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Clutter: An Untidy History by Jennifer Howard

Like Why Fish Don’t Exist by Lulu Miller, this is both a dive into an important topic and a deeply personal book. I have followed Jen Howard on Twitter for her professional interest in higher education and libraries for some years. She may have lived in my town for her first five years until her parents divorced; I have met her father, the eminent constitutional scholar, several times at...

This is Not a Novel: A Novel by Jennifer Johnston

I admired Jennifer Johnston’s book The Gingerbread Woman and in fact have listened to parts of it again. Reading Matters’  post in January about the Irish writer’s other books took me to this one. It is told by a young woman whose life takes a turn in 1970 when, after a trauma, she finds herself unable to speak. She tells the story from the vantage point of thirty years later...

How Much of These Hills is Gold by C Pam Zhang

This book caught my eye because it is on the Booker Prize long list. The story of a family, told by Lucy, begins when she and her androgynous sibling Sam are 11 and 10, after their father dies and the two search for the appropriate place to bury him. This is the Wild West at the time of gold strikes when Ma had come looking for the Golden Mountain she heard about in China. She found Ba, mistaking...

Fair Stood the Wind for France by H.E. Bates

Warning:  this is an addictive book. It is the story of a British World War II pilot whose plane goes down with four other crew members when an engine fails. They land in Occupied France on their way to a mission in Italy. Everyone survives though the pilot John Franklin badly hurt his arm. The five make their way to a farm where they are taken in by the family. I had known that much would...

Troubles by J.G. Farrell

Having admired The Siege of Krishnapur about witless Brits at the Indian Rebellion of 1857, I decided to try this one about witless Brits when the Irish were ready for them to leave. Troubles is set in 1919-1920, during the guerrilla war the Irish fought for their independence and was written in 1970, as those troubles were beginning again. The story focuses on “the Major,” a young...

The Aunt Who Wouldn’t Die by Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay

This 1993 novella by a Bengali writer is bound for the list of my favorite books of the year. It came out in English in July; after hearing Maureen Corrigan’s short review, I bought the audio version. It is a fairy tale featuring an angry ghost. Pishima was married at seven, widowed at 12, and kept in perpetual widowhood by the family so that they would eventually get her dowry of gold. The...

This Land by Rebecca Nagle

After the Supreme Court decision this summer that affirmed that land in eastern Oklahoma remains tribal land of the five tribes who walked the Trail of Tears, I knew I wanted to know more about this. Somehow I landed on a podcast by Rebecca Nagle that is hosted by the Crooked Media group. There are 10 episodes that last about 30 minutes each. This series began in 2019 when the Supreme Court was...

Carville’s Cure by Pam Fessler

The subtitle, “Leprosy, Stigma, and the Fight for Justice,” signals this is the story of the only leprosarium in the continental US. Its history and the history of the treatment of Hansen’s Disease, commonly known as leprosy, makes for a dramatic read. The unwarranted fear of the disease has resulted in tragically mistaken public health policy; I appreciated learning the truth...

Books to Read

Clutter by Jennifer Howard A Burning by Megha Majumdar. Tony’s recommendation Pam Fessler, Carville’s Cure The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben. Lib audiobook Troubles by J.G.Farrell Life of a Klansman by Edward Ball, coming out in August Vesper Flights:  Essays by Helen MacDonald, coming out Aug. 25 Apeirogon by Colum McCann How Much of These Hills is Gold by C Pam Zhang. Long...

A Pilgrimage to Eternity by Timothy Egan

Timothy Egan wrote a history of the Dust Bowl (The Worst Hard Time) that I greatly admire so I wanted to read his recent book about his 1000-mile pilgrimage from Canterbury to Rome on the Via Francigena. This book is the tangible outcome of his love of history (and recounting it), his abiding connection to the Christian faith, and the appeal for him of a good walk/drive/train ride. Given the...

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