July 2022 books read

  • The Story of Doctor Dolittle: Being the History of his Peculiar Life at Home and Astonishing Adventures in Foreign Parts – Hugh Lofting, 1920. The Doctor Dolittle books were a huge influence on me as a kid – they’re about love of animals, passion for learning, pacifism, anti-materialism, egalitarianism, and rejection of convention. I read and re-read many of them, especially Doctor Dolittle and the Secret Lake and The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle. I own all of them except this one (I had the abridged picture book edition which doesn’t count), and Jonathan brought it home from the League of Women Voters book sale! And… it’s nowhere near as good as the subsequent ones, plus super-racist/colonialist. But it’s got the origin story of a bunch of the household animals.
  • Between You and Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen – Mary Norris, 2015. Who the heck is the audience for this book?!? I mostly enjoyed it despite Norris’ unsuccessful attempts to simultaneously appeal to grammar newbies, New Yorker nerds (right there the Venn diagram shrinks to nothingness), and memoir lovers.
  • Improvement – Joan Silber, 2017. For Second Monday but I didn’t pull any quotes, which means it left little impression. Not bad, but not at all memorable.
  • Arctic Dreams: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape – Barry Lopez, 1986. Quotes pulled, TBD, but wow it’s great.
  • A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens, 1859. Quotes pulled, TBD.
  • When I Grow Up – Julianna Hatfield, 2008. I love Julianna’s music (Minor Alps, a collaboration with my brother, is brilliant and never got the recognition it should have IMO…) and this was candid and compelling, but a depressing and harrowing read.
  • The Sculptor – Scott McCloud, 2015. I was blown away by Understanding Comics when it came out, and have admired McCloud ever since. This was both more accessible and more enthralling than I expected. The end made me cry. Graphic novels aren’t may favorite genre, but this one is great.
  • The Mind Illuminated: A Complete Meditation Guide Integrating Buddhist Wisdom and Brain Science – Culdasa (John Yates), 2015. This is the first truly helpful meditation book I’ve read to go beyond the basics of “note your thoughts, let them go.” It explicitly lays out steps to proceed through the stages of meditation (using the breath at the nostrils) and how to handle the hindrances and pitfalls that arise. I borrowed it through the library but will buy my own copy – a step I rarely take these days, only with books I will intend to keep for the rest of my life.
  • No Exit – Taylor Adams, 2018. Change of pace: a can’t-put-it-down thriller. I loved its plot twists even though a couple telegraphed themselves from miles away. I’d rank this with Vertical Run as a reader’s advisory “Sure Bet.”

Peter Caws papers: the last few were in Spanish so I didn’t list them, but this month I digitized and uploaded “The Paradox of Induction and the Inductive Wager.” I learned strong and weak induction in CS 250 and could barely wrap my head around that, so to really follow this argument I’d need to read it a bunch more times. I’d rather focus on digitizing more papers, but it’s out there now for anyone else who wants to dive in!

June 2022 books read

  • The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis (alternate subtitle: The Stubborn Optimist’s Guide to the Climate Crisis) – Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac, 2020. Quotes pulled, TBD
  • Mary’s Neck – Booth Tarkington, 1932. A Jonathan recommendation I loved discussing with him. It’s the tale of a Midwestern family who try to join the in-crowd at a summer resort in Maine. Lots of humor that builds over the episodes, with recurring characters whose foibles create suspense as you wonder what social disaster will ensue this time. I probably wouldn’t read it again but I’m glad I checked it out.
  • The Letter of the Law – Carole Berry, 1987. I love books set in workplaces, and Jonathan recommended this Bonnie Indermill series because she’s in a different environment each time. This is the first, featuring a law firm. I did finish it but it wasn’t very satisfactory – it felt like there was no there there, with not enough humor and a boring mystery.
  • Scarred: The True Story of How I Escaped NXIVM, the Cult That Bound My Life – Sarah Edmondson, 2019. I picked this up after listening to part of an episode of the A Little Bit Culty episode. I’m intrigued by cults in general and had heard a bit about NXIVM but haven’t watched the documentary (The Vow, HBO). NXIVM seems to be like Scientology in combining features of religion, self-help, and MLM. I did finish it, but it left me puzzled about why the cult was able to attract and keep so many people.
  • The Dutch House – Ann Patchett, 2019. Quotes pulled, TBD.
  • Les Misérables – Victor Hugo, 1862 (tr. Isabel F. Hapgood, 1887). I’m reading this slowly in French with the Amherst group but finished it fast in translation for Great Books, so will end up with two sets of quotes. In case I don’t get to this ever, giant plug for the amazing Les Misérables Reading Companion podcast, which I am enjoying alongside our weekly discussions. I wish there was something similar for more books, but it’s a tremendous amount of work. Thank you, Briana Lewis, for your labor of love! (I did kick in a donation to help cover the costs because it’s so great)
  • The Last Battle – C. S. Lewis, 1956. Re-read for #Narniathon21.
  • Leaving Mundania: Inside the Transformative World of Live Action Role-Playing Games – Lizzie Stark, 2012. I enjoyed this, and it would make me want to try LARPing if I had all the time in the world…