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gobooksAs it is again the season for giving and receiving Christmas prizes, my mind turns to books.  Books have always been at the top of my wish list; they never fall from fashion. The email I just sent out to my family (with my secret santa) has several titles from which to choose.

I recently heard a podcast interviewer who likes to ask his guests “What books do you like to give as gifts?”.   This is subtle; this is good.  Asking people ‘what is your favorite book” makes people a bit uncomfortable as it is often hard to pinpoint down a favorite. It is sort of like asking ‘What is your favorite food?”  Well, most people have no one favorite and it often depends on the mood.  Most people don’t want to be pigeon-holed going on record as it were into ‘one book’ .  Bibilophiles all know the disappointment of giving someone their ‘favorite read’ only to hear the recipient didn’t find it interesting. It is easy to take it as a personal rejection.

What one gives to others as gifts gets one thinking about ‘why’ they give out certain books.  These may not be so much ‘thumping good reads’ but books to instruct and amaze as well as entertain.  So, I thought I would try this myself.  Spo-fans are encouraged to leave in the comments books they like to give to others. If you wish please tell me your favorite book.

Note – as I wrote this I realized I was writing down works of fiction.  I think I will divide this into two parts; the non-fiction gift books I will do another time. 

What I give out to introduce someone to a ‘new’ author:

“The Inn at the edge of the world’ – Alice Thomas Ellis.

I often give out this book to thems longing for a ‘thumping good read’. She is one of my favorite authors. She has an exquisite style that combines pithy dysfunctional people with the uncanny or mystical.  This book is a good introduction to a wider audience and it is a jolly good fun  – a ‘thumping good read’ indeed.

What I give out to someone interested in short stories:

“Dubliners” – James Joyce.

I can not think of a better collection.  “The Dead” remains one of the best short stories ever written (do not dare to question this).

What I give out to someone interested in scary stuff: 

“Roald Dahl’s book of ghost stories” is the best collection I know. For thems who prefer novels,  “The Haunting of Hill House” by Shirley Jackson still gives me the creeps even after multiple reads.

What I give out when someone wants to revisit their youth:

“The Phantom Tollbooth” – Norton Juster.

This is a children’s book. However, like most good books for children, it can be read at different times of life and one never stops finding new things and meaning in it.  I sometimes include “The Phantom Tollbooth” with “The Never-ending Story” by Michael Ende as a boxed set for they have similar qualities: engaging children in reading while nourishing the desire to read.

What I give out when someone needs a laugh:

“A confederacy of dunces” – John K. Toole.

It has never failed to make people laugh and lift their spirits. It is full of awful, awful people doing awful, awful things yet it all comes off as hilarious.

What I give out when someone insists I tell them my favorite book:

“Creation” – Gore Vidal

Oh face it, I give this one out as I love it so. An elderly man dictates his memoirs to his great-nephew during the time of Pericles in ancient Athens.  Cyrus has traveled the world; he has met the Buddha and Confucius.  I explain it has wit, history, religion/philosophy, and pithy comments about Western civilization (Athens as Washington DC)  This book has it all.


“A book is a dream that you hold in your hands.”  Neil Gaiman

books1  My recent trip to Bookmans wasn’t successful that I could not locate any books to buy. My mind which is often full up with titles I want to read decided to crash as I entered the store so I couldn’t remember one I hoped to someday find. Perhaps it is a mercy for I have plenty of unread books already; I don’t need more.

I just finished a book on the science and physics of Star Wars. It turns out most of SW is not theoretically possible, which is what I thought would be the case. I gave up on Game of Thrones as between chapters I wasn’t retaining who was killing whom and who was what. I longer have time to read books that don’t entertain.

Pepys diary has been sitting on the shelf for over a year, daring me to start. I could read day at a time but if I do the math I may die before it ends, so that’s not good. Summer is for ‘light reading’ anyway. There are a several less ponderous tomes to tackle right now than Mr. Pepys diary.

I like non-fiction about a foodstuff that ‘changed the world’ or so says the author. I am reading one on salt. Apparently it was as fussed over as mineral rights are today. I am curious to see how it went from a precious commodity worth fighting for to something we have too much of and please cut down it for pete’s sake.

I think I will lay off the Kindle for awhile and read some of the ‘real books’. I still like sticking my nose into an old book and inhaling the redolence of old ink and paper. I recall purchasing something by Paul Bowles; perhaps that should be tackled next.

Lovely books. You never know where they may take you or if you are opening something marvelous.




Urs Truly has a lot of cookbooks. I surmise there must be about 3-4 dozen of them sitting on the top shelves of the food pantry. They range in style from fancy gourmet types to plastic-bound Church women’s basement cookbooks. Once upon a time I continually consulted them for old favorites and new adventures in cooking. It was a pleasure to see them all in their rows, arranged in bulk. Then the internet came along and put them all out of business. Nowadays when I see my collection it elicits not pleasure but guilt. Alas it is much easier to open the Epicurious or Betty Crocker app, or just google search the titles of the desired dishes. These get recipes quick as a quarter note and it is far easier than rummaging through the cookbooks in a trial and error search through indexes, hoping to find what you have in mind.

Someone once proposed I get rid of them as they are obsolete as typewriters, but I haven’t the heart to do so. There is something comforting and pleasurable about running my fingers over the printed pages with their lovely photos. The favorite recipes are often dog-eared and having cooking stains. Some of them were gifts.

I have a box of TV recipe cards (thanks Annette Fabry!) and a series of Better Homes & Gardens cookbooks from the late 60s and early 70s (oh those photos!)   Then there are the lovely Ruby Anne Boxcar Trailer Park Cookbooks which are rubbing elbows with Julia Child’s French cookbooks. Oh the joy! How on earth can I give up these lovelies, I ask you.

I recently heard in a podcast about some clever woman who put all her cookbooks in a database so she only has to type key words and hey presto! the programme tells her which cookbooks to pull down and where in them to find what she is looking for. What a find, if this is true. I would be blithe to have this. Anyone know of such?

All the same I feel sad about the cook books sitting up there, untouched and gathering dust. I sense they sit up there holding their breath, hoping someday I will close my eyes, reach up, and randomly pick out one of them and make something delicious, something I haven’t had in ages or (better yet) something new and adventuresome.*

Spo-fans are invited to tell me about their favorite cookbooks. I have a gift card from to use!


*I have just returned from the pantry where I did said ritual. He is what I pulled down:


Hot puppies! I can’t wait to make Chinese Orzo Vegetable Salad !

books1As is my wont, I made many New Year’s Resolutions. As is also my wont, I haven’t kept them. I have one success: reading at least one book each month. I took twelve books down from the ‘to-read’ shelf and put them within eye sight so I wouldn’t forget them. It also helped to mark them with little yellow post-its as “January” and “February” etc. It seems rather Swiss-German to be so regimented but hey it is getting the job done.

On the eve of August so far I’ve read eight books – nine, if you count Anne of Green Gables. This one is controversial as I “heard” the book rather, via LibriVox.*

There are seven of the original twelve books left to tackle. How is this so? I get sidetracked and distracted by bright shiny sorts of books. At least I am reading!

I am pleased the time for reading is taken from time on the iPhone or Youtube or surfing the Web without intent.   This makes me feel virtuous.

I had forgotten what a pleasure it is to read a book. Having been out of touch for awhile I am finding it challenging to keep focused on the pages.

I want to reach Life’s end having consumed as many books as possible. Book reading is an endangered pleasure needing jealous guarding from the techno-gadgets and time-consuming tasks.

Next up is The Autobiography of Mark Twain or Mr. Bowle’s The Spider’s House or Anne of Green Gables Book II – this time in proper paperwork form.


*Spo-fans are welcome to vote yeah or nay in the comment section. The Board of Directors Here at Spo-Reflections – pragmatic and mostly illiterate – don’t care so long as it brings in readers.


On my book Bucket list is the diary of Samuel Pepys.  Tackling this tome is the bibliophile’s equivalent to climbing Mount Everest. The diary is a nine year long narration in which Mr. Pepys painstakingly writes out his days. Thanks to him we know more about 17th century London than from any other source.

I keep a journal, having intermittently done so since the late 70s.  My diary has been regular since 1990.  Lately my entries have dropped off in frequency. Some of this is because my writing goes mainly into this blog. Mostly I don’t write much as my days are mundane and what’s the point in scribbling that down dribble?

“I got up. I went to work. I went to the gym. After dinner I did some paperwork, I read some blogs, and then I fell asleep reading and watching Youtube lectures”  

and repeat.

I decided to channel Mr. Pepys to write something, anything on a daily basis, even it is trivial. I doubt Mr. Pepys was consciously writing to educate the ages on Restoration England.

I don’t know what caused him to start writing in the first place or why he suddenly stopped after nine years. I wonder if Mr. Pepys is rolling over in his grave knowing his personal life is read in college courses. I wonder too what will happen to my twenty-five years of scribbles. I am NOT writing for posterity’s sake and my relations would find the contents ‘too much information’.
What keeps me writing down my daily doings remains a mystery to me. I should leave instructions to dump the diaries after my death, but this may prompt others to read them on the curiosity looking for the alleged scandal I am trying to destroy.*

From malice I should write a few scurrilous entries in the style of Mr. Pepys:

27 June 2016

So to dinner, where I had Mr. S to dine with me, and from thence I to my Lord to know which app he uses to converse with man-whores, whether Scruff or Grindr miscreants were of worse nature. He answered that we should forbear paying the youth of the apps as the older gentry will do it in the road for free. To the pay again after dinner, and seeing the cooper, whom I know as Darling, I spoke to him about teaching me something and do please myself in my thoughts of learning of him and bade him to host me in a day or two.

That will puzzle them!


*Not much as it turns out.

meganclose2Urs Truly has been involved in an endless court case rivaling Jarndyce and Jarndyce. It is over now. It was a depressing ordeal and there is no point in discussing it. Enough said. But it is an ill wind that blows nobody good. In the tedious hours of waiting in court I’ve been able to catch up on my reading. In my preparation to visit PEI in August I’m tackling the iconic Canadian tale “Anne of Green Gables”. I’m fairly certain it is required reading to visit the province. This entry is a book review for Spo-fans who haven’t heard of it.

The plot is simple: A set of old-maid siblings order an orphan boy out of the Canadian Tire catalog only to get Pippi Longstocking without the monkey. “Anne of Green Gables” tells the adventures of a girl with unrecognized ADD who discombobulates the austere lives of the town and the two who didn’t send her back on warranty (this is before  We read about her zany antics of putting liniment into the cake mix and her sinking in a leaky rowboat. Oh such scandals! Throughout the tome we witness her antipathy and rivalry for a boy named Gilbert who was mean to her in chapter four. *

It is not a long book, and it would be a great deal shorter if the authoress hadn’t kept in all of Anne’s chatter. This garrulous girl talks and talks and talks and she does not shut up. Several time I wanted to reach into the book and throttle her to focus or at least shut the F up. Her country-cute conversations border on something in psychiatry called “flight of ideas’ which is usually treated with lithium or ritalin or both.

I’ve near read a Harlequin romance novel but AGG strikes me as ‘Harlequin-lite”. I think the book would have been more interesting if her adventures were more racy, like delinquency or drugs and alcohol, but it was written in 1908 after all.

I can’t figure out what is so attractive about it all, but then I don’t grasp Harlequin romance novels either. Perhaps a 53yo old bachelor isn’t the target audience.  I read there are 7-8 follow-up novels. AGG doesn’t have a villain or nemesis like Voldemort or Sauron so I can’t imagine what happens.

I am told AGG is quite popular in Japan and PEI takes in a lot of tourist loonies (both monetary and people-types) who make pilgrimages to Green Gables although it is a piece of fiction. While visiting PEI I am going to see “Anne of Green Gables, The Musical” which beats “Les Miz” for duration and longevity.

It’s a pretty safe bet by August there will be a photo of Urs Truly surmounted by a straw hat and red pig tails, so stay tuned.


* The outcome is obvious. 

I am going to write a book.                                      Journal writing

During the drive to work  I was listening (as is my wont) to a podcast. In it, some expert was discussing the contents of his book. The author was giving advice about life, growth, and self-awareness, all which interest Urs Truly. It dawned on me: I could write a book just as well. Haven’t I been in the business of advice-giving for twenty years? People turn to tell me to tell them how to better their lives.  I have a large library of ‘how-to’ tips in the recesses of my pumpkin.  I could write out the “pearls” and fulfill a long time urge to be ‘a writer’.

The realization hit me like the radiance of a brilliant sunrise. My soul did a sudden saudade from complacency into a state of excitement. Ten year of blog-writing (or attempts thereof) has another channel in which to write: a book.  The Muses – long thought to be away in Europe  –  have hit me over the head with the payoff of a slot machine.  Thank you my dears!

Hours later I am still reveling in the metanoia. I have no idea how to accomplish the deed, but I have no qualms or reservations to inchoate the project. I haven’t felt  this energized in eons. These emotions are exactly the ones I when it dawned on me to try to make my own shirt. Look how that turned out!

What is the book going to be about you ask?  It is going to be a sort-of self-help book, a  “Dr. Spo tells you how to live life right” text. For twenty years I’ve listened to patients and podcasts; I’ve read philosophical tidbits from scholars and  friends on Facebook and  my Blogger-buddies. I will conflate the best bits into a manual. I imagine  it having 12-20 chapters, each about one matter a person ought to do or have to be happy and prosperous.  I suspect the tome will be a bit tongue-in-cheek and at times silly and whimsical, not just erudite and profound.  A chapter on the advantages of a daily thirty-minute long walk may be followed by a chapter on the salubrious exercise of rolling down grass hills.

I haven’t a clue really how it will look when completed.

Starting tonight I start scribbling out some thoughts. A white canvas is before me. From time to time I hope to share some of it here, and use Spo-fans as a sounding board for feedback.  After all, one of the bullet points for living right is a social network.

I don’t think I’ve blogged on this before, so I thought I would share it; it periodically resurfaces in my memory, sometimes with shame , sometimes to stiffen my spine.

As a boy I was a rapacious reader. There was no love like the love of books.  I enjoyed reads about  weather and science. History books were also exciting. However what I loved most were story books, particularly those that took me to faraway lands and alternative worlds. I think I was in fourth or fifth grade when I discovered Pippi Longstocking.  For those unfamiliar with her, she is a little girl who lives by herself with her monkey and she does what she pleases.  She was absolutely delightful;  I could not get enough of her.

In order to get to the elementary school we had to cross a street which was patrolled by an adult crossing guard who would stop traffic with a hand sign. This corner was supervised by a woman, whose name I no longer remember. She was probably  in her 20s or 30s, a mere volunteer, but at my age she seemed a behemoth of authority, Justice incarnate.  I had just purchased “Pippi in the South Seas” in which Pippi takes her friends to the South Pacific on the Hoptoad to visit her father the cannibal king.  My emotions were as high as having received the latest Harry Potter book.  As I waited for MissGuard to approve my crossing she spied my book and exclaimed “ Pippi? What kind of book is that? It looks like a girl’s book! What are doing reading a girls’ book?”  or words of that effect. I don’t recall the exact words but I recall her emotions, which were surprise, disgust, and contempt.  I immediately assumed she was right and I felt horribly ashamed.  I turned red and tried not to cry. I hid the now horrible book in my coat lest someone else see it.  I did not read the book for a very long while and when I did I did it behind closed door, lest someone see me doing it.

Later in life I realized the crossing guard was a total bitch and what she said and did was shockingly wrong on many levels. Yet out of this humiliating experience I extracted some good: the courage to read anything without shame or guilt.

The irony of this vignette is Pippi Longstocking  isn’t cowed by the yoke of custom and convention. When adults try to get her to behave ‘as she should’ she either takes no care or she runs rings around them. On a few times she shows enormous strength and stands up to the worse of adult bullies.

I am a proud member of the Friends of Pippi.  We stand up to the manky crossing guards of Life who like to tell us to stop don’t cross and what to do and read.


Lord love us!  A friend on FB had a link titled ‘100 best children’s books of all time” Nothing makes me go into a frisson quicker than a finding a list of books. Children’s books are particularly intriguing for they have the double duty of being entertaining while simultaneously teaching the young reader the joy of reading. I immediately read the list in order to see how many I have read and to hold an inspection did they have the right ones.  I have read 40 out of their 100. I took umbrage some of my favorites were not included.*

This is not surprising. Any bibliophile has a collection of ‘must reads’ and he or she is quite eager and ready to insist you read them. They are shocked and dismayed when the recipient(s) don’t find their gems so brilliant. “What do you mean this book didn’t change your life?” Book lovers are a passionate lot indeed.

I have a list of my favorite books. **  One of the shelves in the library/office holds my particular loves. I like to run my fingers over them like a rich man counting his diamonds and jewels.  Rereading old favorites vs. something new and adventuresome is a delicious dilemma indeed.  I compromise by having a few books going at once. This year I plan to spend less time on Youtube and more time in tomes.

I wonder how costly or time consuming would it be to send Princess-Goddess and Warrior-Queen (my two nieces) each a new book from the 100 list on a month basis. 100 books/months mean they will be grown past the ages apropos for some of the books. I think I will edit the 100 list expunging the PC rubbish and substituting them with better ones viz. my own thumping good reads. I don’t suppose six year old girls would appreciate “Bleak House”, ‘A confederacy of dunces” or  “Giovanni’s Room”.  I will start with “Eloise” or “Amelia Bedelia” and take it from there.


* The Phantom Tollbooth, The Borrowers, and Georgie the Ghost to name a few. However I later read the fine print; there is another list for ‘young readers’ and “Phantom” was there. Phew.

** I would be blithe to provide this list to any Spo-fan who wants a look-see.



It is ‘Banned Books Week’.

Nothing gets Urs Truly more angry than the notion of a book banned by someone or some group. Happily, banning a book often backfires: the book gets read more for the ban. Sometimes this is done out of protest of the ban; sometimes out of interest to find out what all the fuss is about.*  When I hear “X” has been banned by some library or school or organization I want to be first in line to buy “X” and read it.  I suppose there are more important injustices in life but banned books are not just about being unable to read “Harry Potter”; it is about mind control. With books I take the Mae West approach** if you don’t like it you don’t have to read it.

Right now there are several lists floating around internet and FB listing banned books past and present and why they were/are banned. They make me laugh and cry at the same time. “The Lorax’ has been banned as derogatory towards the lumbar industry. “Winnie the Pooh”: talking animals are offensive to God. “The Handmaid’s Tale” is offensive to Christians.

My favorite: “Fahrenheit 451” has been banned for having bad words and being too depressing. Oh the irony.

I am pleased to read these lists and see I have read most of them. Curiously I remember reading them as a child and NOT turning into a degenerate as the banners claim would happen if innocent children are exposed to such monstrosities as “The Light in the Attic” by Shel Silverstein. What I remember was developing a fondness for poetry and wanting more of t – and a sense the book-banners were a bunch of stupid illiterates clods.

In my study is a poster titled “Hot Books”. It has  nearly twenty books, all burned to cinders. They have in common all have been banned at one point in history.  How many of these have you read?

The Odyssey

Confucius Analects

The Bible

The Devine Comedy

The works of Martin Luther

The papers of Galileo 

Richard II by William Shakespeare

Descartes Metaphysical Meditations

Gulliver’s Travels

Letters of Voltaire

The Scarlet Letter

The adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Salome by Oscar Wilde

Ulysses by James Joyce

The Origin of Species

Tropic of Cancer

The Catcher in the Rye

Portney’s Complaint

The Satanic Verses


These books are all ‘for adults’. The real battles to ban books  are about children’s books in schools and public library.It gets down to who will control the minds of children.

This week I recommend you read a banned book. It is good for your mind and soul.


I read banned books



*It will be a very sorry state  indeed when banning a book is met not with protest but with indifference due to people no longer reading books. I dread this awful day.

** Once upon a time a religious group remonstrated Mae West’s radio show, saying it was filthy.  Asked to comment, Mae replied “Well, they could have turned it off”.


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