Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Pleasures of Reading, Viewing, and Listening in 2015: pt. 25: Jean LeBlanc

The Pleasures of Reading in 2015
by Jean LeBlanc

I teach at least five courses each semester at a small but vibrant community college. This cuts into my reading time, as you can imagine. Still, I keep a book or two under my pillow, for those few minutes each evening I can keep my eyes open, or for one o'clock a.m. when a school dream chases all hope of sleep away. Even now, mid-December, my stack of books slated for summer reading is taking over a corner of my bedroom. My reading time is precious to me, and I appreciate books that make me feel I am in the presence of brilliance. Several books from this past year stand out in my mind...

1.  I began the year with an old favorite, Doris Kearns Goodwin's No Ordinary Time. I was inspired to reread this after viewing Ken Burns's documentary about the Roosevelt dynasty.

2 and 3. I spent my spring break with two more perennial favorites, Jane Austen's Persuasion and E.M. Forster's A Room with a View. I want to live in these worlds!

4. Summer! And a new release from David McCullough. This book quickly became my new favorite non-fiction read: The Wright Brothers. What an American story; what odd but loveable characters. And what a revelation: Orville and Wilbur's sister Katherine, their support at home but also a woman ahead of her own time. This book was so thrilling, I read it a second time within a month of finishing it in May.

5.  I don't usually read mystery novels, but a friend of mine, Richard Goffman, has penned two that are set on the Jersey Shore, peopled with all sorts of interesting characters. The protagonist is a high school English teacher who doesn't mean to get himself sucked into all this drama, but there he is, at the center of it all. Richard's second book, Laid So Low, was one of my favorites this year. His day job (teaching, of course) means all his fans are waiting (im)patiently for Mr. Bachman mystery number three...

6 and 7.  And of course, poetry. This is my craft, so I try to read a book of poetry a month. The two that stand out from this past year are Scott Metz's lakes & now wolves, a book of haiku so delicate, so haunting, so deep, I can't believe even as I'm looking at the book that it is comprised of ordinary words. It's some new kind of language, these poems by Scott Metz. David Huddle's new volume of poetry, Dream Sender, has also joined other books by this poet on my "favorites" shelf.

There were other wonderful books this past year, of course. I am sure I will look back at this list and think, "Why didn't I include...?" Time to go grade a few research papers, prepare for my spring courses...and maybe glimpse at a page or two of my current favorite book that shows me again what it's like to have all this brilliance right at my fingertips.

Happy reading!

Jean LeBlanc is an assistant professor of English in Newton, New Jersey. She is the author of numerous books, including At Any Moment, The Haiku Aesthetic: Short Form Poetry as a Study in Craft, Where We Go: haiku and tanka sequences and other concise imaginings, Skating in Concord, and The Stream Singing Your Name: Tanka & Sijo.Aqueduct Press published her poetry collection A Field Guide to the Spirits earlier this year.

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