Nicole R. Dickson is the author of two novels, the first of which, Casting Off, was a top ten entry in the first Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award in 2008. Additionally, as a business executive, she writes essays on leadership and selling brand. An avid student of history, she can most often be found buried in that section of the library and finds many of the books there follow her home to rest on her bedside table. Her second novel, Here and Again, is published by Penguin and was released in June 2014. Learn more about Nicole on Facebook and Twitter.
The Bedside Table
The Civil War Volume 2 by Shelby Foote — Historians write history. Writers write more than that. They create the past and for twenty years, the writer Shelby Foote researched, studied, and outlined the Civil War. Pulling from mostly primary documents, he wrote the history of that war as a narrative, filled not only with dates and facts, but with the voices, feelings, and motivations of players great and small. It takes time to read through it in as much as it took time to write it and so I am on volume two and have been for several years. I don’t place a deadline on finishing it; it is always at my bedside. I will be done with Volume 2 whenever I finish it and when I finish it, I know I will have more than just a memory of the dates. I will have a sense of living through that time.
A Reed Shaken by the Wind by Gavin Maxwell — This is the writer of one of my most favorite stories, “Ring of Bright Water.” In this book, Maxwell is traveling to Iraq long before any of us made that trip — long before our travels with the evening news took us there to war and conflict. Here we enter a world that no longer exists in the marshes of southern Iraq, closest to Basra, the city I think with which we’d be most familiar. In 1954, Maxwell takes a trip to the marshlands of southern Iraq to travel among those whom he calls the Marsh Arabs. These people lived on little islands amidst the great wetlands of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, building houses of reeds and traveling through the marshy waters by boat. Maxwell is a naturalist and his descriptions of the environment are detailed and beautiful. He also narrates his own feelings and trials through his travel as if we’re walking next to him. The wetlands were drained later in the 20th century and the Marsh Arabs have been displaced — their way of life gone with the water. What is today in Iraq has arisen from what was and in this book we can experience a people and a life in that country that is no more.
Growing up in Slavery: Stories of Young Slaves as Told by Themselves — Edited by Yuval Taylor — I picked this book up at the Shirley Plantation in Virginia. It is a compilation of excerpts from stories written and told by various men and women who lived as slaves. The editor writes a brief introduction to the person whose narrative excerpt we’re about to read and then after the narrative, he follows up with a conclusion. Most of the book recounts the horrific treatment of the slaves. One woman in particular, Harriet Jacobs, is of most interest to me as she is describing more of the psychological abuse of slavery as she cannot fully discuss what was happening to her physically as a young girl, given the times in which she is writing. It is a good starting place for research, from which we find direction for further reading by finding the full narratives of these writers.
The Mummy Market by Nancy Brelis — I usually have a children’s book around. It keeps me up to date with what the younger crowd is reading and keeps my eyes on the world at the level of a child for a while. This book is old and is one of my favorites. It is out of print and a friend recently found one in auction and bought it for me as a gift. The Mummy Market is about three children who, for some reason, have no mother and go to a mysterious alley on several occasions where there is a market for Mommies. They take several Mommies home for a trial — the Camping Mommy, the Baking Mommy. None of them is their Mommy. It is a magical book and I remember it well being read to us in class by the teacher. It is a favorite memory and I am so grateful for the gift.
The All Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg — I love Fannie Flagg and have just finished this book. This story moves from youth to age, from mid-20th century to early 21st, from self-questioning to surety of place in the world. As usual for Fannie Flagg, it has humor in all seriousness and the tearful parts catch you by surprise. WWII, with the rise of the All Girl Filling Station and the WASPs, is woven into a story of a woman, a mother and homemaker in 2005, who is seeking her definition as a person. The reality of young women having absolute drive and purpose in life is juxtaposed to an aging woman who has no true idea of her own identity. Usually stories run the other way—the older woman teaching the younger. But here, through a backward glance, it is the younger ones mentoring the older. How fresh. It was entertaining as well as informative and I enjoyed this novel.
Any kids’ books by your bed? Historical fiction? Humor? Gotta love eclectic readers!