Sunday Salon: A Picture Paints a Thousand Books

Earlier this week, Simon from Stuck in a Book challenged the book blogging world to select and post a picture that sums up our reading tastes. The picture cannot actually have a book in it, so no fair posting a picture of your bookcase! I scoured through my vacation photos and found one that strikes me as a great representation of the kinds of books I read:

This is a photo of the priory ruins at Bolton Abbey, just outside the town of Skipton in North Yorkshire. It’s a lovely spot, but how does this photo encapsulate my reading?

  1. Beauty. The setting of this photo is beautiful, and I love books with beautiful writing.
  2. Sense of history. I love books written in the past, books set in the past, and books that in some way feel connected to history.
  3. Sadness. This photo is of a ruin, and there’s a sense of loss when looking at a ruin. I have nothing against a happy book, but most of my favorites contain some feeling of tragedy or melancholy.
  4. Hope. Even though the Augustinian priory in the photo is now a ruin, the church remains. (It’s there under the flag.) I like a tragedy, but relentless tragedy with no sense of hope would be too much. Even a glimmer, such as you see in this photo, can make a tremendous difference.
  5. Spirituality. This is, of course, a religious site, and not all of my reading is related to my faith, but I do love books that have a connection to something bigger, something beyond the world we can see.

Obviously, this single picture cannot capture everything I like in a book, and not every book I enjoy contains the qualities I mention above. Still, this comes pretty close to depicting the mood and tone of a huge chunk of my reading.

Want more? Check out Simon’s round up of other answers to this challenge. If you’re feeling inspired, give it a try yourself!

In other news: This Tuesday, I’ll be sharing a few favorite books in Kim’s Triple Choice Tuesday feature at Reading Matters. Do come check it out!


Notes from a Reading Life

Books Completed

  • The Summer Tree by Guy Gavriel Kay. I ended up so unimpressed with this overly complex fantasy that I’m uncertain about reading the rest of the trilogy.
  • Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut (audio). Brilliant writing, interesting ideas, but not, in the end, a favorite for me.
  • The Oracles by Pati Navalta Poblete. An enjoyable memoir of the cultural and generational gaps between a granddaughter and her Filipino grandparents.

Currently Reading

  • The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell. A LibraryThing Early Review book and my first David Mitchell. I’ve read about 100 pages, and I’m enjoying it so far.
  • Case Histories by Kate Atkinson (audio). I laughed out loud twice in the first 15 minutes of listening to this! What a way to start a mystery… really excited to see where it ends up.
  • Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy (reread). Just over 100 pages left. May finish this week.
  • Waiting for God by Simone Weil. A collection of Weil’s essays and letters that I’m working through slowly. Reading just one or two selections each week.

New Acquisitions

  • A Kierkegaard Anthology. A collection of writings spanning Kierkegaard’s career. We discussed Kierkegaard briefly in my modern theology class this year, and I’m interested in learning more.

On My Radar

  • Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay. I really enjoyed the film Picnic of Hanging Rock for its weirdness and ambiguity, but I had no idea it was a book until I saw this review at Caroline Bookbinder. Carin said this Australian classic, “had hints of Muriel Spark and Henry James.”
  • The Vet’s Daughter by Barbara Comyns. Claire of Paperback Reader, Polly of Novel Insights, and Simon of Stuck-in-a-Book just did an informal readalong of this novel about a girl growing up with a domineering father and a sickly mother, and the accumulated weight of their positive reviews put it on my list. Claire called it “enjoyable “but decidedly odd,” which is an apt description of a lot of very good books.
  • The Rector’s Daughter by F.M. Mayor. Rachel of Book Snob called this novel about a thirtysomething spinster who finds love and disappointment “one of the most well written books I’ve ever read.”
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16 Responses to Sunday Salon: A Picture Paints a Thousand Books

  1. Iris says:

    I like looking at all those pictures people have chosen for their reading. I really like your picture and explanation.

    Kierkegaard always interested me as well in class, I’ve never read anything by him apart from small scraps of his work for class.

    • Teresa says:

      Iris, I’ve only read a couple of scraps of Kierkegaard, but this anthology looks like a great way to start because it has excerpts from lots of his works. A nice way to get an overview, perhaps.

  2. I’m still thinking of the perfect photograph to sum up my reading habits… it’s tough.

    How telling that two of the books that have made it onto your radar this week -The Vet’s Daughter and The Rector’s Daughter- are both Virago Modern Classics (not to mention have coincidentally similar titles); I’m considering taking a step back from modern fiction and immersing myself in a few VMCs (and Persephones) as I love their often domestic, female focus.

    • Teresa says:

      Claire, I had to chuckle when I realized I picked two “daughter” books, but I hadn’t realized they’re also both VMCs! I’ve liked the handful that ones I’ve read and have several more on the shelf.

  3. Frances says:

    Simon has really struck a chord with blogger’s with this challenge! Like Claire though, I am still looking for just the right thing. At this point, I may be over-thinking it. :)

    Love your choice and can see how fitting it is for you. And let’s talk Kierkegaard when we see each other? Not an opportunity that often presents itself.

    Happy reading!

    • Teresa says:

      Frances, Narrowing my search to my recent vacation photos helped. I figured if I couldn’t find anything there, I wouldn’t find anything.

      I don’t know that I have much to say about Kierkegaard at this point, other than that I want to explore him further! Can’t learn much in a single class session. My school does sometimes offer a full class on him, and I’m hoping it works out for me to take it sometime. (Plus, I imagine the next time we see each other, we’ll be overflowing with things to talk about what with all the shiny new books at ALA to lust after!)

  4. rebeccareid says:

    What a fun project! I don’t know where I’d begin. I read too many different things!

    • Teresa says:

      Rebecca, Oh, I think my tastes are every bit as eclectic as yours! I just thought through emotions, moods, themes (and limited my hunt to one set of photos).

  5. Carin says:

    Picnic at Hanging Rock is out of print in the U.S. I couldn’t tell from your About Me page where you guys are located, so keep that in mind as you look for it! It’s available in the UK and Australia. The UK edition is available for special order in most US stores but it’ll cost a little more and take a couple weeks. You might try hunting it down in the library. Enjoy!

    • Teresa says:

      Carin, We are in the U.S., but I’ve had good luck getting books from overseas through Bookmooch. If my library doesn’t have it, I’ll just put it on my wishlist there and see what happens.

  6. bookssnob says:

    What a wonderful photo and description of your taste, Teresa. We share many interests when it comes to books I think.

    Glad The Rector’s Daughter has made it onto your radar – from your description of your taste, I am certain you will enjoy it immensely.

  7. Simon T says:

    A brilliant choice of photo, with great explanations behind it. I’ve been so impressed by the choices people have made.

    And for the books – as you know, I love Comyns. But I’m afraid I didn’t get along with Picnic at Hanging Rock. I haven’t seen the film, but the book was odd – then again, I wasn’t expecting the ambiguity. And then I read the final chapter, which was cut from the novel and published separately years later… that’s an eye-opener!

    • Teresa says:

      Thanks, Simon! I’ve been having fun seeing other people’s contributions. I need to check out the newest ones.

      I can imagine not liking the film of Picnic at Hanging Rock if you expected things to be tied up, but that’s precisely what I did enjoy about it. And yes, it was odd, very odd, which I love if I’m in the right mood for it.

  8. chasing bawa says:

    What a beautiful, atmospheric photo! I love everything about it!

    I remember reading Picnic at Hanging Rock at school and I loved it (although it left me baffled…)

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