Lori's Book Nook

Archive for the ‘Essays’ Category

I’ve reviewed books, many times. I don’t consider what I do on this blog to be really reviewing though. I think I’m more commenting on how this book or that book moved me or messed with me, or sometimes,  just how it connected with another book in my mind.

Here is the top 10 of the 20 most annoying book review clichés:

1. Gripping

2. Poignant: if anything at all sad happens in the book, it will be described as poignant

3. Compelling

4. Nuanced: in reviewerspeak, this means, “The writing in the book is really great. I just can’t come up with the specific words to explain why.”

5. Lyrical: see definition of nuanced, above.

6. Tour de force

7. Readable

8. Haunting

9. Deceptively simple: as in, “deceptively simple prose”

10. Rollicking: a favorite for reviewers when writing about comedy/adventure books

Thank the gods, I’m only batting 2 for 10 here. I’m so totally guilty of ‘readable’ and ‘compelling’…’cause books often are those things!

Looking at the whole list, I believe I’m still only 20% clichéd. I hope.

My favourite example?

17. That said: as in, “Stephenie Meyer couldn’t identify quality writing with a compass and a trained guide; that said, Twilight is a harmless read.””

Check out the whole article…oh, and the newly created Bingo cards!


The advantage of having an active book fetish is that it attracts other bookish people, and their books.

I recently received a copy of Kathrin Lake’s new book From Survival to Thrival: How to catch the boat to y our successful, thriving life (even if you thought you’d missed it) from the author:

#1 Thrival Guide for Career, Love and Life

#1 Thrival Guide for Career, Love and Life

It’s a mouthful of a sub-title, but it reflects Kathrin’s chatty tone quite nicely. (I hope she doesn’t mind me calling her Kathrin…after reading her book, I feel like we’ve chatted more than just briefly through email.) The text does read like you’re having a sit over a cup of tea, and your wise friend keeps refilling your cup and feeding you very useful metaphors along with the plain spoken advice.

I’ve done my own share of self- and soul-searching over the years, and have delved into it all. I’ve read the weird and the wonderful, the odd and the inspiring…but I can say quite definitively that I have not read a self-help guide so down-to-earth.

The simplicity, no, the clarity of Lake’s advice is a bit disconcerting. Her ideas are not revolutionary or novel, just presented without the bells and whistles that jazz up the more colourful (and less credible?) presenters. This unadorned prose resonates with my own thinking and sits quite naturally with me.

As a linguist myself, I appreciate a woman who points out that the word success has other meanings…as in to come after in time or order or follow. And she asks the simple question: What if success were defined as progress, instead of a result? What if success were defined as not where you end up, but how you live your life every day?

What if we stopped keeping our self-praise and self-esteem building blocks for special occasions, like your mother’s good china, and let it out every day (the Good China Syndrome)?

The discussion on need vs. want sets up a very important distinction. It reminds me greatly of June Singer, a Jungian analyst and author, who discussed the difference between using a verb vs. a noun to describe your profession (in the brilliant book Boundaries of the Soul). Do you tie your work to who you are? Or to something you do? (Try it on for size: “I am a teacher” compared to “I teach” — if someone criticizes my teaching, my self is more at risk if it is part of my identity, instead of one of the things I do.)

I will stop here, and recommend that you visit her website — there’s lots to see!


I’m not a hit hound by any means, but I do check them, just to see. And the most popular page on this blog is the space where we were discussing The Fifth Business.

Okay, so it’s not popular by some standards, but on my little blog, it continuously tops my hit chart with between 3 & 29 hits per day. And search terms like:

  • essay on the women in fifth business
  • fifth business ezboard
  • women in fifth business
  • fifth business mrs.dempster, paul
  • fifth business robertson davies reborn
  • Fifth Business devil Liesl
  • robertson davies fifth business
  • Fifth Business name meanings
  • sex love in fifth business essay
  • psychology in fifth business
  • ramsay guilt fifth business

And those are only today and yesterday.

The frequency started once school started. With all this traffic, I’ve only had 2 of these students stay and comment. (Am I wrong in assuming they’re students?) In my day, I would have been searching card catalogues, and journals, hoping for a tidbit. Now, they comb the Internet for their research. I wonder if any of our comments here have been cited in a paper somewhere?

The mind boggles.

But I was thinking of you all on Friday, when I found a delightful treasure in my local secondhand bookstore: Robertson Davies: An Appreciation, edited by Elspeth Cameron. A book of essays collected and published in 1991.

For your delectation then, are some of the ideas thrown out by different commentators as Davies’ books were coming out:

  • Dunstan is the Hero
  • Dunstan in the Saint, not Mrs. Dempster
  • Father Blazon is the Fifth Business

So, reading these essays has been quite fun, and now I have to go back and read the damn books again! Ideas that I want to look into myself.

Okay, so you’re writing an essay and you Google your way to this post. I won’t leave you empty-handed, so here are some things to explore further:

  • Pay close attention to the audience in all three books.
  • Do some research on St. Dunstan.
  • All 3 books begin and end in the same places, geographically. (And one of Davies’ next books is called What’s Bred In the Bone.)

And do some research in a good library, not looking for the quick answer on the Internet.

Deep Economy

Posted on: May 8, 2007

Well, Booktalk.org is at it again. This time, one of the books is Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future by Bill McKibben. (Here’s the link to the Booktalk.org discussion forum.)

This one is hitting me close to home. I worked the opening day of the local Farmers’ Market (I’m the manager), came home, and picked up Deep Economy to read McKibben’s discussion on farmers’ markets — and the studied fact that people have 10 more social interactions there than they do in a supermarket.

I could’ve told  him that!!

McKibben believes in communities — the idea that as individuals we make decisions that (seem to) affect only us, but with an awareness of our community, we make decisions that have deeper consequences. [It’s a big book, lots of ideas, and I’m writing this in an office with no circulation on a hot day at 6 p.m.. Bear with me on my simplistic synopses. 🙂 ]

For example, if I’m just thinking of myself, then I’ll go to the local Walmart and buy the cheapest coffee on the shelf. But, if I were aware of my local community, I’d go to the grocery store in town that may have a higher price tag, but where I know that the management cares about their staff and pay good wages. If I were thinking of the broader community, I’d go out of my way to buy fair trade, shade-grown coffee, and by-pass the big corporations abusing the people of the coffee-growing nations. But, if I were really thinking of the greater community, I’d stop drinking coffee altogether, as the fossil fuels needed to bring that coffee to me, no matter how it’s grown, are damaging our environment. (Plus, they’re running out. Might as well overcome the coffee addiction now, before I’m forced to, down the road!)

This is a huge discussion…that I don’t feel like undertaking at this moment. Perhaps in the comments??


Luckily, I’ve married into a bookish family, and my man is bookish, and his friends are…and my mother has been trained to give me a book gift certificate every year.

Books and consumables are the best presents (consumables…you know — wine, cheese, cookies, jam…).

This year was a nice mess of books:

I found The Art of Blacksmithing by Alex Bealer for Metro. He’s always talking about how he’d like to learn more about it, etc. Well, now he can.

Metro’s sister found him John Hodgman’s The Areas of My Expertise.  An odd book of satirical essays and the like…perfect.  The same sister sent me the Pulitzer Prize winning Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides.

I put a lot of browsing time to use in my local 2ndhand bookstore…made my husband a list of books that were there, that he could pick up for me. And he took me up on it, and bought me the rather unusual Truly Wilde: The Unsettling Story of Dolly Wilde, Oscar’s Unusual Niece by Joan Schenkar. I’ll have to blog on this book individually one day, soon.

Metro also got me two more books — I feel spoiled! The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls was one. New York Times bestseller, winner of various awards…I think that’s the next book I’m reading. He also bought me Think: Why Crucial Decisions Can’t be Made in the Blink of an Eye by Michael R. LeGault. The interesting thing about this book is that LeGault wrote it in reaction to Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink…Blink essentially glorifies the decisions we make subconsciously, in the moment, while I believe LeGault’s point is that we need to put more thought into our decisions. I’ll let you know more when I’ve read LeGault’s book (I’ve already read Gladwell’s).

Funny thing, is that our friends sent us some books too…one is Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, and appropriately enough, Literary Feuds: A Century of Celebrated Quarrels — from Mark Twain to Tom Wolfe by Anthony Arthur. His sequel will have to include Gladwell & LeGault.

The final book on the list is Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. This one is also from the same friends…and again, a good call. We bought this for Metro’s mother last Christmas, so it’s been on our radar for awhile.

So, leave me a comment to tell me what books you got for Christmas!!

Humans! We all seem to want something for nothing. Maybe because we’re programmed to expect our water and air to be free, and we’re still hardwired for the whole hunting and gathering days (not that that was really free…it was a lot of risky work for both tasks).

Anyway, very often, a person finding this blog is searching for a free online version of a book. Sometimes it’s a book that is out of copyright, and truly free. And sometime, it’s a book that people should know better about — some relatively new publication.

Hell, I’m guilty of it as well. I once had a copy of the 1996 essay by David R. Counts & Dorothy Ayers Counts on RVing — which they’ve since expanded into a book, Over the Next Hill: An Ethnography of RVing Seniors in North America. I went searching for the article online, hoping to find that someone had posted it for free…

No luck. Oh, it was out there, but at a cost.

I do some marketing on the side — and this is one thing that I recommend for anyone with a business website: Have something of real value on your website for free. People will come for the free stuff, and keep coming back for more. Good examples: Baen’ free books, and the Altoids mint flash game, which is pretty cool.


Posted on: October 20, 2006

We are amused.

From Laugh Break:

Introducing the new Bio-Optic Organized Knowledge device, trade-named BOOK.

BOOK is a revolutionary breakthrough in technology: no wires, no electric circuits, no batteries, nothing to be connected or switched on.

It’s so easy to use, even a child can operate it. Compact and portable, it can be used anywhere, even sitting in an armchair by the fire, yet it is powerful enough to hold as much information as a CD-ROM disc.

Very cute. Follow the link for the whole piece. It’s worth it.

Book Discussion Pages

Here on the Book Nook you can discuss: The Fifth Business by Robertson Davies, as well as the next two books in the Deptford Trilogy, The Manticore and World of Wonders, and if that's not enough for you, see what's up on the forums at BookTalk.org!