what I read in July 2022

Art Matters by Neil Gaiman

A very short book of Gaiman’s thoughts on ideas, the importance of reading and libraries, and making art no matter what. It’s like reading a commencement address – good advice, but nothing all that meaty or detailed.

Do I Feel Better Yet? by Madeleine Trebenski

A collection of essays around the theme of things people suggest when you’re feeling down, like ‘have you tried exercise?’ or ‘have you tried Paleo?’ It was okay. I wanted to like it more than I did.

Good Girl by Anna Fitzpatrick

A young woman does reckless things and gradually learns a few lessons about life. I liked the author’s writing style, but the story would definitely be more relatable and meaningful to someone 30 years younger.

Sexual content warning: In my library days, one incensed patron after another would have freaked out that such a “dirty book” was available for loan. If sex acts in novels bother you, choose something else.

Heal Your Living by Youheum Son

Discusses four ways to heal: mindfulness, sustainability, minimalism and wellness. I’m interested in all those things, but the author’s writing style is so dry and boring I skimmed. A lot.

Into the Light: Lionel LeMoine FitzGerald edited by Sarah Milroy

I knew nothing about FitzGerald before ordering this book and discovered his art doesn’t totally do it for me, but it’s a lovely book with several interesting essays.

The Little Book of Cottagecore by Emily Kent

Very basic information on gardening, baking, needlework and other domestic skills, which are apparently called ‘cottagecore’ now. Might be a good introduction for people with little experience, but be warned there are only a few tiny illustrations and no photographs. There are many other, better resources.

A Midwife’s Tale by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

Spectacular. Short excerpts from a diary kept by Maine midwife Martha Ballard from the years 1785 – 1812 are followed by chapters that put Martha’s entries into context for her time and place. I loved every detail – how she spent her time, what they ate, petty town politics, the realities of childbirth before modern medicine, what she planted in her garden, grievances with her husband, how/what/if she was paid for her services, petty town politics, and so on.

Amazingly well-researched. A+ work.

The Pumpkin Eater by Penelope Mortimer

An unnamed narrator on her third marriage with a large but unspecified number of children struggles with her purpose in life. Her solution is always to have another baby, which infuriates everyone around her. The story is told in short, disconnected vignettes that capture the disturbance of her mind.

It was mostly depressing and unsettling, but there were some comic passages that were a delight.

Six Steps to Managing Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia by Andrew E. Budson and Maureen K. O’Connor

Good information, well-presented, but good grief, their running “stories” about fictional people with dementia and their fictional caregivers were terrible.

what I read in June 2022

Bare Minimum Dinners by Jenna Helwig

I wholeheartedly support the philosophy of just doing enough cooking to get by – god, I am so sick of preparing meals every single day for 30 years – but most of the recipes were very meaty.

The Best Cast Iron Baking Book by Roxanne Wyss and Kathy Moore

At least one of those godforsaken meals I prepare every single godforsaken day is cooked in one of my grandmother’s cast iron pans so this was right up my street.

Body Harmony by Nicole Berrie

If you, like the author, are heavily into juicing, food combining rules, and sitting on the table with your bare feet beside the bowl of salad you’re tossing, then this book is for you.

Charles Dowding’s Skills for Growing

A really enjoyable, informative book on vegetable growing. I love his spirit of experimentation.

Cookies: The New Classics by Jesse Szewczyk

Some interesting ideas, but I think I prefer the old classics.

Down to Earth by Lauren Liess

Decorating for rich people with homes that are already extraordinary.

Dusty Answer by Rosamond Lehmann

Young Judith Earle grows up next to a country house occupied by five cousins slightly older than her and longs to fit in with them. The complicated relationships among them all continue into their twenties, with immature, naïve Judith learning hard life lessons along the way.

I wasn’t sure about this one at first, but it grew on me. It’s surprisingly modern for a book written almost a hundred years ago.

Flea Market Garden Style by Caroline McKenzie

Books like this always confuse me. Are there really people who decorate their yards with mirrors and rugs and pillows and such? Do they carry them in and out of the house every day or they do they leave everything outside to be ruined within a week?

From Burnout to Balance by Patricia Bannan

Filled with such groundbreaking advice as: eat lots of vegetables, get enough sleep, find a kind of movement you enjoy and do it, etc.

Get Messy Art by Caylee Grey

I expected this to be about lightening up on expectations for artmaking in general, but it’s about creating art journals, which is fine, but not a particular interest of mine.

Knit Like a Latvian…Accessories by Ieva Ozoliņa

Not many patterns I’d make, but I love the colourwork charts. Really lovely work.

Mrs Robinson’s Disgrace by Kate Summerscale

True story: In the mid-19th century, Isabella Robinson was trapped in a marriage to a philandering, money-grubbing, uncaring arsehole and made the mistake of confessing to her journal her lust for the other men in her life. Mr Robinson snooped through the journal while she was ill, became outraged, and took her to divorce court with the journal as a very public Exhibit A.

Depressing and infuriating, but it’s my pick for most fascinating of the month, for sure.

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