Recommended books for the bibliophile on your holiday list

Published: Thursday, November 29, 2012 @ 1:02 PM
Updated: Thursday, November 29, 2012 @ 1:02 PM

There’s no getting around it, tablets and e-readers are here to stay — at least until some new technology renders them obsolete. But most likely there will always be those book lovers among us who hold dear the weight of a hefty hardback book in their hands, who relish the scent of freshly printed paper, the whish of a turned page.

There will always be that bibliophile eager to reveal something about themselves to a new friend through the loan of a favorite dog-eared volume, not to mention the pencil-wielding reader who underlines passages, scrawls notes in the margins and reads in the bathtub.

At least for the time being, there will be those people for whom virtual books just will not do, and it’s with those readers in mind that these three books are recommended for the holiday gift-giving season.

‘The Books They Gave Me’

Freelance writer Jen Adams struck a nerve when she created a blog inviting readers to write short essays about books they received as gifts and the people who gave them. And, as successful blogs are wont to do, it has spawned a book: “The Books They Gave Me” (Free Press, $19.99).

Most of the 200 or so featured titles were bestowed upon the recipients by past lovers and, based on the essays, the ability of each volume to engage the recipient — or not — seems to be an indicator (in hindsight) of the relationship’s ultimate success or failure. On the gift of Vladimir Nabokov’s “Lolita,” one recipient says: “I was nineteen. He was thirty. I’m not sure he thought this gift through.”

Many of the titles are penned by literary heavyweights — Salinger, Neruda, Bukowski, Du Bois, Vonnegut. But sprinkled throughout are children’s books, cookbooks and a surprising number of books by Augusten Burroughs. The short essays that accompany each title alternate between ironic observations on how a particular book speaks to some deeper truth between the giver and the recipient, or bittersweet reminiscences of love affairs so fleeting that the only reminders are the books left behind.

Essays aside, “The Books They Gave Me” serves as an excellent source of recommended titles when the stack of books on your bedside table has dwindled.

‘My Ideal Bookshelf’

Another good resource for reading recommendations is “My Ideal Bookshelf” (Little, Brown and Co., $24.99). Edited by Thessaly La Force and illustrated by Jane Mount, it reveals a peek into the personal libraries of more than 100 contemporary cultural figures.

Each contributor was asked to select a handful of titles that represent his or her current favorites and to write a short essay about them. Among the contributors are local luminaries chef Hugh Acheson (“The Taste of Country Cooking” by Edna Lewis) and architects Merrill Elam and Mack Scogin (Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”). There are musicians: Rosanne Cash (“Love in the Time of Cholera” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez) and Patti Smith (“Collected Poems” by Allen Ginsberg). And filmmakers: Judd Apatow (“Seize the Day” by Saul Bellow) and Mira Nair (“Midnight’s Children” by Salman Rushdie).

But the real thrill is seeing what books your favorite writers treasure most, like discovering that you and Mary Karr both cherish Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.” That Dave Eggers draws inspiration from Joan Didion’s “Slouching Toward Bethlehem.” That Junot Diaz has a soft spot for Richard Adams’ “Watership Down.”

Mount’s colorful illustrations of book spines add a whimsical touch that makes the volume worthy of coffee-table display.

‘My Bookstore’

If bookstores are “the physical manifestation of the wide world’s longest, best, most thrilling conversation,” as novelist Richard Russo says in the introduction, then “My Bookstore” (Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, $23.95) is a series of monologues on a single theme: affection for the independent bookseller.

In this collection of essays, established authors from Dave Eggers to Louise Erdrich and John Grisham to Henry Louis Gates Jr. opine on their favorite bookstores and, by extension, their unbridled love of all things books related. A local entry features Atlanta novelist David Fulmer espousing the joys of Eagle Eye Book Shop in Decatur, but Ann Patchett’s love letter to McLean & Eakin Booksellers in Petoskey, Mich., is so inspired, she makes the reader feel as though being anywhere but there is a tragic mistake. And that’s some endorsement considering she has a bookstore of her own in Nashville.

5 things you should know about Ramadan, Islam’s holy month of fasting

Published: Thursday, May 25, 2017 @ 8:00 AM

Muslims around the globe are gearing up for the holy month of Ramadan, which begins this weekend.

Throughout the holiday, observers fast from sunrise to sunset and partake in nightly feasts.

» RELATED: Muslims in America, by the numbers

Here are five things to know about Islam’s sacred month:

What is Ramadan?

Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, is the holy month of fasting, spiritual reflection and prayer for Muslims.

It is believed to be the month in which the Prophet Muhammad revealed the holy book — Quran — to Muslims.

The word “Ramadan” itself is taken from the Arabic word, “ramad,” an adjective describing something scorchingly dry or intensely heated by the sun.

» RELATED: Mahershala Ali makes history as first Muslim to win an Academy Award 

When is Ramadan?

The Islamic calendar is based on the moon’s cycle and not the sun’s (what the Western world uses), so the dates vary year to year.

By the Gregorian solar calendar, Ramadan is 10 to 12 days earlier every year.

In 2017, Ramadan is expected to start on May 27 and last through June 24.

Last year, the first day of Ramadan was June 6, 2016.

To determine when exactly the holy month will begin, Muslim-majority countries look to local moon sighters, according to Al Jazeera.

The lunar months last between 29 and 30 days, depending on the sighting of the moon on the 29th night of each month. If the moon is not visible, the month will last 30 days.

» RELATED: 5 inspiring quotes from iconic Muslim women to celebrate #MuslimWomensDay 

What do Muslims do during Ramadan and why?

Ramadan is known as the holy month of fasting, with Muslims abstaining from eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset.

Fasting during the holiday is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, along with the daily prayer, declaration of faith, charity and performing the Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

Last year, according to Al Jazeera, fasting hours around the globe ranged between 11 and 22 hours and in the US, 16 to 18 hours.

The fast is intended to remind Muslims of the suffering of those less fortunate and bring believers closer to God (Allah, in Arabic). 

During the month, Muslims also abstain from habits such as smoking, caffeine, sex, and gossip; this is seen as a way to both physically and spiritually purify oneself while practicing self-restraint.

Here’s what a day of fasting during Ramadan is like:

  • Muslims have a predawn meal called the “suhoor.”
  • Then, they fast all day until sunset.
  • At sunset, Muslims break their fast with a sip of water and some dates, the way they believe the Prophet Muhammad broke his fast more than a thousand years ago.
  • After sunset prayers, they gather at event halls, mosques or at home with family and friends in a large feast called “iftar."

» RELATED: Photos of famous Muslim Americans

How is the end of Ramadan celebrated?

Toward the end of the month, Muslims celebrate Laylat al-Qadr or “the Night of Power/Destiny” — a day observers believe Allah sent the Angel Gabriel to the Prophet Muhammad to reveal the Quran’s first verses.

On this night, which falls on one of the last 10 nights of Ramadan, Muslims practice intense worship as they pray for answers and seek forgiveness for any sins.

To mark the end of Ramadan, determined by the sighting of the moon on the 29th, a 3-day celebration called Eid al-Fitr brings families and friends together in early morning prayers followed by picnics, feasts and fun.

Does every Muslim fast during Ramadan?

According to most interpreters of the Quran, children, the elderly, the ill, pregnant women, women who are nursing or menstruating, and travelers are exempt from fasting.

Some interpreters also consider intense hunger and thirst as well as compulsion (someone threatening another to do something) exceptions.

But as an entirety, whether Muslims fast or not often depends on their ethnicity and country.

Many Muslims in Muslim-majority countries, for example, observe the monthlong fast during Ramadan, according to 2012 data from the Pew Research Center.

In fact, in Saudi Arabia, Muslims and non-Muslims can be fined or jailed for eating in public during the day, according to the Associated Press.

But in the United States and in Europe, many Muslims are accepting of non-observers.


How not to celebrate Cinco de Mayo

Published: Tuesday, May 02, 2017 @ 11:28 AM

Cinco de Mayo is Friday, and before everyone gets ready for happy hours and parties, it helps to go in with a plan.

>> Read more trending stories

There are plenty of ways to celebrate the day, which commemorates Mexico’s victory over France in the Battle of Puebla on May 5 1862, during the French-Mexican war.

Make sure you do not do any of the following:

Dress up in sombreros and fake mustaches

There is no need to "dress up" for this day, but if you do, do not wear a sombrero, mariachi suit, serape, fake mustache or anything of the sort if you are not a member of that culture. Those things have historical and cultural significance, and donning them just for a day caricatures and stereotypes people. That's not fun.

Go out and get drunk

There is nothing wrong with drinking in moderation and doing it socially, but responsibility is key. What is the use in celebrating a day if you get sick or can't remember it?

Make English words Spanish by adding an "o" on the end

Not only does it not make any sense, but by doing this, it makes fun of another language and turns it into a joke. The same goes for plays on the holiday name, so no parties or themes like "Cinco de Drinko."

You can make a margarita cupcake or a fun cocktail, or have dinner at a family-owned Mexican restaurant. There are plenty of ways to celebrate Cinco de Mayo without doing any of the three above.

Woman turns son's hospital bed into giant Easter basket

Published: Tuesday, April 18, 2017 @ 5:14 PM

Marine2844/Getty Images/iStockphoto

A woman turned her son’s hospital bed at Wolfson Children’s Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida, into a giant Easter basket, and social media loved it.

>> Read more trending news

The hospital posted the image on its Facebook page on Monday. Within 24 hours, the post has nearly 2,000 likes and nearly 400 shares.
“The lengths great parents will go to for their precious children,” one commenter wrote. 

The family is showing support for the post and have commented that they hope this becomes a trend for patients at the hospital every Easter.

Why is it called Good Friday and what’s so good about it?

Published: Friday, April 14, 2017 @ 12:14 PM

Pictured is a mosaic of Jesus Christ inside Messina Cathedral on the Piazza del Duomo in Messina, Sicily.
Eye Ubiquitous/UIG via Getty Images

Christians believe Jesus was mocked publicly and crucified on a solemn Friday two thousand years ago. Today, the calamitous day is celebrated as Good Friday.

But what’s so good about that?

>> Read more trending news

One answer is that at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion, “good” may have referred to “holy” in Old English, a linguistic theory supported by many language experts.

According to Slate, the Oxford English Dictionary notes the Wednesday before Easter was once called “Good Wednesday.” Today, it’s more commonly known as Holy Wednesday.

And Anatoly Liberman, a University of Minnesota professor who studies the origins of English words, told Slate if we consider the alternative names for Good Friday, such as “Sacred Friday” (romance languages) or “Passion Friday” (Russian), this theory makes a lot of sense.

Another possible reason for its moniker — a theory supported by both linguists and historical evidence — refers to the holiday’s ties to Easter Sunday, which celebrates the resurrection of Christ.

Because Jesus couldn’t have been resurrected without dying, the day of his death is, in a sense, “good.”

“That terrible Friday has been called Good Friday because it led to the Resurrection of Jesus and his victory over death and sin and the celebration of Easter, the very pinnacle of Christian celebrations,” the Huffington Post reported.

A third answer, some believe, is that the “good” in Good Friday was derived from "God” or “God’s Friday” — the way the term “goodbye” comes from a contraction of the phrase “God Be With You.”

Still, not everyone refers to this day as Good Friday. For example, 

The Catholic Encyclopedia mentions that, in the Greek Church, the holiday is known as "the Holy and Great Friday." In German, it's referred to as "Sorrowful Friday."

And as aforementioned, “Sacred Friday” and “Passion Friday” are also used.

In addition, because the holiday is also commemorated with a long fast, Good Friday was also referred to as “Long Friday” by the Anglo-Saxons.