Saturday, December 31, 2016



Welcome to the 2016 Read 52 Books in 52 Week Challenge


Also the home of Well Educated Mind, A to Z, Dusty and Chunky,
52 Books Bingo and various mini challenges. 


The rules are very simple and the goal - read one book (at least) a week for 52 weeks.



  • The challenge will run from January 1, 2016 through December 31, 2016. 
  • Our book weeks will begin on Sunday 
  • Except for our first week which will run from Friday Jan 1 through Saturday Jan 9 
  • Participants may join at any time. 
  • All books are acceptable except children books.** 
  • All forms of books are acceptable including e-books, audio books, etc. 
  • Re-reads are acceptable as long as they are read after January 1, 2016 
  • Books may overlap other challenges. 
  • Create an entry post linking to this blog. 
  • Sign up with Mr. Linky in the "I'm participating post" in the sidebar
  • You don't have a blog to participate. Post your weekly book in the comments section of each weekly post. 
  • Mr. Linky will be added to the bottom of the weekly post for you to link to reviews of your reads. 

All the mini challenges are optional. Mix it up anyway you like. The goal is to read 52 books. How you get there is up to you.




**in reference to children books. If it is a child whose reading it and involved in the challenge, then that's okay. If an adult is doing read aloud with kids, the book should be geared for the 9 - 12 age group and above and over 100 pages. If adult reading for own enjoyment, then a good rule of thumb to go by "is there some complexity to the story or is it too simple?" If it's too simple, then doesn't count.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

BW22: Philosophical June

Raphael's School of Athens

Welcome to Philosophical June and our author of the month - Dante Alighieri.  As you probably have noticed, there aren't any women philosophers included in Raphael's painting, The School of Athens.  There are many women:  from the ancients -  Hypatia -  to the present - Vandana Shiva - too numerous to mention and impossible to highlight just one.  So I'll leave you with a few links to explore for yourself: Reviving the female canon,  Ten great female philosophers and Society of the study of women philosophers 

Everything you wanted to know about philosophy broken down into manageable chunks, history brought to you without any gaps by Kings College, and everything you ever wanted to know (or not) about philosophers around the world, plus 10 easy philosophy books you have to read.

Are you back?  Did you have fun following rabbit trails?  Now that I've overwhelmed your brains and probably pushed your tbr stacks over in a scattered heap, it's time to return to Dante.  I'm currently reading Rod Dreher's How Dante Can Save Your Life which has renewed my desire for completing the Divina Commedia (The Divine Comedy) which includes Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso.   I made it through Inferno a couple years ago, meant to read Purgatorio last year, and read Paradiso this year. However I stalled at Purgatorio, so will be diving into it this month.  

Join me in reading The Divine Comedy or delving into the many branches of philosophy.




 “How can you get very far,
If you don't know who you are?
How can you do what you ought,
If you don't know what you've got?
And if you don't know which to do
Of all the things in front of you,
Then what you'll have when you are through
Is just a mess without a clue
Of all the best that can come true
If you know What and Which and Who.” 
― Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh


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Sunday, May 22, 2016

BW21: Middle of the World by D.H. Lawrence

Milk Way over Mediterranean Sea by Albena Markova 






Middle of the World

by 



This sea will never die, neither will it grow old,
nor cease to be blue, nor in the dawn
cease to lift up its hills
and let the slim black ship of Dionysos come sailing in
with grape-vines up the mast, and dolphins leaping.

What do I care if the smoking ships
of the P. & O. and the Orient Line and all the other stinkers
cross like clock-work the Minoan distance!
They only cross, the distance never changes.

And now that the moon who gives men glistening bodies
is in her exaltation, and can look down on the sun,
I see descending from the ships at dawn
slim naked men from Cnossos, smiling the archaic smile
of those that will without fail come back again,
and kindling little fires upon the shores
and crouching, and speaking the music of lost languages.

And the Minoan Gods and the Gods of Tiryns
are heard softly laughing and chatting, as ever;
and Dionysus, young, and a stranger
leans listening on the gate, in all respect.

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Sunday, May 15, 2016

BW20: Armchair Travels through the Middle East




As we sail around the mediterrean sea, visiting various ports of call, I'm drawn towards Israel.  So much safer visiting the Middle East vicariously in books, exploring the past, the present and the future.   I currently have James Michener's The Source on my nightstand, calling my name.  




In his signature style of grand storytelling, James A. Michener transports us back thousands of years to the Holy Land. Through the discoveries of modern archaeologists excavating the site of Tell Makor, Michener vividly re-creates life in an ancient city and traces the profound history of the Jewish people—from the persecution of the early Hebrews, the rise of Christianity, and the Crusades to the founding of Israel and the modern conflict in the Middle East. An epic tale of love, strength, and faith, The Source is a richly written saga that encompasses the history of Western civilization and the great religious and cultural ideas that have shaped our world.


Bodie and Brock Thoene take us step by step through the rise of world war II in Vienna in the 1930's through the late 1940's to Israel's Declaration of Independence in their historical fiction series Zion Covenant and Zion Chronicles. Beautifully written and powerfully poignant, once I started reading, I couldn't stop until I'd consumed the whole series. 



Also on my nightstand is Joel Rosenberg's political middle eastern thriller The Third Hostage, which my son immediately absconded with and once he started reading it, couldn't put it down. His stories are spine chilling, finger nibbling, good. 



When New York Times foreign correspondent J. B. Collins hears rumors that an al-Qaeda splinter cell—ISIS—has captured a cache of chemical weapons inside Syria, Collins knows this is a story he must pursue at all costs. Does the commander of the jihadist faction really have the weapons? If so, who is the intended target? The U.S.? Israel? Or someone else? With tensions already high, the impending visit of the American president to the region could prove to be the spark that sets off an explosion of horrendous proportions. Knowing that terrorist forces are already trying to bring down two Arab governments in the region—Iraq and Syria—can Collins uncover the truth before it’s too late? Or will the terrorists succeed in setting their sights on the third target and achieving genocide? 

Two Israeli authors currently on my wishlist are Amos Oz and AB Yehoshua, thanks to Eliana.  Check out Goodreads for the Best Middle East Non Fiction and  Fiction as well as Historical Novels.com for Historical Novels of the Middle East

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Sunday, May 8, 2016

BW19: Ode to Mothers

Artwork courtesy of  Maria Oleszkiewicz 


Before I was Myself, You Made Me, Me

By 


Before I was myself you made me, me
With love and patience, discipline and tears,
Then bit by bit stepped back to set me free,

Allowing me to sail upon my sea,
Though well within the headlands of your fears.
Before I was myself you made me, me

With dreams enough of what I was to be
And hopes that would be sculpted by the years,
Then bit by bit stepped back to set me free,

Relinquishing your powers gradually
To let me shape myself among my peers.
Before I was myself you made me, me,

And being good and wise, you gracefully
As dancers when the last sweet cadence nears
Bit by bit stepped back to set me free.

For love inspires learning naturally:
The mind assents to what the heart reveres.
And so it was through love you made me, me
By slowly stepping back to set me free.


Happy Mother's Day, my lovelies 

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Sunday, May 1, 2016

BW18: Mediterranean May

Courtesy of Child Learns.com



Welcome to Mediterranean May and continuing our armchair travels east of the Prime Meridian.  While some continue their voyage with Darwin on the HMS Beagle, I'll be disembarking and sailing through the Straits of Magellan to cruise the Mediterranean. The sea is bordered by 3 continents and 22 countries as well as a variety of islands. .  We'll spend the next couple months exploring which will give those traveling with Darwin a chance to catch up. You can dive into history, plunge into mysteries,scale the highest peaks or dip into the valleys and submerse your palate in the fine wines and various cuisines offered by the different countries.  The sea is your oyster.

Currently in my backpack are several non fiction books including Rod Dreher's How Dante Can Save Your Life in preparation for reading Dante's Divine Comedy during Philosophical June. 





As well as Stacy Schiff's Cleopatra 




as well as historical fiction including Ben Kane's Spartacus the Gladiator




Have fun exploring! 

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Sunday, April 24, 2016

BW17: Darwin's Bards

Darwin's Bards





Seeing as April is National Poetry Month, figured I'd highlight one of the Poets mentioned in Darwin's Bards written by John Holmes: 

Darwin's Bards is the first comprehensive study of how poets have responded to the ideas of Charles Darwin in over fifty years. John Holmes argues that poetry can have a profound impact on how we think and feel about the Darwinian condition. Is a Darwinian universe necessarily a godless one? If not, what might Darwinism tell us about the nature of God? Is Darwinism compatible with immortality, and if not, how can we face our own deaths or the loss of those we love? What is our own place in the Darwinian universe, and our ecological role here on earth? How does our kinship with other animals affect how we see them? How does the fact that we are animals ourselves alter how we think about our own desires, love and sexual morality? All told, is life in a Darwinian universe grounds for celebration or despair?

Holmes explores the ways in which some of the most perceptive and powerful British and American poets of the last hundred-and-fifty years have grappled with these questions, from Alfred Tennyson, Robert Browning and Thomas Hardy, through Robert Frost and Edna St Vincent Millay, to Ted Hughes, Thom Gunn, Amy Clampitt and Edwin Morgan. Reading their poetry, we too can experience what it can mean to live in a Darwinian world. Written in an accessible and engaging style, and aimed at scientists, theologians, philosophers and ecologists as well as poets, critics and students of literature, Darwin's Bards is a timely intervention into the heated debates over Darwin's legacy for religion, ecology and the arts.



Still 

by 

A.R. Ammons

I said I will find what is lowly
and put the roots of my identity
down there:
each day I’ll wake up
and find the lowly nearby,
a handy focus and reminder,
a ready measure of my significance,
the voice by which I would be heard,
the wills, the kinds of selfishness
I could
freely adopt as my own:

but though I have looked everywhere,
I can find nothing
to give myself to:
everything is
magnificent with existence, is in
surfeit of glory:
nothing is diminished,
nothing has been diminished for me:

I said what is more lowly than the grass:
ah, underneath,
a ground-crust of dry-burnt moss:
I looked at it closely
and said this can be my habitat: but
nestling in I
found
below the brown exterior
green mechanisms beyond the intellect
awaiting resurrection in rain: so I got up

and ran saying there is nothing lowly in the universe:
I found a beggar:
he had stumps for legs: nobody was paying
him any attention: everybody went on by:
I nestled in and found his life:
there, love shook his body like a devastation:
I said
though I have looked everywhere
I can find nothing lowly
in the universe:

I whirled though transfigurations up and down,
transfigurations of size and shape and place:

at one sudden point came still,
stood in wonder:
moss, beggar, weed, tick, pine, self, magnificent
with being!


Find out more about A.R. Ammons  in The Paris Review interview as well as with Philip Fried of the Manhattan Review.  Meanwhile continue your voyage following in the HMS Beagles wake.


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Sunday, April 17, 2016

BW16: Following in the HMS Beagle's wake

Courtesy of About Darwin.com


I thought we'd do a bit a armchair sightseeing along with Darwin while reading Voyage of the Beagle.   Our first port of call is the Madeira Islands to explore their vineyards and do a bit of wine tasting. 




Then we'll sail through the Canary Islands and stop off at Tenerife for a walking tour and visit the 16th century town of La Orotava before doing a bit mountain climbing, or golf and/or whale watching if you prefer.




Then we'll cruise around Cape Verde, and visit the birth place of Eugenio Tavares and Pedro Cardoso, fathers of the island's poetical literary movement and popular for its music called morna.




We'll stop to do some snorkeling or skin diving in Fernando de Noronha for a bit, 




before weighing anchor near Salvador and exploring the tropical rain forests of Brazil and the Abrolhos Shoals.





It's going to be a long voyage so fill your backpacks with books set in Brazil. A booklovers guide to Brazil's Best Reads, as well as Books set in Cape Verde,

Happy travels!

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Sunday, April 10, 2016

BW15: Edith Wharton

Courtesy Edith Wharton.org

Our female author of the month is Edith Wharton, who was born January 24th, 1862 in New York.  She was the daughter of aristocrats and educated at home through tutors. She also learned through reading the classics from her father's large personal library.  Her mother supported her writing and had her poems published for private readings by family and friends. 

During her marriage to Edward Wharton,  her first full length work The Decoration of Houses was published through a collaboration with architect Ogden Codman.  




After her divorce from Edward in 1913, she was in Paris when World War I started.   She organized charitable organizations to help refugees and due to her work with french and Belgian refugees charities, was decorated with the French Legion of Honor.

In 1921 she became the first woman to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize for her fictional story, The Age of Innocence. 




In 1923 she was awarded an honorary doctorate by Yale University for her literary works and humanitarian efforts.

In 1924, the American Academy for Arts and Letters awarded her the gold medal for her fiction.


Over her lifetime, she wrote many novels, short stories, books of poem, as well as non fiction books about architecture, interior design, gardening and travel. 

Find out more about Edith's legacy and her home The Mount here, the Wharton scholarship through the Edith Wharton Society and check out her fiction, nonfiction and short stores on line through the Literature Network as well as Gutenberg.org 


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Sunday, April 3, 2016

BW14: The Voyage of the Beagle

The Voyage of the Beagle by Charles Darwin 


Welcome to the 52 Books voyage aboard the HMS Beagle with Charles Darwin and company.  Rose will be our Captain and guide for this trip.  

Charles Darwin: his name evokes as broad a range of responses as any figure in modern times. I’ve seen descriptions and characterizations of his life, his work, and his intentions in publishing it that seem like they can’t possibly all be about the same person.   How can you get a handle on the real Darwin? Who was he, what motivated him, what did he feel about the development of the theory of evolution, and what did he believe its legacy would be?  I’m going to suggest three books that will help an interested reader get a handle on the real Charles Darwin.  These books don’t specifically focus on the theory of evolution, but on the man behind the theory.

First: to understand the man, read his own words.  Start with The Voyage of the Beagle: May I recommend this lovely illustrated edition? 



It is slightly abridged, but it is also enriched with maps, photographs, line drawings, botanical illustrations, portraits, and very interesting excerpts from Robert Fitzroy’s Proceedings of the Second Expedition, the book he published about the expedition. This is the book I'll be reading this month, and I look forward to discussing it with anyone who'd like to join me!

The main thing that strikes me as I read Voyage is the wide range of Darwin’s interests, and the incredible breadth of his knowledge. He seems to be equally at home speculating about geology, botany, zoology, anthropology, and most other bio-related -ologies, and can theorize equally comfortably about algae, unique rock formations, and tortoises.  I keep thinking as I read, “Man, is there anything this guy didn’t know about or think about?” 

It’s fascinating to consider what his education must have been like, what kind of mental preparation and training he had in order to be able to observe, catalog, and think about all the things he saw on his remarkable voyage. Though we may have much more information at our fingertips today than Darwin could dream of, I imagine that few of us would consider ourselves as knowledgeable as he was – and at a remarkably young age: He was just 22 when the Voyage began.  This amazing voyage, and the thousands of observations and drawings he made and specimens that he collected gave him the raw material he needed to formulate his theory.

Ok, but how did Darwin get from The Voyage to The Origin of Species?



The Reluctant Mr. Darwin: An Intimate Portrait of Charles Darwin and the Making of his Theory of Evolution by David Quammen (a wonderful science writer! I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read by him) is, well, a fascinating and intimate portrait of Darwin’s life and work in the years between his return to England in 1836 and the publication of his paper on Evolution in 1859 – a remarkable 23 year lag which would certainly have been even longer had Alfred Russell Wallace, a young naturalist who had traveled to South America and Southeast Asia and who had independently developed the idea of evolution by natural selection, not sent Darwin his own manuscript to review.  Darwin saw with horror that this manuscript articulated many of the ideas he’d been developing, but sitting on, for so many years, and this prompted him to finally share his theory with world – ready or not.

Why did Darwin wait so long to publish his theory? Quammen’s discussion is enlightening, but for an even more intimate portrait from a different perspective, read Charles and Emma: The Darwin’s Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman.  



This was a lovely book that introduced me to a woman I now deeply admire: Emma Darwin.  As much a biography of Emma as of Charles and their life together, I was fascinated to read about Emma’s quite liberal and open upbringing and education.  The Darwin’s were cousins, and knew each other all their lives. They were aware of their compatabilities, and a marriage between them was natural and expected, but they were also aware of a potential incompatibility: Emma was a woman of deep faith, strengthened after the death of a beloved older sister, while Charles lived with doubt about the existence and the nature of God, and wrestled with the problem of evil his whole life, especially after the tragic deaths of several of his children.  

But the Darwin’s made the “leap of faith” and formed a unique and amazing partnership. Darwin’s reluctance to publish his theory was partly due to his own nature, his perfectionism, and his desire to present an unassailable case, but it also stemmed from a reluctance to cause pain to his wife. He didn’t think her faith would be challenged, but he did worry that she would be pained by attacks on him. 

I think it’s safe to say Darwin wouldn’t have been the man he was without Emma at his side.  She was his first reader and critic, and the example of how they conversed, with respect and love, about their theological differences was inspiring. I loved reading about their home, their children, their parenting philosophies.  And I loved reading about Emma and her life after Charles. I can remember just where I was as I listened to the end of this book: driving, tears streaming down my cheeks, thinking that in Emma, I had a role model I’d love to live up to.

I hope some of you will be inspired to read or listen to either of these Darwin biographies, and I hope you will join me on a read-along of The Voyage of the Beagle this month. I hope to tackle The Origin of Species at some point in the future, but first things first! 



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Sunday, March 27, 2016

BW13 - Book news and links



Happy Easter to all who celebrate!  April is coming quickly and will be a full month as we sail the seas and explore with Charles Darwin in Voyage of the Beagle.  Our very own Rose (Chrysalis Academy) will be guiding our travels and will be guest posting next week.   


The blogosphere  event of the year begins on April 1: the 7th annual  Blogging from A to Z challenge.   If you have a blog and have gotten out of the habit or just need some inspiration, be sure to check it out.  I'm diving in with both feet. 

April 12 is Beverly Cleary's 99th birthday and ALA is celebrating all month long with D.E.A.R. - Drop Everything and Read Month.  


April 23rd is World Book and Copyright day created by UNESCO in honor of Cervantes, Shakespeare and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega all died in 1616 on this day. Eliana will be leading the charge so stay tuned for more information.


April is also National Poetry Month  and in celebration Bill Murray contributed his favorite poems to O magazine 
 available in the April Issue now.

Have you found your bliss yet? Brianpickings highlights Joseph Campbell with What it Takes to Have a Fulfilling Life.

If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Wherever you are — if you are following your bliss, you are enjoying that refreshment, that life within you, all the time.


Book Kids Blog is celebrating National Poetry Month with 26 Inspiring Poems about the Joys and Importance of Books and Reading



I Opened a Book
By Julia Donaldson

I opened a book and in I strode.
Now nobody can find me.
I’ve left my chair, my house, my road,
My town and my world behind me.

I’m wearing the cloak, I’ve slipped on the ring,
I’ve swallowed the magic potion.
I’ve fought with a dragon, dined with a king
And dived in a bottomless ocean.

I opened a book and made some friends.
I shared their tears and laughter
And followed their road with its bumps and bends
To the happily ever after.

I finished my book and out I came.
The cloak can no longer hide me.
My chair and my house are just the same,
But I have a book inside me.

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Sunday, March 20, 2016

BW12: Vernal Equinox





Spring has arrived in the northern half of the hemisphere and Autumn has already come out to play at the beginning of the month in the southern half.  Whether you are experiencing flowers blooming or leaves turning all shades of yellow, red and orange, nature is putting on quite a show right now.  It's also time to pull out your trusty thesauruses or thesauri, which ever you prefer saying  and start plotting out your spring or autumn reading lists.  Or maybe take a look at Synonyms.com and see what you can find. Perhaps a book with capriole or galumph or caper in the title!

I think I'm going to take a different tack with Spring this year since the season is all about beginnings, growth, discovery and blossoming. A new copy of  Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way just arrived. I signed up to join a group of folks in my online writing community who will be diving in on April 7th. I read it a few years back and since then my original, very marked up, well used copy disappeared into the garage, boxed up along with numerous other books while we deep cleaned our bedroom. So I splurged on another copy - it is, after all, a new beginning...again.  *grin*  

Also in the offing is the annual April challenge -  Blogging from A to Z - created by Arlee Bird, and is now in its 7th year.  This will be my first time participating and I'm looking forward to it with excitement as well as trepidation.  As of March 21st, My Two Blessings will be nine years and as my posting has become rather sporadic lately, am attempting to get back into the groove.  Come join me and all the riotous fun. Come up with a theme and talk about books, life, homeschooling, clowns, engineering, maps or whatever your clever and intriguing minds think up.  

Still need some ideas for Spring or Autumn -- Check out The Millions Most Anticipated: The Great 2016 Book Review or  for something completely different - The 18 Books that investors will be reading over Spring Break!

Happy Reading! 


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