If you aren’t already listening, I want to pop in quick and recommend the podcast “You Must Remember This” hosted by Karina Longworth. It’s a podcast about Hollywood, mostly old and golden age, but some a bit newer. It’s one of my favorite podcasts and a new season just started last week. There’s a lot to catch up on and enjoy if you’re not already listening, though!
I’ve been incredibly remiss in posting at all this year…! I still haven’t posted pictures from Dayton, OH, from last November. And I went on a trip this past weekend that I’m sure I’ll want to share pictures from… I’ll have to do better!
In the meantime, June 2018 is in the books. I’m not entirely sure where the year has gone. I’ve been working. Reading. Playing with the baby. Made a few trips to see family. But it’s been a quiet year overall, that somehow just keeps ticking on by.
I thought that an easy way to post would be to do a mid-year book post. I’ve read soooo much this year so far. (Yay for mindless work and audiobooks for the vast majority of this years reads so far.) I’ve already finished 75 books this year – last year I only read 66 all year! And I’m already past my previous high (as recorded by Goodreads) of 72 in three different years. My goal for this year is 100, since the last third of the year I don’t know what I’ll be doing (my job is up at the end of August) and will probably have much, much less time to read.
So. Without further ado.
I’ve read 4 kids books this year – 2 rereads and 2 new books. The rereads were Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett and Where’s My Cow? by Terry Pratchett, which are both wonderful. The new books were Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star by James Dean (the Pete the Cat version) and A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Jill Twiss, which were both also wonderful. Most kids books are so good though, aren’t they.
That leaves 71 adult and YA books this year so far. I reread His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman which is a longtime favorite series. I then read the prequel book, La Belle Sauvage, the first Book of Dust. I also reread some Evelyn Waugh, Sarah Vowell, and a bunch of Agatha Christie.
I also read a bunch of new to me Agatha Christie. I’ve now read all the Miss Marple novels! (Still have some short stories.) I read some Poirot I hadn’t read before as well. I read some John Le Carre, other Sarah Vowell, George Orwell. I attempted some James Bond, but quit after one book. I was on a Downton Abbey-related kick and read the two books about the Carnarvons by Lady Fiona Carnarvon, as well as Julian Fellowes’ novels. I read two of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s novels, and loved them both. I read a lot of non-fiction as well, though only 19 titles were. (You read all that Agatha Christie and it really bumps up the fiction numbers!) I’ve read 30 books by men, 42 by women (one was by a couple, so it’s in both counts).
So here we are. What have been the best so far? Well, I’d include the Taylor Jenkins Reid novels, but I focus on real-life here, so I’m just going to pick a few from the 19 non-fiction. (But seriously, at least read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. It’s amazing.)
Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell. This was a reread for me, but if you haven’t read Sarah Vowell, I think this is a good place to start. She talks about the Garfield, Lincoln, and McKinley assassinations, and goes to places of importance for each. Vowell is a humorist, so it’s a light, and sometimes funny, take on a heavy subject. It’s really fun.
America’s Women by Gail Collins. Another reread for me. This covers 400 years of American history, from the Mayflower and Roanoke, up through the 1970s womens movement. Collins uses women you might not know about, as well as some more well-known women, to talk about the different periods. I’m more partial to the earlier history, but it’s all really well done. (She has a sort of follow up, When Everything Changed, about women since 1960.)
Underground by Haruki Murakami. This was super fascinating. Murakami examines the 1995 gas attack in the Tokyo subway, what led to it, and how people affected reacted. It’s a really interesting look at the cult of Aum Shinrikyo as well as the Japanese people as a whole. It’s heartbreaking in parts, too.
And Now We Have Everything by Meaghan O’Connell. This one won’t be for everyone, as it’s a candid take on pregnancy and childbirth and the early years of raising a child. But this was just wonderful for me. I related to so much of it and really appreciated such an open account from O’Connell. Being a parent is rewarding and fun, but so, so hard, and this tells it like it is.
The Feather Thief by Kirk W. Johnson. This is the last book I’ve read, and it’s just so bizarre I’ve been thinking about it since I finished it. At it’s most basic, it’s about rare birds, fly tying (like for fly fishing), and theft. Other than that, it’s a crazy story about Edwin Rist and why he stole all these rare birds from a British museum and the repercussions of it all. Johnson discusses the Victorian bird craze and the start of bird protection agencies, and how it led to Rist doing what he did. Johnson pursues the story even when there’s not much there. It’s super bizarre and amazing.
So there we are! Right now I’m only actively reading Someone at a Distance by Dorothy Whipple. I have an audiobook borrowed from the library, but am catching up on some podcasts before I start it. I’m waiting on a hold to come in too – a book about Evelyn Nesbit. I have a few physical books I’ve started but haven’t been actually reading in a while, as well.
So what have you been reading? Anything good? Anything to avoid?
At the end of 2016 I extolled the virtues of Goodreads. In that post I had read 50 books. 29 by men, 21 by women. 15 were non-fiction, and I still had 3 non-fiction in progress at the end of the year. I wound up finishing the year at 52 books. Looking at my list, 34 were audiobooks, so 18 were physical books. The only comment I’d made was to try and read more women for 2017. Of course, this wasn’t a conscious goal, just a hope, but… how did I do?
In 2017 I read 66 books, despite dealing with family stuff (shout out to my library and their amazing collection of audiobooks!). 36 were by men, 28 by women. 56 were audiobooks, so 10 were physical books. 2 books were rereads. 6 were kids books (2 of those didn’t have an author, just a company, hence why 36 and 28 doesn’t total 66). 42 were nonfiction, so 24 were fiction.
So. I did read more books by women, but I also read more books by men. Both years 42% were by women. So… Not really better. This year I’ll again try and read more women, and I’d like to read more fiction, try and split it a bit more evenly. 2016 was mostly fiction (70% to 30% non-fiction), 2017 was mostly non-fiction (64% to 36% fiction).
Without further ado, a bit about some of the non-fiction I read and enjoyed this year. (Don’t worry, I’ll only pick a small handful to talk about!)
Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady’s Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners by Therese Oneill. This was a lot of fun. In 2016 I’d read How to Be a Victorian, and this was a fun follow-up to that. This was a lot more accessible and had some really funny musings about things. The conceit is that you’ve woken up as a Victorian and have to make do with all the things that aren’t familiar to you. It’s not the most in depth or serious, but there’s a place for that, and sometimes people need a fun into to history.
Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari. I read this because it’s by Aziz Ansari, but I didn’t know what I was getting into. I expected a humor book because he’s a comedian, and there are funny parts, but that’s not what this book is. It’s actually a pretty serious look at how we date and how that’s changed with all our new technology and dating apps. And it was super fascinating! Other than chatting over Facebook I never used any of these things when dating, and so it showed me a whole side to things I’m not familiar with.
Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace: The Private Diary of a Victorian Lady by Kate Summerscale. If you haven’t read anything by Kate Summerscale, do it. She really has a way of telling a non-fiction story really accessibly. This honestly felt like a novel a lot of the time. Even the drawn out court proceedings were interesting. This is basically a real life Emma Bovary or Edna Pontellier and it’s really well told.
Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard. Earlier in the I read The President and the Assassin about the McKinley assassination and it just wasn’t great (not awful, but not great). If you want a book about a presidential assassination, read this one. Millard really makes you feel for James Garfield being thrust into the presidency, and then coming to terms with it. She really gets into who Charles Guiteau was, showing him to be a bit insane, but not over the top crazy. Dr. Doctor Bliss (I love that his first name was Doctor) unfortunately, caused the whole situation to be worse than it should’ve been. Alexander Graham Bell felt that he’d failed but it was because of Bliss. There’s so much to this story and Millard tells it really well.
The Witches: Salem, 1692 by Stacy Schiff. I finally finished this in 2017! (I was passively reading it at the end of 2016, in that I had started it, but wasn’t actually reading it anymore.) This was a good book about Salem, but having read so much about Salem there wasn’t much new information. Additionally, I felt some of the footnotes were a bit flippant given the subject matter. It’s a good book though, and a good starter if you know nothing about Salem.
The Indifferent Stars Above: The Harrowing Saga of a Donner Party Bride by Daniel James Brown. This was a bit rough to read – the Donner Party is not an easy subject. That said, Brown told an excellent story. The entry point is a new bride who is part of the party. You follow her the whole way. It’s about everyone, but her story is really compelling.
The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra by Helen Rappaport. This was really fascinating and really in depth. The title’s a bit misleading as it’s about the whole family, not just the daughters, but that’s a quibble. Rappaport really makes you feel for the family, but also gives the appropriate context to what was happening.
Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande. Everyone should read this – I want to give a copy to everyone I know. I originally heard about this book years ago through an interview Gawande did on The Daily Show. I wish it hadn’t taken me so long to get to it because it’s so important. We do so much wrong medically in this country, elder and end of life care being a really important piece. We can do so much better in this country and Gawande lays out some very basic ways of going about it. Again, everyone should read this.
This year I’ve already read two books – one a novel (the first in a series) and one a kids book. I’m currently actively reading another novel (another first of a series – The Light Years by Elizabeth Jane Howard) and listening to a novel (The Secret History by Donna Tartt) and a non-fiction book (The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings by Philip & Carol Zaleski). I’m passively reading (as in not really reading, but don’t want to actually give up on) I Wish I’d Been There: Twenty Historians Bring to Life the Dramatic Events That Changed America, which is a bunch of essays, and Fracture: Life and Culture in the West, 1918-1938 by Phillip Blom (yes, I was reading this end of 2016 too). Based on just the books I’ve bought recently (yay Christmas money), I should have no problem reading more fiction. What all have you read recently? Anything good I should check out?
I realize there has been radio silence for the past six months and I do apologize. I knew there’d be a bit of a long break, but did not intend on it going on quite so long. I’ve been dealing with some family stuff and then returning to work, and just haven’t been able to get back to this, which is a shame because I do enjoy it, even if it’s just as simple as sharing interesting articles with you all! I hope to get back to more regular blog posts, but I feel like I’ve said that before and it didn’t happen. Work and life tend to get in the way. Maybe I’ll take one of my lunches each week and come up with something… 🙂
I for sure will have a new post on Monday, repeating what I did in December 2016, recapping the books I read this past year, and some of the stats about my reading in 2017. I’ll try and get one in shortly after with pictures from a day trip to Dayton, Ohio I took with my parents back in November.
Again, apologies! I’ve missed you all!
I didn’t mean this to be such a gap so long again. I sent myself this list of links at the end of May, and here it is, nearly mid-July. The next gap will probably be quite long again though, so I wanted to make sure I got this in before I knew I’d have a long break. Enjoy!
With so much on my plate lately, it’s been hard to find time to do anything blog related, let alone an actual post. So here’s my pathetic attempt to at least post something.
Hey, it’s only been a month of silence this time! I’m improving at the moment…!
In addition to the article above, here’s a link for the PBS program “The Great War” that starts tonight.