Book Day: Groundhog’s Eve

Well, the year is off and running. I'm still creating elaborate lists to figure out how to spend my bookstore gift cards that I got at the end of the year, but I did get a couple of books  in the mail this month:

Baseball's Leading Lady: Effa Manley and the Rise and Fall of the Negro Leagues by Andrea Williams

She's the only woman inducted into the baseball HOF, and I hadn't really ever heard of her until I came across this book. The little Ghost is pretty interested in the Negro Leagues, so we might dive into this one together.

Ellis Island by Georges Perec

The latest in the New Directions subscription that I got for Christmas and I'm excited to read another Perec book.  I loved "Life: A User's Manual" and I've committed myself to reading "A Void" at some point this year. Maybe I'll do that this month to pair with my new acquisition.

Some links to interesting things I read in January:

We Didn't Have a Chance to Say Goodbye - Sabrina Orah Mark - She's one of those authors that I read every time I see her name and I'm never disappointed.

My husband and I were on our honeymoon, and I thought I only wanted the plague doctor. I didn’t know I’d eventually need him, too. “You can’t be serious,” says my brother. “Who loses a plague doctor during a plague?” “I guess I do,” I say.

“We’ll find him,” says my husband. But we never do.

Corvid Vision - Barbara Tran - A poem from Conjunctions that I thought had a lot of interesting images in it.

When something is said to come full
circle does this mark completion or make
a new form

an O
through which another
could fly?

Reading with the Little Ghost:

The Girl and the Ghost turned out to be far too dark for our current situation.  Lots of bullying and jealousy and anger and it just wasn't the thing we wanted to read before bed. We switched after about 90 pages after the main character had a nightmare about eating curry with human body parts in it.

So, instead we are reading Pip Bartlett's Guide to Sea Monsters which is a series that G has enjoyed. This is the third book, and it's much more light-hearted entertainment.

He really liked Monstrous: The Lore, Gore and Science Behind Your Favorite Monsters. This was  a book where he would go quiet for a while and I'd go looking for him only to find him nose deep in a chart about how to tell if you are dead or undead.  Thanks, Pepper!

He also just finished The Atlas of Vanishing Places which was full of geography facts and just about perfect for the obsessions of this particular third grader.

35 thoughts on “Book Day: Groundhog’s Eve”

  1. My reading was definitely affected by getting Covid. Books simply seemed like way too much effort. I read a few short stories from Madeline L'Engel, but they seemed to lack the charm and imagination of her novels. I've finally cracked the cover on the recommended On The Road With St. Augustine. It's not yet as compelling as I expected or hoped. But I'll give it some time.

  2. Somehow I was able to read 5 books in January

    Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe
    The Informer by Liam O'Flaherty
    World War Z by Max Brooks
    Arsene Lupin, Gentelman Burglar by Maurice Leblanc
    Arsene Lupin vs. Sherlock Holmes by Maurice Leblanc

  3. So, my plan to read one book about each of the 44 men who have been president in 2021 is off to a... slow start. I blame the craziness post New Years for diverting my attention. But, I've gotten back on track this weekend. I plowed through most of the second half of Chernow's Washington, A Life. I'm now through his presidency and since he only lived about 2 1/2 years longer, there isn't much left (about 40 pages). It's a really interesting book. I was under the impression that Washington was very wealthy and while he had substantial land holdings, he was constantly having cash flow problems. Also, he personally went with the army, AS PRESIDENT, to tamp down the Whiskey Rebellion. The book provides an unflinching look at Washington and slavery, at the considerable infighting in his cabinet, and his lack of... strategic brilliance as a general. Just a fantastic book, very readable.

    I don't know how far I'll get on this path in 2021 as I may want to detour a little bit, but as someone who hasn't read a lot in the last several years, I have enjoyed spending my time with this first book in the series.

    1. and.... I've completed my book on Washington and am 100 pages into McCullough's John Adams. I had the delusion that I would be able to get most of the books in this list through the library or via Kindle. No such luck. Last night, I ordered three books from abebooks (thanks, Rhu_Ru!), including the one I've selected on Madison. They will be delivered between February 11th and February 25th. I hope that the Madison book will arrive a little sooner than February 25th. I expect to be through the Adams and Jefferson books by about the 15th, so waiting up to ten days for Monroe would be somewhat of a disappointment.

      I suppose I could read them out of order, but I want to avoid that if at all possible, since I feel like each book will build on the collection of knowledge that I've built. It is interesting that certain facts that were in the Washington book also showed up in the Adams book. For example, there is a description of cannons being positioned over Boston in one night. A quote attributed to a British officer says something to the effect of more happening in one night than what the British could have done in a month. While a passing remark in the Adams book, the story of that effort is plumbed more thoroughly in the Washington book, as one might expect.

  4. Three novels in January:

    Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl by Andrea Lawlor
    Very much enjoyed this one. Set in the 90s, Paul can change his physical appearance at will, and so he navigates a whole host of queer spaces (bars in the Midwest, lesbian-only music festivals, east coast communes, San Fransisco bookstores, etc.) and the whole book is perfectly balanced between carefree and thoughtful and dangerous. The world of this book persisted after I finished it.

    Bestiary by K-Ming Chang
    Not an easy book to read, and one that bordered on being too much. Lots of dark folklore to tell a multi-generational story of the women of a Taiwanese immigrant family. The imagery and description are poetic, and it feels so much like metaphor that I kept trying to interpret everything and would get caught in a story that halted everything. There is certainly something really beautiful about it, but it was dark and sometimes violent and ... wet? The youngest woman grows a tiger tail while digging holes in the back yard that spit out letters from her grandmother when she feeds them things.

    Then the Fish Swallowed Him by Amir Ahmadi Arian
    A story of a bus driver in Tehran who participates in a labor strike and is then arrested and interrogated. Lots of ideas in this novel, about progress and totalitarianism and control. I'm not sure I was overwhelmed by it.

  5. Say Nothing was fantastic. Meat and Mag's praise for the book is completely justified.

    Shuggie Bain was also really good, and set in the UK in the 1980s. It sure seemed like a bleak time.

    A Children's Bible had its moments, but it also had a little too much blatantly obvious symbolism.

    Dept. of Speculation was another well-written, but not extremely uplifting read for the month.

    I'm now about a third of the way though Ducks, Newburyport and hole lee shit is it good. It took about 150 pages for me to really get into the hang of it, but by the time of her visit to the dental hygienist I have been hooked. It's practically mesmerizing at points.

    1. Say Nothing is maybe the best non-fiction I've ever read.

      At this point, it may become the traditional "First Book of the New Year", since it has been 2 years running now

  6. Recently finished:
    The Underground Railroad (Colson Whitehead) graphic portrayal of slaves trying to escape the South
    The Association of Small Bombs (Karan Mahajan) psychological narrative of those causing terror and those impacted by it
    Snow (John Banville) murder mystery in Ireland in the late 50's - well written

    Currently reading:
    From Beirut to Jerusalem (Thomas Friedman) nytimes journalist in Lebanon during the civil war, then Israel
    Traitor (Jonathan de Shalit) Spies and Double Spies in the middle east
    Backyard Almanac (Weber & Gibbs) nonfiction, 365 days of Northern Nature History in Carlton County, MN

    Just ordered from the library:
    An Atlas of Countries that don't Exist (Nick Middleton)
    The Devil You Know (Charles Blow)

  7. After 9 months of pandemic and sheltering in home, I finally got serious about catching up on my reading. Since November:

    Deaf Republic by Ilya Kaminsky - a book of poems about political unrest
    Walking: One Step at a Time by Eling Kraage - Philosophical and spiritual treatise on walking
    Underland by Robert McFarlane - Non fiction on the deep places in the earth such as Caves, mines, etc.
    A Distant Mirror by Barbara Tuchman - Non-fiction on the 13th Century medieval history
    Beowulf translated by Maria Dahvan Headley - a new, cool translation of the epic poem
    From Elvis in Memphis by Eric Wolfson - a 33-1/3 series book about the making of that classic album
    Hunger by Knut Hamsun - a novel about a starving author in 1880s Oslo
    Metropolis by Ben Wilson - a history of Cities (90 pages left)

    Next on the Nightstand:

    The Wind Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
    Improbable Destinies: Fate, Chance, and the Future of Evolution by Jonathon Losos
    Inventing Elvis: An American Icon in a Cold War World by Mathias Haeussler
    The Dwarf by Par Lagrkvist
    The Dead are Arising: The Life of Malcom X by Les and Tamara Payne

  8. It's not often worlds collide like this, but a new board game based on a recent favorite book series was just announced today:

    Red Rising will be published by Stonemaier Games (famous for Scythe, Viticulture, and Wingspan). Based on the Red Rising book series by Pierce Brown. I've read the first trilogy (need to re-read now) and I am really excited about this game coming out. Could have something to do with having play tested the game ;-). Pre-orders start in March, release in April.

    https://stonemaiergames.com/games/red-rising/

  9. So I bought a verified First Edition, First Printing of Kearuac's On the Road the other day! I've always wanted one and came across one at Half Price Books in their collection section a few years ago and kicked myself for not purchasing it. So that's cool. It's not pristine but in pretty good shape.

    I thought I had a First Edition of Steinbeck's East of Eden that I scooped up at a DC used bookstore 35 years ago. However, looking at the First Edition markers that one can now easily find on-line, I am not so sure. It has some characteristics of the First Edition, but not all so I am worried that it may be a copy. Thankfully I didn't pay "first edition prices" way back then. I am having it checked out to find out exactly what I have however.

      1. A guy who my dad went to high school with's father just passed. The father had 4 tons of books, literally.

        The guy is trying to get rid of them and remembered my dad is big into the Civil War. Dad said the guy estimates that he as 200 lbs of CW books my Dad is going to get next month. Including Allan Nevins' 8 volume Ordeal Of The Union still in the original shrinkwrap

            1. Was mostly joking. I do buy anything about Abraham Lincoln whenever I'm at a thrift store (building a library about him for Honest Abe), but otherwise I'm already out of shelf space.

                1. We've built bookshelves in three different spots in our house (in addition to the ones that were by the fireplace when we moved in), and it's like nothing ever changed. There are still books everywhere.

                  1. Speaking of civil war books, I spent a summer in a basement apartment a block up from Ireland's Four Provinces, the Cleveland Park branch of the DC library, and the Cleveland Park metro station. The salient fact is that there was a fabulous used book store in the same block with the 4Ps that specialized in Civil War books. Ever visit it during your time at GW?

                    1. I want to say this was the place (1975 Washington Star story says "upper Connecticut Avenue"), but my memory fails as to the name. The narrow aisles with high shelves looks about how I remember the place.
                      Second Story Books

                    2. I feel like I popped in there once my 1L year, just killing time before a dinner or something. There was definitely somewhere 'round Dupont Circle I visited... this makes sense.

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