Dixie Darr

Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Book It

In Arvada, Books, Learning, Libraries, writing on May 21, 2018 at 7:20 am

I told a friend I was going to the Arvada Book Festival, “a one day celebration of literary arts,” on Saturday, and she asked if they would be selling books there. Yes, I said and other book-related items. She looked confused and then nodded and said, “bookmarks.”
Indeed they did have bookmarks, one included with the complimentary tote bag. Unfortunately, I don’t use bookmarks, haven’t for years. I use Post-It flags to mark my place or I read on Kindle and it saves my place. They had other things, too, but it was mostly local authors trying to sell their books. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that I get my books from the library.
The Jeffco Public Library was there, and I signed up for their summer reading program. You choose your own books and record the number of minutes you read. If the total for everyone reaches 40 million minutes, the library will give $500 to Foothills Animal Shelter, plus readers earn prizes along the way. If I did the math right, that works out to $1 for every 1,333 hours of reading, so we won’t be doing it for the money. Still, that’s more than I normally earn for reading, which as we all know, is its own reward.
I didn’t stay for the afternoon workshops or panel discussions because, frankly, I’ve had my fill of those kinds of things.
Everybody kept asking me if I was a writer, and I never know how to answer that question. Yes, because writing is the way I make sense of the world, but no, because I’m not interested in publishing, which is what they were really talking about. I was briefly interested in a local group of mystery writers (Sisters in Crime) until they told me their quarterly meetings are a whole day long. No, thank you. (See workshops above).
I was also happy to learn that Arvada has an Arts and Cultural Commission. I voted for making Arvada the most art-friendly city in the area.
I’m glad I went, but let’s face it, my favorite way to celebrate the literary arts is to stay home and read.


Deep and Wide

In Books, Learning on May 18, 2018 at 4:05 pm








In my 70 years on planet earth, I’ve learned a few things. My master’s degree is in lifelong learning, so I’m not new to the concept of learning throughout life. In fact, research shows that the way to prevent cognitive decline is to keep learning something new.
I read an article recently about learning being the key to keeping your mind young, and the author suggested learning a new language or a musical instrument. Aside from suggesting subjects to learn, he advised using new learning methods. If you prefer taking a class, try finding an app and learn on your own, or sign up with a private tutor.
I like to think of learning deep versus learning wide.
You’ve probably heard of the 10,000 rule described by Malcolm Gladwell in his popular book, Outliers. This theory says that in order to become a master at anything, you must spend 10,000 hours in dedicated practice. On the other hand, Josh Kaufman explains in The First 20 Hours:How to Learn Anything Fast, that it is possible to gain a workable understanding of most topics in just 20 hours because we don’t need to become a master at everything. Some things we just want a passing acquaintance with. Computers fall into this category for me. I know just enough to use them to do what I want to do.
On the other hand, you probably know about my love of books. Although I’m sure I’ve put in more than the requisite 10,000 hours reading them, I also study writing, publishing, and bookmaking. I’ll go deeper by reading about the history of books and even try my hand at papermaking. Tomorrow I’m going to the Arvada Book Fest to explore all things book-related.
Religion is another of my major interests. I go to church every week, take occasional classes, read books and follow a couple of blogs. Sunday I’m going to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science to see the Dead Sea Scrolls (books again).
I won’t become a biblical scholar or an expert papermaker. Those are ancillary interests to enhance my knowledge and enjoyment of books and religion. Your favorite topics are undoubtedly different. The key is to keep learning about them and every once in a while, try something new. Even if it doesn’t extend our lives, it will make the time we have more worthwhile.

Lilac Time

In Arvada, Books, Church, creativity, music on May 4, 2018 at 4:13 pm

Spring is my favorite season and lilacs are my favorite flower. They’re blooming now and it looks like a spectacular year for lilacs. Today I’m going to share a few other favorites from this week.

Music – Willie Nelson turned 85 this week and also released his latest album, Last Man Standing, the 156th from my count. In the title song, he laments losing most of his friends. “I don’t wanna be the last man standin’” he sings, “Or wait a minute maybe I do.” I for one hope he sticks around for many more years.

Movie – Come Sunday, streaming on Netflix, tells the story of Carlton Pearson, a rising star in the evangelical world of Oral Roberts. One night he saw a television story about innocent children starving to death in Africa. Believing as he did that only born-again Christians go to heaven, he prayed to God asking why God would condemn them to hell. And God answered, “Is that what you think I do?” When he preached that he no longer believed in hell or that people had to accept Jesus to get to heaven, he lost his following and his church, but he never backed down because God had spoken to him. You can listen to an interview with him on This American Life’s episode on Heretics.

Book – author Tony Hillerman died, I mourned not only his loss but the loss of his characters, Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn. Luckily, Hillerman’s daughter Anne Hillerman took up where her father left off to bring us more Navajo mysteries. I enjoyed the first one, Spider Woman’s Daughter, but thought she stumbled badly on the second, Rock With Wings. Song of the Lion was better and now with the fourth, Cave of Bones, she’s hitting her stride. I’m happy to revisit my old friends Chee and Leaphorn and even happier to see the increased emphasis on Chee’s wife, Bernadette Manuelito.

Event – I just learned that the Arvada Center will host a Book Festival on Saturday, May 19, featuring author readings, an exhibit hall, panel discussions, hands-on activities, contests, and book-related products of all kinds. All for the $5 admission fee. Pay a little more to have brunch with an author and attend a variety of writing workshops. Believe it or not, I’ve never actually been to a book festival. This will be my first, and I hope to see you there.

Walking the Talk

In Books, creativity, Learning, Walking on May 3, 2018 at 10:05 am

After walking every day last week, I missed the first three days of this week. Sunday was too hot. Monday I had other commitments. Tuesday I woke up at 2:30 a.m., so later that day, instead of walking I slept. Sometimes when I don’t walk, I like to read about walking instead. This should come as no surprise.
I’ve probably checked out a dozen or more library books about walking and never read more than a page or two in most of them. Some that I did finish are A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson and Wild by Cheryl Strayed, both about tackling very long trails. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce had the titular character taking off on a whim to walk across England. Years ago I read Louis Lamour’s Sackett books and remember one where the protagonist left someplace like Virginia to head west on foot. I won’t be doing any of those things.
Here are some of the titles I’ve tried. Bet you didn’t know there was so much to say about walking.
Wanderlust: A History of Walking by Rebecca Solnit
Walking by Henry David Thoreau
The Wander Society by Keri Smith
Walking in the World by Julia Cameron
On Looking: Eleven Walks With Extra Eyes by Alexandra Horowitz
Walking in the Rain by Department Store for the Mind

You can also find books on walking in poetry, fiction, memoir, history, physical fitness, mental health, travel, equipment, and technique. Explore wilderness trails, city walking tours, hikes, spiritual paths, and walking to improve creativity.
I just ordered a library book on the literature, science, philosophy, art, and history of walking, The Lost Art of Walking by Geoff Nicholson and also downloaded A Philosophy of Walking by Frederic Gros who discusses the pilgrimage, the promenade, the protest march, and the nature ramble.
Last year, I faithfully followed my Facebook friend Rasheed Hooda’s epic trek along the entire Route 66.
I am currently enjoying Thich Nhat Hanh’s minibook on mindful walking, How to Walk. It’s short enough that I will easily finish it. I think the only way for me to get through the longer books is to get them on audio and listen to them while I walk. Seems appropriate.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

In Books, Friends, women on April 17, 2018 at 7:43 am









Eleanor Oliphant reminds me of the guy in The Rosie Project except she isn’t on the autism spectrum. Her controlled and awkward life is a result of horrific childhood trauma, and although early hints in the book Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, tell us a little about it, author Gail Honeyman makes us wait for the ending before revealing the whole scope of hideous details.
Eleanor’s life is disciplined and contained. She is unrelenting in her logical, reasonable responses to life and all the people she meets. Her only friend is the vodka that gets her through her solitary weekends. Then she meets Raymond, the IT guy at work, and when they begin to form a tentative friendship, Eleanor’s world opens up.
While she focuses on meeting the man of her dreams, a musician she saw perform one night, her life begins to change. She buys new, fashionable clothing and tries makeup to distract from the burn scar on her face. She accepts a promotion at work, attends a few parties, and makes more friends.
Suddenly her life cracks open and she has to confront all her demons at once. Through it all, Eleanor learns about friendship and the strength of the human spirit.
This is one of those books that I read slowly because I didn’t want it to end. Eleanor is smart, unintentionally funny, and brave. I want to be her friend.
My only disappointment was learning that this is the author’s debut novel. Normally when I really like a book, I will look for other titles by the same author. Picture me pouting. I guess I’ll have to wait for her to write another one.
Meanwhile, Reese Witherspoon is turning this book into a movie. It goes without saying that it won’t be as good as the book, but it could still be wonderful. I’ll expect nothing less.

Getting Started

In Books, creativity, Libraries on March 6, 2018 at 9:48 am

Twyla Tharp starts each new project with a banker’s file box. In it, she tosses “every item that went into the making of the dance. This means notebook, news clippings, CDs, videotapes of me working along in my studio videos of the dancers rehearsing, books and photographs and pieces of art that may have inspired me. The box documents the active research on every project.” She details her creative process in her classic book, The Creative Habit.
My favorite fictional detective, Kinsey Millhone, uses index cards, writing each tidbit of information on a separate card, which she sometimes shuffles to gain a new perspective. Prolific author Ryan Holiday uses a similar system, organizing his notecards in a Cropper Hopper photo file.
I find starting a new project exhilarating. So many possibilities. I like to get my ideas down on paper with a mind map and with notes and hyperlinks in a new computer document followed closely by a folder and a new topic in Evernote or Scrivener. Of course, I also scour Amazon for related books to order from the library.
For the Colorado libraries project, I already have Part of our Lives, A People’s History of the American Public Library by Wayne A. Wiegand and Public Library: A Photographic Essay by Robert Dawson. The latter includes essays on libraries from many famous authors.
Although many of you encouraged me in this latest endeavor, including a few who want to ride along on my “read trip,” one person told me he thought it was boring and nobody would want to read it. What he doesn’t understand is that I don’t choose my projects based on what interests other people. Not anymore. There was a time when I tried to gauge what other people wanted and frankly, I never was very good at that. These days, I’m not selling anything, just working things out for myself, creating my life as I go along.
In this large, but largely empty state, we have at last count, 266 public libraries. That doesn’t count school and college libraries, private libraries and special collections. When Ben Franklin suggested that his fellow junto members pool their books for all to share in1731, I wonder if he envisioned this?
I plan to start with day trips in and around Denver after a few of which I’ll reassess the scope of the project. It will definitely be a challenge, which is what I was looking for.
While starting something new is always fun, I can get bogged down in the finishing. Luckily, I found a book for that, too, Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done by Jon Acuff. I got it from my local library.

Read Trip

In Books, Colorado, Learning, Libraries on March 1, 2018 at 9:41 pm

This may be crazy.
It’s late and I’m tired—my cat kept me awake half the night and I had a meeting tonight. Maybe I’m not thinking straight. Also, it started on Facebook, and that’s never a good sign.
The subject, however, was libraries, and that’s always a good thing. A friend mentioned how much he likes the library in a little town in the Colorado Rockies. “The Georgetown Library is way cool,” he said. “Reeks of age and years, and years of use. Serene & friendly. Once I go in I feel like time doesn’t matter anymore.”
And I thought, “I’ll have to go visit it next time I go to the mountains.” Then I thought of the library in Idaho Springs (on the way to Georgetown.) And then it occurred to me that there are cool little libraries in lots of Colorado towns and I’d like to visit them all.
Several years ago when the Woodbury branch of DPL was being remodeled, I used that as an excuse to visit the other libraries in town. Every time I ordered a book, I chose a different location to pick it up.
This, of course, would be a much bigger project. I’d want to write a short piece about each one and that would require research and scheduling interviews with librarians and actually visiting each location. I need some input from my library-geek friends (Pat Wagner and Kathleen Cain, this means YOU.) The website I found listed 275, which is probably pretty accurate. I’m thinking only of public libraries right now, but since I only had this possibly stupid idea about twenty minutes ago, it’s still in flux.
I don’t have any timeline or deadline. It could take the rest of my life, which according to actuarial tables is another 16 years or so. (I don’t really know. I made that up.)
What do you all think? Really, I want to know.

Paradise is a Kind of Library

In Books, Colorado, Denver, Learning, Learning Tools on February 28, 2018 at 3:47 pm

I’ve written many times about how much I love libraries and the constant supply of books, ebooks, and audiobooks they supply for me. However, these days, libraries are much more than repositories for books in all their formats. You already know they have computers, wifi, printing, meeting and study rooms. Maybe you’ve attended a class or concert or movie or lecture at your local library as I have.
Have you used a Culture Pass yet? It gives free admission to many museums in the area. Both Denver and Jeffco libraries (and probably others in the metro area) offer passes to the Museum of Nature and Science, History Colorado, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Molly Brown House and Jeffco includes several more sites including Dinosaur Ridge and the Butterfly Pavilion. This does not include admission to special exhibits. By the way, you don’t have to be a resident of these counties to qualify for a library card. If you’re new to the area or have out of town visitors, these passes are an excellent way to get to know the area.
Since Denver is essentially a city of neighborhoods, you can also get acquainted with them through DPL’s Neighborhood Guides. Read about the history and development of 17 Denver neighborhoods from Barnum to LoDo on the library website, complete with pictures, or check out a recommended book and plan your own walking tour.
With libraries around the country threatened with local budget cuts and closings plus the administration trying to eliminate all federal funds for libraries, making use of library services is one good way to demonstrate that these are dynamic and essential resources for all Americans.
One of my rules for living is to always find and frequent your local library. It’s probably open and waiting for you now.

Baggage I Have Known and Loved

In Books on February 27, 2018 at 10:05 am

The zipper on my favorite bag just broke. While I may be able to fix it, I ordered a new bag just in case. It never hurts to have a spare. If the truth were known, I have several spares. While I wait the two weeks it will take for the new one to come from China, I’ll use my old black cross body bag. I have a mango-colored one just like it because it didn’t come in purple. I bought the now-broken one from China because it came in a gorgeous bright purple. I needed that purse.
Some women like shoes; I like purses, although spending more than about $20 on one sounds insane to me.
The photo shows some (though sadly, not all) of the bags I own but rarely use and refuse to get rid of.
I prefer the crossbody bags that leave my hands free and that have lots of compartments to carry all my stuff. The man in my life can’t understand why women’s purses are so heavy. What on earth do we haul around in them, anyway?
I don’t know about other women, but here’s what I need with me at all times besides my wallet and phone:
Kindle, pens in various colors, calendar, wet wipes, phone, kleenex, lip balm, cough drops, a tin of pills, reading glasses and cleaning cloth, notebook of lists, journal, key cards. My keychain clips onto the strap.
Sometimes I also need my little Fire tablet.
I think it’s the 637 books on my Kindle that add so much weight.
Frankly, I don’t understand why men don’t carry purses. Don’t they need anything besides their phones and wallets during the day? Or do they just ask their female companions to carry whatever they need in their purses? What do they do when they get stuck in some anonymous waiting room and need a book to read? Okay, I know they could read a book on their phone and they keep their calendar and lists there, too. Even I keep audiobooks on my phone, but listening to them requires carrying headphones in my purse. Earbuds hurt my dainty ears.
Now more women are abandoning purses to carry everything on their phones. If manufacturers start adding pockets to women’s clothes, will purses go the way of the dinosaur? Not as long as I’m around to keep the industry alive.


In Books, Learning on February 16, 2018 at 5:35 pm

Today’s light shines on books.
What I’m currently reading:
I just finished Mirror, Mirror by Kate Wilhelm in audio. I’ve read all 14 of Wilhelm’s Barbara Holloway books, starting in 1991. She’s an intriguing character, a work-obsessed do-good lawyer who dotes on her aging father.
Origin by Dan Brown is a longish slog but keeps pulling me through. I’m finally under 100 pages to go, which is a good thing since it’s due tomorrow. I still don’t know the answer to the book’s two questions: Where do we come from and where are we going?
My next audiobook is You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me by popular Native American author Sherman Alexie who also narrates the book.
I’ve already read How We Got to Now: Six Innovations that Made the Modern World by Steven Johnson a couple of times and watched the PBS series now available on YouTube. As one reviewer said, “I’m a sucker for books that incorporate interdisciplinary thinking and then weave them into a narrative about history.” Me, too.
My new Kindle book is C is for Corpse. This is my fourth trip through Sue Grafton’s alphabet series, always a pleasure.
Need a break from reading? (Never!) How about a documentary about the New York Public Library? Ex Libris will be available soon on Amazon Prime.
I’ve hit the wall on library books with 26 currently checked out, most of which I will have to return before I get a chance to read them. Four or five are due tomorrow with only one to pick up—A Philosophy of Walking by Frederic Gros, just one more in a long list of books about walking that I never seem to actually read. Instead, I’m out walking, and that’s a very good thing.
What are you reading?