2019 brought some big changes, the biggest being the move to our ranch in Santa Ysabel, near Julian CA. Now, instead of teaching my class, doing grandkids and hanging out with friends, I tend 3 horses (Grace Kelly, Vegas and Ranger) 2 goats (Billy Idol and Dolly Parton) 2 dogs (Frankie and Jonny) and the six cows owned by a local cowboy ~ actually named Rowdy ~ that roam our pastures, fattening up for the birth of their six calves. (Their names are Patch, Batman, Cheeky, Oreo, Oprah and Number Six.) I love it, but I miss the intellectual stimulation and spiritual inspiration I've enjoyed over the last six years teaching the Del Mar Stake Scripture Course. Well, who says you can't have a ranch and read books too?
My first book, Back to the Best Books: How the Classics Can Change Your Life, was the culmination of several years of monthly columns on classic literature for an online magazine. Since its publication I have spoken to many book groups about classic works of literature. But I've never had one over to the house, until a delightful group in the Carlsbad/Oceanside area asked me to come and speak. The trek down to their neck of the woods was a little tough for me, so they decided to have a girls' weekend in the delightful mining town of Julian, and come to me! Bearing pizzas and a luscious salad, they came to the ranch last Saturday and we had a great discussion on Chaim Potok's wonderful coming-of-age novel, The Chosen. Here they are, deep in discussion about the youthful crisis of faith and the clash of cultures so brilliantly portrayed in this novel:
I had so much fun that I'd like to invite your book group to come as well! Whether it's a scripture study group or a conventional book group, you bring the dinner and I'll bring the chat! Everybody bought a book and all the proceeds went to the Community Resource Center in Encinitas. It's a good time for a good cause, and keeps my foggy brain working! So send me an email and we will get your group on the calendar.
And just in case a weekend away isn't in the cards this year, read a few of the selections in Back to the Best Books with your book group. It's an easy way to engage with some of the greatest books ever written. Even though I wrote about The Chosen for my book, it's been many years since I read it, and it was an illuminating experience all over again. This year's excellent film, The Farewell, and Elaine Pagel's searingly honest memoir Why Religion? brought new depth to my understanding of Potok's masterwork. Here is a link to the book, which I guarantee has a few classics you haven't yet discovered. (Undset or Cronin anyone?) Enjoy!