just great. It was exactly what I needed to feel refreshed and rejuvenated. Sometimes, in moments of selfishness and being clouded by negativity, I forget how great my family is. We’re definitely not a perfect bunch, and goodness we talk a lot, but they love and support me, and I love them for it. It’s important to be reminded of that every so often, I think. Or, rather, I know.


PS - we went to this beach restaurant on Friday and Jeremy ordered fried oysters, and I ATE ONE! Or part of one. I mean, seriously big deal for me. It tasted like the ocean.

PPS - my camera broke 5 hours into the trip, so thanks for the pics, Tammy!

Monday, November 8, 2010


People frequently ask me how I feel about Vancouver, only it’s usually phrased like this:

“OMG, don’t you LOVE Vancouver? Isn’t it the BEST place on the ENTIRE planet!? When I was there, I saw a UNICORN leaping out of a DOUBLE RAINBOW!”

And yes, I do like Vancouver. But I also dislike it sometimes. I’ve decided to compose a list of my loves and hates about every day life in Vancouver.


1. Bakeries and Bookstores: As far as I’ve discovered, Vancouver does two things better than any Canadian city I’ve ever been in - bakeries and bookstores. On almost every corner, there is a locally owned bakery selling fresh baked bread and pastries. I have a very hard time resisting these shops. They usually sell some sort of lunch-type roll (such as the COP which I discovered this weekend and stands for Cheese, Onion, and Peppers - omg delicious) and various other perfect snack-type baked goods. I’ve yet to be let down by the bread in these shops. There are also an abundance of stores dedicated solely to the sale of cupcakes. Seriously. Bookstores are also great because they are many and local. If I take the bus for 10 minutes, I pass at least 6 locally owned bookstores that have some sort of specialty: children’s books, mystery novels, sci-fi, cook books, antique and rare books. These stores are usually small and musty smelling, ergo a bibliophile’s heaven. Definitely one of my favourite things about Vancouver.

2. The Service Industry: I know some people will disagree with me here, but overall I have had a really great experience in Vancouver in dealing with anyone whose job is to help me. Retail workers are usually overly friendly, waiters and waitresses smile a lot and never let your water glass deplete. People at Chapters usually engage me in lengthy conversations about current reads. Even bus drivers, for the most part, are jovial and willing to help you out - one man last week chatted my ear off and told oncoming passengers that I was his daughter. I rarely have a negative experience with customer service.

3. The Scenery: Obviously. Vancouver is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. I remember seeing a picture that my friend Chelsea had of the mountains and being completely blown away. Now I know that nothing compares to their majesty in real life. It's insane. Couple the beasts with the ocean and sandy beaches, and you've got a perfect scene. Even the downtown is nice because it all seems so clean and beachy. Stanley Park is wonderful, too. But I think my favourite place in all of Vancouver is, wait for it... the UBC campus. It's just perfect. The campus is surrounded by forrest, so it's completely separate from the city. There's so much green space, so many wide pedestrian paths, and fairly aesthetically pleasing buildings that it's pretty close to the perfect campus. You can even access the beach from my residence. Win!

4. Public Transport: I love that I don’t have to drive around this city. I don’t like driving, and if I had to navigate around mass numbers of pedestrians and try to find and pay for parking, I’d die. I like that I can use transport in any zone with my handy U-Pass. I like that, living on campus, I have ready access to multiple routes and I can get just about anywhere in the lower mainland with relative ease. Also, the bus stops on the doorstep of 2 Salvation Army churches. I don’t even usually mind the long commute; I take a book and just ride the 99 to the end of the line, and get school work done. It’s a pretty great system.


1. Public Transport: For all the conveniences of public transport, sometimes I really, really hate it and I become this vicious monster of anger on the bus. Buses are often crowded with way too many people, all coughing their sicky germs on me. Parents bring strollers the size of SmartCars onto already over-crowded buses, then glare at you because your grocery bag just grazes their leg slightly. People talk loudly, carry smelly food on the bus, and sandwich you in a corner so you almost miss your stop, leading you to scream at the driver to stop and consequently feel guilty the rest of the day. Passengers sometimes yell at you to move because you’re taking up too much room. Sometimes the commutes are just too frickin long and it makes me want to scream. Not to mention the awkwardness of trying to figure out where to look when you’re pressed into a strangers armpit and their eyes keep finding yours and you both know how awful this moment is. Today I had to get back from the ferry terminal, and everything bad about the public transport system occurred at the same time: someone had a stroller AND a bike on the bus, plus suitcases so immediately 8 seats were taken up by stuff. Then I was crammed standing up in the back with 9 or so Spanish tourists who were clearly all very drunk. They nattered on annoyingly for the entire 45 minute bus ride, laughing and lacking any regard for others by taking up way more space than necessary. I rested my head against the door and dreamed of ways to step on their toes on the way out, contemplating the next three buses I still had to take to get home

2. The weather: It’s not the rain. I don’t mind rain. It’s the humidity and the way that 10 degrees here is not the same as a Newfoundland 10 degrees. 10 degrees at home means it’s sweater and fall jacket time! Maybe even a scarf if you’re feeling fancy. 10 degrees in Vancouver means I can wear a t-shirt and a towel around my waist and head down to the beach, because I will be sweaty and overheated all day. I don’t know if it’s because I walk more here than I did at home, but I am always too warm. My feet, my back, my hair are always damp from sweat. My hair is a disaster all the time and I am constantly uncomfortable. Maybe I’m just not built for temperate climates. I should move to Poland.

3. Shopping for necessities: What is UP with everything costing WAY more than at home? I spent several days visiting different establishments trying to get the best price for paper towels, and I still bought them with extreme hesitation. I don’t buy Fibre One bars unless I have an extra $20 that I don’t need for anything else, and I almost needed to take out another loan to buy 200 grams of pistachios. And cake? Forget it. Gone are the days of $12 Sobeys treats; now I pause at the cake display and pine for a slice of chocolate delight and push my cart mournfully towards the discounted meat.

In other news, I had a great weekend with my friend Thea who lives in Victoria. We had a movie night on Friday (movies on a REAL TV screen and not a laptop!). She got a puppy on Saturday, and she’s the cutest dog alive. Today I met up with my cousin Andrew at his church, then went to lunch with him and Thea. It was such a nice, real life weekend, and it made me forget temporarily that I live in residence.

Now it’s bedtime. I can’t wait. A weekend with a new puppy and a disastrous commute home can exhaust the best of us.


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Paying Homage

Every semester for the past 5 years, I’ve reached a point where I seriously question why on earth I have voluntarily decided to pay an institution to force me to read difficult theory and write papers about arbitrary close readings of books and worry about every minute punctuation quotation mark and italicization in a paper, lest I be accused of plagiarism. It’s insane, really.

Right now I’m working on an annotated bibliography of 25 picture books. We were told we could pick any subject or theme and find 25 illustrated books that talk about it. I chose to look at stories about Noah’s Ark (originally I had planned to look at stories about Newfoundland, but the UBC libraries don’t have many of those). This is the first time I’ve ever written a paper or critiqued books with a (blatantly) Biblical foundation, and also the first time I’ve looked extensively at picture books. I’m finding it all very interesting: some stories gloss over the issue of God killing everyone who wasn’t chosen to go on the Ark, or don’t mention it at all, almost suggesting that Noah and his family are the only humans on the planet; some books don’t have a rainbow at the end; some stories just show the animals trying to find higher ground during a rainstorm and don’t even mention Noah; and then, of course, there’s the stories about unicorns.

If anything, my favourite thing about this degree is that it’s introducing me to stories and picture books I would’ve otherwise never come across. Yesterday, for example, we were talking about gay, lesbian, and transgendered picture books. It was fascinating, firstly because I didn’t know there were that many published books about gay families or homosexual children, and secondly because I think some of them just tell amazing stories about how being different when you’re a kid is fine and ok and doesn’t dictate how your future will turn out.

ANYWAY, today is a good day. Today my friend Rob and I had lunch at a pub on campus. Good company and good food (I had a potato and leek soup that put all other soups to shame) makes for a good afternoon. Also, Jeanette reminded me of the only other Bill Bryson book I have left to read (excluding A Short History of Nearly Everything, because I tried to read it and couldn’t get half-way into chapter 1, and African Diary because I can’t find it) besides his newest, At Home, which I intend to buy at Powell’s in a week.

The book, called I’m A Stranger Here Myself, or Notes from a Big Country, as it was released in the UK, needs to be acknowledged because it was the inspiration for the title of my blog, and also a previous post. I realize this is fairly ironic; out of all the Bryson books I’ve read, the one that inspires my blog is the only one I haven’t. In any case, I picked it up from the library today and I intend to use it as my nightly read instead of watching more episodes of Grey’s Anatomy (I’ve gotten over my Meredith hatred, but this time around I can’t handle the Chief! He’s such a bad actor and a terrible character! He gets so into everyones business, creepy old dude).

This is the part where I endorse Bill Bryson: Go read him. Now. He’s a travel writer, mostly, but he also writes a lot about language. My favourite book by him, though, is his personal memoir of the 1950s: The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir. What’s so great about Bryson is that he combines humour (and I mean humour that makes you laugh out loud so often that you shouldn’t read his stuff on the bus) and history and narrative so seamlessly that you don’t even notice he’s doing it. He also has this great history of Shakespeare (Shakespeare: The World As Stage) that addresses not only the mysterious life of Billy Shakes, but also the historical setting of England in the late 16th century.

In short, here are his books that I think you should read:
The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid
Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe
In A Sunburned Country (about Australia)
A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail
Shakespeare: The World as Stage
Notes from a Small Island
The Mother Tongue: English and How it Got That Way

He has a bunch of others that are all good, but these are my favourites. Next time you’re looking for a laid-back but interesting and funny read, check out a Bryson book. And remember: libraries let you read books for free! In your house!


PS - I’m totally going to watch more Grey’s now. I’m an addict.
PPS - A link to some great Bryson quotes here!