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1. On the Go

The Dashwoods - a week old!

The Dashwoods – a week old!

Still trying to work out the new routine that includes the care and feeding of the Dashwoods and last night when I finally was able to sit down to blog I looked at the clock and had only about five minutes before I had to start getting ready for another commitment.

At the moment it seems like I have lots of books on the go and very little time to read them. Or rather, not as much time as I would like to read them. I find myself longing for a vacation escape to someplace where all my needs are catered to and all I have to do is sit and read. Ah, wouldn’t that be nice?

My commute book is Jane Eyre. I haven’t read it since the long ago days of college. I’m up to the night before the wedding. I am really not sure what to make of the book at the moment. The power differential in the relationship between Jane and Mr. Rochester is so skewed and even when Mr. Rochester proposes for Jane to behave as his fiance and not his employee for the month before the wedding, Jane turns him down, continues calling him sir and master. But also in doing this she manages to hold power over Rochester by denying him access to her as his future wife. Each of them is really pleased about their power over the other and relishes in making threats. It is disturbing.

I started reading Mieville’s newest, This Census-Taker, and I am not sure whether I like it. I like Mieville quite a lot. I have read Perdido Street Station and The City and The City. He is so good at world-building and creating a rich and detailed setting but This Census-Taker is scaled back, simplistic in a way. The tone feels flat and Mieville’s love of words that sends me to the dictionary is nowhere to be found. He’s trying out a stylistic thing that is interesting — the story is told (so far) from the perspective of the main character looking back on when he was a boy. He refers to his boyhood self in both first person and third person. And given the fear and violence of his childhood the fear and dissociation is realistic and understandable. But with that being the most interesting thing going on, it is hard to want to keep reading the book. It is a novella, so not so very long, but I can’t decide whether or not to keep going yet.

The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie on the other hand, is truly delightful. The story is told in alternating chapters between Veblen and her fiance Paul. Veblen is smart and funny, loves squirrels, loves her house, is not afraid of hard work. She dropped out of college and is perfectly content working as an admin assistant. Her chapters so far focus on her engagement to Paul and her concerns that their relationship is doomed. Even the squirrels seem to be warning her. Paul is a neurologist who just took a job for a big pharmaceutical company to develop a tool and technique he invented for treating traumatic brain injuries in the field. His chapters tend to be career focused and filled with assumptions about what his future with Veblen will be like. It doesn’t take observant squirrels to see that there is trouble ahead for these two.

I am also still reading Jessa Crispin’s The Creative Tarot and enjoying it very much. It is not the kind of book to read cover to cover. But I am moving towards the end and hope to be able to write about it soon.

I started reading The Cabaret of Plants by Richard Mabey again and I like it very much but the reading is going slowly because I have so many other books on the go. I just picked up from the library a graphic novel I have been waiting my turn for for ages, Strong Female Protagonist. That will be something to enjoy on the weekend I think. And I also brought home from the library Dark Money by Jane Mayer. It is about money in American politics, particularly the money of the Koch brothers. Mayer is an award-winning journalist and while she was researching this book she was surveilled and attempts were made to discredit her. Ominous, isn’t it?

Of course I have all sorts of other books on the go. I briefly felt like my piles were getting a little smaller and then they sprang back up again even taller than before. I think I might just give up trying to manage the piles at all, it is a losing battle that only seems to cause me stress and worry. I just have to go with it and not be concerned about it. Things will either work out or they won’t and if they don’t the the worst thing that could happen is I have to return a book to the library before I get a chance to finish it. No, the worst thing would be my reading table collapses. But it hasn’t yet and it isn’t even wobbly. The books piled on it are more likely to fall off than the table is to fall down. So it’s all good!

Filed under: Books, In Progress

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2. Almost Finished

Something I learned today: extraterrestrial law is NOT the same as extraterritorial law. The field of extraterrestrial law as such does not exist. There is space law, but it is not the same thing. So, if there is anyone out there interested in extraterrestrial law, the area is currently wide open. Make your mark!
This is what happens when you should put your reading glasses on to read a title before typing it into a search field and decide eh, the type is big enough I can read it. Silly Stef. You should know better by now.
The Middles have moved to Almost Finished and that is a good thing because there are gobs of books I want to dive into and um, I am also about to be deluged by books from the library. Maybe not deluged, more like showered. I have China Mieville’s newest, The Census-Taker waiting for me to pick up. It is a novella so shouldn’t take too long to get through. In theory. Then I am next up for The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie. I am looking forward to this especially since I got the second volume of Squirrel Girl from the library last week. The squirrels are lively right now and I need some squirrel literature to help me feel less animosity towards them and their garden-destroying ways. I am also next up for Strong Female Protagonist by Brennan Mulligan. I have been waiting for that one a very long time.

That’s not bad. Only a few library books. A light shower. And I should be able to get back to the Richard Mabey book, The Cabaret of Plants, that I had to set aside for Herman Melville and Charlotte Brontë and Tarot Cards.

I have a feeling, however, that very soon it is going to get difficult to juggle reading and all my other goings on — the chickens, finishing the coop, gardening and cycling. Cycling is becoming a major “distraction” at the moment. I have a professional bike fitting scheduled for this coming Sunday. I just found out there is a women’s racing team here called Koochella and they are offering a clinic April 10th on bike handling skills and racing for beginners. Having enjoyed some virtual races over the winter months I am curious about the real thing. Then I have another cycling clinic on April 24th for the gravel race I registered for at the end of May. This one is informational, the how-tos of gravel riding like tires and what to wear and bring for food and how to read a cue sheet (route map) so I don’t get lost because it is not a closed course or well-marked with fans and media lining the roads. After the two clinics I will have a better idea about how much I want to try racing and how much time it might take up if I do.

So perhaps I should read as much as I can these next couple of weeks just in case reading time ends up being cut back significantly. I have a four-day weekend coming up in honor of my birthday so if I can tear myself away from cooing over the Dashwoods I will be reading. Say, maybe I could read to the Dashwoods! Do you think they’d like Jane Eyre?

Filed under: biking, Books, chickens, In Progress Tagged: extraterrestrial law, squirrels

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3. It’s All Under Control

It was just back on the 13th that I mentioned how deluded I am regarding, in particular, a book that I was next up for at the library and that I was sure I’d have at least a week’s wait before I had to worry about it. Nope. Two days later, I got an email from the library telling me that Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho was ready to pick up. I ignored it for a few days, until the middle of the following week, when a couple books had to be returned. Then, looking at my library holds list I thought, phew! I really will get a break for a little while now!

Yes, that is exactly how deluded I am!

Because you know, right, that three days later I got an email from the library to tell me that Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates was waiting. And then the next day I got another email from the library to let me know The Explorer’s Guild, Volume One had been added to the shelf. I ignored them until today when a book had to be returned.

This all happened last week when I was beginning to feel as though my reading was getting under control. I’ve been really zipping through Fates and Furies and have reached close to the two-thirds mark. Really liking it! I am plugging away diligently at Sorcerer to the Crown on my lunch breaks at work. Haven’t made it far yet but I’ve only had it for three lunch breaks and it reads fairly quickly. I’ve felt so good I have been eyeing my reading table, certain I will be able to begin digging into those books very soon.

After I got the email about the Ta-Nehisi Coates book, however, and looked at my library holds requests, I had a moment of fretting. I am moving way too fast up the list for the new China Mieville book, The Census-Taker. I did something I have never done before. I suspended my hold request until March 1st. That has left three books that might come rushing at me faster than I expect: The Cabaret Of Plants (currently I am 6 on the list), Strong Female Protagonist, Book One (I am also 6th on this one), and The Story of My Teeth (I’m at 10). In my formerly deluded state I would relax and figure I have plenty of time. But the veil has been rent and I know better, at least until I can stitch the tear back together.

That leaves only two other books on my holds list and both are currently on order, The Vegetarian by Han Kang for which I am first in line, and All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Anders for which I am number 11. There is no telling how long it will be before the book is available. They are like jokers or wild cards. The likelihood that in two days I will get an email from the library telling me The Vegetarian is ready to pick up is high given how these things seem to go. The messed up crazy thing is, that when I think about it, if I don’t get an email in a couple days regarding The Vegetarian I will be disappointed rather than glad!

Part of me is looking at my hold requests and thinking, hey! I got this! I can totally add Svetlana Alekseevich’s Voices from Chernobyl to the queue because I’ll be number 33. Or maybe I could be number 64 for Rushdie’s Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-eight Nights? Or maybe even number 14 for Beauty is a Wound by Eka Kurniawan would be okay?

Except the other part of me is yelling really loud right now and it is so distracting! She is saying things that, well, let’s just say I didn’t know she knew some of those words! She says I can’t add any books to my hold requests until I have finished one book from the reading table.

Fine, be that way. Sometimes I can be such a party pooper.

Filed under: Books, In Progress, Library Tagged: Read the Table

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4. Squirrel!

I have managed for two entire weeks to not add a book to my library requests. I would have made it past today too but the book gods sent me a message and I am not one to mess around when they are trying to get my attention.

It seems their message has a duel intent, good books and for me to come to terms with squirrels.

The first message came last week with an article at the Guardian of top 10 squirrels in literature. Who knew there were so many books with squirrels in them? While the description of the squirrel in Nabokov’s Pnin sounded amusing, the demon squirrel in Small Game by John Blades seemed more realistic. I saved the list because, you know, it could be amusing to read a few of the books at some point in time.

I went on my merry way until today when it came to my attention that The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie contains an “an intimate tête-à-tête with a very charismatic squirrel.” I checked my library and of course they have it and of course there is a line for it. I hesitated for about a second before I put myself on the list. I am number 82 so it will arrive sooner that I want it to but not as soon as I expect.

While I was thinking of squirrels I checked to see if there was another volume of Squirrel Girl and there is! In volume 2 she faces off against Ratatoskr, the Norse god of squirrels! So of course I had to request that too! I am number 26 in line for it.

In the meantime other books in my library queue are moving up faster than I expected but it’s all cool. I finished Fates and Furies and should have something to say about it tomorrow. I am working my way through Sorcerer to the Crown and Between the World and Me is moving right along as well. That means I will be ready for the squirrels whenever they should arrive! And, I have followed the directive of the book gods so all will be well.

Filed under: Books, In Progress

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5. A Magical Extra Day

It’s February and do you know what that means? An extra day for reading! It’s Leap Year y’all! Twenty-nine days this month instead of twenty-eight. I almost said I wish every year were Leap Year but then it would just come to be a regular year and the joy of an extra day of reading would get washed away. Any plans for cramming in some extra reading? It is unfortunate that the extra day falls on a Monday but we’ll just have to make the best of it.

The piles on my reading table are shrinking and it’s not because I am reading the books on there that I own. Nope, it is shrinking because I am working my way through the library books that got added to the table. It feels good to have my library reading under control. At the moment I have only four books checked out, two of which came today, The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli and All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Anders. Also out from the library is a book of poetry by Joseph Massey called To Keep Time. It is most excellent. And then there is Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho with which I am just about finished. It too is good.

I have six outstanding hold requests at the library, for two I am up next, for the rest I am in the nebulous who knows when my turn will come, probably all at once realm. Only six outstanding requests is pretty darn good though given my profligate ways of late. I can even see several of the non-library books on my reading table and I am eyeing them and thinking , oh, I forgot you were there! Looking forward to reading you! I am quite proud of myself and if I am not careful I will cause harm to my shoulder and arm from patting myself on the back so much. That or my inflated sense of self-worth will be too large for me to fit through my door.

Other books on the go at the moment include Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard. This is my slow, meditative read of the moment. Very much enjoying it. Then I am still working my way through The Art of Slow Writing by Louise DeSalvo. She writes in short chapters and it is the perfect book for the spare ten minutes here and there. While it is quite good, I don’t want to try reading it in bigger chunks, it would lose its umph and quickly become boring.

And finally, I just began reading a review copy of a new biography of Charlotte Bronte that will be out in March. Charlotte Bronte: A Fiery Heart by Claire Harman is pretty good. It is advertised as being groundbreaking but since I haven’t read any other Bronte biography I can’t say whether it is or not. At the moment Charlotte is still a young girl and the family has just moved to Haworth. There are a good many more siblings than I knew about which means bad events ahead.

There are a couple other books I am in the midst of that have been moved to the back burner and not worth mentioning at the moment since I haven’t picked them up in a few weeks. I will get back to them, just probably not this month! Or perhaps the extra day will grant me the chance to get them in front of my eyes again. Ha! The odds in Vegas don’t seem to be leaning in my favor. Imagine that!

Filed under: Books, In Progress Tagged: Read the Table

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6. Middle Times

I’m in one of those annoying middle times that happens now and then where I have finished a number of books close together and then find myself in the midst of many things but close to finishing nothing. That means no reviews to write and much effort spent wracking my brain to find a topic to blog about that isn’t terribly repetitive or boring.

I did start reading Jane Eyre last week. I have read it at least twice before, maybe three times, I can’t remember for sure. The last time I read it was twenty years ago. What is so wonderful is that it feels familiar enough still that I have the pleasure of anticipating certain events. It has also been long enough that I don’t remember everything. Then there is the fact of having lived twenty years (plus a few) and experiencing the story differently than I did in my early twenties. Add to this that I am still making my way through Fiery Heart, the new biography of Charlotte, in which the author points out different events in Charlotte’s life that end up being reflected in Jane Eyre. It makes for a rich reading experience.

I am racing through a book to review for Library Journal on Melville and his affair with Sarah Morewood. Both of them were married at the time. I never knew much about Melville’s biography other than that he spent time at sea and all that, but I always pictured him as a proper sort of fellow. Far from it! He was a very bold, party-loving kind of guy and during his sailing years he spread his love around among the South Seas ladies. His novels pre-Moby Dick garnered him a large and fawning fanbase of women groupies who imagined exciting and exotic romantic situations with Melville the sailor! I am having a hard time adjusting my picture of the man.

My eyeballs are also giving time to The Creative Tarot by Jess Crispin of Bookslut fame. Part of me wants to forget reading everything else and devour this book. I have a collection of tarot cards and have a tattoo of the strength card from the Rider-Waite tarot deck. The book is not about fortune-telling but about using the cards for creative inspiration. I am very much enjoying it.

There are many other books I am in the midst of right now, most of them I’ve had going for quite a while and have mentioned them numerous times. But these are my main squeezes at the moment. Very soon I get a four-day weekend for Easter and I am looking forward to spending the time reading, gardening and cycling with reading top on the list. I am very much looking forward to that. I might even be recovered from the change to Daylight Savings by then too.

Filed under: Books, In Progress

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7. This is Gonna Take a While

Wow, so this is going to take a little while.

I took The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth with me to work today to start reading on my lunch break. It is not a book that is good for reading on half-hour lunch breaks while eating. Not that the book puts one off eating, only that eating while reading this book requires you either a) don’t pay complete attention to the book so you can enjoy your lunch or b) don’t pay attention to your lunch, how it tastes, whether it is actually all making it into your mouth and not down the front of your shirt or all over your face.

Divided attention will not work wth this book.

Nor will short reading sessions. This is because the book is written in an “updated” form of old English. Before beginning to read I thought, really how hard could it be? It’s updated after all. I expected modern spelling, some archaic words, something more akin to reading Shakespeare than Beowulf or Chaucer.

Oh silly me and my assumptions that were all very quickly blown to pieces. Here is the second paragraph of the book’s beginning, the second because the first is too short to really give you the flavor:

when i woc in the mergen all was blaec though the night had gan and all wolde be blaec after and for all time. a great wind had cum in the night and all was blown then and broc. none had thought a wind lic this colde cum for all was blithe lifan as they always had and who will hiere the gleoman when the tales he tells is blaec who locs at the heofon if it brings him regn who locs in the mere when the there seems no end to its deopness.

There are paragraphs but no capital letters, no commas, only the occasional period. After a bit the rhythm is song like, there is even a kind of chorus that chimes in with short almost chants. It is slow reading puzzling out the words but after a bit they start to make more sense. It feels kind of like working out a code in some ways. Or a foreign language.

My lunch was over just as I began to feel like I was getting in the flow of the words. Rereading them is easier and faster, they make more sense.

So I brought the book back home with me. Will only read it when I have at least an hour to spend which essentially means it has been relegated to early evenings and weekends. I don’t know if I can finish before my three-week library loan period. Maybe I will have to buy my own copy? Maybe it will be that good. I’ll know for sure in a week, after I have spent more time with the book.

Filed under: Books, In Progress Tagged: Old English is like a foreign language

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8. December Reading

Ah December, how quickly you arrived this year. I am beginning to suspect that December is part of a vast conspiracy that secretly removes days from other months of the year, only a few every year so no one becomes suspicious, making the year shorter and December earlier and earlier. Where do those missing days go? I bet there is an enormous warehouse in the Nevada desert, a black-ops site, and inside this warehouse are the missing days crammed into cages looking sad and bedraggled. I wonder if freeing them would fall under PETA’s jurisdiction or Amnesty International?

For better or worse, here we are in December with the end of the year coming on fast. The last two weeks of the month will be glorious vacation days during which I plan on doing a whole heck of a lot of reading. I can’t say exactly what I will be reading during that time, only what books are on my plate for the month some of which will be read during vacation.

I had to buy a copy of The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth because reading it before the library due date was not going to happen and it is definitely not a book that one can leave off in the middle of for a month until another library copy can be had. And of course, since I have my own copy now, the urgency to read it disappeared and I look at it on my reading table every day and feel a twinge of guilt. But, I will read it this month!

Waiting for me to pick up at the library is a book I read about in the New York Review of Books, Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel by Carl Safina. In spite of the anthropomorphizing possibilities signaled by the title, it sounds like it manages pretty well to stay away from that problem. I’ll let you know!

I am also in the midst of a book I got to review for Library Journal called In the Midst of Fear. The name of the author currently escapes me and as there are two cats laying on me and the book is in another room, I will have to get back to you on that. I do know the author is a Polish poet who has also written a couple novels. This book is her memoir and about not finding out she was Jewish until she was seventeen. So far it is really good.

I finally got around to picking up Iphegenia in Tauris by Euripides the other day. I checked out this book from the university library back in February of this year and am feeling rather embarrassed to still have it. I am almost finished with it. Not as exciting as many of Euripdes’ other plays but it is interesting.

I am also close to two-thirds of the way through Speak by Louisa Hall. It is pretty good so far. At the moment I can’t see how all the various narrative threads might be brought to any kind of ending and that is making me curious. A good thing.

Also on the go is Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. I am liking it very much and have no idea why it has taken me so long to get around to reading it. Danielle and I are reading it together. Even though I read a little nearly every day, the book does not move along at a fast clip. That’s ok. It’s not that kind of book but rather a contemplative one you don’t want to read fast.

I thought I might have had Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie around Thanksgiving, but it was not to be. I have moved up to number three in the holds queue so my turn is imminent. Hooray!

It looks like after that I might catch a break from the library books. But then you never know really. I say that all the time and then suddenly a pile is waiting for me to pick up.

My Elizabeth Bishop project is still going. I like Bishop very much. And I am moving slowly through Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.

No doubt there will be other books that make their way in front of my eyeballs this month but those are the ones I know about and am planning on. December is usually a pretty good reading month for me and I expect it will be again this year.

Filed under: Books, In Progress

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9. My Turn at Last!

I was AWOL from blogging last night because Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie arrived for me at the library and, well, had to dive in! You understand. I’ve been waiting my turn for this since the beginning of October when it was published. But I have been anticipating reading this third and final book in the series since I read the second book back in February.

When the first two books in a trilogy are really good there is always the fear that the third book conclusion might go awry. But I am feeling confident that it will all end spectacularly. Within half a page I was into the book and didn’t want to put it down. Hooray! If only I could have called off from work today and stayed home to read. But what do you say? Sorry, can’t come work today because I am reading a really good book? I so rarely get sick that if I tried to lie and say I was ill, no one would be believe it especially when I turned up the next day looking hale and hearty (though perhaps a little tired from staying up late to finish the book). Besides, I am bad at telling lies anyway and the guilt ruins it all.

Before I go off to read more of this amazing book, I have to tell you about the little pile of other books that came along with this one.

Last week on a gardening blog with holiday gift suggestions, one of the items was a book called Gardening for Geeks. As a geek and a gardener I had to borrow it from the library! But that’s not all.

Now, I’ve had a library card in the Hennepin County library system for as long as I have lived here. I have been requesting library books online for as long as there has been the ability to do so. Why, why, have I never noticed the “related books” stream of book covers? Probably because it is lower down on the page, below the fold so to speak, and I never had occasion to scroll down. For some reason when I was requesting Gardening for Geeks I scrolled down and found this glorious thing!

And then I went crazy.

Oh, that looks like a good book. I’ll request that. That looks good too! Oh yes and that one. I wonder what that one is about? Request. Request. Request.

I now have a tidy pile of gardening books on sustainability, maximizing your food harvest, and DIY green projects that will very likely make me want to install my own solar panels and create wind turbines that also serve as trellises for pole beans. I already really want to build a solar food dehydrator, I don’t need further encouragement.

Since I will have two weeks off very soon I tell myself that I am just stocking up for vacation. And I am. But I also have to remind myself that we need to finish building the chicken coop with its green roof before undertaking any additional projects. Looks like I will be studying up and making a future project list! Bookman has been warned.

Filed under: Books, gardening, In Progress, Library, SciFi/Fantasy Tagged: Hennepin County Library

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10. A Beyond Words Teaser

While Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel by Carl Safina has been temporarily sidelined as I spend all my available time reading Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie (two-thirds of the way through and it is sooooo good!), I am very much enjoying Safina’s book. Though he talks about animals in general, he focuses specifically on elephants, wolves and orcas.

This evening I thought I’d give you a little teaser so you can get an idea of what this book is like.

In the fifth century B.C.E., the Greek philosopher Protagoras pronounced, ‘Man is the measure of all things.’ In other words, we feel entitled to ask the world, ‘What good are you?’ We assume that we are the world’s standard, that all things should be compared to us. Such an assumption makes us overlook a lot. Abilities said to ‘make us human’ — empathy, communication, grief, toolmaking, and so on — all exist to varying degrees among other minds sharing the world with us. Animals with backbones (fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals) all share the same basic skeleton, organs, nervous systems, hormones, and behaviors. Just as different models of automobiles each have an engine, drive train, four wheels, doors, and seats, we differ mainly in terms of our outside contours and a few internal tweaks. But like naïve car buyers, most people only see animals’ varied exteriors.

He goes on to say we divide the world into humans and animals, us and them, which creates a huge misunderstanding of our place on the planet and denies our connection with the entire animal world.

It’s a really good book and I am looking forward to getting back to it in a day or two once I am done with Ancillary Mercy.

Filed under: Books, In Progress, Nonfiction

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11. Willpower

Because the pile of gardening books I already have from the library for my impending vacation isn’t enough, I had to add more. Really though it isn’t my fault and I am sure you will agree.

Today I realized that I’d be having chicks in a little over three months. I personally won’t be laying eggs and hatching chicks, that would be weird even for me. No, I’ll be picking up the three-day old babies from the urban farm store. To that end, I must begin to think about and prepare their indoor home. Plus, I need to read up again about how to care for them. Last February I went through a pile of care and feeding of backyard chickens books and found one I really liked that I will probably buy to have on hand for quick reference. Can I remember what the title is? Of course not!

I felt certain that my February self knew I would not remember the title and that I put it on my library wishlist. So I had to browse my library list. I didn’t find it but I did find a number of gardening books that I had put on my list and forgotten all about so I requested them. Tis the season to learn about new plant varieties and things to try in the garden so I can include everything in one seed order in January or make digging/planting/building plans. I think I requested something like five gardening books.

But then I had to find the chicken book. And since I couldn’t remember and so many of the book covers looked familiar I had to request several, possibly four or five, I’m not sure; it is all rather a blur at this point.

I do, however, want to give myself a big pat on the back for restraint. I see you going all big-eyed whaaa? at me. Yes, restraint. I have over three hundred items on my library wishlist and I looked at them all in search of the chicken book. Don’t you think that I wanted to request some of them? That I only requested the gardening books shows just how fantastic my willpower is. Don’t you agree?

Posting will probably be spotty through Solstice. I am making a selection of dishes from Vegan Richa’s Indian Kitchen. I am going to start the cooking on Sunday for a few things I can make ahead like the dessert and the naan bread and the chutney so I don’t have to spend the entire day Monday in the kitchen chopping things up. Because of course I chose recipes that require lots of different vegetables and they all have to be chopped up. Since I don’t cook except for Solstice, my chopping skills are lacking and in order to make sure none of my fingers are lacking by the end of the meal preparation, I am very slow and careful. But even before that is the grocery list making and then the actual grocery shopping and it always ends up taking more time and energy than I plan for so this year I am trying to remember that.

So, if things are quiet in my little corner, that’s what I’m up to. Or I am at the library picking up all those books I requested.

Filed under: Books, chickens, gardening, In Progress, Library

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12. Read the Table, an Update

So Stef, it’s day four of 2016, how’s that New Year’s goal to read all the books on your reading table going?


Anybody there?

Hush? Oh, are you talking to me? I’m sorry, what did you say?

Your 2016 project to Read the Table, have you started on it yet?


Fine. If you must know I haven’t picked up any of the books yet and actually added three more to the table today. The books came from the library, I cannot be faulted for adding library books to the table.


Stop it! Stop looking at me like that! Now I know how Bookman feels when I raise a single eyebrow at him.

Don’t you want to know what books I added to the table from the library? C’mon, you know you do.


Great! So there is Nimona, a graphic novel by Noelle Stevenson I have been waiting my turn for since October. There is A Timbered Choir, a poetry book by Wendell Berry. This is part of a kind of project for the year with my friend Cath. We share poems through the mail and this year we have decided to focus on reading poets who are currently writing who we have not read before and whose poetry focuses on nature. I’ve been wanting to read Berry’s poetry for ages so now seemed like a good time. The other book is called Toolbox for Sustainable City Living. I have no idea when I requested this or where I came across it so I would know to request it, but there it is. Good books. And because they are library books they won’t be around long. Once I get through them I’ll start working on the books that are on the table.

Is that right?

Hey! What’s that saying about stones and glass houses?

Yeah, thought so.

Filed under: Books, In Progress Tagged: glass houses, library holds, not my fault, Read the Table

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13. Two Steps Forward

With Nimona and the Small heart of Things I managed to clear two books off my reading table. However, I picked up three books at the library yesterday. Two steps forward and three steps back.

The good news is that I shouldn’t be getting any more books at the library at least for a couple weeks. Though I just checked and I have moved from second position to first in line for Sorcerer to the Crown. Perhaps I am too hopeful that everyone who has it checked out now will be slow and I’ll have at least two weeks before my library sends me an email to come pick it up. Or I’m probably deluded.

Definitely deluded.

Nonetheless, my poor little table remains standing despite Bookman’s dire predictions regarding its load-bearing capacities. And, I have a three-day holiday weekend approaching for which the weather is forecast to be even colder than last weekend—we probably won’t even get above 0F/-18C! Get the coffee brewing and the quilts piled up, it’s going to be the perfect holiday weekend for reading! Hopefully I can convince Bookman to bake me up something delicious to nibble on too. I can hardly wait!

But wait I must.

The books I brought home from the library are ones I’ve had in the holds queue for quite some time. Months. They are Fates and Furies, Part of Our Lives: A People’s History of the American Public Library, and The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Volume One: Squirrel Power.

Squirrel Girl is a superhero comic and our hero is part human, part squirrel. She has a squirrel sidekick named Tippy-Toe. I started reading it last night and it’s as crazy and frenetic as two squirrels chasing each other around the trunk of my maple tree. It’s cute though and there was a brief moment, and thank goodness it was brief because it worried me a little, in which I might have actually thought squirrels were cute and kind of cool. But then I remembered how they are not good garden sharers—I’ve had a hazelnut tree for ten years and have never gotten a nut off it because the squirrels eat them all first. Every. Single. One. I’m cool with sharing but the squirrels, not so much.

Anyway, Squirrel Girl, so far, wacky fun. Haven’t started the other books yet. Those will be for the frigid weekend ahead.

Filed under: Books, In Progress, Library Tagged: Read the Table

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14. When a Book You Need Finds You

Isn’t it a really wonderful thing when a book you didn’t know you needed to read unexpectedly comes into your life? Last week Sigrun at Sub Rosa mentioned a really good book she is reading, The Art of Slow Writing by Louise DeSalvo. She mentioned it in the frame of thinking about the ideal writing life and Virginia Woolf’s “room of one’s own,” how this room is something that is pretty close to a fantasy for most of us.

I commented that DeSalvo’s book sounded interesting. Sigrun provided a link to the publisher description of the book and I thought, I should read that sometime! In the process of checking to see if it was something my library has, I decided to request it. Even though I am not looking to publish a novel or anything, I always enjoy a good book about the craft and process of writing and the idea of slow writing had an interesting sound to it.

The book arrived and I started reading it.

At this same time I have been struggling to write my next essay for Vocalis, that essay website I created with the lofty goal of publishing a new essay to it every week. How quickly that schedule has crashed! Because it turns out that even though I am great at writing a blog post in around an hour, essays take a bit more time. Go figure.

The process of writing an essay is an entirely different one that a blog post or book review or even an essay for class back when I was in library school about six years ago (wow has it been that long?!). I was surprised by this discovery and then I was surprised that I was surprised. And then I started worrying about timelines and whether or not I should shut down Vocalis now before I got too attached.

But then DeSalvo told me to not be so stupid. Most of the kind of writing I do is not exactly the creative sort and here I am expecting to produce creative essays in the same way I do everything else. I had forgotten how much time and extra work it takes, how different it is to dashing off a blog post. And I was getting frustrated. But DeSalvo reminded me:

We can take as much time as we need in our projects’ initial stages, allowing ourselves to be unsure of what we’re doing or whether we’ll succeed. We can commit to the process of learning and honoring our craft even as we acknowledge the anxiety and frustration that often occur early on. We can commit to working slowly, taking time to figure out our work, one slow step at a time.

That turned out to be exactly what I needed! Permission to learn a new process, to not rush but take the time I need.

I began writing a new essay last week but didn’t get far before I discovered I needed to do a bit of research. Research accomplished I then had to figure out how to use the research because, while it supports what I want to say, it also changes the scope of things and possibly even the direction I had thought I wanted to go.

I worked on the essay for about three hours Sunday and only stopped because I was starting to feel stuck and noticed my stomach was growling. Instead of an almost complete first draft, I had not even two pages. Disappointed. But also exhilarated because during that time I had found that place you go when you are fully focused and time and the world fall away.

DeSalvo talks about working at writing, how the process from project to project is not going to be the same, how we have to find our own rhythm and routine. All that and I have only read through page 22! She is right about what she says and I know she is right, I had just forgotten all these things in the regular routine and rhythm of blogging that has become so familiar, so comfortable and very close to easy.

Thanks to DeSalvo I am working at getting past the layers of disappointment from not being able to hit the ground running with this essay writing thing. I did, after all, want to try something new and different. I did want a challenge. I knew there were things to learn. That I am surprised, impatient and a bit vexed that I got exactly what I wanted makes me laugh. What? You mean I’m not a secret super genius writer?

Nope. But then most people aren’t. I guess I can be okay with that. It certainly isn’t a reason to give up and pull the plug on Vocalis. I wanted to be the hare but it turns out I am the tortoise. Slow and steady. Writing is not a race and there is no true finish line anyway. What’s the hurry?

Filed under: Books, In Progress, Writing

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15. July Reading

Can you believe it’s July already? I can’t. I was just getting used to June, just starting to feel like I was in the June groove, and now it’s time to move on. I am not ready. Can we turn the calendar back to June 15th please? That should be enough for me to get my fill of June and then when July 1st rolls around again I will be ready. Not going to happen you say? Where’s Marty McFly or the TARDIS when you need them?

Well, let’s barrel into July then. What will the month hold for reading? I get a 3-day holiday weekend coming up for Independence Day. Groovy, some extra reading time.

Even though I have been (mostly) good about keeping my library hold requests down to a manageable number, two books I have been looking forward to reading that have long waiting lines have, of course, both arrived for me at once. I now have to either a) rush through The Buried Giant and Get in Trouble in three weeks, or b) choose one to focus on and not worry about the other and get in line for it again if I run out of time. Choice “b” seems the most likely one I will go with which means Ishiguro’s Buried Giant will get my attention first. I am looking forward to it.

Carried over from last month, I am still reading Elif Shafak’s The Architect’s Apprentice. I am enjoying it much more than I was before even though I am making my way through it rather slowly.

In June I began reading Portrait of a Lady by Henry James and The Martian by Andy Weir. Two very different books and I am enjoying each of them quite a lot. James manages to be funny and ironic and ominous and can he ever write! I know people make fun of his long sentences but I get so involved in the reading I don’t even notice the length of the sentences. I do notice sometimes the paragraphs are very long, but that is only when I am nearing my train stop or the end of my lunch break and I am looking for a place to stop reading. And The Martian, is it ever a funny book. The book itself isn’t funny I guess, there is nothing very funny about being left for dead on Mars, the character, Mark Watney is funny; humor as survival tool. Weir, I must say, does a most excellent job of writing about complex science in such a way that is compelling and interesting and makes me feel smart.

I have a review copy of a new book called Miss Emily by Nuala O’Connor on its way to me. The Emily in question is Emily Dickinson. It’s a novel from Penguin Random House and they are kindly going to provide a second copy for a giveaway. Something to look forward to!

I will also begin reading Elizabeth Bishop this month. I’m still reading Keats letters and biography and poetry but he will get a bit less attention as I start to focus on Bishop. Much as I wanted to like Keats, it seems I like the idea of Keats more than the actuality; enjoy his letters more than his poetry. Not that his poetry isn’t very good, it is, at least some of it because there is quite a bit of mediocre stuff he wrote to/for friends that makes me wonder why I decided to read the collected rather than the selected. Hindsight and all that. But even the really good Keats poetry left me with mixed feelings. I mean, I appreciate it and sometimes I have a wow moment, but it generally doesn’t give me poetry stomach (the stomach flutters I get when I read a poem I really connect with). We’ll see how it goes with Bishop. I have her collected as well as her letters to work my way through over the coming months.

Without a doubt there will be other books that pop up through the month, there always are! The unexpected is all part of the fun.

Filed under: Books, In Progress Tagged: Andy Weir, Elif Shafak, Elizabeth Bishop, Emily Dickinson, Henry James, John Keats, Nuala O'Connor

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16. August Reading

At the beginning of July I was astonished at how fast June went by, now here we are in August and it seems like July flew by even faster. How is that possible? I had better get to work on building that chicken coop or I will be SOL when the temperature plunges and the snow begins to fall and frantic to get it done in the uncertain spring weather. Of course, the chickens have to be about 10-12 weeks old before they can be moved outside, but I’d rather not have to feel rushed. Have I mentioned I borrowed Building Chicken Coops for Dummies from the library? I have always looked down my nose a bit at the “Dummies” books but no more! This is one fantastic book! So much useful advice on every aspect of building a coop. Of course it has a basic plan as well, and while it is not exactly what we are planning, it is still very useful. So yay!

July didn’t afford long hours on lazy hot days for reading. Instead I was sweating in the garden or sweating on my bike or collapsed on the sofa recovering from said activities. August will likely follow the same route. Does that keep me from planning all sorts of reading? Of course it doesn’t!

I am currently in the midst of and almost done with a bunch of books. I am about 90 pages away from finishing Portrait of a Lady by Henry James. This is one fantastic book! I am on tenterhooks about the ending. It feels like there is something ominous ahead. If this turns out not to be the case, I won’t be disappointed because the anticipation has been sweet and I really like Isabel Archer.

I am also very close to finishing a review copy of a book called Miss Emily by Nuala O’Connor. It is told in alternating chapters from the perspective of an Irish maid-of-all-work to the Dickinson family and Emily herself. Once I finish it, the publisher has kindly offered a second copy for a giveaway. So look for that, probably next week sometime.

A third book I am almost done with is The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson. This is one of those slim books you have to read slowly. It is a mixed genre sort of book written in an episodic/collage kind of style. It is thought provoking in all kinds of ways and I am liking it very much even if sometimes I feel like I am not quite getting it.

I am still enjoying The Architect’s Apprentice by Elif Shafak. Sadly when a book needs to be set aside, this seems to be the one. I don’t know why but that is how it is. Hopefully I will be turning the last page by the end of the month. It is time to set something else aside instead if I have to.

I am not close to finishing but am in the middle of Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear. I’ve not read Bear before and am greatly enjoying this steampunk tale with sassy women and no good politicians.

I have Kelly Link’s newest collection Get in Trouble from the library and didn’t think I would actually get a chance to read it before having to return it and get in line again. But as luck would have it, the holds queue completely evaporated by the time the book came up for renewal so I renewed it and should be able to finish it. I have read one or two stories and they are typical Kelly Link weird.

One book I have from the library I know I won’t be able to read is Mark Danielewski’s newest, The Familiar. It is a big fat book and like his past books it is not a straight forward text. It looks interesting but I haven’t had the chance to spend much time with it to know whether I actually want to read it. If I do decide to read it I will have to buy my own copy so I am not forced to rush through it.

I have also begun a little study of Elizabeth Bishop. I have her Poems and finished the first volume of her published work, North & South, last week. Already I like her much better than Keats. I also have One Art, a collection of her letters and have begun reading that. What a good letter writer she was! So smart and funny, a completely different voice than in her poetry. And as luck would have it, there seems to be a bit of an Elizabeth Bishop revival in the works. I’ve seen numerous articles and essays about her around the internet in the last several months and the inimitable Colm Tóibín has just published a slim book called On Elizabeth Bishop. I just borrowed it from the library yesterday and am greatly looking forward to reading.

That should keep me going for August and into September too! Any good books on your plate?

Filed under: Books, In Progress Tagged: Whoever said summer was for hours of lazy reading didn't live in a four-season climate with long cold winters

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17. The Multiple Book Problem

Do you ever get frustrated that you can’t read faster? I don’t usually. Most of the time I putter along happy as can be and only get frustrated that I don’t have more time to read. I don’t often wish I could read faster, there is a real pleasure in reading at the speed a book asks me to and for many of the books I like best, that is generally slow.

Lately I am in the midst of so many good books and I want to be reading all of them at the same time and it is hard to decide what one to pick up. So I end up doing the sampler thing. If you are of the one-book-at-a-time ilk, you do not have this problem. I, however, have wandering eyes and book monogamy is next to impossible. Then I get myself in a situation like I am now where I have about six books in progress, all of them really good, all of them I want to be reading. But while my eyes wander, I still only have two of them and can read just one book at a time. Thus, the sampler happens and I pick up book A, read a few pages and put it down for book B. I read a few pages and book B is replaced by book C. You get the idea. I get to read them all but it is completely unsatisfactory.

I can hear you one book people say, Stef you know there is a simple solution to your problem, right? Yes, yes, I know, just choose a book and stick with it. But when I am reading book D, book A begins calling to me, singing a Siren song, don’t you want to know what happens next? Forget book D, you want me. I do! I want you so bad! Except book now book E is singing to me and I can’t concentrate. Sorry book A, gotta go.

A couple days ago it struck me that if I could read faster then at least it would be a partial solution. Except you can’t read poetry fast. Or thoughtful essays. Or weird short stories. Or Nathaniel Hawthorne. I get nowhere. Oh how I suffer! But what’s a girl to do? Why start another book of course!

Filed under: Books, In Progress, Reading

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18. A Poor Excuse If You Ask Me

One of the many books I am currently reading is Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. I have not read it since my freshman year of high school and so was really surprised by the “sketch” that precedes it, “The Custom House.” I had no recollection of this whatsoever. It’s no wonder really since it has not much of anything to do with the novel itself. Yes, there is some set up, but it is mostly Hawthorne writing about his time working at the Custom House as a Customs officer. It is mind numbingly dull for the most part so I skimmed.

I normally don’t skim, but good gravy, Hawthorne really drones on! There are, however, some rather amusing bits. Like when he complains about how soul-sucking his work is:

I had ceased to be a writer of tolerably poor tales and essays, and had become a tolerably good Surveyor of the Customs. That was all. But, nevertheless, it is anything but agreeable to be haunted by suspicion that one’s intellect is dwindling away, or exhaling, without your consciousness, like the ether out of a phial; so that, at every glance, you find a smaller and less volatile residuum.

Now you’d think he spent long days toiling away by the sound of that, yes? Unfortunately I can’t find the highlight in my ebook at the moment, but I burst out laughing as he goes on and on and then comes out that he works about three hours a day and is so exhausted by it that when he gets home he has no energy left to write.

Was time different back then? Was an hour longer than sixty minutes? Three hours of work a day and he can’t muster up the energy to work on his book? I think there aren’t many writers who wouldn’t love the chance to work three hours a day and then have all the rest of the day to themselves! Clearly Hawthorne was a sensitive soul and it is best he lived when he did because he would be completely crushed in today’s world.

Or perhaps he was just making excuses for a bad case of writer’s block. I think that likely to be the case because he touches that note of despair a few times throughout his sketch until he finally decides that he will never get The Scarlet Letter written unless he quits his job. Which he did. And obviously he managed to get the book written too.

But wow, I’d really like one of those three-hour work days to despair over!

Filed under: Books, In Progress, Writing Tagged: Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

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19. So Glad to Have You

It is days like today when I am so glad I have this space and bookish friends like you. Why you ask? Well remember last week when I was fretting over all the books I have in progress? You’d think I would pull back a little right? Finish a few, not start any new ones for a bit until I felt less overwhelmed. Yes, you would think that and I even thought that. However, what did I actually end up doing? I doubled down of course!

And this is why you all make me happy because if I told this to almost anyone else I know they would look at me as if I were completely bonkers. And while I may indeed be bonkers it has nothing to do with books. Books are what keep me sane. But even I have to admit I’ve gotten a bit reckless. But it makes me happy and hurts no one so I can’t really be argued with.

Within the last week-ish I have added to my in-progress pile the following:

Tomorrow I will be adding Ms. Marvel Volume One,No Normal. It just won a Hugo earlier this week. And in a few days I will be receiving a book to review for Library Journal called Wilde’s Women: How Oscar Wilde Was Shaped the Women of His Life by Eleanor Fitzsimons.

I want to break out into fits of hysterical laughter from the sheer number of books I am attempting to juggle at one time. For even more interest and some real danger, maybe I should toss in a fiery torch or two and a chainsaw! Wouldn’t that be something? Now you know if I suddenly disappear my juggling went awry; I will have either gone up in flames or sawed myself in half. There are other possibilities too so stay tuned. You never know what might happen!

Filed under: Books, In Progress

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20. Crazy September Ahead!

Can you believe the calendar says September already? Seems like I say that every month, not that’s it’s September, but you know what I mean. August was a decent month for reading. I didn’t finish a huge number of books but I did start reading a huge number! Yes, yes, there is definitely an imbalance there, but I suspect that even if there were some sort of magic pill or vitamin supplement to right the imbalance, I would refuse to take it. Besides, it all works out in the end anyway and there is no reason to get ruffled about it.

What’s on tap for the month? Should I repeat myself from a few August posts? Sure, why not, you may not have read those, or maybe you have forgotten unless you are creepy weird and keeping diligent track of all the titles I mention that I am reading.

Ok, so this is what’s going on:

  • Rare and Commonplace Flowers: The Story of Elizabeth Bishop and Lota de Macedo Soares by Carmen L. Oliveira. Thank goodness I got this one from the university library so I don’t have to rush through it! The book goes along with my study of Elizabeth Bishop. I am also reading the Complete Poems and have made it through the first two books she published. In addition, I am reading her letters, One Art. So very good!
  • The Rider by Tim Krabbé. A classic in the realm of cycling memoirs. The opening is fabulous. It begins just before a race and you can really feel the tension and excitement.
  • The Republic of the Imagination by Azar Nafisi. I am about to begin on her close reading of Huckleberry Finn and I expect it will be good. Even if it isn’t, the introduction of this book is fantastic and is alone worth the price of admission. I plan on writing about that introduction soon because its themes have popped up in a few other places recently.
  • Still Time by Jean Hegland. I am enjoying this one very much. It is about a Shakespeare professor who has Alzheimer’s and is slowly losing his memory. Rich with Shakespeare quotes and references, celebratory, yet sad.
  • I am sorry to say I failed to finish reading The Architect’s Apprentice by Elif Shafak. I have not intentionally dragged this one out so long. Hopefully September will see me getting to the end of it!
  • Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear. I am loving this book so much right now. I am reading it on my commute and at lunch and I have almost missed my stop a couple times and have been a tad late returning from lunch once or twice.
  • Oscar Wilde’s Women by Eleanor Fitzsimons. This is for a Library Journal review and is about the women in Wilde’s life who influenced him.

Phew, got all that?

Now, just arrived and about to arrive from the library, a number of books that I placed hold requests on at the beginning of the summer!

And speaking of the RIP Challenge, it’s on! This year it is being hosted by The Estella Society. And it is the ten-year anniversary of what has become an annual event for a good many people. Given that pile of in progress books I just listed, I am not certain how much creepy reading I will get in this year, but I will manage at least one book. It runs until October 31st, so maybe I will be able to slip in something else that’s short. You just never know!

Filed under: In Progress

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21. On Beginning to Read Oreo

I need to start another book like I need a hole in my head, but Oreo by Fran Ross arrived for me at the library and there is a hold queue so I can’t renew it and I couldn’t remember what it was about or where I heard about it only that I really wanted to read it when I put a hold request on it and Bookman is working late tonight so I decided to read while eating dinner and what should I read? Oh look! There is this new book from the library! Let’s see what it’s all about! And OMG, I almost choked on my dinner because I was laughing so much. I still have no idea what the book is about but is it ever funny!

I take that back, I do have some idea what the book is about. It’s about Christine (aka Oreo) whose father is Jewish and mother is black. Yiddish everywhere! Jokes and humorous situations galore! The back of the book tells me it is a modern parody of the odyssey of Theseus with a feminist twist, pop culture, black vernacular and Yiddish wisecracking.

I have not gotten far, I am only on page 12, but I am hooked. Here is how the book starts:

First, the bad news
When Frieda Schwartz heard from her Shmuel that he was (a) marrying a black girl, the blood soughed and staggered in all her conduits as she pictured the chiaroscuro of the white-satin chuppa and the shvartze’s skin; when he told her that he was (b) dropping out of school and would therefore never become a certified public accountant — Riboyne Shel O’lem!— she let out a great geshrei and dropped dead of a racist/my-son-the-bum coronary.

The bad news (cont’d)
When James Clark heard from the sweet lips of Helen (Honeychile) Clark that she was going to wed a Jew-boy and would soon be Helen (Honeychile) Schwartz, he managed to croak one anti-Semitic “Goldberg!” before he turned to stone, as it were, in his straight-backed chair, his body a rigid half swastika, discounting or course, head, hands, and feet.

And it just gets zanier from there. This is going to be fun!

Filed under: Books, In Progress Tagged: Fran Ross, Oreo

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22. October Reading

September was such a busy month in all parts of my life — work, gardening, biking and of course reading. I kept waiting for the cold weather to arrive but it never did. Part of me was disappointed about that and another part of me was really excited. But the go go go is starting to wear me out and even if I would love to keep go go going I am looking forward to cold weather whenever it finally gets here. Better late than never!

September reading plans were crazy and of course I didn’t read all I had I hoped to. But that’s ok. I dream big and if I read half of what I hope to I am happy. One book I did not get to read in September and had to return to the library was Helen Vendler’s The Ocean, the Bird and the Scholar: Essays on Poets and Poetry. I read the first two essays and liked them very much but just ran out of time. Vendler also does not exactly have a breezy style, one must read slowly and pay attention. So I have decided this is a book I would like to own. That way I can take my time with it, mark it up and always have it around for reference. I have been waiting for a Barnes and Noble coupon and one arrived in my email today so this will be the weekend of the purchase. Yay!

October catches me almost done with Still Time by Jean Hegland. I am very much enjoying the book. It’s a lovely and sad father-daughter story. I should be able to tell you more about it soon.

I am in the middle of Azar Nafisi’s The Republic of the Imagination and liking it very much. I somehow expected her literary analysis to have more of a critical textual focus but like Reading Lolita in Tehran, she mixes analysis with personal stories and focuses more on the broader story and its themes and context rather than picking away at scenes and nuances. It is good stuff and I plan to finish it this month.

I am picking away at The Rider by Tim Krabbé. It is lots of fun as he gives a rider’s view of a big race and the strategizing and physical effort. I had no idea the riders in the peloton chatted with each other while racing. It all seems like a friendly group ride until it isn’t. They never forget they are riding in a race.

My Elizabeth Bishop project continues. I am really enjoying her poetry. I didn’t get to spend much time with her letters and no time at all with Rare and Commonplace Flowers in September, so I am hoping to be able to carve out more time with those this month.

I just started reading Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson. I spent years thinking he was a she and I still have to catch myself. I have never read him before but have wanted to and now I am. This book is about a generation ship that after nearly 200 years of traveling from Earth to its destination is almost at journey’s end. The focus of the book is about all the unexpected changes that have happened to the humans on board and what that means for their survival.

New books on the horizon for the month include Foragers, Farmers and Fossil Fuels: How Human Values Evolve by Ian Morris. My turn for this just came up at the library yesterday. I read the introduction last night and almost decided no thanks until I learned that after Morris’s arguments he has three people from various specialties comment and argue with him. One of these people is Margaret Atwood! So while I get the feeling I won’t be agreeing much with Morris’s thesis, it isn’t every day an author includes three people who directly criticize in his own book. Plus, Margaret Atwood.

You may also be wondering what I chose for my first nature book after I asked for recommendations. Since it has been on my shelf for years and because several of you mentioned it, I decided to go with Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard. I will be starting it sometime this month.

And probably later in the month it looks like my turn at the library will be coming up for The House of Twenty Thousand Books by Sasha Abramsky. The book is about Abramsky’s grandparents and library and is published by the New York Review of Books. I have yet to meet a NYRB I didn’t like and I expect this one will be no exception.

Scaling back a little on the plans for October. So far. Tomorrow and Saturday Bookman and I will be attending NerdCon and who knows what kind of bookish craziness might ensue because of it! I will of course let you know.

Filed under: Books, In Progress

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23. Another Multiple Book Dilemma

One of the good things about having multiple books in progress all the time is that there is always something to read to go with my mood and I am rarely grumbling at a story that isn’t clicking for whatever reason — I want a page turner and the book is a slow, character-focused book say, or I want something quiet but the one book is frenetic and loud. With more than one book on the go, I never get stuck in one book when what I want at the moment is something entirely different. And, if I don’t have what I want already started, I get the pleasure of diving into a new story.

The flip side of this however, because there is always a flip side, is what I am finding myself coping with right now. I have a couple books on the go, all good, all that I want to read, all moving slow but not in a bad way. These would be the three main books I am reading, the ones that get to most eyeball time.

One is Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson. This is a science fiction book about a generation ship — a ship of about 2,000 people that was sent off from Earth to populate a new planet in a distant solar system. It has taken 170 years to get to this new planet and they are just arriving. Of course the planet is not exactly like Earth from gravity to length of day, to soil bacteria, etc. Now these people who are not the same ones who set out from Earth 170 years ago, have to figure out how to survive on their new home. Interesting, but often technical, and slow moving.

Another is Foragers, Farmers, and Fossil Fuels: How Human Values Evolve by Ian Morris. As I suspected, I do not agree with his thesis. The book is a carrot and a stick. I am not so excited by his argument and text (stick) but I keep reading because half the book is a critique of his argument by three other people and one of those people is Margaret Atwood (carrot). I want the carrot, but the stick is sometimes hard to take!

My other main book at the moment is Republic of Imagination. I am very much enjoying it but the section on Huck Finn is the biggest one in the book and it is starting to go on too long. Unfortunately there are another 20-30 pages of the Huck section to go.

I don’t mind that these books are moving along at a slow pace or that I am occasionally bored by them. Foragers is a library book with others waiting for it so I have to really concentrate on getting that one done.

So what’s the problem? Well, my turn came up for another library book two days ago, The Bicycling Big Book of Cycling for Women. It’s about bikes and training and nutrition and all that. I expected it would be something to dip into, that it would not be something I wanted to just sit and read for long periods of time. But it turns out I do want to sit and read it much to the detriment of the other books! So the last two nights instead of reading Foragers as I had been doing, I have been reading about cycling. Why read a carrot/stick book when I can read a book that is all carrot? Not a problem generally but the due dates make it one.

This weekend I will be making myself read Foragers as much as possible and attempt to limit my time with the bicycling book. This is not a problem you one-book-at-a-time people have! You can laugh and shake your heads at me, but you multiple book people will understand what a difficult time I am facing for the weekend. These are nice problems to have and I hope all of you have a good weekend with no worse dilemmas than bookish ones to conquer!

Filed under: Books, In Progress Tagged: Azar Nafisi, Bicycling, Ian Morris, Kim Stanley Robinson, Margaret Atwood, multiple book dilemmas

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24. November Reading

We changed out clocks over the weekend and this daylight savings malarky has me all discombobulated! I didn’t sleep all that well last night thanks to the cats not sleeping all that well — they walk on me, lay on me, lick exposed parts like arm, hand, face in the hope that this will somehow induce me be want to pet and cuddle with them in the wee hours and it has not worked yet but they keep trying anyway — and just as I dozed off this morning I jolted awake with the horror that it was getting light outside and my alarm had not gone off and I was going to be late for work. Now this evening while I am eating dinner and it is suddenly full dark I have a panic that it is much later than I thought and how long having I been eating? I was reading while I ate and you know, sometimes time can get away from one, but when I looked at the clock it wasn’t late at all.

I will get used to it all within a few days, but really, this whole thing is unnecessary. I don’t know anyone who says yay daylight savings! My favorite time of year! Except kids who get excited over the illusion of having an extra hour to sleep.

And here it is November already. Does anyone else feel like the year is barreling to a close? Stores have Christmas decorations up already and I am sure in a day or two I will start hearing Christmas songs mixed in with the regular pop music while walking through Macy’s to and from work. It’s sickening really.

There is nothing sickening on the book front though, far from it. There are so many good books to read and so many that I am waiting my turn for ever so patiently at the library. One of those I am waiting for is Ancillary Mercy, the conclusion to Ann Leckie’s Imperial Raadch trilogy. I am number sixteen on the holds list at the moment. It seems like a long wait, but it might not be, you never know. So if I suddenly disappear, it is because the book arrived and I am reading it and can’t be bothered with the rest of the world.

In the meantime I have plenty of other books to occupy myself. The House of Twenty Thousand Books by Sasha Abramsky is so far a wonderful tribute to his grandfather who seemed to know everyone and everything and managed to create one heck of a private library. There is also The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World by Andrea Wulf. If you guessed it is about Humboldt you get a gold star! He was quite an interesting man and brilliant in so many ways, kind of manic too. A manic genius. Good book so far.

I am still reading Republic of Imagination by Azar Nafisi. I am in the final third of the book and enjoying it. I suspect I will be done in the next week or two. Also nearing the end of Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson. It started off slow but it is turning out to be a good book. Not one of those lush with images and description sorts of books, nor is it a plot-driven page turner. Not exactly a character-driven book either. It’s kind of an odd duck in many ways, but it works and I keep reading and am getting a bit nervous as to how it all might come out in the end.

I am about to start reading Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. Danielle and I are reading it together. We’ve both been meaning to read it for ages so we decided to stop saying we mean to read it and actually read it. And tomorrow into my paws will come from the library Lumberjanes volume 2 and a book called Poetry is Useless by Anders Nilsen. Both are graphic novels. I know exactly what to expect from Lumberjanes, no idea what to expect from Poetry is Useless. Guess I will find out soon!

I have a long four-day Thanksgiving holiday weekend to look forward to in a couple weeks. Will it be cold by then? Will I be able to spend the holiday curled up under a quilt reading and eating pumpkin pie? I will find out all too soon!

Filed under: Books, In Progress

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25. Book Crazy

Remember last week when I posted about November reading and mentioned I was waiting for Ann Leckie’s book from the library and also was going to be picking up two graphic novels? Of course you do, you keep detailed notes of my reading habits. Wait, you don’t? That’s ok, I don’t either so why should you? We’re just flying by the seat our pants here which explains all the holes in my jeans. I either need to get patches or some really interesting underwear. But I digress.

So I got the graphic novels, already read Lumberjanes and am laughing my way through Poetry is Useless. I am at number 13 on the holds list for the Leckie book. And of course three other books I have been in queue for quite some time have come round to my turn. I was not expecting these! Just when I was feeling like my reading was under control again.

Well, part of the problem is that a couple months ago I broke my vow to limit myself to five library holds at a time. The waits were long, what could possibly go wrong?

Yes, go ahead and snicker. I would do the same if you were telling me this story.

But let’s jump from holy cow! How am I going to read all these unrenewables by their due dates? and go directly to, yay look at what books I got from the library!

The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth. Another Graywolf book that is getting lots of buzz. It is a post-apocalypitc novel set 1,000 years in the past during William the Conquerer’s time. I know right? A historical post-apocalypse novel. How crazy is that? Doesn’t that alone make you curious?

Browsings by Michael Dirda. I am always a sucker for Dirda’s bookish essays. This is his newest collection. I don’t think any further explanation is needed on this one.

Speak by Louisa Hall. I don’t remember where I heard about this one. Five characters all from different points in time. It’s a novel about language, the need to communicate, artificial intelligence and what it means to be human. It is not science fiction. Nonetheless, it makes my nerdy heart beat a tiny bit faster.

None of these books are super fat but none are especially thin either. I am not sure how I am going to manage to read them all but I will make a valiant effort.

And just to add fuel to the fire, I got my first seed catalog in the mail today. Not from one of the places that I never order from but one of my favorites, Pinetree Garden Seeds. Part of me wants to take all those books back to the library so I can spend as much time as I want devouring the catalog. Seeds! Garden! What new thing should I try next year? But since I won’t even place a seed order until January at the earliest, I will have to pry my eyes away from the beautiful cover of colorful beets and try to focus on library books.

I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.

Filed under: Books, In Progress

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