January 2019 Book Report
It’s been a bit since I’ve done one of these but the reading groove has returned and so my book reports are back!
Trespassing Across America: One Man’s Epic, Never-Done-Before (and Sort of Illegal) Hike Across the Heartland by Ken Ilgunas: I’ve had this flagged to read on Hoopla Digital for a long time now and had been in the mood for an audio book one day and it sounded enticing at only around 7 or so hours. I sped it up to 1.5x and after a few minutes my brain caught up and I was able to handle the pacing change. The author has several books out that are in the realm of hiking and vagabonding–a most recent one called This Land is Our Land about the loss of the right to roam, such as what many European countries have in existence and what the US had up until a certain point–I can see that that book was beginning to be developed as he was hiking across the Great Plains.
The premise of this book is that the author wanted to hike along the proposed and what existed at the time, Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to Texas. In many aspects there are similarities to a typical thru-hike along an established trail, in other instances it is vastly different. I felt like he spent a lot of time talking about the northern end of the pipeline path versus the southern route and the last bit through Texas seemed rushed. Otherwise, it was an interesting book and still holds relevance today.
Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place by Terry Tempest Williams: TTW has been on my radar for several years now and I’ve even read essays by her and heard her on some radio shows but I’ve never indulged in her books before. I bought this one last fall sometime at a used bookstore and in my effort to read more books made with paper that I already have, this one seemed like a good start. Despite being written and taking place in the 1980s, so much of the book is still on point with today’s conversation in regards to the environment and women’s issues. I also learned a great deal about the Great Salt Lake because the book is portioned into sections talking about the environmental history of the lake, particularly to flooding that happened in the 1980s, as well as the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.
Coinciding with the environmental talk, TTW navigates us through her mother’s cancer treatment, remission, and eventual death. We’re flashed back to her mother’s first bout with cancer, breast cancer, and then how it ties in with many other family members dealing with cancer and how a lot of it is tied to nuclear testing in the 1950s in Nevada and Utah. It’s a well-written book and if you are wanting to dip your toes into her books, my brief history with TTW says you can’t go wrong with starting at this book.
A Study in Scarlet Women (Lady Sherlock, #1) by Sherry Thomas: Another audiobook. My only experience with Sherlock Holmes is via pop culture and the tv series Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch. I’ve never really had the desire to read the actual novels but this was a fun re-visioning of the old story with Charlotte Holmes as the main character and a very surprising side-kick Watson. I enjoyed it, though at times because it was an audiobook I lost track of a few side characters and finally put two and two together after awhile. I will definitely read sequels when I feel the need for some fluff.
Mastering the Art of Vegetable Gardening: Rare Varieties • Unusual Options • Plant Lore & Guidance by Matt Mattus: I’ve been a fan of Matt’s blog for many years because he is a gardener that you don’t see too often on the internet—he’s a plant collector and enjoys all aspects to gardening. Plus, he just shares heaps of knowledge about gardening with very detailed posts. When I saw he was writing a book I was very happy and so I pre-ordered his book in December for it to arrive in early January. The book is gorgeous and well thought out but I do think that perhaps it might be for slightly less experienced gardeners. Not that I’m an expert, however I felt that some of the information could be found in the plethora of other gardening books out there. Yes, some was new and there were some crops that I don’t grow or grow often that I could find myself referring to it from time to time. Overall it is is a great book to have in any gardener’s collection.
The Lost Girls by Heather Young: This book kept me on the edge of my seat! I was looking for something to read over Christmas and found this and couldn’t put it down. Flashing between 1935 and ‘present day’—I’d put it at late 90s early 2000s—the story of several generations of family who had a summer retreat on a lake in Minnesota. I don’t want to give away too much because it is a story with lots of twists but if you like generational saga, drama, and some thriller aspects, this was a good one to read.
The Underground River by Martha Conway: Another book I picked up on Christmas break it involves two cousins who work on theater river boats along the Missouri River. A boat sinks and the cousins get separated, and the actress cousin comes under the wing of a rich woman and encourages her to use her acting skills to hold public rallies as an abolitionist. May, the younger cousin had previously been a seamstress and isn’t needed by the rich woman and thus has to find a way to make a living without her cousin. She finds work on another boat and well, lots of interesting situations occur. I hadn’t thought about rivers being used to smuggle slaves to the north and this details some of this part of the Underground Railroad and some of the problems that arose and just how precarious it was to transport slaves to the north. While those in the north may not have owned slaves, they certainly weren’t all abolitionists or anti-racists. It was a light read but packed with information that I found fascinating.
I’m of course reading multiple other books right now and will hopefully stay on this trend of high volume reading. Podcasts haven’t been doing it for me lately so I suspect I’ll have more audiobooks in the coming weeks.
What are you reading?
Have you ever read any of the Mary Russell books by Laurie R. King? I fell in love with them years ago, starting with The Beekeeper’s Apprentice. Holmes is in them, but he is not the major character. They are extremely well written and researched for a fictional series. You should check them out!