Seabiscuit: Excellent Sleeper

For some reason, I get extraordinary joy when I learn about creatures that like sleep as much as I do.  I really really like sleep.  So imagine my extreme happiness when I read this excerpt from Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand (page 38 in my edition, with introduction before this about how the average horse sleeps in teeny tiny snippets, mostly standing up):

Seabiscuit was the exception.  He could keel over and snooze for hours on end.  His inability to straighten his knees all the way may have been the culprit, preventing him from locking his forelegs in the upright position.  Fortunately, he suffered no negative consequences.  While every other horse at the track raised hell demanding breakfast, he slept long and late, stretching out over the floor of his stall in such deep sedation that the grooms had to use every means in their power just to get him to stand up.  He was so quiet that Fitzsimmons’s assistant trainers once forgot all about him and left him in a van for an entire afternoon in brutal heat while they went for a beer.  They found him there hours later, pitched over on his side, blissfully asleep.  No one had ever seen a horse so relaxed.  Fitzsimmons would remember him as “a big dog,” the most easygoing horse he ever trained.  The only thing Seabiscuit took seriously, aside from his beauty rest, was eating, which he did constantly, with great vigor.

To which I say, good job, Seabiscuit!  And happy weekend snoozing to all.

photo from

photo from

Shameless Plug for Jim Gaffigan

I usually love sitting down to lunch at work with ye ol’ blog and nothing but time (or more time than I find in other parts of the day).  But today I’m smack dab in the middle of a really good book, so this is going to be short and sweet, y’all.

Meet Jim Gaffigan.


Jim Gaffigan is a comedian and father of five, who also happens to live in New York City with all of those children and his wife in a two-bedroom apartment.  If you haven’t seen or heard him before, you could listen to an interview of him (NPR style) here.  I think he’s pretty darn funny, and he recently wrote a book called Dad is Fat.  Which is also funny.  It includes a lot of the things he covers in his comedy, but there’s new stuff in there, too.  And even the parts I’ve heard before make me laugh the second time around.

So yeah, Jim Gaffigan.  You should read his book.  If the funny part doesn’t pull you in, I’ll give you one more reason to read.  Gaffigan manages to make the picture of his life look simultaneously terrifying, hilarious, and like it might be fun to try out.  I don’t know many people who can talk about parenting in a way that makes me think all of those things.  Usually it’s just all terrifying or all sugary sweet, not a ridiculous adventure that includes fear and happiness all in one.


Finding a Spot for Things

I’ve been thinking about getting a full-time job again, so I’ve had a kick in the pants to deal with those nagging last few boxes that are hanging out downstairs.  Please keep in mind that these pictures are very much “in progress.”  Just thought I’d share the glories of unpacking.

books on chest

This (above) was my first attempt at creative book shelving.  It’s great until winter, when we might need to access the quilts and blankets in the cedar chest.

shelf over window

Then I realized that the shelves above several of our windows weren’t really connected to anything (and needed to come down anyway).  They’re already cut and painted, and we have a giant stack of bricks in the woods.  What can you do with boards and bricks?  Something like this:

brick bookcase

That is what I call free and awesome.

more books

And last but not least, I turned what used to be a sweater storage spot into some extra book space.  It still needs some adjustment, but I like where it’s headed.  With that final tweak, every book in our house has a spot on a shelf, and there aren’t even any double-stacked shelves.  Victory.

The tools and cleaning supplies and kitchen still need some storage work, but at least a few categories are totally taken care of.  Now I can submit job applications with one less house project on my mind.

The Book Boxes

Today was book unpacking day.  I admitted defeat with three or four boxes left, which seemed inevitable since we moved from a 5-bookshelf home to a 3-bookshelf home.  Our new house has more of just about everything, but definitely no built-in bookshelves.  We’ll have to improvise.

I couldn’t believe what a difference it made in the house to unpack some of our books.  As the book nerd in the family, most of the books are mine.  And as they came out of the box one by one (or in a giant stack most of the time), they reminded me of all these different times in my life.  

I just love books for that.  I would almost rather have a book that I read on a trip than a photo album of the trip.  The books remind me of everything I was thinking about at the time–of what I cared about and what I saw.  Seeing all of those books stacked up made me want to read as quickly as I can, so I can store new memories in new books.  

Speaking of awesome book-ish things, have you ever seen the “Ideal Bookshelf” website?  Jane Mount’s art combines lots of things I love (pretty and books, for starters), and it gives such a fun look into people’s lives by depicting their most treasured books.


art by Jane Mount

And this is what my ideal bookshelf looks like at the moment: 


photo from

It’s a little bit more shelf-like and amoebic than Jane Mount’s ideal, but it would also hold real books, which is a plus.

Bets Lost

I’m not the biggest gambler in the world.  I played one euro in the casino in Monaco and felt duly stupid when it was lost.  I do, however, have a huge stubborn streak.  So when Scott said, “There’s no way you’re going to finish that book before we move!” I took it as a challenge.  He probably meant it as an off-handed comment, but I decided to turn it into a bet.


Sadly, my wise husband was completely right.  There’s no way I’ll be able to read 400 more pages in the next… oh wait, we’re unpacking now.  It’s officially done.


I did make it almost to page 800 of a book that’s full of history and politics and emotion and stuff.  So that’s not too bad.  I just thought it would be the honorable thing to mention that Scott won the bet.

Reading Time: Three Bags Full

One of the things that changed during the first several months of marriage was the reading pace I used to keep up.  Reading together isn’t something that Scott and I do very often, and thus my reading time decreased pretty significantly in the past several months.  Not a big deal, just true.

But… I was glad to read a whole heck of a lot on the plane last week, and I managed to start and finish a book in old-timey Hannah pace.  It felt good to get swept into the story and finish it before my new-book-momentum lagged.

When you read a book slowly, you have to keep getting back into the story and remembering who did what and who has what strange habits, etc.  It’s like seeing new acquaintances once a quarter and trying to keep everything you learn about them straight from January to April.  If you read quickly, it’s so much easier to keep all of that information straight in your brain.

So, what wonderful book entertained me on the way from Virginia to Colorado and back again?  As you might have guessed from the post title, I read a book called Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann.  It was pretty great.  Let me tell you why.

Book Cover

A good cover never hurts.

I might lose you here, but the book is written from the perspective of a flock of sheep in Ireland.  They’re smarter than your average sheep, largely because their shepherd has the habit of reading to them daily from a wide variety of materials.  Or had a habit.  The book opens with the murder of their shepherd.  The sheep decide to investigate their shepherd’s murder, and then they’re adventuring away for the remainder of the book.

The sheep are such endearing characters.  Each has strengths and a very clear personality, some more traditionally sheepish than others.  Each contributes ideas to the investigation (again, some more than others), and it’s a wonderful story about the flock as a whole and a few sheep in particular.  The people of the village get their fair share of page space, too, to round things out a bit.

The plausibility of the story surprised me.  (Sheep doing investigation of humans?)  But at the end of the story, I was so pleased that the author chose to tell the story through the sheep.  In a weird way, thinking through the perspective of sheep for a few hundred pages is a little bit like thinking through the perspective of another culture for a while.  It helps you to see things in the story that would normally escape notice.  And that made me wonder what similar things I might be missing in real life, which can be a fun feeling sometimes.  Who doesn’t want to have a richer day to day experience, right?

So do I recommend this book?  Absolutely!  No matter what you’re reading, I hope it’s helping you to see things from a slightly different perspective.  And I hope you’re loving it.

Books are Back!

I haven’t been reading for a while.  You go through phases of having time for certain hobbies and not having time for them, right?  I’m sure you’ve been there before.  That said, this is the first time in my life that I haven’t had time for reading.  I think that makes it a noteworthy situation.

The exciting part of this story is that I think the no-reading phase is coming to a close.  I cited time in the last paragraph as my reason to not read, but it’s also because I haven’t felt all that inspired to read lately.  Then I remembered something great this morning.

I was thinking that my new library just doesn’t have the books I really want to read.  Or it does have them, but I don’t run smack dab into books like I used to.  When you work at the reference desk, people are always asking you about books you haven’t heard of before, and you actually see the new books on a new books cart every day.  You’re bound to find something you want to read.

When you work in a cave at the back of the library, however, people start asking you about software instead of books.  [I ask that you take a moment of silence to mourn the loss in my life of daily conversations about books.]

Then as I was getting ready to leave the house today, I remembered that I have an entire wall full of books at home that I haven’t read yet.  They just sit there, and I so often think, “I don’t have time to read all of those right now.”  But now I do have time to read them.  My library source of books has run dry, and it’s time to use my personal library again.  I’m kind of excited about that.

Because I was short on decision-making time this morning, I grabbed three books that I intend to start or finish in the near future.  Drum roll, please:

photo from Better World Books

The Geometry of Pasta is a pretty obvious pick, since I love food and I love things that are somehow related to Italy.  It’s technically more like a cookbook than anything else, but I intend to read through it before adding it to my cookbook shelf.  The illustrations are beautiful, and there’s some great history and random information mixed in with the recipes and cooking suggestions.

photo from Better World Books

Damosel is a young adult book (translation: it’s written for a middle school or high school audience and will be a really quick read).  It’s about the Lady of the Lake in Arthurian legend, who I’ve been thinking about more in the past several months thanks to a popular country song that references her.  This should be a good change from what I’ve read in the recent past.

photo from Better World Books

I was supposed to finish Olive Kitteridge for the November or December book club at my old library.  I read enough of it to successfully lead a discussion of themes and characters, but there are probably 100 pages that I skipped near the end.  It bothers me (a lot) to leave a book unfinished indefinitely, so that’s why this one is still on the list.  It’s award-winning, and I do think the characters are complex and well-written.  It’s also kind of depressing.

So all of that to say that I’m excited about reading again.  Lunch breaks will once more be dedicated to dorkiness, and hopefully I’ll have more good books to tell you about in the near future.