Thursday, September 20, 2018

August 2018 Reads

A roundup of books I read over the last month.

July 2018 Reads
June 2018 Reads January 2018 Reads

I'm a little embarrassed by August's book stack. I mean, it's so tall, it necessitated a portrait-oriented photo. And two books didn't even make it to the photo shoot. AND they're almost all beach books. But it was August, and what is August for, if not to read beach books at the beach (and in the tent, and on the hammock, and from the deck?).

Nonfiction. I'll start with the one serious book in the stack: Downcanyon, by Ann Zwinger. This, like Wind in Rock, which I talked about in June's list, is on dock for my next naturalists' book club meeting. I've read a lot by Zwinger in the last few years, and I think Downcanyon is her most beautiful writing. It's a year-round view of the Grand Canyon. She made trips there in all seasons, some by raft, others by research vessel, others on foot. How terrific of a life would that be? And the writing is just lovely, with the right balance of history and natural history with just a touch of the personal. (My book club wanted a book that had more nature than personal narrative, and all of Zwinger's books fit that bill. Though she doesn't completely excise the "i" or "me" from "memoir," the writing is first and foremost about what she observes and researches.) Zwinger, an art historian by education and illustrator of all her own books, has a truly artistic eye for the landscape, and a vocabulary to go with it, and paints vivid word pictures of all there is to see in the grandest of canyons.

Fiction. Oh dear. Did I really read that many books? I think I devoured three on our 5-day camping trip alone. Four are from Alexander McCall Smith's The Ladies' No. 1 Detective Agency series. I've read these off-and-on over the years, but had fallen behind recently. (How does that man write so many books? He's published 60-odd books in the last 20 years, since the first Ladies' No. 1 book came out. If only I could have a fraction of that creativity, imagination, energy, and je ne sais quoi.) Anyway, I picked up a couple volumes at the library booksale earlier this summer, and after I read them, I picked up a couple more at the library. They're nice, quiet reads, full of gentle wisdom and mild humor, and they make you feel like all is right in the world, as long as Precious Ramotswe is on the case.

I also read five more Elizabeth Peters/Barbara Michaels books. I'm not even going to list them here. I didn't even get one in the photo (it was buried on my nightstand and I'd forgotten about it until I dusted some time later). I'm starting to fear for my mental health. But, I am happy to report, I'm slowing down on the obsession. I've mostly exhausted the supply from used book purveyors in a two-hour radius of my home, and I'd say I was starting to exhaust my capacity for modern gothic, except that I also read this:

Rebecca, by Daphne DuMaurier. I remember as a kid seeing this book on my mother's bookshelves, and probably on the shelves of other people's mothers. I'd always assumed it was an up-scale romance. Boy was I wrong. It's described on the on the front cover as "romantic suspense," but I wouldn't consider it terribly romantic (almost anti-romantic). However it is suspensful, from the very first sentence (which I can't quote exactly, since I gave my copy to a friend, but which goes something like, "Last night I dreamed I was back at Manderley…"). You know something terrible is going to happen. And that it has something to do with the mysterious, late wife of Mr. de Winter. And when you find out what does happen, you are forced, against your own good sense and moral compass, to root for the perpetrator to get away with it. It's a book that messes with your head. And it's a book of lush, lingering passages of description, and a narrator whose fertile imagination fills the pages with daydreams about what might have happened, what is going to happen, what may be happening right now, elsewhere. It's a mesmerising page-turner if I ever read one.

Read-Aloud. E, Z, and I are still working our way through Elizabeth Peters's Amelia Peabody series, last month reading The Golden One. Not much more to say about these books, which I'm reading for at least the fourth time (so they must be good), except that it's pretty darn nice when your eighth-graders still want you to read to them (even if part of their motivation may be to get out of reading to themselves).

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