my favourite reads of January 2024

Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Knitter’s Almanac (1981)

(I bought my copy for $5.75 at the World’s Biggest Bookstore, according to the price tag on the cover. That would be in the late eighties, I guess. I was such a cool teen.)

Elizabeth Zimmermann is my favourite knitting writer and teacher, bar none. She was smart and funny and no-nonsense and I’m positive she was the reason I decided so early on in my knitting career to work things out for myself and not blindly follow patterns.

Literary Lapses by Stephen Leacock (1910)

Speaking of being a cool teen, this particular edition was published in 1982 and I’m sure I asked for it for Christmas not all that long after, proving I had the tastes of a septuagenarian even as a child.

Leacock himself might have been a bit of an ass, but he did have the knack for writing humour. There’s nothing like reading a book published over a hundred years ago to highlight how much things have changed, but it’s also amazing how human nature hasn’t changed at all. His observations on people’s behaviour are the real winners in this collection.

Mossy Trotter by Elizabeth Taylor (1967)

Not that Elizabeth Taylor. Ugh, how tiresome it would be to share a name with a major celebrity.

This is an entertaining novel for children about a boy who doesn’t want to participate in his mother’s friend’s wedding. It was well-observed (read: definitely written by the mother of a young son), although I thought the ending was a bit flat and abrupt.

The Pebble Spotter’s Guide by Clive Mitchell (2021)

As a huge fan of both collecting pebbles and collecting identification guides, I can’t believe it never occurred to me to look for a pebble identification guide. This one is geared to the UK, although I did recognise a few I’ve picked up here. The author’s enthusiasm is as charming as the watercolour illustrations. Now I just need to find the Canadian equivalent.


my favourite reads of November 2023

The funk continues. I read more in November than October, but wasn’t all that thrilled with most of it. I think I need to stop being tempted by the New Arrivals section of the library website and stick with my own reading lists because I’m spending too much time on recently published disappointments and not enough time on the kind of classic old-timers I know I prefer.

Anyway, these two are fairly new and not disappointing:

The Clementine Complex by Bob Mortimer

I ordered this one when I saw it was nominated for the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction (which it has since won) and realized it was the same loopy Bob Mortimer I have enjoyed watching on Would I Lie to You? It’s a fun little mystery about a guy trying to track down a woman he met in a bar because (1) he liked her and (2) she is his alibi after a work acquaintance he’d met up with for a drink is murdered. It’s equal parts goofy and suspenseful. Fun.

Work It Out by Sarah Kurchak

I confess I ordered this solely based on the subtitle: A Mood-Boosting Exercise Guide for People Who Just Want to Lie Down. I thought it would be about how people who enjoy sedentary hobbies (like me) might find some motivation for not sitting down quite so much. If I had done even two seconds of research, I’d have discovered it’s geared toward people who don’t move enough because they’re struggling with depression, anxiety, ADHD or any other condition that makes it hard to jump out of bed and run ten kilometres every morning. I ended up reading the whole thing anyway because it has a lot of good advice. I’d group it with How to Keep House While Drowning (which I read in August 2022) for smart resources on how to gently and compassionately cope with mental and/or physical hurdles to life-enhancing activities.


my favourite reads of October 2023

This was the most dismal reading month I’ve had in ages. I started, but could not be bothered finishing about a dozen books. Maybe I chose poorly, maybe I wasn’t in the mood, who knows. The following two were the only highlights.

A Glorious Freedom by Lisa Congdon (2017)

Short interviews with a wide variety of women over 40 about life changes they made, things they tried, their philosophies on aging and advice to others. I liked it a lot more than I’d expected.

The Last Devil to Die by Richard Osman (2023)

The fourth installment of the Thursday Murder Club series and just as enjoyable as the first three. Good pacing, fun characters, a clever mystery. I would never have believed my cynical little self would look forward to reading a charming series of books about four pensioners solving major crimes, but it’s true.


my favourite things of the week

For September 25 to October 1, 2023

I forgot to take the camera to our farm pickup this week, which figures, because there were giant heaps of bright orange squash, glowing red apples and knobbly yellow gourds sitting there begging to be photographed. Ah well.

*An extremely foggy sunset

We don’t typically get a lot of fog in this part of Nova Scotia so this was very exciting. Yes, I am aware that my idea of exciting is not most people’s idea of exciting.

*Spiderweb appreciation

All that mist in the air highlighted the yard’s four million spiderwebs and they’re pretty, but best of all is seeing a spiderweb without walking into it first, like usual.

*The Merlin bird identification app

Produced by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, this app can identify your photos of unknown birds or, better yet, listen to bird calls and songs and identify them that way. I knew our yard was a bird hotspot, but the Sound ID indicates there are probably four or five times as many birds hanging around out there that I never see. Even my mother let me add this app – her very first – to her phone and she is also utterly addicted.

*Chipmunk!

Unlike some fairly tame and sociable chipmunks, the ones living in our shed have zero interest in interacting with us. Imagine our mutual surprise, then, when this little guy popped out of the wisteria only to find one of the big dumb humans (me) watching her stupid Merlin app (what else?) on a quiet, foggy Saturday morning. I quickly snapped this bad photo with my phone right before he retreated to a safe distance and shrieked at me for five minutes straight.

*Telling our friends exactly what we think of them

Less than Angels by Barbara Pym was okay, but not my favourite Pym. I did LOL at this part, though:

“Things were said on both sides which might be regretted afterwards, and both felt the perverse satisfaction which is to be got from saying things of precisely that kind. It is very seldom that we can tell our friends exactly what we think of them; for some the occasion never presents itself, and they are perhaps the poorer for not having experienced the exultation of flinging the buried resentment and the usually irrelevant insult at a dear friend.”

*’Women decorating porcelain at Den Kgl Porcelansfabrik’ (1895) by Emma Meyer


my favourite reads of September 2023

The Busy Caregiver’s Guide to Advanced Alzheimer Disease by Jennifer R Stelter (2021)

It feels a bit weird to call a book about Alzheimer’s a ‘favourite’ read, but it was well-written and very useful.

Cluny Brown by Margery Sharp (1944)

An amusing and entertaining story about a young woman who has the audacity to do what she likes, much to the horror of her uncle/guardian and his busybody sister, who complain she “doesn’t know her place” and constantly try to shame her with “Who do you think you are?” I loved the theme of being true to yourself, regardless of what your family thinks you should be.

Look at This if You Love Great Art by Chloe Ashby (2021)

A nice assortment of art with informative paragraphs about each piece as well as recommendations for related artists, books, movies or music.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson (1938)

A dowdy, depressed, unemployed governess shows up to a potential new posting, only to be swept up in the romantic intrigues of a young cabaret singer and her glamorous circle of friends. Most hilarious to me was how Miss Pettigrew rarely seemed to know what was going on or what people were talking about, but just tried to roll with it anyway. And any book that gives a shoutout to wool is all right with me:

“Wool,” said Miss Pettigrew. “I don’t care what people say. Wool is still the best wear for winter.”

“I quite agree,” said Joe fervently. This was a vital subject.

Monet’s Years at Giverny: Beyond Impressionism by The Metropolitan Museum of Art (1978)

I borrowed this from the library for a small Monet fix, expecting I’d do a quick flip through to admire the paintings, but the text was so interesting I read it cover to cover. Out of print, but available to read online at The Met Museum site.


my favourite things of the week

For September 18 to 24, 2023

*This week, I was lucky enough to do my absolutely favourite thing: spend time by the shore

*When I could tear myself away from the beach, I was admiring the hardy plant life

*Back at home, the mums are blooming like crazy, the only sunflower to get knocked down by Hurricane Lee won’t give up, and I continue to thrum and admire the clouds

*Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson

This was perfect vacation reading. One of the many passages that made me LOL:

“It’s the men who make the mistake. They see she’s got the looks and think she can’t have the grey matter as well, and they try to take her for a ride. Their mistake, of course.”

“They deserve all they get,” said Miss Pettigrew belligerently, but without the faintest idea of what they were talking about.


my favourite things of the week

For September 11 to 17, 2023

Some weeks it’s more challenging to find things to appreciate and this was one of them. I spent a lot of the week with terrible shoulder pain after an overenthusiastic morning of wrangling bins and boxes in the basement and the pain started to subside just in time for the arrival of Hurricane/Post-tropical storm Lee. Luckily for us, the track of the storm pushed further west than anticipated and we had wind, rain, flattened sunflowers and a five-hour power outage, but it was fine. We’ve had way, way worse.

*Before the storm, there was a beauty of a sunset

*Green peppers from the garden

I’d have left a few of them to grow a bit more, but was worried the storm would pound them into relish.

*This chirpy red tractor, outstanding in its field

*Corn, corn everywhere

I don’t know if there really are more fields of corn around here this year or if I’ve just noticed it more, but whatever. We’ve eaten A LOT of corn.

*Old books

I borrowed Cluny Brown (1944) by Margery Sharp and the original library card was still in the pocket at the back. Swoon. Almost exactly 78 years ago, Marguerite and Margaret were also reading Cluny Brown and I wonder if they liked it as much as I did.

*’Under the Greenwood Tree’ (1909) by George Henry

I know this is endlessly reproduced, but I still love it. The dappling of that light through the trees – wow.


my favourite reads of August 2023

The Art Thief by Michael Finkel

The gripping true story of a French man who compulsively stole art from museums all across Europe. A real gasp-out-loud kind of book.

Do Let’s Have Another Drink! by Gareth Russell

A biography told via entertaining anecdotes. I really liked it.

Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone by Benjamin Stevenson

It seems wrong to call a book about multiple murders amusing, but there you go. Very well done.

Jane and Prudence by Barbara Pym

Two favourite quotations from the text:

Oh, but it was splendid the things women were doing for men all the time, thought Jane. Making them feel, perhaps sometimes by no more than a casual glance, that they were loved and admired and desired when they were worthy of none of these things…

and

“I suppose I’ll never get a man if I don’t take more trouble with myself,” Eleanor went on, but she spoke comfortably and without regret, thinking of her flat in Westminster, so convenient for the Ministry, her weekend golf, concerts and theatres with women friends, in the best seats and with a good supper afterwards.

Very enjoyable.


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