Monday, April 3, 2017

March Reads

Having a single post to cover all I read in 2016 was a bit overwhelming—both to write and, I'm sure, to read. So I've decided instead to do a monthly recap of books I've read, and share a little about each book. For past months, see:
January Reads
February Reads

Nonfiction. I badly broke my rule about having only one book in each category going at a time this month. I started one book (which isn't even on this list because I haven't finished it yet) and then started two more and read a fourth after I finished one of those two.

Rad Dad and Rad Families. I'm not going to say much about these here, because I read them in order to do a profile of editor and rad dad, Tomas Moniz, for Literary Mama's Father's Day issue in June. So, you'll just have to wait to read that, but if you're a parent or know anyone who's a parent, and/or if you care about gender equality, inclusiveness, social justice, and just generally raising kids to be decent human beings, get yourself a copy of both books.

Suburban Safari. I read this for my naturalists' book discussion group. The author, Hannah Holmes, explores just about every facet of her backyard in South Portland, Maine, from insects to soil to geologic history to human history, right down to the spider in her office window. It's surprisingly interesting how varied and full of life a small suburban lot can be. Holmes invites experts, from the state entomologist to Amory Lovins to her home to talk about different aspects of what's going on in her yard and also travels around the country to look at things like lawns in the desert and wildlife habitat yards in California,  I was at first annoyed by Holmes's very perky voice. But it grew on me after a while and I began to think I need to perk up my own writing.

Poetry. For poetry I read Blue Window by Ann Fisher-Wirth. A very long time ago (12 1/2 years or so) I went to my very first writing workshop—a week away at a small college here in Maine. I managed to get work to pay for it, and to make the trip appear more legit, I signed up for the environmental journalism track, but it turned out there weren't enough participants to run two separate tracks, so we spent the morning with the journalism guy and the afternoons with the poet, Ann Fisher-Wirth. In her sessions I rediscovered a long-dormant passion for creative writing. I usually try to buy a copy of at least one of the author's books whenever I take a class or go to a reading, and while I read this right after the workshop, I was due to read it again. Her poems touch on life and death, California during Viet Nam, when she was young; Mississippi, where she lives, and it's heavy burden of history. The poem's are heavy with atmosphere, rich with imagery, and unafraid.

Fiction. My sister bought me Magnificent Vibration by Rick Springfield for my birthday a couple of years ago and I only just now got around to reading it. Normally, I object to celebrities writing books other than the obligatory ghost-written memoir—stay in your own wheelhouse, dammit (although in one of my writing workshops we had a great time comparing Molly Ringwald's writing to Virginia Woolf, which I suppose is a tad unfair to Molly). But this is Rick Springfield, so I totally give him a pass, because he was my first heart-throb when I was but a mere teeny-bopper. And it's also a fun, weird, funny, and surprisingly thoughtful book (though the narrator does have an inordinate obsession with his, ahem, anatomy). Look! My copy is signed and personalized with a heart (swoon), and you'll note that rick also illustrated it, which is just one too many talents for a single human being if you ask me. This was supposed to be my escapist book for the month, but it turns out to be kinda about the end of the world…there is no escape.

How-To (I'm still not sure what to call this category-"self-help" makes me squirm, "self-improvement" is almost as bad, and "craft" is not quite broad enough. 4/417 edit: I thought of a category name: Inspiration!!). I finish up the 12-week The Artist's Way program tomorrow. I'm actually a little astonished that I stick with it the whole time and did almost all of the exercises, including three "morning pages" every single day (that's 252 handwritten pages!!). I did not experience any dramatic results and very little "synchronicity" as some people report happening, but I did, about halfway through, kick back into gear on writing book that had been languishing since November, so that's something. And I enjoyed writing my morning pages, taking myself on artist dates, and doing small things to treat myself, so I plan on sticking with it—Artist's Way for life. And I'm also moving on to another creativity-generating activity which I'll tell you about tomorrow.

What are you reading this month?

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