My Favorite Things

Asja and Sebree. If you’d like to hear a story about them, click on this link.

I’m all over the map with this My Favorite Things post – literally. Here are a few of my favorite things you might enjoy reading, watching, or listening to:

Orcas and making audio essays: This one is my own creation, I confess. “The Ancient Ones” is a new audio essay  in my From Where I Stand series on A Journal of the Built + Natural Environments. Have a listen – I’d love to share six and a half minutes of my fabulous Olympic Peninsula vacation with you, where I fell in love with Asja and Sebree. I’d appreciate comments and feedback here or on the site.

Books about famous bookstores: I’ve only been to Paris once, and I regret that I didn’t stop by the famous Shakespeare and Company bookstore. I don’t know what I was thinking! Someday, I’ll have to remedy that. Now, there is a book about this famous shop, where some of the greatest writers of the 20th century spent their days, and even slept. See Shakespeare and Company: A History of the Rag & Bone Shop of the Heart, by Jeanette Winterson.



Chunksters, or Giant Translated Novels: I love this LitHub article, “Ten Giant Translated Novels that Make a Mockery of Subway Reading.”   Many thanks to my blogging friend Vishy for letting us know about this.

It’s a great little list if you want to take on some ambitious reading, which I like to do from time to time. Do any of these over-the-top books appeal to you? Which one(s)?

I want to begin Knausgaard’s My Struggle series one of these days (my son loves it), that’s what I keep saying, but I’m dismayed to find his last volume in the series is 900 pages!

a-true-novelI’m fascinated by the sound of A True Novel by Minae Mizumura set in postwar Japan because it has been compared to Wuthering Heights.

Giacomo Leopardi’s 2500-page Zibaldone may be worth dipping into, though not reading straight through, because of my Italian heritage. “Zibaldone” is what this great poet and thinker called his gigantic notebook, and these are his collected writings. I’m curious about it – there are SEVEN translators, including Ann Goldstein, who translated Elena Ferrante’s novels.

Several of the others appeal to me, too. Do any appeal to you enough to take one on?

Geeky things like an old video about the first Kodak Colorama made from a photo taken under water: For years and years, a giant Kodak photograph, known as a Colorama, hung over the crowds passing through Grand Central Station in New York. I was in those crowds; little did I know that in a few years I’d be living upstate in Rochester and working for Kodak.

Rochester is still steeped in the mythology, lore, and beauty of photography, despite Kodak’s decline. The Rochester Institute of Technology, where my son studied photography, is one of the top photo schools in the country. Fabulous photographers and photography teachers are plentiful here, as are photo galleries, photo equipment retailers, and photography experts. The George Eastman House is one of the world’s largest repositories of photos and films.

Neil Montanus was one of the elite Kodak photographers who documented America and baby boomers coming of age for Kodak advertising. I found this vintage video on the site of Jim Montanus, his son. If you’re fascinated by how things are invented and how they work, you might enjoy this.


People who make things: I think the trend of calling people “makers” is a little weird and pretentious, but I do love the movement back to “old soul crafts and lost arts,” in the words of one of the artisans in this delightful little video. I guarantee it will lift your spirits, especially your creative spirit. The With Love Project will soon be made into a book – I would buy it. After you watch this, tell us in the comments who your favorite maker is in the video. I’m partial to the shoe maker/designer, myself.



What do you think about anything on this list? Might you read any of the chunksters on the LitHub list? Are you especially enchanted by any of the makers in the With Love Project? 

19 thoughts on “My Favorite Things”

  1. I loved your audio essay. I had no idea you were doing that. You are so talented. I’m enjoying catching up with some of your blogs I’ve missed. I’m also happy to have been introduced to such a great website at Thank you.

    1. Thanks so much Deborah. I’m really learning as I go along with these audio stories. I sometimes struggle a bit with what to say as someone who is not an ecology/environmental expert, but someone who wants to know and learn more and pay more attention to how we live and respond to the places that nurture us. I’m glad you like terrain, I think it’s terrific and I’m not surprised you like it.

  2. Hello. Thanks for the interesting offerings here. I’ve put in a library request for Shakespeare and Company.
    As for Paris–where you can buy wine, fresh baked bread and caviar for a picnic all in one small corner market then feast at the river. America’s don’t know how to enjoy life or live well on a daily basis. The French DO.
    You should go again. Soon.
    so should I.

  3. While in Ireland, we actually saw several small bookstores like we use to have here in the US. They are so charming and have so much character in comparison to the large chains we are left with or the online experience. I missed reading while I was gone. 🙂

    1. From what I’ve seen, there do seem to be many more independent bookstores in Europe. I’m hoping that will change eventually for us if bookstores can figure out a way to make a profit. I sure appreciate those that are trying. Thanks for stopping by, Judy, I love your Ireland photos.

  4. Oh I missed that chunkster link at Lithub so thanks for that! I have read 2666 and 1Q84, both strange and excellent in their own ways. I started My Struggle but gave up halfway through the first volume when I started to prefer reading everything else but that. Will definitely be looking into the others on the list!

  5. One day, I’ll go to Shakespeare & Company, too! As for that list of translated chunksters? Well, I committed to a read-along of Captivity in January, and I’m intrigued by A True Novel. (Maybe after I have read Rebecca West’s Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, which is currently sitting next to me. It’s a 1,160-page Penguin paperback.)

    1. I will have to look out for the read-along. It would be fun and motivating to do that with one of these books. Re: A True Novel, I love WWII stories. I have not yet read Rebecca West and I’m not familiar with that book. I hope you write about it on your blog, I’m interested.

  6. Beautiful post, Valorie! I will listen to your experience with Asja and Sebree and comment back soon. I have a memoir set in the Shakespeare bookshop in Paris. So nice to know that Jeanette Winterson has written a history about this literary institution. I can’t wait to read it. So wonderful to know that your son studied photography! I would love to read the book version of the With Love Project. Glad to know that you liked that article about chunksters. I want to read Knausgaard’s book! And the Japanese Wuthering Heights too! I read a few pages of Leopardi’s Zibaldone and I am loving it. Can’t wait to read more. Thanks for this beautiful post! Happy reading!

      1. Ha, ha, ha! Yes, I think so 🙂 You can ask me that 🙂 I invested a small fortune on it. My library wouldn’t stock Leopardi. I thought I will share a couple of passages from the beginning of the book. Do tell me how they are

        (1) “In literature, one passes from nothing to the middle and to truth, then to refinement. There is no example of a return from refinement to truth. The Greeks. Italians writing in Latin. Fine taste among the generality of men of letters can exist only while it is still uncorrupted. For example, the only fault of sixteenth-century writers in Italian was insufficiency rather than excess, and they were therefore well suited to judge of the right amount, that is of true beauty, as indeed they did.”

        (2) “The object of the Fine Arts is not Beauty but Truth, that is to say the imitation of Nature in any form. If it were Beauty, the more pleasing would be that which was more beautiful, and that would be the road to metaphysical perfection, which is nauseating rather than pleasurable in the arts. It is no good arguing that it is beauty only within the limits of nature because this itself shows that it is the imitation of nature therefore that gives delight in the fine arts. For if it were beauty in itself, it follows, as I have said, that greater beauty should bring greater pleasure, and thus the description of a beautiful ideal world should bring more pleasure than the description of our own.”

        Did you like them? What do you think of the second one?

      2. Vishy, re: the passages you posted below, they are amazing. I had to read them several times to get the meaning, and I’m not sure that I did, maybe partially. I love the first sentence of the first one, about the journey to truth and then refinement, that I think is true, though I certainly never had that thought before. I’m not sure I understand the rest of it. The second one, I agree with, though I’ve never thought about it in that way before. It seems to me you could pick a passage to study everyday with this. I do that sometimes with Van Gogh’s letters, which I love. Anyway, I’m now curious to see if the Rochester public library has this volume – if not we have a local college with an Italian department and they may have it. Thanks for this in-depth response, I now it’s hard with all the content out there to respond meaningfully – I appreciate these words all the way from India.

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