Literary Hook: Four books to help savor a leisurely summer

Ah, summer. A time of leisure. A time for slowly savoring good summer reading.

One of my favorite summer pleasures is choosing hardbound new library books from the Rockford Public Library. I devour them as if they were hot fudge sundaes.

I love the frugality of it—five books would cost more than $100 if purchased new—so I always think I’m getting a great bargain.

Another pleasure peculiar to the “writing life” is reading books by people one knows personally.

Having said all that, following are my summer picks:

The Ruins of California by Martha Sherrill—This 300-plus-page novel is written from the first person point of view of Inez Ruin, a character I thoroughly enjoyed and identified with. The chapters are arranged by years, from 1969 to 1980. Inez is a witness to many of the interesting, kooky and provocative trends bequeathed by California. Those who came of age in the late 1960s or have had their share of California dreaming will resonate with this book.

The Courage the Heart Desires by Kathleen Fischer—This 161-page nonfiction illuminates us with various forms of spiritual practices for “spiritual strength in difficult times.” I especially appreciated its lack of New Age jargon and magical thinking. Instead, orthodox (not conservative) ancient methods of spiritual formation are highlighted. Thankfully, the book doesn’t use enumerations or claim to have the exact number of “laws” needed to live a fulfilling life.

Simple Gifts: One Man’s Search for Grace by Bill Henderson—This 162-page nonfiction book weaves together the history of some of America’s best-beloved hymns with their particular meanings to the author. Henderson is not sentimental about these hymns, some of which he candidly confesses disturb him. However, he does go on to explain why they resonate so deeply with him and why he thinks they have become mainstays of hymnal canon. Since I am a singer and love these hymns, I found his treatise illuminating.

My Bones Were Made for Eden by Karen Gines—This 86-page book of poetry is written by Rockford’s own Karen Gines. The chapters are creatively named so we are intrigued by what might be in them: “Temple of the Bees”; “Carrying the Baskets”; “Love, Lust and Letters”; “Spirit Speak”; and “I Die Daily.” Gines’ ability to catch epiphanies mid-stream is delightful and enduring. The poems are accessible, enjoyable and gutsy. For information about the poems, e-mail Gines at

Enjoy your summer reading!

Christine Swanberg is a local author and poet who has written several books of poetry and formerly wrote a column called “The Writer’s Garret” for this newspaper.

From the June 28-July 4, 2006, issue

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