Kathy Girsch lives in Oregon with her husband Bill and Murphy, their yellow Lab. A nature lover, creative cook, avid traveler, and international film enthusiast, she counts reading as her number one passion. She has been a nonstop reader all her life, and she was fortunate to have teachers who encouraged her to expand her horizons by reading eclectically. Ultimately her love of reading led her to pursue an MA in Spanish Literature, an undertaking which broadened her world view and diversified the contents of her bookshelves.
My books by the bed are on side tables all over my house: by my bed, by the sofa where I sometimes fall asleep at night, and next to the leather chair in the den. I’m a fanatic reader who falls in love with authors, places, and, above all, characters. While I’m in a relationship with one or more of these lovers, I am obsessed. I plow through my bookshelves researching everything related to the above mentioned people and places, and then I dream about them; I re-read paragraphs until they’re memorialized in my heart. Here are some books that are close to the top of the stack right now.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. I’m almost halfway through this surprise 2014 best seller which takes place during WWII in France and Germany. The short chapters carry the reader backward and forward in time with rapid shifts between characters and countries. I’ve fallen in love with Marie-Laure, the blind protagonist and even more so with her father, who cares for her so tenderly, so pragmatically. I love reading about how Werner, a German orphan, uses his innate genius for radios, math, and science to open his world. A lot of the action takes place in Saint- Malo, a French city I’d not heard of before starting this book, so I’ve spent plenty of time reading about it and its role in WWII. I’m looking forward to filling several more evenings with these characters as they make their way through the horrors of the war.
Loving-Kindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness by Sharon Salzberg. It’s a book on Buddhist thought and practice that I read last summer, and I keep going back to it. In a simple, absolutely refreshing way this compassionate author offers just the right message to a recovering Catholic who’s always seeking redemption and reconciliation.
Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human, by Harold Bloom. This book, which re-examines each of Shakespeare’s plays through the lens of a true Shakespeare lover, has had a place by my bed for more than 10 years; I haven’t finished it and don’t expect to do so, but I have read & reread sections of it with a vengeance. The author’s passionate interpretation of the plays and their characters never fails to fascinate me. Lately, it’s Hamlet who has caught my attention, and Bloom’s ability to reveal Hamlet’s “infinite variety” and his inexplicable charisma simply rocks.
Jerusalem, Jerusalem by James Carroll. I fell in love with this author as I was attempting to read Constantine’s Sword (never finished it but I do expect to some day). In Jerusalem . . Carroll goes back to prehistoric times as he relates the history of monotheism. He explores the actual and metaphorical history of Jerusalem; follows the intertwined threads of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity; and carries us right up to the present-day problems in the Middle East. As always, Carroll matches his scholarship with emotional engagement, and that’s what I love about his writing.
Pasiones by Rosa Montero. This is another book I keep around to reread whenever I feel like it. The author deftly examines the intense passions of 18 famous couples from Antony & Cleopatra, through the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, on to John and Yoko, and it’s impossible not to become a third party in their relationships. I’d love to share it with more friends, but it’s not available in English.
Last, but not least, is Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. From August until October this novel about Thomas Cromwell filled my days and my nights. I cherished it so much that I couldn’t read it quickly. I wasn’t familiar with Cromwell when I started the book, but this intelligent, energetic, coldly practical —-yet warmly loving—-character captured me in the first few pages and wouldn’t let me go. A complaint of some readers was that the use of a third person limited narrator instead of the expected—-and easier to follow—-first person narrator was needlessly confusing (who is “he” anyway?). This device took some getting used to, but I came to see the wisdom of using third person to tell the story; it allowed the author to praise Cromwell without having the character seem self-aggrandizing. My husband thought I might go into withdrawal upon finishing the book, but as long as it’s available for me to reread from time to time, I’ll be fine.
What characters have captured your heart?