Jackie goes back to basics in 2023

Discussão2023 Category Challenge

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Jackie goes back to basics in 2023

Dez 4, 2022, 12:27 pm

Hello, I’m Jackie and this is my (I think) 8th year doing the Category Challenge. I live in Scotland and work in the NHS, and my book tastes are very heavily (although not exclusively) skewed towards non-fiction.

In 2022 I didn’t learn the lesson I’d been taught a couple of years earlier, and took part in far too many CATs which took a lot of the spontaneity out of my reading choices. I still used my famous Jar of Fate (a repurposed Canderel jar with slips of paper with every book title I own but haven’t yet read) to choose my non-CAT reads, but the number of CATs I wanted to take part in all got a bit much. So for 2023 I’m going to go right back to basics, and the Jar will choose most of my reads this year. I will take part in GeoCAT and the 75 group’s Non-Fiction challenge, but only on months where I have a book on Mt TBR which fits, and likewise I’ll check out the RandomKIT each month to see if I have anything that fits. If not, I’ll just pass on that month. I also take part in the ROOTs group, where we specify at the start of the year a goal for the number of books we’ll read, and I’m going to lower my goal there in 2023 as well. I love reading, and I don’t want it to be a slog!

I’ll use the same categories I always do, and look forward to sharing some interesting and unexpected reads with you - welcome to my thread!

Editado: Jul 22, 2023, 1:40 pm

1. Central & Eastern Europe/former Soviet Union

This is where I’ll put any books I read relating to this fascinating part of the world (where I’ve been lucky enough to live and study).

1. Sophie Pinkham - Black Square: Adventures in Post-Soviet Ukraine. Finished 6.1.23. 4/5.
2. ed. Kateryna Kazimirova and Daryna Anastasieva - Voices of Freedom: Contemporary Writing from Ukraine. Finished 10.1.23. 4/5.
3. Philip Oltermann - The Stasi Poetry Circle. Finished 22.7.23. 4/5.

Editado: Out 6, 2023, 3:04 pm

2. Non-fiction (general)

Non-fiction which doesn’t fit into any of my more specific categories.

1. Tom Cox - Notebook. Finished 3.2.23. 4.5/5.
2. Miranda Keeling - The Year I Stopped to Notice. Finished 28.4.23. 4/5.
3. Adam Rutherford - The Book of Humans. Finished 6.5.23. 3.5/5.
4. Amanda Gorman - Call Us What We Carry. Finished 8.6.23. 4.5/5.
5. Mary Roach - Packing for Mars. Finished 14.7.23. 4/5.
6. Ece Temelkuran - How to Lose a Country. Finished 13.8.23. 4.5/5.
7. Laura Kortum - Format Your First Ebook. Finished 31.8.23. 5/5.
8. Caroline Dooner - The F*ck It Diet. Finished 30.9.23. 3.5/5.
9. Joan Didion - Slouching Towards Bethlehem. Finished 5.10.23. 3.5/5.

Editado: Dez 22, 2023, 10:58 am

3. Contemporary fiction (1969-present)

Fiction that has been published in my lifetime.

1. Louie Stowell - Loki: A Bad God's Guide to Being Good. Finished 14.1.23. 4/5.
2. Mark Stay - The Ghost of Ivy Barn. Finished 12.3.23. 5/5.
3. Dav Pilkey - Captain Underpants and the Preposterous Plight of the Purple Potty People. Finished 31.5.23. 4/5.
4. Alexander McCall Smith - In the Company of Cheerful Ladies. Finished 16.9.23. 3.5/5.
5. Richard Osman - The Man who Died Twice. Finished 25.11.23. 4/5.
6. Rhoda Baxter - Christmas for Commitmentphobes. Finished 22.12.23. 3.5/5.

Editado: Nov 7, 2023, 4:35 pm

4. Sexual/reproductive health & rights; gender; sexuality; parenting; children

Books that reflect my academic and research interests (but they may or may not be academic or research books!).

1. Elinor Cleghorn - Unwell Women. Finished 17.6.23. 4.5/5.
2. ed. Una Mullally - Repeal the 8th. Finished 5.11.23. 3.5/5.

Editado: Nov 19, 2023, 8:41 am

5. Celtic

Books relating to the Celtic lands of Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Cornwall, Brittany, Isle of Man, etc (mostly Scotland, to be honest).

1. George Seton - St Kilda. Finished 12.2.23. 3/5.
2. Alex Boyd - Isle of Rust. Finished 14.3.23. 3.5/5.
3. Bettina Selby - The Fragile Islands. Finished 27.5.23. 3/5.
4. Elspeth King - A History of Stirling in 100 Objects. Finished 9.9.23. 4/5.
5. Willie Jenkins - Memories of St Ninians. Finished 18.11.23. 4/5.

Editado: Out 17, 2023, 4:42 pm

6.Vintage fiction (1900-1968)

A small category for me, but I’ll try and read at least one this year.

1. Mikhail Petrovich Artsybashev - Sanin. DNF 14.7.23. 3/5.
2. Jorge Luis Borges - Labyrinths. Finished 17.10.23. 2/5.

Editado: Nov 7, 2023, 4:36 pm

7. Academic

More general academic books that I’ve picked up over the years but never quite managed to get round to.

1. Emma Crewe and Richard Axelby - Anthropology and Development: Culture, Morality and Politics in a Globalised World. Finished 7.11.23. 4/5.

Editado: Nov 19, 2023, 8:16 am

8. Biography; autiobiography; memoir; true story

Celebs and unknowns, who knows who’ll turn up this year?

1. Steinunn Sigurdardottir - Heida: A Shepherd at the Edge of the World. Finished 5.4.23. 4/5.
2. Spike Milligan - Mussolini: His Part in my Downfall. Finished 22.4.23. 4.5/5.
3. Artemis Cooper - Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure. Finished 9.6.23. 4/5.
4. Marilee Foster - Dirt Under My Nails. Finished 6.8.23. 4/5.
5. Jung Chang - Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister. Finished 14.9.23. 4/5.
6. Ai Weiwei - 1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows. Finished 17.11.23. 4.5/5.

Editado: Dez 4, 2022, 12:34 pm

9. Ancient fiction (pre-1900)

Another small category for me. I don’t love fiction from this period, in general, but do feel like there are a lot of classics I’ve missed out on. So again, I’ll try and read one this year.

Editado: Dez 19, 2023, 4:24 pm

10. Travel

Here’s to another year of armchair travelling.

1. J.F. Penn - Pilgrimage: Lessons learned from solo walking three ancient ways. Finished 13.4.23. 4/5.
2. Peter Ross - A Tomb With a View: The Stories and Glories of Graveyards. Finished 13.12.23. 5/5.

Editado: Dez 24, 2023, 10:29 am

11. Religious

Mainly books relating to Christianity, but a few others too.

1. Margaret Silf - Wayfaring: A Gospel Journey Into Life. Finished 9.4.23. 4/5.
2. Arun Arora - Stick With Love. Finished 24.12.23. 4/5.

Editado: Dez 31, 2023, 7:41 am

12. Nature, environment and place

My literary happy place. I’ll try and continue to read at least one book a month in this category.

1. Helen Macdonald - H is for Hawk. Finished 26.1.23. 4.5/5.
2. Nicola Chester - On Gallows Down: Place, Protest and Belonging. Finished 13.2.23. 5/5.
3. Ruskin Bond - A Time for All Things: Collected Essays and Sketches. Finished 12.3.23. 4.5/5.
4. Mya-Rose Craig - Birdgirl. Finished 25.3.23. 4/5.
5. Rachel Lichtenstein - Estuary: From London to the Sea. Finished 16.4.23. 4.5/5.
6. Simon Barnes - Rewild Yourself. Finished 18.5.23. 4.5/5.
7. Andrew Gulliford - Bears Ears: Landscape of Refuge and Resistance. Finished 4.7.23. 4.5/5.
8. Gavin van Horn - The Way of Coyote: Shared Journeys in the Urban Wilds. Finished 20.7.23. 4.5/5.
9. Linda Cracknell - Writing Landscape. Finished 12.8.23. 4.5/5.
10. Suzanne Simard - Finding the Mother Tree. Finished 26.8.23. 5/5.
11. Amanda Thomson - Belonging: Natural histories of place, identities and home. Finished 28.9.23. 5/5.
12. ed. Gareth Evans & Di Robson - Towards Re-Enchantment: Place and its Meanings. Finished 9.10.23. 4.5/5.
13. ed. Tim Dee - Ground Work. Finished 14.10.23. 5/5.
14. Merryn Glover - The Hidden Fires: A Cairngorms Journey with Nan Shepherd. Finished 9.12.23. 5/5.
15. Lee Schofield - Wild Fell: Fighting for Nature on a Lake District Hill Farm. Finished 30.12.23. 4.5/5.

Dez 4, 2022, 12:28 pm

Welcome to my thread! :)

Dez 4, 2022, 6:18 pm

Happy reading! I'm hoping to pick up some recommendations from your Eastern and Central Europe category.

Dez 4, 2022, 6:55 pm

Welcome back and have a great reading year!

Dez 5, 2022, 12:56 am

Yay to the return of the Jar of Fate! Hope it sends you fantastic reading in 2023.

Dez 5, 2022, 5:11 am

Happy reading in 2023, and I hope the Jar of Fate gives you lots of interesting books!

Dez 5, 2022, 5:27 am

Excellent, looking forward to another year of fascinating reading.

Dez 5, 2022, 5:39 am

Looking forward to following your reading again this year.

Editado: Dez 5, 2022, 12:50 pm

>1 Jackie_K: My equivalent of the Jar of Fate is a program I wrote that will pick a random book from the list of books I own but haven't read yet! :)

Happy reading in 2023!

Dez 5, 2022, 2:31 pm

Good luck with your 2023 reading, can't wait to see what the Jar of Fate brings this year.

Dez 5, 2022, 4:26 pm

>1 Jackie_K: >21 bookworm3091: My version is just randomizing my TBR list (spreadsheet) and picking up the top x number of books. It worked well for me this past year and am going to do the same this year :-)

Dez 5, 2022, 5:00 pm

>21 bookworm3091: >23 Tanya-dogearedcopy: Love these ideas! I sometimes use a random number generator to clean up my to-read list; whatever comes up, I check if it's available at the library or if I still want to read it. If neither, I delete the book :)

Dez 6, 2022, 5:03 am

I'm looking forward to following along once again. I always enjoy your reviews so much!

Dez 6, 2022, 5:43 am

>24 rabbitprincess: I do that with my Goodreads to read list as well. Sometimes books that I have had on there for a while, I no longer have access to, which makes me sad that I didn't read them when I added them to the list in the first place!

Dez 6, 2022, 7:06 am

>1 Jackie_K:
>21 bookworm3091:

I do the same thing with a random number generator that I use with books on my TBR.

Dez 6, 2022, 7:12 am

Este utilizador foi removido como sendo spam.

Dez 6, 2022, 9:23 am

Thank you everyone! (apart from the spammer) It's so nice to see the love for the Jar of Fate! :D

>15 pamelad: Thank you! I'm hoping to read two in January (I'm hosting the CEE month in the GeoCAT), and hopefully more later on in the year.

>16 rabbitprincess:
>17 JayneCM:
>18 MissWatson:
>19 Helenliz:
>20 dudes22:
>22 lowelibrary:
>25 MissBrangwen:
Thank you all so much!

>21 bookworm3091:
>23 Tanya-dogearedcopy:
>24 rabbitprincess:
>26 JayneCM:
>27 Tess_W:
I love that there are so many different variations on the Jar of Fate theme that we use here!

Dez 6, 2022, 5:10 pm

Good to see you all set up and ready for 2023 as I know that it's just a matter of time before I get hit with a book bullet or two!

Dez 19, 2022, 12:59 pm

Stopping by with best wishes for your 2023 reading.

Dez 20, 2022, 12:30 am

Congratulations on going back to the Jar of Fate! I've tried similar methods but they don't work for me because I usually throw my catch back. Happy reading in 2023.

Dez 21, 2022, 12:29 pm

>30 DeltaQueen50: I'll do my best! ;)
>31 lkernagh: Really lovely to see you here again, Lori!
>32 VivienneR: I've rarely been tempted to put it back - usually I've only done it if I know for sure the book isn't accessible with the current state of our house!

Dez 24, 2022, 7:51 am

So how did your Jolabokaflod Secret Santa work that you mentioned on Mirjam's thread? And what did you get? (I didn't want to hijack her thread so thought I'd jump over here to ask.)

Dez 24, 2022, 8:00 am

>34 dudes22: Hi Betty! It was just a thing organised by an online friend in a writing-related forum I'm part of. We all sent her our addresses, and an indication of what sort of book we might like (or link to a wishlist), and then she allocated each person to someone for them to buy a book or books for. And then we open the parcels on Christmas Eve and post pictures of ourselves with our book (mine was Penelope Lively's Life in the Garden), and try to guess who bought us our book. It's the second year we've done it, it's a lot of fun.

Dez 24, 2022, 8:23 am

>35 Jackie_K: It sounds lovely!

Dez 24, 2022, 10:51 am

>35 Jackie_K: - That's the only one of her books I've read although I intend tp get back to her next year.

Dez 24, 2022, 12:27 pm

>36 MissBrangwen: It really is, and I had such a lot of fun choosing a couple of books for my Santee!

>37 dudes22: It's going to be my first book of hers too!

Dez 27, 2022, 9:29 am

Hope you have a great year of reading in 2023!

Dez 27, 2022, 2:34 pm

Have a great year, of reading and everything else.

Dez 30, 2022, 7:35 am

>39 thornton37814: >40 majkia: Thank you thank you!

Jan 1, 2023, 5:21 pm

Here's my End-of-Year meme answers, made up entirely from my 2022 reading:

Describe yourself: Urban Gardener

Describe how you feel: Heroic Failure

Describe where you currently live: Where We Call Home

If you could go anywhere, where would you go: Hebrides

Your favorite form of transportation is: Around India in 80 Trains

Your favorite food is: Three Apples Fell from the Sky

Your favorite time of day is: Year of the Nurse

Your best friend is: A Man Called Ove

You and your friends are: Peggy and Me

What’s the weather like: The Land of Little Rain (if only!)

You fear: The Decade in Tory

What is the best advice you have to give: Losing Eden: Why Our Minds Need the Wild

Thought for the day: News of Great Joy

What is life for you: Writing Wild

How you would like to die: In the Garden

Your soul’s present condition: Around a Thin Place

What was 2022 like for you? The Well of Lost Plots

What do you want from 2023? A Sky full of Kites

Editado: Jan 6, 2023, 2:44 pm

Category: Central & Eastern Europe/former Soviet Union
January GeoCAT: Central/Eastern Europe

Black Square: Adventures in Post-Soviet Ukraine by Sophie Pinkham is a highly readable and interesting account of the author's experiences in Ukraine from the early 2000s to early 2015 (so just after the Maidan demonstrations, flight of Yanukovich to Russia, Russia's annexation of Crimea and subsequent support of separatist forces in eastern Ukraine). She mainly worked in harm reduction NGOs/journalism and visited the country extensively for long periods, and this is an account of how politics, conflict, and corruption intersect with daily attempts to get by for Ukrainian citizens who are not part of the political classes/elites. She doesn't claim it is an exhaustive account, but she does attempt to problematise the simplistic Russian=bad, Ukraine=freedom-loving European democrats story that is largely found in Western media (as well as the simplistic Ukraine=bad, Russian=freedom-loving heroes found largely in Russian media). I've just received a book of contemporary Ukrainian writing from the perspective of the current war in Ukraine, and so I'm glad I read this first for some basic background. 4/5.

Editado: Jan 8, 2023, 11:13 pm

Hi Jackie, I'm just getting around to threads. Ohhh, the TBR is such a monster, and though I don't want to say it, it brings me great pleasure though the pleasure wouldn't be much less if I pulled a hundred or so from it this year! I loook forward to seeing what you read from yours this year.

Jan 9, 2023, 12:05 pm

>44 clue: I know, I love seeing the TBR pile and knowing how many excellent books are there to be discovered, and also love when it's smaller because I've actually read some - I know exactly what you mean!

Jan 9, 2023, 1:18 pm

Just stopping by to wish you a great reading year in 2023.

Jan 9, 2023, 1:38 pm

>47 Jackie_K: Thank you very much, to you too! :)

Jan 10, 2023, 5:54 pm

Just dropping by to wish you Happy New Year and great reading in 2023.

Jan 11, 2023, 1:16 pm

>48 VivienneR: Thank you Vivienne, to you too! I'm sure I'll be picking up BBs from you before too long!

Category: Central & Eastern Europe/former Soviet Union
January GeoCAT: Central & Eastern Europe

Staying in Ukraine for my 2nd book of the new year, Voices of Freedom, edited by Kateryna Kazimirova and Daryna Anastasieva, is an anthology of translated short stories, poetry and essays from contemporary Ukrainian writers (some in the diaspora, but most still living and working in Ukraine). As you might expect, many of the works here are infused through with war subjects and imagery, but they're also variously playful, magical, questioning, sad, funny, cynical, thoughtful. My personal favourites tended to be the poems, but every piece made me stop, and think, and remember.

This is a book I received through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers programme; thank you to the authors, editors and publishers for this opportunity. 4/5.

Jan 15, 2023, 10:09 am

Category: Contemporary fiction (1969-present)

My first library book of the year is Louie Stowell's Loki: A Bad God's Guide to Being Good, which she illustrated as well as wrote. This is the first in a series of books aimed at children aged 5-9 (so early primary), but I think it would also appeal to adults, especially if they know a bit about the various Norse gods (it certainly appealed to this adult, who has not been aged 5-9 for many many many years). The premise of the book is that Loki is banished to Earth (Midgard) by Odin in the guise of an 11 year old boy, and has a month to show moral improvement in order to be allowed back to Asgard. If he fails he is doomed to spend eternity in a pit of snakes (who pop up every now and then in the illustrations to remind him how much they're looking forward to seeing him). He has to write up every day in an interactive magical diary, which can tell truth from lies, which Odin will read at the end of the month. He is also not allowed to use his magical powers. He is accompanied by his 'brother' Thor (also an 11 year old boy - of course he's the popular handsome one), and 'parents' Heimdal and Hyrrokkin, in order to more convincingly fool the mortals that they are actually a mortal family. As the book progresses it becomes clear that Loki doesn't have a clue how to tell good from evil, and as the month goes on the quest to improve seems increasingly hopeless. Or does it? Lots of fun, plenty of fart jokes for the kids, and I enjoyed the illustrations too. I'll definitely read the others in the series. 4/5.

Editado: Jan 26, 2023, 4:59 pm

Category: Nature, environment and place
January Non-Fiction Challenge: Prizewinners and Nominees

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald is a wonderful book - a memoir of grief and falconry and recovery. After the death of her beloved father, she is plunged into an overwhelming grief, and as a project to help her deal with this she buys a goshawk whom she names Mabel and trains over the course of several months (she was into falconry from a very young age so wasn't a beginner but clearly knew her stuff already). Through the process of getting to know Mabel and her ways Helen seems to lose then find her own way, and understand what is happening to her in the depths of grief. As well as her own story, she intersperses it with musings on the writer TH White (author of several books from the 1930s onwards including a number of Arthurian books such as The Once and Future King). He too trained a goshawk (disastrously, it has to be said) as a way of dealing (or not) with the fallout of a traumatic childhood and forbidden sexuality, and as she tries to make sense of her own fallen-apart world she finds insight through White's writing too. It's not always an easy read - it's not a cuddly, nature-as-healer book, and she doesn't shy away from the grislier aspects of life with a powerful hunter - but very powerful, and there were several passages which even made me laugh (albeit through gritted teeth!), such as this one after she's attacked by the juvenile Mabel:

I rubbed my eyes and my hand came away soaked, dramatically and Shakespearianly, in blood. I pulled off my glasses. They were covered in it. Blood was running in streams down my forehead, into my left eye, and was now attracting the attention of a hungry goshawk.
Christ, I thought, this is a bit Edgar Allan Poe.

Highly recommended. 4.5/5.

Jan 27, 2023, 5:52 am

>51 Jackie_K: - This was recommended to me by a friend a few years ago and as much as I've wanted to read it, something always gets moved to the front of the list. I will get to it this year.

Jan 27, 2023, 5:58 am

>51 Jackie_K: Are we sure we read the same book? You had a far more positive reaction to it than I did. I may have likened it to a piece of limp lettuce.

Jan 27, 2023, 1:26 pm

>51 Jackie_K: Good review. It's been on my TBR for years!

Jan 27, 2023, 5:08 pm

>52 dudes22: I really hope you like it too! I want to read her book of essays Vesper Flights too.

>53 Helenliz: I'm always fascinated by how two people can have such opposite reactions to the same book! I've read some limp lettuce books in my time, but couldn't imagine using that to describe this one! Life would be boring if we all liked the same things all the time :)

>54 Tess_W: Thank you. I wonder if you'll agree more with me or helenliz if you read it?!

Jan 27, 2023, 5:11 pm

>55 Jackie_K: - I picked that one up at a library sale last summer. All the more reason to get going.

Fev 4, 2023, 4:14 am

Category: Non-fiction (general)
February RandomKIT: Second or Two
February Non-Fiction Challenge: Favourite Pastimes

Notebook is a quirky book by one of my favourite writers, Tom Cox. It's a collection of random sentences and paragraphs from his notebooks over the years, that didn't ever quite make it into any of his other books. I liked his way of explaining each chapter as like a mixtape, so just random bits and bobs which seem to complement each other well even if they're quite different. Full of his trademark weirdness and psychedelic whimsy, I really liked it. 4.5/5.

Fev 4, 2023, 4:25 am

>57 Jackie_K: I have never heard of Tom Cox, but I like the idea of this - a writer publishing a collection of snippets that never made it into a proper story. There are a lot of writers whose notebooks I'd love to have access to!

Fev 4, 2023, 4:36 am

>58 MissBrangwen: There are examples of his writing on his website: https://tom-cox.com/ Personally I love his non-fiction, and am less attracted by the fiction, but I just love his way of looking at the world and pointing out how mildly ridiculous it is (and we often are).

Fev 10, 2023, 2:27 pm

Just a wee public service broadcast: both kobo and kindle in the UK (not sure about elsewhere) currently have the ebooks of the complete Call the Midwife series (3 books) at 99p today. Even though I already have the first as an ebook and a paper copy from Barter Books of the second book, I bought this trilogy so that I have them all in the one place. I can take the paper book back the next time I go to Barter Books for some credit there.

(maybe don't ask how the books acquired:books read ratio is going right now...)

Fev 11, 2023, 4:33 am

>60 Jackie_K: "books read ratio is going right now..."
The same is happening to me... And we're only in the middle of February! But never mind, I tell myself that there is still so much of the year where I can try to read a lot and not to buy anything! (As if the latter is going to happen, haha!)

Fev 11, 2023, 5:46 am

>61 MissBrangwen: well quite, but as I keep reminding myself, there are plenty of worse vices than buying too many books!

Fev 12, 2023, 8:18 am

Category: Celtic
February GeoCAT: A Place You'd Like to Visit

St Kilda by George Seton is an example of a number of books written by mainlanders in the 19th century and before about the fascinating island group in the North Atlantic. The author visited in the summer of 1876 and summarised previous accounts about the islands, as well as wrote about daily life and customs of the islanders, who were still at this point over half a century away from the eventual permanent abandoning of their island home. St Kilda has exerted a powerful fascination for many (including me) over the years, but I have to say that this just confirmed to me yet again that pre-20th century writing, particularly by men overly impressed by their own powers of pontification, really is a bit of a slog to read. I'm glad to add this to my collection of books about St Kilda, but as a reference book rather than epic pageturner. 3/5.

Fev 14, 2023, 7:13 am

Category: Nature, place and environment
January Non-Fiction Challenge: Prizewinners and Nominees

On Gallows Down: Place, Protest and Belonging by Nicola Chester is a memoir full of nature, anger, and ultimately hope. She writes so beautifully about the places she's lived - in the borders of rural Berkshire, Hampshire and Wiltshire - and her experiences both of the nature of the area, but also of the contested landscape. She lived near Greenham Common in the 1980s, with its women's peace camp at the American nuclear base, and protested the nearby Newbury Bypass in the 1990s. Her husband works for one of the local sporting estates owned by the landed gentry, and their housing is attached to the job, so she also talks about the precarity of living in tied housing and the tensions between wanting to preserve the local nature and the interests of the estate owners who put profit above all. It's a galvanising cry for the nature which has been lost over the years, a call to honour and love and seek to preserve and increase what remains, and a beautiful meditation on belonging. Fantastic book. 5/5.

Mar 12, 2023, 5:32 pm

It's taken me a month to report any book finished at all, but I managed to finish two today, at last! Both excellent too!

Category: Contemporary fiction (1969-present)

The Ghost of Ivy Barn is the third book in Mark Stay's Witches of Woodville series, following the adventures of newbie witch Faye Bright as she learns to harness the powers inherited from her late mother, overseen by experienced witches (and huge characters) Miss Charlotte and Mrs Teach, whilst also living through the opening months of WW2. In this book, which I think is my favourite of the three so far, Faye has two main tasks: firstly, to try and work out how she can help bring peace and rest to the ghost of a Polish airman who has taken up residence in a local farmer's barn, and secondly, along with a number of other witches, perform a ritual at the White Cliffs of Dover designed to repel the advancing German air forces and stop them from invading Britain. However, there is a traitor in their midst, and it is a race against time to figure out which one of the witches is out to betray them all. Plus will Faye ever get the chance to get Bertie alone for some canoodling time? I listened to the audiobook of this, and the narrator, the marvellously-named Candida Gubbins, was absolutely terrific. 5/5.

Category: Nature, Place, Environment

Ruskin Bond's A Time for All Things: Collected Essays and Sketches was an unexpected delight. I got it a few years ago when I was looking for books about rhododendrons for a piece I was writing, and I did a random search on amazon using 'rhododendron' as a search term. This was one of the first books that came up, so I took a punt and got it, although I never did get round to reading it at that time. Rhododendrons are mentioned in the book, incidentally, but they don't have a huge starring role, so I'm honestly not sure why it came up in my search. But I'm very glad it did!

The author was born in India in the 1930s, so experienced both life under the British, and subsequent independence. He has lived most of his life in India, other than 4 years in his early 20s where he lived in Jersey and London. He lives in a hill station, Mussoorie, at the foot of the Himalayas, and these essays are mostly fairly short pieces describing the place and people and nature of northern India. I always looked forward to coming back to this book, it was just a very gentle, good-humoured and affectionate look at living a simple life and appreciating what is on your doorstep in a beautiful part of the world. He was a very genial companion, and I really found it easy to picture the scene through his words. Definitely recommend. 4.5/5.

Mar 13, 2023, 2:30 pm

>65 Jackie_K: Wonderful reviews, and two BBs!

Mar 13, 2023, 5:07 pm

>66 MissBrangwen: Thank you Mirjam, I do like it when I have a run of good books! I'd recommend the whole of the Witches of Woodville series actually - The Ghost of Ivy Barn is #3 in the series, and it does make mention of stuff from previous stories, although I think you probably could read it on its own as a standalone too.

Mar 13, 2023, 5:27 pm

>65 Jackie_K: That reminds me, I need to get to book 2 of the Mark Stay series.
I've taken to buying The Crow Folk as a prize for ringing raffles. >:-)

Mar 15, 2023, 5:42 pm

>68 Helenliz: Ooh, I know the author so must tell him this - I'm sure he'll be delighted!

Category: Celtic
March RandomKIT: Water, Water Everywhere

Isle of Rust: A Portrait of Lewis and Harris is a coffee table book mostly made up of photos by the author and photographer Alex Boyd, plus an introduction by Boyd, an essay by the author and film-maker Jonathan Meades, who made a film with the same title which inspired Boyd's project, and an afterword by Dan Hicks. It focuses on the detritus of the islands, numerous abandoned buses and boat engines and cottages, plus the makeshift shielings providing shelter on the moors, as well as some landscape shots and portraits of people. The photos are uniformly gorgeous, even as their subject matter often isn't.

I really struggled with Meades' essay though. It started off so well, talking about place and belonging as an outsider, a subject which is absolute catnip to me and I couldn't wait to keep reading. However, it soon descended into a really quite angry polemic about how awful the Calvinistic Presbyterian tradition in the Outer Hebrides is, and he was equally angry about 'Celtic' culture and the Gaelic language-promotion business, and as I read I just wanted to tell him to take a deep breath and maybe get his blood pressure checked. I don't even necessarily disagree with him about a lot of what he was saying, and the quality of the writing is not in doubt, but I was not in the mood for such arch cynicism and was really disappointed by it.

So I'm going to go for 4.5/5 for the photos, and 2.5/5 for the writing. 3.5/5 overall.

Mar 26, 2023, 7:31 am

Category: Nature, place and environment

Birdgirl by Mya-Rose Craig is a memoir of birding, mental health, and environmental and inclusion activism by a young British activist who in her short life has already shared stages with the likes of Chris Packham, Greta Thunberg and David Attenborough. She tells the story of her family, all avid birders, who prioritised experience over possessions so have taken her around the world on extended birdwatching holidays, where she saw for herself both the beauty of nature but also the real-time impact of environmental degradation and climate change. As she gets older she also realises the importance (as someone of mixed British and Bangladeshi Sylheti heritage) of both increasing the visibility of and accessibility for ethnic minorities in nature, and also of supporting indigenous people's rights alongside climate and environmental action. Threaded throughout these issues of world importance though is the daily reality of living with her mum's severe bipolar disorder. She's undoubtedly had an unusual and in some respects privileged life, but what she's doing with her learning and her voice is impressive and urgent, and I can't help thinking that with young people like Mya and her contemporaries, there is still hope despite the 'pale, stale and male' dominance in world political, environmental, and economic systems. 4/5.

Abr 5, 2023, 5:27 am

Category: Biography; autobiography; memoir; true story
(but could also be Nature, place and environment)

Heida: A Shepherd at the Edge of the World by Steinunn Sigurdardottir is a fascinating memoir of an Icelandic sheep farmer who, as well as working her farm, gets involved in local politics in order to fight a proposed huge power plant that would be built near her farm, and flood and otherwise destroy huge parts of the local environment. The author is a novelist who met Heida and who was fascinated with her story, but wasn't sure how to tell it until she read and was inspired by Svetlana Alexievich's oral histories where she only uses the words of the people involved and offers no commentary herself. The story is told in the form of vignettes, which are mostly more or less consecutive, but with reminiscences about her family, childhood, early adulthood etc dropped in throughout. This way of writing felt both immersive but also slightly arm's length, which somehow managed to reflect Heida's strong and independent personality pretty well.

This is a really interesting view of farming life in rural Iceland - she talks in detail about lambing and shearing, as well as the constant repairing of equipment and buildings, and the worry that their neighbouring volcano (a mere 25km away as the crow flies) is well overdue a big eruption. She also faces bemusement at her very active decision to remain single and not have children, and some opposition to her political activity (which she feels she had no choice about - it was an if not me, then who? kind of situation). Above all, her love and respect for the farming life and the Icelandic landscape shine through. 4/5.

Abr 9, 2023, 4:50 pm

Category: Religious

Margaret Silf's Wayfaring: A Gospel Journey Into Life was my Holy Week reading for this year. It's actually a reread, I read it in the early/mid-2000s (it was published in 2001, so I'm going to have a guess that I read it in 2003 or 2004). She is an author steeped in the Ignatian tradition, and this book looks at the earthly life of Jesus through to resurrection, inviting the reader to pray the journey and discover what it means in our own lives. I remember finding it really moving and profound when I first read it; this time probably less so (that says more about me than the book, for sure), but one bit of the final chapter definitely hit home and has given me plenty to think about going forward. 4/5.

Abr 13, 2023, 3:35 pm

Category: Travel

Pilgrimage: Lessons learned from solo walking three ancient ways by J.F. Penn is a book which I supported on Kickstarter at the beginning of this year, and I'm very glad I did. I follow the author's Creative Penn podcast, where she gives all sorts of amazing tips and interviews etc for aspiring and established authors, especially around marketing and writing craft for self-publishing. In this book, which is a mix of travel, memoir and how-to, she writes about the experience of pilgrimage, from preparation to journey to aftermath, providing hints and tips on what to expect, as well as how the three pilgrimages she did impacted her life. She also includes questions to ask yourself while preparing at the end of each short chapter, and also provides extensive reading and other information.

The three pilgrimages she did were the Pilgrim's Way (Southwark Cathedral to Canterbury Cathedral), the St Cuthbert's Way (Melrose Abbey to Lindisfarne), and the Camino de Santiago Portuguese route, from Porto to Santiago de Compostela. I liked that this wasn't just a chapter on one, then the next, then the next, but aspects of each of the three routes were threaded throughout the book. I personally would have liked a bit more of the memoir/reflections side of things and less of the practicalities, but that's just me (and because I am not planning on any multi-day walking pilgrimages any time soon!). I think this is a very useful and thoughtful addition to the pilgrimage literature, for both religious and secular pilgrims, and the photos included in the book are lovely too. 4/5.

Abr 16, 2023, 8:28 am

Category: Nature, environment and place
April Non-Fiction Challenge: The Sea

Rachel Lichtenstein's Estuary: From London out to the Sea is a really interesting portrait of the people and landscape of the Thames estuary, one of the world's most important shipping lanes but also home to an assortment of people, traditions and wildlife. She takes a few sailing trips out through the estuary and out towards the North Sea, and also talks with all sorts of interesting people - fishermen, cocklers, tugboatmen, artists, mudlarkers, and even the so-called "Prince of Sealand", a man who spends at least part of the year living on Sealand, an abandoned WW2 sea fort just outside of British coastal waters. The area is one of the most dense anywhere for the wrecks and other history to be found there, from Roman times right through to warships full of unexploded arms from WW2. She notes the impact of dredging and building for the new mega port of the so-called London Gateway on both wildlife and the livings of the various people who work alongside and in the estuary. It's a fascinating snapshot of both the history and the dwindling and changing ways of life in somewhere that is very much an 'edgeland'. 4.5/5.

Abr 16, 2023, 8:40 am

>74 Jackie_K: Oh, that sounds very interesting! I live on the estuary of the Weser river and I didn't know anything about the Thames estuary, but I already spot some parallels in your review (abandoned sea forts, mega port, interesting people). I am noting this down!

Abr 16, 2023, 9:27 am

>74 Jackie_K: Darn it! Another book bullet! ;) I've added it to my to-read list, will see if my mum adds it to hers too.

Abr 16, 2023, 10:56 am

>75 MissBrangwen: >76 rabbitprincess: As you can probably imagine it was right up my street! I thought it was really interesting, I hope you like it if you get to read it.

Abr 22, 2023, 12:05 pm

Category: Biography; autobiography; memoir; true story
April RandomKIT: Seven Ages of (wo)man

Mussolini: His Part in my Downfall is the 4th volume of Spike Milligan's WW2 memoirs, and honestly, I think it's the best yet. I found it really moving, and also funny. It starts with the lads landing in Sicily, and follows their adventures through Italy during 1943 and early 1944. It shows beautifully both the cameraderie of the young soldiers, and also the mind-numbing tedium of much of the war for them. It ends on a poignant note, with Spike suffering from PTSD and in a psychiatric hospital. A funny book, but also profound and sad. 4.5/5.

Editado: Abr 22, 2023, 12:46 pm

>78 Jackie_K: I need to read the rest of those memoirs. I think we're caught up to each other now, with my next one being Vol. 5. (Was Vol. 4 the one I posted to you?)

Editado: Abr 28, 2023, 3:36 pm

>79 rabbitprincess: No, I think you sent me Vols 2 and 3. In my randomness I had vols 1, 6 and 7, so bought 4 and 5 recently when I saw vol 5 on Bookbub. I try not to have series in a mixture of paper and ebooks, but this one had to be done! :)

Abr 28, 2023, 3:37 pm

Category: Non-fiction (general)

The Year I Stopped to Notice by Miranda Keeling was a book I preordered months ago following a thread on twitter, and then I promptly forgot all about it till it arrived yesterday - what a delightful surprise! She undertook a project to deliberately notice things going on around her in the day to day, and write just a sentence or two about it, and this is a collection of what she spotted during the year, accompanied by lovely illustrations by Luci Power. It was possibly a bit much to read all in one go, but it would make a great gift for people to dip in and out of - there's laughter, poignancy, and the plain bizarre here. 4/5.

Here are a few of my favourite observations:

A woman wearing a headscarf the colour of freshwater pearls sits on the steps of a church in Clerkenwell thoughtfully eating Nutella from a jar.

Two men carrying one bar stool each through town keep stopping to sit on them for a chat before carrying on down the road.

Man in a tube station lift: Have you thought about New Year's Eve yet?
Woman: No, Sanjay. Give me a moment to get my head around October.

A woman and a man meet at Dalston Station, realise they are both carrying a bunch of flowers for each other and, laughing, exchange them.

Abr 28, 2023, 4:48 pm

>81 Jackie_K: That does sound charming! I bet many of the observations could serve as inspiration for a short story or even a novel.

Editado: Abr 28, 2023, 5:10 pm

>73 Jackie_K: My husband loves kickstarter. He recently gave me an edition of The Picture of Dorian Gray printed in white ink on black paper that was a kickstarter. It's a striking book but I wonder at its legibility.

Abr 29, 2023, 4:11 am

>81 Jackie_K: that sounds interesting. I'm as much intrigued as to how she did it as to what she noticed.

Abr 29, 2023, 6:32 am

>82 christina_reads: One of my first thoughts as I started reading was that it would be a goldmine for writing prompts!

>83 RidgewayGirl: I think a lot more authors are going for kickstarter-type campaigns these days. No doubt inspired by Brandon Sanderson's $44m success. An author friend of mine used it to get the second book in her excellent series (a MG series about an anti-fascist girl gang in the south of England in WW2) printed so that she could donate copies to local schools and libraries. Her aim was a much more modest £3K, which I'm delighted she reached.

>84 Helenliz: I suppose with a notebook to write down quick one-liners, and/or a phone for quick voice notes. I'm pretty sure that public transport, especially in London, would be the perfect place for spotting all sorts of oddities!

Abr 29, 2023, 7:09 am

>81 Jackie_K: - I think I'll make a note of this although I see it's not available in my library system.

Maio 1, 2023, 8:40 pm

>81 Jackie_K: This sounds like a charming and interesting book!

Maio 2, 2023, 9:24 am

>68 Helenliz: Helen, I finally remembered to tell Mark about your buying his book for your ringing raffles. He was delighted, and asked if you'd like some signed bookplates for the raffle books, he's happy to send them free of charge. He also very much credited his wife (the bell-ringer) for the accuracy of the bell-ringing bits of the book! I think he knows when he hears her harrumphing over a book that she's probably reading a badly written ringing scene!

Maio 2, 2023, 9:42 am

>88 Jackie_K: YES PLEASE!!!!
That would be awesome.
I still think it's one of the best descriptions of ringing, and especially ringing down, that I've read. I bought book 2 in the series for me as part of my annual book buying opportunity.

I'll PM you my address.
Thank you.

Maio 2, 2023, 1:16 pm

>86 dudes22: >87 mathgirl40: It is charming!
>89 Helenliz: You're welcome ;)

Maio 2, 2023, 1:21 pm

>90 Jackie_K: Thank you >:-)

Maio 6, 2023, 1:30 pm

Category: Non-fiction (general)

Adam Rutherford's The Book of Humans is a popular science book about human evolution, showing how we are both unique and extraordinary among animals, whilst also being an integral part of the animal kingdom. He's a popular broadcaster on Radio 4, and does a great job of making complex scientific theories and discoveries understandable to the non-expert (ie me). This is a good book for a basic introduction to the issues of human evolution and what can and can't be inferred from parallel evolution of other animals. 3.5/5.

Maio 19, 2023, 8:59 am

Category: Nature, place, environment

Simon Barnes' Rewild Yourself is a lovely, short book with 23 suggested ways of rediscovering the magic of nature and getting yourself more tuned in to what's around you. Simple suggestions like sitting still, learning a few birdsongs, paying attention to peripheral vision - there's nothing outrageous and out there, but as someone who's been trying to do many of these things already I appreciated his enthusiasm and wonder at the natural world. 4.5/5.

Maio 19, 2023, 7:34 pm

>93 Jackie_K: I really need this book. Taking a BB for it.

Maio 20, 2023, 2:25 am

>93 Jackie_K: Me too! I also love the cover.

Maio 20, 2023, 10:44 am

>94 lowelibrary: >95 MissBrangwen: I hope you both enjoy it! You're right, it's a gorgeous cover. That's the thing about being into nature writing, it's rare if the covers aren't lovely.

Maio 27, 2023, 2:19 am

>93 Jackie_K: I'm trying to learn a few bird songs but finding it difficult. As soon as I've (sort of) memorized one, the previous one is gone from my memory. My intention was to impress my son and husband who seem to be able to recognize them unerringly. And I'm another who loves Simon Barnes' covers.

Maio 28, 2023, 4:32 am

>97 VivienneR: Thank you Vivienne. I'm the same with birdsong, but i've got a handful I'm reasonably confident with, thanks to sitting out in the garden and knowing our regular visitors. If I hear a melodic song in the garden I know either the blackbird or robin is around, and at work when I park the car near the trees if I hear a melodic song with a shouty trill at the end then it's more than likely a wren. Otherwise, I've found a birdsong app (I use BirdNET, but I have friends who have been very impressed with an app called Merlin) very helpful!

Category: Celtic
May GeoCAT: Polar regions, islands, bodies of water

The Fragile Islands: A Journey Through the Outer Hebrides by Bettina Selby is one of my Barter Books purchases from a few years ago - I always head straight for the travel section whenever I'm there! This is quite an old book, published in 1989 and detailing a cycling trip that the author took in 1985, from south to north of the entire Outer Hebrides. It was interesting to see the islands before the advent of the internet, community buy-outs, and Scottish devolution, but I did also find it a bit frustrating. I would have appreciated more photos, and also better proof-reading (especially of the punctuation - dashes and commas in particular were frequently either over- or under-used and made me twitch!). I also found her sometimes quite judgmental, and there were a few occasions where I really hoped that she was using pseudonyms/composites when discussing the personal lives of some of the people she met, otherwise I felt quite voyeuristic reading some of the encounters. I'm glad I read it, overall, but I can't say I loved it. A generous 3/5.

Jun 1, 2023, 4:03 am

Category: Contemporary fiction (1969-present)

Captain Underpants and the Preposterous Plight of the Purple Potty People is the 8th installment in Dav Pilkey's Captain Underpants series, and I have to say it is one of the best yet! A malfunctioning time machine sees our heroes George and Harold in an alternate universe where their teachers are kind and committed, their school is stocked with books and healthy food in the cafeteria, but is terrorised by their own evil twins, Evil George and Evil Harold (plus Captain Underpants' evil twin, Captain Blunderpants). The usual chaos and silliness ensues, and the end reintroduces previous villain Professor Poopypants, setting up an intriguing premise for book 9. I loved it! 4/5.

(I read this as one of my book clubs is reading banned books in June, and it turns out that Captain Underpants has been banned many, many times for all sorts of ridiculous reasons. The world's gone mad).

Editado: Jun 6, 2023, 12:31 am

>98 Jackie_K: I got an app called SongSleuth and played a few random recordings for my son and husband. I was amazed that they got every one of them. The best part is there is lots of information about the birds and it can be limited to a certain region. My excuse is that my hearing has been going over several years.

Jun 8, 2023, 7:02 am

>100 VivienneR: Yes, I think that as we get older the range of frequencies we can hear is reduced, so certain birds can no longer be heard, even if they were singing right in front of you.

Category: Non-fiction (general)*
* maybe I need to have a poetry category

Amanda Gorman's Call Us What We Carry is a stunning collection of poetry about our present moment; she is clearly a great talent. She is best known, this side of the Pond at any rate, for her poem "This Hill We Climb" (which closes this collection), read at President Biden's inauguration, but the whole book shows she's more than just one poem. Covid, Black Lives Matter, Jan 6th 2021, language, identity, all are explored here in beautiful poetry. I am in awe of her artistry - in a note on one of the final poems it said that she has auditory processing disorder, which can cause difficulties in processing and recalling the order of sounds and words, but I wonder if this has helped her to become more fluid and playful with words? I thought this was great, and very moving, I highly recommend it. 4.5/5.

Jun 10, 2023, 4:51 am

Category: Biography; autobiography; memoir; true story

A few years ago I back-to-back read Patrick Leigh Fermor's three books relating his walking journey across Europe from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople in 1933-4, and absolutely loved the experience. He was clearly an extraordinary character. I've now finished his biography, Artemis Cooper's Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure. I enjoyed reading Paddy's story very much, although the succession of (mostly very posh) people who came in and out of his life were sometimes a bit hard to keep straight in my mind who was who. His was certainly a fascinating life, well lived - the walk through Europe in the 1930s, followed by 4 years living in Romania with a Romanian princess, then the war years in Crete (where amongst other things he was involved in the kidnapping of a German general), and the travels round the world and particularly in Greece and the impact those travels and the people in his circle had on his writing. It was all a bit of a derring-do life, and if someone had written it as fiction it would probably be written off as hopelessly unrealistic. An affectionate portrait of an impressive man and true character. 4/5.

Jun 10, 2023, 9:00 am

I try to read messages from people that are new to me. You have some interesting reads and I like your "Jar of Fate".
I was in Scotland recently on a cruise with my daughter and grandaughter. We did a boat tour on Loch Ness but no Nessie. That was second time I have been in the area and I still have not seen her; must be hiding or another part of the lake. It is a beautiful area.

Editado: Jun 18, 2023, 11:05 am

>103 mnleona: We had a holiday near Inverness before lockdown, and we loved it up there. Loch Ness is beautiful.

Category: Sexual/reproductive health & rights; gender; sexuality; parenting; children

Unwell Women: Misdiagnosis and Myth in a Man-Made World by Elinor Cleghorn is a thoroughly researched history of the medical profession's systematic ignoring of women's health in the assumption that the 'normal' is white and male. Starting with Roman and Greek philosophers, stories of 'wandering wombs', hysteria and the importance of childbearing and domestic duties in all aspects of women's health, through some pretty horrific gynaecological treatments, the history of birth control, and the importance of the discovery of autoimmune disease (which disproportionately affects women across the globe), as well as early feminist attempts at raising the importance of considering women as more than wannabe men, the book outlines the many times opportunities to develop compassionate and accurate treatments for women's health issues were lost in the swamp of cultural and social mores and assumptions. She doesn't shy away from the failings of early feminist campaigns, particularly in terms of their eugenic underpinnings, but also highlights the brave and vocal campaigns by Black activists to improve health for all women. This left me very glad that I live now and not hundreds of years ago - I know it's far from perfect still, but my goodness we've come on so far! A vital read. 4.5/5.

Jun 18, 2023, 5:06 pm

>99 Jackie_K: Dav Pilkey is responsible for creating readers out of kids who previously hated to read. It's so upsetting to see the many, many books currently under attack in my country.

Jun 19, 2023, 3:39 am

>104 Jackie_K: I have this one on the shelf to get to.

Jul 14, 2023, 11:03 am

Apologies for the delay in getting back to this thread - have been away for a couple of weeks visiting various family members in England, and before that finishing up at work, end of term etc, meant I neglected coming back here for a while. I'm now back from holiday though, and starting to catch up.

>105 RidgewayGirl: I agree. I can't believe how insecure some people in positions to make these ridiculous decisions are.

>106 Helenliz: It's a good 'un!

Category: Nature, environment and place.
June Non-Fiction Challenge: Indigenous/Aboriginal Peoples/First Nations

I won a copy of this book via the LibraryThing Early Reviewers programme; thank you to the author and publisher for this opportunity.

Bears Ears: Landscape of Refuge and Resistance by Andrew Gulliford is a really interesting academic account of the history of the contested Bears Ears National Monument area in SW Utah. It highlights the history and archaeology of the area, both Native and Mormon, the extent of the contested claims to the area, the political history including the impact of uranium mining on the people and landscape, the conflicts over the looting of ancestral Native sites, and the more recent politics which saw five Native tribes come together to fight for National Monument status for Bears Ears. In 2016 President Obama designated Bears Ears a National Monument, but the following year President Trump reduced the Monument's area by 85%, reopening it to claims for mining rights. President Biden has subsequently restored the original Monument area, but it looks like this land will be contested as a political football for some time to come. In the meantime, this book does a fantastic job of highlighting the significant Native presence in this landscape going back thousands of years, while also acknowledging the history of Mormon settlers and the hardships they faced when moving south to the Bears Ears area. Overall a thorough account of a truly unique and fascinating area. 4.5/5.

Jul 14, 2023, 4:12 pm

Category: Non-fiction (general)
July RandomKIT: The Muppets (Pigs in Space)

Mary Roach's Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void brings her trademark wit and extensive research to the subject of the history and future of space travel. Initially I thought it started a little slowly, but then I reached the chapter on puking in zero gravity and I was sniggering like a schoolkid, so I can confidently say that she delivers another cracking read. Very entertaining. 4/5.

Jul 14, 2023, 8:26 pm

>108 Jackie_K: - I've only read one of her books but I liked it and intend to read more.

Editado: Jul 14, 2023, 9:47 pm

>107 Jackie_K: A great review---going on my must read list. I hope you enjoyed some downtime!

Jul 15, 2023, 7:11 am

>109 dudes22: This is my second Mary Roach, and won't be my last!
>110 Tess_W: I hope you enjoy it, Tess, I found it fascinating!

And now for my first DNF of the year, but a weird DNF because although I'm counting it as done for now, I know I'll definitely come back to it at some point. Now I know the 'feel' of the book, I'll know when I'm in the mood for it (which I'm definitely not right now).

Category: Vintage fiction (pub. 1900-1968)

Sanin by Mikhail Petrovich Artsybashev was published in 1907, just after the abortive first Russian Revolution of 1905, and is a reaction to the disappointment of the failure of that revolution amongst young Russian intelligentsia. As far as I can make out from reading around the reactions to the book, after the 1905 revolution, many felt that political ideals and notions of justice seemed pointless, and life should just be lived in reaction to whatever turns up at any particular time. This led to a casual disregard for previously accepted morality and an 'in it for myself' attitude.

This is one of the blurbs I've found for this book, which was both praised and condemned at its publication (the journal in which it was first serialised was soon thereafter closed down):

Sanin is an attractive, clever, powerful, life-loving man who is, at the same time, an amoral and carnal animal, bored both by politics and by religion.

During the novel he lusts after his own sister, but defends her when she is betrayed by an arrogant officer; he deflowers an innocent-but-willing virgin; and encourages a Jewish friend to end his self-doubts by committing suicide.

Sanin's extreme individualism greatly appealed to young people in Russia during the twilight years of the Romanov regime. "Saninism" was marked by sensualism, self-gratification, and self-destruction, and gained in credibility in an atmosphere of moral and spiritual despondency.

This is absolutely not the sort of book I like, and having read the first 7 chapters I can say that it left me feeling pretty bleak, but there was something about the writing which drew me in despite disliking all the characters, and so I'm pretty sure that at some point I will finish it. It's just not for me now. So despite DNFing it, I'll give it 3/5*.

Jul 20, 2023, 2:48 pm

Category: Nature, environment and place

I really enjoyed Gavin van Horn's The Way of Coyote: Shared Journeys in the Urban Wilds, which was one of the University of Chicago Press free ebooks some time ago. The book consists of essays about the wildlife and wildlife corridors in and around Chicago, and I really enjoyed his sympathetic noticing of the creatures who share the city, as well as of the efforts of his fellow citizens in seeking to improve the urban habitat. Years ago I read a book (also a UoC Press free ebook) about architecture which was mainly about Chicago, and both that book and this one have really made me want to visit Chicago some day. I'd love to see the 606 Trail (which seems to be Chicago's equivalent of New York's Highline). I found this book really inspirational. 4.5/5.

Jul 21, 2023, 8:53 pm

Hope you enjoyed the family visit.

>112 Jackie_K: I've been hearing a lot about wildlife in urban areas recently so this looks interesting. I used to get the UofC Press free ebooks but somehow we lost touch. They are always interesting.

Jul 22, 2023, 5:48 am

>113 VivienneR: I still get the monthly emails but I've become much stricter with myself about not downloading every single one, but only the ones I'm really confident I'll enjoy.

The family visit was lovely, but exhausting (we travelled around a lot of various family members around the country, so there was a lot of driving involved!). We went back to work for a rest!

Jul 22, 2023, 1:41 pm

Category: Central & Eastern Europe/former Soviet Union
July GeoCAT: Western Europe

Subtitled "The Creative Writing Class that Tried to Win the Cold War", The Stasi Poetry Circle by Philip Oltermann is the bizarre true story of the East German secret police, the Stasi, and their attempts to train regime-loyal writers and poets to use their writing as a weapon against the class enemy. He manages to interview several of the surviving members of the group, and provides important context to the formation of the group and the work of the Stasi. The whole thing, as with so much about East Germany, is just all sorts of absurd. 4/5.

Ago 7, 2023, 11:38 am

Category: Biography; autobiography; memoir; true story
August Non-Fiction Challenge: The World of the Land, Trees and Plants

Marilee Foster's Dirt Under My Nails was a gift from fellow LT-er Dudes22 who thought it would probably be up my street, and she was right! The book chronicles the year of a young American farmer working her family farm in Long Island, by the Hamptons, and the impact of growing housing and development on the plants and animals and farming life. It reminded me a lot of another farming book I read earlier this year, also of a single woman on a family farm, Heida: A Shepherd at the Edge of the World. They farm in different places - the USA and Iceland - and while Marilee is an arable farmer, and Heida is primarily a sheep farmer, the challenges of encroaching development and environmental instability, as well as of running a small family farm, were remarkably similar. 4/5.

I am currently laid up with another bout of covid. I thought I could get some reading and writing done, but I am only having very occasional bursts of energy, so I'm trying to listen to my body and not overdo things. I wish I could say I also applied that to my book buying, but, well, you know. Have now smashed through the 100 new books this year barrier.

Ago 7, 2023, 1:51 pm

>116 Jackie_K: Hope you recover from covid quickly! I hear you about the new books. I cleared off 147 from my shelves (reading, purging, etc) and now my mind thinks I need to buy more!

Ago 7, 2023, 2:50 pm

>116 Jackie_K: I'm so sorry you have another bout of Covid to go through. As for the book buying, being reasonable, it's about the only activity you can do when your sick since it takes so little time and energy!

Ago 7, 2023, 3:09 pm

Take care of yourself and recover promptly.

Ago 7, 2023, 3:51 pm

>117 Tess_W: >118 clue: >119 Helenliz: Thank you all! I am feeling very ropey today, but hopefully will feel more myself soon.

Ago 7, 2023, 4:44 pm

You're allowed to buy books as a treat when you're not well. Best wishes for a quick recovery.

Ago 8, 2023, 1:59 am

>116 Jackie_K: Sorry to hear that, Jackie. Wishing you a speedy recovery and no after effects!

Ago 8, 2023, 5:06 am

Sorry you're down with covid again. Hope you recover soon. Glad you liked the book.

Ago 8, 2023, 4:01 pm

>121 pamelad: >122 MissWatson: >123 dudes22: Thank you all! I thought I was a bit better today, but then overdid things and now feel like I've been run over by a steamroller. Better buy a medicinal book or three...

Ago 8, 2023, 4:10 pm

Sorry to hear that Covid is taking another crack at you, Jackie. Sending lots of wishes for a speedy recovery!

Ago 11, 2023, 1:35 pm

Sorry to hear Covid has struck again! Hoping you get well again soon - while enjoying all those new books.

Ago 12, 2023, 4:31 pm

>125 DeltaQueen50: >126 VivienneR: Thank you both! I'm really struggling to shake this one off - I feel a bit more human today, but energy is pretty much non-existent!

I have got a short book to report though!

Category: Nature, environment and place
August RandomKIT: Tell me Something Good!

Just over a month ago I attended an author evening at our local indie bookshop, and one of the authors reading from her book was Linda Cracknell. This book, Writing Landscape, is a selection of short essays written over the last several years, some commissioned and others written specially for the collection, exploring how being out and about in the landscape informs and inspires her writing practice. I enjoyed this very much and am sure I'll come back to it many times. 4.5/5.

Ago 14, 2023, 5:08 am

Category: Non-fiction (general)
August GeoCAT: Central & Western Asia

How to Lose a Country: The Seven Steps from Democracy to Dictatorship by Turkish author and journalist Ece Temelkuran is a powerful read, outlining how populist dictatorships don't march into government but creep, slowly changing the narrative so that what was once outrageous becomes normalised. She draws a lot on the Turkish experience (of which she has had more experience than many; she is now an emigre unable to return to Turkey after consistently publishing work critical of the government). This book blends memoir and history not just of Turkey but also looks at the more populist governments/movements in the US and UK more recently (Trump/Brexit) amongst others, and what we can all learn from Turkey's trajectory. 4.5/5.

Ago 25, 2023, 9:06 am

Shameless plug here - following a conversation on ridgewaygirl's thread about self-published books, I said I'd post a link to my own recently-published book. Here it is: https://books2read.com/thecalmplace

Eventually it will be requestable from indie bookshops and libraries, plus up on bookshop.org, but I'm having to test my patience waiting for all the ducks to be in a row for that!

Editado: Ago 25, 2023, 9:29 am

>129 Jackie_K: WOW! I knew you when.........congrats! You are on Amazon! You are the bomb.com! Buying it right now!

Ago 25, 2023, 9:47 am

>130 Tess_W: Thank you so much! I really hope you like it!

Editado: Ago 25, 2023, 2:15 pm

>112 Jackie_K: If you make it to Chicago, I'm happy to take the train up and meet up with you.

>129 Jackie_K: You neglected to mention how pretty the cover is. Looking forward to ordering it from bookshop.org.

Ago 25, 2023, 3:42 pm

>132 RidgewayGirl: Oh that would be amazing, I'd love that! I think it will be a good few years away yet though, sadly.

And I'm over the moon with the cover - the designers took my vague ideas and made something so much better than I'd ever dreamed of. When I first saw it I couldn't stop looking at it. I'll let you know (if I remember) when I eventually see it on bookshop.org.

Ago 25, 2023, 4:32 pm

>129 Jackie_K: Gorgeous cover. It's in my cart...I will not wait for bookshop.org, but glad you are heading in that direction eventually. I think I need this book in my life right now. Thank you.

Ago 26, 2023, 6:09 am

>134 beebeereads: Thank you thank you! I really hope you enjoy it :)

Ago 26, 2023, 6:20 am

>129 Jackie_K: - I'm here to agree with the others that the cover on our book is very pretty. Hope it makes it to bookshop.org soon.

Ago 26, 2023, 6:22 am

>136 dudes22: Thank you! So do I! If it's not there by the end of next week I'm going to start bugging them :)

Ago 26, 2023, 2:15 pm

>129 Jackie_K: Congratulations! What a beautiful cover. This is the type of book my husband enjoys so it will be a gift for him. He likes books about nature and your thread has been a big help in providing BBs. Thanks, Jackie.

Ago 26, 2023, 4:04 pm

>138 VivienneR: Wow, thank you very much!

I'm feeling a bit embarrassed, because I didn't intend to promote myself, it was just that the subject came up on Kay's thread and I put the link here so that I didn't spam her thread. Actually I probably would have got a few more eyeballs on the book if I'd put it in her thread :D

Ago 26, 2023, 4:25 pm

Wow! When available through bookshop.org, I'll add you to the TBR pile... No promises to actually read it, you understand!

Ago 26, 2023, 4:28 pm

>140 Helenliz: Thank you Helen, and looking at my TBR pile approaching 500 books, I absolutely understand! :D

Ago 27, 2023, 10:04 am

Category: Nature, environment and place
August Non-Fiction Challenge: The World of the Land, Trees and Plants

Finding the Mother Tree by Suzanne Simard is a fantastic melding of memoir and popular science, telling the story of her research into the underground micorrhyzal networks that connect forest trees, and her discovery of the extent to which trees of the same and different species cooperate rather than compete, all in the context of a changng climate. I love this sort of book - I would really struggle to read the scientific academic papers she and her team produce, but this book explained the science easily without dumbing it down, and put it in the context of her own life. She is the child of a logging family from British Columbia, so that gave her a more personal perspective than some of the policy makers who initially opposed her work gave her credit for. This is a tale of family life, tragedy, misogyny in science and academia, but ultimately of good science and hope for the future. I listened to the audiobook (read by the author) while following along in the ebook, and highly recommend it. 5/5.

Ago 31, 2023, 4:01 pm

Category: Non-fiction (general)

I received this book from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers programme, thank you to the author for this opportunity.

Format Your First Ebook by Laura Kortum is a useful short guide to formatting a book-length document in Microsoft Word, in preparation for uploading to the online retailers and aggregators. It's a helpful guide to the sort of fiddly things that you don't necessarily learn in an MS Word basics course (eg different Heading types), and also has the sort of handy hints that wouldn't occur to many of us (eg don't put in page numbers, no extra line space between paragraphs). It's those sorts of things, which are largely assumed as common knowledge, which I found most helpful in this book, but it also has a quick overview (including pictures) of the forms you'll be completing on Amazon and Draft2Digital, which will be very helpful to the first-time self-published author. 5/5 for being useful, readable and no typos! :)

Set 5, 2023, 6:59 am

For the lovely folk who were asking about the paperback for my book, just to let you know that it is now available on the US bookshop.org site. It's not however available on the UK site (because of the way that the Gardners catalogue, which supplies bookshop.org in the UK, lists print on demand books - so although I'm looking into it I'm not entirely hopeful it will get there, at least in the short term). It can be ordered online though via the websites of Waterstones, Foyles or Blackwell's bookshops, or can be requested from any indie bookshop. Alternatively, if anyone feels led to ask their library to get hold of it I would be so delighted about that!

I will at some point be selling my own copies, but I need to work out how to do that most efficiently first!

Anyway, the link to all the various stores is here: https://books2read.com/thecalmplace

Thank you so much! And as I'm British, I'm now going to hide in a corner for the rest of the day in embarrassment about being so presumptious as to promote my own book :D

Editado: Set 5, 2023, 7:02 am

>144 Jackie_K: Making a note to ask my favourite local bookshop to get it & blow Jackie's trumpet a bit for her.

>;-) fully embarrassed yet?

Set 5, 2023, 7:04 am

>145 Helenliz: I'm mortified, thank you for asking :D (also, thank you thank you!) The ISBN in case they need it is 9781739467814

Set 6, 2023, 10:45 am

I have my copy and asked my library to get it too. They found it on Amazon.

Set 6, 2023, 3:46 pm

>147 clue: Thank you, that's so kind of you! The ebook is on the Overdrive catalogue, and the paperback is on the Ingram catalogue, so if they don't want to use amazon then it should be possible to get them via Overdrive or Ingram.

Set 6, 2023, 3:54 pm

Meanwhile, in reading news I have a few books on the go, which I'm enjoying but am not near the end of any of them! I did think with LT being down recently due to the DDoS attack that I might read some more, but of course life is never that simple, is it? (also: who attacks a library site? Scumbags).

Set 10, 2023, 2:41 pm

Category: Celtic

A book group I'm participating in this year has monthly themes, and for September it was "a book from where you live". So I picked up A History of Stirling in 100 Objects by Elspeth King, who until her recent retiral was the Director of the fantastic Stirling Smith Museum and Gallery. The Smith is one of my all time favourite museums, it really is a terrific local museum which tells the story of the place through the ages. This book draws mainly on items in the museum's collection, and is a local response to the popular History of the World in 100 Objects radio series and subsequent book.

I was familiar with many of the objects and paintings chosen for the book, but not all (eg there are a couple of quite fragile textiles which can only be displayed rarely). It is an interesting overview of the history of Stirling, and next time I go to the museum I'll have to remember to bring the book with me and see how much I can spot. 3.5/5 for the book, and an extra half star for being such a brilliant museum, so 4/5.

Set 10, 2023, 2:57 pm

>144 Jackie_K: I got the ebook version from the Apple store so that husband can read it on the iPad. Looking forward to my turn.

Set 10, 2023, 3:51 pm

>151 VivienneR: Thank you so much! I hope you both enjoy it.

Set 10, 2023, 7:53 pm

>150 Jackie_K: Wonderful to have something local! I read the History of the World in 100 Objects and I liked it, but at times seemed far removed.

Set 11, 2023, 12:30 pm

>153 Tess_W: I haven't read the book, but very much enjoyed the radio series - each entry was a 15 minute self-contained programme, and that was perfect to hold my interest without getting dull. I've always meant to read the book, but never quite got round to it.

Set 15, 2023, 5:19 pm

Category: Biography; autobiography; memoir; true stories
September Non-Fiction Challenge: Family Ties

I credit Jung Chang's first book, Wild Swans, with being the book that made me fall in love with reading non-fiction when I first read it in the 1990s. I remember being blown away by the story and the emotional heft of her account of three women in her family (her grandmother, mother and herself) in Mao's China. Her latest book, Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister, is also the account of three women who were at the heart of 20th century China, but this is a biography of the Soong sisters, who rose to enormous prominence through the men they married and the wealth they commanded.

The oldest sister, Ei-ling, was advisor to the pre-Mao president, Chiang Kai-shek, and married to HH Kung who was Chiang's prime minister for many years. She was a shrewd business woman who became incredibly rich, even while most Chinese people lived in unbearable poverty. The middle sister, Ching-ling, married the so-named 'Father of China', Sun Yat-sen, who plotted and oversaw the change in China from monarchy to republic, although his ambition for personal position and glory always outweighed any good he wished to do the country (I couldn't help but be reminded of a number of more recent politicians closer to home, frankly). Following his death, Ching-ling ended up as Mao's vice-chairman, and remained estranged from her family for the rest of her life. The youngest sister, May-ling, married Chiang Kai-shek and spent many years as China's First Lady, where she impressed many at home and abroad with her dedication, whilst also being criticised for her extravagance.

The various political machinations and upheavals in China during the 20th century were explored, along with the sisters' lives and how they fitted into what was going on politically. I have to say that none of them were very likeable - coming from a position of immense privilege and wealth, they seemed removed from the people they purported to be serving, and were keen to maintain their power and prestige. Because of this I didn't experience the same emotional depth that I had found in Wild Swans, but I think this is also due to the genre - I am coming to the conclusion that whilst I enjoy both autobiography and memoir, biography is something I find much harder to connect with. I guess I just prefer hearing people tell their own stories, rather than somebody else's. That said though, this book always kept my interest and I learnt lots, it's clearly meticulously researched. 4/5.

(also just wanted to note: for a book from Penguin Random House, there were way too many typos to be acceptable, especially towards the end, it's like the proofreader just gave up)

Set 17, 2023, 7:55 am

Category: Contemporary fiction (1969-present)
September GeoCAT: Africa

I can always count on the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency books by Alexander McCall Smith to give me a quiet and pleasurable few hours of reading with no demands or stress, and In the Company of Cheerful Ladies, the sixth in the series, is no exception. In this story, a former prisoner gets a second chance, Charlie the mechanic makes a series of bad choices, an unwelcome presence from Mma Ramotswe's past reappears, Mr J.L.B. Matekoni has tenant trouble, and Mma Makutsi learns to dance - and more. Delightful as always. 3.5/5.

Set 19, 2023, 3:58 pm

>155 Jackie_K: I have Wild Swans on my TBR. Your review of Chang's Sister book made be go find it and put it on the top of the stack. Will it get moved?

Set 20, 2023, 8:00 am

>157 Tess_W: I hope you like it, it's epic in scope but because it's also her family's story it has the personal touch too. I thought it was wonderful. Maybe one day I'll get through enough of my TBR pile that I could reread it!

Set 28, 2023, 9:56 am

Category: Nature, environment and place

I know we still have 3 months of the year to go, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say that I am pretty sure that Amanda Thomson's Belonging: Natural histories of place, identity and home is going to be my favourite book I read this year. Recently shortlisted for the Wainwright Prize (my favourite literary prize, my wishlist bulges every year when they release the longlist), this book contains her reflections on the nature around her home in the Scottish Highlands, family history, experiences of racism and homophobia, some travels a bit further afield (such as a sailing trip around the Hebrides, and a working trip to the seed bank in Cape Town), as well as a couple of reflections on art - as well as a writer, she is also a lecturer at Glasgow School of Art. I have read a couple of her shorter pieces already and so knew I was in for a treat, and I loved every word of this book. Terrific, powerful, haunting, thoughtful - this book made me think yet again about how and where we belong (and who belongs), and the extra Scottishness of it all made me feel tethered even more to my chosen home. 5/5.

Set 30, 2023, 9:14 am

>159 Jackie_K: Thanks for the recommendation! My husband and I are hoping to visit Scotland within the next few years. Our daughter is now living in London, so we expect to be making more trips in that direction. This would be a terrific book to read before travelling to Scotland.

Set 30, 2023, 12:53 pm

>160 mathgirl40: Scotland is well worth a visit at any time! (also London, which is where I lived before I moved up here). Happy travels!

Category: Non-fiction (general)

Caroline Dooner's The F*ck It Diet is best described as an anti-diet book. She's really preaching to the converted in this reader, in that I am absolutely convinced that dieting (particularly yo-yo dieting) has been proven not to work in the long term for the vast majority of people, and that diets and diet culture are actively harming our long term health. This book outlines the science behind the body's reaction to being deprived of food, and spends a lot of time looking at how we change our mindset towards food. There was very little here that I found to disagree with, to be honest, and although she's not a scientist, I think she did a good job of summarising the science.

I did find bits of the book repetitive, but given the all-pervasiveness of diet culture in the western world, a bit of reinforcement of her message probably isn't a bad thing. 3.5/5.

Set 30, 2023, 3:20 pm

>161 Jackie_K:

I also blame the medical community. They have practiced, and continue to practice, a "cure" that has proved over and over not to work, and blame is placed on the patient instead of questioning the treatment. This is a good example of a medical practice that isn't based in science.

Now of course, they have the option to use bariatric surgery as their cure, and I do think it's the best choice for some people, but those people often need surgery because they didn't get the help they've been needing for years. I know a few clinics in our area are beginning to treat lifestyle (my word) that results in anxiety, stress, depression, etc. as a cause for overeating. Its a beginning though slow to come to say the least. My greatest concern is for children who are learning to go to food for solace but are blamed for their condition.

As you can see, this is a hot button issue for me.

Set 30, 2023, 3:27 pm

>162 clue: Yes, absolutely! It's a hot button issue for me as well.

Out 6, 2023, 3:05 pm

Category: Non-fiction (general)

Slouching Towards Bethlehem is a collection of essays from the mid-1960s by the great American essayist Joan Didion. It is an account of mid-60s American society, and topics vary from people dropping acid in San Francisco to her complicated feelings about living in New York. The essays about place most hit the spot for me, as well as New York she also had essays here on her home town of Sacramento, and the essay on Hawaii and its place in war was really moving. The rest of the essays were good, evocative, but I didn't connect with those as much. 3.5/5.

Out 10, 2023, 6:07 am

Category: Nature, environment and place
October RandomKIT: Treats not Tricks

Towards Re-Enchantment: Place and its Meanings, edited by Gareth Evans and Di Robson, is one of those books that ticks all of my happy boxes. Place, nature, essays. Tick, tick, tick. Some of my favourite authors are here, and some new ones to me too. There was one poem which I found pretty baffling, but other than that I enjoyed every single piece here. Particular favourites were the essays by Ken Warpole and Richard Mabey on the flatlands of Essex and Norfolk respectively, Jay Griffiths on the grave of the famous medieval Welsh poet Dafydd ap Gwilym, Robert Macfarlane on the language of place in Gaelic, and Kathleen Jamie on the remote Atlantic island of Rona, but they were all great. My dream is that one day I'll be able to write as beautifully and evocatively about place as they do. 4.5/5.

Out 15, 2023, 3:57 pm

Category: Nature, environment and place

Another fabulous anthology of place and nature writing, this time Ground Work, edited by Tim Dee. There's very little I can say about this other than this is the type of writing I aspire to write. It includes authors who are very well-known, and others who were new to me, but every piece had something I loved. I was particularly moved by the essays by Helen MacDonald (author of H is for Hawk) and Adam Nicolson (author of one of my favourite ever books, Sea Room about the Shiant Isles in the Outer Hebrides), plus a really powerful poem by former UK Poet Laureate, Andrew Motion. The whole collection though is outstanding and I for one found it inspirational. 5/5.

Out 15, 2023, 6:35 pm

>166 Jackie_K: - Definitely a BB for me.

Out 17, 2023, 4:44 pm

>167 dudes22: I'm sure you'll enjoy it!

Category: Vintage fiction (published 1900-1968)

Labyrinths is a collection of short stories, essays and 'parables', originally published between 1956-1960, by Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges (I've put it into my Vintage Fiction category as the bulk of the collection is short stories). I read this due to a RL book club challenge to read a friend's favourite book, and this apparently is my husband's favourite book. Now, he and I have very different tastes in books, so I must admit I approached this with some trepidation! (although I was glad that I added the caveat 'preferably short', which meant I didn't have to deal with a 1000 page sci-fi giant hardback!)

I'll be perfectly honest. Nearly every piece here, especially the short stories, had me completely baffled, and there was quite a bit of skim-reading involved (I am pretty confident that skim-reading didn't affect my overall levels of understanding!). I got that these are deep metaphysical discussions, and I noticed some recurring themes around religion, infinity, time, etc. There were some pieces where I kind of felt like when you know you know a word and it's on the tip of your tongue but it's just not forming, it's just so near yet so far - I was reading and felt that what it was about was on the tip of my tongue, but just wasn't quite there.

There was one of the essays, about books and stories, which I got so much closer to than the others, and (more or less) followed what he was saying. I particularly liked this:

Literature is not exhaustible, for the sufficient and simple reason that no book is. A book is not an isolated being: it is a relationship, an axis of immeasurable relationships. One literature differs from another, prior or posterior, less because of the text than because of the way in which it is read...

Mostly though, I remain pretty baffled. I've enjoyed talking about it with my husband though (he says he likes it because it is full of so many ideas), and it has merely confirmed what we both already know about our comparative reading tastes! Also, like a lot of South American literature, the language is gorgeous and musical, even if it's unscrutable for me. I'm going to give it 2/5, because I'd say that's my level of understanding, but I don't think that entirely reflects the overall experience, if that makes sense! 2/5.

Editado: Out 18, 2023, 5:39 pm

Jorge Luis Borges was on my should-read list for years. I eventually read a Penguin Mini Modern Classic, The Widow Ching - Pirate, and was baffled for 80 pages, so I admire you for reading the whole of Labyrinths.

I have neither the turn of mind nor the erudition to appreciate these stories, which have left me puzzled and confused. But Borges has been on my list of writers I ought to read for a long time, so I'm glad I tried.

Out 19, 2023, 5:38 am

>169 pamelad: if it hadn't been short stories and essays I would never have been able to finish it. But just reading/skimming one or two at a time was much more doable. I can at least now say that I've read Borges. You never know, it might come in handy some time!

Nov 7, 2023, 4:37 pm

Category: Sexual & Reproductive Health/Rights; Gender; Sexuality; Parenting; Children

Repeal the 8th is an anthology of essays, short stories, poetry and photographs documenting the campaign in Ireland to repeal the Eighth Amendment of the Irish constitution, which banned abortion throughout the Republic. The referendum eventually took place in 2018, some months after this book was published. As is usual with edited volumes some pieces resonated more than others, but overall this is an important addition to the literature about the Eighth and its ongoing legacy for Irish women. 3.5/5.

Category: Academic

Anthropology and Development: Culture, Morality and Politics in a Globalised World by Emma Crewe and Richard Axelby is a textbook which sets out in an accessible and readable way the complex issues shaping and complicating the practice of local and international aid and development through the lens of anthropological questioning. It's quite old now, over a decade, and I think that a new edition with more of an emphasis on the impact of the climate crisis would be a welcome addition to any anthropology (or indeed development) curriculum. 4/5.

Nov 19, 2023, 8:17 am

Category: Biography; autobiography; memoir; true story
November GeoCAT: East Asia

1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows is an extraordinary memoir by the Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei. As if his own story wasn't incredible already, this also gives an account of his father's life. Ai Qing was a famous and celebrated poet who was branded a "rightist" by Mao's Communist Party and forced to live in various labour camps, where a young Ai Weiwei grew up. The first part of the book then is his father's 20th century story of coming up against the Chinese powers-that-be, interspersed with the author's early memories from his childhood, and then the second part is the 21st century version of that story, with Ai Weiwei becoming increasingly more active in the dissident online space in China, followed by detention and eventually exile.

I was glad that I had recently read Jung Chang's Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister, as having that background really helped me with understanding the politics during his father's life. But even without that, this is a very readable and powerful memoir of the power of art to challenge authority. 4.5/5.

Nov 19, 2023, 8:42 am

Category: Celtic

Memories of St Ninians by Willie Jenkins is a local history book published by Stirling Libraries which I picked up at a recent exhibition they did about St Ninians history. St Ninians is the area of Stirling I live in, and I thoroughly enjoyed looking at the old photos of the area and seeing how much has changed. This was always a historic neighbourhood - the original parish church was used by the Jacobites as a powder store during the siege of Stirling, until it was (allegedly) accidentally blown up when the Jacobites had to retreat. St Ninians was also well known for its nailmaking industry, with many workshops in the area. My daughter's school still has nails in its coat of arms. Really interesting, I'm going to order my own copy (I've managed to find a non-extortionate copy on amazon marketplace). 4/5.

Nov 19, 2023, 2:07 pm

>172 Jackie_K: Both of those books sound really good! On my WL they were placed!

Nov 19, 2023, 3:55 pm

>174 Tess_W: I learnt tons from both, and they were both pretty gripping reads!

Nov 28, 2023, 10:50 am

Category: Contemporary fiction (1969-present)

I've been getting Richard Osman's The Man Who Died Twice out of the library and renewing it and renewing it since I think February this year! But don't let that make you think that I didn't like it, I just kept overcommitting to other books, and it's usually fiction that falls by the wayside when that happens! I really enjoyed it a lot, and had a great time reacquainting myself with Elizabeth, Joyce, Ron and Ibrahim, plus the assorted other characters around them (I have quite a soft spot for Bogdan). This one involves Ibrahim getting mugged, a drug dealer, some stolen diamonds, Elizabeth's ex-husband, and someone who isn't what they seem. And quite a lot of murders. All very improbable of course, but underneath the story are the characters and relationships and friendships that I couldn't help but care about. Osman really is such a good writer, and these books thoroughly deserve their success. 4/5.

Nov 28, 2023, 1:44 pm

>176 Jackie_K: - I tend to overcommit also. BTW - I am reading a book that I think would be of interest to you - Fen, Bog, Swamp by Annie Proulx. I'm listening to it on audio, but I bought a copy because I'd like to take more time to read it. There's no time to stop and think about what I'm hearing.

Nov 28, 2023, 1:54 pm

>177 dudes22: Yes, that book is on my wishlist already! I really like the sound of it, I hope you're enjoying it.

Nov 28, 2023, 3:56 pm

>177 dudes22: I listened to that earlier in the year. I know what you mean about not being able to pause and take it in. I enjoyed it.

Nov 28, 2023, 4:39 pm

>179 Helenliz: Good to have another recommendation!

Nov 29, 2023, 5:31 am

>179 Helenliz: - You're one of the people I took the BB from.

Nov 29, 2023, 4:44 pm

For the Thursday Murder Club fans among us, here's a fun quiz for you - which member of the Thursday Murder Club are you? https://www.penguin.co.uk/articles/2023/11/quiz-which-member-thursday-murder-clu...

Nov 29, 2023, 5:25 pm

>182 Jackie_K: Fun, thanks for sharing! I got 33% Ibrahim, 27% Elizabeth and Joyce, and 13% Ron. I would have guessed a mix of Ibrahim and Joyce, so I'd say the quiz is pretty accurate!

Nov 29, 2023, 7:05 pm

>182 Jackie_K: I do love a personality quiz! I am 40% Ibrahim, 27% Elizabeth, 20% Ron, and 13% Joyce.

Nov 30, 2023, 2:55 am

I was 53% Joyce, 27% Ibrahim, 20% Elizabeth, and 0% Ron!

Nov 30, 2023, 5:13 am

>182 Jackie_K: That was fun. Thanks, Jackie! I'm 53% Elizabeth, oh dear.

Nov 30, 2023, 6:05 am

>186 MissWatson: I realised I got Elizabeth and Ibrahim round the wrong way, I was 27% Elizabeth and 20% Ibrahim. I must admit that Elizabeth really grew on me in the second book. I just love how she loves Stephen so much.

Nov 30, 2023, 10:29 am

>187 Jackie_K: I wish I could be sure I could keep a level head in a crisis as she does. And her love for Stephen is drawn so well.

Nov 30, 2023, 3:57 pm

>187 Jackie_K: - The relationship between Elizabeth and Stephen is one of my favorite parts of all the books. I was 40% Elizabeth, 40% Joyce, 20% Ibrahin and 0% Ron. (I had to look up a couple of the choices to see what they were - being from the other side of the pond, I wasn't familiar with some of them.)

Dez 5, 2023, 1:41 pm

>182 Jackie_K: Since I'm American, there were 2 questions that I had not idea..I did a bit of surfing and decided on an answer, so mine may be skewed:

47% Elizabeth, 30% Joyce, Zero percent Ron, and "hardly" any Ibrahim. Since I haven't read the book yet, I don't know if that is bad or good!

Dez 5, 2023, 3:02 pm

>190 Tess_W: All four of them are wonderful in their own way, so however you scored it would be good :D

Dez 10, 2023, 4:30 pm

Category: Nature, environment and place

I went to an author event at The Book Nook in Stirling in the summer, and one of the authors there introducing her book The Hidden Fires: A Cairngorms Journey with Nan Shepherd was Merryn Glover. She was for a while the writer in residence for Cairngorms national park (what an amazing gig that must have been!) and she started the explorations for this book around the first pandemic lockdown. In this book she doesn't exactly follow in Nan Shepherd's footsteps (as described in Shepherd's classic The Living Mountain), more engages with Shepherd's writing in such a way that this book is more of a dialogue as the author discovers the Cairngorm mountains for herself. She uses the same chapter titles as in The Living Mountain, although mostly in a different order, and reflects on her own reactions to both the place and the book throughout. Unlike Nan Shepherd, Merryn Glover is not a born and bred local, although she has lived in Scotland for 30 years - she is Australian but was brought up in the Nepali Himalayas where her parents were missionaries, so she also includes reflections on those mountains, and how her reactions to weather, mountains, water, and nature compare and continue those she knew as she grew up.

I loved this book in its own right, but also really appreciated how she opened up The Living Mountain, a book which, whilst a classic, can also be quite intimidating in its sensuous experience of the mountain. Nan Shepherd was clearly an extraordinary person with an extraordinary mind, and whilst I love her book, I did find her quite intimidating and unapproachable as a person. The Hidden Fires has done a great job of making her and her book more relatable, whilst being a terrific read in and of itself. 5/5.

Dez 13, 2023, 3:10 pm

Hi Jackie, I finally caught up here! Congratulations on your book, how wonderful! And the cover looks stunning for sure.

Dez 13, 2023, 3:24 pm

>194 Jackie_K: Thank you, I'm still bowled over by the gorgeousness of the cover!

Dez 19, 2023, 4:25 pm

Category: Travel
December Non-Fiction Challenge: As You Like It

I'm always a sucker for a good book title pun, and when it's combined with an excellent book, even better! Peter Ross's A Tomb With a View: The Stories and Glories of Graveyards is an interesting, funny, and often moving book looking at graveyards throughout the UK and also the war graves of northern France, and telling the stories of some of the people buried or working in these burial grounds. Always fascinating, occasionally disturbing, this was I thought a moving account of life and death and how we talk about and deal with memorialising the dead. 5/5.

Dez 20, 2023, 2:50 am

>195 Jackie_K: ha! And it sounds good too.

Dez 20, 2023, 12:54 pm

>195 Jackie_K: Right up my alley! A BB for me!

Dez 21, 2023, 10:31 am

>195 Jackie_K: One of the things I like to do when I travel to a new place is to go to an old graveyard. I've seen many interesting things doing that.

Dez 21, 2023, 3:17 pm

>182 Jackie_K: I'm equal parts Elizabeth, Joyce and Ibrahim with almost no Ron. I can't say how accurate the quiz is for me because I just guessed at some answers (I don't ever drink tea or alcohol, and some places / names are unfamiliar to me).

Dez 21, 2023, 4:19 pm

>182 Jackie_K:. I have never read the books but the first one is on my book bullet list for next year. I took the quiz and I am mainly Joyce (40%), a little Elizabeth (27%), and hardly any Ibraham (20%) and Ron (13%).

Dez 21, 2023, 4:44 pm

>196 Helenliz: >197 Tess_W: It's a good 'un, I hope you enjoy it!

>198 clue: Yes, me too. I used to live near one of London's 7 big Victorian cemeteries, and it was a lovely place to wander round.

>199 VivienneR: Yes, I had to guess at a couple of the answers too, but the quiz was a nice distraction, especially finding it so soon after finishing one of the books!

>200 lowelibrary: You have a treat in store!

Dez 22, 2023, 10:58 am

Category: Contemporary fiction (1969-present)

A very different read for me, but I really enjoyed this romance novella! (disclaimer: I know the author) Rhoda Baxter's Christmas for Commitmentphobes is the story of two Asian girls, Lara and Tilly, who both find themselves snowed in at a Yorkshire pub in the middle of nowhere. Lara is a workaholic partner in a new tech startup, Tilly is an artist who never seems to settle anywhere. Neither of them are looking for a relationship, but the attraction between them is instant. But what will happen after Christmas when it's time to go back to their regular lives once the trains are back running? Will they have their happy ever after? 3.5/5.

Editado: Dez 24, 2023, 12:28 pm

Category: Religious

It's 'finish books by authors I know' week here, it seems - here's my Advent reading by my lovely friend Arun Arora, his first book Stick With Love. A short reflection for each day of Advent, focusing on different Christians (ancient and modern) who inspire us to look to Christ during the Advent period. Much like Arun himself, an inspiring and thought-provoking book, which certainly challenged me and my comfortable life. 4/5.

Dez 24, 2023, 12:25 pm

>203 Jackie_K: - I don't think your link goes to the right book. But - anyway - I'm going to take a BB and look for this for next year.

Dez 24, 2023, 12:28 pm

>204 dudes22: Thanks Betty, I've corrected the link now!

Dez 25, 2023, 4:49 am

>203 Jackie_K: That's a BB for me as well! I have done Advent reading for the first time this year and it has made such a difference (I am not finished because the book continues into January until Christmas is over).

Dez 25, 2023, 10:38 am

>206 MissBrangwen: I only started Advent reading the last couple of years, and it's something I'd like to continue, if possible. It's good to slow down a bit and stop and think, during this busy time of year when it's so easy to get distracted by All The Things.

Category: Contemporary fiction (1969-present) (although it really should be poetry, maybe I need an extra category!)

Merry Christmas everyone! This was one of my Christmas presents today, the wonderful (and sadly no longer with us) Benjamin Zephaniah's beautiful children's book Nature Trail, with stunning illustrations by Nila Aye. It is such a lovely book, reminding us of the amazing life teeming in our own gardens. 5/5.

Dez 31, 2023, 7:41 am

Category: Nature, environment and place

Possibly my last finished book of the year (we'll see how I do today!), Lee Schofield's Wild Fell: Fighting for Nature on a Lake District Hill Farm is a chronicle of the past several years where the author has worked as the land manager in the Lake District for the RSPB, seeking to farm in a more sustainable way to increase biodiversity and improve the land to increase things like carbon capture and flood prevention. The Lake District is an agricultural area where sheep dominate and opinions run deep, so this was as much a story of the opposition to their work as the successes. He's preaching to the choir here, to be honest, but it was heartening to see that there are other sheep farmers in the area who are looking to be more nature-positive in their own farming practices. 4.5/5.

Dez 31, 2023, 4:33 pm

OK, I'm going to call the year done. There's still 2.5 hours till midnight here, but I'm not going to finish the book I had hoped to today. Thank you for reading along with me this year, and for all the book chat, I've enjoyed it so much, and am looking forward to more of the same in 2024! Happy new year to all my LT friends.