Friday, November 12, 2021

Book Stack ~ September and October 2021

  A monthly post about my progress toward finishing a very large stack of books. Past months' posts:

In September I started a lot of books but didn't finish many of them until October, so this time around the two months are combined into one.

In service of researching ways of promoting my book I reread Austin Kleon's Show Your Work and read for the first time Steal Like an Artist. These are fun and fast reads that give good ideas for fostering creativity.

In the long-distance-hiking memoir category, I read Alone in Wonderland by Christine Reed, in which she recounts her hike on the Wonderland Trail in Washington, as well as an earlier partial hike of the AT while she grapples with what it means to be independent versus lonely.

For a long time I've been meaning to read Kathleen Dean Moore's Wild Comfort: Finding Solace in Nature, and now, a million years into the pandemic, felt like the right time to get around to it. I always love reading Moore's gentle words and her twining of philosophy and nature observation, and this book did not disappoint. 

Many years ago I read Wallace Stegner's Beyond the Hundredth Meridien, about John Wesley Powell and the history of water in the West, and I've been meaning to read more ever since. I finally picked up a copy of The Sound of Mountain Water, which is half essays about travel and the natural world around the West and half pieces on Western writers and writing, which is kind of an odd combination that I'm not sure would appeal to everyone. The travel and local interest pieces are delightful, especially one in which he and friends and family take a road trip through the desert not long after WWII, an experience that would be impossible to replicate today.

Continuing on the Stegner theme, I read Angle of Repose, which is one of his most celebrated novels. It's written in a style that reminded me of Victorian writers or William Styron's Sophie's Choice, in which one character tells another character's story, in this case the narrator is a man in the "present" (1970s California) who is suffering from a degenerative bone disease and trying to cope with his circumstances and a changing world while researching the life of his grandmother, a genteel Eastern artist who followed her husband to mining camps and frontier towns in California, Colorado, Mexico, Idaho, and again California in the late 1800s. It's a long book that took a long time to read. Very little actually happens, though the thing that happens is a big one (again like Sophie's Choice), yet it remained an engaging read almost the whole way through (I did feel that it lagged a bit in the middle, round about Mexico). Stegner's descriptions of the places his narrator's grandmother lived, her thoughts and feelings, her experiences are vivid and fascinating.

Finally, I read City of the Mind by Penelope Lively, a book a friend passed on to me several years ago. Again it's a book in which very little happens, but the writing is stunningly gorgeous.

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