Sunday, November 11, 2018

Sanibel Sunday: November 11, 2018

Hello from sunny Florida! November is off to a busier-than-anticipated start and, as a result, I took an unintended blogging break. Our daughter visited for a few days last weekend. We made arrangements with a painting contractor to get work done while we're back up north for the holidays. I also started shopping for living room furniture - no decisions yet. We hosted a neighborhood gathering... the air conditioning needed repairing (again!) ... and the election... and all the news...

I signed up to vote by mail, but grew increasingly nervous as my mailbox remained empty. On the last day of early voting, I decided to just go to the polls. By that time, even if my ballot arrived I doubted it would be delivered to election headquarters in time. There were at least  100 people ahead of me in line at the polls... a sharp contrast to early voting in the 2016 presidential election when there was no line at all! I was questioned about my vote-by-mail request, but allowed to vote since my ballot had not been submitted. (The ballot never did show up.)

Now, as you know, the recounts begin...

Recent reading//

by Robin DiAngelo, narrated by Amy Landon

I've been exploring race in nonfiction lately and this is my latest book on that topic. The goodreads summary explains it much better than I can:
Referring to the defensive moves that white people make when challenged racially, white fragility is characterized by emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt and by behaviors including argumentation and silence. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium and prevent any meaningful cross-racial dialogue. In this in-depth exploration, anti-racist educator Robin DiAngelo examines how white fragility develops, how it protects racial inequality, and what can be done to engage more constructively.
I'll just say this is an important and thought-provoking read which I highly recommended.

I finished this book last night and can't recommend it highly enough. It has everything I love in nonfiction - science and medicine, a legal battle, human drama, and good writing, too.

In the 1920s and 30s young women worked in factories where they painted watches, clocks, and military dials with a new luminous substance made from radium. Part of the process involved placing the brushes in their mouths to create a finer point. As time passed, they began to suffer crippling, painful illnesses, which baffled physicians for years before eventually being identified as radium poisoning. As their employers falsely denied prior knowledge of the danger involved and refused to take responsibility, the "radium girls" began a fight for justice. Their victory was instrumental in the establishment of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA.

This book, unexpectedly, turned out to be quite a page-turner.  Toward the end it even brought tears to my eyes. I borrowed the audio version narrated by Angela Brazil from the library, but ended up reading most of the book in print. Read or listen, but don't miss it!

Current listening//

by Trevor Noah, narrated by the author
I started listening to this one on my walk this morning. It's received rave reviews from many of my blogging friends and I can already understand why.

Up next//

I plan to start a print book later this evening. It will be more nonfiction...likely one already on my kindle.

The week ahead//

Tomorrow is my husband's birthday, so we have a special day planned. Later in the week we'll finalize arrangements to sell a car... never an enjoyable task. On Friday we fly back to upstate NY for the holidays. I just checked the weather forecast... snow nearly every day this week. Sigh.

I'm hoping to write this week's Nonfiction November post before we leave. Fingers crossed.

How was your week? What are you reading?

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Nonfiction November Week #1: My Year in Nonfiction

Nonfiction November is here! This annual event, an entire month of bookish topics devoted entirely to nonfiction, is always a favorite. Our hosts this year are:

Katie at Doing Dewey
Sarah at Sarah’s Book Shelves
Julz at JulzReads
Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness
Rennie at What’s Nonfiction


So far, 2018 has not been a stellar reading year. Instead, it's been a year of adjustment (to a retired lifestyle) and distractions (mostly political). While my overall numbers are down, the proportion of nonfiction has held steady at 35%.

How I consume nonfiction//
I read nonfiction, of course, but I also love listening. Having both the audiobook and a print copy is ideal. That way, I never miss out on photographs, maps, charts, etc. With a read/listen combination, I usually listen on my morning walk, while doing chores or while driving. Then I'll read outside in the late afternoon or at home in the evening.

What I'm reading about this year//

I've read on a wide variety of subjects, most notably...





Notably missing this year are medicine/health, food, and The Supreme Court... though I guess just following all the news related to the Court is enough right now.


by Nina Willner, narrated by Cassandra Campbell

Runners up

by Kory Stamper, narrated by the author

by Debby Irving, narrated by the author

My goal for Nonfiction November is simple. I want to hear about all the great nonfiction titles you have been reading this year...and then read several of them before Nonfiction November 2019. My best recommendations always come from book bloggers!

For links to other "My Year in Nonfiction" posts, visit Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Sanibel Sunday: We're Back!

Hello from sunny Sanibel, FL! It's been a long week, but we're back... and earlier than usual, too. The first cold front of the season came through last night. Our air conditioning is off, the windows are open, and I had a glorious walk on the beach this morning. I collected a few sand dollars, a banded tulip, and several paper figs.

Finished this week//

by Kory Stamper, narrated by the author

An entire book about dictionaries? Yes, and I loved it. I borrowed both the ebook and audiobook from the library, but the author's narration was so good, I ended up just listening. Look for a Book Brief soon.


by Robin DiAngelo, narrated by Amy Landon

I've listened to nearly half of this book. To say it's giving me a lot to think about is an understatement. It seems especially timely as we approach the midterm elections.

Up next//

Nonfiction November starts this week and I have quite a few titles under consideration, but I'll probably begin with...

by Kate Moore 

The main question is whether to read or to listen... or maybe both. Will you be participating in Nonfiction November?

How was your week? What have you been reading?

Monday, October 22, 2018

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? - October 22, 2018

It's Monday, and we're headed south. Not a moment too soon as far as I'm concerned... it snowed yesterday! We'll get the house open and ready for winter, line up help for the next home improvement project, and replenish our Vitamin D levels on the beach! We'll return to central New York before Thanksgiving.

This week I'm reading//

Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart
I pulled it off the shelf a few nights ago and read the first fifty pages... seems perfect for the Halloween season.

And listening to//

by Kory Stamper, narrated by the author
This is such an entertaining audio... who would have guessed? I'm around the 80% mark now and in no hurry for this book to end.

Up next//

I'm not sure... but it will be nonfiction because Nonfiction November begins next week. Hooray!

On the blog//

Book Brief: Dear Bob and Sue  by Matt Smith and Karen Smith
Pages From the Past: My 2006 Reading Journal

The week ahead//

We're on the road for several days. It's a 24 hour drive and we've found eight hours per day to be the upper limit of comfortable. That means at least three days in the car... and usually an extra day or two at one of our stopping points. There's always something new to explore!

How was your week?  What are you reading?

Friday, October 19, 2018

Book Brief: Dear Bob and Sue by Matt Smith and Karen Smith

Dear Bob and Sue
by Matt Smith and Karen Smith
ebook, 314 pages
publisher "unknown" (Is that code for self-published?)

Source: free download, thanks to kindle unlimited

Goodreads summary:
This complete version of Dear Bob and Sue  chronicles the journey of Matt and Karen Smith, who took a mid-career break to travel to all 58 U.S. National Parks. Written as a series of emails to friends, Bob and Sue, they describe their sense of awe in exploring our national parks, and share humorous and quirky observations. The national parks are among the most stunning places in America - pristine wilderness, geologic wonders, and magnificent wildlife - places everyone should put on their must-see-before-I-die list. Matt and Karen take you along as they visit them all. Unlike a traditional guidebook, this is one couple's perspective on the joys and challenges of traveling together. This is a story of discovery and adventure: chased by a grizzly, pushed off the trail by big horn sheep, they even survived a mid-air plane collision. Dear Bob and Sue  is the next best thing to visiting all the parks in person

My thoughts:

This is a great idea for a book, but it was not the book I'd hoped for.

Matt and Karen Smith, after becoming empty-nesters, decided to take a two-year break from their careers and visit all of the National Parks. The adventure is chronicled through a series of emails, written alternately by Matt or Karen, to their friends, Bob and Sue. Choosing to document the experience though emails allowed them to adopt a more informal, personal voice and share even the most off-beat anecdotes. I laughed through the first several letters, then quickly began to tire of the tone.

Surely their comments were intended to be funny and irreverent, though it often seemed they were taking cheap shots at one another, fellow travelers, and even park rangers. And although I like beer, especially after a long hike, is it really necessary to read about every one consumed over the two years? I think not. Ditto for the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

I began to enjoy the book more after limiting my reading to two or three letters per sitting. It's definitely better in small doses.

After recently visiting four National Parks, it was fun to compare our experiences with Matt and Karen's - hikes, weather, restaurants, lodging, etc. We ended up choosing  a couple of the same hikes and one restaurant... Zax in Moab, UT.

Though not meant to be a guidebook, I would certainly take another look at Matt and Karen's adventures in a specific park as we plan a visit. It's too bad they didn't include an index...

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Pages From the Past: My 2006 Reading Journal

I didn't mean to take such a long break from my Pages From the Past series, but when we went to Florida last winter I forgot to take my old book journal along. Since we've been back, it just never crossed my mind.  Anyway, we're up to 2006, so here we go.

Looking back, 2006 was a slow reading year for me, but I'm not surprised. There were three busy teens in the house and their schedules, especially sports, ruled my life!

Memorable Books Read in 2006


The Accidental by Ali Smith

Interestingly, none of these titles have stuck with me and I would be hard pressed to offer many details about any of them.


O Pioneers! by Willa Cather
Still a favorite.  I've loved many of Cather's novels.

A Room With a View by E.M. Forster
I went on to read Howards End  just a month of two later...

Howards End by E.M. Forster
My favorite Forster novel... and on my Classics Club list to reread.

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Maybe I should put this is nonfiction instead...


 If books about books appeal to you, you'll love this!


by Nora Ephron, narrated by the author
I loved this book and still recommend it frequently.  It also lead to a great book club discussion.

by Anne Tyler, narrated by Blair Brown
This book made Anne Tyler an "audio author" for me. I went on to listen to Back When We Were Grownups  and The Amateur Marriage  shortly afterwards.

In retrospect, it's interesting that the fiction titles have largely disappeared from my thoughts and memories. Not so for the rest of the titles on this list.

Have you read any of these books? What were you reading in 2006?
Previous Pages From the Past posts can be found here.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Weekly Update: October 14, 2018

We're home. Our southwest adventure was amazing: four states, four national parks, three time zones (who knew there is no daylight savings time in AZ?), countless scenic wonders and attractions, a visit with family, and memories to last a lifetime!

We were so busy (and tired by the end of the day) that I didn't read at all on the trip - not even an audiobook at bedtime. I eased back into books this weekend by reading a graphic memoir and completing a book I've been working away at for a few weeks.

I love our fall sunsets in central New York, but temperatures are trending downward and many of the leaves are already gone. Snow is in the forecast... definitely time to think about heading south.

Finished this week//

Dear Bob and Sue by Matt Smith and Karen Smith
A middle-aged couple takes a two year break from their jobs to visit every National Park. They write a book, comprised of emails sent to their friends Bob and Sue, chronicling the journey. I started this in anticipation of our trip, but found it worked better for me reading only a few emails at a time. It was just okay overall... I'll post a book brief soon.

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley 
At last. My library finally  purchased a copy of this foodie-themed graphic memoir. It's been on my wish list for years! Knisley's artwork is the star of the book, but her love of food shines though. It's probably more accurate to describe this as a coming-of-age memoir where life's pivotal events intertwine with food... and recipes are included.

I've enjoyed a couple of Knisley's other books (French Milk, An Age of License: A Travelogue) over the years and plan to search out her remaining work when it's time for my next graphic memoir fix. If you're unfamiliar with her work, Relish would be a good introduction. It's truly a delight.

Current reading//

It takes a certain kind of nerd to appreciate a book about dictionaries... and I suspect if you're reading this blog, you might be inclined in that direction. I borrowed both the ebook and audio versions from my library - no waiting list for either ;- )  At the 30% mark, I've pretty much abandoned print in favor of the audio version. It's read by the author and is outstanding!

Set aside//

So, our Gothic Gala was a bust. Three out of four of us abandoned The Mysteries of Udolpho. Are you still reading, Monica? I can only describe it as a slog in print and downright painful on audio. My impending trip probably didn't help... perhaps I might have been a little more determined (patient?) in other circumstances. I'm not ruling out another try at some point, but am in no hurry right now.

On the blog//

Book Brief: I'd Rather Be Reading  by Anne Bogel

Coming soon//

Nonfiction November is back! It has become my favorite blogging event of the year... details are here.

The week ahead//

We are grey-b-sitting! Angus is here for a week while his people are on vacation. He was initially confused by Zelda's absence but, realizing he was the sole beneficiary of our attention, settled in quickly. It's nice to have a greyhound in the house again :)

How was your week? What have you been reading?



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