I’ve joined Goodreads (finally) and since that does such a good job of curating my book lists, I’m going to give up maintaining this page, where I used to track my titles read towards the goal of 100 books/year.
Anyone ON Goodreads- Friend Me!
Tracking titles read towards a goal of100 books/year. From May 2014 – April 2016
April 2015- April 2016
(One year, 100+ books)
The astute may notice the edit- at first count I thought I fell short, at 96 books, but on a second look I realized I had missed the multiple re-reads, especially typical of books I read for my ACX work, which put me safely over 100 at about 106 for my second 100+ year. Now that I’ve broken the century threshold, I’m fixing to make a habit of it.
I really need to adjust my counting now to the calendar year, like everyone else. Since I’m kind of making a habit of this.
Breaking it down: 26 non-fiction books, or 27% (I thought I did better than that), including 12 memoirs (ish), or 12.5%. It’s tough to define the memoir these days since lots of NF journalistic books these days have a seriously personal story arc.
Whether or not I add a review has no reflection on the quality of book! Many superb (and also terrible) books go uncommented upon, for no reason but caprice.
Just the list this time, no commentary:
The Map Thief, by Michael Blanding
The Great Cat Massacre, by Robert Darnton
Language and Gender, by Mary Talbot
Unstuff Your Life!: Kick the Clutter Habit and Completely Organize Your Life for Good, by Andrew J. Mellen
Off on Our Own, by Ted Carns
The Emperor of Scent: A True Story of Perfume and Obsession, by Chandler Burr
The Republic of Love, by Carol Shields
The Good House, by Bonnie Burnard
One Straw Revolutionary, by Larry Korn
Ex-Rich Girl Tells All: My Truth Behind Closed Doors, by Kami Corban
What your Explosive Child is trying to tell you, by Douglas A Riley
Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things, by Randy O. Frost and Gail Steketee
The Big Tiny: A Built-It-Myself Memoir, by Dee Williams
Desert Desperate, by Dana Mentink
Once She Saw…Bats!, by Deborah Diaz
The Rosie Project, by Graeme Gibson
Fifteen Dogs, by Andre Alexis
Bossypants, by Tina Fey
The Museum of Extraordinary Things, by Alice Hoffman
The Existential Actor, by Jeff Zinn
The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, by Laurie R. King
How to Be a Woman, by Caitlin Moran
Emily of New Moon, Emily Clmbs, and Emily’s Quest, by L.M. Montgomery
Smarter:The New Science of Building Brain Power, by Dan Hurley
Drop Dead Healthy, by A.J. Jacobs
Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, by Hilary Mantel
The Bone Clocks, by David Mitchell
Sex at Dawn:How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What it Means for Modern Relationships, by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá
The Secret Lives of Wives, by Iris Krasnow
Driving Mr. Albert, by Michael Paterniti
The Development, by JT Moss
O, Juliet, by Robin Maxwell
The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman
Moonwalking with Einstein, by Joshua Foer
Anne of Green Gables (2x) and Anne of Avonlea, and Anne of the Island, by L.M. Montgomery
The Hobbit, by J.R.R Tolkien (2x)
The Tools, by Phil Stutz and Barry Michels
One Woman Farm, by Jenna Woginrich
Modern Pioneering, by Georgia Pellegrini
aaaaaaand…DONE! 100 books (+ 16 graphic novels) from May 1, 2014 to March 6, 2015
Yes, I read five books in six days. I had the flu. My gratitude to Arnaldur Indriðason is undying.
Reykjavík Nights, and Voices, by Arnaldur Indriðason
The Giver, by Lois Lowry
A River in the Ocean, by Michael Allen
Orange is the New Black, by Piper Kerman
Total since May 2014: 95 + 16 graphic novels (Five to go; two months. Pah!)
Black Skies/Svörtuloft, and Strange Shores/Furðustrandir, by Arnaldur Indriðason
What Makes Olga Run, by Bruce Grierson
Longbourn, by Jo Baker
The Humans, by Matt Haig
In Hyacinth, Books 1-3, by Bree Cariad
The Four Hour Body and The Four Hour Workweek, by Tim Ferriss.
Super-annoying egotist? Yes. “It ain’t bragging if it’s true” (-Bear Bryant, or Dizzy Dean)
Dear Canada is over. I’ve read them all.
A Christmas to Remember: Tales of Comfort & Joy
All Fall Down: The Landslide Diary of Abby Roberts, by Jean Little
If I Die Before I Wake: The Flu Epidemic Diary of Fiona Macgregor, by Jean Little
Hoping for Home: Stories of Arrival, by Shelley Tanaka et al
(9 books + 11 graphic novels)
Total since May 2014: 81 + 16 graphic novels (I’m totally going to make it: 19 books and 3 1/2 months? Cake)
Where the Shadows Lie, by Michael Ridpath
Past Lives, Future Healing: A Psychic Reveals the Secrets to Good Health and Great Relationships, by Sylvia Browne
Come Thou Tortoise, by Jessica Grant. 2x. The tortoise lives! I have to admit that the back cover illustration of a paper castle on fire made me race along the first read sick with worry that the tortoise would come to harm. She does not! Relax dear reader, read slow and enjoy, knowing the tortoise will be fine. The highest praise! J. Grant is a goddess among authors! This is the finest novel I’ve read in a long time, and I delighted in the language and setting of NFLD, knowing the behaviour of so many of her characters is far from extraordinary, for NFLD.
I’m at the end of the list of Dear Canada titles! All have been gathered from the inter libraries, and my handy checklist has been entirely checked… now what!?
A Season of Miracles: Twelve Tales of Christmas, by Karleen Bradford et al
Winter of Peril: The Newfoundland Diary of Sophie Loveridge, by Jan Andrews
Pieces of the Past: The Holocaust Diary of Rose Rabinowitz, by Carol Matas
Flame and Ashes: The Great Fire Diary of Triffie Winsor, by Janet McNaughton
A Desperate Road to Freedom: The Underground Railroad Diary of Julia May Jackson, by Karleen Bradford
Noah, by Aronofsky, Handel, Henrichon. Why is Noah such a sinister character, in just a few lines of the Bible? How does that come through? I’m thinking of Not Wanted on the Voyage. An excellent interpretation in spectacular drawing, drawing obvious parallels to modern society. Now I know what will happen in the movie.
Andre the Giant: Life and Legend, by Box Brown. A lovely (and well-researched) biography, and hilarious!
The Walking Dead, books 1-6, by Robert Kirkman (and Charlie Adlard)
What It Is: the Formless Thing Which Gives Things Form, by Lynda Barry
The Sign of the Four, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; Culbard & Edginton
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, by Christopher E. L. Welsh
September to December 2014
(26 books, including 2 graphic novels -GN)
The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak. Magnificent! Deserving of all the hype, and an adorable movie too.
Room, by Emma Donoghue. I listened to this one. I was expecting it to be far “worse” – graphic – but it was clear about the horror with no gratuity. A masterful novel and thought experiment, full of layers. The characters and the questions they inspire are haunting.
MaddAddam, by Margaret Atwood
X-Events: Complexity Overload and the Collapse of Everything, by John Casti
The Long Walk, by Slavomir Rawicz. Wow!
Steal Like an Artist, by Austin Kleon (GN-ish)
The Cure for Anything is Salt Water: How I Threw My Life Overboard and Found Happiness at Sea, by Mary South
Leonardo DiCaprio: the Biography, by Donald Wight. Okay, this book set a new record for the worst rate of errors I’ve ever seen in a book. Over a hundred comma faults, typos, homophone errors, and non-sentences. The author is supposedly a journalist? Not like it’s an academic tome or anything, but a lot of people were intended to read this book, so perhaps it could have an editing budget? I get it, they were trying to get this out to ride the Wolf of Wall Street wave, but not finding the time to have someone with a high school education read it over is an insult to the audience. Come on. Beyond that, the arc of DiCaprio’s life is an interesting story, but I got the impression that I wasn’t learning anything I couldn’t find with time and a search engine.
The Sixth Extinction, by Elizabeth Kolbert. Superb. Required reading for the world. Very engaging and readable despite the catastrophic message.
Cartwheels in a Sari: a Memoir of Growing up Cult, by Jayanti Tamm. J. Tamm performs that most exceptional of magic acts- taking the reader along for the trip from the inside. Her writing recreates the experience from the interior experience of cult brainwashing and carries the reader along the path of unfolding awareness as she surfaces. It’s cringeworthy, painful, and unflinchingly honest. The hovering reader has the advantage of seeing behind the curtain, through the hypocrisies, long before she does, cheering her on as she scratches towards identity and despairing at her relapses into the cocooning familiar. An exemplary memoir of the struggle to escape from the mental and emotional cage that a religious cult can be.
A Breast Cancer Alphabet, by Madhulika Sikka
Operation Napoleon, by Arnaldur Indriðason
Ape House, by Sara Gruen
Love Sex Again: A Gynecologist Finally Fixes the Issues That Are Sabotaging Your Sex Life, by Dr. Lauren Streicher
Part Swan, Part Goose: An Uncommon Memoir of Womanhood, Work, & Family, by Swoosie Kurtz
Language Myths, by Peter Trudgill & Laurie Bauer, eds.
This One Summer, by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki (GN)
More Dear Canada books:
Brothers Far from Home: The WWI Diary of Eliza Bates, by Jean Little
Exiles from the War: The War Guests Diary of Charlotte Mary Twiss, by Jean Little
Days of Toil and Tears: The Child Labour Diary of Flora Rutherford, by Sarah Ellis
Whispers of War: The War of 1812 Diary of Susanna Merritt, by Kit Pearson
A Prairie as Wide as the Sea: The Immigrant Diary of Ivy Weatherall, by Sarah Ellis
Where the River Takes Me: The Hudson’s Bay Company Diary of Jenna Sinclair, by Julie Lawson
An Ocean Apart: The Gold Mountain Diary of Chin Mei-Ling, by Gillian Chan
Turned Away: The WWII Diary of Devorah Bernstein, by Carol Matas
Sea of Sorrows: The Typhus Diary of Johanna Leary, by Norah McClintock
July & August 2014
(22 books, including 2 graphic novels- GN)
Outrage (Mýrka), Hypothermia (Harðskafi), and Jar City (Mýrin), by Arnaldur Indriðason. It disturbed me a little too much that the ð in his name was printed as a d (Indridason) in one of these, a sometimes side effect of translation I can’t stand. I went through it and carefully corrected every occurrence of his name.
Dear Canada again:
Not a Nickel to Spare: the Great Depression Diary of Sally Cohen, by Perry Nodelman
Footsteps in the Snow: the Red River Diary of Isobel Scott, by Carol Matas
Prisoners in the Promised Land: the Ukrainian Internment Diary of Anja Soloniuk, by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch
To Stand on My Own: the Polio Epidemic Diary of Noreen Robertson, by Barbara Haworth-Attard
With Nothing but Our Courage: the Loyalist Diary of Mary MacDonald, by Karleen Bradford
A Ribbon of Shining Steel: the Railway Diary of Kate Cameron, by Julie Lawson
Blood Upon Our Land: the Northwest Resistance Diary of Josephine Bouvier, by Maxine Trottier
Rebel’s Daughter: the 1837 Rebellion Diary of Arabella Stephenson, by Janet Dunn
Manthropology: Why Today’s Male is Not the Man he Used to Be, by Peter McAllister
Eiger Dreams: Adventures Among Men and Mountains, by Jon Krakauer. I was hoping for more about the Eiger, after watching the superb North Face (Nordwand) German language film about the daring attempt by Andi Hinterstoisser and Toni Kurz
Self-Sufficiency on a Shoestring, by Alan and Gill Bridgewater
Jerusalem, by Guy Delisle (GN)
Cesar’s Way, by Cesar Millan and Melissa Jo Peltier
My Stroke of Insight, by Jill Bolte Taylor
The Tipping Point, and David and Goliath, by Malcolm Gladwell
Five People Who Died During Sex: and 100 Other Terribly Tasteless Lists, by Karl Shaw
Perv: the Sexual Deviant in All of Us, by Jesse Bering
Embroideries, by Marjane Satrapi (GN). Reread.
(29 books including one graphic novel-GN)
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, & the Deathly Hallows, by J.K. Rowling. Out loud, to H.W., who is vehemently boycotting the movies after watching up to the fifth. Such conviction! His problem: Inconsistencies with the books. He hates elisions, but worse, conflating scenes or putting words/actions in another character’s mouth/hands for economy. Hey, in the book, Luna said that! Thou shalt not deliver Luna’s lines, Neville!
The Man Who Loved books Too Much, by Allison Hoover Bartlett. Out loud. An uncomfortable but v. engaging story of a mild man with a mild madness, that makes him steal books. Lots and lots of very expensive books. Last seen in Canada, eek!
Shenzen, by Guy Delisle (graphic novel). Interesting!
Holy Sh*t: A brief history of swearing, by Melissa Mohr 2x*. Fabulous! This is an historical, etymological, religious and social history all in one, in great depth, through the lens of unsavoury language. Simply incredible and fascinating.
Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy, by Helen Fielding. Bridget grew up! I didn’t know this was out. Exact same story arc, exact same irresistible, hilarious story telling. Truly laugh out loud, which is rare.
The 100 year old man who climbed out of a window and disappeared, by Jonas Jonasson. Great book. Has a definite foreign “voice” to it, and I spent a great deal of attention trying to pin down why it seemed foreign. But of course, it’s a translation.
The Small-Scale Poultry Flock, by Harvey Ussery. Bar none the best and most thorough, most practical book on poultry husbandry. Relevant to all scales of personal poultry management (ie, not factory farms). Awesome. Like it says on the back, if you buy just one book about chickens, this is it.
The Good Luck of Right Now, & The Silver Linings Playbook, by Matthew Quick. I loved the Good Luck of Right Now! Cat Fucking Parliament! Really the whole plot arcs towards the small cat zone at the back of the Canadian Parliament buildings in Ottawa. I got really excited as this emerged, because I chanced on Cat Parliament by accident recently, walking around the snowy under-construction Parliament buildings in the winter with my brother and husband. It was a touching shock, that somewhere in the budget remains sacrosanct a tiny speck of funding, for cat food and maintenance of the cat housing complex for a few of Ottawa’s forgotten and abandoned cats. That seems like goodness to me. Matthew Quick gives it flawless attention and description, making Cat Parliament in writing the perfect thing that it is.
Obviously, he has a theme: broken, discarded, marginal people who remain undaunted and heal. He finds perfection in everyone, and his books are funny and entertaining but leave you with a deep, satisfying sense of hope and peace. There’s not much more a writer, or person, could hope to do in a life on this Earth.
Breasts, a Natural and Unnatural History, by Florence Williams. Required reading! I was expecting more “Breasts: what they mean in society”, but in fact it’s “Breasts: how they tell us our society is killing itself!” It swerved unexpectedly and deeply into the science of environmental toxicity – not in the amorphous “environment”, but in our food, homes and bodies, dramatically poisoning us. And women’s bodies, and breasts, hold a lot of information about the poisoning we sustain.
World Without Women, by Day Keene and Leonard Pruyn. Apparently an Isreali novel, futuristic from 1960 (book table score). Super entertaining to me because it screams a lot louder about 1960 than the future it’s supposed to be inventing: no one spend five minutes under a roof without a mixed drink in hand, no hands are devoid of cigarettes at any time, and the few surviving women of the plot are spectacularly devoid of original thoughts, opinions, or initiative, and still perform all the cooking seen in the book.
Growing Organic, by Elizabeth Peirce. An excellent guide to the basics of organic gardening, in Nova Scotia in particular, which is very nice. Love the profiles of agri-people around the province doing wonderful progressive things.
On Fracking, by C. Alexia Lane. No equivocation. Fracking is bad. It uses and loses water, distributes dozens of chemicals that are not known to be safe and several known carcinogens, and contaminates aquifers. The desperation to get the last drops of oil has caused several important things to be overlooked: human health, preservation of drinking water, environmental pollution. “At all costs”, we’re trying to get the oil, but the costs are really becoming “all” – frightening costs. If government can prevaricate and ignore the public and science and environment lobbies just long enough to get the oil out, well, then the consequences will drop in the future. Oh, well.
Gaining Ground, by Forest Pritchard 2x. Loved it! Great storytelling; about the beginning years of saving the family farm by moving from conventional to organic, at the beginning of the modern organic wave. Super funny characters (Muh muh muh) and well-told stories featuring wisdom, goats, sheep and hard work.
The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener, by Niki Jabbour. When a book is written from the region you live, it has a lot more credibility than when a Floridian tells you what’s possible in Canada. She and others are growing lots of fresh veg through bona-fide Nova Scotian winters. Whoohoo. Very inspiring; immediately expanded our intentions and expectations for growing food for ourselves.
Slow Death by Rubber Duck, by Bruce Lourie and Rick Smith 2x. Very important stuff on environmental toxicity.
Gifts of the Crow, & In the Company of Crows and Ravens, by John Marzluff and Tony Angell. I love crows. These guys pound the science pavement to back up what we know anecdotally – corvids are smart, scary smart – and give proofs for how and why their brains function remarkably similar to ours. I like it when writers give shape and vocabulary to something I vaguely “know” or believe: we human species are not “at the top” of anything. Our accomplishments don’t prove that we are “greater” in any way. Just different. Lots of other species have forms of intelligence that we can’t appreciate because we can’t know them well enough through our own interpretive lens to understand all that’s going on there. Not that these men meant to convey all or any of that; but a committed study of crows who have a form of intelligence that’s pretty accessible to us due to similarity, shows that there is more than meets the eye, and there is so much more still to learn about them, so… how about all those other species more different from us?
The Draining Lake & Arctic Chill, by Arnaldur Indriðason. So exciting! Popular novels translated from Icelandic! Set in Iceland and saturated in the culture! So many places that I can actually picture. There’s something about even the syntax that’s unusual, and makes me believe it is translated very literally, without any poetic creativity. I was delighting in sometimes “back-translating”- recognizing how something must have been written originally in Icelandic, especially noticing colloquial turns of phrase. Other times wondering, what the heck is “lugubrious” in Icelandic? Does that word even exist, or is it a composite word with maybe even greater descriptive quality? I can’t wait to get an Icelandic language copy of Kleifarvatn, to go through sentence by sentence.
The Hen who Dreamed She Could Fly, by Sun-Mi Hwang 2x. Lovely little parable. It’s nice to have so many books around that are translations into English- there’s something special in the difference. Yes, Sprout is an adorable heroine, an everychicken with a universal story.
Dear Canada series:
I’ve gone on a real bender for this Juvenile Fiction series of Canadian historical fiction. Everyone must know how rich Juv Fic can be (Laura Ingalls Wilder, Harry Potter, His Dark Materials). These books, usually by women, often with a personal connection to the event they’re describing, are all written in journal form by a young female narrator, and usually span a year or so, giving a rich flavour of the historical period at hand. It’s a brilliant series and concept. They’re very well researched; I’ve not once failed to learn something surprising, and they are definitely increasing my knowledge of Canadian history, and H.W.’s by association. There’s a notes section at the back that gives objective facts about the main event of the book in a quite non-juvenile tone. Where were these when I was 10? I have to track them all down now; about 25 to go, nine more in hand (H.W. says I need to share with the other little girls), which will be half of them.
Torn Apart: the Internment Diary of Mary Kobayashi, by Susan Aihoshi
Banished from our Home: the Acadian Diary of Angélique Richard, by Sharon Stewart
Death of my Country: the Plains of Abraham Diary of Genevíeve Aubuchon, by Maxine Trottier
A Country of our Own: the Confederation Diary of Rosie Dunn, by Karleen Bradford
That Fatal Night: the Titanic Diary of Dorothy Wilson, by Sarah Ellis
Alone in an Untamed Land: the Filles du Roi Diary of Hélene St. Onge, by Maxine Trottier
No Safe Harbour: the Halifax Explosion Diary of Charlotte Blackburn, by Julie Lawson
Wow, I’m on a real reading roll. I think this year will be the year I do read a 100, or more. Better yet, the first year of reading a hundred books every year! That’s a fine goal. I’ve no idea where I’m finding the time, truly, besides reading out loud to H.W. every time he cooks.
* 2x means I read it twice, 99% chance that the second time is out loud. I’m not sure if I’ll count the rereads towards the total – maybe we’ll see if I need the numbers or not 11 months from now:)
This page is leftover from my 100-books-in-12-months reading project in 2010. I didn’t make it (79. 2010 was awfully busy), but I’ve continued to list most of the books I read, and sometimes review them.
The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein. There are two kinds of books that one might notice at thrift stores turning up often, usually shortly past their arc of meteoric popularity. There are those that were popular because of merit- wonderful, unique, and transcendental books that everyone had to read and buy for all their friends afterward. Then there are those whose bestseller status is a mystery, especially to the people who read them. This is one of the former.
Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World, by Vicki Myron and Bret Witter. And this is one of the latter.
Crow Planet, by Lyanda Lynn Haupt. Incredible! Calloo! Callay! I was so excited after reading this I was bursting with inspiration and a blog post as enthusiastic as the book itself. But I couldn’t write it at the time, so I must read the book again. I must say I can smugly congratulate myself for purchasing the book un-cracked on instinct, and being right.
Where the Heart Is, by Billie Letts. Pretty good, but I think I’m finally done with Oprah’s choices.
Plain Truth, by Jodi Picoult. In some captive listener situation a while back I overheard this lady regaling her also captive conversational partner (and totally walking on her airtime, too), about how great Jodi Picoult was, how she wrote literature about moral issues, and deep themes of humanity. Make her sound like José Saramago, for goodness sake. I thought to myself “Hmm, I thought Jodi Picoult was one of those trash thriller/mystery writers”. But I was willing to be wrong. I wasn’t wrong.
May- June 2013
Daring Greatly, by Brené Brown
Anthem, by Ayn Rand. We watched the horrendous Atlas Shrugged movie that was in the Redbox, so I had to read the matchless, iconic Anthem to my husband to justify why I had made us watch such a movie.
A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson. OK. So I love Bill and his tomes, but this. This! My husband was in stitches at first, thrilled, and then as Bill’s excellent adventure intentions devolved into skipping parts of the trail, and redefining “walking the Appalachian Trail”, my husband’s opinion devolved too, to hurling the book from him, and quitting it in disgust. I soldiered on, as my husband and the author did not, through the narrative, as “walking the trail” turned into “weekend drives to sample parts of the trail”, and “Take two, the big reunion hike”, lasting under 24 hours. The distilled history, interesting. The whole, funny. But it is not, actually, about walking the Appalachian Trail, just walking in the woods, on parts of it. My assessment: a narrowly salvaged book contract. Also helpful, to now know I have zero interest in ever walking that hike.
John Muir, Magnificent Tramp, by Rod Miller. They don’t make ’em like they used to.
Folks, this ain’t normal!, by Joel Salatin. Smart, funny, can back up all his opinions with the proof of practice, with the energy to move mountains. Why isn’t all of America listening to this man?
The Professor and the Madman, by Simon Winchester
Waiting, by ?. Not so smooth to read but very informative. I looked on Amazon for the author of the book I read, interviews about working in the serving industry, and it wasn’t in there, but that may have been the most fascinating search result I’ve ever had for a book. Most of My Life has Been About Waiting. Humorously, Waiting for Wood: Tricks of the Porn Trade directly above Waiting for God. I simply must read Waiting for my Cats to Die. It seems people wait for many things.
Homer’s Odyssey, A Fearless Feline Tale, or How I Learned about Love and Life with a Blind Wonder Cat, by Gwen Cooper.
The Help, by Kathryn Stockett. Yep, worthy of the hype.
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and all the others, by Douglas Adams.
I, Elizabeth, by Rosalind Miles. Why. Why do I do these things to myself? Served the purpose at hand, which was utter distraction for a prolonged time, but didn’t leave me feeling any smarter. Made me interested in more history about Elizabeth, but was disappointed that a woman author with a doctorate would depict England’s most famous female monarch as a woman obsessed with male affection into her 60’s. Am I really to believe that the queen maintained the un-evolving mindset of a teenager for five decades? It’s an historic novel! Let’s at least invent some emotional growth.
Run Like a Girl, by Mina Samuels. Wonderful!
The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova. 700 pgs, should count for two.
The Last War, by Richard Bach. Beautiful. Who knew that ferrets could be such a plausible model for a moral utopia.
My Booky Wook, by Russell Brand. Ugh. Although it’s marginally redeeming at the end when he goes clean, this is just like being dragged through an oily gutter of disgust at a society that continually rewards this kind of mental illness and depravity.
Journeys out of the Body, by Robert Monroe (reread, 2x). Husband decided it was just too weird
Loving What Is, by Byron Katie. Phew! Powerful stuff.
The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin (reread). Interestingly, I feel less critical this read-through, possibly because I was in a hurry for “the answers” last time, and not in the mood for the story. There’s a LOT of great info distilled in here.
The Hitchhiker’s Handbook, by James MacClaren
I think I’m finally going to drop the underlining of book titles, since that’s so late 80’s and italicizing is accepted convention now. Plus it’s easier. I’m not inclined, ever, to drop the use of two spaces after a period! Although subtle, it’s so visually essential. Thank you, heraclitus. I didn’t like the Slate article either.
Tough season. A month and half of work in the woods and two months in Iceland (9 books)
Prose Edda, by Snorri Sturlusson
The Gifts of Imperfection, by Brene Brown
Escape! by Sigurd Senje
Blue Shoes and Happiness, by Alexander McCall Smith
The Sisters Brothers, by Patrick DeWitt
The Borrowers Avenged, by Mary Norton
Tales of the Cairds, by Anne Cameron
A Room of One’s Own, by Virginia Woolf
Bad Boys on Board
The Saga of Grettir the Strong, G.A. Hight, Tr.
The Art of Non-Conformity, by Chris Guillebeau
Perfume, by Patrick Suskind. Indeed, an unexpected ending. Not horror-porno at all, for “the story of a murderer”, just heavily symbolic with voluptuous prose. Kind of reminded me of Jose Saramago’s style.
Death of Achilles, by Boris Akunin. So Good! How does someone do that, write a book in 1998 that sounds like it’s written in 1908? It’s a style homage, a parody, a self-mocking cliche, and yet original and entertaining. I usually don’t go in for detective stories, but this was wonderful. Like a Russian Sherlock Holmes, only better.
Njal’s Saga, Icelandic author. I’d forgotten how unputdownable this saga was, with the constant and specific detailed descriptions of injury and decapitations.
Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen. This one was definitely improved by the addition of zombies and games of Kiss-Me-Deer (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies), but it’s still quality classic escapism in the original.
Margaret Atwood: a Biography, by Nathalie Cooke. Singularly awful. I don’t read many biographies, but if I thought this one was representative, I’d never read another. Ugh. Ponderous, obviously written by an academic, soporific; the real marvel is how it made the life story of a very interesting woman so damn boring.
The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins. The Hunger Games is SO GOOD! Unexpectedly graphic for “juvenile fiction”, but driven by gripping action, underlaid with a deep, nuanced message, and set in a hauntingly plausible cultural environment. The two sequels completely fall off the high bar of the first book, and while tolerable, become disappointing and preposterous. The love triangle is tiresome ten pages into the second book yet it gets beaten all the way to the end of the third, along with the other motifs that packed punch in the first. The Hunger Games is a 9/10, though. Awesome.
The Dirty Life, by Kristin Kimball, again, aloud to my husband. Likewise Omnivore’s Dilemma – Michael Pollan, and A Short History of Nearly Everything – Bill Bryson.
The Neverending Story, by Michael Ende. At times, I wished it would. Nice to tick this classic off the list though.
Julian’s Cat: an Imaginary History of a Cat of Destiny, by Mary E. Little. Least said, soonest forgotten.
Shameless: How I Ditched the Diet, Got Naked, Found True Pleasure…and Somehow Got Home in Time To Cook Dinner, by Pamela Madsen
*****The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love, by Kristin Kimball. This is the best book I’ve read in ages. “Oh, another back-to-the-land memoir” is what I thought at first glance, but then I casually read the first few pages and it grabbed me like an addiction and I could hardly think of anything else when I was apart from it, desperate to find out what happens next. And that‘s a rare scenario for a back-to-the-land memoir. Fantastic, funny, vivid writing about an extremely ambitious couple’s first year farming. What they accomplish is stunning, as is how fun it is to read.
The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan (reread).
The One-Straw Revolution, by Masanobu Fukuoka
Jezebel, by Eleanor de Jong. Can’t quit trying with the “reinvented women of the Bible” genre. This one was pretty good, though. Entertaining and absorbing, although not high literature. Makes a few very strong points against blind faith.
The Town that Food Saved, by Ben Hewitt. The story of Hardwick, Vermont, and the various personalities and political agendas that are shaping a community that may be an ideal model for the leading edge of intentional agriculture and local food systems. Ben examines the forces that pressure local food economies and attempts to define a goal for a truly local food system. Where Pollan has pointed out what’s wrong, Hardwick is attempting to answer “What should we do?” My conclusion, as the reader can conclude for themselves, is that building a local food economy outside of the industrial macro economy is incredible difficult, but one thing is sure – Hardwick is doing a great deal right. Readable, smoothly flowing, very well written, and a very important book about possible directions to go from here.
Love Times Three: Our True Story of a Polygamous Marriage, by Joe, Alina, Vicki and Valerie Darger. For some reason I can’t get enough about the Mormon faith, Under the Banner of Heaven by Joe Krakauer being the most comprehensive objective view I’ve read. It totally fascinates me. This was no exception. I read it in 24 hours; I could hardly put it down. This totally sincere description of life from the inside of a belief-saturated world is so different, even alien, that it’s like reading an ethnography about a distantly removed culture. Their culture is not so distantly removed, though, yet the way they approach life and relationship from a worldview in which polygamy is an ideal to be achieved is so startling, that it’s just captivating to try and wrap one’s mind around. One thing is clear, and endearing – all four of the married “quadrangle” agree it’s much harder than a relationship of two. Indeed. It looks so hard I can’t fathom why anyone would attempt it, but trying to stretch enough to imagine a belief so different must be good exercise. Well written, with the help of Brooke Adams, and obviously a risky, vulnerable act (considering polygamy’s nominal illegality) to speak with open honesty from within a culture that our “mono”-culture rarely gets to witness.
Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, by David Sedaris. I considered this a must read since I hear so much about Sedaris, so when it arrived in the library I spent a volunteer shift reading it. Hmmm. I wasn’t as enchanted as everyone seems to be. It wasn’t really funny. At all. Clever in places, though.
A History of Marriage, by Elizabeth Abbott. A social history of how marriage has been a part of North American and European culture historically. I liked that there were so many details about Canada and how behaviour here differed from America and Europe. I didn’t like the way that the historical context was constantly bouncing around. It was arranged topically, not chronologically (except for an overall two part historical/modern division), so the discussion of every small element compared Victoriana to the Middle Ages to the antebellum South until you get dizzy. I also didn’t like how it skimmed the surface of so many things. I suppose trying to fit a topic so vast into any book is a major tactical challenge, but I grew a little frustrated in the historical section wading through all the shocking proclamations of the “way it was”, never satisfied as to the “Why!?” But why did the notion of marrying for love “creep into” popular thinking?
The real pleasure of this book was in the second section, Modern Marriage. Telling the story of the progress of gay unions in North America really forces the question What is Marriage really for?, and that’s the interesting part. Elements of all the purposes of marriage historically (property acquisition, politics, procreation, childrearing, affection) are still present in our laws and social ideas of what marriage is and should be, but the arguments over gay marriage happen to be demand a current definition of what marriage means right now.
Wild Dogs, by Helen Humphreys. Really liked! It’s been a while since I read a novel with the symbolism running front and center like this, (Atwood’s Surfacing comes to mind), but it is very skilfully done. I wasn’t very enthused with the female narrator and her limited use of personal pronouns initially, but was pleasantly surprised for the narration to be suddenly handed off to someone else, and have the plot revealed incrementally as sections of the story are consecutively told by different voices of the various characters. Well done, Helen Humphreys.
Little Town on the Prairie, These Happy Golden Years, & The First Four Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Long Winter, by Laura Ingalls Wilder. An epic survival tale posing as a children’s book. This is possibly my favourite of the series, the mostly true recount of her pioneer family’s survival of a notoriously hard winter. I never get tired of rereading the Little House books, and it’s really fun to read them aloud to someone new to them.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by J.K. Rowling. Last of the Harry Potters- quick reread to answer a few Qs left by the movie. BTW, the 8th movie, Hallows part 2, is the best of them all, IMO.
Barnheart, by Jenna Woginrich. From the author of other books about the sheer love of all things farm comes another focused on her story of longing for a farm of her own and her path to ownership. It’s unbelievable what she does while she’s still renting though. Most people would be afraid to plant a tree, but she dives right into animal husbandry on a rented acre. She’s a strong determined woman going straight after what interests her with the resolve to learn what she needs to along the way and a fair bit of faith that it will all work out. Her energy is dazzling as usual, and no matter what aspect of a rural life you long for, it is inspirational to read about someone else making dreams real.
A History of the World in 6 Glasses, by Tom Standage. An examination of history and culture through the lens of the predominant beverage of the time- beer, wine, spirits, tea, coffee, and Coca Cola. Most is common history with some new details and some extra depth in the discussion of how the the culture or society was shaped by the popular beverage du jour. The most engaging part for me was the last part- the sordid history of Coke, which I didn’t know, and there was new info about coffee and the political climate in Britain that made me interested in his The Victorian Internet.
I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, by Tucker Max. Phew… if you ever want to feel really really good about your own life and can stomach some near-pornographic trash….
Farmer Boy, On the Banks of Plum Creek, and By the Shores of Silver Lake, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Giver, by Lois Lowry. Catching up on the JF I missed the first time around. Distopian sci-fi fable, so perfect in the depth of design details. For some reason the detail that will stick with me forever are the children’s jackets that button up the back, so that they learn interdependence.
Little House in the Big Woods and Little House on the Prairie, by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Re-reading my favourite series aloud to my husband now.
The Wilder Life, by Wendy McClure. I was super excited about reading this, but it wasn’t what I imagined it was going to be. Wendy goes on a journey to recreate as many of the notable experiences of the Little House series as are readily accessible (churning butter, making sticks of hay and apples ’n’ onions) and visit most of the geographic locations of the books. It’s more of an emotional journey and chat about what the books meant to her and how it feels to explore the relics that remain, such as they are. The books I really want to read about the historical background and “truth” behind the Little House books are the ones she read for writing this book. I didn’t know there was such a wealth of facts and biographies available that dissect every shred of invention from fact in Laura’s slightly fictionalized life story, so there was a fair bit of surprising revelations in this book. Not exctly what I was expecting, but now I know where to look (the bibliography).
*****The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan. A discussion of the morality and meaning of the food choices we make, and a journalistic investigation of where our food comes from. I left this partially unread for some time and finally finished it. It’s a ponderous book, but no word is wasted, and every page is quotable. This is definitely one of the most important books of our age and essential reading for the planet. I’m very glad it has the readership it has, because this discussion of why we eat what we eat and where it comes from has no final answer, but needs to be discussed actively and continuously, and knowledge is the first step towards conscious choice.
Homer’s Odyssey, by Gwen Cooper. About the life of (and a life with) a little blind rescue cat named Homer. An unusually cool little blind cat, I must admit, although the story gets a trifle hyperbolic and maudlin. I thought the coolest part was the end, where there were notes about so many other blind rescue cats, saved through Homer’s inspiration.
Everywoman’s Guide to Cycling, by Selene Yeager. Very helpful female-specific info for new or amateur cyclists from someone who clearly knows her stuff. It was especially helpful for setting up my machine to fit me. For instance, if I’d listened to my husband, my painful saddle issues would have been resolved by a narrower seat, because that is what is generally true for men. However, it is the opposite for women (different anatomy, surprise surprise), so luckily I had her low down on female specific saddle needs to back my case and reach comfort faster.
Zipporah, wife of Moses, by Marek Halter. Not good. Gag-inducing prose too smarmy and flowery to even escape into temporarily. The author’s photo totally lost me. I thought I was reading a book written by a woman, reinventing a story of a woman from the Bible a la The Red Tent. It wasn’t remotely as good as the fantastic Red Tent, but I was giving it a chance, until it fell open to the back cover and I realized it was written by a man, and he’s inflicted his interpretations on more women of the Bible. As if they hadn’t suffered enough. Totally lost me.
****The Invitation, by Oriah Mountain Dreamer. Amazing. So inspiring and insightful. The internet sensation of her prose poem The Invitation was well deserved, and she is a writer with rare fearless honesty and piercing insight. She writes with brave, bold intimacy and wastes no words on deprecation; her wisdom and clarity are powerful enough to punch. About living honestly and authentically in one’s own unique skin and soul.
The Dance of Intimacy, by Harriet Goldhor Lerner. Meh. Can tell it’s 20 years old.
The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold. I thought I was picking up literature, not a narrative-driven ghost story, but it was well-written and entertaining.
The Marriage Spirit: Finding the Passion and Joy of Soul-Centered Love, by Evelyn and Paul Moschetta. Pretty awesome. A few too many words (my pet peeve! There should be preventative measures against using more words than required!), but a wise message about remembering the spiritual aspects of love and helpful reminders and exercises. Useful for any relationship, although this book is focused on marriage specifically.
****Project Everlasting: Two Bachelors Discover the Secrets of America’s Greatest Marriages, by Mathew Bogs and Jason Miller. Two guys who can’t settle down travel the US in an RV interviewing older couples in successful long relationships and distill the advice of the Marriage Masters. Despite the pop packaging, this book was one of the most moving and instructive I’ve read in a long time.
Bride of New France, by Suzanne Desrochers. I was getting a bit frustrated when the book was half over and the bride was still stuck in Old France, thinking Jeez, not everything one hears about on CBC is good, but after she got to New France, I was completely hooked. I approve.
The Bad Girl’s Guide to Getting What You Want, by Cameron Tuttle- reread. Still awesome, still hilarious.
did I really read nothing? Not likely.
Definitely missing some….
Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen. Complicated novel based in historical setting of a traveling circus. Good.
The Last American Man, by Elizabeth Gilbert. After her other books I wasn’t expecting this biography. There’s lot of back-and-forth about truth and her interpretation of his private world, but this bio of Eustace Conway, founder of Turtle Island, is still a compelling snapshot of a very strong-willed, opinionated man and an inspiringly unique life. Bears no relationship to Eat Pray Love or Committed- totally different genre.
*****The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls- AMAZing! Startlingly cool recount of the author’s unusually difficult childhood (to put it mildly). Not a wasted adjective or word of self-pity.
****Cascadia’s Fault: the Deadly Earthquake that will Devastate North America, by Jerry Thompson. Brings all the facts together from formerly divergent aspects of science that are coming together in new understanding of plate tectonics, volcano and earthquake knowledge. Builds a pretty thorough picture of the state of the earth (and rather imminent, dramatic shift) under the Pacific Ocean and western North America in a highly readable way. Remind me never to move to Vancouver. Rather a one note book (the earthquake is coming!), but it doesn’t purport to be anything else- the title says it all.
The Daughter of Siena, by Marina Fiorato
Random library pick; raced through it. Reminiscent of Guy Gavriel Kay, only based on history. Florid, romantic, hyperbolic, everything tied up perfectly and ideally at the end…pfft – an escape/entertainment book.
Chick Days, by Jenna Woginrich
Getting ready to have chickens! Very helpful to me as a first-time “chickherd”. Cute and inspiring, with funny pictures; plenty of facts and important info without a surfeit of it. Encouraging to read while still imagining getting chickens, and useful and navigable for reference and frantic double-checking when the chickens are a reality.
Selkie, by Anne Cameron – dated, totally disappointing. Ok I’ll just say it- terrible.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Schaffer
Simply lovely, darling. So “British, “ in this “everybody loves each other with all their eccentricities and everyone gets paired off and it turns out and happy happy happy by the end” way, but it’s done smoothly enough that you don’t feel manipulated, just a little suspicious re. plausibility. Definitely feel-good. A sweet smiley, peaceful read.
Anthem in comic book form
The Chrysalids, by John Wyndham
In March I noticed I totally stalled out on reading books for two weeks- not sure what happened. Made up for it by rereading the Chrysalids in a sitting, though. Too many words, but that’s how they rolled back then
How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed, by Slavenka Drakulic
I’ve really been noticing the stylistic difference in women’s writing vs. men’s. This book is a work of art, and a political commentary folded into memoir, but the real treat is her style. So…individual, and powerful, yet gentle.
The Frozen Thames, by Helen Humphreys
Lovely; awesome. Historical fictitious vignettes with the sharp taste of truth, reminding me somehow of Einstein’s Dreams.
My Empire of Dirt, by Manny Howard- truly a cautionary tale. A guy tries to “farm” in his backyard, as a gimmick, with an unreasonable timeframe, unrealistic goals, and a twisted set of misguided intentions. What results is a tragedy of errors. It was really confusing for me because I settled into the story, thrilled, and loved the guy immediately, right up until page 38, when he kills his first bird in a rage, and it goes downhill from there in a gory bloodbath of animals unlucky enough to end up in his backyard. He mentions the mixed emotions of butchering and talks about guilt, but it felt more like a confession in hopes of garnering an exemption, and not really an expression of awareness at all. Stirred into the unfolding horror stories of mistakes, expensive fixes, and a path to definitely not follow, are a few facts and theories about gardening, most notably the take-home message that you really don’t stand a prayer of feeding a family out of an urban backyard. Perfectly harmless animals were most definitely harmed in the making of this reality-year book stunt. Despite it all, I felt a lot of compassion and respect for him for being honest about the journey.
My Empire of Dirt also shocked me into noticing I’ve been reading a whole series of female authors. While I know I could never nail it down, there’s something different and common in the voices of women- some quality of cadence or tone that is just not the same from a man’s pen.
Anthem, by Ayn Rand -instantly in my top ten books ever. Amazing that I’ve never crossed paths with this one before, and perhaps more amazing that it’s not taught in schools. Perfect, precise clean writing and a plot driven message without logorrheic philosophizing. Wow.
Highland Warrior, by Hannah Howell.
My experimental dip into “romance”. It’s worse than I thought. Wow (not a good wow).
Burnt Toast, by Terri Hatcher
So good, in fact, that I read it straight through in one luxurious afternoon, and found it full of depth and honesty that I didn’t suspect at all, judging from the chicklit cover (“Chicklit” – a word now only two letters off of a homonymous chewing gum, a product also notably saccharine and non-filling). While the very nature of luck means that someone cannot quite “deserve” it, at least any reader can be very happy for this sweet and earnest woman and the lightning strike of fortune that Desperate Housewives was for her.
I got it, Terri! I caught myself critically assessing a piece of overtoasted bread, just the other day.
****Committed, by Elizabeth Gilbert
I’ve been reading Committed, (faithful to my style of going on infatuated benders with authors), right after reading Eat Pray Love, (faithful to my other habit of not reading anything while it’s current; instead waiting until it has seen monolithic success and been made into a movie). I was hoping that this extraordinarily fun yet observant author could offer the Answer. To why me (and a few other women) love, nearly crave, the company and partnership of men, but dread the concept of marriage and children with a horror and flee from it. Maybe I was hoping for a few other answers, too. Why movies always end in marriage- ostensibly a beginning, not end. What is it about marriage that seems so fascinating and appealing, while it is also clearly the fount of immeasurable emotional pain? More than the answers, this book gives some context to all the questions, and it just settled me somehow, into feeling ok with how I feel about marriage. And I just LOVE her writing. It’s like a long summertime afternoon walk in a shady maple grove. Really.
January 2011 –
I really can’t abide that every so often WordPress or something removes all the underlining on the book titles. I’ve painstakingly put them all back, and still, gone again. I can’t take the time to fix it any more, alas.
The Queen’s Lover, by Philippa Gregory. Yep, they really are this bad. Readable, but I feel stupider and emptier afterwards.
Eat Pray Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert. Finally, I get around to reading it, after it’s been translated into Icelandic and a major motion picture. Provoked a hitherto unknown desire to meditate. I understand the hype- it’s deserved. She’s a sweet, vulnerable and adorable writer that takes you along like a friend you’ve just met but known forever. Incidentally, I was seriously pissed at the movie version. WHO is responsible for the whole pants scene and fat drama? That’s pretty much the opposite of the point of Italy! Check out her Ted talk on creativity.
Drink Play Fuck, by Andrew Gottlieb- reread. Total spoof and weak knockoff of EPL with a macho man spin and onerous determination to be funny. Interestingly, comes to same conclusion- the search for authenticity, whatever form the search takes (indulgence, search for pleasure and healing), leads to self-understanding, happiness, and love.
At Home, by Bill Bryson. Bryson scours his house and history for curios of fact and fascination about the pieces of a home and how they all found their way into a modern house. The meandering details of the provenance of toilets and pantries, etc. wander all over the ages and the world like a disconnected but interesting tour. Interesting, but not memorable.
*****The Kin of Ata are Waiting for You, by Dorothy Bryant. Spectacular classic. I find the first chapter really tough, but the takeaway and the wise mythic fable is genius. Must read.
Wow, four books in Cuba!
Freedom: the Story of my Second Life, by Malika Oufkir
The Constant Princess, by Philippa Gregory. I didn’t think they could be this bad. Had to read to investigate what this empire of fiction is all about.
Vinyl Cafe Diaries, by Stuart Maclean
Starting count on Sep 25 2009- Many times I’ve tried and not succeeded, but this is the year I’ll read 100 books.
Sep 15, 2010:
Well, there’s a few days left, but I’m officially going to call a fail on this. Going to Iceland completely replaced reading, predictably. I read two more books before I left, but the only book I read in Iceland was the Lonely Planet, and I won’t count that.
That leaves me 21 books short of 100 in one year, alas. I’m not sure if I’ll restart the clock now or knock the first two months off and keep counting, reading 100 books in “a” year. That seems a little cheaty. Perhaps I’ll start over with a new year….
One thing’s for sure. I’ll still be reading.
Why is this page getting so many hits every day? I don’t understand????
Link to all of my reviews on Powells.com. I don’t comment on every book I read at Powells, but I do on all my favorites. My reviews there will be very similar to those here. *Haven’t been reviewing any lately!
Month Thirteen: October
The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
I wouldn’t recommend it. Yes, it’s a very well written book, very intense, very evocative of place and time, but if I had known it included child rape, I wouldn’t have read it. Award winning! Acclaimed! Available everywhere! I don’t care. I choose not to put images of horror and pain into my brain any more, when I have a choice. I don’t think it serves the purpose of bringing more love and peace into the world, and it’s debatable how much contribution it makes to literature. I’m very grateful to have been forewarned about Stieg Larsson’s books. There is so much else to read and see, why choose pain?
Half Broke Horses, by Jeannette Walls
I’m in love. Best book I’ve read in a while. Totally narrative driven, and almost completely true. I wondered the whole way through what “True-Life Novel” meant: at the end, she explains how it’s the story of her grandmother’s life, but it’s voiced in first person and some parts are filled in with imagination, so it “can’t be called anything but a novel”. Aha!
Month Twelve: September
Made from Scratch, by Jenna Woginrich
Truly delightful. Excellent writing from a very endearing narrator as she wades into farming and crafting and chicken husbandry. Her joy and appreciation for simple, handmade successes jump off the page as she tries and tries again and delights in all the discoveries along the way. Engaging, entertaining, and educational (grr, more unplanned alliteration), and worthwhile reading for anyone trying to get more country in their life. It made me smile and remember what we’re out here scratching in the sod for after all: the beauty of the untamed and the pride that comes from making something real.
Another mad score from the Highway Book Shop. I’m fully 10 for 10 or more on judging books by their covers. Good cover, Jenna- mad graphic design skills – you made me buy it.
Mostly Harmless, by Douglas Adams
It’s been too long, I wanted to go back into Douglas Adams’ world.
Avoid Us and Popular Hits by Hugleikur Dagsson
So unabashedly sick and twisted you really question your moral fibre if you’re laughing at it. Iceland’s beloved, adored, sick and twisted comic artist. The phone book has a comic on every page. Really.
Felt Me a Smile: Heart-made Projects of Make and Give, by Toyoko Sugiwaka
Wow. I’ve been really interested in felting since Iceland; their craftspeople seem to be masters of it, and the Icelandic wool is so soft and special. I’m looking forward to learning how to do it, so I picked up this book at random. It’s a work of art and love in itself in a way I’ve never seen in a craft book. Wow. It has a gentle, sweet personality, also something I don’t think I’ve ever said about a book.
Month Eleven: August
Imaginary Men, by Anjali Banerjee
I couldn’t tell if I was reading a pulp romance, Bollywood version, or if I was just too far from the Indian culture to understand. Lets just say the happy ending hits you over the head, and come on, the love interest is a prince?
Thrifty, by Marjorie Harris
I had high hopes for this because Atwood practically sponsored the book, but I found it really “copy my life if you want to be thrifty, because my life is really great,” which I have no intention of doing. I don’t want to be her at all.
Almost Green: How I built an Eco-Shed, Ditched my SUV, Alienated the In-laws, and Changed my Life Forever, by James Glave.
Surprise! By a Canadian, again. Too bad about the title. It should be called Not Really Green at All, but Nice Try Anyways. Totally painful to read, for anyone who knows something about building. I get that he’s a total “greenhorn” at construction, and the point is to document the learning process, full of peregrinations and time wasted, which he does with candour, humour, and precision. However, as he breezily installs concrete, drywall, extruded polystyrene, flushing toilets, expanding foam insulation, and no solar radiant or grey water recovery, witnessing the process is kind of agonizing. While spending $90000? HTH? It’s not a model for green building at all, more like a cautionary tale. Why read it? For a what-not-to-do? I could understand if he did this in 2000 or something, but this is a new book! Heart in the right place, but too darn many words.
Month Ten: July
Overqualified, by Joey Comeau
29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life, by Cami Walker. Lovely idea and lovely personal journey gently exploring generosity and transformation
A Girl Named Zippy: Growing Up Small in Mooreland, Indiana, by Haven Kimmel. Oh, so fabulous. If you loved The Glass Castle… Where The Glass Castle is stark and shocking, Zippy is irrepressibly joyful and totally hilarious. Absolutely fantastic.
The Onion Girl, by Charles de Lint. Sucked.
The Mystery at the Moss-Covered Mansion, by Carolyn Keene. Fun to read a real Nancy Drew again.
Men at Work, by Jenelle Denison et al
Payback and The Penelopiad, by Margaret Atwood
The Miracle at Speedy Motors, Tea Time for the Traditionally Built, and Corduroy Mansions, by Alexander McCall Smith
Why is it that all of the Botswana books are luminous and joyful, while all his other ventures are kind of flat?
Never Hitchhike on the Road Less Travelled, by William Thomas
Yay! Written by a Canadian. Awesome. I didn’t know that he was a Canuck when I bought and read the book, and I loved his tales of international adventures all the way through to the end when he declares the death of hitchhiking in Canada, as he gets really stuck in Cambridge, ON. Just when I’m trying to revive the practice.
The Truth About Stories, by Thomas King
Eats, Shoots and Leaves, by Lynne Truss
Apparently I’m supposed to italicize the titles of books, not underline them. My citation habits date from high school.
76 read, 24 in 56 days
Month Nine: June
The Year of the Flood, by Margaret Atwood
Oh, I so couldn’t wait to get this one, I loved Oryx and Crake so much. Was surprised to find it not a sequel at all, but a concurrent tale from the same time as O&C from other perspectives, catching up to the final scene of O&C right at the climax, and then converging them for a tiny glimpse of resolution. I was smirking at Heather Mallick’s musing on surprise at Atwood referring to “cunt gum” in The Robber Bride. Atwood is FEAR.LESS., and I think she gets bolder all the time. I read her books with a mixture of terror and comfort.
What Shamu Taught me About Life Love and Marriage: Lessons for People from Animals and Their Trainers, by Amy Sutherland
Loved it! Very simple premise, very readable and funny, very likable author, and very educational, too. Sometimes the most simple of concepts get forgotten or lost or not noticed at all. Definitely worth reading and sharing.
Blindness, by Jose Saramago
Ah, Saramago again, I couldn’t stay away. Reminded of when I first discovered Jonathan Carroll. This time the country, the world, goes blind one day, starting with one man, and sparing only one woman in a wildly spreading contagion of blindness. The political consequences are post-apocolyptic, and the story spirals into a very dark statement on human nature. Of course, all is eventually redeemed. Incredible. Looking forward to seeing the movie.
Trauma Farm, by Brian Brett
You know, I hate to say anything bad about this, because it really is a wonderful book, local (BC) author, fantastic cover, filled with educational, moving, amusing and worshipful stories of farming. It really is, everyone interested in small scale farming or even vicariously enjoying the experience should read this. I just have to say, I couldn’t get past the author’s tone and the fact that I’d just never want to meet him. I don’t know how his wife puts up with him.
Ten Most Beautiful Experiments, by George Johnson
I heart science. It’s true.
I’m Sorry You Feel That Way: The Astonishing but True Story of a Daughter, Sister, Slut, wife, Mother, and Friend to Man and Dog, by Diana Joseph
Sometimes the author photograph is a really bad idea. Even for us avid readers, that one visual can so powerfully affect our snap-judgement primitive brain that we can’t get past our idea of the person and listen to the person’s ideas. On the other hand, sometimes it’s a great idea. I was almost done this book before I found her pic on the back flap, and I found her appearance sealed my affection for her in a surprising way. Her open, hopeful, eyes and charismatic rather than traditional beauty and smile undimmed by all the struggle she’s describing just make me feel like we’re friends.
Adrift on the Ark, by Margaret Thompson
What a wonderful month it’s been. Every book is good. Brilliantly crafted writing that’s like a naturalist’s memoir slash bestiary that sets out to worship and appreciate with words the non-human occupants of this world, by visiting with individuals of many different species. Succeeds admirably. “A delight!”
Consciously Female: How to Listen to Your Body and your Soul for a Lifetime of Healthier Living, by Tracy W. Gaudet
It’s been a long time since I read a self-help book, and I wasn’t thrilled with all the pedantic instructions and lists for examining myself and making a better life. I forgot that that’s what self-help books do. They send you off with a notebook to navel-gaze and then build new habits. Nothing really new in it for me either, and I hope that means I’m not doing so badly with the central objective of the book- listening to one’s own truth.
Saving Fish from Drowning, by Amy Tan
Big book, came with a recommendation to not read it, but I enjoyed it. It’s been decades since I read the Joy Luck Club, so I wasn’t influenced by the nearness of that or corresponding expectations.
In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction, by Gabor Mate
Life-changer. That was unexpected. One never knows when you crack a book that you’re going to be new at the other end of it. This is now top of my recommendations list, especially for anyone who has any kind of relationship with any kind of addict. Which is, as he deftly illustrates, almost every single person in this addicted, addictive, compulsive society. Mate is a Lower East Side Vancouver doctor who spends his days with some of the worst addicts in the world, but far beyond that, he recognizes almost daily where he and all of us are so similar to these people. It’s just a matter of degree. This book covers so many aspects of personal addiction and the causes and the social structure that contributes and the transparency of our disdain of the most tortured, when they really have so much to teach.
Intercourse, by Robert Olen Butler
In facing page pairs, two famous (or recognizable) people or beings that at one time more than likely had sex, have their in copulo thoughts exposed in interior monologue. Great concept, poor execution. Supposedly he’s a Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction, but I just don’t see how that happened, and it sure wasn’t for this. Mostly we are led to believe that any given famous person spends his time fucking reviewing a galvanizing moment that they’re famous for. At times he strikes a tone or voice that’s resonant or plausible, but never brilliant. The female viewpoint is uniformly awful. Good thing it was short.
Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Ex, by Heather Belle and Michelle Fiordaliso
“Here’s what’s wrong with you in bullet paragraphs with pop-culture references and hiply snide joke-isms.” Spare me. Common sense packaged as insight; pretty readable, the way juvenile fiction is; a few well-termed suggestions; forgettable. Shoulda been a pamphlet.
Me Sexy: An Exploration of Native Sex and Sexuality, Drew Hayden Taylor, ed.
Am I ever glad I bought this, judged by the cover in an airport, because I’ve never seen it again and don’t think it’s likely I will. Predominantly Canadian and all Native voices examine in this collection of essays what “Native American/Indian” sexuality is with all sorts of perspectives. Examining how Native sexuality is expressed in art, in literature, by white culture, in oral tradition, in the modern world versus pre-colonization… the tone ranges from scholarly to personal to irreverent to erotic, and it’s all wonderful. A beautiful window into a culture that is wise and wild and wicked.
Bridge to Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson
The Passion, by Jeanette Winterson
This month keeps getting better. I didn’t really like Sexing the Cherry, although it lived on my shelf for years. But this one, from the first four sentences, had me by the neck and soul and carried me through. A love story placed during Napoleon’s rise to power in France through to his exile. It’s magical, memorable, and masterful. Really, that alliteration was accidental.
The Earwig’s Tail: A Modern Bestiary of Multi-legged Legends, by May R. Berenbaum
Another bestiary. This time the tales of insects by an entomologist setting out to debunk commonly held and erroneous beliefs about Class Insecta. I never thought I’d say that a light-hearted science book about bugs was “awesome”, but then I’d never have thought I’d call a book that richly delves into the hidden facts about things such as subcutaneous parasitic springtails and feline fleas “light-hearted”, or funny. But it’s both. A definite hit for the science reader. Caveat: do not read while eating. Entomologists can forget the gut-turning revulsion some topics can inspire when they’re lost in the beauty of the extraordinary. My only, wee, criticism- too many references to the internet (not from, but to).
The box of books I got at the Highway Book Shop in Cobourg has been almost without exception peerless. I’m delighted by what I’ve found and learned.
62. 38 left to read in 90 days. 1 book/2.38 days- Gained a tiny bit, and keeping pace, but getting little else done.
How to Walk in High Heels, by Camilla Morton
A guide book for the femininity-challenged. Steel toes, no problem. High heels? You want me to what?
Unless, by Carol Shields
After such a run of pure tripe, wow was it ever nice to read a real piece of literature. Poetic descriptions and big beautiful themes out of such an understated plot- such is Shields’ talent, to give you the experience of awe without every noticing the turns of brilliance.
Death with Interruptions, by Jose Saramago
Spectacular. No wonder he’s a Nobel Prize winner. And I love the minimal punctuation style with no paragraph breaks. It threw me for a little while to be so untraditional, then I noticed the artistry and grammatical perfection, to be towed along the river of thought without the dissonance or anxiety of waiting for a comma, then I forgot to notice the unusual grammar and just floated.
This book imagines a day, in a country, where suddenly people no longer die, and explores the impact through the layers of culture and politics and over time, into the magical, until… you’re changed along with the world you’re visiting.
Blood Money, by Thomas Perry
Well, this was an accident of judgement. So that’s what everyone’s reading on the plane, those paperbacks from the bookstore with the author’s name really big in metallic print. Leaving it.
Slumach’s Gold, by Rick and Brian Antonson and Mary Trainer
Desperate for a book on the ferry, I bought this, and it turned out to be a delightful read about one of BC’s legends of lost gold mines. I’m so glad I know this story now, and the larger resonance of the hunger of men “who moil for gold”.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, by J.K. Rowling
Maybe fourth time through it?
Rabbi’s Cat 2, by Joann Sfar
Sigh. Perfection, the sequel. I simply adore the rabbi’s redoubtable rapscallion of a cat.
Buffalo Jump, by Rita Moir
Wow. One unassuming pick from a local free bin and I get this gorgeously framed story of history and family and connection with nature that is so Canadian and prairie and honest and vulnerable. Loved it.
Mind the Gap: a Novel of the Hidden Cities, by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon. In Jasper I walked into the Video Stop because it said there were books for sale, and this one stared me in the face. How could I not get a book called Mind the Gap? It was the phrase that summed up London to us, the pleasant warning we heard many, many times a day. I’m having a hard time having an opinion about it. It went down like water, and there were times I was thinking “give me a break!” (kinda took a turn for the worse at page 253), but I can’t really opine about whether it was decent or not. Entertaining, diversionary.
Makes 46 in eight months. I need to read 54 books in 4 months!? Hitting the halfway mark with four months left instead of six. Unfortunate, but irrevocable. Need to make a pace of one book every 2.2 days. It’s possible, but challenging, considering my travel plans and that I’ve lots of other stuff to do!
Months Six and Seven:
Laid: Young Peoples’ Experiences in an Easy Access Culture, ?, ed
Terrible. A one-note litany of empty, half-hearted or non-consensual encounters, and BADly written. Depressing.
Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident, by Eoin Colfer
As with other series I’ve picked up in the middle, I’ve no idea why this one is so popular. Is this just the weakest link, or what?
Sex as a Second Language, by Alisa Kwitney
I don’t want to talk about it. I judged by the cover, and was sorely mistaken.
Darkly Dreaming Dexter, by Jeff Lindsay
Worse and worse. At least the trashiest of disposable books go down the fastest.
Stones from the River, by Ursula Hegi
Sweet relief. A perfect jewel of a book that I can’t believe has been around since 2001 without me reading it. Extraordinary.
Why Men Love Bitches, by Sherry Argov
Obviously, it’s true.
Not in Kansas Anymore: Dark Arts, Sex Spells, Money Magic, and Other Things Your Neighbours Aren’t Telling You, by Christine Wicker
A wonderful piece of investigative and objective journalism exploring a range of alternative faiths alive in the USA. Very thought provoking, well researched and well written.
37.5 books in seven months. Egads!
(during Olympics, yikes -all books read on public transit)
Drink Play F@#k: One Man’s search for Anything across Ireland, Vegas, and Thailand, by Andrew Gottlieb
Haven’t read Eat Pray Love yet, but this is blatantly ripping on that. Total guy book. Funny, fun, good flow, but I was really disappointed that this was fiction, not truth, because it so easily could be.
Virgin: Prelude to the Throne, by Robin Maxwell
Historical fiction imagining Elizabeth’s pre-coronation teenage years. A bit racy and melodramatic, but I was pretty sold on it ultimately when I read the author’s notes and learned how little of it was fabricated, and how much was based in the historical record.
Manon: Alone in Front of the Net, by Manon Rheaume with Chantal Gilbert
Whatever happened to Manon Rheaume? Some of the women she played with in World Cup still play and are Olympians. I love catching up on cultural facts I was practically oblivious to when they first happened. I remember her playing that night in Florida, but knew nothing about her, til now. Tough chick, she had a tough fight for all she accomplished, and she deserves respect as a woman who broke some barriers for the first time.
Five months; 30.5 books. Eeek!
The Impostor’s Daughter, by Laurie Sandell (graphic novel)
This is why they call books gripping- they grab ahold and interfere with the rest of your life until you’ve finished them. A delicious, captivating story of a con man’s daughter who climbs out of the shadow he’s cast on her life by investigating his past and seeking truth. It has a distinctly feminine feel (like Persepolis) that I love, that really shines in the bright colours and art.
The Power of No: How to keep blowhards and bozos at bay, by Beth Wareham
A negative book. Although entertaining and sometimes funny, it strikes only one note, which one gets sick of hearing pretty fast. By half way through, I was ready to say No to this book, but of course I’m an incorrigible book-finisher. The premise is good, I get it- it’s important to say No to many things that leech time and energy from your life. But rather than a joyous expression of clear choices, the overall takeaway is that the author is someone who says no to life itself- someone you can’t picture having any adventure, spontaneous fun, or friends. She’d certainly never hitchhike. To wall oneself into a life of designed stability with frequent, liberal Noing is just asking for a wrecking ball of circumstance to crumble that illusion of control. Not sure what could have benefited this book more- a decent edit or deciding against the author photo.
Cool Job: The Guide to Cool, Odd, Risky, and Gruesome Ways to Make a Living, by Lookout Media
Unsurprisingly, there’s a half dozen jobs in here that I long to do (and a few that I have). Seems reasonably accurate and practical in its assessment of risks and rewards of each job, and includes well researched guidance as to how to achieve your ambitions, should they include becoming a cryonicist, mall santa, or dog musher.
Four months; 27.5 books (counting graphic novels as half books, because they just don’t take as long to read). Slipping!
She Got Up Off the Couch: and other Heroic Acts from Mooreland, Indiana, by Haven Kimmel
Do not read while consuming any kind of fluids. Surroundings will suffer. A perfectly glorious book- one that makes doing anything else practically impossible while you’re in it, no matter how urgent or life-threatening, totally hilarious and fun. Absolutely enviable- I wonder how it would be possible to write a book that funny.
Blue Pills, by Frederick Peeters
A graphic novel about a man in love and relationship with an HIV-positive woman. Deservedly award-winning. A beautiful vulnerable story that made me fall for the author, like every other female reader, I’m sure.
Always Follow the Elephants: More surprising facts and misleading myths about our health and the world we live in, by Anahad O’Connor
It’s true. It’s better not to cook or drink with water from the hot water tap.
On the Banks of the Bayou, by Roger Lee MacBride
I am so suspicious of the Roger Lea MacBride expansion franchise on the incomparable works of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Even as I find his writing good, with well-paced flow, humour, emotion, and historical detail, I suspect it’s almost total fabrication, an invention of his famous grandmother’s childhood and a shrewd income generator on the coattails of the Little House empire. This lessens my enjoyment.
The Rabbi’s Cat, by Joann Sfar
Oh, the Rabbi’s Cat, he is so wise and all-seeing. This is a wonderful, romping, questioning, playground of a graphic novel narrated by a cat who can speak after eating a parrot. I love this book greedily and passionately, and have sought to own it ever since I first found it in the library. Now I’ve learned there is a sequel for me to crave.
Possibly I’m sneaking a few books from month four onto the month three list, since strictly speaking the cutoff was Christmas Day, when I was right in the middle of half of them. The next month should be a really good catchup or catch-ahead month, as February may not be a big reading month, and March and April certainly promise to be full, but not of books.
Three months; 25 books (counting graphic novels as half books, because they just don’t take as long to read). On schedule, but barely.
The Sorcerer: the Fort at River’s Bend, by Jack Whyte
This one ruined the month, because I started with it, and thought the easiest way would be through. Trouble is, I can only read books fast if I like them. So I slogged through this for three weeks, thinking it might turn around, and trying to get why this series is so popular. Canadian, whatever. Guy Gavriel Kay kicks this guy’s ass. Official verdict: Terrible!
The Concubine’s Daughter, by Pai Kit Fai
Books “in the tradition of Memoirs of a Geisha” (that book is old enough to have a “tradition”?) written by men creep me out a little because they read like some guy’s sexual fantasy of dominating virgins that shouldn’t be honoured as literature, even if it is historically plausible. Other than that, it’s good. Heavy tones of romantic fantasy. LOTR meets Crouching Tiger in Hong Kong kind of fantasy. I’m making a joke but it’s a serious book, and well written. 471 pages and I read it in two days, so one could also say: gripping.
A book about the Desperate Housewives show. Don’t ask, but I enjoyed it, and it counts as a book.
Ada Blackjack: A True Story of Survival in the Arctic, by Jennifer Niven
Fantastic! The true story of an Eskimo woman who alone survives an ill-fated Arctic expedition. Reads fast and sparky like a novel, and wastes no time in speculation. I was so sorry it was over, I read all the endnotes.
A bad month, since I definitely shouldn’t have started with the Sorcerer, which pointlessly stalled me on all other reading, but I’m keeping the quota.
Two months; 21 books. On schedule.
The Holy Man, by Susan Trott –
Perfect, fabulous, sweetly brilliant. This is one of my life-long favorite books. It’s heartwarming, hilarious, well written and a pleasure to read, and also gives you a virtuous sense of growth and time well spent, even after multiple rereads. There’s always something to learn from the Holy Man’s ample but gently offered wisdom. An ideal gift book.
Roomanitarian by Henry Rollins – Rollins, unchanged. If he’s your thing, it’s more of the same. To me: disappointing. In my late teens, Henry Rollins was a hero of mine because of his straight talk on rage, athleticism, social hypocrisy, and the importance of shunning drugs and alcohol. What he had to say was very important to me then, but to read something recent and see he’s still saying the exact same thing in the same way as 15 years ago was a bit of a letdown. I’ve evolved so much, I hoped to see how a man I deeply admired had also done so.
Shakespeare: the world as stage, by Bill Bryson – Lovely. With the novel premise of defining the very lean menu of things we “know for sure” about the Bard, it distinguishes itself from the hordes of Shakespeare biographies by avidly shunning speculation and conjecture. Bryson builds a concise, informative picture of Shakespeare’s place in history in a very readable, entertaining, engaging way, while exploring how and where the “facts” we think we know about Shakespeare developed along the way, too.
Journeys out of the body, by Robert Monroe – A classic in the field of Out of Body exploration. From a modern perspective, the writing style is dated, slow moving, and burdened by defensive explication, but what he has to say is important and all his books retain must-read status for anyone interested in the Out of Body phenomenon. Monroe’s writing shaped my view of the “afterworld” and my spirituality when I first read it in my early twenties, and his series of books remain the most thorough, scientific, and “action-packed” I’ve ever read on the subject. The reread 15 years later was remarkable in how little detail I recalled, while the overall picture he draws of the energetic/spirit world was as compelling as ever.
The Reluctant Shaman, by Kay Cordel Whitaker – If you’re interested in shamanic discovery, this is a very good first-person story of one woman’s unexpected initiation. I appreciated her descriptive, emotional writing, her personal, feminine perspective, and the fast-moving narrative – so startling for the reader as to be unimaginable as reality for the writer. (made me want to find and meet her)
Stacked, by Susan Seligson – A wickedly readable exploration of the importance breasts have in our culture, and what it’s like to have a big pair. Completely fascinating, and will be equally interesting reading whether or not you sport a pair of breasts yourself. You’re guaranteed to learn something. I found myself wishing it was much longer. Even though she efficiently covers a lot of ground, it seemed like it could have been three times as long, and I was sorry when it was over.
At the Villa of Reduced Circumstances, by Alexander Mccall Smith – It’s not the Ladies’ Detective Agency.
The Grass is Singing, by Doris Lessing – My first Doris Lessing book, I’m embarrassed to admit. While it was good, I didn’t feel the radical nature of this book that the jacket claims it has. For me, it’s out of the context of the decade and society that it was written in, and as such, is just plot and description. Both are very strong.
Nobody’s Father, Lynne Van Luven, ed. – After the unparalleled, exceptional precedent of Nobody’s Mother, a series of essays by women without children, I was unfortunately disappointed by Nobody’s Father. I found the voices of the childless/childfree men in this volume to be without conviction, weak, and superficial. I had high expectations and was hoping for the depth, diversity and strength of the women’s edition. Although a very important effort on an underexamined social topic, this book could have had tougher editing.
The Seven Stories of Love, by Marcia Millman – Worth reading. Psychology with a hint of self-help.
Lord Edgeware Dies, aka 13 at Dinner, by Agatha Christie- My first Agatha Christie. Now I get why my friend says all mystery writing owes a debt to Dame Christie.
The Hottest State, by Ethan Hawke – Ethan Hawke wrote a book? Well, I have to read it. It’s an absolutely torturous plunge into the hormone ridden twenty-something world of first love. Torturous because that world is very skillfully evoked, and swirls with a desperate, realistic pace that surges up and down just like the emotions of one’s early twenties. I appreciate his skill, am also most grateful to have made it out of my twenties alive..
Folly, by Susan Minot – Not terrific. Rapture is by far her best book. F Scott Fitzgeraldesque, with a female perspective. Subtleties are amplified, feelings are felt deeply and secretly, and nothing much happens, on the surface.
Far Journeys, by Robert Monroe – This is the second of Robert Monroe’s classic books on Out of Body experience, and it launches right out there into full-on boundless exploration. There is so much going on that he even builds his own vocabulary in an attempt to translate the non-physical experience. This book goes much farther than the first in describing a structure of the unseen realm of “afterlife”. I found it very slow going because there was so much information, sentence by sentence, that I had to slow right down to let it soak in. A must-read on the OOBE topic.
Tribes, by Seth Godin – A light chat about how our modern society is communicating in a way that gives anyone with passion a position of influence. Concise concept; easy read.
Cod: a biography of the fish that changed the world, by Mark Kurlansky – After reading, thought title should be “…fish that shaped the world”, seeing as our geopolitical world has been created and outlined by the pursuit of cod. A wonderful lesson on the history of many nations through the perspective of the cod fishery. Lovely, entertaining, educational in a good way.
The kin of Ata are waiting for you, by Dorothy Bryant – Spectacular! A magical, unforgettable, perfect success of a novel.
One month; 17 books. So far, so good.