A New Year of Reading

For the past couple of years I’ve set an annual goal of reading a certain number of books.  Each month I post those accomplishments on a LibriVox forum.  I didn’t set a goal for 2016, but ended up reading 60 books.  This year I read 55 books.  The smaller number was a little surprising to me, until I remembered that I didn’t finish several books.  Years ago I would have trudged through any book, whether I liked it or not.  However, I realize that I’m at the age where I’d rather spend my time reading something I like.  If a book doesn’t “catch me” in the first 50 pages, it ain’t gonna.

For a couple of weeks this fall I interrupted a lot of my personal reading time while searching for audio books for my mother-in-law.  Her eyesight is nearly gone because of macular degeneration, so she now listens to books via an audio book player, enjoying  recorded books sent to her from the state library.  There are infrequent gaps in between the books she gets by mail, so I decided to find books for her through the LibriVox website.  That way she’ll always have something to listen to.  I chose subjects and writers that I thought would interest her, ending up with 50 items on a flash drive, filling it just a little more than half.  Most were novels, some books of short stories and a few non-fiction, books.  There were also several old radio programs, compliments of archive.org.  She seems to be very happy with the items I chose.   I wasn’t reading very much for myself at that time but finding several items that piqued my interest, I made a copy of the flash drive for myself.  Listening to some of those items will be one of my reading goals for 2018.

For now my reading goals for the year are to find things to that pique my interest, tickle my fancy, and so on.  If something doesn’t appeal to me or touch me in some way, then I’ll go on to the next book, short story, article, or whatever.  I have 12 months of reading ahead of me, which is plenty of time to enjoy lots of books and to reach whatever reading goals I have.

Well, 12 months almost minus one day, that is…looks like I’d better get started!

Sixteen Stories of Color

During many years of reading I’ve sometimes noticed that books and stories often have a color in the title. It makes sense as we are greatly influenced by colors, even if a particular color is just a printed word. A story entitled “The Pretty Princess” may have some appeal, but “The Pretty Pink Princess” is more descriptive and sounds more appealing. The oddly named “The Pretty Beige Princess”, not so much. So following in the theme footsteps of my “50 States 50 Stories” blog, I decided to write a “stories of color” blog. This meant a search for color themed writings. Since I wanted copyright free material, I once again turned to the Gutenberg website. I decided not to stray too far from the basic colors. After all, I probably wouldn’t have much luck finding a story with “burnt umber” in the title. I did expand my color list somewhat with metals such as “silver” and “gold” and even gave a salute to fossil resin with “amber”. I added some variety to the project by using sixteen different authors for the sixteen different stories. That meant I found some writers who are new to me, a discovery I always enjoy.

Here is a list with links of my “16 Stories of Color”, from my never-ending list of “books to read”

“The Amber Heart” from “The Torch and Other Tales” by Eden Philpott http://www.gutenberg.org/files/15737/15737-h/15737-h.htm
“The Amethyst Comb” from “The Copy Cat and Other Stories by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman http://www.gutenberg.org/files/1716/1716-h/1716-h.htm
“The Terror of Blue John Gap” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle from “Tales of Terror and Mystery: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/537/537-h/537-h.htm
“Brown Wolf” by Jack London from “Brown Wolf and Other Jack London Stories” http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/12336/pg12336-images.html
“The Black Monk” by Anton Chekov from “The Tales of Chekov, Volume 3” http://www.gutenberg.org/files/13415/13415-h/13415-h.htm
“The Quest of the Copper” by William Charles Scully from “Kafir Stories Seven Short Stories”
“The Fiery Dragon, or The Heart of Stone and the Heart of Gold” by E. Nesbit, from “The Book of Dragons”
“Green Branches” by Fiona MacLeod from “Great Ghost Stories” selected by Joseph Lewis French
“Grey Dolphin” by Ruchard Harris Barham from “Half Hours with Great Story Tellers”
“Death and the Orange” by Lord Dunsany, from “Fifty-One Tales” by Lord Dunsany
“The Pink Ghost of Franklin Square” by Charles Weathers Bump from “The Mermaid of Druid Lake
and Other Stories”
“The Purple of the Balkan Kings” by Saki (H. H. Munro) from “The Toys of Peace and Other Papers”
“The Red Room” by H. G. Wells, from “The Plattner Story and Others”
“Silver Dome” by Harl Vincent, from “Astounding Stories of Super Science, August 1930”
“White Nights” by Fyodor Dostoyevesky from “”White Nights and Other Stories”
“The Yellow Cat” by Wilbur Daniel Steele from “The Best Short Stories of 1915”

No Longer Seeing but Still Reading

A few years ago my mother-in-law was diagnosed with age related Macular Degeneration.  As an avid, lifetime reader she is obviously frustrated with this condition.  When reading regular print books became impossible she began reading large print books.  However, after a time even those became difficult to read.  A younger relative bought her a tablet and loaded an e-reader on it.  With some assistance and practice she’s downloaded some books and increased the size of the print.  She’s enjoyed reading several books in that format.  However, the tablet has since “died” and with her vision growing worse, she is reluctant to get a new one.

On a visit earlier this year I put the link to LibriVox via archive.org on her desktop, then showed her how to find books and authors that she might like.  She enjoyed listening to some short stories and looking for books.  However, even with a large monitor with items magnified on the screen, failing eyesight has made using that computer difficult.

However, showing her the LibriVox link reminded her that many years ago one of her elderly relatives used to receive records of books from a blind association – probably a state branch of the American Association for the Blind.  That reminder prompted her to ask her doctor about the availability of books for the blind.  The doctor put her on the program and in a few days she received an audio book device made especially for the blind and vision impaired.  Included were Braille, large print and audio instructions for using the device, how to order and return books, plus a few books already loaded on the device.  She was also given the means of letting the association know which authors, books and types of books she liked.

In a short time she was ordering books, receiving items in the mail that should appeal to her taste in reading, and thoroughly enjoying the experience of reading through listening.  Since receiving the device she has listened to several books, and plans to make a significant contribution to the association because of this particular service.

I’ve known people younger than my mother-in-law who have been confronted with major changes to their lives, among them unexpected handicaps.  Some have accepted these changes and are adjusting their lifestyles as needed.  Others haven’t been so accepting and are living in the past, or hoping for medical breakthroughs that are probably many years away.  Oh well, we all have different ways of coping with the bumps and barricades in life’s road.  I hope my eyes remain healthy and I won’t ever be confronted with a disease like Macular Degeneration.  However, if anything like that ever does happen to me, I’ll remember my mother-in-law’s determination and willingness to adjust to the change and follow her example.  Even though I may not be able to see anymore I’ll still continue to enjoy the pleasure of reading.

As a sort of “P.S.” to this blog, I wondered which other countries provide reading material for the blind and visually impaired.  The following from the archive.org website has some information on this.  https://blog.archive.org/2016/07/12/unlocking-books-for-the-blind-and-visually-impaired/

My 50 States 50 Stories Project

My 50 States 50 Stories Project

At the suggestion of a reader (the only reader, I suspect) of my never-increasing blog’s fan base, I’m updating information on this project with a link to the stories/books in the project.

A little more than a year ago I came up with the idea of finding a story online for each U.S. state.  I used Gutenberg.org as my main source, as I wanted to use copyright free material.  I ended up also using archive.org, so not every item on the list is copyright free – but most are.  I thought it would be fun to download each story, then compile them into one document.  Well, that was too cumbersome, so I realized it would be best to just make a link to each title.

It wasn’t long before I abandoned any preconceived notions I had of what subjects I might find and use – fiction or non-fiction.  Several times I found more than one item that I liked for each state.  I picked just one for this project, then kept the other link (or more) for my own, future reading interest.

So far I’ve only read a few of the items in this project, but I do plan to read the rest of them.  Of course I also plan to read a lot of the hardbacks and paperbacks I already have, plus the ebooks that I download, and LibriVox audiobooks and such.  Any person who loves to read knows what I’m talking about.

Anyway, here is my list for my “50 States 50 Projects”

Thanks for the suggestion, Maria!

Alabama: Alabama: A Belle of the Fifties Memoirs of Mrs. Clay, of Alabama, covering social and political life in Washington and the South, 1853-66 by Ada Sterling
Alaska:  Alaska: Cold Ghost by Chester S. Geier, Science Fiction Author
Arizona:  An Arizona Etude from Tales from the X Bar Horse Camp by Will C. Barnes
Arkansas:  Arkansas Slave Narratives  A Folk History of Slavery in the United States From Interviews with Former Slaves Typewritten records prepared by the federal writers’ project 1936-1938: Assembled by the Library of Congress Work Projects Administration for the District of Columbia, sponsored by the Library of Congress Washington 1941
California:  A True Incident of the San Francisco Earthquake from Stories Worth Rereading 1913
“Stories Worth Rereading” can be obtained only as a premium with the Youth’s Instructor, a sixteen-page weekly, published by the Review and Herald Publishing Association, Takoma Park, Washington, D. C.
Colorado:  The Denver Express By A. A. Hayes  From “Belgravia” for January, 1884
Connecticut:  The Farm Sunday from The Jonathan Papers By Elisabeth Woodbridge Morris
Delaware:  Romances of Early America A Belle of Delaware: Miss Vining of Wilmington and Dover
Florida:  The Exiles of Florida by Joshua R. Giddings
Georgia:  Reconstruction Period in Georgia 1865-72 by United daughters of the confederacy. Georgia division. Bulloch County chapter, Statesboro
Hawaii:  The House of Pride and Other Tales of Hawaii by Jack London
Idaho:  Behind Gray Walls by P. C. Murphy
Illinois:  A Thousand and One Afternoons in Chicago by Ben Hecht
Indiana:  The weekly Republican., March 02, 1911 Article “Develops Daredevils – Driving Autos in Traffic Makes Great Race Pilots” references the first upcoming Indianapolis 500 race
Iowa: Prairie Gold by Iowa Press and Authors’ Club
Kansas: A Little Kansas Leaven from Short Stories of the New America by Dorothy Canfield
Kentucky: Aunt Jane of Kentucky by Eliza Calvert Hall
Louisiana: Strange, True Tales of Louisiana by George Washington Cable
Maine: The Exodus of the Loyalists from Penobscot to Passamaquoddy by Wilbur Henry Siebert
Maryland: The Fugitive Blacksmith by James W. C. Pennington
Massachusetts: Sketches from Concord and Appledore By Frank Preston Stearns
Michigan: The Skeleton on Round Island from Mackinac and Lake Stories By Mary Hartwell Catherwood
Minnesota: Robber and Hero; the Story of the Raid on the First National Bank of Northfield, Minnesota, by the James-Younger Band of Robbers, in 1876. by George Huntington
Mississippi: Letters of a Badger Boy in Blue: The Vicksburg Campaign by Chauncey H. Cooke
Missouri: The Wild Bandits of the Border: A Thrilling Story of the Adventures and Exploits of Frank and Jesse James, Missouri’s Twin Wraiths of Robbery and Murder Published by Laird & Lee, Chicago
Montana: The Vigilantes of Montana, or, Popular Justice in the Rocky Mountains  by Thomas Josiah Dimsdale
Nebraska: Poems and Sketches of Nebraska by Addison Erwin Sheldon
Nevada: Nevada Sketches by Samuel L. Clemens (Mark Twain) from “The Wit and Humor of America, Volume X” edited by Marshall Pinckney Wildner
New Hampshire: The Devil’s Disiciple by George Bernard Shaw
New Jersey: Pilot Lore from Sail to Steam  by United New York and New Jersey Sandy Hook Pilots Benevolent Associations
New Mexico: Trinity (Atomic Test) Site By the National Atomic Museum
New York: Lights and Shadows of New York Life; or, the Sights and Sensations of a Great City by James D. McCabe
North Carolina: Literature in the Albemarle by Bettie Freshwater Pool
North Dakota: Prairie Smoke: A Collection of Lore of the Prairies by Melvin Randolph Gilmore
Ohio: Winesburg Ohio by Sherwood Anderson
Oklahoma: The Romance of Oklahoma by Oklahoma Authors Club
Oregon: Two Years in Oregon by Wallis Nash
Pennsylvania: Short Stories from Studies of Life in Southwestern Pennsylvania by Frank Cowan
Rhode Island: Reminiscences of Two Years with the Colored Troops By Joshua M. Addeman
South Carolina: My Life in the South by Jacob Stroyer
South Dakota: Sioux Indian Courts by Doane Robinson
Tennessee: The Raid of the Guerilla and Other Stories by Charles Egbert Craddock
Texas: The Trail Drivers of Texas by John Marvin Hunter
Utah: Dinosaur National Monument of Colorado and Utah by John M. Good, Theodore E. White and Gilbert F. Stucker
Vermont: Hillsboro People by Dorothy Canfield
Virginia: The Wife of His Youth and Other Stories of the Color Line, and Selected Essays by Charles Waddell Chesnutt
Washington: The Forests of Washington, from “Steep Trails”  by John Muir
West Virginia Civil War in West Virginia: A Story of the Industrial Conflict in the Coal Mines by Winthrop D. Lane
Wisconsin Stories of the Badger State by Reuben Gold Thwaites
Wyoming Bill Hosokawa: One Man’s Struggle Inside Heart Mountain, a Japanese Internment Camp Interviewed by Mark Junge


LibriVox Inspired

At the beginning of each month some wonderful people at LibriVox’s website (I have no idea who) post a blog on a particular subject.  This month’s subject was about some of the French authors whose works have been recorded in LibriVox.  Reading the blog made it tempting to listen to at least one of them.  However, this year I promised myself to read at least one “real book” each month.  In spite of having an overabundance of actual books, I don’t do that often enough.  At one of last year’s local library book sales I spent $1 for a taped shut, paper bag of 10 paperbacks. The give-away price and element of surprise were all I needed.  I bought the mystery bag and brought the books home to live among my other unread reading material.   At that time I also promised myself that I would actually make an effort to begin reading these “paper bag books” (I did read one last year) and other “real books” that had been patiently waiting on shelves for umpteen years.

When I read the LibriVox blog on “French Kiss” I remembered that one of the books from the library sale was French themed, so I picked it for one of this month’s reads.  The book was “Suite Francaise” by Irene Nemirovsky.  I had never heard of the book or the writer.  Although I’ve enjoyed reading since childhood, I don’t pay much attention to best-seller lists and don’t read reviews very often.  I don’t think I read anything about this book when it came out in 2005, although it was written several decades before that.  No, it would be better to say that it was “created”.  I could join the many people who have read this book and commented about it and the author.  But in this era of Internet access, anyone can “Google” the book title and author’s name to learn just how powerful this book is.  Not perfect, but one of those books that sometimes makes a person stop and exclaim “Oh my God…”

Reading how the author’s children kept their mother’s manuscript throughout the years because it was a part of her is easy to relate to – even for those of us whose parents lived long and happy lives.  That the manuscript was eventually given to the world is a gift that I will not forget and always appreciate.

A few pages before the book begins is a brief description of the author which ends with the statement: “She died in 1942.”  A very simple statement for a person living in a complex, often tragic time.  Very simply put.  But Ms. Nemirovsky’s notes on the book, her correspondence, the devotion of her children who guarded the manuscript and eventually brought her work back to life says so much more than that.

I’m glad that I followed through with the March LibriVox theme and read a book written about France by a woman who lived in France most of her life.  But the theme was about French writers and she wasn’t actually French.  Now I wonder…would her life have turned out differently if she were?

A New Year of Reading

It’s been a few months since I’ve written in this blog.  Obviously, I realize people aren’t waiting with bated breath to read my opinion of books.  Heck, I’ll bet my Facebook friends don’t even care to know what I had for lunch today.  Anyway, I began this blog just for the fun of occasionally writing about books. It is fun and I only post infrequently, so I’ve reached that goal.

I’ll start with comments on my Goodreads account.  I use it mainly to read about books I may be interested in, though I have posted a few short reviews.  A few days ago I received an e-mail from Goodreads, listing the books that I read in 2015 and the number of pages.  Amazing!  I wonder if they also know the number of words?  Better yet, which words were 1, 2 and 3 syllables, etc.  Most of my reading is done through LibriVox, Gutenberg, or old books we own, so I rarely bother to post my opinion of those books to Goodreads.

I read very few current best sellers and have not read “Go Set a Watchman” yet.  I suppose I will someday, though it is not on my “must read” list.  Heck, I don’t have a “must read” list.  That sounds too much like work – I prefer “want to read”.  While I don’t have any particular books currently in mind, I’ve decided that this year I’ll read at least one or two books by John Steinbeck.  Although I like his writing, it’s probably been more than 35 years since I’ve read any of his books.  I recently realized that I’ve never read any novels by James Fennimore Cooper, which is odd since I’m a fan of “old” books.  So this year I’ll turn to LibriVox for a good, old listen to a good, old novel by Cooper – possibly “The Last of the Mohicans”.

Speaking of Native American stories and history, I recently finished “The Exiles of Florida.”  I discovered this rather fascinating  story of a not-shining moment of American history through my “50 States 50 Stories” project.  Finding fiction and non-fiction books and stories for each state was interesting and rewarding.  Perhaps I’ll find a similar reading project for 2016.

I know there are many more reading projects waiting for me during this new year.  As for tonight, I plan to end the evening by relaxing with and finishing a very pleasant little book, “The Ponder Heart” by Eudora Welty.  It’s one of those books I’ve had on my “fixin’ to read” list for some time.  I’m glad I’ve finally gotten to it, as it’s a great way to start out the new year.

And for those who care, I had chili for lunch.



Earlier this year I began working on a “50 States 50 Stories” project, which I posted on this blog (though under a different title). Like a lot of my projects it languished at times, but was occasionally shocked back to life.

My original plan to download only short articles or stories into one document fell by the wayside. Some of the online material included pictures that were essential to the story. Or an entire book was so interesting that including only a chapter or two made it seem incomplete. So I chose to simplify the process by creating a document with links to the items I chose for each of the 50 states. In most cases I chose material published before 1923.

I did include a few newer historical items. One was for Wyoming: “Bill Hosokawa One Man’s Struggle Inside Heart Mountain, a Japanese Internment Camp”. While internment camps express one of the darker moments in American history, they are an undeniable part of our country’s past. It was important to me to include this (and a few other items) to show our country didn’t always do the right thing. Whether good or bad, I think it’s important to be aware of all aspects of history.

At first I thought I would find a lot of items – especially short stories -by choosing a writer born in a particular state (such as Mark Twain in Missouri) and pick one or two of his/her stories about that state. However, I soon found that writers often don’t write about their home states. I did find several short stories, articles and essays that I felt gave a nice “flavor” to particular areas of a state at a particular time. One was a collection of newspaper columnist Ben Hecht’s editorials from the 1920’s, “A Thousand and One Afternoons in Chicago”. Another was a late 19th century book, “Lights and Shadows of New York Life; or, the Sights and Sensations of a Great City” by James D. McCabe. I’m looking forward to reading these and getting a taste of what life was like in those cities during those times.

There were hundreds of writings pertaining to the conflicts of our country’s early history – both pre- and post-revolutionary. And, of course, there were dozens upon dozens of books about the American Civil War. Many books about the wars covered campaigns and battles in great detail. Great for buffs of war history, but way too much information for what I was doing. I was looking for more personal touches. I wanted something with an everyday, common person’s view of life. I found just what I was looking for in “Letters of a Badger Boy – The Vicksburg Campaign”. These letters were written by a young Wisconsin soldier fighting in Mississippi during the Civil War.

I didn’t always stick with the history of a state or stories about people or areas of a state. I also chose a couple of items on a whim. One was “Cold Ghost”, a science fiction story set in Alaska. My choice for Utah (and also part of Colorado, I’ll admit) covered the pre-historic setting of Dinosaur National Monument.

I learned a lot working on this project. I learned that there are always surprises and new worlds to explore when it comes to books, articles, and other publications.  I also learned that the hundreds of stories written about our country’s history can still make people come to life – whether the person is real or a fictional character.

I’ve learned that exploring a new project is always interesting, fun, surprising, and well worth doing again. But first, I have some reading to do.

The Worn Doorstep

So far my posts on this blog have been general comments on my feelings about books and reading.  I knew I wouldn’t critique most of the books I’ve read. There are dozens of online reviews on books – professional critiques, book blogs, reviews in Amazon, Goodreads, etc., so I never felt obliged to include my opinion about anything I read.  Most of the time I either like or don’t like a book.  If I especially don’t like it, I don’t bother to finish it.  Unless something about a book strikes me in a special way, it isn’t in my nature to elaborate on it.  I either think it’s an OK book, enjoy it, or like it a lot.  I may briefly comment on a book in my own, personal book list, but rarely go beyond that.

“The Worn Doorstep” by Margaret Pollock Sherwood, is an exception.  I found this book online when searching for a chapter or two of World War I related prose to be included in LibriVox’s second volume of that war’s centenary collection.  Searching for fairly short pieces of online fiction, I found reference to this book on archive.org in a book written in 1921:  “European War Fiction in English, and Personal Narratives: Bibliographies”.  Several items seemed a good fit for the LibriVox project, but “The Worn Doorstep” especially stood out.  I downloaded it from Gutenberg and began reading through it, looking for a section or two that might be appropriate for the project.

In a very short time I knew that I wanted to read this book for myself, not just for a project. It is a relatively short book, often pleasant and humorous, sometimes sad and poignant.  The story begins with a letter which the main character is writing to her fiancé:

“August 25, 1914. At last I have found the very place for our housekeeping; I have been searching for days: did you know it, dear? The quest that we began together I had to follow after you went to the front…”

The book continues as she describes the anticipation and frustration of finding a home, until she finally finds one that will suit them:

“How fortunate, and how unusual, in so small a house, that the hall leads all the way through from green to green!  We shall get all the breezes that blow, for the house faces the west, as all houses should face; and always and forever we shall hear the stream.  There’s a step there at the back, down to the garden walk, that you must remember, you who are so absent-minded.

“… I keep forgetting that you are dead.”

That last sentence hits like a velvet hammer.  What seemed to be a letter to her fiancé at the front is her journal, written after the news of his death.

As the journal continues, her grief is evident:

“I have been away for a week, a week in which I have not dared leave one moment unoccupied. To keep my sanity, I must be busy all the time; life cannot be cut short in this way.  When great forces have begun to stir within you, like the gathering of all waters far and near, you cannot safely stop them all at once; I must have, in the weeks to come, some outlet for this surging energy.”

As time goes on and the writer copes with everyday living, it becomes evident that the chaos of war has become a big part of life.  Everything changes as men leave for the front, news of far away battles reaches everyone and, most of all, war refugees become part of everyday living.

As the writer opens up her home to some of the refugees who cross her path, their lives, fears, sorrows, happiness, deaths and births become part of her life and the lives of those around her.

As she changes and grows, she writes in her journal:

“Loneliness seems forever impossible since you went out and left the gate ajar, and all the world came in, and all its sorrows. The griefs that enter, in some strange way solace my own, and this increasing sense of the anguish of the world is lightened and lifted by sharing it with other folk.”

This isn’t the type of book that a person tells friends about, saying “You have got to read it. It is so exciting!” It isn’t that at all. But it is a very good, well written book. It’s a book that will make you think, a book that you will remember and, quite possibly, one day read again.


It’s been several years since I bought my first e-reader. That, along with audio books or audio downloads, has become my preferred method of reading. I still like “real” books, as one friend calls them. However, while checking my list of books I’ve read, I realized that one year I had read only one print book. I was disappointed in myself. We have enough books scattered throughout the house for me to read the rest of my life. So why were they being ignored? Or were they?

Although I wasn’t reading the books, I would often take one out, thumb through it, and promise myself to read it “one day”. Even though I’ve hardly made a dent in the treasures on our bookshelves, I have been reading more “real books” lately. Even when I don’t read my printed books I still think of them as treasures…as beautiful books.

There are a few that are truly beautiful. These are ones I’ve bought as much for their handsome covers and bindings as for their content. The books are usually of good quality but, with a few exceptions, are not leather bound. I’ve bought several sets of books at our local library’s book sales. Some in good condition, others less than fair. Even when in less than good condition, there is something appealing about a set of books.

Recently I was moving one of the sets to a less crowded shelf. These were an early 20th century set of French Classical Romances. The books were in barely fair shape when I bought them, and had certainly not fared well throughout the years. They certainly weren’t anyone’s idea of beautiful books, but I saw their beauty in the fact that someone had thought enough of these novels to put them into a collection.

Some of the pages were loose, but that could be fixed with book tape. But there was a more serious problem. The spines were literally coming off the books in pieces. I’m sure being squeezed in with so many other books hadn’t helped them. I went online and took a brief look at preparing books spines. I say “brief” because I quickly realized it wasn’t in my nature to do the work required, especially on only fair quality books. I decided that particular set would be best with the newly taped pages, but the outsides left as is.

I set them on the shelf, broken spines and all. Chances are I’d probably never read all of them. Of course I might read one or two, which means I would have to tape the outside to keep those books from falling apart. That would mean the other books would look even worse…OK, OK I give up!

So I gave up (somewhat) and decided to buy a decorative roll of duct tape to repair the spines. I knew that wasn’t the proper solution, but at least the books would stay together and should look better. So on a trip to Wal-Mart I looked for something appropriate. None of the designs or colors seemed right, except the gold. But did I really want that? Wouldn’t it give the books a sort of PWT look? Well, they couldn’t look any poorer or white-trashier than they already were. So gold duct tape it is!

I began repairing the books, going through each one to tape pages I may have missed. The first book was repaired and the gold tape looked surprisingly decent. Finally the last book was done and they were all back on the shelf. There was nothing outstanding about them, but they now looked respectable.

But these books need something more to show that they were important, that they meant something. They didn’t fill the entire shelf, so there was space for a decoration to complement them. But what? A search of stored away items didn’t turn up anything, until I noticed a round, gold box that had held a Christmas gift. That should work nicely. Then on a small shelf I spied a miniature sugar and creamer of my grandmother’s – a pretty, little white set with a gold fleur-de-lis design. It just fit on top of the box! How perfect!

So the decorative items are now next to the set of books, which are proudly wearing their strong, new and quite attractive spines. Now they know that they are respected and loved. Now they are truly Beautiful Books.


Although I started my “50 States 50 Stories” project in April 2015, my work on it has been sporadic. This is because I haven’t given myself any deadline for finishing. This project is strictly for my own leisurely enjoyment. I just plan to have fun as I ramble towards my “sometime” deadline.

I’ve also allowed myself some wandering around the alphabet as I find stories. I’ve temporarily skipped Massachusetts in favor of Mississippi. This is because the hot, humid weather is more akin to thinking of states like Mississippi rather than Massachusetts.

As I’m using only copyright free material for the project, I began with a search of the word “Mississippi” in the Gutenberg.org site. Uhoh, big mistake! I’d forgotten that this would bring up numerous stories and articles about the Mississippi River, not just the state. Then I tried names of some of the Native American tribes from Mississippi. That was all right to a point, but many tribes in what became Mississippi moved from area to area, often ending up someplace other than Mississippi. (Probably not their idea in most instances.)

So I started looking for texts on the various towns in Mississippi – Tupelo, Pascagoula, Natchez, Vicksburg…oh! The Siege of Vicksburg. While I’m not an American Civil War or any war aficionado, I was somewhat aware of the importance of this incident. So my “Siege of Vicksburg” research began. “A Soldier’s Story of the Siege of Vicksburg” looked promising, but was really a little too long. Then I saw that there was a poem about the siege. A poem would be perfect! Well… not one that’s 300 pages long. OK, start searching again. There were lots of detailed accounts – from the southern side, northern side, regimental histories, descriptions of battles, etc. But none seemed right for the project and most of them too long. I was beginning to think I’d never find even one appropriate Mississippi story for this project! Then I found “Letters of a Badger Boy in Blue: The Vicksburg Campaign”. These series of letters were written by a 17 year old Union soldier from Wisconsin (thus the Badger boy referemce) about his time in the Vicksburg area. They were descriptive, personable, first-hand accounts, and just what I needed!

Glancing through the letters, I wondered what had happened to the young man who wrote them. Had he perished during the war? Or had he survived those trials? Researching ancestry.com, I found that he did survive, married and had a family, passing away in 1919. His letters were published in 1920 by the “Wisconsin Magazine of History”, where I found them on archive.org.

Others were obviously as impressed as I was by the letters. The book is not only available from archive.org, but is also sold online as both an e-book and a hard copy book.

So my Mississippi portion of my “50 States 50 Stories” that began with a rather frustrating search ended with a selection that is “just right” for the project. Story found, frustration overcome, mission accomplished. Life is good.