Thursday, June 01, 2023

May, 2023 Reading: Finally Finished Tess!

May was the Getting Stuff Done month, reading-wise. Instead of floating like a butterfly from book to book to book, I stayed with the ones piled up on the coffee table. However, my book buying tendencies ran amok. Amok af. I know the reason: Bookstore anxiety. I fear that if I don't buy something when I go into a bookstore, it will fail.

Seven books read this month. 6 out of the 7 were library books. 

Books bought -- I'd tell you the number, except that I don't know the number. Somewhere between amok and infinity. The corner curio cabinet in the living room had to be repurposed as a bookshelf. I like it better this way. The knickknacks that were there before never looked quite right, although the cat found them attractive. She now probably thinks that I'm tearing her playhouse down room by room.

Here are my books read for May:

1. The Farewell Tour - Stephanie Clifford. Novel. In 1980, Lillian Waters, or "Water Lil", as she is known, is a 58-year-old country music singer trying to make a last comeback after a diagnosis of polyps on her vocal chords. As she travels across the country, her life story is told in alternating chapters. There's also a mystery surrounding her early years in Washington State and an abusive but shadowy older sister. Good details about country music throughout the book. Good storytelling.

2. Madly, Deeply - Alan Rickman. Diaries. In spite of the footnotes, I didn't always know what or who Rickman was talking about, but I still enjoyed his musings. My favorite thing was his incisiveness about why a movie worked or didn't work. 

3. Abridged Classics - John Atkinson. Humor. So much fun. Classic novels distilled down to a few words. Favorite examples: 

War and Peace/Everyone is sad/It snows. 

Moby-Dick/Man vs. whale/ Whale wins. 

Robinson Crusoe/Old-timey Gilligan's Island. 

Mysteries of Udolpho/Gothic Scooby-Doo. 

The Canterbury Tales/ Medieval version of  "99 Bottles of Beer" with sex and poop jokes. 

Ethan Frome/Farmer's life can't possibly get any worse./Hey, a sled!

 Jane Eyre/Workplace romance gets fiery. 

Charlotte's Web/Clever web designer saves a pig.

4. How to Keep House While Drowning - KC Davis, LPC. Self-Help. (Funny aside: I was initially interested in this book because I thought it was a novel with one of those quirky and evocative titles.) KC Davis conceived this book a couple of years ago. She gave birth during the pandemic, and the support systems she'd set up for herself suddenly vanished. Did I mention she also had a toddler? She was in survival mode, and this book is for people who are in that mode whether it's from new parenthood, isolation, depression or they just don't know how to keep house. I appreciate her assertion that rest is important, there's no such thing as laziness, care tasks are morally neutral, and my favorite maxim of hers: "Anything that's worth doing is worth doing half-assed." The 5 things tidying method is the perfect hack for making sense out of chaotic surroundings. Another valuable tip is to try to do things for your future self. Life can get overwhelming, so I'm glad I read this one.

5. Writers & Lovers - Lily King. Novel. I read Euphoria a few years ago and absolutely loved it, so when this book came out, I was wary about reading it, fearing disappointment. I shouldn't have worried! Now I want to reread Euphoria and then go romp around in Lily King's backlist. 

6. Forget the Alamo - Bryan Burrough, Chris Tomlinson, and Jason Stanford. Nonfiction. Although the seemingly flippant title might be off-putting to many, this book is thoughtful and well-researched as it examines the origins of the Alamo and how the defenders grew to nearly mythical status. What were they defending? Were they really heroes? Should the Alamo be a shrine? Is there a richer, more nuanced, and more inclusive story to tell? The authors tackle these questions and bring the reader from those first Southern men who struck out for Texas up to present-day San Antonio. And Phil Collins, too! A captivating read.

7. Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy. Novel. It took YEARS, but I finally finished this book. Wondering if Hanya Yanagihara read this, studied this as she was writing A Little Life. I suspect she's a bit of a Hardy girl since the main character in A Little Life is called Jude. Anyway. I despised Alec D'Urberville. That was easy; he is a moustache-twirling villain. A slimy bastard. A stock type. But who I really hated was Angel Clare, the "nice guy" Tess falls in love with after her bad encounter with Alec. Also frustrating was Tess's streak of fatalism and her dogged insistence on suffering so that she wouldn't do anything further to inconvenience Angel Clare after her confession of being a "fallen woman" on their wedding night. But yeah, Angel is the real villain of the piece. Tess was well-rid of him and didn't know it; that's the tragedy. When all is read and done, this may turn out to be my year for reading classics, but I'm not sure. It's going to take me a while to recover from this one.

Sunday, April 30, 2023

April, 2023 Reading

April feels as if it vanished in a flash. Great month -- vacation to San Antonio, Texas where I saw my wonderful friends Teresa and Cindy for the first time in...what? 24 years? (Before I forget, Teresa is an audiobook fan. I'm hoping she'll give me ideas for books to listen to.) Visited The Alamo, which has given me ideas for May reading. Ate an embarrassingly huge amount of delicious Tex-Mex, except that I don't feel embarrassed at all. Did I mention San Antonio's Riverwalk? I dream of a small, book-filled apartment right there, overlooking the river. Another fun excursion was to Ripley's Odditorium. Fun and overwhelming. Plus, Fiesta de Los Reyes was going on, so the city seemed especially lit up, in all senses of the phrase.

My two bookstore visits in San Antonio were to: Pandora's Bookstore, which is tiny and charming with a small stock that seems thoughtfully selected. My favorite of the two was The Twig Book Shop, a larger space with more variety. The area The Twig is in used to be a brewery, and the whole area feels fresh and idyllic. Anyway, back to The Twig: Hooray for Indie bookstores! I found several Annie Ernaux books, which I've been looking for. I bought Happening, a memoir. I also bought The Last Confessions of Sylvia P. by Lee Kravetz, which I'd sort of been dancing around for a few months. I also bought some book earrings to wear to book group. What I regret not buying was a little Dorothy Parker doll which was nestled in with other literary figures in doll form. Mark Twain was cute, but Dot caught my fancy. When I finally checked out and left, I really really really did not want to go. Is there a word for the pain of parting from a bookstore?

But wait! During a looooooooong layover at Dallas Love Field, I stumbled onto a gem of an airport bookstore called Ink. Quirky inventory Entertaining browsing. I had to restrain myself. Finally, I saw The Last Detail by Darryl Ponicsan. It was 50% off. I HAD to take it home. I'll happily do another layover at Love Field. 

And at last, here's what I read in April:

1. The Rainbow Comes and Goes - Gloria Vanderbilt and Anderson Cooper. Memoir. Audiobook. Now I feel like bingeing and reading all about the Vanderbilts. Enjoyed hearing the authors read their book. Gloria's Mid-Atlantic accent -- does anyone talk like that anymore?

2. Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen - Sarah Bird. Novel. Historical fiction about Cathy Williams, who successfully posed as a male soldier named William Cathay right after the American Civil War. I discovered that for me, historical fiction has got to be feisty and fearless. Sarah Bird was firmly anchored in history, and once she did that, she really leaned into the fiction part. And that's how it needs to be. The novels that stick too close to the history feel stuffy and airless. Practically the very moment I finished Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen, I found the audiobook version at another library. Oof. Read by Bahni Turner, one of my favorite audiobook narrators. Double oof. This book is definitely worth a reread, so I'll go that route next time.

3. Who Is LeBron James? - Crystal Hubbard. Biography. It may seem odd, but I knew almost nothing about LeBron James, except that he was a pro basketball player who had played for Cleveland. I enjoyed this biography.

4. What Is the Story of Nancy Drew? - Dana M. Rau. Literary History? Although I only read two or three Nancy Drew mysteries, I was still a great admirer of the greatest girl detective. Glad to read her origin story. It was interesting to see how she's changed and evolved over the years. Bonus points to this book for talking about my favorite Nancy Drew book The Hidden Staircase.

5. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen. Novel. Bolstered by the annotated edition and the audiobook version in tandem, I finally finished this novel. Does Austen get the credit she deserves for her truly memorable supporting characters, some vile, some hilarious?

6. At the Edge of the Orchard - Tracy Chevalier. Historical Fiction. Audiobook. In the early 1800s, the Goodenough family settles in the swamps in Ohio, because their wagon gets stuck there. The patriarch, James, is mad about apples, so he sets about creating an orchard by buying seeds and saplings from Johnny Appleseed, and by grafting. His wife, Sadie, has no patience for orchards and prefers the apples to be used for applejack, which is her way of escaping the difficulties of pioneer life. In what I consider a good reading month, this was my favorite book. Highly recommended.

7. The Last Confessions of Sylvia P. - Lee Kravetz. Historical Fiction. I gobbled this down immediately. Sylvia Plath doesn't really speak or confess in this story. Instead, her life and legend is examined from three varying points of view: First, Esmee, a master curator at an auction house, is brought three spiral notebooks which seem to contain a handwritten draft of The Bell Jar. Secondly, the reader is sent back in time to the late 1950s where we meet Boston Rhodes -- she's a blast, what you'd call the breakout character on TV -- a poet who was part of Robert Lowell's poetry seminar that Plath attended. Boston Rhodes, who seems based largely on Anne Sexton, perceives herself as Plath's rival.  Finally, we go back again in time to 1953 and Dr. Ruth Barnhouse, who treated Plath during her first breakdown. For devotees of Sylvia Plath, this novel is a little irritating, but also vastly amusing -- so many Easter eggs to be found! Kravetz did his research, and did it well. In addition to being historical fiction, it's also a mystery, and I'm not a mystery fan, but I liked this very much. I'm thinking: Reread.

For some reason, I have recently developed a longing to get a book tattoo. Don't know what to make of this, and it has extended to looking at potential designs.

I hope to do a post in a few days to share what I'm currently reading -- it's a fascinating stack.

Tuesday, April 04, 2023

March, 2023 Reading

 March is a long month, and yet I only completed five books. When I'm having a bit of a struggle, I wonder whether to blame it on age. Being online too much is much more likely the culprit. 

Digression: Funny thing about that word, "culprit". Long ago, in a rare, dyslexic moment, it entered my brain as "curplit". I pronounced it that way in a roomful of English majors and you should have heard the sharply inhaled silence before they all burst out laughing. Embarrassing. I'm much more careful now, but at any given moment, I could still curplit. End of digression.

Then there's my harsh inner critic who tells me it's not age, it's not being online, it's that I'm an imposter. A poser bookworm. That I've never been much of a reader. Dim. Lazy. Unmotivated. Mean adjectives are her stock and trade; I told you she was harsh!

But never mind her. Instead, let's talk about something that really made my bookworm heart happy this month: While I was on Twitter one day, a guy named Ben from Australia posted pictures of excerpts from his 94-year-old grandmother's reading log. She's been keeping track since she was 14 in 1943. 80 years! Her entries start out in German and switch to English in the late 1940s. I fell into a daydream about spending my life in a clean, well-lighted room surrounded by other people's book journals that go back decades, reading and enjoying endless spooling lists of books. (How could I get people to send me their book logs, and what's an intelligent excuse for wanting them other than I would find them both comforting and thrilling?)

Okay, I think I've driven around the block enough now that I'm ready to post my five reads for March:

1. Young Man with a Horn - Dorothy Baker. Novel. A short 1938 novel about a young musician, loosely based on Bix Beiderbecke. The music itself seems like one of the characters. Baker writes so well about technique that the reader feels as if they also know about the intricacies of music. Sort of like chess and Walter Tevis and The Queen's Gambit. When Baker veered into the romance part of the story, the book seemed to lose some of its oomph, although I think the female interest is meant to be fascinating. Luckily, that was a brief sidebar. I was going to complain a little about not being able to figure out just who the narrator of the story is supposed to be, but since the book is about jazz and jazz is about improvisation, I'm just going to mellow out and not get too exacting. I really loved the atmosphere of Young Man with a Horn. As I read, I felt as if I were in a nightclub, music and smoke wafting through the air and ice tinkling in glasses. I want to read more of Baker; her 1962 novel, Cassandra At The Wedding is the one I've got my eye on now.

2. A House Divided - Pearl S. Buck. Novel. So glad to finally finish the House of Wang trilogy! Many hours of pure listening enjoyment. Audiobook was definitely the way to go. Buck writes in the cadences of ancient storytelling and as it washed over me, I was mesmerized. As far as the individual books go, The Good Earth is a solid and illuminating look into agrarian life in China, Sons has the most action, and A House Divided conveys the tension of past and present colliding.

3. Sooley - John Grisham. Novel. This was a book group read. I was engrossed in the story of the young South Sudanese basketball player/refugee, but Grisham's writing style is so bad. Yet, I couldn't stop reading! So bad it's good? Really baffled about my love for this one. I'm thinking about trying another of Grisham's sports novels like Bleachers or Playing for Pizza.

4. Who Was Alex Trebek? - Pam Pollack and Meg Belviso. Nonfiction. It's about time he got his own book! I miss seeing Alex Trebek so much on Jeopardy! Smart, witty, erudite -- the man inspired a girlish crush across generations in my family -- my grandmother, my mother, and me.

5. Who Was Maria Tallchief? - Catherine Gourley. Nonfiction. This biography of the first Native American prima ballerina is beautifully, almost lyrically written.

And now it's April. The Pulitzer Prize for Fiction will be announced soon, and this year, my money is on Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver. My sentimental choice, as always, is Joyce Carol Oates.

Friday, March 10, 2023

Nineteen & The Nom Nom Shelf

This is the day (March 11) my beloved book blog "Blob" turns 19. We can't go out for drinks for another couple of years, but food figures prominently into our plans. As an appetizer, I'd like to take readers on a tour of my Nom Nom Shelf (pictured above) which is all my books about food.

From left to right:

The Betty Crocker Cookbook. 1978. Belonging to my mother, this is the first cookbook in which I ever took an interest. When I asked if I could keep it, she shrugged and said sure. Very much loved and duct-taped.

Favorite Foods From Das Edelweiss Restaurant. This is the last cookbook my mother ever bought. Das Edelweiss was a popular German restaurant in Warsaw, Missouri.

The Pioneer Woman Cooks Dinnertime - Ree Drummond. It's a lovely cookbook with beautifully photographed step-by-step recipes, but I tried the Panzanella recipe and it fell flat for me, so I haven't ventured into Pioneer Womanworld again.

Granny Pottymouth's Fast As F*ck Cookbook - Peggy Glenn. I learned to cook after I became an adult, so cooking and swearing have always been a team in my kitchen. My very favorite recipe in this book is "Chicken and Sweet Potatoes Get Married on a Ranch". An odd combination, but so easy and so delicious. 

The Wurst of Lucky Peach: A treasury of encased meat. - Chris Ying and the editors of Lucky Peach. How the sausage gets made all over the world. A fun read.

Fresh Off The Boat - Eddie Huang. I kept putting this book on the memoir and biography shelf, but it only felt right in with the other Nom Noms. Chalk it up to Eddie Huang's exuberance when he's writing about food.

The Tummy Trilogy - Calvin Trillin. Includes American Fried, Alice, Let's Eat and Third Helpings. I haven't read this yet, and I don't know why. As I understand it, Trillin was visiting diners, drive-ins and dives about 40 years before Guy Fieri. I've paged through The Tummy Trilogy and the writing looks luscious in all senses of the word.

Crying in H Mart - Michelle Zauner. This book also refused to live on the memoir and biography shelf. Zauner's evocative writing about shopping for and preparing and eating Korean food stirred up so many memories for me. I was nearly eating the pages.

Blood, Bones & Butter - Gabrielle Hamilton. I absolutely love chef origin stories; I don't know why I haven't devoured this book yet.

The Potlikker Papers: A Food History of the Modern South - John T. Edge. I haven't read this book yet, either, but I'm sure I'm going to relish every word.

How to Cook a Wolf - M.F.K. Fisher. ABSOLUTELY LOVED THIS BOOK. I wrote an ardent review of it back when Blob was still in diapers. 

Let's Eat Korean Food - Betsy O'Brien. A helpful guide about the development of Korean cuisine, how to dine without thoroughly disgracing yourself, and a deep dive into dishes for special days and province by province.

Taste - Stanley Tucci. A delectable memoir served up with wit and a significant dash of irony. I paired this book with a viewing of Tucci's film Big Night. Sometimes you can't tell the difference between your heart and your stomach. With Stanley Tucci, you don't have to.

Tender at the Bone - Ruth Reichl. This is the first memoir I ever read that centered around food, and I've been hooked ever since. Favorite bit: masking a wild party just seconds before parents walk in with the innocent smells of breakfast.

The Best American Food Writing 2018 - Ruth Reichl, editor. My favorite food essays from this anthology were about a journalist who made a trip to the Pioneer Woman's stompin' grounds, Pawhuska, Oklahoma and the NBA's secret sandwich addiction (it was peanut butter and jelly).

Generation Chef - Karen Stabiner. I haven't read this yet.

A Taste for War: The Culinary History of the Blue and the Gray - William C. Davis. The first half of the book is a scholarly examination of how important food was to soldiers during the American Civil War. Many units lacked personnel who had any idea of how to prepare food at all, which led to some wild improvisation. In the POW camps, where starvation reigned, creativity was taken to a whole new sometimes grisly level. The second half of the book is actual recipes from these years.

Stir: My Broken Brain and the Meals that Brought Me Home - Jessica Fechtor. I haven't read this yet.

Buttermilk Graffiti - Edward Lee. This book was so smart and thoughtful and intriguing. Edward Lee traveled to several cities around the United States where disparate communities lived near each other and investigated how their cuisines influenced each other. Interspersed with recipes. A feast for the mind.

American Cheese - Joe Berkowitz. I had so much fun reading this book! Berkowitz meets and falls in love with artisan cheese, and follows it everywhere. On a much smaller scale, I fell down my own cheesy rabbit hole, and this blog reflected that for several entries.  Highly recommended. 

Best Food Writing 2003 - Holly Hughes, editor. So many good essays, but my very favorite was "Cajun Pig Party".

Spam: A Biography - Carolyn Wyman. I'm not really a fan of it, but I enjoy reading about Spam. I love the layout of Wyman's book; it looks the way fanzines used to look. My favorite part was about the yearly Spam sculpting contests in Seattle. Sadly, these are a thing of the past.

Books on top:

Kitchen Confidential - Anthony Bourdain. One of my favorites across all genres. Audacious and hilarious. I really miss Anthony Bourdain.

The Joy of Cooking - Irma S. Rombauer. This is a facsimile of the first edition from 1931. The recipes, nearly a century old, seem antiquated, but they are short and easy to read. It would be fun if someone decided to take on the project of cooking all these dishes.

Not shown:

The Best American Food Writing 2021 - Gabrielle Hamilton, editor. I haven't read this collection yet.

As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto - Joan Reardon, editor. Haven't read yet; looking forward to dipping in.

That tour of the Nom Nom shelf made me hungry. It's time to eat, then read. In that order.

Happy Birthday, Blob!

EDITED TO ADD: I found another food book hiding in my collection. It was tucked away in a nondescript section of nonfiction. I will put it with the other Nom Noms. I'm gonna need a bigger shelf.

Eating To Extinction: The World's Rarest Foods and Why We Need to Save Them - Dan Saladino. Nonfiction. I got this book for my birthday, and haven't read it yet. Many books ask what the hell are we eating? Saladino turns the question on its head: What the hell are we NOT eating anymore? And why? The chapters are divided into food types (Wild, Cereal, Vegetable) followed with the featured foods and their locations. Saladino profiles the individuals around the world who are striving to bring the endangered foods back. He also discusses how the disappearance of these foods mean not only goodbye to tastes, smells, and methods of preparation, but also a red flag in regards to the health of the planet. I know I'm going to enjoy and learn while I'm reading this book.

Wednesday, March 01, 2023

February, 2023 Reading: Graphically Yours

Six books in February.  A very good reading month!

 Ducks - Kate Beaton. Graphic Memoir. Saddled with a load of college debt, 22-year-old Katie Beaton decided to leave her home province of Nova Scotia and go to work in the oil sands in Alberta. Although the pay is good, the environment is toxic -- often the only woman among numerous male coworkers, she's subjected to sexual harassment and worse. She gradually realizes that the toxicity extends to the damage her company is doing to the land. This book is brilliant. I've been a fan of Beaton's artwork since I read Hark! A Vagrant! when I was in Korea.

Spare - Prince Harry. Memoir. Audiobook. After having had his life story manipulated by the press since he was born, Prince Harry finally is having his say. Unfortunately, he's doing battle against a Hydra and probably always will. I found his memoir touching and horrifying and occasionally funny. I hope that one day he and his family can have some peace.

Last Rampage - James W. Clarke. True Crime. The story of killer Gary Tison's 1978 escape from an Arizona state prison with the help of his three sons. What the sons seemed to see as a family reunion takes a hellish turn as they come to see, too late, that they've actually unleashed a monster.  Disturbing. It's right up there with In Cold Blood.

Anne of Green Gables - L.M. Montgomery, Mariah Marsden. Graphic Novel. I actually liked this better than the novel. Instead of pages and pages AND pages of Montgomery's overly flowery prose, there are these beautiful drawings of Green Gables and Avonlea. The characters look like they jumped straight from the original source. I fell a little in love with Marsden's rendition of Matthew. Highly recommended. Many thanks to The Spawn for bringing this one home to me.

Hey, Kiddo - Jarrett J. Krosoczka. Graphic Memoir. Jarrett's parents bailed on him early in his life and he was brought up by his maternal grandparents. This graphic memoir is a beautiful tribute to them. His love and admiration is palpable; I grew to love and admire them myself. You don't want to sleep on this one. It's wonderful. Krosoczka is a new graphic artist to me and I'll be watching his work from now on with great interest.

The Year of Less - Cait Flanders. Memoir. Audiobook. Cait Flanders imposed a shopping ban for herself back in 2014, but the book isn't really about that. It's more of a memoir. It's also monotonous and repetitive as if she just stitched together a bunch of her blog posts. There are only two things I liked about this audiobook: Cait's Canadian accent, and her epiphany that much of her shopping was not for a real Cait, but an aspirational Cait. I'm guilty of this with books especially, so I could relate. I am planning to use the aspirational question  in the future as a rule-of-thumb.

What I'm currently reading: Oh my God. Too much. I'm still wending my way through Poison a few pages at a time. Ditto the Edward Hopper biography. I'm almost done with the final audiobook in the House of Wang trilogy, A House Divided by Pearl S. Buck. Now that March is here, I've got to get serious about Sooley, by John Grisham, which is the book club's (more about them below) next read, but wait! Somehow, I found myself on Twitter getting distracted by a 1938 novel called Young Man With A Horn by Dorothy Baker. A short work based on the life of virtuoso coronet player Bix Beiderbecke. I need a pajama day or two so I can get all of these done. Kind of hoping for a snowstorm.

Book Club Update: I went to the Tuesday afternoon group, and it was glorious. The conversation about the book never stopped; the participants crackled with intelligence. I'm never going back to Monday nights -- I'm home.

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

January, 2023 Reading

 Nine books this month, which is a really good number for me. I can't take total credit; some of them were books that followed me into the new year.

Before I discuss those nine, here's what I'm in the middle of reading now:

Spare - Prince Harry. Memoir.  On audiobook. Of course.

Edward Hopper: An Intimate Biography - Gail Levin. Aren't all biographies intimate to some degree?

Poison - Susan Fromberg Schaeffer. Novel. It's a roman a clef with a weird Virginia Woolf vibe.

Here's what I want to read:

Ducks - Kate Beaton. Graphic Novel. It just arrived today via ILL. Squeeeee! I know it's going to zoom to the top of my reading pile, but when? Tomorrow? Tonight? As soon as I get off this computer?

Here are the nine for January:

1. Sons - Pearl S. Buck. Novel. The second in a trilogy following The Good Earth. Wang Lung's three sons are an interesting bunch, especially the youngest, Wang the Tiger, a soldier turned warlord. I'm eager to finish the trilogy.

2. The Man Who Invented Christmas - Les Standiford. Nonfiction. An examination of Charles Dickens and his most popular work, A Christmas Carol. I liked it, but it felt padded, as if it were really meant to be New Yorker article-sized rather than book-length.

3. Who Was Michelangelo? - Kirsten Anderson. Nonfiction.

4. Moloka'i - Alan Brennert. Novel. For several decades, Hawaiians exhibiting symptoms of leprosy were ordered by law to leave their families and go into an undetermined quarantine on the island of Moloka'i. This story follows the life of Rachel who is five years old when her symptoms first appear. I have mixed feelings about this book. I liked all the history of Hawaii, but felt the crashing weight of information dumps throughout. Brennert writes beautiful descriptions of the islands. The reader can really see their rugged beauty. The characters are mostly sympathetic and their rituals are presented respectfully and often movingly. My interest in learning more about Moloka'i was piqued. On the other hand, the prose style is a little clunky. The dialogue often seemed anachronistic and POV was all over the place, sometimes all at once. I wish that Brennert had just committed to doing this as straight nonfiction; I think the result would have been more satisfying.

5. Joan is Okay - Weike Wang. Novel. Joan is an attending physician who works in an ICU unit in New York City right about the time that COVID-19 is starting to make its frightening presence known. At times, the novel and the title character have a sort of flat affect, but then there's a good deal of sharp commentary. This is one of those novels I'm going to have to read again to fully absorb.

6. Opening the Road: Victor Hugo Green and His Green Book - Keila V. Dawson (author) and Alleanna Harris (illustrator) Nonfiction.

7. Demon Copperhead - Barbara Kingsolver. Novel. Basically, David Copperfield set in Appalachia during the opioid crisis. I never realized that Kingsolver and Dickens had so much in common. You don't have to have read David Copperfield to "get" Demon Copperhead, but it enhanced the experience for me. I suggest pairing those two books, or pairing Demon Copperhead with the nonfiction book Dopesick by Beth Macy.

8. Who Was Shaquille O'Neal? - Ellen Labreque. Nonfiction.

9. Starring Steven Spielberg: The Making of a Young Filmmaker - Gene Barretta (author) and Craig Orback (illustrator). Nonfiction.


A House Divided - Pearl S. Buck. Novel. The third book in the House of Wang trilogy. I got a quarter of the way in and had an audiobook malfunction. I'm hoping to get back to it after I finish listening to Spare.


I've been in my book group for a year now, and we just don't seem to meld, or click, or whatever you call it. Our group dynamic is chilly. We engage with the leader (who is the Outreach librarian) but there's no rapport among ourselves. It's painful and I'm frustrated.

I need to feel some sort of connection. As a last-ditch effort, I'm going to try the library's other book group, which meets a little earlier in the day. The leader said that this other group is 'harder to please' and 'complains a lot more', so I'm interpreting that to mean that they are lively and interesting, and that maybe discussions are a little more organic. Wish me luck???

Monday, January 30, 2023

It Was 30 Years Ago Today: My Reading Journal


[This post is dedicated to TEJ]

Thirty years ago, January, 1993, I decided to get serious about keeping a reading journal. 

Before that, there were a series of false starts. I played around a little with tracking my books by keeping lists not in a designated blank book but on the blank, back pages of random books. (What was I thinking? Writing in books?) Then I would forget which book! As a result, 1984 (the year) is almost lost to me. All I remember reading that year was The Good Earth,  In Love and Trouble, The Madness of a Seduced Woman, Heartburn, The Good Earth and Shiloh and Other Stories. I particularly remember the last one because an older gentleman in my book group had harsh words for the book and author. When I went to defend it I instead burst into tears as if I'd been personally attacked. Tears and snot flew. The boo-hoos rose like balloons.

 Fast-forward to 1990, when I kept a list on the back pages of Inside Oscar. Luckily, I stumbled onto the list several years ago and copied it to a notebook and into this blog.

1991 is easy; that was the year of Anne Tyler. Nothing but Anne Tyler novels. I pretended my boyfriend's family had been created by Anne Tyler. My dreams were Tylerscapes.

1992 is but a vapor. Poof.

1993 turned out to be the charm. Good times and bad, sick or well, sad or happy, employed or jobless, here or abroad, I have written down my reading. 

And now it's been Thirty Freaking Years. I used to envy people who had reading lists going back that far. Now I'm one of those people! Incredible.

If you track your reading, how far back can you go?