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.

The Five by Hallie Rubenhold

An excellent book that I can’t recommend highly enough.

Rubenhold encourages us to look past the sensationalism of Jack the Ripper to the desperately hard lives (and horrific deaths) of the women he slaughtered. These were ordinary women with regrettably common problems (poverty, addiction, unstable relationships) in a time when there was no social safety net or chance at independence and self-reliance for women.

It’s infuriating that these women were immediately written off as “just prostitutes” and have continued to be in the almost century-and-a-half since by writers and so-called experts and (ugh) Ripper tour guides — most of whom are happy to lazily spout the same old tripe about the women before getting to what they consider to be the really good stuff: gushing over a murderous psychopath revered for his ability to escape detection. How screwed up is that?

Read it.

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