Following February

What to say about this month? It was epic in a myriad of ways. First and foremost, I turned half a century old. I don’t mind the number; I am not bothered by the age. Never the less, friends and family gathered for a party to remember. And. And! And, I re-upped my commitment to running. It’s been slow but I have to admit something here – my breathing has been effed up. I have a scheduled appointment for early March so…I continue to read.

Here are the books:

Fiction:

  • Take This Man by Frederick Busch. (EB & print)
  • Good Night Willie Lee, I’ll See You in the Morning by Alice Walker. (EB)
  • Crossers by Philip Caputo. (EB and print)
  • Alone in the Crowd by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza. (EB and print)

Nonfiction:

  • Tragic Honesty by Blake Bailey. (print only)
  • Beak of the Finch by Jonathan Weiner. (AB, EB and print)

Series Continuations:

  • A Monstrous Regiment of Women by Laurie R. King. (EB and print)
  • Caprice and Rondo by Dorothy Dunnett. (print)
  • Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov. (EB)
  • A Fine and Bitter Snow by Dana Stabenow. (EB and print)

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • How to be a Patient by Sana Goldberg.
  • Corregidora by Gayl Jones (reread).

For fun:

  • Exploring the Southwest by Tammy Gagne.
  • Calypso by David Sedaris (started).
  • Sharp by Michelle Dean (continuing)
  • Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver (continuing)

Beak of the Finch

Weiner, Jonathan. The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time. Read by John McDonough. Prince Frederick, MD: Recorded Books, 2017.

Weiner, Jonathan. The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994.

Reason read: February is Feed the Birds Month.

Islands are the perfect laboratory for studying a species. In the case of the Galapagos archipelago, the islands are isolated like a fortress; no one can easily arrive or depart. Princeton University biologists Peter and Rosemary Grant, along with their daughters, take a small group of scientists to help them investigate Darwin’s finches. By the beak of the finch they are able to track an evolutionary journey through time. Beak of the Finch is an extraordinary account of survival of the fittest as it happened then; as it is happening right now. Our world is constantly evolving and adapting and we aren’t done yet.
Word to the wise – listen to this on audio. John McDonough does a fantastic job. Weiner’s writing may be approachable science, but McDonough’s reading makes it all the more enjoyable.
As an aside, I love books I like to describe as “rabbit holes.” They take me to knowledge I never would have learned otherwise. I think people describe the internet that way sometimes. In this case, I learned that when a finch is ready to mate its beak turns black. Who knew? Also, at one point Weiner was describing the weather and mentioned El Nino which in turn made me wonder about the name El Nino. I had never really thought about its origin before. Turns out, El Nino means “the child” in Spanish and the storms are named as such because they tended to arrive around Christmastime.

Author fact: Weiner also wrote Time, Love, Memory: a Great Biologist and His Quest for the Origin of Behavior (which I have already read) and His Brother’s Keeper: a Story from the Edge of Medicine, also on my Challenge list.

Book trivia: Beak of the Finch won a Pulitzer. Another piece of trivia is that Beak of the Finch is full of great illustrations like the one of the iguana on page 104.

Nancy said: In Book Lust Pearl describes the plot to Beak of the Finch. In More Book Lust she has a whole chapter (of only three books) dedicated to Weiner and says specifically of Beak of the Finch, “about evolutionary biology as played out on an island in the Galapagos” (More Book Lust p 233). Finally, in Book Lust To Go Pearl says Beak of the Finch is “wonderfully written, extremely readable, and a superb example of the best kind of popular science writing” (Book Lust To Go p 88).

BookLust Twist: Nancy loves this book. It is indexed in all three Lust books: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Bird Brains” (p 39), in More Book Lust in the chapter called “Jonathan Weiner: Too Good to Miss” (p 233) and again in Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Galloping Through the Galapagos” (p 88).


February Falling Behind

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:

Fiction: 

  • 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.

Nonfiction:

  • 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.

Series Continuations:

  • 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).

For Fun:

  • Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver.


Month for Women

I definitely didn’t do this on purpose because I never structure my reading this way, but January turned out to be a month of mostly woman authors (notated with a ‘w’). I am including the books I started in January but have not finished. Because they are not Challenge books they do not need to be finished in the same month. And. And! And, I have started running again. After a six month hiatus, I think I am back! Sort of.

Fiction:

  • A Cold-Blooded Business by Dana Stabenow (w & EB)
  • The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King (w & AB)
  • Firewatch by Connie Willis (w & EB)
  • The Good Times are Killing Me by Lynda Barry (w)
  • Lamb in Love by Carrie Brown (w & EB)
  • Foundation by Isaac Asimov (AB)
  • Take This Man by Frederick Busch
  • ADDED: The Renunciation by Edgardo Rodriguez Julia

Nonfiction:

  • Daisy Bates in the Desert by Julia Blackburn (w)
  • The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior edited by Chris Elphick, John Dunning & David Allen Sibley
  • The Turk by Tom Standage
  • ADDED: Freedom in Meditation by Patricia Carrington (w)

Series continuations:

  • Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman
  • To Lie with Lions by Dorothy Dunnett (w)

Early Review Program for LibraryThing:

  • Well-Read Black Girl by Glory Edim (w)
  • How to be a Patient by Sana Goldberg (w) – not finished yet

For Fun:

  • Sharp by Michelle Dean (w) – not finished yet
  • Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver (w) – not finished yet

January Come Lately

I try not to think about white rabbits running around with time pieces muttering about being late. Whenever I do I am reminded this is being written three days behind schedule. Nevertheless, here are the books:

Fiction:

  • Foundation by Isaac Asimov – in honor of Asimov’s birth month.
  • Lamb in Love by Carrie Brown – this is a stretch…All Creatures Great and Small first aired as a television show in January and there is a creature in the title.
  • The Good Times are Killing Me by Lynda Barry – in honor of Barry’s birth month.
  • A Cold Blooded Business by Dana Stabenow – in honor of Alaska becoming a state in January.

Nonfiction:

  • Daisy Bates in the Desert by Julia Blackburn – in honor of Australia’s National Day on January 26th.
  • The Turk by Tom Standage in honor of Wolfgang Von Klempelen’s birth month.
  • Freedom in Meditation by Patricia Carrington – in honor of January being National Yoga month.
  • Sibley’s Guide to Bird Life and Behavior by David Allen Sibley – in honor of Adopt a Bird Month. I read that somewhere…

Series continuations:

  • To Lie with Lions by Dorothy Dunnett – to continue the series started in August in honor of Dunnett’s birth month.
  • Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman – to continue the series started in November in honor of National Writing Month (Fantasy).

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • Well-Read Black Girl by Glory Edim – I know what you are thinking. I am neither black nor a girl. I am a middle-aged white woman who barely remembers being a girl. I requested this book because I work in an extremely diverse environment and let’s face it, I want to be known as well-read, regardless of color.

For fun:

  • Sharp by Michelle Dean – my sister gave this to me as a Christmas gift. I wonder if she is trying to tell me something.

“Birdland”

Knight, Michael. “Birdland.” Goodnight, Nobody. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2003.

Raymond, the protagonist of “Birdland,” knows how to capitalize on the African parrots that migrant every fall to his tiny town of Elbow, Alabama. The parrots have brought Ludmilla Haggarsdottir (aka The Blond), an ornithologist from New Hampshire. Having nowhere to stay, The Blond rents a room with Raymond and becomes his girlfriend. His second source of income is wood carvings of the parrots for all the tourists who “flock” to Elbow (pun totally intended). Elbow in and of itself is an interesting little community of less than 12 souls, all fixated on the game of college football. I fell in love with Raymond and his band of misfit neighbors. They live the simple life without telephones or tvs. The Blond is the most colorful thing he’s seen since the arrival of the parrots.

Quotes I loved, “The African parrot can live up to eighty years…and often mates for life, though our local birds have apparently adopted a more swinging sexual culture due to an instinctive understanding of the rigors of perpetuation in a non-indigenous environment” (p 5) and “I want to tell her that the past is not only for forgetting” (p 14).

Reason read: June is national short story month. Are you tired of me saying that?

Author fact: In 2003 Knight taught at the University of Tennessee. The sad thing is, when you do a Google search for “Michael Knight” the first thing that pops up is the television show “Knight Rider.”

Book trivia: I’m going to sound like a broken record saying this but most of Knight’s short stories appeared in magazines (like Playboy) before they were published as a collection.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the very simple chapter called “Parrots” (p 104).


Going Wild

Winkler, Robert. Going Wild: Adventures With Birds in the Suburban Wilderness. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic, 2003.

Winkler is an exceptional writer especially when it comes to the art and science of birdwatching. What makes his book, Going Wild, so interesting is that each chapter is independent of another. As he puts it, “readers can dip into chapters as they please with little sacrifice of coherence” (p x). I preferred to read the whole book straight through as a story, but I could see what Winkler meant. Another pleasure of Winkler’s writing is when you read his words you can actually feel him smiling, warming up to his subject and actually happy to be going on and on about his birding life. There is real humor in his tone.

The other element I enjoyed was the locality of most of his essays. I live near, and have visited nearly all of the locations Winkler mentions.

Quotes I enjoyed, “Cold profound enough to freeze the hair in your nostrils is something to experience” (p 19).
As an aside, I would have thought Winkler’s book would include photographs or illustrations of some sort. I was disappointed when it didn’t.

Reason read: October is a great time to watch birds, especially off the coast of Maine. The migration is underway Sept-Oct.

Author fact: Robert Winkler has been a National Geographic corespondent in additional to being a journalist published in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and USA Today.

Book trivia: Winkler mentions many different places he has observed birds. His self proclaimed favorite is Upper Paugusset State Forest in Newtown, Connecticut. I think I just might have to check that out.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Nature Writing” (p 174).

Edited to add: there are two more comments I need to make about this book. First, Winkler and the movies. I am guilty of pointing out flaws in movies. I love it when I can spot an inconsistency so I have to say my favorite chapter was when Winkler pointed out the “bird” errors in different movies, especially when it comes to their songs. And speaking of bird songs – I will listen closer for the Wood Thrush since Winkler praised it so highly.