To Read or Not To Read in Series Order

When I was a teenager, my mother gave me some advice which I almost immediately ignored. We were both avid readers who preferred reading to talking and most of our limited conversation was about what we were reading.

She had enjoyed English novelist Norah Lofts's trilogy about the history of a house and the stories of the people who had lived in it over a century. "Make sure," she said," to start with the first book." But when I went to the library, it was out, so I started with the second, then went back to the first. Although I still enjoyed the books, reading the middle before the beginning and then jumping to the end gave me a kind of Alice in Wonderland sense of disjointedness. It taught me a lesson: I always try to start a series at the beginning.

A few years ago, I made a rule for myself and then quickly ignored it. (Do I ever learn?) I decided I was keeping details about characters in enough mystery or police series already and that I would not start any new such series. That didn't work, so I modified it: I would start no series involving a protagonist who had no business getting involved in one murder after another. That vow was much easier to keep and, except for an occasional reviewing assignment, I don't think I've broken it.

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My First Book Club

I'm not a joiner by nature, but when my place of employment started a book club, I thought, what the heck, I should get to know my co-workers better, and resolved to attend. And so I appeared at the appointed hour in the appropriate conference room.

Looking around the room that first meeting, I saw to my horror that more than half of the attendees were members of the senior staff who wouldn't know me from Eve. I wondered if I was in the right place.

"Excuse me, is this the book club?"

"It's not a book club. The word 'club' connotes exclusivity. We're a book group."

Uh oh...

I should have realized off the bat that this wouldn't be the fun, gossipy kind of book group so many people enjoy.  Something's gotta be fishy when Management sponsors a book club.  Somehow I missed the announcement that its focus would be "diversity."  (I found out later that someone had set a goal that the company would hold a certain number of events each year to sponsor diversity in the workplace, with some percentage of employees attending at least one event annually.  It was all very political.) 

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Finding Families

Library Journal did a special report on genealogy products last week profiling nine online resources to help you track down your nearest and dearest through the ages. This, and a delightful framed collage of sepia tinted photos hanging in pride of place in a friend's house, got me thinking about how different the experience of future generations will be to ours. Instead of searching hard and long to find connections to our ancestors, future generations will be hard pressed to extricate themselves from the weight of ancestral evidence.

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Lorem Ipsum

Many moons ago, in another country and a former century I worked in an advertising agency in London and "lorem ipsum" was a familiar part of my life.

This was a time, barely 20 years ago, when London's Fleet Street was still home to most of Britain's major newspapers and the typesetters worked feverishly to lay down the type for the next day's papers using a process not that far removed from that used by William Caxton's former apprentice, Wynkyn de Worde, when he set up shop in a lane close to Fleet Street almost 500 years earlier; and probably recognizable by the printers of The Daily Courant, London's first daily newspaper, that published its first issue in Fleet Street in March 1702.

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Picking the perfect companion

Back in the dark ages when I was dating, I had a friend tell me I had no standards when it came to men – that I'd date anyone. Now, that certainly wasn't true. I wouldn't, for example, date someone with poor hygiene or who professed to be an axe-murderer. I did have to admit, though, that my friend had a point, that I would date, well, pretty much anyone who'd ask me out. On further analysis I decided that this was not, as implied by this so-called "friend," an indication of loose morality, but was in fact an indication of strong character. It meant I didn't judge people too quickly; I got to know them a bit before deciding whether or not a relationship had any chance of working out. A valuable gem might lie just beneath a rough exterior. I was willing to take the chance of finding out.

I'm no longer free to date (I have a feeling my husband would disapprove), so I've had to find something else to feed this need I have to try new things. That "something else" is, of course, the world of books.  (Who knows? Perhaps it was my love of constantly exploring different kinds of books that led to my willingness to sample different kinds of men.)

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Sunshine on Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith
Aftermath