Books read in July

July equals good month for non-fiction, not-so-good month for fiction.

How to talk to a widower.
Jonathan Tropper
Eh. I didn’t really like any of the characters. One of those books I just kept reading until I was finished. I will probably have trouble remembering anything about it three months hence.

Amy Bloom
The best part about this novel is that you the reader get to find out what happens to the people the main character, a Russian immigrant named Lillian, encounters as she makes her way across the 1920s United States of America. My main problem with this book had to do with the map in the front cover. There are dots on the map–which to me imply that something happens–that have no bearing on the story. Fargo is clearly labeled, as is Spokane, and absolutely nothing happened there. It distracted from the story.

Steven Levitt & Steven Dunton
Recently I looked over my transcripts and noticed I got a “B” in both Microeconomics and Macroeconomics. Those were tough classes, but I enjoyed them, just as I enjoyed the first book by these authors. This book was fine, but didn’t reach the fabulous level that the first one did. I felt that the topics the authors explored were broader and that made this book not the delight that the first one was. I enjoyed learning why prostitutes are like holiday Santas, and all the things connected with that fact, but the data wasn’t quite as crisp as in the first book.

One Magic Square
Lolo Houbein
Thank goodness I checked this out from the library. This hasn’t been the greatest year for gardening, and this book reminded me that I don’t have to give everything up–I can plant now and still get good food for autumn.

This book combines a sort of backyard permaculture theory with the Square Foot Gardening concept, although she uses many things planted in a square yard, rather than one thing planted in a square feet. The author lives in Australia, so some of the plants are called by names we wouldn’t use, but this “ease-into-things” guide would be a great start for someone just beginning gardening.

There are a couple of great ideas I will use from the book. For instance, plant your starts in toilet paper rolls. The roots can grow a long way down the tube before you put them in the ground. When you do, the roll disintegrates over time as the plant grows. Also, cut a three-inch diameter PVC pipe into sections to place over your newly planted seedlings. She then puts screen over the top to protect the seedling from birds, which I’ve never had a problem with, but this will be perfect to keep the cats away from the newly planted seedlings. They labor under the mistaken notion that all of my vegetable beds are their best litter box and I lose seedlings to their scraping every year.

Essential Pleasures
Robert Pinsky
Finished! I’ve been reading this collection of poems FOR-EV-ER! I had one library copy for at least six months and then someone requested it, so I had to send it back. But I was so close to the end, I reserved it again and was able to finish it. To figure out which poem I want to memorize each month, I need to read a lot of poems. This was a good anthology, ranging over many centuries with a suitable mix of men and women. It also includes a CD of Pinsky reading some of the poems, which I’ve not listened to. It does not include a blurb about each poet, which I would have liked, but otherwise, a good book that has yielded seven poems I have memorized and a nice list of potential ones.

Sad side note: I had a list of potential good poems to memorize which accidentally got returned to the library with the book.

The Blind Side
Michael Lewis
I loved this book! Love, love, loved it. Interest in football? Zero. Interest in the surge of importance of a single football position I maybe could point out on the field, but probably not? Nope. Interest in the motives and actions of a white Christian Republican uber-rich Memphis family? Not even. Interest in this book which contains all of the above? Incredible. I couldn’t put it down. That is the mark of a very good non-fiction writer. Do you like football? Read this book. Do you not like football? Read this book.

River Kings’ Road
Liane Merciel
I really disliked this book. First off, what does every medieval fantasy novel worth its salt have in the front cover? Yes! A map. This is handy for several reasons, but mostly because when I read that Brys and Odosse traveled between Willowfield and some border town in Oakharn I need a visual to understand how far that is and also where everything is in relation to each other. Without that, all those town names are only made-up words on a page. The map makes the narrative real. Other problems? There are too many characters that flit in for two paragraphs and then don’t return for 50 pages. When they do return, they appear without reintroduction, which would be fine if they were memorable characters in the first place. Unfortunately, they weren’t and I didn’t care enough to flip back and find out who they were–and here e-readers with their search function would be very handy in this instance, though I suspect I wouldn’t actually use the function– so I spent substantial portions of the narrative thinking, “who is this?” Also, the author employs the abhorrent Steven King technique of killing off a very nice innocent minor character whose kindness should have been rewarded. Overall, this was an entirely unsatisfying 388 pages and I don’t recommend this book in any way, shape or form.

Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage
Elizabeth Gilbert.
I loved this book. I love Glibert’s glib, funny, thoughtful and research-informed writing style. I am a skeptic about the issue of marriage too, and suppose I would get married if it was the only way to keep my partner in the country. But because I don’t have to? This book just added a lot of fuel to the “not getting married” fire, which I see as a good thing. The section about her mother was particularly heartbreaking to read.

Started but did not finish.

10-10-10: 10 Minutes, 10 Months, 10 Years. A Life-Transforming Idea.
Suzy Welch
I didn’t make it even halfway through this short book because there is not much there. At this point, I get that when I have a problem, I should think about it from a perspective of 10 hours, 10 months, 10 years. The many ways she is presenting the information has become repetitive. She does her best to show it from brain research perspective, but I’m yawning. Plus, I just got some medieval fantasy fiction from the library.

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