Saturday, November 28, 2020
Nov. 28, 2020

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Check It Out: Take a distracted-brain, no-itinerary ride with us

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I have distracted brain. I’ll start something, then think of something else that needs attention, which leads to yet another thing, and some hours later realize that the first thing is still waiting to be finished. Sigh.

It’s been like this for a while, but it seems to be getting worse. Of course I have to blame it on the pandemic because that’s what we do these days. Hot-water heater goes out? It’s the pandemic. Forget where you put your keys? Pandemic. Having trouble concentrating? Pandemic, pandemic, pandemic. Blah.

I know what I need — bibliotherapy. And I’ll bet you could use some, too. I’m usually all about a theme in this column, but distracted brain is rabbity (meaning it’s hopping all over the place), so I’m fully embracing randomness. Here’s hoping you enjoy the no-itinerary ride.

“Bark! The Herald Angels Sing: The Dogs of Christmas” by Peter Thorpe.

First there was Paddy, then came Raggle: two lovable canines donning Christmas-themed props for the annual Christmas card. Get ready to smile as you see how one guy personalized his holiday cards with the help of his doggie companions.

“The Enchanted Hour: The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud in the Age of Distraction” by Meghan Cox Gurdon. (also available as e-book and eAudiobook)

I believe I’ve recommended this book before, but it’s worth bringing up again especially with all of the distractions in our world. I don’t do this very often, but when I do read out loud, I feel more connected with the story. Try it yourself — perhaps with the very book that promotes reading out loud, “The Enchanted Hour.”

“The Futilitarians: Our Year of Thinking, Drinking, Grieving, and Reading” by Anne Gisleson. (also available as e-book and eAudiobook)

Although this was written pre-pandemic, the true story of how a group of people came together and formed a book club called the Existential Crisis Reading Group (nicknamed the “Futilitarians”) reads just as well in our COVID-19 world. Reading — and reading together — really can make a difference.

“The Haunted Tea-Cosy: A Dispirited and Distasteful Diversion for Christmas” by Edward Gorey.

I wish that Edward Gorey were still around so he could take 2020 and turn it into one of his weird, wonderful tales. Sadly, he’s not, but his fabulous books are, and “The Haunted Tea-Cosy” is perfect for the holidays and this mad-as-a-hatter year. Get ready for a very peculiar and funny retelling of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”

“How to Make Your Own Ugly Christmas Sweaters: 20 Fun & Easy Holiday Projects to Craft and Create” by Nicolette Lafonseca.

The urge to wear ugly Christmas sweaters hasn’t found me yet, but I do know that I saw some in a store recently, and they weren’t cheap. So, if an ugly Christmas sweater is in your future, think about making your own. You’ll save money and have the joy of creating a wearable monstrosity. Win, win?

“In a Dark Wood: What Dante Taught Me About Grief, Healing, and the Mysteries of Love” by Joseph Luzzi.

By including “In a Dark Wood,” I realize that a bit of a theme has creeped into my column: the healing power of books and reading during dark times. Scholar and author Joseph Luzzi tells the heartbreaking story of losing his wife and having to raise their newborn daughter by himself. It is through reading Dante’s “Divine Comedy” that Luzzi finds a path out of the “dark wood.” Eloquent and moving, this memoir reminds me why I love literature so much: it offers solace to the soul even when unimaginable things occur.

“Inventing American Tradition: From the Mayflower to Cinco de Mayo” by Jack David Eller.

With so many of our traditions being upended due to the pandemic, I find myself wondering how some of them started in the first place. How lucky to find this book in our collection which takes a look at American symbols, holidays, culture and so much more, and explains their beginnings.