Bench Review and Reflection

reflections, new year's thoughts, San Francisco Bay, Golden Gate Bridge

Truly, madly, and a bit guilty, I sit on one of my favorite benches and ponder the fates and furies that have followed me over the year.

heartburn, Nora EphronAlthough I faithfully follow a life of joy, I’m nobody’s fool. Some days give me heartburn, as if I’ve just swallowed vinegar. Some days I wonder if god is in ruins, even when the nights are tender. Sometimes I feel like a distinguished guest in my own home, but then, suddenly….

Suddenly, I breathe; I follow a wishing thread, seeking inner knowledge while waiting for a great reckoning.The Sorcerer's Garden, D. Wallace Peach

Despite the rumor, I understand that we are always in the middle of somewhere. A sorcerer’s garden awaits us, like a guest room in a beautiful mansion, if we only search hard enough.

Even if it’s my last stand, I will pursue Orion’s gift of the sky and sea, always with stars in my eyes.

That Old Cape Cod Magic, Richard RussoThose stars allow me to see that we’re all eligible for a visit to a little Paris bookshop, to a house with hanging jade on a beach island, and to some magic on Cape Cod.

As is the custom of the country, I’ll wait after you.

And perhaps, not by design but with the help of a man called (l)ove, just like Emerson’s wife we’ll all find ourselves sitting on a bench together, giving thanks for the life that is, and the secret life that awaits us.

kauai, Hawaii, bench reflections

H A P P Y   N E W   Y E A R !

  • Some of my favorite books this year:
  • Truly Madly Guilty, Lianne Moriarty
  • Fates and Furies, Lauren Groff
  • Faithful, Alice Hoffman
  • Nobody’s Fool, Richard Russo
  • Heartburn, Nora Ephron
  • Vinegar Girl, Ann Tyler
  • A God in Ruins, Kate Atkinson
  • Tender Is the Night, F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • The Distinguished Guest, Sue Miller
  • Home, Harlan Coben
  • Suddenly, Barbara Delinsky
  • Breathe, Kate Bishop
  • The Wishing Thread, Lisa Van Allen
  • Inner Knowledge, Margaret Stockley
  • A Great Reckoning, Louise Penny
  • The Rumor, Elin Hilderbrand
  • The Middle of Somewhere, Sonja Yoerg
  • The Sorcerer’s Garden, D. Wallace Peach
  • The Guest Room, Chris Bohjalian
  • Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, Helen Simonson
  • Orion’s Gift, Anneli Purchase
  • Eligible, Curtis Sittenfeld
  • The Little Paris Bookshop, Nina George
  • House of the Hanging Jade, Amy Reade
  • Beach Island Plum, Holly Robinson
  • That Old Cape Cod Magic, Richard Russo
  • The Custom of the Country, Edith Wharton
  • After You, Jojo Moyes
  • Not by Design, Carol Balawyder
  • A Man Called Ove, Fredrik Backman
  • Mr. Emerson’s Wife, Amy Belding Brown
  • The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes, Diane Chamberlain


112 thoughts on “Bench Review and Reflection

    • I aspire to read a book a week – as a writer, I learn so much from the thoughts and techniques and tools of other authors.
      To great learning, reading, writing and LIVING in 2017. So great to follow you on your green global trek.

    • TOP THREE FOR ME, 2016: Hmmm, not easy, but I’d say A GOD IN RUINS for the philosophical, spiritual heartrending portrayal of life and death and life; MRS. EMERSON’S WIFE for true-to-life historical fiction of how women lived and thought during the time of the transcendentalists in New England; and ELIGIBLE for well-written, enjoyable romance the way Jane Austen might have viewed relationships between men and women in today’s world. [That said, The Great Reckoning is in my top 3 list too, as is The Little Paris Bookshop along with The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry: A Novel, which I should have listed!!…ACK!.] 🙂

  1. What a lovely, literary post, Pam! I like your booklist, and I will definitely add some of your choices to my list. (OK. I don’t really have a list. I just pick up books with wild abandon, savor them, and move on. I have a backlog though.) 🙂 And the bench is wonderful and the view spectacular. Happy New Year!

    • No better way to find a book than to begin it with “wild abandon, savor it,” and move on to the next. That’s what I do too. When I’m mid-way through a wonderful novel, I make sure I have the next book sitting by waiting, so I don’t get too sad to say goodbye to the characters I’ve just gotten to know so well.
      I wish you some delightful bench sitting/book reading in the new year.

  2. What a terrific list – I think we like the same kinds of books! You have ready that are on my TBR list. I hope you have a Happy New Year and I’m looking forward to reading your wonderful blog in 2017!

  3. Love the photo with a wintry look even though the grass is green. Don’t know why I think it looks like winter but perhaps I should change that to a late summer look. Anyhow that’s a long list of books and I certainty will pick a few to order as used books. Thanks for an interesting post. Emerson’s wife caught my eye for some unknown reason.

    • You are correct, though! The top bench photo was taken earlier this month in the SF Bay area. Winter is green there, because they’re finally getting rain. I think you’ll really enjoy Mr. Emerson’s Wife – in the voice of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s wife. A real eye-opener, and Henry David Thoreau has a large part of the story, and Louisa May Alcott pops in from time to time too. They all lived in the same neighborhood in Concord, MA.
      Peace and blessings to you for 2017.

  4. What an impressive reading list, Pam. All the best for 2017, filled with many more great books to read and tons of writing accomplished! Thanks for being a great blogging friend over the year.

    • Hey Jill. I took the top bench photo just as the sun was rising on a cold(ish) week day morning. No one else was out. It’s why I’ve become a ‘morning’ person. One pause, one little meditation, one small walk, helps me get through the day. I wish you wonderful days like this in 2017 – and a successful book publication!! xo

  5. Oh, Pam, these benches make me SO wistful…

    I love the way you wrote this and I have to tell you, being such a sucker for great book covers, THE SORCERER’S GARDEN pulls me right in!

    You are SO well read, my dear 🙂 I wish I read faster so I could fit in more novels. I read hundreds of Picture books each year, but only a handful or two of novels. Life is simply too short for all those wonderful READS! Thanks for sharing this!

    P.S. I also loved THE STORIED LIFE OF A. J. FIKRY. Read it a couple of years ago! Have you read THE NIGHT CIRCUS?

    • I haven’t read The Night Circus – sounds like I should add it to my list of books to read for 2017, and I will! Picture books count – sometimes the best wisdom is found in the smaller (more innocent) texts. Happy New Year to you!

    • Just had to let you know, “writersideup,” that I finished The Night Circus this week. Fabulous story with so many ‘rings’ to it, just like that mysterious wonderful NIGHT CIRCUS. Thanks for encouraging me to read it!!!

  6. I love blog posts laced with book references. And your 2016 reading list, a great accomplishment! I log my books read/reviews on and Maybe you use these too. I wish I’d started years ago; I’d have dozens more. Recently I’ve read and reviewed Pattie Welek Hall’s A Mother’s Dance.

    Happy and healthy new year to you, my friend! 🙂

    • Hi Marian. Yes, I do try and remember to post my ‘read’ books on Goodreads (and review them there, as well as on Amazon). But I have a list on my desktop and add the book’s title after I read each one. I wish I could keep them all on a bookshelf, but to save space/money, I read a lot of library books and e-books now. But, I still like to have the ‘real’ book in my hand. The characters come more easily off the page then. I’ll check out A Mother’s Dance – thanks, and HAPPY NEW YEAR! xo

  7. Love your list! I have copied them and put them in a document to refer to later. I LOVE to read. Like you, I am always reading/listening to something (totally addicted to audio books) I would rather listen to a book than music most days. I think it is because books and music evoke different emotions and like you I love to analyse just a bit how each author puts words into action and makes me want more. I have always been able to immerse myself into the story and be there as if I am watching a movie in my head….provided the author is good enough. And they have to be, or else I am not as willing to go on. Thank you so much for sharing your list with us! 🙂 ❤

  8. Such a clever post, Pam – I loved it! I didn’t get to reading quite as many books as you over the past twelve months so my parallel post would be much shorter, but I now have many good suggestions to draw upon to read in 2017.

    I just recently finished readind a brilliant non-fiction book (I don’t read that many) by Lisa Cron entitled “Story Genius”. It shares the history of human story, what naturally draws us to one, and what we can do as writers to engage our readers. It was really enlightening, but one passage in the whole book really resonated with me …

    “We don’t crave a story to escape reality. We crave a story to navigate reality.” I really identify with this thought, and I think it pairs well with your message that books are a sort of mental medication that has effects lasting so much longer than that pharmaceutical variety. Thanks for sharing your list and thoughts, and the best of wishes for a book-filled (both reading and writing) new year!

    • So, again, you inspire me Dave. I LOVE that quote: “We crave a story to navigate reality.” That makes me feel better, because sometimes I wonder if my book reading is an escape. But I’m firmly entrenched in reality, thank you very much. I learn SO MUCH about other people’s reality by reading books. I’ve always believed that if everyone read a lot of books, they’d have so much more empathy for others, being able to place themselves in other’s hearts and minds, pain and joy, and struggles.
      So, that said, HAPPY NEW YEAR. To writing and reading into the future.

  9. Such a lovely post. l loved its flow and how you connected each book. Unique and clever. I was so sad when Nora Ephron died. Sad because she was young but also sad because she wouldn’t be writing any more books.
    I was pleased to see Not By Design on your list! ❤

    Happy New Year. May your year be a fun-filled and fulfilling one! 🙂

  10. What a great idea, Pam, to list your favourite books. I now have some ideas of what to read next. Thank you so much for putting Orion’s Gift on your list. I appreciate it being included in books you’ve enjoyed reading.

  11. Pam, you have such a lovely way with words! Your post was lyrical and clever, and I’m honored that you included House of the Hanging Jade, I’m reading The Goldfinch right now and enjoying it very much. I hope to see you again in the new year and I wish heaps of blessings on you and yours!

    • Of course I’m green with envy right now, Amy, knowing where you’re spending your holiday. I know you’re savoring every minute. Perhaps another book set in Hawaii is in your writing future. I haven’t tried The Goldfinch yet; reading When Breath Becomes Air, and being SO inspired. I recommend it to all of us who believe in the power of words. xo

  12. Happy New Year, Pam!!! What a delightful post, one that I am bookmarking to take a closer look at your books you have read. I’m an avid reader so I am truly interested in those books I have YET to read. Thank you! And while I’m at it, I am checking yours out too. (smile) I may have already said that … apologies if I have. Life sometimes has a way of galloping and I’m on the horse riding at break neck speed. On a beach of course. LOL Much Love!!!! ❤

    • I would be thrilled if you add my books to your reading repertoire. They are page-turners and romantically suspenseful. Let’s hope our lives are full of love and grace in our reading, writing, photographing, and creating this new year.

      • Pam, your post is bookmarked. One thing I so love about winter is I read more. Come Spring and Summer my gardens keep me ever so busy. I cannot thank you for these recommendations. I trust your judgement. 💕

  13. Just beautiful Pam, I love your posts . You have such a way with words. If you were a chef, I would give you three stars. I’m going to use your book list when it is my turn to choose a book for my bookclub. Have a happy and healthy New Year!

    • Your amount of writing every day inspires me. I do consider my reading paramount to my writing, since I learn so much from each different author. Best of luck in your 2017 publishing efforts!

  14. Great list – and some new titles for me.
    This year I plan to enjoy more lovely spots like those benches and read more even if it means blogging less.
    Wishing you a new year full of miles of smiles, intriguing wanderings, and lots of wonder.

    • I like your plans for the new year. I have similar thoughts, although I can’t give up my blog; I feel as if I’d be giving up my weekly ‘conversation’ with good (never met) friends. I skipped a week, a little over a month ago, and received dozens of e-mails asking, “WHAT’S WRONG?” Made me feel a bit pressured, but on the other hand, really happy that readers look forward to my once-a-week musings. Anyway, I’m musing out loud here. I enjoy your blog, whenever you choose to post, and wish you many lovely benches in the new year.

  15. What a beautiful, generous, clever post! There is such poetry and power in the lyrical way you’ve written this, and I’m VERY excited by that list of books! Hope you’ve had a wonderful festive season my friend, and that the first days of 2017 treat you well. Wishing you a fabulous 2017, filled with laughter, play, creativity, wisdom and love…. Warm hugs, Harula xxx

    • Ahh, how I love your blessing of “laughter, play, creativity, wisdom, and love” in 2017. I’m breathing that in, and believing in its possibilities. And I’m breathing out the same blessing to you.

    • Oh, you flatter me enormously, Lorna. The troubling thing is that I LOVE flattery. 🙂 And I won’t bore you with my long list of what I don’t do well, but top on that list is singing. How I love to sing. How music moves me. And how everyone moves away when I begin my first note…

      Happy Happy New Year to you and your wickedly wonderful sense of humor. Keep it coming…

    • I love your idea of ‘weaving.’ – yes words weave their way into our minds and souls, when they’re written with truth, don’t they? And yes, A Man Called Ov told the truth of a sad, lonely old man, and how he found love in the company of others. Quite well done.

  16. Hi Pam.
    Happy New Year.
    You say –
    ” I’m nobody’s fool.”
    But I recall the song –
    “Yes everybody’s somebody’s fool
    Yes everybody’s somebody’s plaything.”
    Just my 2 bits.
    Nice post.
    Thanks for sharing
    Best wishes and regards.

    • Hi Ved. Smiling at your song recollection. Oh yes, we think we can’t be played the fool, but at some point, in some time. . .
      I took the phrase from the title of Richard Russo’s book called NOBODY’S FOOL. Tellingly, he wrote a sequel with the same characters, called —- EVERYBODY’S FOOL. 🙂

  17. I love this because it shows how much books can become a part of us. There are so many books here that have been on my list for too long – I’m happy to hear you enjoyed them! I’ll have to get started on them for this year. Happy New Year and happy reading!

    • Good luck getting through your book list, Sheila, in 2017. Yes, I learn from/take in aspects of every character of every good book I read. Sometimes, I’m afraid I even start talking like a character if I’m with her/him for too long. :-0 Here’s lookin’ at you, kid (hmm, I think someone said that in a book or movie at some point). 🙂

    • I agree with you – I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read by Norah. Heartburn might have been the most difficult, knowing how true-to-her-life this book of “fiction” was for her. Her last two memoirs (Like “I Hate My Neck”) were hysterical. Happy New Year!

  18. I envy your reading interest. I love to read too but unfortunately since a while I have gotten quite occupied with an office job and am unable to read as frequently as I did.
    I have read your recent posts and found them interesting. By comments above, I learn that you are read religiously. Please give me a suggestion on how can I continue my reading habit with busy routine on going.

  19. What a clever piece of writing – weaving the books you’ve read into a reflection of the year past.

    Since there were a couple of books on that list I really enjoyed last year too, maybe I should just take this entire reading list and make it my plan for 2017 🙂

  20. What a clever and sweet post, Pam. I was delighted to amble over to your bench and see my book on your list! Thank you. You read a lot of books in 2016, btw. I’m impressed as I struggle to find the time to read 1 a month, and I really miss it. Thanks also for the reading list 😀 To a new year of books and books. Cheers!

    • Several readers on this post also commented about how beautiful the cover of your book is, and how that would take them to the book for sure. Interesting… and makes me realize I need to work more on my future book covers!
      If I didn’t read so much, I’d be writing more, like you do. But it’s kind of an obsession, reading. :-0

  21. A beautiful place to sit on the bench for peaceful reflection, inspiring reading! 😀 A wonderful eclectic mix of books here, Pam…thank you for sharing. Hope the New Year is treating you well and giving you many more opportunities to visit this magical bench – don’t think I’d want to leave it!

    • My new year began as life does: glorious, complicated, complex, and yet wonderful. Hope about yours?? That’s what I like about these books that I read – they show the complexity of life and love.

Love to hear your comments.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s