Leann from Shelf Aware is our host this week where we are exploring our nonfiction favorites.
Week 5 is upon us and I’m just getting to Week 4. Story of my life. Apologies for the brief post.
Week 4 is:
We’ve talked about how you pick nonfiction books in previous years, but this week I’m excited to talk about what makes a book you’ve read one of your favorites. Is the topic pretty much all that matters? Are there particular ways a story can be told or particular writing styles that you love? Do you look for a light, humorous approach or do you prefer a more serious tone? Let us know what qualities make you add a nonfiction book to your list of favorites
I definitely don’t do light and humorous in my reading. Maybe I should. I’m not sure if I’ve ever laughed enough, or if any of us laugh much at the moment.
I Iook for inspirational lives, with the substance of that inspiration made real in some way. The style of writing is very important– it doesn’t matter how amazing someone is its still difficult to read long, rambling and off focus thoughts. Nor is it enough to make a lot of money and get famous although that’s great and wouldn’t we all love it. Some who achieve are wonders, those are the stories that interest me. Some who achieve this got lucky and someone ghost wrote them into a shallow form of importance. Not interested in those. I don’t like hype or the next big thing.
I’m partial to a bit of lyricism. I’m also interested to know what drives us to read about other people’s lives: sometimes I think I’m looking for a key, the hermeneutic secret. If such exists, it is not to be found within the pages of a book. But knowledge, yes. Wisdom even? Maybe. Right from wrong? Hopefully.
One of my all time favourite books is by Katherine Swift – The Morville Hours (Bloomsbury, 2009). I’ve probably talked about this book before and will talk about it again because it’s sublime. A beautiful combination of history, topography, philosophy, religion and life writing. The author was a rare-book librarian at Oxford and then Trinity College, Dublin before moving to Shropshire turning to full time gardening and writing.
The book is structured around chapters named after the Hours of the Divine Office: Vigils, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, which were an essential part of her mother’s Catholic faith.
The passing of time – how it has perplexed us, fascinated us, and terrified us every since man walked upon the earth. Few are better than Swift at evoking a response to what it means to be a part of the history of something, a house, a faith, a love.
Of carvings of Mathew, Mark, Luke & John in her local church she says they have presided over four hundred years of the village:
“What secret glances, what lovers’ trysts, what hopes and fears, faded now into dust! What spring mornings, what early frosts, what mothers’ tears – writing it all down, their pens scratching away into the night.”
It’s taking Swift forever to write her next book (those time consuming gardens!)and some of us are waiting impatiently.
Continuing the theme of philosophy and mysticism:
Rumi’s Secret: The Life of the Sufi Poet of Love by Brad Gooch (HarperCollins, 2017) describes the life of Rumi, poet and Sufi mystic and his complex relationship with Shams of Tabriz who was reputed to be Rumi’s teacher and the source of much of his poetry. Gooch is interesting on the tensions that inevitably arose between these two men from their interdependency and ultimately the sense of betrayal felt by Rumi when Shams left.
1000 years after he lived we are still comforted by this man’s words.
There’s a wonderful story that Gooch tells about Rumi.
“When his daughter Maleke complained of the stinginess of her husband, Rumi told her a story of a rich man so miserly he wouldn’t open his door for fear the hinges would wear out.”
Only a few words yet It perfectly highlights how we imprison and make ourselves miserable with our obsession with the material.
The connection between poetry and spirituality is a massive interest of mine. It was going to be the subject of my Ph.D before it wasn’t.