A Chapter a Day for Life

Recently published research suggests that the benefits of reading books might go beyond exposing readers to new ideas, new people, and new places: it may just include a longer life in which to read them.

In A chapter a day: Association of book reading with longevity, (Social Science & Medicine, Volume 164, September 2016, Pages 44–48 by Avni Bavishi, Martin D. Slade, Becca R. Levy) researchers examined “whether those who read books have a survival advantage over those who do not read books and over those who read other types of materials, and if so, whether cognition mediates this book reading effect.”

The research suggests a number of fascinating findings:

  • Book reading provides a survival advantage among the elderly
  • Books are more advantageous for survival than newspapers/magazines
  • The survival advantage of reading books works through a cognitive mediator
  • Books are protective regardless of gender, wealth, education, or health


To view an abstract of the paper and the research methodologies used, see: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0277953616303689

To read an interesting review of this paper online in The Guardian, see:

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Cell Phones, Conversations, and the Common Good

The Working Class at Herkimer Coffee (pnavillage.org)

By Dick Gillett

It was crowded the other morning at Herkimer Coffee up on Greenwood Avenue.  I settled in at its long table with my machiatto and a book titled Private Equity at Work: When Wall Street Manages Main Street. (No, I’m not an investor or stockbroker but a retired clergyman trying to understand how economic inequality got so bad in our country.)

Opposite me sat a young man intently reading a paperback book. I immediately noticed that unlike almost everyone else in the café that day, he had no cellphone or other electronic device out, just his book. He appeared to be a “Millennial,”probably on the young end of that age spectrum. Maybe his book was a reading assignment for a class? I made bold to ask him what he was reading.


“It’s a book of essays by David Foster Wallace,” he replied. He explained that the particular essay he was reading was a review of a new dictionary, and that in it Wallace was pointing out how issues of class and power in the modern era are affecting the use of words.

Wow, I thought, this is a subject that even as an English lit major I had never thought about.

Jesse (this man’s name) was not sure he bought the author’s argument.

His mention of the words “class” and “power” led me to comment that the previous night my son and I had watched a little of the Bernie Sanders-Hillary Clinton debate in a pub jammed with young people. “Did you watch the debate?” I asked Jesse.

“No, I had to work,” he responded.

Having pushed the conversation a little already, I resisted the temptation to turn to politics, so I asked him what his work is.

“I work as a host at a Sushi bar,”he said.

I rather lamely responded that I hoped he was doing okay.

“I’m doing OK,” he responded.

19524598We shook hands and I left the table.

Whether or not the politics of 2016 will bring us together as a country, I believe that we desperately need to recover a sense of the Common Good: that we are responsible for each other in our communities, and that “the moral arc of the universe… bends towards justice” (M.L. King).  Meanwhile, it felt very good to have even a brief conversation across the generations that finds common ground—especially without a cellphone lying on the table!

·     ·     ·

Author Dick Gillett is a Member of PNA Village and a retired Episcopal priest. He has written numerous articles for our Village blog including, “The Working Class at Herkimer Coffee”, “Martín’s Journey to the White House”,  and “Johnny Cash & Global Warming”.

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Book Review: “Share the Care”

SHARE THE CARE: How to Organize a Group to Care for Someone Who Is Seriously Ill (Revised and Updated), by Cappy Capossela & Sheila Warnock
(Touchstone, 2004)
Share the Care

By Alyssa McFarland

Have you ever needed to provide help to a friend or family member with a serious illness or injury? Did you feel overwhelmed and resentful, and then felt guilty about those feelings, but felt if you didn’t help, no one else would? Have you ever been unable to do things for yourself because of serious illness or injury, and felt worried because relying on random people, busy friends and family was kind of like having holes in your security blanket?

Caregiving groups to the rescue!

The book, Share the Care, is a remarkable achievement. It was written by two women who were part of a caregiving team for a mutual friend who had cancer. They have group caregiving down to a system, and share their system with readers in this book and on their website, sharethecare.org.

Through the power of using the group so that no one burns out, the Share the Care system helps you do everything from navigate the medical maze to fixing up your sick friend’s room. Whether you or your friend has a terminal illness or just need help for a couple of months after hip surgery, the authors have thought through virtually all the various tasks that might need done for an ill person. They provide forms that members can fill out detailing their skills and availability, and explain how to run the initial meeting that gets everyone on board with the concept of sharing the care, and much more.

I’d recommend it to anyone, even if aren’t convinced you’ll ever need it, because it is thought provoking and full of good ideas.


Find this book!

Seattle Public Library: (Not currently available)

Indie Bound: http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780743262682

GoodReads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/594460.Share_the_Care/

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Monthly Book Group at Couth Buzzard

By Dick Gillett

Would you like to know what a group of seniors in the Phinney Ridge area might be reading these days? Books on aging, right?

Dancing Fish and Ammonites coverWell, sure—books like Embracing Life, by David Goff, or The Healthy Aging Brain, by Louis Cozolino, a book that looks into the neuroscience of the brain (said to be readable for non-scientists), or Dancing Fish and Ammonites, by Penelope Lively.

On the second Wednesday of each month, the Phinney Village book group meets at 11am at Couth Buzzard Books (8310 Greenwood Avenue). Surrounded by cozy bookshelves and sipping coffee, the group meets for a little over an hour and instead of selecting a book to read together over a period of time, we go around the table and report on what we’re reading or what we’ve recently read. With 10 or 12 of us generally present, there’s enough time for a brief report from each person and questions or comments.  In March, this group will celebrate its first anniversary! As one who came aboard last April, I find myself astonished at the range and depth of books we are collectively reading.

"All the Light We Cannot See" book coverThis month, for example, Roger reported on a World War II historical novel, All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr. This tale centers on a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide during the war years. Next, Don (a confessed “map nut”) reported on the book, Strange Maps: An Atlas of Cartographic Curiosities. One of the book’s global maps portrays countries’ sizes in proportion to the number of languages spoken there. Which place do you think would be the largest?* (You can likely guess the size of the U.S. )  In the brief discussion of this book, Terry asked a great question of the group: What will happen to our young people who navigate only by GPS?

Do you want serious history? In previous months, Marian reported on Indian Summer: The End of the British Empire by Alex Kunzelman and Terry reported on a book on Afghanistan under British rule. This month Tom reported on The Philosophical Breakfast Club by Laura J. Snyder. This book relates the story of four young students in the 19th century at England’s Cambridge University. Inspired by the philosopher Francis Bacon, they sought to promote the use of science for the public good and ended up designing the first mechanical computer.

"Strange Maps" book coverWe’ve also heard about books about books—and they’re more interesting than you might think. Marguerite reported on a book about the history of libraries, The Library at Night, leading to comments about Andrew Carnegie’s passion for building libraries, including a number of them here in Seattle. Don shared Bound in Venice, by Alessandro Marzo Magno, about the first book printed—only five centuries ago in Venice.

But lest the hour get too weighty intellectually, Marguerite offered Dial C for Chihuahua, a hilarious mystery by Waverly Curtis in which a Spanish-speaking Chihuahua detective shines a light on human foibles!

To learn more, you can email our convener, Nancy Spangler: nancyespangler@gmail.com.

New Guinea

Find these books!

Seattle Public Library



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Reading for the Weary

antique books By Alyssa McFarland

Some days (or months, or years) you just can’t summon the energy to actually read a book, and it makes you melancholy, because reading is something you really enjoy. Maybe it’s just a temporary condition for you – you’re ill or just had surgery, perhaps – and you know your love for reading will return eventually. Or maybe this weariness for reading has been going on for a long time. If you’re like me, you occasionally go through phases where reading seems to take too much brain power. But still…books call to you, like needy kittens and puppies, begging for your attention.

So what can you do? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Books on tape can be especially helpful when your eyes are tired or just not working as well as they used to. You can relax, even lie down, and listen to someone else read to you.
  • A change of genre might be what you need. For example, if you read history books, try a little poetry. Or instead of fantasy, try a how-to book.
  • Revisit some of your favorite books from an earlier era of your life. Even making a list of, say, the books you read when you were a teenager, could be inspiring.
  • Children’s books aren’t only for children. Whether it’s picture books or chapter books for a younger audience, you can find some top quality entertainment in books geared toward a younger audience.
  • You could skip words entirely and indulge in some art books or coffee table books with great photos of places you have never been or would like to visit someday.
  • Get out of the house and browse the shelves of your local library, bookstore, or museum gift shop. Visit an art gallery and see if any of the paintings inspire you to learn about the lives of the artists, or a different place or time.
  • Clear your head by taking some time to watch the clouds, birds, and squirrels in your neighborhood.

Taking a vacation from your usual reading habits might be just what the doctor ordered!

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The Tyranny of Safety



By Anthony B. Robinson
Crosscut.com — February 3, 2015

In the era of school shootings and terrorism it is understandable that safety has become a priority. But has it also become an obsession?

Are we so focused on “safety” that we overlook the downsides, or at least the other side, of this priority? In her provocative book, A Field Guide to Getting Lost, Rebecca Solnit notes, “A recent article about the return of wildlife to suburbia described the snow-covered yards in which the footprints of animals are abundant and those of children entirely absent.

But it is not only the young that lose out when safety becomes an unquestioned norm. It is also the old.

“As far as the animals are concerned,” Solnit continues, “the suburbs are an abandoned landscape, and so they roam with confidence. Children seldom roam, even in the safest places. Because of their parents’ fear of the monstrous things that might happen (and do happen, but rarely), the wonderful things that happen as a matter of course are stripped away from them . . . I wonder what will come of placing this generation under house arrest.”

Others have also commented on the constrictions of so-called helicopter parenting and the over-scheduled child. A concern for safety is at least part of what has eroded the opportunities for children to roam the neighborhood and have the unstructured time to do so.

But it is not only the young that lose out when safety becomes an unquestioned norm. It is also the old.

In the new book of physician-author Atul Gawande, Being Mortal, Gawande describes what has happened as safety becomes the be-all and end-all as people age and encounter the trials of sickness and mortality. Safety, concludes Gawande, is not the same thing as meaning.

Continue reading here.

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Confronting the Inevitable, Graphically

A full-page panel from Roz Chast’s new memoir, featuring “cautionary” tales from her childhood. Credit Roz Chast

A full-page panel from Roz Chast’s new memoir, featuring “cautionary” tales from her childhood. (Illustration by Roz Chast)

Review by Michiko Kakutani
May 5, 2014—The New York Times

Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

#1 New York Times Bestseller / 2014 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? A Memoir
By Roz Chast
(Bloomsbury, 2014)

Roz Chast feels — and draws — our pain. Our neurotic worries and genuine fears, our mundane and existential anxieties, our daydreams, nightmares, insecurities and guilty regrets. Or, rather, she does such a funny, fluent job in her New Yorker cartoons of conveying the things that keep her up at night that many readers are convinced that she is somehow mapping their own inner lives.

It hasn’t been hard to discern the autobiographical impulse in Ms. Chast’s work. Though her earliest cartoons tended to be more conceptual, many of the later ones in her “selected, collected, & health-inspected” anthology “Theories of Everything” (2006) are clearly informed by her experiences as a daughter, wife and mother.

Her account is…by turns grim and absurd, deeply poignant and laugh-out-loud funny.

In her latest book, “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?,” Ms. Chast tackles the subject of her parents, writing with a new depth and amplitude of emotion. Her account of growing up with them in Brooklyn as an only child and her efforts, decades later, to help them navigate the jagged shoals of old age and ill health, is by turns grim and absurd, deeply poignant and laugh-out-loud funny. Her fondness for the exclamatory (expressed in capital letters, underlined words and multiple exclamation points) is cranked up several notches here, and her familiar, scribbly people go from looking merely frazzled and put-upon to looking like the shrieking figure in Munch’s “The Scream” — panicked and terrified as they see the abyss of loss and mortality looming just up the road.

Read the full review


Find this book!

Seattle Public Library: http://seattle.bibliocommons.com/item/show/2974415030_cant_we_talk_about_something_more_pleasant

IndieBound: http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781608198061

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18594409-can-t-we-talk-about-something-more-pleasant?from_search=true

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Author Richard Ford Says ‘Let Me Be Frank’ About Aging And Dying

Mike Groll | AP

A house on the central Jersey Shore coast collapsed after Superstorm Sandy hit in 2012. Richard Ford said he focused on houses in the wake of the storm in his new book, “Let Me Be Frank With You”, because they have an “almost iconic status.” “A house is where you look out the window and see the world,” he says.  ( Mike Groll | AP )

By Teri Gross — “Fresh Air” | NPR
November 12, 2014

Let Me Be Frank With YouWhen Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Ford was a young man, he says, he had a cynical view of aging.

“I sort of went through life thinking that when you got to be in your 60s that basically you weren’t good for much,” Ford tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross. “That’s a younger man’s view. I know that the AARP phones are ringing when I say that, but now I’m 70 and I don’t think that anymore, OK?”

Not only is Ford older, but the character he’s been writing about for years has aged, too. Frank Bascombe, whom Ford wrote about in The Sportswriter and Independence Day, is now 68.

Ford’s latest book, Let Me Be Frank With You, is a series of four interconnected novellas about Bascombe, who is retired from his work as a real estate broker. It’s 2012, just before Christmas, and just a few weeks after Superstorm Sandy destroyed parts of the Jersey Shore near where Frank lives.

Ford says for this book, he had to bring Frank “up to date” to make him a plausible character.

In the stories, Frank is dealing with the aftermath of Sandy, his aging body, a dying friend and his ex-wife, who has Parkinson’s and has moved to a nearby assisted living facility.

“I really got interested in the consequences of the hurricane, and I got interested in having Frank be my instrumental narrator in assessing those consequences,” Ford says. “So once I figured out how old he would be, then I had to sort of fill in the absences there that weren’t taken care of in the other books. In other words, I kind of backed into it being about aging because he happened to be that age.”

In the stories, Frank is dealing with the aftermath of Sandy, his aging body, a dying friend and his ex-wife, who has Parkinson’s and has moved to a nearby assisted living facility.

“I think these things are surrounding us all the time,” Ford says. “We don’t have experiences to get over [them]; we have experiences so we can sort of deal with them and address them and have, in some ways, some stability towards them.”

Listen to this story on NPR, read transcript, or view interview highlights 

Read excerpt of Let Me Be Frank With You


Find this book!

Seattle Public Library: http://seattle.bibliocommons.com/item/show/3009936030_let_me_be_frank_with_you

IndieBound:  http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780061692062?aff=NPR

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20828358-let-me-be-frank-with-you?from_search=true

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Book Review: “Misao the Big Mama and Fukumaru the Cat”

Misao the Big Mama and Fukumaru the Cat | Miyoko Ihara

みさおとふくまる – Misao to Fukumaru
(Misao the Big Mama and Fukumaru the Cat), by Miyoko Ihara
(Tōkyō : Ritorumoa, 2011)

Review by Hank.

book coverThe Internet and cats. Apparently, it’s a thing.

There is Maru (まる) of the 200 million+ views on YouTube. There is Grumpy Cat®: “The World’s Grumpiest Cat”. There is ScarfaceLil BUB the “perma-kitten”, and Colonel Meow: Entertainer. Locally, there’s Cooper: Photographer Cat, and Henri: Le Chat Noir. There are LOLcats, animated GIFs, and countless associated posters, t-shirts, plushies, coffee mugs, books and calendars.

Until now, none of these cybercats have ensnared me—okay, I dig Henri, but we share a vet—until Misao to Fukumaru. I discovered this little gem of a book via one of those dreaded chain email forwards. You know that email.

Maneki Neko Fukumaru! (Miyoko Ihara | Rex Features)

Maneki Neko Fukumaru!

But what a great discovery!

Photographer Miyoko Ihara (伊原 美代子) began making photos of her grandmother Misao in 2003 as a way of documenting her grandmother’s life. In 2006, Misao found a white kitten abandoned on her property, which she named Fukumaru, or as Ihara explains, “in hope the God of fuku (good fortune) comes and everything will be smoothed over like maru (circle).” The two have been inseparable ever since.

Fukumaru is so happy and contented at my grandmother’s side. When I take a picture of the two of them together it’s like I’m photographing myself as a little girl.

(Photo: Miyoko Ihara |Rex Features)

This Japanese photo book really needs no translation. There’s so much personality, love, and humor in these images, I immediately flipped the book over and went through it again.

Through this collection of images, we’re also given a peek into a more rural side of Japanese life. Though the Chiba Prefecture where Misao lives isn’t far outside of Tokyo, it seems worlds away. Similarly, Misao is ageless in her garden and orchard, even as the photographs document many years of birthdays and daily moments with her beloved cat.

As Ihara notes on Nippon.com, “When I see the way my grandmother is living her life, I really feel that she has a kind of strength that my generation simply can’t match. She gets up with the sun, and goes to bed when it sets. She loves her cat and the vegetables in her field like her own children. If her vegetables come out well, she’s happy. She doesn’t have to worry about questions like ’what is the point of my work?’ Her way of life fills me with admiration and a sort of envy.”

This is the second of two small books’ worth of photos of Misao and Fukumaru. Many of the images are available to view online (see links below), but this makes a great gift and/or coffee table book for almost anyone on your holiday list—even curmudgeonly old dogs.

Pick this book up. It might just make your day!

Miyoko Ihara | Rex Features

Miyoko Ihara Rex Features

Cherry Blossom Miyoko Ihara | Rex Features

"Tea" by Miyoko Ihara | Rex Features

"Fukumaru" by Miyoko Ihara | Rex Features

Misao Ihara by Miyoko Ihara | Rex Features


Find this book!

Seattle Public Library: http://seattle.bibliocommons.com/item/show/2970601030_misao_to_fukumaru

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17344809-misao-to-fukumaru?from_search=true

Kinokuniya: http://www.kinokuniya.com/us/index.php/fbs003?common_param=9784898153192

Misao & Fukumara on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MisaoFukumaru/photos_stream?ref=page_internal

Miyoko Ihara’s website: http://whitemanekicat.p1.bindsite.jp/nitinitikorekouniti.html

Related titles

Ihara’s first book: “Misao the Big Mama and Fukumaru the Cat, Goodbye, Hello”

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Book Review: “Book of Ages”

Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin
By Jill Lepore
(Vintage Books paperback edition, 2014)

Review by Marguerite Langlois

Book of Ages cover“While Benny was improving his writing by arguing about the education of girls, Jenny was at home, boiling soap and stitching.” Benny is Benjamin Franklin, and Jenny is his sister Jane, six years younger. They were close throughout their lives. The quotation neatly sums up what it was like grow up as a boy or as a girl in the 1700’s. But Jane would never quite completely go along with those strictures. At one point she confided to him: “I Read as much as I Dare.” (The capitals are hers, reflecting the writing style of the day.)

Jane was married at fifteen. Sometime in her teens, she created for herself what she called her “Book of Ages,” part register of family history and part personal journal. She literally made the book, cutting the paper and binding it herself, again showing that she was not quite like many of the young women of her age.

Her life was bound up with major historical events, including the American Revolution. She was widowed in her fifties, and during the Revolution had to flee Boston and make her life elsewhere. And always, whatever else was happening, she managed to stay in touch with her brother Ben. Their letters, along with her Book of Days, give us a fascinating history of her own life, as well as a personal account of life, culture, and a woman’s role during that period.

Author Jill Lepore has done extraordinarily detailed research, and the books appendices are as interesting in some ways as the book itself: extensive family genealogies, a calendar of the letters, a list of the books in Jane’s personal library, a map of Jane’s Boston, and Lepore’s methods and sources.

You can enjoy the book from several points of view: a woman’s life in the 1700’s, the history of revolutionary America seen from one of its prominent players, a rich description of culture and daily life at the time – and last but not least, a very different telling of history than most of us learned in school.

Find this book!

Seattle Public Library:  http://seattle.bibliocommons.com/search?custom_query=(0307958345)+

IndieBound:  http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780307958341

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17262121-book-of-ages?ac=1

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