The Only Story – Julian Barnes, 2018 – quotes pulled, TBD
Beyond the Black Stump – Nevil Shute, 1956. Fourth or fifth re-read, this time prompted by seeing the spine on a shelf of “mountain/climbing books” in the best MOOC I’ve ever taken, Mountains 101. I questioned whether it really featured mountains, as I didn’t remember that at all. Wikipedia identifies the setting as the Ophthalmia Range in Australia, and the male protagonist goes camping in his native eastern Oregon, but yeah, just a backdrop. It’s memorable for the clash of mores between Australia and the U.S. – the Americans, who write off someone dying in a reckless driving crash as “just something that happens,” come off pretty badly.
The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming – David Wallace-Wells, 2019 – quotes pulled, TBD
I Marched with Hannibal – Hans Baumann, 1971. Umpteenth re-read, also prompted by Mountains 101 because of crossing the Alps. I love this book – there’s no other juvenile historical fiction quite like it.
The Brothers Karamazov – Fyodor Dostoyevsky, 1879 (P&V translation, 2002). Read quickly for Great Books, quotes pulled, but reading again more slowly for Amherst’s book club (the David McDuff translation) – TBD one post or two! I prefer the McDuff so far.
Fairy and Folk Tales of Ireland – edited by W. B. Yeats (combines Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry, 1888, and Irish Fairy Tales, 1892) – quotes pulled, TBD
The Aspirational Investor: Taming the Markets to Achieve Your Life’s Goals – Ashvin B. Chhabra, 2015. Aimed at very rich people, not particularly helpful for ordinary folks aside from some basic cautionary advice (beating the market doesn’t matter if markets are plunging and you need income).
How to be Fine: What We Learned from Living by the Rules of 50 Self-Help Books – Jolenta Greenberg and Kristen Meinzer, 2020. Since I love both self-help and books-about-books, I was overdetermined to embrace this, and yes—so much that I read it in a single sitting. Next I subscribed to the podcast, which is also delightful, but it’s amazing how much a book packs in where audio is more… baggy. I especially enjoyed the format of “13 Things that Worked,” “8 Things that Didn’t Work,” and “8 Things We Wish More Books Recommended,” as well as their very frank criticism of a lot of the self-help genre’s major issues (working best for middle-class white people, for example). They don’t hesitate to trash books like The Secret and French Women Don’t Get Fat, and point out victim-blaming and racism. It’s minor, but the most mind-blowing bit to me was Jolenta getting diagnosed with ADHD along the way and saying there’s a negative connection to estrogen, which is why girls are not often diagnosed properly (don’t start early enough) but begin to experience problems around puberty. Not only does that exactly match my experience, but it explains why my symptoms have gotten so much better since my early (surgical) menopause. I was on medication for a while after finally getting a diagnosis at 45, which was helpful initially, but stopped after just a few years and feel like it’s mostly under control now.
Set My Heart to Five – Simon Stephenson, 2020. My stepmom highly recommended this when we discussed how much I disliked Machines Like Me and she felt the same way about Klara and the Sun. It’s really delightful, both funny and touching, and the voice is contagious. (“Humans—I cannot!”)
Beginners: The Joy and Transformative Power of Lifelong Learning – Tom Vanderbilt, 2021. I both loved and identified with this saga of learning skills in middle age. Vanderbilt embarked on singing, surfing, chess, jugging, and drawing. I’m very slowly learning juggling (my hand-eye coordination has never been very good, which is one of the reasons I want to learn but I’ll be content with just a three-ball cascade) and drawing has been on my list forever as something that I’ve tried off and on but would ideally want to focus on. He’s inspiring and his insights (for example, about why it’s so easy to bond with the other singers in his chorus) are fascinating.