Reading Update

After a couple of very slow months, I’ve read five books so far in June. I bought eight during my mom’s visit last week, and then I got a cold, so I haven’t been doing much else other than read.

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke. I’m always late to books! I enjoyed Jonathan Strange etc., but it was such hard work to read that it took me a long while to pick this one up. Glad that I did, since I just devoured it. Much smaller scope than the other, but beautiful descriptions and an interesting story.

Another Fine Myth by Robert Asprin. Out of print, looks like, except in collected editions. I occasionally muse on the idea of reading our entire fiction section starting from A, and I haven’t read this one in decades. There isn’t much to it–there was a time when you could publish a short, whimisical fantasy novel like this–but it was a fun revisit.

The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles. Ravelry book club pick for June. I didn’t think that I would like this, and then I read the whole thing in one day. A much more philosophical piece than I initially expected, the book consistently surprised me and gave me a lot to think about thematically.

The Big Short by Michael Lewis. This was a “saw it at the used book store, recalled that I have previously considered reading it, bought it” purchase. A well-told tale despite its arcane financial subject.

The Faraway Nearby by Rebecca Solnit. This book is harrowing in places–her awful relationship with her mother, her mother’s Alzheimer’s progression, her own brush with cancer, other friends’ crises, ecological catastrophe–but also a fascinating reflection on the nature of story and selfhood and what makes us, with Solnit’s usual wide-ranging artistic sense arranging all sorts of disparate things into patterns for fresh consideration.


Reading Update

Covering February and early March:

  • Entangled Life – Utterly fascinating; I had no idea how little we knew about fungus.
  • Life in the French Country House – The last Christmas present of the season, a beautiful book, full of interesting material that I am sure to use in a story someday.
  • The Thursday Murder Club – February pick for my Ravelry book club; very fun. I immediately bought the sequel.
  • The Scarlet Pimpernel – One of those books we have owned forever, and I never got around to reading it before. Interesting in a historical-artifact sort of way.
  • A Man Lay Dead, Enter a Murderer, Overture to Death – Three by Ngaoi Marsh. I was looking through the storage space and found a box of old paperbacks.

The year-to-date total is 10. I have been buying books at a hilarious pace lately, so I will need to scurry a bit to get back on top of the pile.

The new knitting project is going well, I’m up to chapter 6 in my editing, and I have a hike scheduled today. Come on, spring!


3. The Story of French

Still working my way through the 2020 Christmas stack! I don’t have too much to say about this one; it was a very fun read about a topic I am not at all informed on. I feel both expanded and entertained by the material. The book covers not just French-in-France but French worldwide, with its long history of accretion and dispersal via diplomacy, colonization, and post-colonial exchanges.

From the fall of Rome to the rise of cable TV covers a lot of ground, and the book is necessarily light. It is also, I should mention, not a linguistics book, so if that’s your main interest, this will not suit you. There are a lot of examples of dialect drift, slangs, creoles, and ongoing evolution in how the language is used (as of the book’s 2006 publication), but they are included by way of illustrating the historical context, not as the main subject.

(I have been trying off and on for years now to learn French–not out of any particular utility, although I would like to visit the country some day, but a sense that one really ought to speak at least two languages. As with most efforts I undertake, I am making slow progress.)

Highly recommended for the casual reader.


1. Gathering Moss

My daughters, being raised in a place where they simply assume that all rocks have names, christen their own: Bread Rock, Cheese Rock, Whale Rock, Reading Rock, Diving Rock.

Robin Wall Kimmerer, Gathering Moss

If you had asked me a week ago what I thought about moss, the answer would have been that I don’t, really? It has been there on the borders of my perception, duly admired on boulders and fallen trees, occasionally to be touched for pleasure at its unique texture. I’ve spent moments contemplating the millennial process of reducing stone to earth, and then walked on.

It turns out that there is a great deal to know about moss, and this book warmly invites you to spend a few hours in their miniature perspective. Kimmerer’s eye is keen but gentle, and I felt embraced by this book of essays, by the memories she shares of the human-scale world woven into the ways of this other, very small and green.

She explains the science deftly, but also tells you about walking barefoot through peat bogs and a summer spent waist deep in a river studying cliff-dwelling moss; you keep one foot in the physical world the whole time. The past and present of her Native ancestry, the present of her scientific studies, and questions about the future shared by humans and forests intertwine around her ancient subject. Mosses are old and biologically simple–but is anything alive simple? There is an enormous and populous world below the limits of our vision, and usually beneath our feet, brimming with creatures living out the same relationships of predators and prey, facing the same reproductive challenges as any other part of the biosphere.

Although this is a slim book, just 160 pages, I wouldn’t recommend rushing through it. Like its subject, the book rewards slow consideration and repeat visits.

This first read of the new year was a Christmas gift from my mother–I can’t remember where I saw it recommended, unfortunately. To make it easier to keep track of my reading this year, I thought I would try numbering the posts. We’ll see if it takes!

On the subject of current events, I can either write a book (I’m sure someone already is) or resort to “smdh”. Will stick with the latter, as I already have a book to write. It’s on schedule so far, one week in.


Recent Online Reading – Dec 2018

While we meander toward the end of the year, wrapping up projects and shopping for the holidays, here are some links that you might appreciate:

That’s it for today!