Good Book Therapy

June 28th, 2009

It has been a rough couple of weeks here at My Sister’s Farmhouse.  I don’t even want to think about how many miles I’ve put on my car driving to and from Arkansas, to and from the Western end of my state, to and from Atchison and Kansas City.  I thoroughly enjoyed all these trips that I have taken in the past few weeks.  I met Sarah Susanka for crying out loud!  I met and toured the home of Mary Carol Garrity!  I went with nine teenagers (along with my friends Jenny and Dave) to Heifer Ranch!  I ate dinner in Appalachia, spent the night in Guatemala, and breakfasted in the urban slums!  I went to puppet camp!  I played a gig in Kansas City!  

I didn’t just visit a bunch of different places… I visited a bunch of different ideas too.  Ideas on how to build a good house.  Ideas on how to beautifully decorate your home… and then at the opposite end of the spectrum… ideas on how to sustain your family on two cups of rice and a stolen egg… ideas on how to stretch your meager food supplies through the monsoon season… ideas on which assets are more important to keep… your health… or your groceries…

These two opposing worlds forced me to take a hard look at my own life and determine if I am not possibly the most shallow person on the face of the earth.  Just when I was about to find a way to merge moving to a third world country to help the utterly destitute with which of these super cute designer platters should I purchase at Nell Hill’s?… an old songwriting buddy called me up and asked me to come to KC and sing with him at an honest to goodness gig.

Now in the midst of cataclysmic, life changing chaos, I am forced to deal with the ghosts of forgotten dreams.  

Then I start thinking about blogging.

And Oh Lord… here we go…

Why… Why… WHY???

Why do I do this?  

What am I doing?  

What am I going for here?  

What am I trying to achieve?

What is the point?

It can’t possibly be worth all the time and money I have spent on it.

Maybe it’s time to do something of real value… something that matters… something that means something.

Something that I could possibly even succeed at!


No wait…


That might be going too far…



But maybe something that comes with a real paycheck… and helps people… and gives back… and amounts to something…


 I was distraught.

I was sad.

I was overwhelmed by a feeling of uselessness and stupidity.

I felt empty and also…

like a total dumb-ass.

Then I remembered that my book club was meeting in just a few days.

I picked up the book that I was supposed to read and I started reading it.

Furiously reading it.

Reading  to distract myself from myself… 

To ignore myself…

To forget that I even existed.

And it worked!  

I didn’t put the book down until the last page.

And when it was over I still desperately needed to escape from my own miserable flesh…

So I fished around for another book.

And I found one!

And again I was swept away by a story.

And I didn’t put it down until the last page.

And then I looked up and saw four very hungry boys, one very messy house, a garden that needed tending, and a husband that kept calling from work every three hours because he knows that I have a tendency to fall deeper and deeper into a melancholy until I am nothing but inconsolable.

But I was consoled.

Two books consoled me.

My life still does not make any sense, but I feel better about it.

Reading a good book has always done that for me.

And these were two VERY GOOD BOOKS!


The first book was The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.


Book cover



The second book was The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck.



I hope to have both of these books in an upcoming giveaway and I will give you a synopsis at that time.

Until then…

If you are in need of a good read, might I highly recommend either one?

The life you save might just be your own.


  • Margaret:

    Oh I agree! Both are wonderful books!!!! Glad they helped you get out of your pool of despond. :D

  • Kellye:

    I have read both of those. You picked good “therapists.” I hope you beat the blues back. I get that way too. So sweet that Country Doctor noticed and called you so frequently.

  • marewood:

    I’ve loved both books at different times in my life and then passed them on. Thanks.

  • I remember reading “The Good Earth” back in high school. It grounds you. Such a good read. Now I’m curious about the other one.

  • I love “The Good Earth”. Working in the treasurer’s office I often think of lessons I learned from that book.

  • Michelle C:

    Thank you! When I too find myself in similiar circumstances, a good book will almost always help!

  • martina:

    I just bought the Guernsey book on Friday and it is excellent! The clerk at the bookstore said she resisted buying it but everyone told her to read it. She did read it recently and raved about the writing. Actually I haven’t heard one bad review of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society either in magazines or from talking with others. The only complaint is the title.

  • I loved the Guernsey book – a delightful read – I thought! Must admit I have not read The Good Earth, though..

  • Keary Naughton:

    I have a friend, her husband says that her mental health is directly related to what book she is reading.

  • susan in FL:

    I have to say I resemble that remark as well.

  • Sometimes I wonder if you have snuck (or sneaked?) inside my brain, Rechelle. I could have written this post. In fact, this may be why I’m having trouble posting lately–you just keep sucking the thoughts right out of my head. Stop that!;o)

    I’m looking forward to reading your thoughts on The Good Earth. I loved that book–until I didn’t and wanted to bash Wang Lung’s stupid head in–but mostly I loved it.

  • Shelley J:

    I’ve read both books and they both had a different impact on me. The GLPPPS was a wonderful story that to me really spoke to how neighbors can become family under the most tense circumstances. I loved the spirit of the characters in the Good Earth that not only reminds us to honor family, but to honor the land and it will provide for us. Of the two, Pearl Buck is my favorite. My 2 favorite books are very hard to pin down. I would have to limit it to my favorite authors who are Ngaio Marsh (best mystery writer ever!), Jane Austin (love stories about the hypocrisy of society) and Pablo Neruso (not sure if I spelled that correctly, but best odes written).

  • becky up the hill:

    I keep seeing that potatoe peel book at Costco (Plus I have a fascination about the islands in the English Channel) ..I think I will see if my library has it or can get it. I am on a book buying diet. I love my library and winning books from you ;o)! I read The Good Earth about a hundred years ago..I think enough time as read it again. Thanks for reminding me.

  • Linda Joan:

    Hello Rechelle,

    I just finished the Guernsey book and found it delightful reading. Her writing was delightful – the subject matter was sometimes troubling and eye opening, but good for me to read. WWII was awful! Awful in so many different ways. The people were resiliant and found ways to survive.

    Have you read Haven Kimmel’s second memoir, “She Got Off the Couch”? It’s wonderful! I enjoyed it even more than “A Girl Named Zippy”! Please read it ASAP! My nickname is Bossy!

  • Linda Joan:

    P.S. Pat Conroy has a new book coming out in August. I’m excited!!

  • Sherrill:

    I loved the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – what a delightful piece of historical fiction… I loved all the characters and by the end I was wishing I wrote letters by hand – and was born 60 years ago.

  • Teresa:

    I have been telling everyone I know that seriously reads to read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I just picked it up at the library because it mentioned Charles Lamb on the fly leaf (long story) and I absolutely loved it. I love going to the library and just grabbing something. I have read many books that I would have never read that way. Right now I am reading Archilbald Gracie’s tale of how he survived the Titantic. It is very interesting first person story about such a historic event.

  • Tish:

    I think I read Pearl Buck in middle school one summer- The Good Earth and the Story Bible (new and old testaments). Followed by all of the Ellery Queen books (I tended to pick an author that sounded interesting and read all the books our small library had- oh wait, I still do that!). I read the Guernsey book when it first came out and loved it. Like you, I couldn’t put it down. I’d love to read a sequel but I doubt one is forthcoming as Annie Barrows helped to finish the book researched and started by her aunt Mary Ann who has since died.

  • Wasn’t that Barrows book the best! OK, maybe not the best because it’s impossible to pick the best, best book! I read The Good Earth a long, long time ago and didn’t like it. But I was probably too young and I should re-read it. But there are so many, many books out there–and so few hours in the day to read and blog! BTW, I don’t find it annoying to click.

  • Anoria:

    Hm, I don’t think I ever finished The Good Earth. Reading a book for school can kind of take all the enjoyment out of it.
    My online book club had the first book on its shortlist, but for some reason it got beat out by a Sherlock Holmes story in the last vote. I think I’ll track at least one of them down now that you’ve reminded us.

    Two books that changed my life are currently on their way to me via Amazon :) One that made me look at the world in an entirely different way, and one that made me fall in love with all dozen or so of its main characters and then ripped everyone’s hearts out and danced on them while making rude gestures. I’ve been dying to read it again.

  • I needed a great book recommendation Rechelle. Thank you.

    In the movie ghost town gwen says, “You can’t live someone else’s or think it’s more important just because it’s more dramatic. What happens matters. May be only to us, but it matters.”

    What happens matters.

  • Kris:

    I loved both of those books!!

  • Sigh. I always feel the two of my sides pulling me. One that wants to achieve great things and feels guilty at spending money at Gap instead of Goodwill, and the other that says Forget It! And goes shopping at Pottery Barn spending money that could easily feed a starving child for a year….and blogging. I’m getting tired of it. It has served as my creative outlet and now I feel I’m on to other things…but…but…sigh. I think this is called: MID LIFE. or CROSSROADS.
    And it’s all good.
    And books help us get through that. And a bubble bath with a glass of wine. And chocolates.
    Thanks for the recommendations.
    And if it’s all the same to you, I may quit blogging but I won’t quit reading here!

  • Jeanie B. from Texas:

    You are so totally wrong-what you do in your blog is of real value. You have a genuine gift of writing that you share with your readers. Apart from your sense of humor, your perspectives are insightful and thought provoking. Given time, more people are bound to happen upon this delightful place. I for one was happy to have discovered your site. Per your advise, I have read and enjoyed three of Bill Bryson’s books that were previously unknown to me. I hope you don’t abandon us to move on to more worthwhile ventures.

  • Oooohh… “Despondent in June at the dark of the moon?” or something. I was feeling the exact same way about my blog… Better now, I think. Should have taken the good book route, though.

    I read “The Good Earth” while pregnant and wow, was I ever a mess though the whole thing. Great read, though.

  • This is why you blog – to offer us such delicious morsels. I’ve heard great things about the Guernsey. I’ll add them both to my reading list (and watch for the giveaway).

  • The Literary Society is such a great book isn’t it?!? It paints such a true picture of people in general. I was a little sad when I finished it….I wanted to continue being a part of all their lives.

  • I too, read The Good Earth many years ago and hope to read it again. We read The Literary Society earlier this year for our book discussion group and found a winner! Everyone enjoyed it. If you get a chance, either read or watch the movie of “84 Charring Crosss Road”. Another wonderful story written in the same format.

  • Jan – I LOVE that movie. I have to read the book, but the movie… oh the movie… I wrote a post on it at some point. That reminds me! it is a book of letters isn’t it? I have been trying to find books of letters for a giveaway. Thanks for the reminder.