Anne said

Boat in FogLook at that sea, girls – all silver and shadow and vision of things not seen. We couldn’t enjoy its loveliness any more if we had millions of dollars and ropes of diamonds.

Anne of Green Gables

by Lucy Maude Montgomery

First anniversary book giveaway

What one loves in childhood stays in the heart forever.   Mary Jo Putney

Snow-covered trees
After the storm.


Books Can Save a Life is a year old this month.

I’ve grown so fond of it here and of you who visit and comment. Meeting people from all over and re-connecting with friends and distant family  –  I never expected that.

Not to mention the beautifully conceived and produced blogs about books, writing, food, nature, gardening, travel, creativity, and other topics I’ve discovered, and the artistic geniuses behind them.

Books Can Save a Life is a lot like my backyard retreat, where I sit by our homemade pond after I walk or run. I always look forward to visiting Books to set down my thoughts and see who has stopped by.

To celebrate a year of Books, I’m having a book giveaway. By the end of February, leave a comment about a book you’re reading. a book you want to read, a book that’s becoming a movie, a book memory, or anything at all to do with reading, and I’ll put your name in a hat. (Actually, I use a rice bowl.) If I draw your name I’ll send you the book of your choice. If you can’t decide on a book, I’ll surprise you.

You might have noticed I’ve redecorated, too. I’ve chosen a new design theme in honor of the coming year and to signify a more expansive focus on topics beyond books. There’s so much I want to write about.

But you’ll still find plenty of books here.

Your comments and guest posts are what I absolutely love about this blog. Many of you spoke of books from your childhood that years later still evoke memories of family and loved ones, places you’ve been, and particular times in your lives. I think sometimes the very story or book we need comes along, or  somehow we’re led to find it.

Here are a a few comments from readers of Books this past year. Please keep them coming.

I can’t imagine my room without my personal bookcase, or a world without books. (Giuseppe)

It’s hard to put yourself in their places [The Hunger Games], living their lives and going through what they do daily in their “world,” but that’s what’s so great about books, they take you to different places and times through the amazing imagination of the authors. (Diana)

I find many so called adult novels pretentious. I want a story. I return, often, to what is classified as young adult literature, mostly because these are stories of life. Stories – in the true sense of the word. And, I can’t help but say that, years ago, I was saying to people, “Have you read the Harry Potter book?” And everyone said no. Then came that glorious day on the L in Chicago, traveling home from work, and I saw not one, not two, but six adults reading the book. I wanted to laugh out loud at the thought of those six people entering into another world…. (Donna)

Agatha Christie wrote a story without heroes; to me, that was heroic honesty.  Conversely, the inevitability of justice satisfied me. For all my contempt for two-faced authority, I still relished the idea of wrongdoers punished by divine oversight.  My sense of my own weakness as a child needed that reassurance. (Doug)

Cooking from Moosewood, even with its imperfections, was utopian. Funny how small, utopian practices can make you feel, despite the deepest contradictions, that summer is everlasting and life is good. (Judith)

….even the smallest person can step away from comfort and into challenge, that change is possible on scales small and large, that our efforts and intentions matter. The story reinforced for me that there are things in this world worth protecting–fellowship and love, food and conversation, adventure and courage, songs and stories. These are the things that sustain us when life is difficult, when we are hurt or afraid and have to be so much braver than we feel. (Adrienne)

Snow-covered bench

Book shopping in Palermo Soho, Buenos Aires

[El Carrusel] nos permite viajar como viaja un niño. Dando vueltas y más vueltas y otra vez a casa…a un lugar en el gue sabemos que nos quieren.   Don Draper, “Mad Men”

The Carousel allows us to travel as a child travels. Going round and round and home again … to a place where we know we are loved. Don Draper, “Mad Men”

We visited Prometeo Libros, an excellent bookstore on Avenida Honduras in the Palermo Soho neighborhood of Buenos Aires.

Guia de Madmen cover

I bought Madmen: Reyes de la Avenida Madison, by Jesús G. Requena and Concepción Cascajosa, figuring if I’m familiar with the subject matter it will be easier for me to understand the Spanish. I like the quote especially because I produced slide shows for the Carousel when I worked for Kodak.

Also a collection of poems by Jorge Luis Borges, El oro de los tigres/La rosa profunda. Short bits of poetry are easier to understand than long prose passages.

children's books
Children’s books at Prometeo Libros

Cupcakes, shoes and many other fine things in the shop windows of Palermo Soho.


Quote from: MadMen: Reyes de la Avenida Madison, Jesús G. Requena and Concepción Cascajosa, Capitán Swing Libros, Madrid: 2010.

Children’s lit of my ancestry – Cuore: The Heart of a Boy

Coincidence or serendipity?

I was writing this post about my Sicilian cousin and his favorite children’s book in Wegmans when I heard the strumming of a mandolin. It was the theme song from The Godfather. Today, the cafe was featuring Italian folk songs along with Italian food.

Then, I heard someone speaking Italian. At a nearby table, a young girl was giving an Italian lesson to an older woman.

I’m not in Italy. I’m at a Wegmans in upstate New York.

But to get on with this post: My cousin Giuseppe, who lives in Carini, Sicily, recently graduated from the University of Palermo with a degree in translation. (Actually, he is my much younger cousin. His grandmother and my father were cousins, making him my third cousin, I think.) Giuseppe plans to further his studies in literary translation. Recently, he was the translator for Susan Vreeland when she was in Sicily speaking about her books and her passion for Italy.

Now that he’s finished his studies, Giuseppe had time for some literary discussion. He told me his favorite American writers are Jack London, Ernest Hemingway, Truman Capote, and Stephen King. Currently, he’s reading E’ Stato il Figlio, (loosely translated, “It Was the Son”) a book about the Mafia by the Sicilian writer Roberto Alajmo.  Giuseppe calls Alajmo a “wizard” of a writer; the book was recently made into a movie.

When I asked Giuseppe if books had made a difference in his life, and if there was one in particular that was special to him, he said:

book cover: Cuore: The Heart of a Boy“I can’t imagine my room without my personal bookcase, or a world without books. One of the first books that I read when I was a child was Cuore: An Italian Schoolboy’s Journal, by Edmondo de Amicis, which left an indelible mark in my life. I believe this book must be read during childhood, with the sensibility and imagination of a child, when one can physically enter the story and share the characters’ feelings with one’s own heart.”

The books was written by de Amicis during the unification of Italy in 1866 and is one of the most famous books in Italian children’s literature. It has influenced generations of Italians and has also been widely read in East Asia (where it was published as “The Education of Love” in China) and Latin America.

Some modern-day readers may find it didactic and sentimental, but I’m fascinated to know more about books that my grandparents and great grandparents may have grown up with. I wonder if my father read Cuore. I wish I could ask him.

If you read reviews of Cuore on Amazon you’ll find that people have revisited this book later in life and have been as moved by it as when they were young, if not more so. The best children’s books resonate at any age.

Perhaps someday Giuseppe will return to Cuore with the full heart of an older man.

An English translation of the book (also known as Cuore: The Heart of a Boy), can be downloaded from Project Gutenberg. The translation leaves something to be desired and the format is difficult to read, but you might want to sample a few chapters, especially if you have Italian ancestry. Illustration from Cuore: Heart of a Boy(Or Latino or Asian)

Giuseppe told me that for his thesis he created a medical glossary of terms related to the heart in Italian, English, and French. He said he had no particular reason for choosing this topic. But I wonder.

Giuseppe Di Stefano is affiliated with the translation services website

Are you familiar with books your parents or grandparents read as children? If so, tell us about them in the comments below.

Reading Where the Wild Things Are with my little wild thing

Where the Wild Things AreI used to read Where the Wild Things Are every day, sometimes more than once, to my son. It was his favorite book.

He was three, but he hadn’t yet left his terrible two’s when it came to temper tantrums. The first time we read the story, its wild (there’s no other word for it), authentic power seized us and didn’t let go until the last page. My son felt it, I felt it.

No matter how outlandish and dark the words and pictures, this story was about something very real to my son and me. Our arguments when I tried to discipline him and grew exasperated, his uncontrollable rage at being sent to time out – all of it was right there on the page. Another little boy and his mommy were doing THE EXACT SAME THING.

When I read, I had to roar my terrible roar and roll my terrible eyes. That was the very best part.

We wore that book out. Some of the pages tore and fell out. I still have our sons’ favorite books, but not Where the Wild Things Are. I looked for it this morning after I found out Maurice Sendak had passed away, but it wasn’t there. Must have been too tattered to keep.

Or maybe my son couldn’t bear to part with it and took it with him when he moved out on his own.

Thank you, Maurice Sendak.

It occurs to me I’ve written two blog posts in a row about books with “wild” in their titles. I think these authors are on to something when it comes to writing about human nature.

Do you have a Where the Wild Things Are memory? Children, grown children, mommies, daddies, anyone, please share in the comments.

Book cover is from Wikipedia.