what I read in April 2020

50 Knitted Wraps and Shawls by Marisa Nöldeke
Is it possible to have too many wraps and shawls? No. No, it isn’t.
The Blue Zones Kitchen by Dan Buettner
What a relief to read a cookbook that isn’t all photos of the author looking glamorous in an expensive kitchen.
The Crafty Gardener by Becca Anderson
A weird hodgepodge of gardening information, personal reflections and pretty photographs. The ebook formatting was bad so it might be less weird in paper form.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon (Audiobook)
Finally got to this one a mere 17 years after everybody else. It was very good.
Effin Birds by Aaron Reynolds
Pairing Audubon illustrations with curse words is genius and I’ll never forgive myself for not thinking of it first.
Everything is Figureoutable by Marie Forleo (Audiobook)
All I really remember about it is that the author is very successful at everything she tries.
Hello Color: 25 Bright Ideas for DIY Decor by Rachel Mae Smith
Not my taste, let’s leave it at that.
How to Be Fine: What We Learned from Living by the Rules of 50 Self-Help Books by Jolenta Greenberg and Kristen Meinzer
Disappointingly low on details about the self-help books they studied or, contrary to what the title suggests, what they learned from those books.
How to Eat by Mark Bittman and David L Katz (Audiobook)
The answer: a plant-based diet. Which we’re already doing. So that’s good.
Longbourn by Jo Baker (Audiobook)
A really interesting concept: Pride and Prejudice from the viewpoint of the Bennet household’s servants. A smidge too long, in my opinion, but I liked it. Emma Fielding was a great narrator.
Making Space, Clutter Free by Tracy McCubbin
Why did I read this? I don’t know. It’s fine as far as de-cluttering books go, but I like having lots of resources to draw upon (i.e. clutter).
Martha Stewart’s Cookie Perfection by the editors of Martha Stewart Living
God, I love cookies so much.
The New Family Cookbook by America’s Test Kitchen
Always good recipes, even if the ATK people do tend to get a bit fussy.
Open Kitchen by Susan Spungen
Seemed fine, just not the kinds of things I cook.
The Self-Care Solution by Jennifer Ashton MD
Boy, do I have a lot I could say about this one. Every month for one year, this doctor (as she reminds the reader nine million times) who appears regularly on Good Morning America (another nine million times) challenges herself to a healthy habit even though she does not need to because she is incredibly fit, thin, strong, healthy, disciplined, rich, gorgeous and perfect in every way. Absolutely nauseating and her single-minded obsession with body weight and having a flat belly is disturbing.
That’s Not English: Britishisms, Americanisms and What Our English Says About Us by Erin Moore
An American ex-pat living in London points out small cultural and language differences. It was fine.
Upcycling Celebrations by Danny Seo
Take random pieces of garbage and hot glue gun them together to make garbage decorations that 100% look like glued-together garbage.
Weather by Jenny Offill (Audiobook)
Short, linked vignettes in lieu of a plot. I liked it.
Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby (Audiobook)
I enjoy everything Samantha Irby writes and this did not disappoint. Most enjoyable read of the month, by far.

what I read in March 2020

A Warning by Anonymous
Yet more confirmation that Trump and the current American government are just as awful and dysfunctional as they seem.
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
I’m not sure about all the magic stuff, but she has a lot of really smart advice on living a creative life.
Bowls by America’s Test Kitchen
Lots of appealing ideas.
Bunny by Mona Awad
Audiobook. Weird, but I liked it.
Everyday Decorating by Jeffrey Bilhuber
Not my style.
Find Your Pleasure by Cynthia Loyst
Fine (if somewhat common sense) advice on self-care, but good grief, the book is half photographs of her.
Grit by Angela Duckworth
Audiobook. Really interesting food for thought on how and why to work on one’s grit. Do hard things.
Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson
Very enjoyable. My kind of book.
Period Repair Manual by Lara Briden
Includes some seriously outdated information on nutrition, but her repeated recommendation to take magnesium checks out with other things I’ve read.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Needed this after A Warning. Absolute perfection.
Recipe for a Perfect Wife by Karma Brown
Audiobook. Dual narrators are not my favourite device because one is inevitably weaker than the other and I end up wishing the dud’s part had been discarded entirely.
Things in Jars by Jess Kidd
A super-stylised gothic detective story. Intriguing and entertaining.
Ultimate Veg by Jamie Oliver
Yeah, I’ll try some of these.



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
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.)

my favourite reads of 2019

Not that anyone has asked, but here is a list of my favourite reads of 2019, sorted by genre.

Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators by Ronan Farrow (Nov)
Conan Doyle for the Defense by Margalit Fox (Mar)
Cræft: An Inquiry into the Origins and True Meaning of Traditional Crafts by Alexander Langlands (Jan)
Erebus by Michael Palin(Mar)
-First Degree by Kayla Hounsell (Sept)
The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin (Apr)
-The Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale (Oct)
To Marry an English Lord by Carol McD. Wallace and Gail MacColl (Oct)
Murder by the Book by Claire Harman (Sept)
-The Old Man and the Gun by David Grann (May)
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg (Aug)
-The Wake by Linden MacIntyre (Dec)

-Becoming Dr Seuss by Brian Jay Jones (Nov)
Educated by Tara Westover (Apr)
Murdered Midas: A Millionaire, His Gold Mine, and a Strange Death on an Island Paradise by Charlotte Gray (Oct)
-Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood (Aug)
-Wallis in Love by Andrew Morton (Oct)
The Woo-Woo by Lindsay Wong (Mar)

-Bowlaway by Elizabeth McCracken (Aug)
-The Cat-nappers
 – aka Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen by P. G. Wodehouse (July)
The Collected Stories of Winnie-the-Pooh: Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner by AA Milne (June)
Every Little Piece of Me by Amy Jones (June)
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (Nov)
-The Innocents by Michael Crummey (Oct)
The Mating Season by P.G. Wodehouse (Mar)
-Small Game Hunting at the Local Coward Gun Club by Megan Gail Coles (Sept)
Transcription by Kate Atkinson (Jan)
We’re All In This Together by Amy Jones (Oct)
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (June)

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.)