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.
Villiers, Alan. Joey Goes to Sea. Mystic, CT: Mystic Seaport, 2014.
Reason read: a gift from my aunt Jennifer and because I love cats.
This is such a cute story and the fact that is is based on true events makes it even more special. Joey is a little ginger kitten who went to sea aboard the Joseph Conrad with author Alan Villiers. According to Villiers, the events in the story are real. Joey caught flying fish, fought with a bird, and really did fall overboard!
The illustrations are wonderful, too.
de Waal, Frans. The Ape and the Sushi Master: Cultural Reflections of a Primatologist. New York: Basic Books, 2001.
Reason read: October is gorilla month.
Frans de Waal believes in the possibility that animals have culture. In the beginning of his book he spends some time talking about how we, as humans, apply human emotion to animals. He uses the example of Binti Jua, the ape at the Chicago zoo who “saved” and protected the little boy back in 1996. He couldn’t comment on the incident at the Cincinnati zoo when Harambe was shot dead for fear of purposefully drowning a child. What would he have said about that? As an aside, I admit I am guilty of applying emotion to animal behavior. When my cat Cassidy went missing I swore her “brother” missed her. Do I know that for fact? No. But, he did act strangely for the duration of her absence so I would like to think he did.
But, back to the point. Do animals have cultural instinct that they follow? Do they learn by copying others? Is habit passed down from one generation to another?
My only pet peeve? I felt as if part of The Ape and the Sushi Master was a plug for Bonobo: the Forgotten Ape, another book written by de Waal. He spent a great deal of time in Ape/Sushi referring back to the sexuality of bonobos discussed in Bonobo. As they say, sex sells so I have to wonder how many people looked up this other book after reading Ape.
Lines to grab my attention: “As someone who occasionally forgets where he has parked an item as large and as significant as his car, I am impressed by these peanut-brained birds” (p 58).
Author fact: At the time of publication, Frans de Waal was a professor at Emory University.
Book trivia: The Ape and the Sushi Master has great illustrations as well as photographs.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Our Primates, Ourselves” (p ). As an aside, I think Pearl took the chapter title, “Our Primates, Ourselves” straight from a Ape and the Sushi Master quote. Early on de Waal says his book is “about how we see animals, how we see ourselves, and the nature of culture” (p 6).
If you have been keeping up with me, myself and moi then you know we love Halloween. Odd. Odd because we can’t watch Walking Dead or go to Fright Fest without peeing our pants. What I love about Halloween is the potential for witchcraft, darkness & something intangibly spooky, if that makes sense. I love mysteries and there is no greater mystery than death. Right? Jack-o-Laterns glowing on doorsteps. Ominous crows watching silently from the trees. Candlelight shadows wavering on the wall. Cemeteries shrouded in the fog…I love it all.
In other news, I bailed for the first time ever on a half marathon but made it home-home to put up a ceiling for my mother. And speaking of Monhegan, we almost got caught in Hurricane Matthew! Somehow we managed to get out just in time.
Having said all that, unrelatedly here are the books:
- The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright – to continue the series started last month in honor of Enright’s birth month. Took me two days to read.
- Merry Misogynist by Colin Cotterill – to continue the series started last May in honor of Rocket Day. Took me two days to read.
- Texaco by Patrick Chamoiseau – in honor of magical realism month. Took me the entire month and I still didn’t finish it.
- A Blessing on the Moon by Joseph Skibell – an audio book in honor of Halloween (this was my favorite story).
- Drink to Yesterday by Manning Coles – in honor of Octoberfest in Germany. Another really short book.
- The Ape and the Sushi Master by Frans de Waal – in honor of Gorilla month being in October.
- The Aeneid by Virgil – in honor of Poetry month (celebrated in Great Britain).
- Hush by Jacqueline Woodson – an audio book in honor of kids. This was only three discs long.
- The Code of the Extraordinary Mind by Vishen Lakhiani because I saw it in a running magazine.
For LibraryThing: nada
October is…another half marathon. Maybe another trip to Monhegan (not sure yet thanks to it being hurricane season) but what I’m sure about is definitely reading more, more, more books!
- Texaco by Patrick Chamoiseau – in honor of magical realism month
- The Merry Misogynist by Colin Cotterill – to continue the series started in May in honor of Laos Rocket Day
- A Blessing on the Moon by Joseph Skibell (AB) – in honor of Halloween
- Toast to Tomorrow by Manning Coles – in honor of October being the best time to visit Germany. Note: just found out this is the second Tommy Hambledon book in the series so you will probably see A Drink to Yesterday before A Toast to Tomorrow.
- Ape and the Sushi Master by Frans de Waal – in honor of October being Gorilla Month
- The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright – to “continue” the series started in September in honor of Enright’s birth month (yes, another series read slightly out of order).
- The Code of the Extraordinary Mind by Vishen Lakhiani. Don’t ask.
If there is time I would like to add Aeneid by Virgil in honor of Great Britain’s poetry month.
Arthur, Elizabeth. Binding Spell. New York: Doubleday, 1988.
Binding Spell is another one of those stories where you feel like you have been lifted out of your little life and plopped down in the middle of someone else’s. A lot of someone elses, really. Felicity, Indiana is a community full of interesting characters and Binding Spell has the occasional long rambling commentary on religion and the nuclear arms threat, especially when the Russians come to town. Let me back up. Meet the community of Felicity: Ryland Guthrie is a hypochondriac furniture salesman. His brother Peale has been the county sheriff for all of five months. Ryland was married to April (divorced five years) and they have a son, Clayton. Peale married Amanda but sometimes forgets she’s his wife. Bailey and Howell Bourne are brother and sister. They lost their parents in a car accident. Bailey is twenty years old and a witch in training and Howell is married to Charlene. Ada Esterhaczy is Hungarian and a self proclaimed witch. Maggie, a counselor at Powell College, is her granddaughter. She also dabbles in witchcraft. Billy Bob Watson is the maintenance man at Powell. He likes to try to run over students with his tractor. Mitch Ketchum is a down and out desperate farmer in danger of losing his farm. Murrary Anderson artificially inseminates horses and has just been dumped by his girlfriend, Rosie. Dr. Richard Minot is a professor at Howell and has the hots for Maggie. Ryland starts dating Maggie. Peale has a thing for Bailey. Ada just wants her dog to mate with Ryland’s so that she can breed puppies. Then there are is the weather. Did you get all of that? Now enter the two Russians, come to visit Powell College. Howell, Billy Bob and Mitch hatch a plan to kidnap the Russians in order to save their farms. Thinking Ada will hate the Russians due to her Hungarian heritage they bring the captives to her farm. Only Ada is too busy cooking up love potions to bind certain couples (human and animal)…and that’s when things go a little crazy.
Lines I liked, “She was less trouble than her pet cat” (p 39) and “Now, as the pain – which might, admittedly, have been caused by that ice water he had drunk down so rapidly, with some ice shards inadvertently included – poked him tenderly in the side, he could not decide whether it was pancreatic cancer or Maggie’s being late” (p 217).
Reason read: April is National Dog Month
Author fact: Arthur wrote a memoir, Island Sojourn that is not on my list.
Book trivia: Binding Spell is Arthur’s third novel but the only one I’m reading for the Challenge.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Great Dogs in Fiction” (p 105). Chance is my favorite of the dogs.
Virga, Vint. The Soul of All Living Creatures: What Animals Can Teach Us About Being Human. New York: Crown, 2013.
Don’t think of The Soul of All Living Creatures as something with a plot. It doesn’t have a start, middle or end. Instead, think of it as a series of essays, each with its own theme. Unfortunately, because there was never that “what happens next?” element, I found it easy to put Soul of All Living Creatures down from time to time and not pick it back up for weeks. The premise of Virga’s book is simple. He chooses a behavior or an attitude and applies it to an experience he has had with an animal in his care as a veterinary behaviorist. He then takes that same trait and applies it to the human element, tying the animal world with human thinking. His theory is, by making the animal-human connection, our lives will be enriched.
Reason read: I am always suspicious when I review a book that has been published more than a year earlier. It’s not an “early” review when someone reviewed it 15 months earlier and the book has even won awards. Nevertheless, here am I reviewing Soul of All Living Creatures for LibraryThing.
Author fact: Virga has his own website here.
Book trivia: There should be photographs. That would be cool.