Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Big Read: October 2014

It's official:  I reached my Big Read goal of breaking my all-time "books read in one year" record, formerly held by 2011 with 147* books.  Whoo-hoo!  In fact, I'm currently at 155, so not only have I broken the record, by the end of the year it will be obliterated.

*it should probably be 146, because I counted a Sherman's Lagoon comic strip collection, but since I also read one of those this year, I'll go ahead and keep both books on the lists.

Next year I plan to relax, slow down, aim for fewer than 100 books, and tackle some big, fat, dense stuff.  And now, here is the October list of books read.


Listening Point (Sigurd Olson)
The Lonely Land (Sigurd Olson)
Olson was a nature writer who spent decades exploring the woods, lakes, and rivers of Canada and has an engaging, often lyrical style.

Lost Heritage: Wilderness America Through the Eyes of Seven Pre-Audubon Naturalists (Henry Savage Jr.).  
Just what it says.  Well-written, interesting account.

The Greatest Stories Never Told (Rick Beyer).  
A bathroom book of short descriptions of historical oddities, most of which weren't that odd if you've read as much as I have.

Lucy's Bones, Sacred Stones, and Einstein's Brain (Harvey Rachlin).  
Stories of a wide variety of historical objects and where they are now; rather dull overall.

The Monsters: Mary Shelley and the Curse of Frankenstein (Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler). Fascinating and highly recommended biography (Lynne, you might like this one!).  I always knew Byron was a cad, but was not so aware that Percy Bysshe Shelley was nearly as unpleasant -- he abandoned his wife and children to run off with Mary (when she was 16), subsequently cheating on her with her own step-sister.  Mary was an amazing woman (she wrote Frankenstein at 19) and this book is a very well written look at her chaotic life.

Mountain Reflections (Keith Brockie) 
A naturalist and illustrator from Scotland; beautiful watercolors and lovely prose.

The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels (Thomas Cahill).  
Volume 2 in Cahill's multi-part "Hinges of History" series in which he examines crucial turning points in cultural history.


The Old Fox Deceiv'd (Martha Grimes).
The Anodyne Necklace   "
The Dirty Duck               "
Jerusalem Inn                  "
Help the Poor Struggler  "
Having failed mightily to find good new mystery authors, I re-read a bunch of early Martha Grimes (her Richard Jury series of British detective novels).  I enjoyed them, though by the last one I read, I was growing tired of the same old tropes she keeps trotting out, and in looking ahead, it doesn't seem as if that changes any.  So I'm done with her for now.

Lockwood & Co.: The Screaming Staircase (Jonathan Stroud).
A middle-grade fantasy set in London where ghosts have returned to not only haunt, but harm the living, and since children can see them better than adults, they are trained and used to hunt the ghosts down and destroy them.  Dark stuff, yet the tone is kept fairly light and even amusing overall.

Sherman's Lagoon: Lunch Wore a Speedo (Jim Toomey).
Yes, it's a comic strip collection.  Hey, it's a book!  There were words!

The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates: The Terror of the Southlands (Caroline Carlson).
Middle-grade fantasy, a sequel to Magic Marks the Spot, and while entertaining enough, not nearly as good as the first one.

The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic (Jennifer Trafton).
Another middle-grade fantasy and again, mildly entertaining but a bit of a disappointment, as there were far too many characters and too much weirdness -- a fantasy book really only needs one odd thing to work well, not three dozen.

All in all, the more I read fiction of late, the more I like nonfiction.


  1. That book on Mary Shelley does sound pretty interesting. I might have to see if I can find it somewhere. I'm reading Martha Grimes on my phone because I forgot to bring a new book one day & had to download it to have something to read at lunch. It's a newer one called "The Black Cat" and I'm not tired of her stuff yet. Of course this is only the second one I've read in 2 months. If I get through 2 books a month it's a miracle. I don't know how you do it.

    1. I may have just read too many Grimes in a row, too fast. Probably just need a break. I think you would like the Shelley bio -- she had a fascinating life with fascinating people and the authors have a nice brisk, engaging style.

      I read 40 minutes each way on my WAY TOO LONG bus commute, 30-60 minutes at work during breaks/lunch, 1-2 hours in the evening after dinner because there is nothing on TV, and another hour or so in bed before falling asleep. You can get a lot read in four or more hours a day!

    2. Too true. Four hours is much better than the 45 minutes a day I get in. I usually only read on Monday-Friday too. Do you own the Shelley bio? If so, maybe you can make a note somewhere to bring it next time you visit? I know it's not for quite awhile but that's OK.

    3. I do own it but it's a hardback -- not sure you could handle that after all that phone reading -- you'd need to do some wrist muscle building exercises!

    4. Oh ha it is to laugh. I have LOTS of hardbacks and my wrists are plenty strong from all that card folding and chip shuffling I do at poker thank you very much!