Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Book Stack ~ January 2021

Last year my book challenge was to read 52 of the books in my to-be-read stack. Not only did I not come anywhere close to this number, but my stack continued to grow over the year, because I kept ordering more books as a coping mechanism for dealing with the apocalypse. So I'm trying again this year: The stack on the right is fiction. I plan to read it "all" (there are somewhere around 30ish). I'm also not allowed to buy any more fiction until this stack is done. The stacks on the left are nonfiction. I plan to read the lower, front stack (as part of a long-term project I'm working on) and *some* of the others, but no definite number. The lower stack on the right is poetry, which I also plan to finish. (The very leftmost stack--basket and bag--are magazines I need to deal with; either read and recycle, pass on, or file if there's something essential I want to save within. Wish me luck!

I'm already off to a good start, having read five from the stack in January.

I *finally* read The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, which is one of those books one should already have read, and one I've been *meaning* to read for a long time. And it's soooo good. Just really fascinating delve into the lives of these characters--four Chinese women immigrants and their four first-generation American daughters. The characterization is tremendous and the storytelling and atmosphere are wonderful. So glad I finally read it. 

I also read The Knocker on Death's Door, a mystery by Ellis Peters that my mom sent me around Christmastime in a box of books. It was a pretty entertaining read with a twist ending, and a fun old-style puzzler, with an omniscient, head-hopping narrator that you don't usually get these days.

Several of the books on the stack are collections of short stories. I think I burnt out on short stories during my MFA program, when that's all I read, because I almost never think of grabbing a book of short stories when deciding what to read next. So I've decided to assign myself one per month, and schedule Short Story Saturdays, to make sure I get these read. January's read was Waltzing the Cat by Pam Houston. I'd read Houston's first book of short stories a few years ago and didn't love-love it, but this one I enjoyed much more and I liked the stories better as the book went on...probably something to do with there being less focus on the main character finding a man.

While I was reading that mammoth collection of nature writing I wrote about last month, I got in the habit of starting most mornings with both a poem and a nature essay, so I kept that habit up and finished reading The Colors of Nature, edited by Allison Hawthorn Deming and Lauret Savoy, which I'd started in the fall, an anthology of nature writing by writers of color. I love how this book expands on the notion of nature to include not just the wild or pastoral, but also the agricultural, the urban, the compromised and broken, and it challenges the genre to not only praise and sentimentalize but also argue and fight for environmental justice and make seen the invisible people and pollution.

Coincidentally, I read Lauret Savoy's essay collection, Trace, which travels through different American landscapes, searching for Savoy's family stories and revealing aspects of US history that are usually ignored or papered over. It's a lovely book, quiet in tone but powerful in message, and one I expect I'll return to again and again to let the words make a deeper impression.

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