January 2022 books read

  • In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash – Jean Shepherd, 1966. I’ve read this at least once before, several decades ago, and at the time thought “Hairy Gertz and the Forty-Seven Crappies” was one of the funniest things I’d ever come across. But he’s shrunk on me a bit, especially because Bill Bryson took on many of the best parts of Shepherd’s style and now I see more of the misanthropy.
  • Your Fully Charged Life: A Radically Simple Approach to Having Endless Energy and Filling Every Day with Yay – Meaghan B. Murphy, 2021. Pretty good self-help. I liked her “charges” : take charge, positive, love, work, health, extra, recharge.
  • Red at the Bone – Jacqueline Woodson, 2019 – quotes pulled, TBD
  • World Religions: the Great Faiths Explored and Explained – John Bower, 2021 ed. A classic Dorling Kindersley book, ie full of detailed, annotated images even when that’s not the best way to convey the concept, accompanied by text of varying quality. This was first released in 1996, probably the peak of DK mania in my corner of the public library world, but I don’t remember ever seeing it before. I don’t think I learned much, but the visual aspect is very immersive.
  • The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring – Richard Preston, 2007 – quotes pulled, TBD
  • The Golden Notebook – Doris Lessing, 1962 – quotes pulled, TBD, but in case I don’t get back to it: HATED
  • Annals of the Western Shore: Gifts (2006), Voices (2006), Powers (2007) – Ursula K. Le Guin. I’d been saving up re-reading these for the 3rd or 4th time until I couldn’t resist any longer. In my opinion these are right up there with the Earthsea series: wonderful in every way, absolutely compelling and moving, set in novel but believable societies.
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (1950) and Prince Caspian (1951) – C. S. Lewis. I stumbled across this #Narniathon21 challenge in time to catch up this month – they’re doing one per month on the last Friday, so I got to add my comments (titles are linked). I’ll probably assemble these into a single post as I did on my last re-read.
  • Two Old Women: An Alaskan Legend of Betrayal, Courage and Survival – Velma Wallis, 1993. Recommended by one of the coordinators of the “Examining Privilege” group at Mount Holyoke. An enjoyable story about elders left behind by the tribe in hard times, who thrive on their own and end up rescuing the others.
  • Wallet Activism: How to Use Every Dollar You Spend, Earn, and Save as a Force for Change – Tanja Hester, 2021. An excellent and incredibly comprehensive guide. My favorite aspect was the questions to ask about any purchase (or investment): “For whom? Can everyone do this? Is it too cheap? What am I funding?”
  • Serve It Forth – M. F. K. Fisher, 1937. I’m re-reading The Art of Eating, which I probably read every summer from ages 14-20 but not in a few decades now. The individual books are quite different from each other, so it makes sense to list them separately. This one was her first, and it’s a weird mixture of memoir and a history of food and cooking. The history chapters have no sources and are full of generalizations, cultural stereotypes, and implausible anecdotes, all asserted with great self-confidence. The memoir chapters reference people without explaining who they are or what she’s been through with them, but it bizarrely works. The short story “The Standing and the Waiting,” where she re-visits an old favorite restaurant after many years with a new partner, is a compelling example – I’m always intrigued when exposition is omitted but we’re still somehow clued in.

I didn’t read this all the way through, but want to record the fruits of skimming 1001 Tarot Spreads by Cassandra Eason (2021): amusingly specific cases. We have spreads for

  • “If You Work for Your Parents and Feel Your Ideas and Initiatives are Disregarded”
  • “If You Want To Become a Makeup Artist/Therapist To Celebrities”
  • “If Your Longed-For Retirement Is Seen As Free Babysitting for Grandchildren 24/7 By Adult Children”
  • “Will You Be Lucky in an Auction or Bidding on the Internet?”
  • “If You Have to Live in Staff Housing”
  • “If You Are Not Happy Where You Are Stabling or Grazing Your Horse” – my favorite!

Note that the spreads basically ask a really sensible question for each card, which suggests actual action. For example, in “If You Need a Fast Decision, Permission, or Visa and You Have Been Caught Up in Red Tape,” the first two cards are to help you answer the questions “Has your application been lost somewhere in the system/put to one side and forgotten?” and “Who/which department should you put polite pressure on to hasten the decision?” It reminds me of a great article I read years ago and wish I could find again. The writer had worked at a psychic hotline and was very successful by just offering common sense suggestions, like when a guy’s car went missing and the writer suggested he look near his vindictive ex-girlfriend’s place. The car was there.