Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Book Stack ~ July 2020

For a while my laptop has been losing its ability to talk to certain websites and apps. Losing zoom was a real problem in the covid days, and then blogger went too. So it was time for a new one, which arrived almost exactly ten years after the old one did. I'll always feel nostalgic about that old laptop, the very first computer I owned that was all mine (except for the two or three years that M used it for his school work and music and the times E and Z used it to write reports), that produced many issues of my zine, several hundred blog posts, countless essays and short stories. It's the laptop that went to graduate school, and Ireland, with me. It was a good workhorse and writing partner, chugging along even after I cracked the screen a few years ago (oops). 

I think I can drop the pretense that I'm still working toward My 2020 book challenge—to read 50 books from the stack by my bed (and other unread volumes already in the house). By my count I've read 15 books that were already in the house and unread by me (I guess 20 if the Flavia de Luce novels I borrowed from M count). Meanwhile, new (mostly used) books keep making their way into the house and onto my nightstand at an alarming rate. 

Previous months here: JanuaryFebruaryMarchAprilMay, June.

The one book stack book I read in July was Mariposa Road by Robert Micahel Pyle, about the first butterfly "big year," i.e., his attempt to see as many butterfly species in one calendar year as possible (his goal was 500 and he fell just short of it). I admit that at first I thought it was going to be boring, but I have a soft spot for cutely cantankerous old men (as long as they are cantankerous in the service of good--such as butterfly conservation--and not bad--such as ranting about anything they saw on Fox News), and the book and its author grew on me. I read the book at the same time I was learning butterflies, and it was fun to hear about species in other parts of the country (I really need to get to the Rio Grande Valley). It was also nice to know that a butterfly expert can still sometimes miss netting the butterfly or i.d.ing the species.

I had fallen out of the habit of reading poetry in the morning when I went back to work in the fall. Once bird-watching season ended for the most part this summer, I picked the habit back up and read Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry edited by Camille Dungy. The poems in this collection are so good. I don't know enough about poetry to tell you why (if it sounds good it is good), but at least some of the appeal is in the huge range that includes rhyme, meter, form, free verse. The way it expands the definition of nature writing is part of it too--when bodies have been colonized and abused as badly as the land, when nature is both a place of escape and a source of terror, when a writer's relationship to the natural world is through toil, when the natural world includes rats and cockroaches in substandard housing, then it makes for a much more vast understanding of the genre. 

Still going with escapist in the fiction realm, reading another Mary Stewart suspense, Rose Cottage (more on Mary Stewart here, here, and here), which was, as always, delightful. I'd read the first Kopp Sisters novel back in April, but because I'd accidentally bought #s 3 and 4, but not 2, I had to wait to continue, meanwhile getting distracted by other books. I finally resumed in July, and each volume gets better than the last. The fourth in the series, Miss Kopp Just Won't Quit, is particularly timely, featuring a candidate for office who lies, intimidates, and plays on people's fears as his entire campaign strategy. I won't give anything away, but I do hope real life turns out better. 

What are you reading these days?

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