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Uplifting Reading for Shut-Ins!

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i picked up that phrase "shut-ins" from someone who WAS one. i am seeking the help of you people, who are so incredibly well-read (unlike myself). your thread about your summer reading has inspired me to ask your help.

here's the story:

my mother, who is a voracious reader, has simultaneously (last year), had a stroke and moved house - far from her huge circle of literate, film-loving, art&crafty-type, mostly-female friends from academia.

because the stroke co-incided with the move, she had no opportunity to make a new circle of friends. so, limited by her current immobility, she spends most of her time at home alone, reading. ....often several books a day...

of course, this means she is getting through the good stuff pretty fast. and she doesn't want to spend a fortune on NEW books, nor to acquire more 'baggage' - having just given away all her work-related books, on her retirement.

so: books that are old enough to be in the library system would be good, but new titles are welcome, too.

i know this is a tough one, because anyone who reads that much is quite likely to have read whatever you recommend - but, putting that to one side for a moment -

what books can you recommend that are uplifting positive reads?

that make you appreciate life, and feel happy to be here (even if you are temporarily incapacitated, and having to struggle for tiny improvements in walking and feeding yourself...). please - i don't mean helen keller/'invalid' books - nor necessarily books about recovery, or triumph over difficulty -

just feel good books...?

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bit more info: she likes autobiographies, biographies, some element of history, asian themes, asian female writers, mostly stuff about women - and lots of other stuff that i can't really pin down.

NO mills & boon, murder mysteries, crime or war novels, ...nothing about the holocaust......no bad language, drugs, corruption, organised religion, rape, pedophilia or mayhem, and nothing about domestic violence. :)

too hard? ;)

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Guest twas a delight

True North by Jill Ker Conway. It's a memoir written by an amazing historian/teacher. Beautifully written and never drags at all.

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Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg is a great read - much better than the film, and it might match your criteria. Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells is another one.

Both are novels about women who have amazing friendships and get thorugh tough times... I love them, they made me feel good. The characterisation is very good, so you really believe you are reading about real people.

Your criteria are quite tough. Are they yours or your mother's?;)

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i am trying to imagine my mother's criteria.

*MY* criteria would be : only ballet books, & NO fiction at all !!

also of course, i do take her shopping for books - so i see, out of the books i pass to her, what she actually looks at, and what she rejects out-of-hand!

i think she has read 'ya-ya sisterhood' .

i will take a note of the others. thanks! :)

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Has your mother read Amy Tan's novels, Grace? They are all about a Chinese-American woman and a Chinese woman who are related (usually mother/daughter but sisters in one book) and who struggle to understand each other. Or rather, the American one learns to come to terms with her Chinese relative, and in the process discovers something about herself. Tan's first book, The Joy Luck Club, is still her best, but the others are enjoyable, too.

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden is also fascinating. The title character goes through much tribulation but triumphs in the end.

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Oh, I thought I had replied before, but it seems that my post didn't get through.

I've just finished Sylvia Townsend Warner's "Lolly Willowes", and found it extremely well written, very witty and also quite poetic. The main character is an English women who, in the 1920s, after spending two decades with boring, conventional family of her brother in London, decides to go back to the countryside (where she was born and raised) and settles alone in a small village.

Also, I don't know if it has been translated into English, but I love Kenji Miyazawa's books of short stories; they are very poetic and uplifting. The main characters often are animals or natual elements (flowers, mountains...) If you've seen some Japanese cartoons by Hayao Miyazaki or Iseo Takahata, there are some similarities in the atmosphere.

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For some reason, I thought of Lewis Thomas' "The Lives of the Cell." Dr. (Ph.D.) Thomas was a research scientist at a hospital, and this book is a compilation of non-scientific essays that contemplate the miracle of living things. Beautifully written, and while it doesn't sound like something your mom needs, can be read one essay at a time.

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Autobiography recommendation: Claire Bloom's "Leaving a Doll's House." Bloom is very smart and well read, writes well, and combines intelligent commentary on art and life with some yummy


I also recommend "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil," which I realize almost everyone has read, because it's one of the few books I know of that seems to please everyone, no matter what their usual tastes or the level of their brow.

I'd suggest "The Joy Luck Club" if Ari hadn't already. I would add Bette Bao Lord's "Spring Moon."

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If she hasn't already read them, I think many things by Edith Wharton would be appropriate, but not The House of Mirth. Twilight Sleep is funny, and The Reef is a beautiful book. Roman Fever and Other Stories is witty and interesting, and The Age of Innocence is wonderful, though perhaps a little sad at the end (no histrionics, though). The Children is another good one. Probably not The Custom of the Country. There is also an adorable, funny book by Thomas Hardy that I can't for the life of me remember the title of--it takes place in a small English village and involves a love triangle between a rector, the church organist and a farmer's son. All right, that description makes it sound very immodest, but really it's sweet and amusing.

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My mother is equally difficult, but dissimilarly so. Pretty much all she can tolerate are mysteries. Clean ones. :) I have learned through trial and error that my definition of "clean" is far, far more lenient than hers. She grew up in a time where the word "bloody" (as an exclamation) was written "b-------y" and likes it that way.

Some people find mysteries uplifting, and, if so, there's Nero Wolfe by Rex Stout and the Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot series by Agatha Christie.

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Grace, your mom sounds like mine! Towards the end of her life, she wanted only uplifting books - nothing too sad or serious.

Both of us enjoyed Gladys Taber's books. There are at least a couple Stillmeadow books and one about Cape Cod, as I recall. In fact, my mom gave those books to me when I was going through a rough time emotionally and was looking for good prose but nothing heavy.

Older books that fit your mother's definition (although being a voracious reader, she may have read them already) are Trollope's Barchester Chronicles . There's a good bunch of them. He had such perception when it came to people.

I also would highly recommend Madeleine L'Engle's Crosswicks Journals if she hasn't already read them. L'Engle's prose is peaceful and provocative at the same time. There are 4 books in the series but I like Circle of Quiet ,Two Part Invention , and The Summer of the Great Grandmother . The fourth book, The Irrational Season , doesn't appeal to me because it's primarily about her relationship to God.

There's also a nice autobiographical book called Letters of a Woman Homesteader that I recall my mom and I liked equally. I really enjoyed another autobiography called Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang. It chronicled her grandmother's, mother's, and her own life in China throughout the 20th century. Riveting stories about living under all the upheavals in China during that period, but ultimately a book full of hope.

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C. S. Lewis, although he is very much a Christian author.

His biography is excellent: Surprised by Joy

There is the seven volume The Chronicles of Narnia, a children's tale for adults. There was a new Australian edition brought out last year, so it may well be in libraries. Details of that edition are here:


Also The Screwtape Letters, in which an apprentice devil keeps failing to tempt people into Hell. Its attitudes are closer to the nineteenth century than the twenty-first, so it may not be appropriate.

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Some suggestions:

1) The Last Time I Saw Mother by Arlene Chai

2) Eating Fire, Drinking Water by Arlene Chai

3) When The Elephants Dance by Tess Urize Holthe

Both writers are Filipina.

I also like Maeve Binchy - most of her novels are set in Dublin/Ireland.

Judy Blume, who is a children's book author has an adult novel called "Summer Sisters" which she might enjoy.

Fannie Flagg is a great suggestion too.

Frances Chung has a book of poetry called "Chinese Apple, Crazy melon", which is one of my all-time favorites, in case your mother likes poetry.

Hope this helped!

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grace, you've gotten so many great suggestions and everyone's pretty much hit on all the suggestions that initially came to my mind.

I'll second and third Amy Tan's "Joy Luck Club" and "The Geisha" by Golden, too, but then again I feel this way about the suggestions of many.

In re C.S. Lewis' books - you don't have to be "religious" or even Christian to enjoy this man's work. Here is a link to his version of "The Divine Comedy" entitled "The Great Divorce" on Amazon for a nice little synopsis.

She might enjoy Thomas Merton's autobiography, one of my favorites, "The Seven Story Mountain" as well.

My own mother fell into similar circumstances towards the end of her days...and she too was a voracious reader - what a saving grace. :)

Please keep us posted and feel free to give us her reviews!

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This is fun. I remember some more books my mom and I both liked:

Fair and Tender Ladies by Lee Smith

All the books in the Mitford Series by Jan Karon

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

I discovered, in trying to come up with light books, that most of what I read ISN'T :)

Some wonderfully written books are almost anything by Willa Cather and Rumer Godden. Cather's My Antonia, O Pioneers, Death Comes for the Archbishop, and Song of the Lark(about an opera singer) are real treasures.

Some good Godden books include The Greengage Summer, River, In This House of Brede, Episode of Sparrows, and China Court. I learned so much about Eastern cultures from reading her books.

Finally, Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, and To Serve Them All My Days (about a teacher's life in an English boarding school - the story takes place in the first half of the 20th century) by R.F. Delderfield.

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Has your mother read Angelas Ashes, A Monk swimming, A Fortunate Life. My Grandmother loved these books, stories about tough lives but have some humour. She also loved "The Winter Sparrows" ( I think, will try to check for you). She chuckled through it, a little bit of "language" through it by she didn't mind. I will check her library and try to come up with some more titles. She also enjoyed Sally Morgan's books.

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The James Herriot books may work.

They tell the story of a young vetranarian coming to age in rural Yorkshire between the wars. There is lots about animals--it is possible to be less enthusiatic about cows giving birth than the author--but more about the people around him.

Decently written, quite uplifting.

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WOW! you guys are great!

sorry that i haven't been able to find this thread for a few days (i did something silly with my computer...long story).

anyway - these are right on the money. yes, Ari - she has read all of amy tan's books and yes, that is just the right sort of stuff. although she reads widely, i recognise the names of what she has.

kate B - helene hanff would be just right too, if we both hadn't enjoyed these many years ago, so you, too, are on the right track.

floss - isn't 'A Fortunate Life' a remarkable book? (yes, we both have read it, but i agree with you, that it is amazing and suitable).

most of these other posts include some names which i am UNfamiliar with, which probably means that they make a good list of things she should start requesting from the library. thank you very much :)

a few other comments:

1. if i could just get her to upgrade her modem and/or computer ( a powermac), and not be so negative about not 'needing' to be online...she could renew with her ISP, and post her OWN responses. that would really brighten her up, but i bet i can't do it!


2. alexandra & others: it's not so much that she's a prude, but more that she has always been of the view (that i share) that ALL media is stuff which one can allow into one's brain, or not. and that one's brain BECOMES the sum total of what we allow in. so, it's worth being careful. especially if you want to retain a positive outlook in a scary, often ugly world.

3. if she ever does get online again, and i recomend her to this forum, i'll have to delete this thread, so she's not embarrassed by 'public exposure'.

4. this brings up another possible consideration: alexandra - you said yourself, in the intro to this forum about books, that this forum has/need have NOTHING to do with ballet.

BUT: do you actually want to invite in here, NEW people who have little or no interest in ballet - but who love books (like my mother, and other friends of hers i can think of.)...

...thinking: 2 websites, 2 'jobs' for you, 2 fundraising requirements, possible conflicts between up-to-now very friendly 'clientele' who DO have something in common & new people who don't, etc etc...

what do you think? ('we' should make that a new thread, shouldn't 'we'?) :)

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vagansmom, I love Willa Cather's books too.

There's also "Shadows on the rock" that I'd recommend, and "One of ours", a great book but perhaps not very uplifting (as much of it deals with WWI). Unfortunately, many of her books haven't been translated into French... :)

Alexandra, has your mother tried the "Miss Seeton" series, by various authors (Heron Carvic, Hamilton Crane, Hampton Charles)? I don't find it very well-written, but it's quite funny, and really "clean" I think (the main character is a retired female drawing teacher in a small English village in the 1970s, who gets involved in some crime stories but never really realizes what's happening, as she's veru naive and thoughtless, and she helps the police find the criminals a bit by chance...) My brother reads mostly mysteries and dagger-and-cloak stories (and also adventure stuff like the Horblower series and the Aubrey and Maturin series) so I have to find some inspiration for his birthdays and Christmas gifts...

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Checked with Grandmother and here are some of her suggestions however she did say some people may not consider them as uplifting but the books are certainly not depressing. Taylor Caldwell's novels, E.V. Timms, Sharon Penman Your hills are too high by Roslyn Taylor, James Herriot as suggested by some posters plus the latest (?) which is an autobiography, Michael Crawford's autobiography. She said she would try to come up with some more ideas for you.

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