Friday, October 20, 2023

Book Stack ~ September 2023

 A monthly post about what I've been reading.

I started the month with a week away at an artist residency, and I read so many books while I was there.


My big goal for the residency was to figure out if I still have the interest and motivation to work on a project that I've been thinking about and nibbling at over the course of nearly two decades, which is to put together a compilation of writing and biographies of women who write/wrote about motherhood and nature. So several of these were books I'd collected over the years in hopes of finding writing that would be applicable to this project and either hadn't read, hadn't finished reading, or had read in a different context. These were:

Linea Nigra by Jazmina Barrera, a diary-style accounting of pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding, with a lot of literature and art intertwined as well as earthquakes.

My Garden Book by Jamaica Kincaid, a collection of essays about gardening, plants, and colonialism.

Parrot's Wood,= by Erma Fisk, an amusing and grueling account of a month in primitive conditions at a bird refuge in Costa Rica by a retired woman who got involved in ornithology and bird conservation after the untimely death of her husband.

The Curve of Time by M Wylie Blanchet, charming and often harrowing tales of navigating the coast of British Columbia in a small boat with five children after the death of the author's husband.

Shaped by Wind and Water by Anne Haymond Zwinger, reflections on a life of nature writing from a week at an artist residency.

The Natural World of Louise Dickinson Rich, a three-part account of the author's life in three zones of New England: the Piedmont of Massachusetts, the North Woods of Maine, and the coast of Maine.

I also had time for fun reading and kept going on my Mary Stewart streak, with My Brother Michael and Nine Coaches Waiting, both fantastic examples of the romantic suspense genre, as well as The Wind Off The Small Isles, which had a great setup and then sort of fizzled for me. I guess it's good to know that even a supremely talented writer sometimes swings and misses.

When I returned home, I read Rooted 2: The Best New Arboreal Nonfiction, an anthology in which my essay "Faith in a Seed" appears, which was edited by Josh MacIvor Anderson and came out from Outpost19 books this summer. 

I admit to not always being a good literary citizen when it comes to reading the words that share pages with mine in an anthology or journal, but I read this book cover-to-cover and it is filled with beautiful and brilliant essays about trees. I would highly recommend it even if I wasn't featured inside.

Finally, in what is becoming a September tradition, I listened to the audiobook of the newest Richard Osman, The Last Devil to Die, and then I re-listened to the earlier volumes and then the new one all over again. I love these books. They're smart and funny and clever. 

But I've had a couple people tell me they couldn't get into them (one as a reader and one as a listener) and that they got confused by the number of different characters and points of view. So, be warned about that. I've also been binge-listening to the Maintenance Phase podcast, which has made me much more aware of and sensitive to anti-fat bias and weight stigma, and so listening this time around, especially to the first book, I felt a little cringey about the way the detective Chris thinks of his own weight and the way his side-kick Donna nudges him toward using the stairs and not eating junk food. So be warned, these books aren't for everyone (then again, what book is?).

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