on reading perhaps more than average

Once in a blue moon, someone penetrates my self-isolation bubble–not from COVID-19; I’ve loved the hermit lifestyle since way before it was legally mandated—to observe that I read a lot. Sometimes these people offer a few words of admiration before launching into a litany of all the reasons why they could never spend so much time reading and sometimes they scoff at my devotion to a hobby they deem worthless. (While never considering that I might feel the same about their obsession with getting manicures, binge-watching reality television or trying to get noticed by celebrities on Facebook.)

So, for future reference, I hereby list the reasons why I can read as much as I do:

  1. My children are mostly grown. Not having to wait hand and food on mouthy little tyrants frees up approximately 65 hours a day.
  2. The library. I buy as many books as I can, but rely heavily on borrowing. Having worked in a few libraries for half a dozen years, I don’t buy into the librarian-hero-worship that’s popular at the moment, but they are invaluable for anyone who needs to read and is not a millionaire.
  3. I prioritise. Read or wash the kitchen floor? Read, duh. Read or work on the taxes? Read, double duh. Read or watch Doc Martin? Watch Doc Martin. Then read.
  4. Know when to quit. This is a work in progress because, after all these years, I still have a hard time shaking this mysterious belief that I should finish everything I start. Who cares? There are no prizes for persisting with something that sucks.
  5. Audiobooks. Yes, they count as reading and disregard anyone who says they don’t. (Same goes for e-books versus paper. Format snobs are such a bore.) Audiobooks can be a bit unreliable because some narrators are terrible, but when you get a good one, it’s wonderful. I spend at least a couple hours every day doing dishes, cooking, wiping counters, folding laundry, watching the dogs poop in the yard, riding the exercise bike, picking up after slobby family members, brushing and flossing, et cetera, and now all that time is also reading time. Bingo!
  6. I accept my lack of interest in impressing others. I just can’t bring myself to read things that might be really smart, but boring. Or worthy and important, but super-depressing. Or highly praised and touted, but for no discernible reason. Until the day I get paid to read, I’ll choose what I like.

what I read in February 2020

Cozy White Cottage by Liz Marie Galvan
More of the same look that all the decorating books are about now. White-painted everything. A few black or tan accessories. Zero personality.
Food in Jars Kitchen by Marisa McClellan
I doubt I’ll ever be able to make enough preserves to use in baking and cooking, but if I did, I’d try some of these recipes.
Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley (Audiobook)
Great premise; super-weird narrative technique of one person relating someone else’s story who is in turn relating someone else’s story who is in turn relating someone else’s story. Also, the monster had incredible language skills for having picked it up by eavesdropping.
Free to Focus by Michael Hyatt
Useful advice if you just so happen to be an executive with a desk job and subordinates to whom you can assign things. Not all that useful for anyone else.
JOMO Knits by Christina Boggis
Very simple and huge gauge-knits that don’t look like they’d last more than a couple wearings.
The Make Ahead Vegan Cookbook by Ginny Kay McMeans
Some recipes worth trying.
Making a Life by Melanie Falick
Very inspiring look at people with creatively fulfilling lifestyles.
My Scotland by Val McDermid
I’ve never read any of McDermid’s books and I’m not sure I ever will, but I enjoyed the photographs of Scotland.
The New Frontier by Ree Drummond
No cookbook should be 50% photographs of the author’s children.
The Plantiful Plate by Christine Wong
Fine.
She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey (Audiobook)
Both excellent and so, so depressing.
Taste of Home Handmade Christmas
Crafts, not food. A few cute ideas.
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (Audiobook)
It’s been a while, but I still love it.
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (Audiobook)
Amazing. 10/10.
Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything by BJ Fogg
Very good. I am trying his technique, to varying degrees of success.
Two Crows Sorrow by Laura Churchill Duke
Based on a true, local, depressing story. I think it would have been stronger if it had been presented as creative non-fiction instead of a fictionalised novel. It also needed a much more thorough proofreading.
Watching You Without Me by Lynn Coady
Having seen so many descriptions of this as ‘scary’ and ‘spooky’, I almost didn’t bother, expecting it to be some kind of horror thing. But I had faith in Lynn Coady and it was justified. Very good storytelling.
When We Were Vikings by Andrew David MacDonald (Audiobook)
Yet another buzzed-about book that didn’t quite hit the mark for me. It was okay.
Your Best Home by Joe Snell
Your best home is apparently very modern in style and sparse in possessions.

what I read in January 2020

Almonds, Anchovies and Pancetta by Cal Peternell (Has only one recipe I’d even consider making, which I think is a new record low for me and cookbooks.)
Animal Hats to Knit by Luise Roberts (It takes a certain kind of person to wear an animal hat. I am not that person.)
The Art of Making Memories by Meik Wiking (Pay attention. Take pictures. Reminisce.)
Casino Royale (Audiobook. So. Many. Words. About. Playing. Cards.)
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming (Fun. How I wish I’d read this one to the kids when they were little.)
Circe by Madeline Miller (Audiobook. Excellent. Excellent narrator, too.)
The Cure for Everything! by Timothy Caulfield (One long,smug refusal to consider anything that hasn’t been proven by scientific studies, while including many instances of scientific studies that have been faked or manipulated.)
Dear Girls by Ali Wong (Audiobook. Living here under my rock, I had never heard of the author, who, it turns out, is a famous actor and comedian. I enjoyed her part, but thought her husband’s final chapter ended it on a dull note.)
Grand Union by Zadie Smith (Audiobook. Short stories. Good.)
Living Crazy Healthy by Jennifer Rose Rossano (Lots of ideas to try.)
Platform by Cynthia Johnson (She makes the interesting point that you have a personal brand online, whether you like it or not, so you might as well make that personal brand into what you choose.)

what I read in December 2019

Create an Abundant Life by Cheryl Richardson (Audiobook. Do all the things you’ve heard a thousand times before.)
Dinner for Everyone by Mark Bittman (Love the vegetarian/vegan options.)
The Happy Pear: Recipes for Happiness by David and Stephen Flynn (My kind of recipes, but for the love of God, cookbook publishers, stop putting pictures of the author on every bloody page.)
Heart Talk by Cleo Wade (Poems and good advice.)
How to Do Everything and Be Happy by Peter Jones (I really wanted to like it because the author seems fun, but there just wasn’t much to it.)
Me by Elton John (Audiobook. I’ve never been a huge fan of his music, but this autobiography was very entertaining.)
The Long Call by Ann Cleeves (A good mystery, but I felt the characters were a bit like cardboard cut-outs.)
Simple Green Suppers by Susie Middleton (Lots to try here.)
Studio Rally by Robin Metcalfe (A snapshot of the NS arts scene in 1999.)
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (Audiobook. A classic for good reason.)
The Ultimate Cookbook by Canadian Living (Some sweets to try, but it’s mostly meat meat meat.)
The Valedictorian of Being Dead by Heather B Armstrong (An interesting account of the author’s participation in a revolutionary new treatment for depression.)
The Wake by Linden MacIntyre (Excellent examination of what happened to a few Newfoundland communities after the tsunami of 1929. Heart-breaking.)

what I read in November 2019

25 Knitted Accessories by Interweave (Nothing that really grabbed me.)
101 Ways to Go Zero-Waste by Kathryn Kellogg (Some good ideas in here. I’m always looking for ways to further reduce our environmental impact.)
The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton (Audiobook. I’d hoped I’d like it more, but it was just okay.)
Becoming Dr Seuss by Brian Jay Jones (The library copy I got was large print and the size of a brick. Seriously comprehensive and not at all a white-wash of a complicated man.)
BraveTart by Stella Parks (I don’t have a lot of interest in reproducing things like Oreos, but I admire her baking knowledge and expertise.)
Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators by Ronan Farrow (Audiobook. Totally absorbing from beginning to end and a tour de force, but for the love of God, why did no one stop him from putting on those ridiculous accents?)
Daughter of Family G: A Memoir of Cancer Genes, Love and Fate by Ami McKay (I felt McKay’s personal experiences and memories were more compelling than the fictionalised bits about her ancestors, but overall it’s an interesting – if stressful – read.)
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett (Audiobook. I almost abandoned it after the first half-hour, but persisted and I’m glad I did. A quiet, sad story about the lifetime bond between a brother and sister.)
Eat a Little Better by Sam Kass (I already eat better than Sam Kass wants me to eat, but he means well.)
Fleishman Is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner (Audiobook. Unusual narrative set-up in that the narrator knows EVERYTHING her friend Toby Fleishman thinks, says and does. There’s a lot that could be said about how and why the women characters are such shadowy background figures, but a million people much smarter than me have probably already discussed this online.)
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (Audiobook. Amazing. Loved it.)
The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald (Audiobook. Terrible. Hated it.)
The Home Edit by Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin (Put every single thing you own in a separate clear plastic container and label them.)
Peace, Love and Fibre by Mairlyn Smith (Fibre is your friend.)
The Seven Secrets to Healthy, Happy Relationships by Don Miguel Ruiz Jr and Heatherash Amara (Considering I can’t remember any of the seven secrets, I think I’m doomed to continue being hated by all.)
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (Audiobook. Entertaining.)
Who Killed Tom Thomson? by John Little (A very interesting examination of the facts around Tom Thomson’s death, but boy, did it need a copy editor. The basic usage mistakes [who’s instead of whose, for example] made me crazy.)

what I read in October 2019

Albatross by Terry Fallis (Audiobook. I was intrigued by the concept-the main character has the precise physical characteristics to make him a golf prodigy-but found it a little sweet for my taste. Everybody was just so nice.)
The Art of Simple Living by Shunmyo Masuno (I will never forgive my ancestors for not being Zen masters.)
The Beautiful No by Sheri Salata (Extremely rich and privileged white lady retires from her job and now has lots of time to go to spas and retreats.)
Canadianity by Jeremy Taggart and Jonathan Torrens (Their slangy way of writing really got on my nerves, but it had its moments.)
Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney (I think I am too old to appreciate this author. Her never-ending tales of millennial angst strike this aged crone as so bloody boring.)
Don’t Wait Up: Confessions of a Stay-at-Work Mom by Liz Astrof (Fairly entertaining, but my God, this poor woman’s childhood was a nightmare.)
Healthy Habits Suck by Dayna Lee-Bagley (Doing the right thing can be hard; find deeper motivation than ‘I want to be healthy’. It was okay, but not exactly earth-shattering.)
How to Learn by Benedict Carey (Audiobook. Interesting research on what actually helps and what hinders effective learning.)
The Hygge Life by Gunnar Karl Gislason and Jody Eddy (I will never forgive my ancestors for not being Scandinavian.)
The Innocents by Michael Crummey (Audiobook. Fascinating. And horrifying.)
Jeeves and the King of Clubs by Ben Schott (I was really nervous about this one since I love Wodehouse so much, but it was pretty good. I liked it.)
Murdered Midas: A Millionaire, His Gold Mine, and a Strange Death on an Island Paradise by Charlotte Gray (Audiobook. The usual first-class work from Charlotte Gray.)
Night of Miracles by Elizabeth Berg (I honestly can’t remember why I checked out this book. It was not my kind of thing at all and, like an idiot, I kept reading to see if it would become my kind of thing. It did not.)
Real Food Really Fast by Hannah Kaminsky (Not much in it that appealed to me.)
The Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale (Audiobook. The really, really interesting story of a real-life murder in the 1860s.)
To Marry an English Lord by Carol McD. Wallace and Gail MacColl (Audiobook. Somehow not a romance novel, despite its title. Totally gripping telling of the nineteenth- and early twentieth-century trend for poor British aristocrats to marry rich young American heiresses.)
A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader edited by Maria Popova and Claudia Bedrick (Surprisingly boring letters from a wide variety of accomplished people on why reading is a worthwhile pursuit.)
Wallis in Love by Andrew Morton (Audiobook. Loved it. I don’t know why I can’t get enough of Wallis Simpson and her idiotic third husband.)
The Well-Lived Life by Lyndsay Green (Time to start thinking about my legacy beyond ‘she really liked chocolate’.)
We’re All In This Together by Amy Jones (When mum voluntarily goes over the falls in a barrel, the rest of the family is forced to have a real think about things. I liked it a lot.)

what I read in September 2019

First Degree by Kayla Hounsell (Audiobook. True account of a murder trial in Halifax a few years ago. Horrifying, but also gripping.)
Gratitude Daily by Nataly Kogan (Audiobook. Fine.)
Happiness by Thich Nhat Nan (Audiobook. It all comes down to mindfulness.)
Joyful by Ingrid Fetell Lee (Interesting analysis of why things give us joy and how we can create more of it.)
Murder by the Book by Claire Harman (A fascinating account of a brutal murder in 1840s London and how the crime was influenced by the salacious tales of brazen criminals that were popular at the time.)
The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie (Audiobook. Easy listening.)
The Path Made Clear by Oprah Winfrey (Lots of short excerpts of interviews with people possessing varying levels of insight into how to live a fulfilling life. Lots of God this and God that.)
Rising Strong as a Spiritual Practice by Brené Brown (Audiobook of a live talk given by Brown. I probably should have read Rising Strong first because I felt like I didn’t know the lingo.)
Shade: A Tale of Two Presidents by Pete Souza (President Obama’s official photographer contrasts shots he took of Obama with the continual hate, filth and nonsense uttered by Trump.)
Sleuth: Gail Bowen on Writing Mysteries by Gail Bowen (Now I should read a book by Gail Bowen.)
Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club by Megan Gail Coles (A challenging read, but worth it.)
This Is How: Proven Aid in Overcoming Shyness, Molestation, Fatness, Spinsterhood, Grief, Disease, Lushery, Decrepitude & More for Young and Old Alike by Augusten Burroughs (Audiobook. Self-help tough love-style.)
The Vagina Bible by Jen Gunter, MD (Audiobook. Some good information on basic anatomy and troublesome conditions, but I find her unfailingly superior tone really off-putting.)

 

what I read in August 2019

Bowlaway by Elizabeth McCracken (Really, really, really good.)
Help Me by Marianne Power (Woman embarks on self-help regimen for a year and barely survives. Entertaining.)
Humans: A brief History of How We F*cked It All Up by Tom Phillips (Audiobook. Both depressing and funny so right up my alley.)
Husbands That Cook by Ryan Alvarez and Adam Merrin (I will never understand why so many contemporary cookbooks feature page after page after page of photos of the chef(s), but whatever.)
Love and Lemons Every Day by Jeanine D’Onofrio (Good-looking recipes.)
Making a Life by Deanne Fitzpatrick (It’s always interesting to hear the perspective of a successful, established artist.)
The Mystery of Hunter’s Lodge by Agatha Christie (Audiobook of a short story. I don’t get the point of short story mysteries. Don’t you need time to puzzle it over while the detective gathers clues? Disappointing.)
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg (Audiobook. Excellent.)
Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood (All the Catholic stuff brought back some unhappy memories, but extremely well-written.)
The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams (Audiobook. Didn’t enjoy it as much as the first book in the series, but Martin Freeman was a very good narrator.)
Siege by Michael Wolff (How, after all this time, can I continue to be amazed that Donald Trump is just as bad as he seems?)
Simply Modern by Deanne Fitzpatrick (Needed a more thorough proofreading by the publisher, but lots of good advice and how-tos.)