I was in the middle of a lot of books in September so I didn’t want to do a book report at that time. However, I’ve now finished a bunch of books and am in the middle of more! Before I launch into that I’m going to launch into a rave about how much I now enjoy listening to audiobooks because I figured out how to speed them up! I have always been super bored by audiobooks, finding only a few here and there that caught my attention well enough to listen through. Recently, though, I started seeing people talk about speeding audiobooks up because many readers are speed readers (like myself) and have a difficult time pacing through an audiobook, which is typically read at a slower pace.
I had been listening to audiobooks through Hoopla Digital because there is no waiting period for books unlike on Overdrive. But, I had been listening through the computer and not my phone because my phone is a hand-me-down iPhone 4 and many apps, including Hoopla’s, aren’t compatible with that iOS version. Unfortunately their listening platform on a computer isn’t the same as for a device, there is not option to speed up the listening on the computer. Then I remembered Chris had bought another Kindle Fire tablet back in the summer during Amazon’s Prime Day sale and so I fired that thing up and saw I could download the Hoopla app from amazon on that. Voila! I could speed read! Life, changed!
Read Voyager by Diana Gabaldon: As soon as season 2 of Outlander ended I was on such a high I had to launch straight into a re-read of the third book. This was my third or fourth reread of this book and I had forgotten quite a bit of what went on in the story. I read it fairly quickly for an Outlander book and then launched right into the fourth book which I got about a third of of the way through and put on hold. I’m so excited for the upcoming season of the show but can’t fathom, again, how they are going to cut the book down to 12 episodes.
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins: This book has been talked about by so many people for well over a year but I never got around to putting it on my to-read list until this spring when I got in the very long line on Overdrive. My time came up at the beginning of October and I dropped everything else I was reading to devour this book in three days. Y’all, I haven’t read a book that fast in a long time. It was captivating, intriguing, and I couldn’t pinpoint ‘Who done it’ until quite a ways through, but damnnnnn. Good book. I definitely recommend this one! That said, in my head I never saw an Emily Blunt character in my head for the main character, it was always a mishmash of Amy Schumer and Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones. Eh, I can’t wait to see the movie when it comes to RedBox!
The Backyard Parables by Margaret Roach: This is one I listened to as a sped-up audiobook which turned out perfect because the author read the book. While I love Margaret on her podcast and through her website, I don’t have a lot of good things to say about her reading a book—there wasn’t a lot of change in tone or enthusiasm. I can imagine this is difficult for people who aren’t natural speakers and I imagine I would suck at it, too. But speeding it up made it a lot more tolerable and ideally this would have probably been a better book to read in paper. However, I did enjoy the book as it chronicled her garden over the year, talking about the ups and downs of the garden.
The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron: The term Highly Sensitive Person has become more mainstream in the last five to six years, much like the use of introvert—we introverts and HSPs are fighting back!—and so this book has been on my radar for quite some time. I checked out the digital version (after semi-long wait). Curious if you are an HSP? You can take a self quiz here. For the book, I mostly skimmed it. It had a lot of information I already knew and frankly, wasn’t all that helpful. I think if you are just coming into some self awareness on knowing what an HSP is this might help you out quite a bit. There is also a book for highly sensitive children which might be good for parents whose children may be HSPs. As I read some reviews on Goodreads about the book I found myself agreeing: the term highly sensitive is a bit negative—to me it conjures up the thoughts of people clutching Kleenex and crying—but it is more than that, and of course HSPs are likely to be easy criers. I think what I wanted to see was a how to deal with the non-HSPs, both in how to approach people to back off when telling us we’re too sensitive but also have to effectively build up that wall for the everyday and work on the sensitivity a bit to get through life, kind of like introverts having to pretend to be extroverts from time to time when need-be.
Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay: I have followed Roxane on Twitter for awhile now and kept seeing this book popping up here and there over the internet. This is another audiobook listen, one that was much better sped up as well. It earned 4/5 stars for me only because of the Sweet Valley Twins rants at the beginning of the book. I was not a Sweet Valley reader as a kid so I was mostly bored by this discussion. However, the rest of the book was excellent. The premise of the book is that she is a ‘bad feminist’ in that in many aspects she is a girly-girl—she likes pink, she wants kids, she isn’t interested in doing the fixer-upper or bug killing type chores—things that maybe if you want to say you are a feminist, or maybe culturally, these are things women should or shouldn’t be if they want to call themselves a feminist. You can’t like pink and be a feminist. You should want to know how to change a tire if you want to be a feminist. You shouldn’t call a man to squish a bug. Etcetera, etcetera. All of these supposed biases about who a feminist should or shouldn’t be are exactly the problems feminists are facing from the culture. Preferring pink and wanting a man to squish a bug doesn’t preclude you from being a feminist. (FYI: The notion of pink being a ‘girl’ color is a relatively new idea). I have so many thoughts regarding feminism and have thought even harder about it during this election cycle as well as after having Forest. I read something else recently about how we’ve done so much to help girls and women realize their equality but we’ve kind of forgotten to work on how to teach boys about equality—and I mean this from the unconscious bias way. We may easily say girls can do what boys can do but we easily fall into the trap of limiting boys about so-called girl things, ie: that’s a girl toy or girl book, girl color, etc. No, it’s just a toy, a book, a color.
Anyway, the book was well worth the read; she touches not only on feminism but racism and then also on the differences in feminism for white women and people of color. Some of this I hadn’t thought much about until the last few years but my eyes are definitely opened.
“I would rather be a bad feminist than no feminist at all.” -Roxane Gay
Blue Dahlia by Nora Roberts: I was in the middle of this one when The Girl on the Train came up and while I was sailing along with it the um, much better writing and storyline of TGotT kind of threw me when I went back to this book.
Focus for the rest of the year
I think my goal for the rest of the year, other than digital reading and listening, is to finish up books I have left hanging around, or those I ordered but haven’t gotten around to. Those would be:
I haven’t read a whole lot this summer. Evenings until recently were spent outside in the garden and I kind of lost interest in reading on my phone while Forest fell asleep at night in favor of scrolling social media. Now that it is pretty much dark by the time Forest falls asleep and I escape his room around 8-8:15 every night I have evening time to read or craft. I’m also trying to make a point to read again on my phone instead of endless scrolling. I don’t have a huge update but here’s what I can brief you on. The last update was for May.
Completed Olive Kitteredge by Elizabeth Strout: When I was home in June for my parent’s 40th anniversary my mom, SIL Stephanie, and I went over to this thrift store where everything is $1 and it benefits, I think, a Leukemia foundation. I’m always drawn to the books and I found a couple and brought them home, this one was included. It was a Pulitizer Prize novel and unlike All The Light We Cannot See it appeared much more readable to me. Overall the novel is written very well. It’s an every day life, minute stories kind of book. Little glimpses into the life of people in a small town in Maine, primarily focusing on Olive and her family and friends but also on acquaintances. The individual stories may or may not have her involved in the plot. It was a good but slow read and I found myself definitely disliking Olive herself. She grew more tolerable as she aged but she was not a nice person overall. The small stories about the other townspeople were interesting and it would be as if you picked out anyone in any town and wrote about whatever struggles or triumphs they were having. That was the most interesting aspect of it all. It’s not a book I want to keep so I listed it on Bookmooch but it hasn’t been mooched yet, so if you think this book is something you’d want to read I’m up for sending it to you via media mail in the US. Let me know!
The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer:
I first mentioned this book back in March when I had to put it on hold because my audio loan ended before I could finish. Well it took until this week for my turn to come up again and when I saw I had only less than two hours left to listen I kicked myself for not staying up top of listening back in March! I still hold by chosing to listen to this versus reading it because Amanda is a fantastic narrator and there’s all sorts of interesting music interspersed. I would like to check out the book sometime just to take in the words that way. I loved this book! I definitely had some disconnect between the two listening sessions, having to remember where I’d left off and what was going on where I’d stopped. I think the best thing about this book was about showing up to do the work and not being afraid to ASK, to take action on anything…asking for something seemingly trivial, asking for payment for creating something…anything. The last 5-6 years have shown that creatives are starting to take things into their own hands, asking for donations or subscriptions via services like Patreon or asking for donations for special content on otherwise free sites. There’s a rising tide turning against people coming to creatives asking for them to donate something for free because it will be ‘good exposure’—a lot of the time coming from businesses who *can* pay. ‘Good exposure’ doesn’t pay the bills. Creatives of every kind of tired of that trope. I definitely recommend this book!
In the Middle of Second Nature by Michael Pollan: Another thrift store find, this is Pollan’s first book he wrote. I am about a quarter of the way through, maybe, but I am loving it so far. It’s about the intersection of gardening and nature.
The Journey in Between by Keith Foskett: I came across the site Free Book Sifter a few weeks ago, a site that looks for currently free digital books via Amazon or Barnes and Noble. Some of them aren’t as updated as the site is having issues with Amazon so books that might have been free back in early summer are now priced. This one was only $2.99 and looked interesting so I grabbed it for reading while Forest goes to bed. The author has a lot of hiking memoirs and this one in particular is about the Camino de Santiago. I’ve not read any books on that trail, have only watched The Way(highly recommend), but it sounded interesting. I’m not far into it but I should make some progress on it soon.
You are a Badass by Jen Sincero: Getting back into Palmer’s book above reminded me that I could do audio books again. I kind of forget about them because they are sometimes hit and miss with the narrators. I borrowed this one from my Hoopla Digital service at the library. The book has been making the round of all of the lifestyle bloggers lately and seemed interesting. It’s short, about 5 hours. Just started!
On Hold Paths of Desire by Dominique Browning: I mooched this one earlier this summer and was intrigued because it was a gardening memoir. I’m probably halfway through but kind of got bored. While interesting, the author gets a little weird with her naming conventions for her boyfriend and friends and it kind of turned me off. I’ll definitely return to this when I’ve got the mind for it.
The Invention of Nature by Andrea Wulf: I’ve had this on reserve digitally for months and my turn came up. I started it and was loving it but it is very detailed and I quickly realized that I didn’t want to read it on my phone, that it deserved to be read from paper. So I requested the book from the library and am waiting on that so I can finish it.
I only read two books this month but both were stellar!
Lab Girl by Hope Jahren
Up until a few months ago I had no idea who Hope Jahren was. When her book was recommended to me by Erin I followed Hope on social media and kept tabs on her book release date. It was released but the library didn’t have copies of it yet, however I put a request in on my Overdrive account for the library to get it if they could and was subsequently put on the hold list. I was thrilled when they did purchase the digital (and hard copy) book and launched right into it knowing I needed to get it read as quickly as possible because it would be a popular book to request and the hold list would get long.
Right away I was entranced by the book. It opens with a little background on Hope’s interest in science while living in southern Minnesota. Her father was a professor at a local community college and her mother had a college background as well but had given that up to raise a family. It is apparent there’s tension in the family situation and Hope doesn’t really dwell on it though it is interspersed throughout. Mainly, she doesn’t want to be stuck in her small town which is dominated by industry. She wants out and college is that way out.
She gets her undergraduate degree in Minnesota and then moves to California to get her PhD. Unless I missed it, I think she skipped the Masters and went right for the PhD. It’s there in California where she meets her future lab assistant and friend and the rest of the book tells the tales of field work, lab work, and becoming a flourshing scientist in the face of crappy funding, sexism, and other obstacles scientists have to face, particularly those while sciencing as a female.
There were a few instances that I thought were a little weird and kind of irresponsible as a professor such as when she has a bunch of grad students out for a lab field trip in Georgia and a grad student suggests their end of field trip excursion be to Monkey Jungle. In Miami. And they go! Sure, great story to reminisce upon, but I gave that serious side eye.
Overall I throughly enjoyed the book. The writing was excellent, the stories were excellent, and it offers a glimpse into the real issues of becoming a tenured professor these days. In the middle of her stories she gives great analysis of plants from a typical botanical perspective but also through the lenses of paleobotany and geobiology. Definitely read this book if you like memoir and science!
Me Before You by JoJo Moyes
This was another much hyped book but unlike All The Light We Cannot See that I wrote about last month, this one was fantastic! This was another must-read-before-Overdrive-expires books and so I pretty much zoomed through it over Memorial Day weekend. Right off the bat the book hooked me and I was in for the ride. I did not like Louisa’s family at all, though her sister redeems herself a bit towards the end. I just can’t deal with families/people who have ‘smart kids’ and ‘idiot kids’, aka: golden children and scapegoats, because Louisa was not an idiot but she believed it because her family had ‘joked’ that way for years and it had rubbed off. That aside, the interactions she has with Will, the friendship she develops with him—I really loved that. It isn’t like you can’t see what’s coming in the end, that there’s not some formulaic plot built into it, but it works well and the book is easy to get through. I liked it because it didn’t take a lot of thinking but wasn’t completely a ‘beach read’. You are rooting for Louisa the entire book and still, despite knowing in the back of your head what’s going to happen, wanting the happily ever after.
I’m also happy I finished the book just in time for the movie to come out. Not sure when I’m going to see it but I’m happy knowing I am actually ahead of the game on something for once!
And that’s it. That’s all I read last month. I have nothing on my immediate reading horizon but Mary Karr’s The Art of Memoir is close to being ready for me to borrow on Overdrive. I plan on organizing my bookshelf at home this month and getting it into better order so I can see what I have and start reading some of the books on my shelves I haven’t read. I’ve also been itching to reread the entire Anne of Green Gables series and that might be a good backburner series to do for the rest of the year.
+Fire Season: Field Notes from a Wilderness Lookout by Philip Connors: I really loved this book! If you like to read stories about the outdoors, this book is for you. The premise is that the author is working as a journalist in NYC when one of his friends let’s him know that a fire lookout job is available in New Mexico. He’d previously spent some time in a tower with this friend and really enjoyed his time out there. Well, one thing lead to another and Connors ends up spending half the year looking for fires in the Gila Wilderness and the other half tending bar.
What I liked about this book was that it wasn’t strictly about the life in a lookout tower but also about the history of the USFS, our country’s history with fire and fire control/suppression, and some interesting local knowledge about tribes that lived in the area. There’s an especially heartwrenching portion of the story about a fawn he finds—well, I can’t tell you about that, you will have to read it. Heartwrenching, though!
For starters, I’d flagged this book for a hold as it was recommended to me on my digital Overdrive account. The premise sounded interesting when I borrowed it: 1790s southern Virginia plantation, a six year old Irish girl who’s forced into indentured servitude because her parents died on their way to America, she’s separated from her younger brother who is sold to someone else. The first dumbass in this book is the captain of the ship and the plantation owner. He’s a dumb-ass because he never corrects his wife and young son’s thoughts that Belle, a mixed-race slave and secondary narrator, is his daughter and not his mistress. Gah, if he’d not had his head up his ass about this, everything else in the book wouldn’t have been so damned bad. The thing is everyone and their dog knew the truth the entire time I don’t understand how the wife, Miss Martha, never figured it out. Or how the son, Marshall, didn’t figure it out. Cue dumb-asses.
Without going into crazy detail about this book, I’ll say that it started off well. It was a semi-typical antebellum story and moved along well which is why I kept reading it. Lavinia, the Irish girl, grows up living among the slaves but it is clear that she’s kind of in a limbo; she’s not high enough to live in the Big House but she isn’t quite low enough to be totally mixed in with the slaves. That’s another thing that bothered me, while it was apparent this was slavery and the issues of owning people was brought up many times, the use of the word servant was thrown about far too much for me. This isn’t Downton Abbey servants. Her slave family are slightly elevated slaves as they are the kitchen and house slaves, not the field slaves. The author does make a decent distinction between how each of those two groups lived, one fairly better than the other.
Something I also had trouble with on occasion was picturing the scenes. I kept envisioning a modern kitchen, or at least a late 1800s kitchen, not a late 1700s kitchen. My kitchen kept having a sink. Yeah, I don’t think that happened!
This book is full of death, rape, violence, child molestation, mental disorders, drug abuse (good gravy, the trope of laudanum!), alcohol abuse, and all sorts of other crap. The author pulled all the tricks out for this book and most of the time I couldn’t wait to see what other sordid thing she was going to bring out next. Honestly, the first half of the book I thought was decent. Lavinia was a little dense but I figured she’d grow out of it, that the elders in her life would actually educate her a little bit about the ways of the world. But no, the girl never gets any common sense and never becomes any kind of figure you are rooting for.
I rated this 3 stars on Goodreads because it was a page turner and easily readable. I found a lot of fun in reading the 1 and 2 star reviews because they were all lamenting, like me, why on earth the book had so many 4 and 5 star reviews. I did find out there’s a sequel that just came out. I’m not sure I have it in me to read it, but I am kind of curious about how a few people ended up!
In other words, don’t waste your time on this book!
+Hiking the Florida Trail: 1,100 Miles, 78 Days, Two Pairs of Boots, and One Heck of an Adventure by Johnny Molloy: As I was reading this book I found several parallels in our hike as compared to his hike. As I said a few months ago I had held off from reading any trail memoirs as I was writing my book and found myself needing to know what some of the books were really about before I sent out book proposals. The writing was easy to read and enjoyable for the most part. Molloy hiked the trail in, I think 2005 or 2006, the book was published in 2008, so there were definitely some differences in trail routes from our hike in 2011. Like the The Florida Trail End to End that I wrote about last month, Molloy finished his hike at the Alabama state line in Blackwater River State Forest. It sounded like he had initially wanted to end at Fort Pickens but the effects of Hurricane Ivan were still on-going when he finished his hike and there were issues with closures along the beach, including at Fort Pickens. Also noted were more roadwalks than even we did, particularly in the panhandle. The Palatka-Lake Butler rail-to-trail hadn’t been added as a route to the Florida Trail at that point and so a lot of that was a road walk…which he opted to take a whirl on the rail-to-trail anyway and found it only recently cleared. Having barrled our way down uncleared rail-to-trail before I can’t imagine doing it on the Florida Trail! Also noticeable were longer roadwalks in the section from Econfina Creek west to Eglin. I’m so very thankful we got some new public and private lands to break up that roadwalk. One interesting item I noted, and even Molloy remarked about it a few times, was how he made a campfire every night and most mornings. Definitely not a common event among thru-hikers, even in areas along the Appalachian Trail, unless there’s a group of day or section hikers out. Overall it is a great book to introduce hikers to the Florida Trail. Easy to read and there was quite a bit of interesting facts about some of the locales that I didn’t even know about!
+All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr: I’ve had this on hold digitally and for a hard copy at the library for several months now. The internet has been raging about this Pulitzer Prize winning WWII novel and I thought I’d jump on the bandwagon and begin reading it. The hard copy came up for me but unfortunately I got about 30-40 pages in and it wasn’t doing anything for me. The ‘chapters’, if you can call them that, are 1-2 pages long and jump between the stories of the two main characters. Just when you are getting involved in a scene you are pulled out and flopped back into the story of the other person. It was incredibly annoying. I lost patience very quickly and because I knew I wouldn’t be able to suffer through it by renewing it, as there are other people on the wait list, I opted to return it. I’ll likely try this again another day/year when I can purchase my own copy to take my time. Or not. Who knows?
+Lab Girl by Hope Jahren: Erin at The Familiar Wilderness gave me a heads up about this book not long before it debuted last month. I put in requests for my Overdrive to get a digital copy and I also reserved a hard copy at the library. It looks like I’m next up for the digital copy so I’m holding off on reading anything else digitally for now. Looking forward to this!
+Baby Birds: An Artist Looks Into the Nest by Julie Zickefoose: I first found out about Julie Zickefoose, gosh, maybe in 8 or 9 years ago when she was a commentator on NPR. I found her blog and followed her here and there but with our hikes on the AT and FT and then our field work, I stopped staying in the loop. Erin at TFW has been friends with her for awhile and I’d seen her post and converse with her in various social media outlets and so I started following Julie once again. She’s got a great blog and I love her perspective on the natural world! Well, she’s been working for years and years on this book, building a portfolio of baby bird paintings and finally the book was published. I opted to support her by purchasing Baby Birds directly from her site instead of Amazon as she retains more of the profit that way. I’ve just barely flipped through it but it is beautiful! Forest even liked the bird paintings but I have to be careful because I know he’ll go to town tearing pages!
+Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon: As I finish my third reading of this book, I have to say I have developed an appreciation for taking it slow and sussing out the details of this book and series. With any of Diana Gabaldon’s books, when they first come out it is a race to devour the story, to see where it leads. Often I finish mentally exhausted, which is to be expected after 800+ pages. And then I don’t pick the book up again for years. I’ve read the first four in the Outlander series multiple times and really need to pick up the last four once again. I’m curious how my opinion of the tv show’s rendition of the story will unfold having been so close to the story for these last several months.
+The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz: As I mentioned in the February book report about this book, I hadn’t realized it was a YA novel. It definitely had two of my favorite common threads of a YA novel: historical and a heroine. However, the story fell flat a few times. The premise of the novel is of a young girl of about 14, pre-WWI, who is living in an emotionally, and borderline physically abusive household. As primary caretaker to her father and brothers, there’s little love going around. She wants an education but has been forced by her father to abandon her schooling, not unheard of in that time, to run the household since her mother died. After seeing an ad in the paper about actually getting paid for work as a hired girl, she makes a run for it one day using money her mother had hidden for her in a doll.
Eventually she makes it to a larger city and by weird circumstances comes to work in a Jewish household. There’s a lot of concealment of age, young crushes, and a coming of age story tied up in there. If I had been a teeanger I would have loved the story more but as an adult I saw a lot of faulty story going on. That said, if you want a light YA read, it’s worth checking out.
I chose this as a Kindle read. It was self published by the author and hiker, and is a narrative, as the title suggests, of the section hike he went on with his sons. I hesitate to be too harsh because it is someone’s creative endeavor, but the book needed serious editing. However, I did find a lot of humor and inspiration threading through the book. I also commiserated many times with some of the stories, particularly with the wretched Lake Butler Forest. What I liked best was that he was taking his kids on a journey that most people don’t even attempt to do. As someone who actively tries to engage my own son in the natural world, I really hope that I can take Forest on section hikes or maybe even a short thru-hike in the coming years.
If you don’t know who Amanda Palmer is, she’s a musician and performance artist. She’s also married to author Neil Gaiman. If you want a little background on her you can see her TED Talk. I listened to this as an audio book and I highly, highly recommend it. Amanda read the book herself and is an excellent choice for doing so. She should narrate more audio books! Interspersed throughout is music from her solo work as well as her work with The Dresden Dolls.
I won’t go into detail about the book until I finish it, which might be a few months since I’m so far down the list again! But from what I’ve listened to so far I definitely recommend you put it on your list of to-read non-fiction books.
+Along the Florida Trail by Bart Smith and Sandra Friend: One of the books I purchased for my proposal research. Love it so far! I found a used book on Amazon and it was signed by Sandra. This is more of a photo book accompanied with narrative about each of the sections of the Florida Trail.
+Fire Season: Field Notes from a Wilderness Lookout by Phillip Connors This book has been on my radar for several years now. I’m sure it was profiled in Backpacker or Outside which is probably where I found out about it. As I’d finished Umbarger’s book, I needed another Kindle read for Forest’s bedtime (he takes 45 min-1 hr to get to sleep…so I have lots of time sitting around in the dark!) and tried finding backpacking and hiking books from the Overdrive library app. Those searches yielded little results and so I tried ‘wilderness’ and came up with this book. I saw Finding Everett Ruess hiding in there, too, so it might be my next read.
The Lady Elizabeth by Allison Weir: I started this back in late January but didn’t finish it until sometime in mid-February. It was fairly long and took a lot out of me! However, I really did enjoy it. The author has several historical fiction books of this era that I want to read at some point in time. What I liked about this book was that it followed the life of Elizabeth Tudor (Queen Elizabeth I) from about 3 years old until about 25 years old, when her sister Queen Mary died and Elizabeth became queen. The book picks up on the rumor that Elizabeth may have become pregnant from Thomas Seymour when she was about 14-15 and takes off with that storyline a bit. From my reading, that rumor seems to be unfounded. It’s an interesting thread, though.
The writing was done well and I found myself Googling various historical figures in the book as I went along. I will definitely read more of her books in the future.
The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown: I’ve been a Brene Brown fan for years now, long before she hit the popularity with TED talks. I just never got around to reading her books! I started this one back in early fall but never finished it. Finally, i took it with me to the gym and flipped through the last 1/3 that I had left. I definitely resonated with more of the first 1/2 of the book than the second half. If you struggle with perfectionism, either outwardly or inwardly, this book is worth reading. It deals not only with perfection but touches on shame, which is one of Brown’s biggies when she talks. Honestly, shame is a lot more related to emotions, feelings, and actions than I thought. It keeps coming up in so many readings and podcasts I listen to. While I don’t consider myself a perfectionist, there are some aspects on the creative front that I get in an all-or-nothing attitude with myself.
Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon: I’ve been rereading this with Elizabeth the last four to five months. We should be wrapping up this month before the second season of the tv show starts.
The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz: This has been in my queue digitally for quite a while. I just came into the slot for my turn and I’m probably going to be switching to reading it first before I finish The Map of Lost Memories. However, once I downloaded it I realized it’s a YA novel. Not a bad thing, I like some particular YA novels as an adult, so we’ll see. It has quite a high rating on GoodReads and Amazon so I’m betting it’ll be worthwhile.
How to Live: A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at An Answer by Sarah Bakewell: I’ve been hearing about stoicism and the Stoics for the last six to eight months in various online venues. They’ve piqued my interest and I tried to find something digitally from one of the more famous philosophers of that time period but came up empty from the library. I’ll have to look elsewhere for something from the original Stoics. However, I found this book about this dude Michel Eyquem de Montaigne a philosopher from the French Renaissance who had influence from the Stoics. This particular book isn’t his writings directly, and is instead more of a biography. It has been interesting enough for me to want to find his writings. Montaigne is basically the person who got essays into being. If he was around now he’d probably have a very popular blog or column in a newspaper. He influenced the likes of Emerson and Woolf.
This is only on hold because I couldn’t renew my digital copy as someone else was in line for it. When it comes up again I’ll be reading it again.
In my effort to read all the books this year, I made some progress with reading this month. Here’s the lowdown:
The Care and Management of Lies by Jaqueline Winspear. I’m a huge fan of historical fiction and as I was trolling through the Overdrive app for our library this one piqued my interest. I rated it 3/5 stars because of some character development issues and some weird language/writing at the beginning. The book is set in WWI England and we see the beginning of the war from three different vantage points. Because of this I believe it easily could have been split into two books. Also, there was a very compelling suffragette component to one of the storylines and frankly I found myself wanting to know more about that line and suffragettes. It made me want to read more about women getting the right to vote, what was done to them (HORRIBLE THINGS!), and to be a more well-rounded feminist. Mental note: read more feminist books this year!
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. This book. This book deserves 6 stars instead of 5. It is that good! It’s part memoir, part meditative/contemplative, part whip-your-ass-into-creative-shape…I will refer to this book for years to come. Read it straight through and then randomly pick it up and pull out whatever passages speak to you. I want to be Elizabeth Gilbert’s BFF.
A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows by Diana Gabaldon. This is a novella of the Outlander novels set between/around books 7 and 8. I hesitate to say a whole lot about it so I don’t spoil things for others who haven’t made it through the whole series, but if you’ve at least read Dragonfly in Amber, the second book, there are several characters in that book that appear in this book. I know, I know, I’m confusing y’all! Just know there’s a sweet treat and more mystery when you finish the Big Books. LOVED this one!
The Space Between by Diana Gabaldon. This is another novella from the Outlander series and it takes place concurrently with the last released book, book 8. Definitely don’t read this one until you’ve finished the entire series as it is currently. It is about what happened to Roger’s parents. While I did like this one it wasn’t a ‘love’ as the other novella. Honestly, I wanted more. It was too short. Oh, and another mention of a Dragonfly in Amber character in this book. Yes, very intriguing!
The Lady Elizabeth by Alison Weir. Remember I said I liked historical fiction? Yep, this is historical fiction and it’s Tudor fiction at that! I love me some Tudor fiction! I know I’ve gone through all or most of the Philippa Gregory books for this period and the earlier War of the Roses period. I also love to watch any kind of Tudor time period movies or tv…so of course this gets me! It is a lot slower reading, though, so I’m pretty sure I’ll be renewing this one when it comes up. Based on the author’s list of books she’s written, I’m pretty sure I can satisfy my historical English monarchy fiction reading for awhile.
This book was making the blog rounds last spring and I wavered back and forth on reading it. I opted to listen to it as an audiobook via our library’s download system. It was a very easy listen, I think 5-6 hours, maybe a little bit more. The premise is that by keeping clutter and ‘things’, it can impact our mental status and can distract and affect our moods. It is built off of the minimalist living premise and culture. The author is Japanese and I believe the book was originally written in Japanese as sometimes there’s a weird flow going on with the reading/listening of the book.
Downsizing our stuff five years back and then getting it once again when we moved into our house 3.5 years ago was overwhelming. We went from having just a little bit of stuff to getting all of our stuff back plus buying more stuff to round out what we didn’t have. And then getting stuff from various family memebers who were getting rid of their stuff and feeling the sense of obligation to take it. Honestly, we don’t need some of the things we’ve kept around. I’ve debated getting rid of holiday stuff for awhile (non-Christmas) (but I drool at pumpkins and fall decor at the stores!) and we have boxes of shells and decoration stored in various storage areas around our house and outbuildings and frankly we don’t need them. Things are always stored for ‘someday’ and usually someday never comes and it sits there taking up space.
Kondo’s advice is to go room by room and just take it all out and ask yourself if each piece ‘sparks joy’. If it doesn’t get rid of it/donate it. She gets a little carried away and takes this a little too far with photographs and other more sentimental items, of which I absolutely didn’t agree with. However, I think her premise makes a lot of sense. The Root Simple podcast has talked about her a few times, too. I think they like her premise but their problem is like so many of us out there, the DIYers who keep stuff because it might be of use one day. It was a predicament they were working through, trying to focus on actual projects and crafts/hobbies they know they will do and enjoy and not trying to worry about trying this or that hobby out because it is out there and available. Basically, becoming a specialist and not a generalist.
My problem is that I would like to do some of her techniques but I don’t necessarily have a spouse that’s on board with that. So, I could apply it to just things that are in my control like my craft room and my clothes but not necessarily to other items that are of shared use.
Some of the reviews I saw for the book took things a little too seriously and got upset with the author for some of her premises but I say, read it, and apply what you can and want of it to your life.
Ok, I am really kicking myself for holding out so long to read this book. Part of me is glad for a delayed reading in that I am reading it outside of all of the hubbub surrounding the novel. I held out because I had a bad grudge against it because it wasn’t a thru-hiking book. This despite several reputable people (Patrice!) telling me that it was well worth the read. I finally bit the bullet and read it and was pretty much captivated from the start.
I should preface this to say that I had watched the movie last spring so I was familiar with the storyline when I went in to reading the book.
This is not a thru-hiking book but a thru-hiker can definitely identify with it. Was she well-prepared? Nope. That was part of her story. But there were so many other moments that, like I said, a thru-hiker can identify with. The hiker hobble. The hiker hunger. The worry about making the miles. Wondering what’s up ahead. The thrill of going to town. The not-so-thrilled feeling about leaving town with a heavy pack.
The hiking parts I really, really loved. Her story about her mother and life before the hike, well, I liked her writing but I really just could not identify with how broken she was enough to wreck her marriage and set off for flings and take up shooting heroin. There are some really tough scenes in the book that she flashes back to and sometimes I was annoyed that she had to switch gears from her hike back to a point in her life. However, I get it. I often flash back to various scenes in my life when I’m hiking. And of course the story was about how she was overcoming the troubles she’d gotten herself into and those moments had to be in the novel.
The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown. This is the first in a series of books from her I plan on reading. I’m only a little bit into it but I am enjoying it so far.
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. I’m listening to this one and it is kind of in the same vein of Marie Kondo but less about ‘things’ and more about strategies for life. Do Less, Enjoy More is the theme I’m getting from it so far.
The Introvert’s Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World by Sophia Dembling. I’m about halfway through this as an audio book and am thinking of abandoning it. I liked what I heard so far but I’ve read a lot about being an introvert and none of it is really new to me. It’s definitely for people just discovering their introversion or for extroverts wanting to figure out a friend or family member who is an introvert.
Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon. I’m re-reading this for the third time (and I started thinking about it, it might even be my fourth time) with Elizabeth and we’re discussing it on her podcast every few weeks in anticipation for the second season of Outlander on Starz. Yeah, we’re hardcore fans!!
That’s about it. Reading is probably going to take a backseat in the next few months as I want to get some more creative things done around here and I am planning on using NaNoWriMo in November as NaNoEdMo and finish editing my book in a hardcore way. I keep putting it of and putting it off and it’s driving me nuts. Once it is edited I can call it done and if it gets published or not at least I’ll have something final for myself.
So, July sped by! I did not read as much as I wanted and so I don’t have a whole lot to report on. You can see June’s report here.
+The Wild Truth by Carine McCandless
I finished reading this book while we were on vacation in Port Aransas. I couldn’t put it down, though towards the end I did feel like things got a little repetitive. The short story is, Chris and Carine McCandless had very crappy parents. There’s emotional and physical abuse, not to mention the father was basically a bigamist–though technically not married to their mother when she had them but was living with her while married to another woman with whom he had several children—including having a child with the first wife right around the time Chris was born. Yes, you can do some oogly eyes at that! Oh, it was a messy, messy life.
Carine wrote the book because she felt like she’d betrayed Chris by not letting Jon Krakauer tell the truth about all of the background history of the family in Into the Wild. At the time she didn’t want to air the dirty family secrets but had given that background knowledge to Krakauer so that maybe there would be some allusion. As the years went by her parents continued to perpetuate many myths and gained sympathy from the many people who mistook Chris for an unprepared idiot who abandoned his family and caused them grief. What they world didn’t know was the last people Chris wanted to be around were his parents, according to Carine and the rest of their siblings.
I really enjoyed reading it but like others I was sometimes left with wanting more of a story that we will ever get. Chris has been dead for over 20 years and will never be able to give voice to his odyssey out west. We just have to accept it and move on.
+The Art of Influence
I grabbed this back in June off of the library’s books-on-cd rack. It looked interesting and self-help-ish in regards to business and positivity. It was incredibly short, about two hours, and ended up filling a gap on a day when the internet was down at work and I couldn’t stream podcasts. However, it was the most awful thing ever. I hesitated to even write about it because who wants to know about crappy books? But, I want to save someone else from reading it. It was the most smarmy business parable I’ve heard. Goodreads reviewers either loved it or hated it. I’m not sure how you could love it. The bullet points could have been written in a blog post and summarized simply instead of going through a roundabout storytelling session.
I had every intention of finishing this book this month. Just haven’t gotten there. I think it’s a book to be savored.
+The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon
The library wanted it back when I tried to renew….someone else had requested it.
+Small Victories by Anne Lamott
Probably on hold indefinitely until I decide to read it in print. Just can’t handle the author’s voice on the recording.
On the Radar
I don’t have anything planned to read yet but here’s what I do want to read:
+Dragonfly in Amber—re-read with Elizabeth for the upcoming Outlander season.
+Brene Brown books. I’ve listened to several podcasts with her and her TED talks and she just makes you think hard about a lot of tough topics. This year has been difficult for me and I think it is right up my alley.
+The Signature of All Things and the soon to be released Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. She just launched a podcast, too, and it is fantastic.
+Wild by Cheryl Strayed. I really fought this book for so long but it took several reviews by various people for me to accept that it was *not* a thru-hiking book. We did watch the movie and I actually liked it a lot. I do have this one on hand that I’m borrowing from Chris’ mom so it will likely be my next read.
When I wrote my summer goals last month I mentioned wanting to read three books this summer. I am well on my way to getting that done and adding more to the list. I credit a few things for this, one of them being that I gave up Facebook back in late April. The last time I spent this much time away from the site was for the last half of 2009. I’ve done little hiatuses here and there, but it just got to be too much. I don’t have the personality where I can just say I won’t log in…because I will. I have to actually close the account. It got much easier as the weeks went by, though sometimes I felt like I was missing out on little news updates and tidbits, but I really don’t miss the drama or memes or people selling me stuff.
So with my evenings, instead of reading status updates, writing my own, or reading the myriad of links that people post, I am instead doing things around the house, trying to write here, or reading. It’s incredibly refreshing!
What have I read in June?
+Eat and Run by Scott Jurek: I actually listened to this via a free Audible download. It had been on my radar for several years, particularly when I was vegetarian, and it seemed like an easy book that I could follow while listening at work. And it was. I really liked the book and the person who read it. Scott almost makes me want to run more than 3 miles at a time, but really, I’d rather hike all of those miles he runs in an ultra. It was interesting to listen to his story of growing up, how he got into running, running with the Tarahumara, and how he became a badass runner. It also reinforced my vegetarian ways…I want to go back someday. I might eat my weight in pulled pork before I go back, though!
As a side note I only found out a week or so ago that he currently going for Jennifer Pharr Davis’ Appalachian Trail assisted speed record: read more here.
+Becoming Odyssa by Jennifer Pharr Davis: Hah, yes, I mention her above and I also read her first book about her first thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. In 2011 she set the AT assisted speed record in 46 days but in her first thru-hike she did it as a typical NOBO hike. I bought this back in October when I was still on maternity leave as part of a Kindle bundle with her second book, Called Again, when they were on sale for like $3 total. I’ve been a fan of Davis’ ever since I followed her AT record in 2011. I went into reading this book ‘knowing’ one aspect of her persona put out on Facebook by her own page, and through news and blog articles. I really like her and support her.
I really did not like her in this book. At first I did but then I started hating her a lot! At first I was excited to be back on the trail, but then some of her side stories just became entititled and obnoxious. It toned down a bit towards the end, though. She actually does address these shortcomings here, so it is nice to know that she realizes she’s changed and that she had some issues in the first book.
That said, I did feel the book was poorly written. It could have been developed so much more! Maybe she wrote it a few years after the fact and forgot some details, I’m not sure. Some of the details she did write were harrowing, including hiking with a guy who was borderline stalker. I know that many women hiking alone are very cautious about who they hike with and their surroundings, so I can’t imagine being stuck around someone you just can’t shake.
In all, it was an easy read and brought back memories from our hike. It is only my third AT memoir to read and I would be put it at the bottom of those three. The Barefoot Sister’s set is by far my favorite AT read, though I really need to Nimblewill Nomad’s account.
+Mortality by Christopher Hitchens: This was an impulse grab off of my library’s audio book shelves. After having success listening to Eat and Run I wanted to pick up a few other books to listen to as a way to break up listening to podcasts. I was familiar with Hitchens but not really of his work. I knew he had died a few years ago and that he had quite the public profile as a writer for many major publications.
This book is incredibly short, about two hours on audio, and it is really a very simply stated and truthful telling of facing death by cancer. There’s no sugar coating it, no glib remarks about putting on a brave face or having a battle with cancer…he pretty much just turns all the fluff about it on its head. I like his writing and I like the narrator for the audio book. I definitely shouldn’t have started here, with his death, but I think I’ll go back and read some of his other works in the future.
In The Middle Of
+The Wild Truth by Carine McCandless: For Into the Wild fans, this is Chris McCandless’ sister telling the rest of the story, what she told Jon Krakauer but did not have him publish. Let’s just say, they did not have a happy home life. I’m about halfway through it and will review it next month.
+Called Again by Jennifer Pharr Davis: Since I bought it as part of the Kindle bundle with her first book I am going to read this, too. I’m hoping for better writing and am definitely excited about the story.
+The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon: Since I am all caught up on other Outlander novels and tv shows, I’m going to bide my time of Droughtlander with Gabaldon’s other novels that revolve around many of the same characters and other small characters in her novels.