Meet June Reader of the Month: Sandra Evans
I retired from teaching high school English several years ago. Since then, I have been able to pursue my many interests: gardening, cooking, painting and wood burning gourds, watercolor, sewing, and reading, of course. This past year I started a book club, which is immensely enjoyable. Additionally, I volunteer at the Lantern Center, am a member of Dubuque Urban Sketchers and participate in the Mowing to Monarch’s program.
I appreciate well written literature that helps me to better understand the human condition, social, economic, political, and environmental issues. For variety, I occasionally enjoy a good mystery or suspense, but tend to gravitate toward books that make me think more critically and understand more deeply. Mark Twain said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness… Broad, wholesome, charitable views of [people] and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” Books allow us to ‘travel’ (without cost) to foreign places, to new and different ideas, and to live inside another’s heart, mind, and soul. Books help us become better versions of ourselves.
Q & A:
Q. What is the best book you have read within the last year (or ever)?
A. Past year: “All the Light We Cannot See” is a beautifully crafted novel about an intelligent, sensitive French girl who is blind and an orphaned German boy who becomes indoctrinated by the Nazis… and the radio waves that link them together.
Q. What is your ideal reading environment (location, sound, snacks, etc.)?
A. Summertime: My favorite location is in my backyard (weather permitting) with birds chirping and my Yeti filled with ice water. Wintertime: My preferred location is a comfy couch in a quiet environment with a cup of hot tea.
Q. What book are you most excited about reading next, and what about it is most exciting?
A. Our book club is scheduled to read “Postville: A Clash of Cultures in the Heartland” by Stephen Bloom. I have been wanting to read it for a while to learn more about a culturally diverse Iowa small town. Having recently finished Art Cullen’s “Storm Lake,” I now want to visit that town, which seems a wonderful model for other communities.
Q. What book do you think more people should read, and why do you think they should read it?
A. Everyone should read Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath,” which shows the ugly underbelly of unchecked capitalism. And Steinbeck’s use of the intercalary chapters is literary genius, showing his mastery of writing and his sociological imagination, revealing the ‘big picture’ forces conspiring against the common man.
Q. When do you decide to stop reading a book? In other words, do you read every book to the last page or is there a moment when you decide to stop?
A. If a book is poorly written or lacking depth, I will stop reading it. Life is too short to read weak, uninspiring books.
Q. Do you remember when your love of reading began?
A. I can’t recall a specific moment, but the highlight of my summers as a child growing up in rural Iowa was when the bookmobile would arrive in town; I usually checked out more books than I could carry. Of course, like many, I read every Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys’ mysteries (being a detective WAS in my future) and the Boxcar Children books. I fell in love with the Swiss Alps after reading “Heidi” and empathized with the witch who lived by Blackbird Pond. In high school, books opened my horizons with novels like “Roots” and “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.” My love of books led me to become an English teacher.