The Joy of Reading

In the spring and fall, publishers release some of the best new books of the year, the ones that most support the joy of reading.  This year’s releases have been no exception.  The past few months have brought an abundance of great new fiction titles. Sometimes, as is currently the case, my recommended books appear to be lifted straight from the best-seller lists.  Generally, I select my reading material from professional reviews published or posted in advance of publication, or through word-of-mouth by friends who read and review galleys, or advance readers copies.   Whatever the source,…

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The Book Club

The secular book club, or reading discussion group, is a long-standing American tradition, dating back to the late 18th century.  Earlier versions of reading groups were generally religious oriented.  Today, 88% of participants in private book clubs are women, almost two thirds of whom have advanced degrees.  Women today account for 80% of all fiction sales. There are many forms of book clubs.  Publishers of popular books sometimes will include a discussion guide, printed in the book itself.  There are national reading groups, touting specific books recommended by celebrities, such as Oprah or Reese Witherspoon.  There…

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Love Story

A good love story can fill one’s heart, and such was the experience of Saturday’s performance of Marguerite and Armand, a San Francisco Ballet premiere. First created by choreographer Sir Frederick Ashton for the Royal Ballet, Marguerite and Armand is a classic piece first danced by Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev. The iconic pair danced this love story for the San Francisco Ballet in 1964, one year after it was created.  What a performance that must have been!  This year’s performance by the SF Ballet, however, did not disappoint, performed by Missa Kuranaga and Joseph Walsh,…

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Books and Reading

Books and reading are a lifelong habit for me.  While not every book I read (mostly novels but some non-fiction as well) has lasting literary value, reading is a wonderful source of entertainment and pleasure. Toward the end of the calendar year, critics, writers, readers, and review publications select their top books of the year.  I took a quick look at some of these lists and selected a few of the titles I had read and enjoyed over the past year.  The Washington Post 2023 “Best” list included a category for mysteries and thrillers.  And sure…

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Censorship and Book Banning

Libraries across the country are under threat, with a significant rise in censorship and book banning.  Library directors, individual librarians, and community leaders have all been under attack, including calls for resignation, and even bomb threats and other acts of violence. Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Eureka Valley/Harvey Milk Memorial Branch Library, San Francisco 2010 Two of the principal reasons for banning books are titles with LGBTQI content, or books deemed to include sexual content, especially those written for children and youth.  Books written by women of color are also a frequent target.  During the school year…

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It’s That Time of Year

The catalogs have been arriving in the mail for months, because it’s that time of year.  The solicitations for charitable and political donations come in multiples every day, and even a few early holiday cards, letters, and invitations are trickling in.  The holiday season is upon us! The best holiday mail, of course, is personal:  the letters and cards that keep us in touch with family and friends, near and far.  I treasure these communications, and have trouble recycling them, even years after receipt.  The typical holiday letter has evolved over time.  These days, few people…

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What’s in Your Mail?

National Postal Worker’s Day was July 1, which seemed like a good time to check out what’s in your mail. As people have moved from doing business through the mail to electronic communications, first class mail has declined.  Banking, including bill paying, and personal communications have largely moved online.  Only occasionally do I receive handwritten notes, cards, letters, or postcards, and I suspect that I am not alone.  Even event invitations are conveyed electronically, through sites that track responses (RSVPs) and comments from invitees. Since 1926, the USPS has tracked mail volume by type of mail.…

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So Many Books, So Little Time

Finding time and space to settle down and read a good book can be difficult, depending on one’s circumstances, but the phrase “so many books, so little time” has never seemed truer.  The quote is widely attributed to the late composer and musician Frank Zappa, and has been used on T-shirts, mugs, and other merchandise for decades.  The quarantines and shut downs over the past year and a half due to Covid turned people’s lives upside down.  For many, anxiety and stress challenged the ability to read for pleasure, and would-be readers turned to audio-books, podcasts,…

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Beyond the Art of the Stamp

Selecting just the right stamp to mail a card or letter often reflects the mood of the sender, but a card from Gigi Trabant goes beyond the art of the stamp.  Her hand-crafted cards and envelopes are inspired by a selected stamp, which she surrounds with original related drawings and design, tailored to the individual to whom she sends the card. With her large collection of vintage and modern stamps, coupled with her imagination and artistic talent, a card from Gigi is a real gift. Wedding Card Gigi has been designing cards and envelopes based on…

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A Random Letter in the Mail

Have you ever received a random letter in the mail?  Random, as in an unanticipated, handwritten note or letter? The use of first-class mail has been in decline for decades, and letters have become almost rare.   Any letter or note in the mail is a gift, whether it be a thank you note, a birthday card, a holiday greeting.  But most of our communications today are virtual, via social media, email, text messaging, and more, using multiple platforms. Given the shift in how we communicate, a random letter in the mail is a welcome surprise.  Within…

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