A Haven for Vee

Monday, October 28, 2013

A Book Experiment

My momma always said, "Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get." 
~Forrest Gump
So true, except that around here it's more like a bag of stale pretzels. Oh well, it's Monday and, believe it or not, I've got another post.

Remember that cozy mystery I mentioned last week? The one that I said was way out of my usual reading? I'll say. I made it all the way to paragraph 18, which I quote for you here: "Get Lisa to rub out the kinks in those muscles," Kelly suggested to mountain biker Greg. "After all, she's a physical therapist." 

[Edited to Add: I find this so annoying because the author has a large group of characters to introduce and she does it this way. Goodness, she explained two characters in one fell swoop. Greg is a mountain biker and Kelly is a physical therapist. Sigh.]

Okay, I know that the experiment I am about to share is profoundly unfair. Not every paragraph of every book can sing the high note throughout. But that paragraph resulted in my tossing the book aside forever. My philosophy of book reading is that it must grab me and make me want to read it very early on and it really can never be insipid. What's yours?

Do you like an experiment as well as I do? I don't even care if they're invalid. Now see? A scientist would toss what I'm about to do to the floor! 

Here we go... I arbitrarily drew ten books (
differing genres) from my shelves . I have enjoyed them all. I counted to the 18th paragraph of each book and have copied them down. See if you can find one that you'd toss and one that you'd like to read. This can be fun. Right? Oh come on now, be a sport. (Yes, I'll reveal the book and author after the pretty picture...don't peek!)

1. It is not that the homes of these unself-disciplined children are lacking in parental discipline of a sort. More often than not these children are punished frequently and severely throughout their childhood—slapped, punched, kicked, beaten and whipped by their parents for even minor infractions. But this discipline is meaningless. Because it is undisciplined discipline.

2. Fear scurried down my back. I hauled myself up onto my hands and knees. Dusty Routt, the pretty, ambitious twenty-year-old whose family had lived across the street from us for the past three years, lay a foot away. She still wasn't moving.

3. But that second phrase—"and created the wind." We think of mobiles that modern man is making, mobiles that not only have form but movement, moving with the slightest breath of air. Here is the desire for movement in art!

4. Steven was harassed and impatient. In our business—getting an issue out—time dictated our decisions and our reactions. After a while, it became second nature, and we spoke to each other in a shorthand. There was never time for the normal give and take of an argument. I glanced at Minty. She was typing away studiously, but she was, I knew, listening in. I said reluctantly, " I could manage it by tomorrow morning." 

(Vee here:I chose paragraph 19 because 18 was a one-word response.)

5. A light turned on in David's thoughts. "I consider this guy funny, even though he is a pain in the rear to a lot of people at work, yet I go bonkers over some of the things that the two people close to me do that aren't nearly as bad. Am I using a different yardstick to measure the people close to me?"

6. Now that they've all moved out, our home has changed. Where music once blared, there is nothing but stillness; while our pantry once shelved eight different types of cereal, there is now a single brand that promises extra fiber. The furniture hasn't changed in the bedrooms where our children slept, but because the posters and bulletin boards have been taken down—as well as all other reminders of their personalties—there is nothing to differentiate one room from the next. But it was the emptiness of the house that seemed to dominate now; while our home was perfect for a family of five, it suddenly struck me as a cavernous reminder of the way things ought to be. I remember hoping that this change in the household had something to do with the way Jane was feeling.

7. Obviously, I wanted to have the problem that could melt away. After all the harsh news the doctor had brought to me in those last few minutes, the word melt seemed soothing and peaceful. 

8. They had fun. Two of the first non-baby words I uttered were gin fizz, mysteriously the name of a large blue teddy bear, a favour they brought back from a New Year's Eve party. Gin Fizz was my companion for years, my Winnie-the-Pooh. Because of him, I believed Christopher Robin's bear was blue. My parents claimed that I named him Gin Fizz; that might say something about their life style, but I cannot remember. I did not know it was a drink for years, and by the time I found out, no one drank it any more. The French called a line of yachts Gin Fizz, for equally obscure reasons. For me the words never connoted anything but teddy bear.

9. As Kathy sang of friends who had been taken for granted, sweethearts she had known, and a wonderful world full of strangers just waiting to make a connection with us (while we turn our eyes away), something deep within me stirred. There is so much I was taking for granted. I didn't want to continue to live unconsciously.

10. To top that off, he'd quit smoking twelve years ago, cut out the peach brandy he'd fooled with after Juanita passed, and increased what he put in the plate on the occasional Sundays he showed up at [church].

 ~Library Books~

The memoir about Katharine and E.B. White was read in an afternoon. I love memoirs. I am in the middle of Seaworthy by Linda Greenlaw...interesting and much different subject material from what I usually select, but having read The Lobster Chronicles, it seemed a logical choice. And you already know what happened to the other one.☺

What are your favorite kinds of books to read? Do you actually have a favorite book?


1. The Road Less Traveled by M.Scott Peck (self-help, spiritual)
2. Dark Tort by Diane Mott Davidson (murder mystery)
3. Hidden Art by Edith Schaeffer
(Christian homemaking)
4. Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman by Elizabeth Buchan (fiction)
5. Living Successfully with Screwed-Up People by Elizabeth B. Brown (self-help, spiritual)
6. The Wedding by Nicholas Sparks (fiction)
7. Plant a Geranium in Your Cranium by Barbara Johnson (Christian humor)
8. Wordstruck by Robert MacNeil (memoir)
9. Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach (essays)
10. Shepherds Abiding by Jan Karon
(Christian fiction)

There! Wasn't that fascinating? ☺

A lovely week to you...


  1. My favorite book may be Miss Buncle's Book by D.E. Stevenson. Not a spiritual book. Not great literature. But a warm heated and funny book by a favorite author which I've been rereading at intervals for 50 years when I needed to have a break from real life...........

    And lately I've been reading mysteries by Cora Harrison. She lives in Ireland and these books are set in western Ireland in the 1500s and the protagonist is a woman judge who deals with Brehon law which is quite different from English law. I'd never heard of the area where she lives or this ancient Irish law nor Ireland in the 1500s and am finding the books quite interesting, but not at all suspenseful which is what i like!

    I do enjoy posts about books! And whenever you have bookshelves pictured in a post i always try to read the titles!

  2. This was so much fun, Vee. Number 2 (Dark Tort) caught my attention and made me want to read the book :) You know that I love to read and I would have to say my favorite kinds of books are fiction, historical, and autobiographies. Have a lovely day!

  3. I found this to be GREAT fun Vee! Several of them caught my immediate attention, but I have settled on number 6, and shouldn't have been surprised to find who wrote it, as I have read almost everything he has written. LOVE him. I also enjoy Karen Kingsbury and Francine Rivers. I tend to find an author I enjoy and then read everything they write, haha. I also LOVE a good biography, In this list I'd probably toss number 3. Like you a book must grab my attention and interest within the first few paragraphs or it is ruthlessly tossed, lol. Probably have missed out on some good ones that way! Enjoy your day Vee!

    1. Perhaps! #3 is one of my all-time favorites! =D

  4. I have read two on your list. The Road less Traveled and The Marriage. I have a couple of favorite writers. Ken Follett, John Grisham, Barbara Kingsolver. The Poisonwood Bible was one of my favorites by her. Ken Follet writes about espionage and lately a trilogy Pillars of the Earth, and the other two I can't remember the names of. I love historical novels. Just read the trilogy about, Robert E. Lee, U.S. Grant and another about a Civil War General. Not stories of the battles but store about the people themselves. Robert E. Lee was a very religious man, which I had never even thought about.

  5. That was great Vee! I enjoyed the challenge and found I liked 2,6,7 and 10 and was pleasantly pleased which books they were although I haven't read any of them. I love Nicholas Sparks writing and bought his latest, "The Longest Ride", which I haven't started yet. I hear it's to be made into a movie. I really like books by Michael Phillips, a Christian writer of fiction who sometimes writes in the style of Scots writer, George MacDonald. I also enjoy murder mysteries by Christian writers and historical novels. What a fun post!

  6. That was fascinating. On this sunny morning 2 and 9 got my attention. There have been several books I cast aside and never finish. Thankfully I've only spent a dollar on them at Goodwill. I'm just reading Pamela's comment and I'm with her on really enjoying the George MacDonald books edited by Michael Phillips. Every few years I enjoy re-reading The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Narnia books. I don't enjoy cheesy romance type novels of any sort...
    Happy Monday to you!

  7. I recognized Hidden Art and Shepherd's Abiding. Oh, I do agree with Kristi about Miss Buncle's Book. It is on sale for the Kindle for only $1.99 at the moment (one of those brief sale prices).

    While I also love D. E. Stevenson, my favorite writer is still Elizabeth Goudge for fiction, Stevenson a close second. As for nonfiction, Hidden Art is one of my all time favorite books, too. :)

  8. I love to read and I manage 2 - 3 books each week. I have always had this rule for myself; read 14 pages and move on to something else if it doesn't interest me. I tossed a book over the weekend by one of my favorite authors. It just wasn't making the cut.

  9. A book has to really grab me as I have ADD. Or, I have to really feel quiet inside to read non fiction, though I love a good biography. None of these paragraphs grabbed me! But I think I would enjoy most of the books! That EB White one sounds wonderful.

  10. I totally knew Shepherd's Abiding! Love that whole series! I really liked #2 #3 #4 also!


  11. This was intriguing! And when I think of posts I would like to do, I would add this one to the list. There are too many good books that I would like to read, to spend time on one that doesn't interest me. I like historical novels best....oh and mysteries. This is subject to change from day to day! lol Good post!

  12. What an interesting experiment. I've never thought much how long it took me to get into a book and I have to say some of the ones that took almost half the book, turned out to be some of the best...especially if they were ones from a book club I was part of. Lately, I haven't had time to read, but in reading the paragraphs you've quoted, I can say they are some I have added to my list. XOXO

  13. Yes it was fascinating, I'm going to go back and read it all again a little slower.

  14. I wish I could find more time to read. Many that I do have on my shelves are gardening related: "The Garden Letters", "The Lost Garden" and "Pearls and Pebbles" to name a few. (big surprise huh?) Mysteries are my favourite but I read a cross section of types, many passed on from our two daughters. I have tried really hard to give some books the benefit of the doubt that they will get better but you reach a point and think it's never going to happen.
    Your experiment was fascinating, I have not read any of those books. However, I do like recommendations.

  15. The one I picked to read was number 9. Funny because I wouldn't have picked up a book of essays. I think I WILL read this one.

    I'd toss out number 1.

    I don't have a favorite type of book. I like to read lots of different kinds.
    My favorite book is Gone With the Wind. I would have to say the Bible too. If I could only have one book that would be it.

    I used to read a book I started till the end no matter what. Now if I don't like it after a couple of chapters I don't read it. The exception now is for the book club - I do read it even if I don't like it so I have something to talk about there.

    I haven't read any on your list!

  16. Hi Vee, An interesting blog tonight. I don't read as much as I once did. I occasionally like mysteries. I purchase most books from the thrift store so I don't worry too much if I don't like it - not much lost!!!

  17. Very neat experiment! I struggle with whether or not to continue reading a book if it's slow, I don't want to waste my money yet I don't want to waste my time either. There is no question as to what to do when it's just bad writing, but I read reviews and skim the book before buying so that rarely happens.

    I thought Number 6 sounded interesting and then I found it was Nicholas Sparks, whom I know is well loved by many, but not me. Funny!


  18. Like you, if the first pages don't catch my eye, or attention, I will set it aside. Read #3 and Edith Schaeffer a favorite of mine.Also like 6-7-8-10. Couldn't find any that i would toss, would have to read a little more! If there is a book that I really like I find that it stays on the forefront of my book shelf, as I like to go back and reread it, problem for me over the past several years since I found blogging is my reading has been what one would say,"a little lax". I keep saying this will change.~smile~

  19. I should have mentioned that I really like Simple Abundance and Shepherds Abiding and hope you find a copy of Miss Buncle's Book. Two publishers have republished it. It also has two sequels which are wonderful, Miss Buncle Married and The Two Mrs. Abbots. And The Four Graces links to these as well. I'm the mirror image of Brenda here. I like D.S. Stevenson best and Goudge is a close second. I wish there were writers like these now! I also like Lloyd C. Douglas. Remember Dr. Hudson's Secret Journal?

  20. What fun! I am like you- I can't get into books that are not well-written-or ones where the author keeps repeating the same thing over and over so you "get it". Hello- I GET IT!

    My favorite book in the world is one called Apple Tree Lean Down written by Mary Pearce. It is set turn-of-the century and follows the Tewke family through 3 generations. I have read it three times in 20 years. LOL I think it is the only book I have ever read 3 times. This was/is fun, Vee! xo Diana

  21. Well, that was fun! I'd chuck #1 and 5, definitely read #10 (I have) and possibly #2. #7 and 8 also caught my attention. And of course, #3, Hidden Art - my copy is tattered and torn (paperback). It really formed my homemaking philosophy when I was living in Ecuador.

    I like mysteries, but not very gruesome (at all). Dorothy Sayers and Agatha Christie, Ellis Peters are the old authors whose books I'll read and re-read. I like historical fiction. Love Jan Karon, but find most other Christian fiction too canned, sad to say. Love, love, reading.

  22. Well, it IS fascinating. Like peeping into a lit window as you're walking by on a pathway.

    I loved reading this. E.B. and Katherine are two of my favorites! Lobster Chronicles was very good, but I haven't read Greenlaw. How about Anne Morrow Lindbergh? She was some great writer.



  23. Morning Vee

    Hmmm...I think that I'd skip #1 and I've already read The Wedding...I may just have to re-read it:)

    Enjoy your week!


  24. I like mysteries. And books by Jimmy Buffet, lol. Truth be told, I pretty much read anything/everything. I have been meaning to get the Lobster Chronicles when you last posted that many moons ago, forgot. Maybe a trip to the library needs to be done. Blessings

  25. What a fun experiment!

    As I skimmed through the other comments this morning, I see that a few others share my modern day affliction: Too much blog/computer reading has curtailed my actual book reading. That is not necessarily a good thing.

    About that paragraph that caused you to toss aside the book? I can relate to that. Because I have limited time for reading, I want what I DO choose to read to be excellent. No time for twaddle! I agree with Lorrie about Christian fiction being somewhat "canned." But...have you ever read anything by Lynn Austin? Oh my. (Her Chronicles of the Kings series I could not put down!) Or Jamie Langston Turner? Her writing is excellent. The stories are complex, characters are well-developed. Her books are slow-moving...but oh so worth it! Some Wildflower in My Heart is one of my favorite books ever.

    One more thought. When I assign a book to my students, I insist that they read an entire chapter before they ask to be released from the book. There is so much available to read, I don't want to insist that they read something that doesn't "fit" them, but sometimes they won't know what "fits" unless they give it a fair chance. You can't always judge by a few pages. Another thing I do sometimes is read the first chapter aloud...so that they can get into the book, learn the author's style, become involved in the story. Sometimes that's all it takes to pique their interest.

    Lots of rambling thoughts this morning...

  26. I would choose # 6 and # 9, Vee. My favorite kinds of reading are historical fiction. Have you read any by Diana Gabaldon? Ooh, I love those! I also love Rosamunde Pilcher. I'm going back to look at other comments. xo

  27. This was really interesting to read, Vee! I enjoyed the snippets from each book you chose--I think I'd read them all, but the first one caught my interest the most as I wanted to learn what it was about.

    I was the type of child who always had a book in my hands --I read everything I could find in my house ( my father was a member of the "Book of the Month" club and subscribed to the Readers Digest books) and walked to the library for books as soon as I was old enough cross the street. There was hardly a book I didn't like, and I read many before I was old enough to understand them. I missed reading when I became an adult and had a stressful job, family responsibilities, etc -- a lot of my reading time was minimal those years, but I re-discovered children's literature when my children were born and we joined story hour at the library and RIF, and one of the greatest gifts I gave them was the love of reading. I love buying children's books for my grandchildren, or passing on their parent's books to them. :)

    I think reading blogs, and things on the computer, replaced a lot of my quality reading time for awhile, but I'm getting back to books! I love non fiction historical books and historical fiction the best, and poetry -- most of the books I could not donate when we were moving, and I had to pare down so many, were poetry books, children's books and cookbooks -- I moved 40 boxes of books!. I donated most of my fiction books, all my books from my nurse eras, and many reference books that were no longer up to date. I did save most of my antique books that I found through the years, and some that were my parents. My bookshelves here are already filled! :)

    I could never name one favorite book -- too many! I'd have to say all the classics.I read all of James Joyce, Tolstoy, Herman Hesse, Dostoevsky, Kafka, etc etc,. I love a book that makes me think --I love a challenge. I love when the book is so engrossing that you forget you are reading and feel you are living the story. I love a book at makes me feel sad when I finish it because it is over,

    Right now I'm getting into books about Western history. I recently read a biography about Buffalo Bill, and I'm presently reading two books, one called "Undaunted Courage: Lewis and Clark and the American West" and "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee," which is the history of the west told by the Native American perspective. That book wrenched at my heart in many ways and was an eye opener.

  28. Hello dear Vee

    None of these paragraphs grabbed me - I'm sorry................
    I love the classics such as Jane Austen and the Brontes - otherwise I read biographys, travel and history.
    I see Kitty recommended Rosamunde Pilcher - I read her book "The Shell seekers" last year and loved it.
    I also really enjoyed another novel "Astrid & Veronika" by Linda Olsson.
    I choose my books very carefully now and don't persevere just for the sake of finishing a book.

    Shane x

  29. So I just zoooomed past the list so I could comment before seeing the titles. I would probably (OK, definitely) toss #3 because I assume it's an art book, and I am not an art girl. I would actually be drawn to most of them, but I would grab #6 first. Now, I'm going to look back and see what I chose.

    (And I loved the work of EB White so would probably enjoy that one that you mentioned. He was my (late) brother's favorite author growing up. One of the first gifts he ever bought me when he was old enough to do his own Christmas shopping with his lawn mower money was The Trumpet of the Swan. I still keep it on my shelves. It's a treasure to me. )

  30. I guess you can't judge a book by it's 18th paragraph any more than by its cover. I would actually choose a book about Christian homemaking by its cover.

  31. This was such fun! I already know I'll count to the 18th paragraph before I start reading any new book from now on! My favorite genre is mystery but I love reading Jane Austen. About every other year I read all of her books, always starting with Sense and Sensibility...

  32. That WAS fun and eye-opening Vee! The two paragraphs I thought were the best and most intriguing were from genres I would never read. That was interesting to me and made me wonder if I should expand my base! (I recognized and rejected the self-help paragraphs out of hand, because I don't do that anymore!)

  33. I would find it hard to select a favourite but do have a number of favourites but would have to search my shelves to pick the best.


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