Sparked by Words


















I thoroughly enjoyed reading Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams, but I chose it for my favorite D book for an unusual reason. It was suggested by my older son, referred to here as O-Son.

He’d already fallen for most of the other Adams books, especially The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, not an unusual choice for a twelve-year-old geeky sci-fi fan. He’d devoured The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, So Long and Thanks for All the Fish, and The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul. Probably introduced by friends, Adams was the perfect writer for a brilliant and shy kid who was socially unconventional. Like so many almost-teenagers, Adams gave my son a way to see himself as a totally acceptable human being.

To begin somewhat near the beginning, my kids are readers, having been introduced to books before they were born. I read to my babies in utero, reading out loud whatever book I had in my hands. (With O-Son it was Watership Down.) The tradition continued as soon as each son was born, every afternoon filled with a half dozen or more books, another half dozen at bed time. Picture books were read two, four, five times in a row if requested. Cuddling with my sons, lost in a world of imagination, conundrums, solutions, humor, mystery, fantastical or historical locales, and the most astounding people we’d ever met, books nourished us.

I read to my kids until they were each about thirteen and life finally caught up, obligations to so many other diversions forcing story time to shut down. My sons had been reading capably since they were five or six, so shared reading time was purely a joyous event and not because they couldn’t do the job themselves.

So when O-Son gave me Dirk Gently to read with him shortly after he turned thirteen, I knew it was a singularly extraordinary moment for us. Our reading together time had been waning, and I sensed this would be the last book. He couldn’t have chosen a better story. We laughed as we tried to figure out where the strange plot was going (OK, it’s Douglas Adams, whose plots are well outside of standard plot-ville format,) O-Son and me bouncing along on the novel’s tailgate.  Sometimes he read, sometimes I did.

Reading is a social endeavor. It’s a reason to be in lock-step with why we read books. We name our pets, even our children, after favorite titles, characters, or authors. We talk about the books we read, recommend and trade them with friends, peer at a stranger’s tome or tablet to see what they’re reading. I belong to a reader’s group where we select a book a month, get together for an evening, and talk about them. Exposed to books we might otherwise pass up, we don’t always like every choice but we love the discussions, even the argumentative ones.

Reading is a reward. Teachers use reading time as incentive for students to be productive with required class work. Decades ago, I motivated children whose first language wasn’t English to work on their reading assignments so they could listen to me read Jamie Gilson’s 13 Ways to Sink a Sub for ten minutes at the end of the session. A fall-on-the-floor-laughing book, it proved a terrific strategy to encourage challenged students to read. Research shows that students who read often, especially if they include a wide variety of genres, have larger vocabularies and do much better on college entrance exams than those who don’t.

Reading is fulfilling. Transported to another culture or historical period, we can walk in unfamiliar shoes, see the world, experience adventures that are out of this world. Reading is a way to learn about something unexpected, maybe entice one to research a subject suggested in the story. We learn to feel empathy and compassion, to understand nuance and connections, to add to our fund of knowledge and imagine what is possible.

As for favorite lines from Dirk Gently, the most famous is probably this: Let’s think the unthinkable, let’s do the undoable. Let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all. It speaks to everyone, but to teenagers facing an unknown and intimidating future, that line is the Declaration of Independence. For myself as a mom whose baby was growing up, this one suits best: The teacher usually learns more than the pupil. Isn’t that true?

If you share your life with youngsters, read to them. Thanks, Douglas Adams, for all the hours of fun, wit, satire, and whimsy you gave O-Son and me, and thanks for all the fish. Because teaching a young man to fish teaches him for his lifetime.  It doesn’t get better than that.


Other books that were serious contenders for D:

The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl

Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man by Fannie Flagg

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

A Day of Small Beginnings by Lisa Pearl Rosenbaum

Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie

The Deep End of the Ocean by Jacquelyn Mitchard

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells

The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

Dr. Zhivago by Boris Pasternak


I look forward to learning about your favorite D fiction books.


Book cover image courtesy Google images and Pocket Books




Comments on: "D Is for Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency" (52)

  1. You’d think I’d read this book–the perfect intersection of mystery and geek. I’m going to look it up.

    My kids and I still have Reading Hour, although for us it’s much more solitary than yours. We each grab our own book, settle around each other, and read. My son and I have extended it to bingeing on shows and movies–sitting together, watching, enjoying the camaraderie.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I read Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary to my 5th graders years ago. The story is about a lonely boy who writes to his favorite author and the subsequent letters over the course of time as the boy goes through his parents’ divorce while struggling to make friends at school. Leigh Botts eventually switches to journal writing but uses the idea of Mr. Henshaw to work through the emotions he’s going through. Its a sweet and sad book about the power of writing and the loneliness of children suffering through divorce. My students were quite moved by it.

    Going through some of my own children’s favorite read aloud books almost brought me to tears the other day! While I’m happy they’ve grown into productive adults I do sometimes feel a surge of melancholy over the whole raising kids thing.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dear Mr. Henshaw is another wonderful book from a masterful writer. My sons and I read it – I read nearly everything they read as they were growing up just to be able to talk with them about books and their ideas about the world.

      I’ve also felt that twinge about grown kids. My grands won’t let us read to them any more – they’re just too independent. However, they like reading aloud the stories they’ve written, so bonus there.
      The most important goal of parenthood should be to guide our kids toward happy, productive adulthood – as you well stated, Adrienne.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. With one finger or both hands you weave great personal stories into each review

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re funny, Judy. This was an unusual review because I wrote about the impact of the book on the relationship between my son and me and said almost nothing about the book itself. Leaves my followers opportunity to discover for themselves. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s good to see you posting again, Shari! Hope that means your arm is mending well.

    I think my favorite “D” book is THE DREYFUS AFFAIR by Peter Lefcourt. It’s about the scandal that erupts when two major league baseball players fall in love with each other and it does have references to the historical Dreyfus Affair, too. It’s both biting and funny.

    My runner-ups are THE DOOMSDAY BOOK by Connie Willis (historians study the past by traveling through time) and DEATHLESS by Cat Valente (a retelling of a Russian folk tale set in the Stalinist USSR).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ilene, you’ve just given me a bunch of D books to look up, and I already had about 4 on my list to read. Thanks for your suggestions. The Dreyfus affair really sounds like my kind of book – thank you.
      Yes, I’m healing but not as fast as I’d like. I’ll be over to your blog soon, BTW.


  5. For me, reading has always been about transporting myself somewhere else. I wanna go where they are. To learn. Real or not, take me there. Oh, how I love to read. My son enjoys reading as I do, but my daughter not so much. She prefers to have me sing. Either way, the joys of being needed are welcomed. (Gotta check this D out.)

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Douglas Adams was a great writer. All I can hope is that when you tried, you found you could eff it after all.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I loved Watership Down. My mom tossed it my way after she was done with it. Every afternoon I would read it for the duration of my son’s nap time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My sons’ naps lasted about 20 minutes every day – enough time for me to breathe deeply once or twice. My reading while they were little tended to be their books, an OK situation because I like kids’ books.

      Liked by 1 person

      • My son didn’t really sleep during his nap time, a little wired. Nevertheless, I insisted that he be quiet in his room for at least an hour. He spent most of that time either with a top truck going over mountains of pillows and blankets or drawing.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Some kids have a hard time settling down to sleep, others fall asleep before they’ve fallen into bed. I taught a first grade class one year that we got a new student mid-year. Art class was right after lunch for these little guys and they trooped into the classroom sweaty and exhausted. The new kid demanded to know why we didn’t have nap time in school, announced that we should have nap time, promptly put his head down on the desk and fell asleep. I figured he needed sleep more than art so I left him alone. I smile every time I think of this little guy, sound asleep while the rest of the class chattered through art. Sometimes the best thing a teacher can do is learn.

        Liked by 2 people

  8. It is always such a joy to read you Sharon. Your words flow so effortlessly. I love this post. Brings back cherished memories of reading to my sons aloud, which lasted till about ages 8 or 9 with them. So you did well, to keep that going to age 13! I particularly enjoyed their books during the pre school years and had many favorites as did they, that we read over and over. For some reason, “The Story of Ping” comes to mind…. even “The Hungry Caterpillar.”

    Recently in Chicago, the burly rough security guard in our building helped me with some boxes. We got to talking …about life and travel. He told me that he has travelled all over the world. I was quite surprised by this as he was rattling off countries from India to Ghana. Then he added “I travelled there by way of books. By reading so much about each place, I feel as though I have been there.” Made my day!


    Liked by 2 people

    • What a wonderful story, Peta, thanks for sharing. Nowadays we travel not only through books, music, video, and film, but also through blogs. I thoroughly enjoy reading about your travel adventures, especially now that you and Ben are building your new home. The commentary about the process and all the photos are always interesting, especially since we also travel very little.

      I’m in a strange situation now. I have hundreds of children’s books, and my younger grands live so far away, I’ll probably never read these books to them. I’ve been sending boxes of them to their home in Northern Cal, but their parents would have to dedicate a room for all the books. Most likely I will eventually donate books to a children’s library or a program for underprivileged kids.

      Peta, thanks for your sweet comment about the post. I am humbled by your praise.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. You’ve captured the whole essence of reading in this post Sharon. I can’t imagine a world without reading – it would be so small. Someone once said and I can’t remember the quote that a non-reader lives one life, where a reader lives hundreds and I think that is so true as you lose yourself in different worlds. I also learnt from your post that douglas Adams wrote the Dirk Gently book which I had heard of but not realised the author. It now immediately goes on my list. Loved Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. You did your children a good service reading to them. My Dad read to us but I think he stopped when I could read well, probably around 9. How wonderful it would have been to continue to share books with him into my teens. Roger enjoys being read to so I do that sometimes. He tends to read what he thinks should be written which can be quite funny but I have learnt to read over his shoulder if he is reading to me. On long trips we both enjoy an audio book. Hope this means that your arm is a little better. Good to see you back.

    Liked by 1 person

    • What a wonderful quote, Irene. I’ll have to see if I can find the author. I agree, I’ve lived many lives through books and know how boring life would be without them.

      Unfortunately I am a terrible listener. My mind wanders and I can’t focus, so audio books have never worked for me. Even music, which I love, can’t hold my attention through a really long piece.

      My arm is much better, thank you. Just got back from an appointment to see my surgeon who was pop-eyed at my progress. He said he didn’t expect so much healing so fast.
      Of course, I did therapy about 4 – 5 hours a day because I want to get my arm back – I bet many people shine on their routines. Not back to normal but getting there as fast as I can.

      And you? You seem to be doing much better as well. The shoe thing boggles me about as much as it does you – beyond the age of five, shoes only fit the perfectly shaped foot, and that ain’t mine baby.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Here is the actual quote. “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.”
        ― George R.R. Martin, A Dance with Dragons
        I think a number of people have expressed this sentiment in one way or another. I can only listen to audio books when travelling and I can’t be distracted by anything else (apart from the road).
        I’m glad to hear your recovery has exceeded the expectations of your surgeon. Just shows what perseverance and desire can achieve. Shoes – well we just won’t go there yet (although my improvement is going well also).

        Liked by 2 people

      • I’ve never read The Game of Thrones series though I know they are wildly beloved and read by millions. Another group of books on my long, long list of books granting me my thousand lives.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Roger loved the movie series. I have neither watched or read it but I think it is a great quote.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. When I first started my blog, the subtitle was “On the Importance of Reading With Children”. I wrote a post about the best lesson plan I’d ever done as an English teacher. It involved teaching interactive reading of children’s books to juniors in one of my high school classes. Their reading levels were at 1st and 2nd grade. They hadn’t been read to before they’d entered school. Books were not something to be found in their homes. As people began to follow my posts and I theirs, the subtitle morphed to Conversations With Kindred Spirits. It was great fun to read this post and hear about the enjoyment you’ve had reading with your kids. They will be well prepared for school and for life.
    Being a big Donna Leon fan, some of my favorite D titles are : Death at La Fenice (her first), Dressed for Death, Death and Judgment, Drawing Conclusions. They are modern mysteries set in Venice.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m pleased to see you here, Claremary, as I’m very impressed by your blog, your credentials, and your energetic spirit. Thanks for telling a bit more about how you developed your blog. I think lots of people start with one direction for their blog and then find other motivations take over, providing more developmental opportunity.

      Thanks also for the “D” suggestions by Donna Leon. I’m not familiar with her, so I’ve got some catch up to do – bet it will be fun, especially as I love the history of Venice. Someday I may get to visit.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks, Sharon. Your blog is truly a joy to read. I realize I now have much catching up to do and will be a regular visitor . I am beginning to make a list of all of those suggested books I’ve not read. I’m going to have a very busy winter.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you for the kind comment about my blog.

        I’m not a fast reader but I’m steady. I could have written about any one on the list of books at the end of every post. These are only the books I really enjoyed reading, not every book I’ve ever read, but it’s also been compiled from when I was in college. Long time ago, so lots of books.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Sharon, I wish I’d kept a list with just a small summary for each book I’d read since college. I seem to have so many Deja Vu Moments when sitting down to enjoy a good book. (because I’ve read it in a previous decade.)

        Liked by 1 person

      • I started the list about 10 years ago, the computer making it easy. First it was only books I’d just completed, then I started adding in everything I could remember from many years ago. I even have a kid’s books section now because many stuck with me and I now look for them for my grands. For some entries I’ve written my raw reaction to the story, other times it’s just the title and author. It’s totally disorganized however, some authors grouped with all their books I’ve ever read, in other sections just titles and authors in no order at all. Fiction mixed with memoir, poetry, biography, history, motivation. Scattered throughout are books I plan to read. I wish I’d noted the year I read them, or put them in alphabetical order by author, or something that makes organizational sense. But, no, this is a true Shari list – a jumble of books, like my actual library.

        It’s not too late, Claremary, for you to start a list, but I suggest some sort of organization since you’ll be at the beginning.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Sharon, I have collected a few hundred Christmas Books and Charley knows how to sort on the computer, so they’re by author and by title. I really should do my mystery books. You’re motivating me to get started. It sounds like a good snowy day project.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Or perhaps a snowy week project! But isn’t the computer wonderful for this? Imagine if you were starting this longhand – ouch!

        Liked by 1 person

      • I think that’s why I didn’t do it in the first place. It’s certainly why I didn’t publish. I’m relatively new to the computer and learning more every day. It does make things so much easier. 📝 🖥

        Liked by 1 person

      • And every day there is more to learn about the computer, I’ve found. Not that I’ve become adept, just that I know I know less and less. Sigh…
        But what is it that you haven’t published? Is there a book in the wings?

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve published a children’s book which is part of a series. I have a mystery book that’s almost set to go but I want to try to do it myself on Create Space. That means I have to figure out Create Space. I’m always learning and never done.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Claremary, I wish you well with your mystery book publication. I know nothing about Create Space but hope it’s easy to figure out. I’m also always learning, often rather slowly.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Sharon,Yes, and you’ve published, too. More that we have in common. I’ll be visiting your site often to hear about your writing and hope to learn a few things. Clare

        Liked by 1 person

      • Clare, I’m so sorry if I’ve misled you. I am not published. The first book I wrote was entered in the 2012 ABNA contest and placed well, but it was never published. I’ll be writing a post soon about why I’ve decided not to pursue publication at all for the book. I am working on books 2, 3, (both complete) and 4, (still a work in progress) but I dislike the querying process.

        From what I’ve read on your blog, I have much to learn from you and am looking forward to more.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, I agree about the querying process and it is ultimately what drove me to find a small press and self publish (doing almost all of the work independent of anyone else). I’m going to go on and learn how to do even more with Amazon’s Create Space. You should look into it because your writing is something that should be shared. You didn’t mislead me at all. I read your posts and assumed you’d published and now my assumption is turning to hope.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you – I’m hoping as well. The cachet of traditional publication has much allure for me and I haven’t given up – yet. I think all the self-pub and indie pub options have limitations and I want to know more before I try any, though I suspect that’s the direction I’ll end up.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’m hoping that once I’ve established myself, the children’s and the mystery series will be picked up by a traditional publisher or at least attract the attention of an agent.

        Liked by 1 person

      • That would be wonderful for you, Clare. I hope this comes true for you.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. After I get a chance to reread Hitchhikers Guide, I will read this 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think that’s a great way to get back into Douglas Adams. Dirk Gently is a different kind of book than Hitchhiker, however.


      • I’ve been reading books vastly different than Hitchhiker for the last 9 years. I relish any chance to read novels anymore. Outside of my literature class in 2011 for undergrad, I think I have only read 15 or so novels in the last 5 years .. and that number might unfortunately be including a biography or two. Tragic.

        Liked by 1 person

      • You are more of a reader than you think. The statistics on who reads (what and how much, etc.) are deplorable. Most people simply never read another book once they’ve graduated from high school or college. Free time is tempted by so many glittery opportunities from those that passively engage (movies and live performances) to those that actively engage (participate in sports and vacationing.) I’m sending you a medal for your commitment to reading – you’re doing a great job.

        AND – you not only read my article, you’ve commented twice. I am deeply grateful and honored.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I appreciate the medal. I guess I just have high standards. I would like to read 40 books a year, with 15-20 of those novels and biographies. My line of work makes me have to read a bit, so I don’t worry about reading a few technical books a year.

        Keep up the good work on your blog.


      • Thank you so much.


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