The book was better.

I’m sure you have seen this illustration before on movie-versus-book discussions. With the sudden influx of movies based on books, I feel that I have to stress again how much richer and more satisfying reading a book is over seeing the movie adaptation.

When you read, you are creating your own movie. Your brain is more engaged and invested in a book. It is a very active process, combining the words you are seeing, processing, and understanding to create a full-color, vivid, on-demand movie in your mind. You are director and producer. You are in charge of makeup and costumes. You choose the locations and scenes. All of this in a split second.

That’s why reading makes you smarter. Not only are you able to learn new words, but you are also engaging so much of your brain in sequential, systematic, and parallel ways – many times all at once!

There will never be a better movie-maker than your own imagination.

Some books to try instead of the movie:

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
One of my top 10 books, the story presents a challenge to the screen because it is primarily internal monologue. While the film and television series are true to the dystopian nature of the story, it is impossible to capture the parallel thoughts and feelings of the protagonist and the other handmaids as told in the double narrative-style of the book.

The Giver by Lois Lowry
Another one of my faves, this is the first book in a quartet. While the film adaptation, again, presents the general idea of the book, the fact that one character was given a much bigger part in the film (Streep’s characterization of the Chief Elder) in order cash in on her star power doesn’t sit well with me. The book is about exploring feelings, making decisions, and actions bringing consequences.

The Lost Weekend by Charles R. Jackson
The film version was highly acclaimed, nominated for seven Academy Awards and winning four. What is missing here, however, is the raw and visceral pull of alcohol on the main character. It consumes him, drives his behavior, and pulls the reader in opposing directions of disgust and sympathy for him. Thought of as the seminal American novel on addiction, this desperation cannot be captured on film. That, coupled with homosexual overtones, makes this 1944 novel a must-read.

These are just three of my pics for you. Let me know of other books-into-films you have experienced, and what your impression on the comparison was.

The Question: Do you think about past reads?

At seemingly odd times, a bit of text, a scene, or a character from a past read will pop into my mind. From books that made very little obvious impact on me suddenly prove themselves buried deep into my psyche, much like that lone Narcissus papyraceus that pops up in the center of my lawn each spring.

The first book that haunted me a little, but in a positive way, was Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End. I am not a huge science fiction book fan, so this is not a genre that I read very often. However, this book drew me right in. Based on an alien invasion, the “haunting” scene is where a human is trying to explain to the “Overlords” our need for sleep. It is a concept that is completely foreign to them.  

Image result for jennifer weiner then came youAnother scene in my memory is from Jennifer Weiner’s book Then Came You. Weiner is an author that I do not read enough of. Her characters are always so likable, real, and the situations are familiar and completely relatable.

This “haunting” is a scene in which an adult child of long-divorced parents realizes how different the much-younger new wife relates to her father than her mother ever did. With this, she comes to understand that what her mother and father needed were very different when they married than when they divorced. It was an epiphany borne of seeing her father’s wife lean into him with her body language, giving the impression that he was truly holding her up. Her mother had grown into a very independent woman and no longer needed a man in that way. Resentment for his new marriage dissipated, and the story truly turned a corner.

There are more, but this is already longer than I wanted it to be. What are some of your “hauntings”?

A New High for a Jodi Picoult Fangirl

Eeeeeek! So, this happened today!

Let me start from the beginning.

I have been traveling to the Bentley headquarters office in Exton, Pennsylvania quite often lately. Exton is about 35 miles outside Philadelphia, so there are a lot of opportunities in that area that I would not normally experience in Arab, Alabama.

Jodi Picoult making an appearance to sign copies of her latest book is one of them. A book that I had just read because I got an Advance Reader’s Copy (ARC) in the summer. And where was Ms. Picoult going to sign these books? Not B&N in Center City Philly. Not in some hoity-toity private home on the Main Line. No! She was going to be in MY HOTEL in Exton!!

Unfortunately, I am in meetings all day, every day. There is no way I could sneak out; and, I even dangled a little bone in front of my boss, giving him the opportunity to say, “Yes, Carmen! Sneak out at some point and take advantage of this one-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” No go.

I had talked about the event with the hotel staff since I arrived, and they knew how star-struck, fangirl I was. When I returned to the hotel after dinner on the evening of the event, there was a personalized signed copy, waiting for me with my name on a sticky note on the cover.

And I return to the beginning:


Marchon is the front desk manager, and he was the one responsible for getting this signed copy for me. And he refused to let me pay him for the book.

I don’t know what else to say other than I am now a fangirl of both Jodi Picoult AND Marshon at Hilton Garden Inn in Exton, Pennsylvania. Oh, and Eeeeeek!

Author Spotlight: Linda Olsson

When I first picked up Linda Olsson’s novel Astrid & Veronika, I was drawn to the cover. The simplicity of the photograph, along with the simplicity of the title. And yet, there were so many layers to these two things.

The cover of the book is a pair of hands holding picked fruit. The colors are stunning. Creamy white hands and blood red berries. Light blue at the top of the photo, and black at the bottom.

And the title: the names of two women. Not only names, but unusual and old-fashioned names, at least by today’s standards in the United States.

The book promised so much, just in the cover visual. I was not disappointed. I read this book and fell in love with the author.

When Linda Olsson was invited to speak about this book, this is what she posted on her webpage:

There is the landscape, the seasons, the land. My native Sweden. In a sense perhaps the book is a love letter to the country where I was born. Perhaps it is a letter of farewell. But, more importantly, I think it is a book about friendship. The novel tells a story of an unusual and unexpected friendship. It describes the strength that is to be found in friendship, the comfort and perhaps the love. It describes how a deep friendship can be found and developed anywhere, anytime, at any stage in our lives and between persons who may superficially seem to have very little in common.

Because of the simple manner in which she writes, her stories are personal, completely relatable, and poignant. When I say “simple”, I mean that Ms. Olsson does not rely on archaic words and seldom-used phrases that put some authors out of reach. Her words are charged with visions, emotions, and longings. Her descriptions enable you see clearly in your mind’s eye where the characters reside, make your mouth water when they prepare meals, and tug at your heart when there are joys or conflicts.

Only a few authors are able to reach me in this way, and I have added each of her published novels to my collection. As a matter of fact, when I see one available, I purchase it to give away. I want everyone to find what I have in her works.

I hope you will seek out Linda Olsson and add her to your reading list.

Man Booker Long List Announced


I am a few weeks late on this, but the Man Booker long list was announced at the end of July. It is a list of 13 books, and the short list will be announced September 15. The judges chose this list from a total list of 156 books.

The nationality is listed this year because, for the second time in the history of the Man Booker Prize, the prize is open to any nationality. Normally, it is a very British list, open only to UK & Commonwealth, Republic of Ireland and Zimbabwe. As you can see, the US is well represented!

Author (nationality) – Title (imprint)
Bill Clegg (US) – Did You Ever Have a Family
Anne Enright (Ireland) – The Green Road
Marlon James (Jamaica) – A Brief History of Seven Killings
Laila Lalami (US) – The Moor’s Account
Tom McCarthy (UK) – Satin Island
Chigozie Obioma (Nigeria) – The Fishermen
Andrew O’Hagan (UK) – The Illuminations
Marilynne Robinson (US) – Lila            
Anuradha Roy (India) – Sleeping on Jupiter
Sunjeev Sahota (UK) – The Year of the Runaways
Anna Smaill (New Zealand) – The Chimes
Anne Tyler (US) – A Spool of Blue Thread
Hanya Yanagihara (US) – A Little Life

On a side note, the list of 13 books is called The Man Booker Dozen. I love that!

So, pull out your TBR, and get ready to add some books.

Because sometimes a cigar is just a cigar…

I was listening to a Guardian Books podcast in which Kazuo Ishiguro was interviewed. I just received a signed copy of his latest book, The Buried Giant, and I was curious to get to “know” him better.

He was asked repeatedly about the dragon in the story. So often, in fact, that he asked the moderator, Claire Armitstead, why she was so interested in the dragon. She then proceeded to talk about its allegorical nature, and what it could tell us about ourselves.

That is when Ishiguro said something very interesting.

“I want people to just read this story for what it is. I don’t want people to spend their time getting distracted by saying, oh, does this stand for Bosnia or is this Milosevic? Is this General de Gaulle? You can do that if you want, but I’m not nearly that clever. The story is there. I’m offering it for what it is. It should be fairly obvious how it applies to contemporary situations.”

I am guilty of the same thing Armitstead did. I read with the understanding that the author has the entire world at his fingertips. If he chooses one thing over another, that is integral to the story, I tend to think there is a reason for it.

Take, for example, the coral paperweight in Orwell’s 1984. It can mean a variety of things: it is a thing of beauty and frivolity in a society where such things are illegal. It can symbolize the main character, Winston, in that he is a fragile being surrounding by a harsh and firmly-shaped society. It may characterize Winston’s hopes and dreams, which are destroyed along with the paperweight.

And I think that we, as readers, are conditioned to do this. From high school English classes where teachers encourage us to find the meaning behind poetry, or discuss the allusions in a Dickens novel, we are pushed in this direction.

I don’t think it’s a bad thing to try to figure out the deeper meaning of the use of music in Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto; however, here it would appear that the dragon is just that: a dragon.

Author Spotlight: Peter McArthur

I happened upon “The Red Cow and Her Friends” by Peter McArthur (March 10, 1866 – October 28, 1924) recently, and found it so cute. It is nicely written with great feeling, as if the author was truly a friend to the animals which are his subjects.

The item which really intrigued me, however, was one sentence in a review I read, “Mr. McArthur is no mere æsthete, no lackadaisical dilettante, but is alive to his finger tips; and all his writings fairly tingle with life.” Isn’t that the loveliest thing to say about an author??

McArthur was an educated Canuck, father of five, and slogged the journalist – asst editor – editor -in-chief route. He wrote poetry and essays, while working a farm.

Raised on a farm by Scottish-immigrant parents, he developed a love of all things farm-ing , but I think his true love was writing. It is reported that his favorite writing spot was a tent in his woodlot. If there were more published works from him, I would consider comparing him to Thoreau, with more of a penchant for the fauna rather than the flora. Perhaps a touch of Alf Wight (known by his pen name of James Herriot), but from the owner’s perspective.

McArthur’s writing feels more like a diary, never meant to be read and certainly never criticized, due to the personal nature of his musings and observations. Because of this relaxed style, he has been chastised for hasty and uneven writing. However, his columns were for newspapers, which had a penchant for schedules and little eye to quality of content. His themes were of the common man, and salt-of-the-earth living. Garrison Keillor probably owes much to Mr. McArthur.

Pick up a copy of his collected essays today, and let me know what you think!