Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Read in October 2023


October was quite a month, resulting in much less reading than usual. All of these books are on the shorter side, too. Now that we're halfway into November, I can also say that I've been in comfort-read mood, with light romances and easy mysteries stocking my nightstand. I am here for it!

What do you use to track your reading? I've been a Goodreads user since it started over 15 years ago. But this year, the way that book ratings and reviews are put front and center has been bothering me. You can't avoid the rating, and on each book page you'll typically see a "this was the best book ever" review right along side a 1-star "this book was OK but the writer is a liberal" review. Plus, the whole thing is owned by Amazon and I'd rather not give them all my data. So, I've imported my library into Storygraph and will stop updating Goodreads at the end of the year. If you're on Storygraph and want to friend me, let me know in the comments. I'm having a great experience with this new site so far.

Code Gray: Death, Life, and Uncertainty in the ER by Farzon A. Nahvi: While Farzon shares a few fascinating cases from the ER, this book is more about the emotions and decision making that goes on behind the scenes. As the title says, there is a lot of gray area where physicians have to go against training or policy in order to provide the best care. It is also great insight into what's going on while you're getting annoyed waiting for your turn!

The Last Devil to Die by Richard Osman: Hands down, the best cozy mystery series out there. I didn't think that the mystery in this book was as strong as in the others, but there is a plot about one of the main characters that totally made me cry. Osman writes with such kindness and sensitivity. He writes in the acknowledgements that he's starting a new series, so there won't be a Thursday Murder Club book next year - so sad! But I will definitely read anything else he writes.

My Favorite Things by Maira Kalman: My favorite type of book: handwritten! Kalman curated a museum exhibition of her favorite unique objects, and this book is the companion to that. I love how Kalman is doing something different in a sea of sameness.

The River by Peter Heller: Two college friends are on a canoe trip in Canada when they witness a crime - what follows is harrowing experience in the wilderness while they fight to survive. Heller is one of the best when it comes to creating a sense of place. I enjoy reading his books purely to be transported into nature, even if he does write about fishing, a lot.

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel: I've owned a copy of this book for over 15 years, so who knows why I was finally moved to pick it up and finally read it. I'm sorry it took me so long! The magical realism oddly makes sense here, and the story seems almost like a fairy tale. Overall it was a fun read. The structure of the book is really clever, with each chapter focusing on a recipe. (Admittedly - there is some cringey stuff in here, like the main character being only 17 - which isn't revealed until halfway through - and a scene that seems very much like rape but is not treated as such. It was published in 1989 and it shows.)

How Can I Help You? by Laura Sims: Librarian Margo is hiding a murderous past. When a new research librarian joins the staff, she begins to suspect that Margo is not who she says she is. While this book was creepy (kind of like Joe Goldberg in "You"), there wasn't too much thriller. It was kind of slow-paced and there wasn't too much to the plot. It was a quick listen but not memorable.

Falling by T.J. Newman: Is everyone reading this book right now? I can see why! It's a fast-paced thriller about a pilot whose family is kidnapped, and he must make a choice: crash the plane or his family is killed. While listening to this book, I could see the movie play out in my head. You know from the beginning that the plane full of people is going to make it (because what kind of disappointment would that be otherwise), but it was fun to see how the good guys make it out on top.

Monsters: A Fan's Dilemma by Claire Dederer: There are so many artists who have since been revealed to have done questionable, horrible, and even criminal things: Picasso, Woody Allen, Roman Polanski, even JK Rowling. So can we separate the art from the artist? Should we? Dederer does not answer this question outright, preferring each reader to come to their own conclusion, but she provides lots to think about. She is a film critic, and that shows in the book through long digressions into film theory that frankly I found boring. But, the book did make me think about how to approach such artists, and I agree with her stance that there is no answer other than for each person to come to their own conclusion about what makes them feel comfortable.

Thursday, November 9, 2023

Golden Light and a Trip to Glenstone

Isn't the light this time of year glorious? I try to get out more than usual during the fall, soaking up the colors, light, and temperatures as much as possible. The other week I took a trip to Glenstone, a rather unique local art museum that combines art galleries with a gorgeous landscape. There are many site-specific sculptures and art works along a meandering trail through hills and forest. While I'm not the biggest fan of modern art, the peaceful atmosphere makes frequent trips here worth the effort. (I last visited in November 2022, in the rain.)

This concrete bunker is hidden in the woods, and is the newest addition to the museum. Inside, there are four large rusty cylinders made of steel. That's it. I no longer attempt to ascribe meaning to contemporary art, but rather focus on the experience. The temperature plummeted upon entering, and because I was the only visitor, I heard nothing but dry leaves scraping across the concrete floor. 

I meandered through all the outdoor paths before coming to the museum itself. I usually visit the museum first, but the day was extremely warm and I wanted to walk around outside while the morning coolness still lingered. The architecture of the museum is the highlight; it's such a calm, light-filled space. While I usually enjoy experiencing the art, even if it's not to my taste, this time I left somewhat grumpy. I only noted two women artists represented in the whole museum. The museum can do what they want in terms of what they collect and display, but they risk ostracizing a large segment of the population. A few days later I got an email survey about my experience which showed they were very much aware of these problems based on the questions they asked.

A few months ago a new park and playground opened up near our house. I noticed the start of a trail but always wondered where it led. During lunch one workday on a beautiful, bright and warm day I headed over to explore.

And: the trail goes in a circle! I was convinced it connected to the regional park trails nearby, so imagine my surprise when I ended back at my car a little over a mile later. I applaud their efforts but in the end I didn't find it exciting to walk back and forth in a field. The trees were quite amazing this day, though.

Flower season has ended. While I'll miss the blooms, I am very much looking forward to having more free time in the evenings. The first few nights I felt aimless as I wandered around the house looking for things to do. A routine will emerge soon, particularly with the time change and early dark nights. I still have some big chores to do, mainly the digging up, dividing and storing of my 100+ dahlia plants. It's still too warm to do this, particularly because I will store the tubers in my basement. Conventional guidance is to store them between 40-50 degrees all winter, but I don't just happen to have a root cellar like other flower farmers seem to have. So, they will be stored around 60-65 degrees which worked ok last winter. 

I find winter difficult, like a lot of people. Learning a lesson from last year, I signed up for a pottery class to keep myself occupied, and I start in 2 weeks! Leaving the house and having projects is key for me to not get run down by the cold, gray weather. What keeps you going through the colder months?