Books of the Month


You know, my day doesn’t seem compete if I haven’t read something. More precisely, haven’t read something from a book. A favourite type of weekend, when I worked full time, was to curl up in my comfy red chair and read for the two days. Sometimes I would finish a couple of books. I would often feel the pull of my art things, but it was so comforting to escape into a world that someone had conjured for me. I still read widely and prolifically.

I love lists and record keeping, so no surprise to know that I keep a list of books I read, alphabetically by author. In early January each year I count up the tally from the previous year, and consider what my favourites were.

So, for 2018…..I read 82 books. Not as many as 2017 (89) but more than 2016 (77).

My favourite for last year?

Adrian Walker: The last dog on Earth. It’s set in a dystopian future, which I often find very disturbing. However it was recommended by my good buddy, Janis, and she has great taste in books. I am so pleased I did. It has a humanity about it, which is often missing from novels like this. And it’s worth reading for the character of the dog, who narrates every second chapter. He is a foul mouthed wonder!

Other great reads (The links will take you to much more satisfying reviews than I am going to give you!):

Diane Ackerman: The Zookeeper’s Wife. A true story, a biography of Jan and Antonina Zabinski, Christian zookeepers in Warsaw during WW2. Another period that I try hard not to read, but find myself drawn to. I love Ackerman’s writing, and again I am glad I read it, to discover the courage of the people of Warsaw, both Jews and Gentiles. The zoo was used as a refuge and a pipeline for escaping Jews. I was fascinated to read about how the Jews who lived outside the ghetto had to learn how to be Christian. Not knowing simple greetings or to cross yourself when you went past a church could lead to denouncement. There was a support network established, and the zoo was a key part in it.

Elizabeth Gilbert: The signature of all things. I was almost put off this too. Not because of the period, but because of the author. I enjoyed “Eat, Pray, Love” but thought that this one would be in a similar style. Instead it had things I love…an intelligent woman at its centre who found her own ways to live her life, botany, evolution, the role of women in science, and Alfred Russell Wallace!

Sophie Laguna: The Choke. Another not for the faint hearted, but beautifully written. This, from the review linked to above,  sums it up well

The Choke is a brilliant, haunting novel about a child navigating an often dark and uncaring world of male power and violence, in which grown-ups can’t be trusted and comfort can only be found in nature. This compassionate and claustrophobic vision of a child in danger and a society in trouble celebrates above all the indomitable nature of the human spirit.

And a very different read……Peter Godfrey Smith “Other minds: The octopus and the evolution of intelligent life”. Yep, fascinating research into octopus intelligence. Godfrey Smith says this in his introduction:

Cephalopods are an island of mental complexity in the sea of invertebrate animals. Because our most recent common ancestor was so simple and lieu so far back, cephalopods are an independent experiment in the evolution of large brains and complex behaviour. if we can make contact with cephalopods as sentient beings it is not because of shared history, not because of kinship, but because evolution built minds twice over. This is probably the closest we will come to meeting an intelligent alien.

His italics, my bolding. He makes a fascinating case for octopus and, to a lesser extent cuttlefish, being another line in the evolution of intelligence.

2019 is off to a flying start. I have already read books that have delighted me.

Mohsin Hamid: “Exit West”. Another distopian future, but this time Hamid gives us solutions that celebrate our humanity and connection.

Bill Hayes: “Insomniac city: New York, Oliver and me” A beautifully written tribute to his lover Oliver Sacks. But it is as much a love story to New York too, and the wonderful, quirky people Hayes meets in his wanderings. This may end up as my favourite for the year.

Olivia Laing: “The trip to Echo Spring”. Laing has made an art form of musing in print, and she does this beautifully as she muses on the lives of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Raymond Carver, Tennessee Williams, Ernest Hemmingway, John Cheever and John Berryman, looking at the impact that their alcoholism had on their lives and writing. The Guardian article in the link above rightly says the book is “part literary criticism, part biography, part travelogue, part memoir”. Another book to read for the insights and the beautiful writing.

Min Jin Lee: “Pachinko”. A family saga. Intriguingly the family is Korean, who migrate to Japan in the 1930s. It is a fascinating look into life for Koreans who live in Japan, because they are never allowed to assimilate into Japanese life. ‘Zainichi’, the term for Japanese Koreans, means ‘foreign resident staying in Japan’. Min Jin Lee refers to Japan as “a beloved stepmother who refuses to love you”. The women are strong and determined to support their families. Woven through are issues of shame and honour, fate and suffering. Which makes it sound very gloomy. It’s not, but it is an eyeopener.

So, I hope you can find something there that you might like to read. What suggestions would you make for me?

Melbourne Odds and Ends

Little Free Library

I first came across the idea of the Little Free Library on Alys’ blog. When I read her post Little Free Library Debut I was smitten, just like she was when she saw her first one. (Alys is renovating her Library at the moment, which you can read about, as well as the fairy garden that sits next to it, and her peaceful Buddha gardens.) I thought the idea of having a neighbourhood book swap was the most wonderful thing. However, I never quite got to creating one outside our home. So imagine my delight when I saw this, only a street away.

The Little Free Library in Ascot Vale

Yes, a Little Free Library of our own! We have much loved and well used public library just up the street, but this is a bonus.

It was begun by a group of young girls. You can read their full story in this article in the local paper.

A GROUP of Ascot Vale girls have set up a community street library to encourage more people to get to know their neighbours.

Group founder Sophia, 10, felt the need to reach out to neighbours after hearing stories of her Dad’s childhood spent with friends.

And that story makes my smile just a little broader.

With the Little Free Library they have created a little neighbourhood oasis. It has three library boxes ~ for Grown Ups, Young People and Little Ones ~ each at the right height. There’s a sign post and a notice board, and a night light! As well there is a little seating area under the shade of the tree. All this hosted by the Church of Christ.

I visited today, taking a book and leaving one. It’s a simple idea with deep roots, helping to build community and connections.


Now, which book will I choose? Which one would you take home?

Kindness Odds and Ends

Dedicating the Little Free Library

I have been following Alys’s blog, Gardening Nirvana, for a while. In every post she comes through as a thoughtful woman, one who cares about the world in which she lives. Over the last few months she has been telling us about her Little Free Library — the one she built right on her nature strip. (To be truthful, Nick built it, but Alys was the driving force.) Her inspiration came from……well, read her post about the Dedication and find out for yourself. It is a wonderful idea that deserves to be shared, just like the joy of reading deserves to be shared too. Thank you Alys, and all the others who have Little Free Libraries.

Gardening Nirvana

Warm temperatures and a cool breeze were a welcome gift Saturday during  the Little Free Library dedication.

The idea for little libraries started in Wisconsin in 2009

Todd Bol built a model of a one-room schoolhouse as a tribute to his mother, a former school teacher who loved reading.  He filled it with books and put it in his front yard.  His neighbors and friends loved it, so he built several more and gave them away. Each one had a sign that said FREE BOOKS.

Little Free is now a non-profit as well as a movement, spreading the love of reading around the world.

I dedicated The El Codo Way Little Free Library, to two of our local teachers, Debbie Hughes Judge and Carolyn Sullivan. Carolyn and Debbie (now retired) are highly regarded 2nd grade teachers at Bagby Elementary School. They were instrumental in supporting the Books at…

View original post 108 more words