Books read in October

A nice balance of fiction and nonfiction this month. I should check and see what my usual ratio is.


Toolbox for Sustainable City Living
Scott Kellogg and Stacy Pettigrew
A great book, not as friendly and chatty as “The Urban Homestead” but is required reading for anyone contemplating a gray water system. Also, good information about how to grow bugs, which your chickens (you do have chickens, don’t you? Yeah, me neither.) love to eat.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Betty Smith
I read this first at the end of my junior year of high school, at the same time I was realizing I liked a boy. It turned out he liked me back and this book has always been linked in my mind with that boy ever since. In a year of somewhat “eh” fiction offerings, I was eager to read it again. I most wanted to get to the part where Francie is an older teenager, on the cusp of her first relationship. That part of the book loomed large in my mind and this time through I was surprised to find what a tiny section of the book it is.

The other surprising thing was how much of the story was lodged in my subconscious. I can’t tell you how many passages I read and thought, “Oh yes! That was in this book!” This is a great story, of course, how else would it be a classic novel? The writing sometimes can be a little Dick-and Jane-y, a bit pedantic. Due to the lack of italics, I also sometimes got confused as to if a character was talking or thinking. But I recommend this book because the story is such a wonderful one.

Freddie & Me: A Coming-of-Age (Bohemian) Rhapsody
Mike Davis
The book section of the Oregonian recommended this to me and I missed the fact that it was a graphic novel. As I’ve said before, I’m not the biggest fan of the genre, and reading this I realized why. There are no paragraphs. Each picture has a sentence or two, but then my eye has to move a great expanse across the page to the next sentence. It is too choppy for me and there isn’t enough description. I like description better than pictures.

But this book was okay. Davis and I are essentially the same age and I enjoyed his connecting Queen songs to various points in his live as well as following Wham!, his sister’s favorite group. In my opinion, the book should have ended long before it did, the final 20 pages felt very tacked on.

The Glass Castle
Jeannette Walls
I found this story very readable–it took me less than a weekend to finish it. Walls’ descriptions are clear and the portrait of her family life is very well painted. Aside from that, halfway through the book I found myself getting impatient. Just as Dan Brown engineers each two-page chapter to end in a “dum, dum, dum” cliff hanger, so I found that every vignette in this book ended in a way that seemed to be manufactured for the liberal middle-class reader to think some form of “oh, those poor children!” or “what irresponsible parents!” or “how did they ever survive?”

Reading the book, I am amazed that not only did Jeannette Walls escape the situation she was born to, but that of the four children, three because productive citizens. There is a lot to discuss upon finishing this book: nature vs. nurture; the role of citizens to interfere in family life; what choices make sense for parents to make for their children; how we treat children who come from different situations; which parent was more to blame. This would be a good reading group selection and I am surprised my edition did not include the reading group questions I find at the end of so many of the books I read.

The Cactus Eaters
Dan White
There isn’t much for me to say after finishing Dan White’s chronicle of hiking the Pacific Coast Trail. There were a few “read out loud” passages, especially describing nerds and drug use on pages 200-201, but I mostly found this book “fine.” I read it, I finished it, I judged him perhaps too harshly for his post-trail decline and that was that. I heard about this book through the Multnomah County Library’s blog An Embarrassment of Riches. Here is part of what Tama had to say:

So far it’s the funniest book of my still new summer reading season. I’ve forced friends and loved ones to listen to entire paragraphs. The other day I was laughing so hard it actually made my son pause Lego Star Wars II to ask if I was ok. I couldn’t wait to finish it yet I was sad when I did, and in my world that is the sign of an excellent book.

High praise indeed and the reason I put it on the list. However, while I found parts of the story amusing I don’t think I ever actually laughed out loud. Though there may have been a few snorts.

So, read it, don’t read it. It’s all the same to me.

Henry IV part II
William Shakespeare
Good god, but this was boring.

The Birth of Venus
Sarah Dunant
An intriguing premise (dead pious 16th c. nun discovered with large tattoo of snake on her body.) An interesting time (Florence during the end of Lorenzo de Medichi’s life and with a fiery catholic priest making trouble.) A girl who just wants to paint. How does she end up the pious nun? How does that tattoo get on her body? Read and discover!

Started but did not finish
Edible Forest Gardens Vol I
Dave Jacke
Very textbook-y,and I mean that in a nice way. I would have finished this, but it is very thorough, and others at the library are in line behind me. This is permaculture for the east coast of the United States, which works better for me than permaculture for Australia. I’ll reserve this again, and am contemplating buying it.

One thought on “Books read in October”

  1. Looks like a nice list of books. Mostly well enjoyed! I have never read a Tree Grows in Brooklyn – is that wrong? Seems like as a middle grade educator – it should be required reading. I am always so impressed that you get this much reading in when you have so much else going on.

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