The entire world has changed seemingly overnight. No, that’s not true. COVID-19 had been brewing and building for months and months. Festering and threatening overseas. We knew it would come our American way, and yet. Yet! Here we are. I have been laid off from my job; have been quarantined for 40 plus days; have not seen the inside of a store of any kind; have not driven a car or talked face to face with another human being besides my Kisa. For over a month, I have been separated by screens and paranoia. I couldn’t even say goodbye to one of my closest friends for fear of contamination before he stole across borders towards a new home. Words like FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, Hangout, and Live Stream rule my daily existence. My insanity has been kept in check by these words, walking 8-9 miles a day, writing letters, and finishing chores I always said I would get to but never did (sewing ripped clothes, making curtains, hanging art, you name it). The one activity I haven’t done much of is…read.
Nothing bothers me more than someone saying, “think of all the time you have to read!” They mean well but they just don’t know. When I was a kid I spent a lot of time reading. When I could get away with it, my nose was constantly in a book. In the dead of winter, when the summer tides of friends had gone out, I was left with my sister and a handful of kids close in age. Close, but not quite. Dead low tide was a boy one year older. A girl three years younger. A boy two years older. A boy four years younger. No one exactly shared my birth year. I found myself turning to friends within the pages of books. Lots and lots of books. Lots and lots of friends. My dad was not a fan of these relationships. He viewed fiction as leisure or worse, laziness. “Get outside! Get some fresh air!” was his constant bark from early October through May. His bark was so biting I grew up fearing fiction was a form of loafing; something to never to be caught doing in broad daylight. I remember smuggling Nancy Drew under my shirt when I went to the school bathroom; ducking under covers with a flashlight to join Bilbo on his great adventure; climbing trees with Stephen King clenched in my teeth. Hiding to hang out with a paperback became normal.
In 2006 when I started the BookLust Challenge, I thought I had slayed the old insecurities. I thought I could spend time with a book without guilt. For fourteen years I held onto this belief as a private gospel…until I got laid off and I couldn’t sit on the couch with a book. All the old feelings of leisure, loafing, laziness came flooding back. Guilt. I realized I only read when I was killing time, waiting for something else. Constructive book devouring? I don’t know. For years, I could juggle reading 5-6 books at a time and finish 10 in a month. But! That was when I was on hold with a vendor, bored in the boardroom, waiting in line at the grocery store, fighting nerves in the doctor’s office, sitting as a passenger on long car/train/plane/boat rides. Reading kept me from waiting for anything. Take all the time you need while I finish this chapter…
I have been out of work for one month, collecting unemployment equal to my take-home pay and yet I’ve only managed to finish two books. I guess I could try to tell myself I am waiting to go back to work, but that’s too abstract for my too literal mind. Mayday! Mayday, I can’t read.
I always said I will die before I officially finish the reading Challenge. Now I know it to be true.
When I look back at August my first thought is what the hell happened? The month went by way too fast. Could the fact that I saw the Grateful Dead, Natalie Merchant (4xs), Trey Anastasio, Sirsy, and Aerosmith all in the same month have anything to do with that? Probably. It was a big month for traveling (Vermont, Connecticut, NYC) and for being alone while Kisa was in Charlotte, Roanoke, Erie, Chicago, Indianapolis, and Colorado. And. And, And! I got some running done! The treadmill was broken for twenty days but in the last eleven days I eked out 12.2 miles. Meh. It’s something. Speaking of something, here are the books:
- African Queen by C.S. Forester
- Antonia Saw the Oryx First by Maria Thomas
- Shine On, Bright and Dangerous Object by Laurie Colwin
- Strong Motion by Jonathan Frazen
- Beauty by Robin McKinley
- Bronx Masquerade by Nikki Grimes
- American Chica by Marie Arana
- Florence Nightingale by Mark Bostridge
- Secret Life of Lobsters by Trevor Corson
- Die Trying by Lee Child
- Foundation’s Edge by Isaac Asimov
Early Review cleanup:
- Filling in the Pieces by Isaak Sturm
- Open Water by Mikael Rosen
Rosen, Mikael. Open Water: the History and Technique of Swimming. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2019.
Reason read: part of the Early review program for LibraryThing.
Open Water is everything and anything you need to know about the sport of swimming; or dare I say the art of swimming; the obsession of swimming? Rosen’s book is practically an encyclopedia of swimming facts as well as biography of famous swimmers and a how-to for improving your own technique in the water. It’s a well laid out, beautiful to look at book complete with maps, photographs and more. Fascinating.
As an aside, I have heard many, many stories about how my maternal grandmother used to be a beautiful swimmer. Just recently my aunt reminisced about watching her mother cut through the water with such powerful grace it brought tears to her eyes. I would have liked to have seen that. My maternal died of cancer long before I was born when my own mother was thirteen.
Confessional: Until recently I hoarded my early review books knowing I couldn’t sell them or really donate them anywhere. I tried giving some away but that wasn’t really successful either, so in my basement they languish (still). Open Water will be my first and only gift to Natalie Merchant. She is an avid swimmer and I feel she might, just might, find it interesting. What else am I going to do with it?
Postscript to the confessional: I gave the book to her tour manager. I will probably never know if she liked it.
So, by the end of November I was a blathering mess, wasn’t I? I know I was. Mea culpa. Three xrays, five vials of blood taken, one CT scan, and two therapy sessions later, here are the updates. The protruding ribs are being blamed on chiropractic appointments even though I felt the rib cage move before I started see Dr. Jim. The nerve pain is being controlled by medication. The spot on the lung and possibly tumor…no results as of today. White blood cell count still elevated. Possibility of cancer…still a possibility.
But. But! But, enough of all that. Here are the books: I have a week off at the end of the month so I am anticipating it will be a good reading month. Here are the books planned:
- Any Old Iron by Anthony Burgess (EB) – in memory of the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7th.
- The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin – in memory of Le Guin passing in 2018.
- Four Spirits by Sena Jeter Naslund – to honor Alabama becoming a state in December.
- The Female Eunuch by Germain Greer – to honor women’s suffrage law.
- Cry of the Kalahari by Mark and Delia Owens (EB) – to honor the wedding anniversary of Mark and Delia.
- Lost Moon by Jim Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger – in honor of the moon landing.
- Stet: an Editor’s Life by Diana Athill (EB) – in honor of Athill being born in December.
- The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman (AB) – to continue the series His Dark Materials, started in November in honor of National Writing Month.
- The Unicorn Hunt by Dorothy Dunnett (EB) – to continue the series Niccolo House, started in August in honor of Dunnett’s birth month.
Early Review for LibraryThing:
- Squelched by Terry Beard.
If there is time:
- Black Tents of Arabia by Carl Raswan – in honor of Lawrence of Arabia.
- This Blinding Absence of Light by Tahar Ben Jelloun – in honor of Jelloun’s birth month.
What do you do when the most inappropriate sentiment unexpectedly comes out of someone’s mouth? A confession that should never have left the lips of the confessor? Instead of thinking of the actions I should take I chose to take none. I do nothing. Distance makes it easy to ignore and deny. When I can’t avoid I read. Here are the books started for November:
- Foolscap, or, the Stages of Love by Michael Malone – Malone was born in the month of November; reading in his honor.
- Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko – in honor of November being Native American Heritage month.
- The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman – November is National Writing month. Choosing fantasy for this round.
- Patience and Sarah by Isabel Miller – Routsong’s birth month was in November. Reading in her honor.
- Martin Dressler by Steven Millhauser – reading in honor of Millhauser’s birth place, New York City.
- Expecting Adam: a True Story of Birth, Rebirth, and Everyday Magic by Martha Beck – in honor of my mother’s birth month.
- The Caliph’s House by Tahir Shah – in honor of Morocco’s independence was gained in November.
- Scales of Gold by Dorothy Dunnett – to continue the series started in honor of Dunnett’s birth month in August.
Fun: nothing decided yet.
Early Review: I have been chosen to receive an early review but I will refrain from naming it in case it doesn’t arrive.
I have been in physical therapy for my hip for more than a month now and here’s the sad, sad thing. I don’t feel much different. I still have trouble sleeping a night (last night I woke up every two hours) and runs haven’t been that much easier. I managed over sixty miles for the month and finally finished the dreaded half (the one I have been babbling about for months now. Yeah, that one). I definitely made more time for the books. Here is the ginormous list:
- Aristotle Detective by Margaret Anne Doody (finished in a week).
- All Hallows’ Eve by Charles Williams.
- Discarded Duke by Nancy Butler (finished in a week).
- Beautiful Children by Charles Bock (AB / print). Word to the wise, don’t do it!
- Breakfast on Pluto by Patrick McCabe
- Whatever You Do, Don’t Run by Peter Allison (AB / print; finished in less than a week).
- Sense of the World by Jason Roberts (AB / print).
- I Will Bear Witness: a Diary of the Nazi Years (1933-1941) by Victor Klemperer ~ in honor of Mr. Klemperer’s birth month.
- In the Valley of Mist by Justine Hardy
- We are Betrayed by Vardis Fisher.
- Amazing Mrs. Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman ( finished in four days).
- Henry James: the Treacherous Years by Leon Edel (Can you believe I actually finished this within the same month?).
Early Review for LibraryThing:
- Riot Days by Maria Alyokhina (read in four days).
I started this book challenge thing in November of 2006. Since then I have read over 1,000 books, thanks to Nancy Pearl’s Book Lust series. I’ve had fun. I’ve learned a lot. But, it’s time for a change. No, I’m not quitting the challenge…just changing some things up a little. All things have a natural progression. If you were to look at my first reviews in 2006 I didn’t mention an author fact or any book trivia. In a lot of reviews I didn’t even find a favorite line to quote as proof I read the book. Those elements of the review evolved slowly over time. Recently, I found two more details that need to change and, unlike the previous changes, these come with an announcement instead of a slow introduction.
The first is simple. If Pearl says something specific about a book or author I want to note it, so I’m starting a “Nancy said” sentence right after book trivia. If she didn’t say anything other than to list the title, oh well. I think this addition to the review is a natural one, since I have been mentioning what Nancy said about some titles. Case in point: Pearl liked Halberstam’s The Fifties and I made note of that.
The second change is very dramatic (to me in my own little world anyway). This change literally throws all my comparison stats out the window. I am moving the anniversary to a calendar year. For ten years now I have counted the books read between December 1st and November 30th as a complete year. It’s too complicated that way for reasons I can’t get into right now. Let’s just say a January 1st to December 31 cycle will work best. Let the (new) games begin!