Dixie Darr

Seven Decades of Reading Or Genres I Have Known and Loved, Part Three

In Books, Learning on October 12, 2018 at 8:51 am

When last we met, I had just quit my last full-time job in 1987 and was reading about self-employment. At that last job, a colleague introduced me to the Navajo mysteries of Tony Hillerman. Oh, my! I was soon addicted to the characters, the culture, and the puzzle as well as the writing and the landscape. Eventually, I found Sue Grafton’s Alphabet series plus a long roster of women writing mysteries featuring female cops and private detectives.

Slowly I drifted toward cozy mysteries. These feature amateur detectives who usually own their own businesses in small towns. Although I still read both types of mysteries, the cozies are starting to annoy me. After three or four books in a series, you start wondering about the murder rates in small towns and villages across the country. I wish they’d forget about the murders and turn these books into women’s fiction instead of mysteries.

Lately, women’s fiction makes up the bulk of my reading. These focus on characters and relationships. Hmmm. Maybe this is why I’m such a loner: my best friends are all fictional. While I love this, I hate it when they throw in an obligatory love story. As if the only thing that can guarantee a happy ending is finding Mr. Right. I find precious few stories with independent and solitary women.

Woven into these last few decades are many books on creativity, ranging from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Creativity and Flow to QuestLove’s Creative Quest. Among my favorites are The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp and The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.

There you have it, except I’m afraid I left out a lotthe books by Jiddu Krishnamurti, the ones on Buddhism, and Christianity, book binding, art journals, lifelong learning, and more. I never know what will catch my fancy next. I am what I read.

Recently, I read an article praising “reading widely.” I suppose my list would qualify even though there are still major sections in a bookstore or library where I never set foot. My favorite benefit is “Reading widely enables learning from other people.” And I would add, without having to actually interact with them.

No offense.


Seven Decades of Reading Or Genres I Have Known and Loved, Part Two

In Books, Denver, Learning, work, writing on October 11, 2018 at 8:00 am


The Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was first introduced in 1921, shortly after women finally won the right to vote in the previous year. It wasn’t approved by Congress until 1972 and then failed to be ratified by the required 38 states. Imagine that. My reading material at the time was strongly feminist.

I read so much of the literature of the women’s movement that one librarian friend told me I was the best read person in that genre that she knew. My favorite book of that era, however, was Studs Terkel’s Working. That led me to a similar book focusing exclusively on the work women did, Jane Howard’s A Different Woman.

During that same period, someone recommended Larry McMurtry’s early novel, All My Friends Are Going to be Strangers, which I loved and subsequently read all his fiction through the Pulitzer Prize-winning Lonesome Dove and many years beyond. Suddenly, I was interested in westerns and I proceeded to run authors Louis L’amour and Zane Grey. After reading L’amour’s Education of a Wandering Man, I adopted his practice of keeping a log of every book I read, and I continue that today.

As a homeowner and neighborhood activist in the 80s and 90s, I started picking up books about urban design and housing, including those by Jane Jacobs and Christopher Alexander. Add to these books about interior design, gardening, the small house movement, and a wide selection by authors who built their own houses. I always wanted to do that.

Books about writing also began appearing on my shelves, and those persist today while many of the others mentioned have fallen by the wayside. The best of this category is Anne LaMott’s Bird by Bird.

About the same time, I started reading books about small business and self-employment because I badly wanted out of corporate America, a goal I achieved when I quit my last full-time job in 1987.

To be continued.

Seven Decades Of Reading Or Genres I Have Known And Loved, Part One

In Books on October 9, 2018 at 7:32 am

In To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout tells how she learned to read sitting on her father’s lap. He would read the newspaper out loud while running his finger under the words. She can’t remember when the lines of squiggly letters turned into words for her.

I, too, don’t remember when I learned how to read although it certainly wasn’t sitting on my dad’s lap while he read to me because that never happened. My mom read The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew to me and my brother, but we were never sitting on her lap either. The first book I remember reading myself was Little Black Sambo. By third grade, we had moved to Adams County and rode our bikes to the book mobile once a week where I checked out women’s biographies and had my first taste of mysteries with Nancy Drew and Trixie Beldon.

Later I would read all kinds of books about girls including Little House On the Prairie plus the other books in this series, Pride and Prejudice, Little Women and Louisa May Alcott’s other books, Beany Malone and the other books about girls living in Denver by Lenora Mattingly Weber, and all of Janet Lambert’s books about the Jordan family and Penny Parrish.

Maybe you are sensing a pattern or two. The books I loved the most featured girls as the protagonist, and when I found an author I liked, I tended to read every book I could find by that writer. While I have since branched out some and the protagonists are now grownups, I still search for more books by any author I enjoy. During the late 60s and early 70s, my taste took a strong left turn into my science fiction period reading Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, Frank Herbert, and Kurt Vonnegut. These books became classics because they focused on human characters rather than the otherworldly creatures such as monsters, zombies, werewolves, and vampires that seem to populate the more recent stories in this genre and which I do not read.

The rare science fiction books I read these days include The Martian and All Our Wrong Todays.

To be continued.