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.


Time, Love, Memory

Weiner, Jonathan. Time, Love, Memory: a Great Biologist and His Quest for the Origins of Behavior. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000.

time, Love, Memory is Seymour Benzer’s story. While Charles Darwin was obsessed with finding the origins of species, Benzer was obsessed with figuring out the origins of behavior. He dedicated his research to finding out the riddle of both animal and human behavior. He wanted to dig deeper into the concepts of nature and nurture, knowing that life was a balance of both. The the diea of reading a book about genes, fruit flies and DNA sounds boring, don’t worry. Weiner’s style of writing adds a warm and humorous texture to the otherwise scientific plot.

Quotes I liked, “In the universe above and around us, physics opened new views of space and time; in the universe below and inside us, biology opened first glimpses of the foundation stones of experience: time, love, and memory” (p 6) and “While the rest of the congregation chanted and his father looked away, Seymour read Stern and Gerlach’s The Principles of Atomic Physics (p 36).”

Reason read: Seymour Benzer passed away in the month of November. This is read in his honor.

Author fact: Weiner is better known for his book, The Beak of the Finch. In fact, acclaim for Beak is on the back of Time, Love, Memory which makes me think Time, Love, Memory isn’t as good and shouldn’t be bothered with. I think that whenever I see praise for a book different from the one I am reading.

Book trivia: Time, Love, Memory has both illustrations and photographs scattered throughout the text. This is the way I prefer “artwork” to be showcased.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Jonathan Weiner: Too Good To Miss” (p 233).