December was the whirlwind it always is. Exams, hiring, and personnel evaluations at work. Christmas cards and wrapping gifts at home. Celebrations with families and friends. The bestie and I had a great time on the last weekend before Christmas shopping. Yes, you read that correctly. We braved the stores on the Sunday before Christmas and had a blast. Kisa and I traveled to South Deerfield, Peaks Island, and Rockland for the holidays. Rockland was an unexpected twist, but it gave us more time with the mom. I didn’t get to all the books on my list. I couldn’t get a hold of the Seuss book to save my life. I should have known better. And, I wasn’t in the mood for Milne. Imagine that. The November Early Review never arrived. No big surprise there. That makes three for the year that didn’t show up. Here are the other books:
Aguero Sisters by Cristina Garcia
Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak
Long Way from Home by Connie Briscoe
Art of Travel by Alain De Botton (AB)
Before the Deluge: a portrait of Berlin in the 1920s by Otto Friedrich
People’s History of the Supreme Court by Peter Irons
Saddest Pleasure: a journey on two rivers by Moritz Thomsen
Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson (AB)
The Master of Hestviken: In the Wilderness by Sigrid Undset
Without Fail by Lee Child
I don’t have writer’s block. I have writer’s apathy. I have nothing to say. Here are the books already underway for November:
- The Sporting Club by Thomas McGuane – in honor of the Mackinac bridge being built in November of 1957.
- The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak – I needed an author with my same initials for the Portland Public Library Reading Challenge.
- Four Corners: a Journey into the Heart of Papua New Guinea by Kira Salak – in honor of November being a decent time to visit PNG…if you are into that sort of thing.
- Israel is Real: an Obsessive Quest to Understand the Jewish Nation and Its History by Rich Cohen – in recognition of Resolution 181.
- Silverland: a Winter Journey Beyond the Urals by Dervla Murphy – in honor of Murphy’s birth month.
- Master of Hestviken: the Snake Pit by Sigrid Undset – to continue the series started in October. I needed a translated book written by a woman. Voila!
- Echo Burning by Lee Child – to continue the series started in July in honor of New York becoming a state.
Early Review for LibraryThing:
- Teaching Empathy: Strategies for Building Emotional Intelligence in Today’s Children by Suzanna Hershon, PhD.
I will be traveling for part of May so who knows how many books I’ll be able to read for this month. Here is the list I will attempt:
- Man in the Gray Flannel Suit by Sloan Wilson – in honor of May being Wilson’s birth month.
- Ethel and Ernest by Raymond Briggs – in honor of Graphic Novel month being in May.
- Mariner’s Compass by Earlene Fowler – in honor of May is Museum Month.
- Bear Comes Home by Rafi Zabor- in honor of May being Music Month.
- Morbid Taste for Bones by Ellis Peters – in honor of the first Thursday in May being Prayer Week.
- Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian – in honor of my father’s birth month. As a kid he read this book.
- Five Children and It by E. Nesbit – in honor of May being Nesbit’s birth month.
- Farthest North by Fridtjof Nansen – in honor of Peary’s birth month being in May. From one explorer to another.
- Prelude to Foundation by Isaac Asimov – to continue the series started in January in honor of Asimov’s birth month.
- Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope – to continue the series started in honor of Trollope’s birth month in April.
I have a ridiculous number of books planned for this month. I have no idea what I was thinking.
- The Warden by Anthony Trollope – in honor of Trollope’s birth month being in April.
- City and the House by Natalie Ginsberg – in honor of April being Letter Writing month.
- All Souls by Javier Marias – in honor of Oxford Jazz Festival traditionally being in April.
- All-of-a-Kind-Family by Sydney Taylor – in honor of April being Sibling month and in honor of Library Week.
- The Secret Knowledge of Water by Craig Childs – in honor of John Muir’s birth month (and the fact we are visiting Arizona soon).
- Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of Books by Paul Collins – in honor of Library Week.
- Hunting Season by Nevada Barr to finish the series read out of order.
- The Game by Laurie R. King – to finish the series started in honor of Female Mystery month.
- Topper Takes a Trip by Thorne Smith – to finish the series started in honor of Smith’s birth month.
- The Council of the Cursed by Peter Tremayne – to continue the series started in honor of Tremayne’s birth month.
- Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov – to continue the series started in honor of Asimov’s birth month.
Early Review for LibraryThing:
- From Red Earth: a Rwandan Story of Healing and Forgiveness by Denise Uwiemana.
We are nearly one full week into February and I have yet to report what is on the reading list. I have to admit, my other (non-book) life got in the way. I was selected for jury duty for a trial that lasted three days, a friend was admitted to the hospital with atrial fibrillation for three days, an uncle was taken off hospice, and oh yeah, I turned fifty with my family and friends in attendance. The last week of January going into the first week of February was all a bit nutty. And. And! And, I am running again. So, there’s that. But enough of that. Here are the books:
- Good Night Willie Lee, I’ll See You in the Morning by Alice Walker (EB)- in honor of Walker’s birth month.
- Take This Man by Frederick Busch (EB & print) – in memory of Busch’s death month.
- Crossers by Philip Caputo (EB & print) – in honor of Arizona becoming a state in February.
- Alone in the Crowd by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza (EB & print) – in honor of Brazil’s festival.
- Tragic Honesty by Blake Bailey (print) in honor of Yates’s birthday.
- Beak of the Finch by Jonathan Weiner (AB) in honor of February being Feed the Birds Month.
- A Monstrous Regiment of Women by Laurie R. King (EB & print) – to continue the series started in honor of January being Mystery Month.
- Caprice and Rondo by Dorothy Dunnett (print) – to continue the series started in honor of Dunnett’s birth month being in August.
- Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov (EB) – in honor of Asimov’s birth month being in January.
- A Fine and Bitter Snow by Dana Stabenow (EB & print) – to continue the series started in January in honor of Alaska becoming a state.
Early Review for LibraryThing:
- How to Be a Patient by Dr. Sana Goldberg (confessional: I started this in January and haven’t finished it yet).
- Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver.
- The Chronoliths by Robert Charles Wilson – in honor of October being Star Man month.
- Bridge on the Drina by Ivo Andric (EB) – in memory of Mehmed Pasa Sokollu’s passing. He designed the bridge over the Drina river.
- Playing for Pizza by John Grisham (EB) – in honor of the Verdi Fest in Parma that takes place every October.
- Call It Sleep by Henry Roth (AB) – to remember the Tom Kippur War.
- Oxford Book of Oxford edited by Jan Morris – in honor of Morris’s birth month.
- African Laughter by Doris Lessing – in honor of Lessing’s birth month.
- Always a Distant Anchorage by Hal Roth – October is Library Friend Month & I had to borrow this from a distant library.
- Tandia by Bryce Courtenay – to finish the series started in September in honor of Courtenay’s birth month.
- The Race of the Scorpion by Dorothy Dunnett (EB) – to continue the series started in August in honor of Dunnett’s birth month.
- Finding the Dream by Nora Roberts (EB) – to finish the series started in August in honor of Dream Month.
- Joey Goes to Sea by Alan Villiers – a gift from my aunt Jennifer.
Early Review for LibraryThing: nada. I have the promise of three different books but they haven’t arrived yet.
December did not suck entirely. I was able to run 97 miles out of the 97 promised. The in-law holiday party was a lot of fun and I got to most of the books on my list:
- Conquest of the Incas by John Hemming (DNF)
- Rainbow’s End by Lauren St. John
- Paul Revere and the World He Lived in by Esther Forbes
- On the Ocean by Pytheas (translated by Christina Horst Roseman)
- Geometry of Love by Margaret Visser
- Freedom at Midnight by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre .
- River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey by Candice Millard (AB)
- Tu by Patricia Grace – I read this in four days because it was due back at a library that didn’t allow renewals.
- Spiderweb for Two by Elizabeth Enright. I listened to this on audio on my lunch breaks. It was a good way to escape for a little while each day. Confessional: I didn’t finish the whole thing but since it is a continuation of the series it doesn’t matter.
- Yoga for Athletes by Ryanne Cunningham – this was an October book that took me a little time to review because I was too busy using it to run!
- Disaster Falls: a family story by Stephane Gerson
I am trying to move into this month without cracking up or breaking down. I’ve lost the run temporarily and even a small interruption sets me back. You know it is with a mental stability that isn’t quite that solid. I don’t want to say anything more than that.
Here are the books. Nonfiction first:
- Living Poor: a Peace Corps Chronicle by Moritz Thomsen – in honor of the month Ecuador’s civil war for independence ended.
- Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn – (AB) in honor of the holidays and how much they can stress you out. I’m reading this and listening to it on audio.
- The Fifties by David Halberstam – in honor of finishing what I said I would.
- Baby Doctor by Perri Klass – in honor of National Health Month.
- Goodbye, Mr. Chips by James Hilton – in honor of National Education Week. This should take me a lunch break to read.
- Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman – in honor of Gaiman’s birth month.
- Advise and Consent by Allen Drury – in honor of November being an election month (and is it ever!).
- Then There Were Five by Elizabeth Enright – (EAB = electronic audio book) to continue the series started in September in honor of Enright’s birth month.
- A Toast To Tomorrow by Manning Coles – to continue the series started in October in honor of Octoberfest.
- Love Songs from a Shallow Grave by Colin Cotterill – to END the series started in May in honor of Rocket Day.
McCarry, Charles. The Tears of Autumn. Read by Stefan Rudnicki. Oregon: Blackstone Audio, 2005.
Reason read: Cold War ended in September.
Paul Christopher is back; Christopher, the the cool-as-a-cucumber, jet-setting, incorruptible CIA secret agent. This time he is trying to convince his superiors he knows who killed John F. Kennedy and why. But, is this a story of revenge or not? When Vietnam’s president, Ngo Dinh Diem, is assassinated Christopher can’t help but think there is a connection when JFK is murdered just three weeks later in Texas. Was Oswald just a switch someone far-reaching flicked on? Christopher seeks the truth and along the way puts the people he cares about in danger (especially a love interest, of course). While the plot is predictable and the characters, typecast, I enjoyed Christopher’s next adventure.
Author fact: McCarry also wrote The Last Supper and Shelley’s Heart both of which are on my list.
Book trivia: this is part of a seven-book series but I don’t think you would be missing anything if you didn’t read them one right after the other or out of order.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Cold War Spy Fiction” (p 61).
I’m not exactly sure what September will bring. The renovations for the library are finally finished (with a crazy punch list, I might add). The backyard is complete minus the hot tub, fire pit and patio furniture (that’s stage II). I have a half mara in ten days so I’m anticipating a good run month. Here are the planned books:
- Curse of the Pogo Stick by Colin Cotterill – to continue the series started in May in honor of Laos Rocket Day
- Edwin Mullhouse: the life and death of an American Writer – to honor kids in September
- Life and Death in Shanghai by Nien Cheng – Mao died of cancer in September.
- Tears of Autumn by Charles McCarry – Cold War ended in September
- The Trial by Franz Kafka – September is the best month to visit the Czech Republic.
- Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner – September is Southern Gospel month
- Which Side are You On? by Elaine Harger – an Early Review from LibraryThing.
My obsession with moving rocks has come to an end now that the big boys are playing in the backyard. This hopefully means I’ll scale back to just two fanatical activities: running and reading. Or reading and running. I wonder who will win out? I am in the last month of training before the half marathon, but here are the books planned for August:
- Anarchy and Old Dogs by Colin Cotterill – to continue the series started in May in honor of Laos Rocket Day. I have been able to read other books in the series in one to two days.
- Dogs of Riga by Henning Mankell – in honor of July being one of the best times to visit Sweden (listening as an audio book).
- Lost City of Z: a tale of deadly obsession in the Amazon by David Grann in honor of August being the driest month in the Amazon.
- The High and the Mighty by Ernest Gann in honor of August being Aviation month.
- If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin in honor of Baldwin’s birth month (print & AB).
- Children in the Woods by Frederick Busch in honor of Busch’s birth month (short stories).
- Flora’s Suitcase by Dalia Rabinovich in honor of Columbia’s independence.
PS – on the eve of posting this I ran 7.93 miles. Why the .93? My calf/Achilles started to give me grief so I had to stop. Now I wonder if the running has a chance to catch the books?
July was a nutty month. Lots of music: Phish three times, Warren Haynes at Tanglewood, Dead and Company twice, and Coldplay. (August is only Pearl Jam and Mieka Pauley.) We made it up to Monhegan for a week and down to CT twice. And! And. And, I moved a lot of rocks (don’t ask). For the books it was:
- Milk in my Coffee by Eric Jerome Dickey
- Disco for the Departed by Colin Cotterill
- Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell (AB)
- The Last Battle by Ryan Cornelius
- Sign of the Four by Arthur Conan Doyle
- The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh
- 8:55 to Baghdad by Andrew Eames
I think, once I got used to Dickey’s style, I grew to like Milk but my favorite by far was The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh. Is it a movie? Because if it isn’t, it should be. I said that in the review as well.
Full disclosure: I had Lost Upland on my list as well. I simply ran out of time and couldn’t get to it. I’m okay with seven books for the month.
July. Summertime. Lots of music (starting with you guessed it, Phish). Lots of running (hopefully all outdoors). Lots of travel, lots of play. Plenty of reading:
- Milk in My Coffee by Eric Jerome Dickey (in honor of National Cow Appreciation Day on the 14th. I kid you not.)
- Disco for the Departed by Colin Cotterill (#3 – to continue the series started in May in honor of Rocket Day)
- The Last Battle by Cornelius Ryan (#3 – to continue the series started in June for D-Day)
- Cranford (AB) by Elizabeth Gaskell (in honor of Swan Upping. If you don’t know about this day, check it out. It’s fascinating. Or you can wait for my review when I’ll explain the practice.)
- Black Faces, White Faces by Jane Gardam (in honor of Gardam’s birth month)
As an aside, I have read the last two Cotterills in a day each, so I know I need to add at least one or two more books to the list. I’m off to the great unknown for vacation so when I get back I’ll probably have to revisit this list.
Also, I should note that I won another Early Review book from LibraryThing, but since its not here yet I won’t promise to read it. 😉
Shipler, David K. Arab and Jew: Wounded Spirits in a Promised Land. Read by Robert Blumenfeld. New York: Blackstone Audio, 2003.
Reason read: May is the most beautiful time of the year to visit the middle east…or so I have heard.
This is the history of the relationship between Arab and Jew. Shipler painstakingly traces the prejudice back to its origin and examines the cultural, religious, and socioeconomic divide that has existed ever since. Shipler’s reporting is exemplary. He is unbiased but obviously very concerned about the everyday ordinary people just trying to survive in this land of unrest. Shipler’s voice is at once delicate and forthright in his descriptions and details involving terrorism, nationalism, and political conflict. He refers frequently to information he has collected from textbooks of various grade levels to demonstrate the education & “miseducation” of middle eastern children.
Probably the most disturbing section (for me) was about sexual attitudes, especially those surrounding rape.
Quotes that caught my attention, “Battle has its thrills as well as its regrets” and “Too much hope seems doused in blood.” Because I am listening to this on (22!) CDs I have no idea what actual page these quotes are on.
Book trivia: I listened to an unabridged and revised edition of Arab and Jew. This was also made into a movie in 1989.
Author fact: Shipler won a Pulitzer for Arab and Jew in 1987.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the vague chapter called “The Middle East” (p 154).
Kingsolver, Barbara. The Lacuna. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2009.
Kingsolver, Barbara. The Lacuna. Read by Barbara Kingsolver. New York: Recorded Books, 2009.
This was an anniversary gift from my beloved Kisa when it was first published. Kingsolver is my favorite author so I have been savoring it like fine wine.
Reason read: Two reasons. As I mentioned before, Kingsolver is my favorite author and March is the best time to go to Mexico. Or so they say…
Mexico, 1929. In the beginning American-born Harrison Shepard is a simple young boy just barely holding onto his Mexican mother’s apron strings as she drags him through one failed relationship to another in her never-ending quest for all-adoring lover. He is without friends or proper parenting. His closest companions are housekeepers and servant boys.
As Harrison matures he he finds work as a plaster-mixer/cook in artist Diego Rivera & Frida Kahlo’s home. He befriends political figures like Lev Trotsky. He is now in a world where packing a machine gun along with food and a blanket for a picnic is nothing out of the ordinary. He writes everything down. From there, this coming of age tale turns political. America, 1941. Harrison finds his way to Asheville, North Carolina and goes on to be a successful author. Polio and Communism are the growing paranoias of the times. Harrison’s personality, unchanged since childhood, and his involvement with Rivera and Trotsky put him on a dangerous path of presumption and suspicion.
This is a tale of loyalty and love; a portrait of a quiet, unassuming man just trying to make it in the world.
Read it. Read it. Read it!
I could quote entire sections of The Lacuna but I will limit myself to just a few (while trying not to go overboard): “The ocean is the last dream in the morning before the noise from the street comes in” (p 49), “Yesterday’s heroes fall beneath the shoes of the city” (p 68), “You seemed to be excavating your soul to locate some kindness” (p 184), “Even morality is a business of supply and demand” (p 396), and – last one – “Years do not erase bereavement” (p 506).
Author fact:Kingsolver reads her own book. This is a special treat because the author knows her own story. She knows what emotion to put into a character’s mouth as the words come out. Later next month I’ll be listening to Spurlock read his own book, Don’t Eat This Book. Should be interesting.
Book Audio trivia: In addition to Kingsolver reading Lacuna there is music before each part of the book. I especially liked the instrumental before Part IV.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter “Postcards from Mexico” (p 186).