Jackie's 2021 Jar of Fate category challenge

Converses2021 Category Challenge

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Jackie's 2021 Jar of Fate category challenge

1Jackie_K
nov. 18, 2020, 6:30am

Hello! My name is Jackie, I live in Scotland, and am back for the 6th year posting in the category challenge group. I am a big fan of creative non-fiction, and am trying my hand at writing some - I hope to self-publish a book later in 2021. I do read bits and bobs of fiction, but creative non-fic, especially nature writing, is my reading happy place.

A few people in 2020 lamented the disappearance of my Jar of Fate - a Jar with colour coded slips featuring all the books on my TBR pile, which I pull out for my next read rather than spending ages dithering in indecision about what to read next, or only reading all the new and shiny books. Actually the Jar never went away, I still used it in 2020 for my non-challenge reads, but in 2021 I think it should be front and centre again! So here it is:



I have 11 categories (the same ones as always), and a floating 12th category which changes each year (it's a bit like the Trafalgar Square fourth plinth that way). For 2021, related to my writing (and self-care) goals, I am going to use the 12th category for nature writing (very broadly defined) and aim to read at least one a month from that category. All other categories I will rotate so that I don't read loads in a row from a narrow category but mix it up and have lots of variety in my reading over the year. The aim as always is to have at least one book in every category by the end of the year, but other than that and the one a month in nature writing, I'm not setting any concrete goals. The majority of books will be from the TBR pile, plus occasional library books (I aim for a library book a month, but didn't quite manage that in 2020).

In 2020 I found that I had committed to so many challenges (actually only 4, but that's a lot for me!) that the spontaneity of the Jar was swamped a bit. So although there are 4 challenges that I'm likely to participate in in 2021, I'm not going to commit to them as firmly as before (apart from the GeoKIT Europe, which I'm hosting). I've got some books set aside for each challenge, but will decide month by month if I want to read them or if those titles go back in the Jar to wait for their chance another time.

I enjoy the bookish chat here and in the ROOTs group, and am looking forward to more of the same in 2021! Welcome!

2Jackie_K
Editat: gen. 6, 12:36pm

1. Central & Eastern Europe / former Soviet Union

This is a region of the world I've always found fascinating, and I've been lucky enough to live, work and study in Romania and Moldova, as well as visit some of the other countries of the region. Books in this category could be academic, travel, memoir, or fiction.

1. Svetlana Alexievich - Chernobyl Prayer. Finished 6.1.21. 4.5/5.

3Jackie_K
Editat: març 25, 7:36am

2. Non-fiction: general

This is usually my fullest category! For all non-fiction that doesn't fall into any of my other more specific categories.

1. Dan Fagin - Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation. Finished 8.2.21. 4.5/5.
2. Joanna Penn - The Successful Author Mindset. Finished 15.2.21. 4/5.
3. Akala - Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire. Finished 19.2.21. 4.5/5.
4. Joanna Penn - How to Market a Book. Finished 25.2.21. 4.5/5.
5. Joanna Penn - How to Make a Living with your Writing. Finished 28.2.21. 3.5/5.
6. Danny Katch - Why Bad Governments Happen to Good People. Finished 24.3.21. 3.5/5.

4Jackie_K
Editat: març 25, 1:54pm

3. Contemporary fiction: 1969-present

This is for all fiction published from the year of my birth onwards (also, here's a fun fact: I was born on the exact same day that The Very Hungry Caterpillar was first published!).

1. Various, ed. Robyn Sarty - B is for Beauty: A Beauty and the Beast Anthology. Finished 31.1.21. 4/5.
2. Various, ed. Robyn Sarty - A is for Apple: A Snow White Anthology. Finished 15.2.21. 4/5.
3. Mark Stay - The Crow Folk. Finished 27.2.21. 5/5.
4. Kassidy Shade & Andy Chapman - Dinosaurs, Jetpacks, and Rock Stars!. Finished 28.2.21. 4/5.

5Jackie_K
Editat: març 27, 5:39pm

4. Sexual/reproductive health/rights; parenting; children; gender

This is for books related to my specific academic and professional interests, although by no means all are academic books (sweary parenting blog spinoff books go here!).

1. Dr Laura Markham - Calm Parents, Happy Kids. Finished 15.2.21. 3/5.
2. Fiona de Londras & Mairead Enright - Repealing the 8th: Reforming Irish Abortion Law. Finished 27.3.21. 4/5.

6Jackie_K
Editat: gen. 18, 9:15am

5. Celtic

I love living here in Scotland, and have built up a fair old pile of books related to this wonderful place. This category covers books relating to Scotland, and also the other Celtic lands (Ireland, Wales, Isle of Man, Cornwall, Brittany, etc).

1. Janey Godley - Frank Get The Door!. Finished 18.1.21. 4/5.

7Jackie_K
Editat: gen. 18, 1:18pm

6. Vintage Fiction (1900-1968)

Not a huge category for me, but anyway this one covers 20th century literature before I was born.

1. Nevil Shute - A Town Like Alice. Finished 18.1.21. 3.5/5.

8Jackie_K
Editat: març 5, 5:56pm

7. Academic

As a former academic, I built up quite a collection over the years of academic books I always intended to read and never quite got round to. There's quite a lot of crossover with my sexual/reproductive health category and my Central/Eastern Europe category, but there are more general academic books here too.

1. Michel Foucault - The Will to Knowledge: History of Sexuality Vol 1. Finished 5.3.21. 3/5.

9Jackie_K
Editat: abr. 11, 2:07pm

8. Biography; autobiography; memoir; true events

Featuring everything from politicians to celebs (rather fewer of the latter, but they're in there), plus quite a few mere mortals.

1. J.D. Vance - Hillbilly Elegy. Finished 9.1.21. 3.5/5.
2. Frank Kusy - Life Before Frank: From Cradle to Kibbutz. Finished 11.4.21. 3.5/5.

10Jackie_K
Editat: nov. 18, 2020, 6:45am

9. Ancient fiction: pre-1900

Probably the category I struggle most with - I feel I ought to read some more 'classics', as so many literary references pass me by, but I do find a lot of pre-20th century literature a bit of a slog (not all, by any means, but a lot). So as long as I've got one book here by the end of the year I'll be happy.

11Jackie_K
Editat: març 23, 3:22pm

10. Travel

Another favourite genre of mine is travel writing. I do like a good bit of armchair travel (especially right now with so many travel restrictions).

1. Jessica J. Lee - Two Trees Make a Forest. Finished 16.1.21. 4.5/5.
2. David H. Mould - Postcards from the Borderlands. Finished 23.3.21. 3.5/5.

12Jackie_K
Editat: març 28, 5:02pm

11. Religious

Primarily books related to Christianity, but not all.

1. Jane Williams - The Merciful Humility of God. Finished 28.3.21. 3.5/5.

13Jackie_K
Editat: abr. 8, 5:02pm

12. Nature writing

A genre that's seeing a resurgence, these are the books which get me smelling the earth and hugging trees from the comfort of my own home. From garden diaries to books on saving the planet, they're all here.

1. Roger Deakin - Waterlog: A Swimmer's Journey Through Britain. Finished 30.1.21. 4.5/5.
2. Alice Vincent - Rootbound: Rewilding a Life. Finished 14.2.21. 3.5/5.
3. Dara McAnulty - Diary of a Young Naturalist. Finished 18.2.21. 5/5.
4. Henry David Thoreau - Walden; and, on the duty of civil disobedience. Finished 9.3.21. 3/5.
5. Craig Packer - Into Africa. Finished 11.3.21. 4/5.
6. Diane Ackerman - Cultivating Delight: A Natural History of my Garden. Finished 28.3.21. 4.5/5.
7. Florence Williams - The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes us Healthier, Happier, and More Creative. Finished 8.4.21. 4/5.

14Jackie_K
nov. 18, 2020, 6:50am

Welcome to my thread!

15MissWatson
nov. 18, 2020, 6:57am

Hello Jackie! It's nice to see the Jar of Fater again, I hope it gives you lots of lovely books!

16Jackie_K
nov. 18, 2020, 7:03am

>14 Jackie_K: Thank you Birgit! I'm sure it will (the last few years I think I've got more discerning about the books I buy, so there are less likely to be duds. Some of the older stuff, well, we'll see!).

17dudes22
nov. 18, 2020, 7:05am

Hey Jackie - Glad to see you back. I love nature writings too and look forward to finding new books from you. Any hint about what your book is about? I too am not the biggest fan of biography, etc books, but there are a couple coming out that interest me enough that I might borrow them from the library and take a peek.

18Jackie_K
nov. 18, 2020, 7:14am

>17 dudes22: Thank you! It's a year-long diary of my front garden - slowing down to watch the flora and fauna through the seasons. I'm still writing the first draft (as the year in question is this year). It was originally just meant to be an extended writing exercise, focusing on slowing down, noticing things, and improving my writing, but thanks to 2020 being the year it has been, it became so much more than that, and sitting out there in all weathers became a haven from covid and toxic politics. Next year I will be sitting out there in all weathers redrafting and editing! (I'm sure the neighbours think I'm mad)

19dudes22
nov. 18, 2020, 7:22am

>18 Jackie_K: - Oh, that's great. I've been reading The Gardener's Bed-Book by Richardson Wright. It's a diary type book of little snippets and observations written originally in 1929. So I've been reading a day each night before bed. I have a reprint with a couple of introductions by Michael Pollen and Dominigue Browning. I found it at a library sale (I think) and I'm quite enjoying it. I'm thinking of giving it to my sister-in-law for Chistmas.

20Jackie_K
nov. 18, 2020, 7:40am

>19 dudes22: Well that's my first BB of 2021, and it's still 2020! :D

21dudes22
nov. 18, 2020, 8:20am

Oh no!

22hailelib
nov. 18, 2020, 11:11am

Watching the seasons change in our woods has been definitely therapeutic this year. Good luck with your book and with the Jar of Fate.

23Tess_W
nov. 18, 2020, 11:59am

You have quite a few cats! Your reading will be eclectic, for sure. Glad to see that jar of fate back! I'm not going to make a jar, but am going to use the random button from LT.

24Jackie_K
nov. 18, 2020, 12:47pm

>21 dudes22: Not to worry, I expect it will be the first of many!
>22 hailelib: I agree - the garden has been a real haven this year!
>23 Tess_W: They're the same categories as always - having spent so long colouring the slips of paper it would be too much like hard work trying to change them! If I was starting now I'd have a separate nature category (they're currently all in with the non-fic (general) books), and possibly a writing one too, and I'd probably combine my two older fiction categories.

25LadyoftheLodge
nov. 18, 2020, 2:28pm

Good luck to my fellow Lt-er with a Jar of Fate! We will see how this goes for both of us. I hope to have more success this time around.

26Jackie_K
nov. 18, 2020, 3:36pm

>25 LadyoftheLodge: Ah, you went for it! I've found it really helpful over the past few years that I've used it, and picked up some excellent books that would otherwise have continued to gather dust.

27DeltaQueen50
nov. 18, 2020, 7:00pm

Great to see you all set up and ready for 2021. I am looking forward to more non-fiction book bullets - I even have a category for non-fiction this year!

28VivienneR
nov. 18, 2020, 7:24pm

Lovely to see your challenge up and ready to go! I'll probably have a Celtic category too so I'll be watching yours carefully.

29rabbitprincess
nov. 18, 2020, 10:54pm

Yay, Jackie's here! I look forward to seeing what gets pulled from the Jar of Fate, and finding BBs for me and for my mum. She's been exploring the genre of nature writing as well, so that category will be of particular interest.

30Jackie_K
nov. 19, 2020, 7:11am

>27 DeltaQueen50: I'll be checking out your thread for your non-fiction reads for sure, Judy!
>28 VivienneR: Ditto for your Celtic reads, Vivienne! There's so much good literature out there, especially from Scotland and Ireland.
>29 rabbitprincess: I've got quite a few books I could read (more than any other, nature writing is the genre I've been buying faster than I can read the last few years) so hopefully you and she will be hit with a few BBs!

31pamelad
nov. 21, 2020, 3:10pm

>2 Jackie_K: I'll be interested to see what you're reading in this category. There are a few contenders on my tbr pile.

32VivienneR
nov. 22, 2020, 1:53pm

>30 Jackie_K: I'm sure Shuggie Bain will be on our reading lists.

33Jackie_K
nov. 22, 2020, 2:32pm

>31 pamelad: There are a lot of fascinating books from CEE/FSU - I've still quite a few on the TBR pile.
>32 VivienneR: I'm in two minds about reading it - on the one hand, Douglas Stewart seems lovely and I bet it's amazing. But the subject matter is a bit close to one aspect of my job, and I'm really not sure if I want to spend leisure time there.

34VivienneR
nov. 23, 2020, 2:20pm

>33 Jackie_K: Yes, the subject will be difficult for many. And unfortunately, I find books of that kind are the ones I remember in great detail.

35Jackie_K
des. 2, 2020, 12:39pm

Just noting here that I've more or less decided to only commit myself to the GeoKIT and the 75 group Non-Fiction Challenge in 2021. I do have books that would work in HistoryCAT and GenreCAT too, but this year has taught me that 4 challenges is too many for me. I will dip in and out of those two, and RandomCAT too, but only if I have a book on the TBR which I fancy reading for it in any particular month, or if a book I'm reading for GeoKIT or Non-Fic Challenge also works for one of the other challenges.

36dudes22
des. 2, 2020, 6:42pm

I too find that too many Cats and Kits don't work for me. I'm only doing Alpha, Random, and Bingo and if something fits one of the others, that's a bonus.

37thornton37814
des. 4, 2020, 1:36pm

Welcome back. Have a great year of reading!

38clue
des. 7, 2020, 10:35pm

I admire your discipline, I would never stick to the Jar of Fate but always enjoy seeing what you've read from yours. One of these years I'm going to follow through with what I've been saying the last few years and actually skip a year of CATS. Good luck with yours and the Jar and certainly with your book, it sounds lovely.

39Jackie_K
des. 8, 2020, 8:55am

>36 dudes22: 2020 was the first year I'd done this many CATs/KITs, and it definitely showed me you can have too much of a good thing! I could feel myself getting anxious about finishing (or not) books, and this year of all years, nobody needs any more anxiety!
>37 thornton37814: Thank you Lori, I'm sure I will!
>38 clue: Thank you very much! I don't know if I could skip the CATs completely, it's nice to feel part of a group thing, but as I'm on a mission to try and reduce Mt TBR (I'm still hoping to get it below 400 books by year end, although that will depend on how generous Santa is...) I generally just go for CATs where I know I already have books that will fit. And thanks for your good wishes about the book - I'm enjoying playing around with it at the moment; next year is when I have to start working hard on it to get it into shape!

40CallumWaters
des. 8, 2020, 9:05am

S'ha suprimit aquest usuari en ser considerat brossa.

41dudes22
des. 8, 2020, 12:52pm

>39 Jackie_K: - TBR - 400 - ha, ha, ha...

42Jackie_K
des. 8, 2020, 2:49pm

>41 dudes22: I know, I'm well aware I'm a rank amateur compared to many here! :D

43Chrischi_HH
des. 19, 2020, 5:04pm

I'm glad to see you back with the jar of fate. And I know the feeling of too many challenges being overwhelming. I hope you'll have a great reading year!

44markon
des. 19, 2020, 6:29pm

Hi Jackie, good luck with revising your book! I have The book of eels on my TBR thanks, I think, to thorold.

45Jackie_K
des. 20, 2020, 10:57am

>43 Chrischi_HH: Thank you very much! I'm going to take it much easier this coming year!
>44 markon: Thank you so much - I'm looking forward to the rewriting/editing (honestly, I prefer that to the initial writing) but it will be a steep learning curve, I expect.

46MissBrangwen
Editat: des. 22, 2020, 11:05am

Your categories are so interesting! I am especially looking forward to seeing what you read for 4 and 5!

I had a jar like this when I was a teenager (in fact it wasn't a jar but a round pink box) and I used to pull ten books out of it which I read in the order I liked, then the next ten, and so on. No categories, though! When I was about 19 years old, I had almost conquered all of my tbr (which was considerable despite my age because my mom worked in a bookshop) - and that was the last time I came so close! Now there's no chance at all that I'll do so again within years to come!
So I loved seeing your jar and it makes me think of somehow randomizing a part of my reading again!

47Helenliz
des. 22, 2020, 12:07pm

Looking forward to dipping in the jar of fate again and seeing what gets drawn out.

48Jackie_K
des. 22, 2020, 3:52pm

>46 MissBrangwen: Thank you so much! I got the idea from my old book group, we had a box with slips of paper and would pull out a title each month at our meetings.
>47 Helenliz: Thanks Helen, me too!

49dudes22
des. 22, 2020, 4:00pm

>48 Jackie_K: - I was looking for an idea for our book club for next year, and that's a great idea. I'm going to check with someone else and see what they think, but if everyone gave me 2-4 ideas, we'd have plenty to pick from. This year we did genres. Hostesses pulled a genre slip and then they picked the book.

50Jackie_K
des. 22, 2020, 4:07pm

>49 dudes22: Yes, that's how we did it - we all suggested a few books each, so all had an equal chance of 'their' book being chosen. It worked really well.

51PaulCranswick
des. 26, 2020, 7:48pm

Thanks for making me welcome in the group, Jackie.
I hope to be a regular visitor here in 2021. xx

52This-n-That
des. 27, 2020, 2:36pm

I'm dropping a star here and especially looking forward to following your Jar of Fate progress. (You are a more dedicated and braver reader than I am.) Wishing you a Happy New Year and a brighter 2021.

53Jackie_K
gen. 1, 10:22am

>51 PaulCranswick: You're welcome, Paul - always good to see new faces!
>52 This-n-That: Thank you so much! Happy new year!

Here are my end of year meme answers from my 2020 reading:

Describe yourself: Florence Nightingale

Describe how you feel: In Extremis

Describe where you currently live: The Home Place

If you could go anywhere, where would you go: Saga Land

Your favorite form of transportation is: Walking Home

Your favorite food is: Bottled Up

Your favorite time of day is: Nightwalking

Your best friend is: The First Poet Laureate of Mars

You and your friends are: We

What’s the weather like: Between Extremes

You fear: Tooth and Blade

What is the best advice you have to give: Do No Harm

Thought for the day: Water Runs Slow Through Flat Land

What is life for you: The Living Mountain

How you would like to die: Dancing With Bees

Your soul’s present condition: Inspired

What was 2020 like for you? The Unwinding

What do you want from 2021? The Good Life Elsewhere

54PaulCranswick
gen. 1, 10:43am



And keep up with my friends here, Jackie. Have a great 2021.

55DeltaQueen50
gen. 1, 2:48pm

Great answers to the meme! "Dancing With Bees" certainly sounds like a lovely way to go!

56lkernagh
gen. 1, 2:50pm

Hi Jackie! I love your categories and nice to see the Jar of Fate continues to help you pick your books. Wishing you a Happy New Year and a wonderful year of reading in 2021.

57Jackie_K
gen. 2, 4:25pm

>54 PaulCranswick: Thank you Paul, what a lovely set of wishes!
>55 DeltaQueen50: Yes, I thought so too! (as long as I was dancing, and not running away from an angry swarm!)
>56 lkernagh: Happy new year to you too, Lori! The Jar seems to be just as full as ever - funny how that works out, eh?!

58pammab
gen. 3, 11:16pm

Welcome back! I too am happy to see the jar of fate back (and with such a nicely composed and focused photo!), and many of your categories look right up my alley so I'm excited to see what you'll fill them with this year. Your garden observation writing exercise-turned-book sounds like a fantastic project.

(>19 dudes22: The Gardener's Bed-Book is also a book I'll be making a note on, yes...)

59Jackie_K
gen. 4, 6:59am

>58 pammab: Thank you very much! I did the last entry in the garden diary yesterday, and it's going to sit (marinade) in a drawer for a few weeks, then I'll return to it fresh to start the rewriting/editing. I'm looking forward to seeing how it ends up!

60Jackie_K
gen. 6, 12:36pm

Category: Central & Eastern Europe / former Soviet Union
GeoKIT (Europe)




My first book of the year was excellent, if harrowing. Nobel Laureate Svetlana Alexievich's Chernobyl Prayer is an oral history, she interviews people who lived and worked in the area of Ukraine and Belarus near the Chernobyl nuclear power reactor - clean up workers, widows, conscripted soldiers, scientists, politicians, volunteers, journalists. As usual she does not include any of her own questions or commentary, it is just the people talking, which leaves a raw and powerful account of the aftermath of the nuclear disaster. Very powerful and harrowing. 4.5/5.

61Jackie_K
gen. 9, 9:11am

Category: Biography/autobiography/memoir/true events
GeoKIT (North America)




I have mixed feelings about J.D. Vance's Hillbilly Elegy, which is his memoir of growing up in a poor hillbilly extended family in the USA and turning his life around. It is really well written, and the fact that he was able to move beyond his troubled childhood is really impressive. He creates a vivid picture of his significant family members, particularly his grandparents Mamaw and Papaw, who were his refuge while his mother's life was so chaotic. But I found his conclusions about what the problems are and how to tackle them simplistic and contradictory - (rightly) criticising policies drawn up by faraway elites without considering the reality of lived experience, but ultimately seeming to make it primarily about individual good and bad life choices. Of course he is not saying it's only one thing and not the other, and both individual choice and government policy and programmes are important in tackling poverty and alienation. But I ultimately found his criticisms of policy and large emphasis on individual choice and behaviour unsatisfying and unconvincing. I'm glad I read this, but I think I'd want to read other accounts rather than basing my entire view of white working class poverty in the USA on just the one book. 3.5/5.

62dudes22
gen. 9, 11:55am

>61 Jackie_K: - My husband and I tried to watch the movie on Netflix, but ultimately quit it. I thought maybe the book would be better, but your review has decided me that I probably won't try it.

63Jackie_K
Editat: gen. 9, 5:13pm

>62 dudes22: His family story is certainly full of drama and larger than life characters, and I can see why it would be snapped up for a film (although I do wonder what his family members think of it all). The guy can definitely write, I just found it ultimately too contradictory (eg he benefits enormously from government handouts to go to college and law school, not to mention from his grandparents' pensions, but seems to be saying that these aren't the solution, it's all up to the individual, and don't give these feckless families taxpayers' money). His own story of overcoming his background is impressive, but even as he professes love for his family and that he's a work in progress, it still does come across as self-congratulatory and unsympathetic. It's hard to exactly express, but I think it was that overall tone which meant that I struggled to be fully invested in his story and his conclusions.

64pammab
Editat: gen. 10, 12:59am

>61 Jackie_K: What I most remember from this book was two things: (1) his reaction to seltzer water (what can I say, it resonated), (2) the sense at the end that he was faking it until he could make it / that he still didn't trust himself to have his head on really straight for the cultural values he wanted to exhibit. If I recall correctly, he was experimenting with puppies to see if he could keep his temper and actually treat them the way he'd want to treat hypothetical children. So I wonder how much of the "just pull yourself by your boostraps" aspect of the book is in some sense about not being at peace with that upbringing still, and wanting/needing to have a way to blame or distance or in some other less-than-totally-rational way deal with the legacy of his childhood -- rather than rooted in sound logical thought or at-peace reflections.

65Tess_W
Editat: gen. 10, 6:08am

>61 Jackie_K: I read and "liked" Hillbilly Elegy because I could relate, somewhat. I could not relate personally, but more on a geographical/economical level. Middletown is only about 90 minutes away from me and in the eyes of most geographers is NOT part of Appalachia. I think the story of Middletown is not unlike the story of many other smaller towns in what is now known as the "Rustbelt", USA. These are cold weather manufacturing towns that have been abandoned for sunbelt cities. I grew up in such a town. I think the book is not about shoring up an ailing, regional economy, but rather to face the demise of an economy that has drastically changed from rather good paying industrial jobs, where even the uneducated, untrained, hard worker can make $25 per hour, to a service industry economy which pays not more than minimum wage. Therefore, this book is really a study of the fading small industrial town with a personal dysfunctional family twist.

66charl08
gen. 10, 8:26am

I am late to the party, but just wanted to add my vote of enthusiasm (if that is a thing?) to the jar of fate idea. Although I would be hopeless at following the instructions of fate, I should add.

I found Shuggie Bain too hard re the subject matter, I gave up and returned it to the library thinking at least I could do that promptly so someone else could try it.

I love that edition of Chernobyl Prayer. I have her one about children of war to read. I only read recently that some of her earlier books were destroyed by the state. I cannot imagine what it must have taken to pick yourself up and write again after that.

67Jackie_K
Editat: gen. 10, 12:32pm

>64 pammab: That's a very astute observation. And the sparkling water anecdote made me laugh too!
>65 Tess_W: That makes a lot of sense, although I'm not convinced that's how the book's been marketed.
>66 charl08: Welcome to my thread! This year I'd say I'm about half-and-half challenges and random Jar of Fate reads (last year I was probably about 75% challenges, and felt like that wasn't spontaneous enough for me). I'm with you on Shuggie Bain - for now I'm not going to try it, we've all got enough on our plate at the moment!

68Tess_W
gen. 11, 12:30am

>67 Jackie_K: I think you are right, Jackie.

69Jackie_K
gen. 17, 9:52am

Category: Travel*
January Non-Fiction Challenge: Prizewinners
GeoKIT (Asia)


* could also be memoir, or nature too.



Jessica J. Lee's Two Trees Make a Forest is a memoir of discovering her family's roots in Taiwan. She herself has Canadian and British citizenship, her father is Welsh and mother is Chinese-Taiwanese; it was her mother's parents who had to flee to Taiwan from China in 1947. In this book she returns to Taiwan to discover the place and to try and make sense of her family history, helped by recordings she made with her grandmother before she died talking about her life, and also by a letter written by her grandfather, already starting to feel the effects of the Alzheimer's that would eventually kill him, about his life in China and Taiwan. The book includes lush descriptions of the Taiwanese countryside and mountains and nature that she explores, and meditations on identity, belonging and language.

The first couple of chapters I was a bit unsure about the book - the prose did feel like it was veering towards the purple a bit, and there were some words that I just didn't know (she's particularly fond in the early chapters of the word 'lithic'). But it was so worth persevering - as I got a few chapters in, and got more used to the rhythm of her prose, and got more fascinated by both her family history and the nature of Taiwan, I was drawn in and felt fully immersed in her journey. I also found the chapter where she discussed Taiwanese nature writing fascinating. 4.5/5.

70Jackie_K
Editat: gen. 18, 4:50pm

Category: Celtic
January RandomCAT: LOL




Ever since lockdown began last year, the Scottish First Minister's daily covid briefings have been considerably livened up by comedian Janey Godley's voiceovers. Using the visuals from the briefings, she provides an alternative commentary in (very sweary) Scots, and it has been a real highlight of the last year. Frank Get The Door! is a book with the transcripts of the first 5 and a bit months (from the second half of March to the end of August) of the voiceovers. As is often the case with these things, the actual video and sound is funnier than reading it on the page, but there were still plenty of things here which made me laugh out loud (especially the briefing where she was asked about Donald Trump's remarks on light and bleach, and the following day when she was talking about face coverings in shops: "DON'T PUT A G-STRING OAN YER HEID"). A welcome bit of light relief now we're in lockdown again. 4/5.

71MissBrangwen
gen. 18, 9:43am

>69 Jackie_K: This one sounds fascinating! I added it to my travel wishlist. The cover is so beautiful, too!

72spiralsheep
gen. 18, 9:56am

>70 Jackie_K: Janey Godley's great fun.

73Jackie_K
gen. 18, 1:20pm

>71 MissBrangwen: Yes, I love the cover too! And I think it really suits the book's contents.
>72 spiralsheep: Yes she is - I love her voiceovers.

Category: Vintage fiction (1900-1968)
GeoKIT: Oceania




Nevil Shute's A Town Like Alice is a book I started in April 2020 (for the April 2020 GeoCAT!), but don't let the fact that it has taken me months and months to read it put you off - I did like it! I just kept getting distracted! It is the story of English woman Jean Paget, who unexpectedly inherits a fortune from her uncle. She initially decides to return to Malaya, where she had been a prisoner of the Japanese along with other British women and children and where they had been forced to march from town to town with the Japanese soldiers unwilling to take responsibility for them. While on the march she got to know Joe, an Australian soldier, also a prisoner, who is killed after stealing some chickens from the Japanese for the women. Her time as a prisoner takes the first third of the book. Thereafter, when she returns to Malaya to build a well to help the village which eventually took them in, she discovers that Joe in fact wasn't killed, but recovered and eventually returned to Australia. She goes on to Australia to try and find him, and finds that he's been holding a candle for her too. The rest of the book is the story of her settling in Australia and finding love. It has to be said that some of the language in the book is 'of its time' (particularly about the Aborigines in Australia, and Japanese in Malaya) which I could overlook as it was of its time, but also couldn't overlook and I wish it wasn't there. But I'm glad I've read it (eventually!) and would read more Shute if it comes across my path. 3.5/5

Also, the man on this cover always reminds me of Keir Starmer (leader of the UK Opposition). Once I saw it I just couldn't unsee it.

74Helenliz
gen. 18, 2:02pm

>73 Jackie_K: It's odd, but the character that sticks with me is the lawyer who controls her trust fund. I can't help thinking that he had a bit of a thing for her and so bent the trust fund rules quite a lot!. It's funny what you remember later, once most of the book has faded away.

75Jackie_K
gen. 18, 2:07pm

>74 Helenliz: Yes he did - he briefly nearly admits as much, and at the end talks about "a girl I met forty years too late".

76charl08
gen. 19, 2:53am

>73 Jackie_K: The Keir Starmer thing is hilarious. I can see it now you've pointed it out!

77VivienneR
gen. 24, 12:59am

>67 Jackie_K: Having just finished Shuggie Bain I can understand why you hesitate to read it. Save it for another time when you can cope with some misery. It's not sad, or a tearjerker, but you will remember Shuggie and his mother for a long time.

78Jackie_K
Editat: març 12, 2:35pm

>76 charl08: I know, right? (he also looks a bit like Vinnie Jones, I think, but Keir Starmer makes me laugh more)
>77 VivienneR: I'm encouraged by the glowing reviews, at any rate!

Category: Nature writing



Waterlog: A Swimmer's Journey Through Britain by Roger Deakin is a wonderful, immersive book. He undertakes to spend a year swimming in as many wild and random swimming spots in the British Isles as he can - taking in rivers, sea, lakes, open air pools and lidos. I enjoyed this immensely - I'm never going to be a wild swimmer myself, I'm not a strong enough swimmer, but I enjoyed the journey from my armchair. There were a few places where he turns back without swimming (a super-scary sounding pothole in Yorkshire and, thank goodness, the Corrievreckan whirlpool north of Jura in Scotland, trying to swim that would be madness), but he still manages to convey the emotion and physicality and nature and beauty of the places. There's plenty about the wildlife and plants and manmade structures he encounters. I'm keen to read some of his other books now. 4.5/5.

79Jackie_K
gen. 31, 5:25pm

Category: Contemporary Fiction (1969-present)



My final completed read for January is B is for Beauty: A Beauty and the Beast Anthology, a collection of ten short stories retelling the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale in various different genres - from sci-fi, romance (Regency, paranormal, sweet), through to urban fantasy. I bought this book (and its predecessor, A is for Apple: A Snow White Anthology which I'm planning on reading in February) because my friend Robyn Sarty edited and contributed a story to it; regular readers of my reviews will know that none of the above genres are my reading comfort zone! That said though, I really enjoyed this, and whilst (as with any collection of short stories) there were stories that I liked more than others, there were no stories (unlike most collections of short stories I've read) that I actively disliked or thought was weak. Short stories are so hard to do well, so for every story to have sufficient depth to be satisfying is a real achievement. 4/5.

80Tess_W
feb. 1, 8:25am

>79 Jackie_K: Glad you liked it! I agree, short stories are difficult to do well. I have a Cinderella anthology with the story told in different countries.

81LadyoftheLodge
feb. 1, 3:35pm

>80 Tess_W: I also have that Cinderella anthology! I used it for a story-telling course when I was in grad school for my MLS. I have an anthology of Creation stories too.

82Jackie_K
feb. 2, 11:47am

>80 Tess_W: I'm currently taking a short course on personal essay writing, which I guess is the non-fiction equivalent of short stories! They're hard to do well too!
>81 LadyoftheLodge: I expect Cinderella will appear in a future anthology - I think my friend the author/editor is planning on working her way through the alphabet!

83LadyoftheLodge
feb. 3, 3:27pm

>82 Jackie_K: I hope you will keep us posted on the releases, as I am very interested in them.

84Helenliz
feb. 3, 3:55pm

>79 Jackie_K: That does intrigue me. I'm a sucker for a retelling, especially with a twist.

85Jackie_K
feb. 4, 9:24am

>83 LadyoftheLodge: I'll certainly be buying them, as it's a great way to support someone starting out on their editing/writing journey.
>84 Helenliz: I'm going to read the Snow White anthology this month, hopefully, it'll be interesting what the genre writers make of that story!

86Jackie_K
feb. 9, 3:30pm

Category: Non-fiction (general)
January Non-Fiction Challenge: Prizewinners and Nominees




Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation by Dan Fagin won the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction in 2014, deservedly so. This chunkster of a book details the story of the town of Toms River, New Jersey, and the growing realisation of the impact of industrial pollution on the town. As well as meticulously detailing the various players: there was a big Ciba-Geigy chemical plant there from the 1950s, the town's biggest employer until it was eventually closed in the 1990s; also Union Carbide used a local farm to dump waste; the local water company neglected to add filters or report about known pollution in some of their wells; local and federal government neglected to order or follow up on studies, and brushed rumours of pollution hazardous to health under the carpet; and meanwhile families throughout the town were unwittingly drinking water polluted with industrial waste, or working with minimal protection with highly hazardous waste. Over the years there seemed to be more and more cases of both adult and childhood cancers, and this book looks at each study which eventually built up a bigger picture of what was happening. At times it read like a detective story, at others like an epic family tragedy. I was absolutely gripped - with admiration for the investigative writing, rage at the incompetence, indifference and focus on profit over health and environment, and sorrow for the families affected. 4.5/5.

87Tess_W
feb. 10, 12:14am

>86 Jackie_K: I've read something about Tom's River, but not this book. I'm putting it on the WL!

88katiekrug
feb. 10, 8:58am

>86 Jackie_K: - I really need to get to this one.

Tom's River and similar scandals give New Jersey a bad name. I thought poorly of it until I moved here 4 years ago.

89Jackie_K
Editat: març 12, 2:35pm

>87 Tess_W: >88 katiekrug: It's a heavy and long read, but very very good. I got the impression that similar things were going on in a lot of the NJ industrial areas.

Category: Nature writing
February Genre CAT: Biography




Alice Vincent's Rootbound: Rewilding a Life was longlisted for last year's Wainwright Prize. It's part memoir, part discovery of the healing power of gardening and green spaces. After a breakup and having to live out of suitcases for several months, Alice finds solace through planting and growing, and discovering the green spaces of London and other cities around the world (I enjoyed her account of the High Line in New York particularly). Large parts of this are really beautifully written, and I'm sure I'll come back to this again and get even more out of a reread, but curmudgeonly me would have preferred a bit more of the plants and a bit less of the relationship angst. 3.5/5.

90Jackie_K
feb. 15, 9:28am

Category: Contemporary fiction (1969-present)
February RandomCAT: Fruits and Veggies




A is for Apple: A Snow White Anthology, edited by Robyn Sarty, is from the same stable of anthologies as the Beauty and the Beast anthology I read last month. If anything I think I preferred this one - 6 stories retelling the Snow White fairytale from a number of different genres, including fantasy and contemporary literature (including one which recast Snow White and her stepmother as rival beauty influencers). The only one which didn't really work for me was the paranormal fantasy story, but that's more the genre than the author, as the writing was good, it just wasn't my cup of tea. I think my favourite was probably the first story, where the author Phoenix Xiao drew on Chinese mythology to explore the question of what if it was the stepmother who was the victim? Honorable mentions also to Julian Barr's fantasy retelling, and to Mark Hood's aforementioned beauty influencer contemporary story. A solid 4/5.

91Jackie_K
feb. 15, 1:59pm

Category: Sexual/reproductive health/rights; parenting; children; gender



Calm Parents, Happy Kids by Dr Laura Markham is a parenting book which focuses on building connection with children and fostering resilience. It gives practical tips, as well as an easy presentation of the science behind espousing this approach. I pretty much agreed with the approach, although I didn't always find it obvious what the practical tips were, and I preferred another book which she recommends, Lawrence J Cohen's Playful Parenting. 3/5.

92Jackie_K
feb. 16, 6:41am

Category: Non-fiction (general)



A couple of years ago I got a box set of 3 of indie author Joanna Penn's books for authors, and am just now working my way through them. The first is The Successful Author Mindset, which looks at the issues which can plague authors at all stages of the creative and publishing journey (self-doubt, perfectionism, etc) and offers thoughts on how to deal with these. It's a short book that will be good for dipping in and out of. There's nothing here that I've not heard on her excellent podcast, but it's good to have it all in one place. 4/5.

93Jackie_K
Editat: març 12, 2:34pm

Category: Nature writing
February GenreCAT: Biography




My first 5* book of the year - Dara McAnulty's Diary of a Young Naturalist won last year's Wainwright Prize and I can certainly see why. It's a diary of a year in his life (when he was 14 - he's 17 now) chronicling his interaction with nature, his growing nature and climate activism, his life with his family, and his experiences of growing up as an autistic teenager (including how commonplace bullying and isolation was). I loved how he was able to explain how he experiences nature and how autism brings it into such sharp focus, but also how he so clearly and naturally explained how he experiences the neurotypical world and how exhausting it can be. He is a really impressive and accomplished writer, and this is a wonderful book. 5/5.

94This-n-That
feb. 18, 2:04pm

>93 Jackie_K: Lovely review. That sounds like a story I might enjoy. Boo to the bullying he had to endure though. Kids can be cruel.

95charl08
feb. 18, 4:46pm

>93 Jackie_K: He seems like a lovely guy: I caught a bit of an interview with him and he's used part of his prize money for his school naturalist group to get to travel (when they can again). Such a lovely gesture.

96Jackie_K
feb. 20, 11:57am

>94 This-n-That: Yes indeed. He doesn't explicitly describe the bullying - I was most caught by his surprise when he realised he'd been at his new school a whole month and not been bullied once. He was able to tell the story so eloquently without going into any details - the mark of a great writer.

>95 charl08: Yes, I think so too. He was also talking at one point about using some of his income from the book to buy his brother (also autistic, as is his sister) a piano, which I thought was lovely.

Category: Non-fiction: general
February Non-Fiction Challenge: Minority Lives Matter




Akala's Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire is an impressive and highly readable book about race and class, primarily in the UK although acknowledging there are global issues and threads. It is part memoir of his life growing up as a mixed-race, black-identifying boy in the 80s and 90s, and his experiences of racism, prejudice in education and at the hands of the police, as well as violence in his community and beyond, and part polemic about the roots of institutional racism in imperialism and capitalism. Highly recommended. 4.5/5.

97justchris
feb. 25, 10:13pm

All of these books sound great!

98Jackie_K
Editat: feb. 26, 4:52pm

>97 justchris: Thank you! I've had some really good reads this year already.

Category: Non-fiction (general)



The second of my Joanna Penn boxset of writing books, How to Market a Book is a really excellent primer for all stages of the book marketing process and I'd highly recommend it. 4.5/5.

99Jackie_K
Editat: març 25, 1:58pm

Category: Contemporary fiction (1969-present)



The Crow Folk by Mark Stay is the first book in the Witches of Woodville trilogy (book 2 is due in October 2021), and I loved it! It's 1940 in a Kent village, Woodville, around the time of the Battle of Britain in WW2. 17 year old Faye finds a book left her by her dead mother, full of recipes, runes and spells, and a previously unheard-of bellringing method. Meanwhile, strange goings-on are happening in the village. Scarecrows are walking round, led by the charismatic Pumpkinhead, and Pumpkinhead wants Faye's book. The only thing that can stop Pumpkinhead are Faye, two eccentric village witches, and a bunch of church bellringers. Stylistically, think Dr Who meets Dad's Army - this is a cosy, and funny, historical fantasy, and I can't wait for the next installment (also, isn't the cover stunning?). 5/5.

Category: Contemporary fiction (1969-present)



Dinosaurs, Jetpacks, and Rock Stars! by daughter and father team Kassidy Shade and Andy Chapman is a bonkers chapter book for young children just starting on their reading adventure. 8 year old Tommy makes a wish as he blows out the candles on his birthday cake, and gets an awful lot more than he bargained for. Featuring a giant dinosaur called the Tommysaurus, a swimming pool full of jelly, a giant child-eating gummy worm, and a mysterious character known as the Disco Voodoo King (plus plenty of disgusting farts), this is the sort of mad and silly story that young kids will love, and I think it's sorted out my birthday presents for the many 7-8 year olds in my life for the next little while! 4/5.

100spiralsheep
feb. 28, 10:54am

>99 Jackie_K: The Crow Folk definitely has an enticing cover, yes.

101Tess_W
feb. 28, 10:59am

>99 Jackie_K: Although I don't read fantasy, the cover is very appealing!

102Jackie_K
feb. 28, 12:04pm

>100 spiralsheep: >101 Tess_W: I'm glad you agree with me! It really is such lovely cover, and so evocative.

Category: Non-fiction (general)



The third and final of the books in my Joanna Penn boxset is How to Make a Living with your Writing (which actually she's in the process of rewriting and updating at the moment). Again, nothing here I'd not already picked up from her podcast, but again, handy to have all in the one place. I do think though that the price of the boxset was worth it just for How to Market a Book, I'll definitely be returning to that one later this year. 3.5/5.

103Jackie_K
març 5, 5:57pm

Category: Academic



When I was doing my PhD, I bought all 3 volumes of Michel Foucault's A History of Sexuality. I only managed to read the first volume, The Will to Knowledge, at the time. I found it really fascinating and helpful, and I always intended to get back to them just for interest and learning's sake. So I've started by re-reading Vol 1. Clearly in the 10+ years since I did my PhD, my intellectual capacity must have atrophied because I found quite a large chunk of this book pretty incomprehensible, and I ended up skimming quite a lot of it. The bits I'd highlighted still made sense, and there were a few other parts where I thought that the ideas were really interesting, but I'm really not sure I can muster up much enthusiasm for the other 2 volumes. The book considers Foucault's usual themes (knowledge, power, discourse) and was pretty groundbreaking at the time, influencing many (frankly much more readable) scholars working on sexuality. I may give Vol 2 a try at some point, but suspect though that I'll be giving these away to someone who'll appreciate them more. 3/5.

104Jackie_K
Editat: març 12, 2:34pm

Category: Nature writing
March Non-Fiction Challenge: Comfort Reads




This month's library book was Henry David Thoreau's Walden; and, on the duty of civil disobedience. Written in the mid-19th century, Walden is the account of the author's building a shack and living on the land by Walden Pond near Concord, Massachusetts. It's considered a classic of nature writing, and an American classic (one of my American friends told me that, at least when she was growing up and at school, everyone had to read it in high school). This particular copy also includes his later essay On the Duty of Civil Disobedience. Walden is a series of essays about the place, and I had high hopes!

Unfortunately, I found it pretty hard-going! I am coming to the conclusion that for the most part I'm really not suited to pre-20th century writing. I found this book verbose and a bit overblown, but most disappointingly for me, for the bulk of the book what I was wanting to know about - the nature and the place - were largely subsumed in Thoreau's writing about himself and his deep thoughts. A couple of the essays, specifically about the pond itself, were sublime (extra half star for them), and most of the others had bits of nature writing if you dug hard enough, but I found myself skimming more of this than I like to do in a book. 3/5.

105Tess_W
març 10, 9:35pm

>104 Jackie_K: I agree with your assessment of Walden. I was so wanting a book about the pond, its serenity, etc. However, as a public school student were were not required to read this in my district; however we did read 1-2 paragraphs in a literature book anthology of American writers.

106thornton37814
març 11, 9:44am

>104 Jackie_K: I reread the essay Walden every so often--not necessarily the others. We read it at least twice in high school and in American literature in college. I've read the essay itself several times as an adult and own a copy of Walden and Other Writings. It's been several years since my last reading of the work, and it's probably time to reread not only that essay but the others in the book. I guess I'll see if I get around to it. Here are some photos of my visit to Walden Pond back in 2008: https://familyhistorian.blogspot.com/2008/06/boston-diary-june-6-part-1.html

107clue
març 11, 11:15am

I've read where Thoreau's cabin was very close to his mother and he frequently went to her house for a meal and took her his clothes to clean! Does anyone know if that is true?

108spiralsheep
Editat: març 11, 11:23am

>107 clue: "There is one writer in all literature whose laundry arrangements have been excoriated again and again, and it is not Virginia Woolf, who almost certainly never did her own washing, or James Baldwin, or the rest of the global pantheon. The laundry of the poets remains a closed topic, from the tubercular John Keats (blood-spotted handkerchiefs) to Pablo Neruda (lots of rumpled sheets). Only Henry David Thoreau has been tried in the popular imagination and found wanting for his cleaning arrangements." - Rebecca Solnit

And, yes, he also ate out with friends, and his family sometimes brought him food, and he occasionally threw popular parties (especially around watermelon harvest).

109Jackie_K
març 11, 3:22pm

>107 clue: >108 spiralsheep: Yes, I'd heard that too! I'm sure it's much easier to think lofty thoughts if you don't have to worry about the state of your smalls.

110Jackie_K
març 11, 4:35pm

>105 Tess_W: Yes, I was pretty disappointed! The essay specifically called 'The Ponds' was closest to what I wanted from it, and there was another one about winter which had a lot about the ice as it cracked and formed and melted on the pond which was really evocative. The rest, not so much!

>106 thornton37814: What lovely pictures! It certainly is a beautiful part of the world, yet another place I'd love to see.

111Tess_W
març 11, 10:38pm

>104 Jackie_K:

This is a good article on what Thoreau's experiment was and wasn't.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/10/opinion/thoreaus-invisible-neighbors-at-walde...

112Jackie_K
març 12, 9:41am

>111 Tess_W: Thank you for sharing that, Tess - it was really interesting. Certainly I think, for all his hard-to-read philosophising, his call to simplicity of living still resonates today.

113Jackie_K
març 12, 1:24pm

Category: Nature writing.
GeoKIT: Africa




Into Africa by Craig Packer is an account of a fieldwork trip in the early 1990s to the Serengeti and Gombe national parks in Tanzania. Packer is an academic who has worked on lion studies in the Serengeti since the 1970s, also working with Jane Goodall on chimp/baboon studies in Gombe. During this trip he is initiating some new field assistants who will be collecting data in the field, and helping a PhD student collect samples. This is written as a daily diary, but he also reflects on the things he has learnt about the animals and the place over the decades, and his past experiences as well as what happens during this field trip. It was very readable, not dusty and academic at all, and gave a great sense of the excitement and mundanity of the work, as well as the challenges of the setting. I really enjoyed it. 4/5.

114MissBrangwen
març 13, 9:23am

An interesting discussion of Walden, and I'll save the article from >111 Tess_W: for future reference!

>113 Jackie_K: That sounds like a great read! A BB for me.

115Jackie_K
març 13, 11:39am

>114 MissBrangwen: I never know which books I read and review will get a discussion going, but I did think with so many American LTers that there might well be some opinions on Walden! If you get to Into Africa I hope you enjoy it - I thought it was a really good read.

116Jackie_K
Editat: març 23, 6:01pm

Category: Travel



I received this book from the publishers as part of the LibraryThing Early Reviewers programme; thank you to the publishers and author for this opportunity.

Postcards from the Borderlands sees the author in several countries which have disputed, precarious, or otherwise not necessarily logical borders. He travels extensively, usually working as a consultant, and seeks out the more authentic experience of the countries than the average tourist would usually experience. I enjoyed reading this very much, although his accounts of some countries and in particular their issues around borders were more interesting and obvious than others, and in most of the chapters there were aspects which felt a bit more basic 'travel writing' than analysis of the impact of borders. The final chapter, where he sums up the main issues (eg different perceptions of borders depending on nationality, ethnicity, religion, etc), was very interesting - I'd have liked to have seen a bit more of that sort of discussion threaded more overtly throughout the whole book. 3.5/5.

117clue
Editat: març 23, 9:25pm

>107 clue: I also enjoyed this. I knew about Brister Freeman but little else.

118pammab
març 23, 11:45pm

So many comments spilling from my brain as I caught up! Let's see...

>93 Jackie_K: Diary of a Young Naturalist looks very interesting. I was intrigued by your 5 star rating but wasn't sure at the initial description -- but by the end I was won over.

>96 Jackie_K: With Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire, I'll just comment that I'm seeing ever more discussion of imperialism and capitalism in the mainstream context of race and oppression. It's fascinating to me because I had the impression that this narrative was limited to academia and to fringe groups even 20 years ago, but now it's really everywhere.

>99 Jackie_K: I'll definitely take a look for Dinosaurs, Jetpacks, and Rock Stars! for that age group. I'm always on the lookout for books that are good for various ages. I try to keep a little list of these so I have them available to review as the kids in my life get older.

>103 Jackie_K: I remember reading Foucault and having a similar reaction to yours -- "this is pretty convoluted but very interesting/iconoclastic". I've had The Order of Things unread on my shelf for ages, and I haven't been able to either get rid of it or read it yet. I worry it wouldn't hold up for me. Though interestingly, I just came across elsewhere a discussion of Foucault as well -- a reference to how Foucault played with language in hard-to-translate ways (like close homonyms in French setting up juxtaposition of ideas).

>104 Jackie_K: I tried to get through Walden many years ago, and failed (or maybe I succeeded and I don't remember any of it?). There wasn't much there for me. In my mind it is closely linked to Madeleine L'Engle's memoir A Circle of Quiet, which I read around the same time. I found L'Engle's book much more introspective and lovely and authentic and impactful. (And I had never heard this laundry fact about Thoreau, so I'm grateful for everyone in helping fill in my ignorance. :))

119MissBrangwen
març 24, 2:55pm

>116 Jackie_K: This sounds like a book I would like, so it's a BB for me!

120Jackie_K
març 24, 5:14pm

>117 clue: I'm a bit confused - did you mean this to be on my thread or someone else's? :)
>118 pammab: I'm glad a couple of books hit the spot for you (and also glad that you felt the same about Foucault, I'm glad it's not just me!!). Thanks as well for reminding me about A Circle of Quiet which I have on my (vast) TBR pile - I read another one in that series, Two Part Invention which I loved.
>119 MissBrangwen: I hope you like it!

121VivienneR
març 24, 6:14pm

My husband recently bought a copy of Walden. Naturally I had a look through it but came to the conclusion it was too much about Thoreau and not enough about the pond. Not for me - at the moment anyway.

122Jackie_K
març 25, 7:15am

>121 VivienneR: Yes, that was pretty much what I felt too (with the exception of a couple of the shorter essays which were about the pond - more of that please!!). At least it was a library book so I didn't need to be cross about spending money on it.

123Jackie_K
març 25, 7:36am

Category: Non-fiction: general



Danny Katch is an American comedian and activist, unashamedly politically left-wing. Despite the deliberate provocation of the cover image, Why Bad Governments Happen to Good People is not just "Trump is terrible" (although he does think that) - he's equally critical of the Democrats (even Bernie Sanders doesn't get 100% favourable coverage here!), and traces how mainstream politics and society going way back led to where politics is today. Having read this a few years after it was published, it didn't feel like there was much new as a lot of this has been hashed out in discussions and debates over the past 4 years. But as an outsider looking in at American politics, what was new to me was the sheer extent of wasted opportunities and general incompetence. It was a very readable account, and as someone who basically agrees with him I enjoyed this (if 'enjoy' is the right word for a book about so many missed opportunities and terrible politics). If you want an unbiased account of American politics then this won't be the book for you, but as a short introduction to the major issues and players then it's well worth a look. 3.5/5.

124clue
Editat: març 25, 9:04pm

>120 Jackie_K: Sorry, my comment is in relation to the article Tess had a link for in >111 Tess_W:.

125Jackie_K
març 26, 3:11pm

>124 clue: Ah OK, I was confused but that makes sense! :)

126Jackie_K
març 27, 5:41pm

I meant to add in my previous posts that I had my second covid vaccination a couple of weeks ago. Very happy about that (and that my husband had his first last weekend) - the end is hopefully in sight!

Category: Sexual & reproductive health/rights; gender; parenting; children



Repealing the 8th: Reforming Irish Abortion Law by Fiona de Londras and Mairead Enright is a short book, originally published in 2017, the year before the referendum where the 8th Amendment to the Irish Constitution was repealed. This book does have an epilogue from after the referendum was announced, but before it took place - I'd be interested in a further update now that it's been 3 more years further down the road. The two authors are law professors, and they look at the background to the 8th Amendment and related legislation regarding pregnancy and abortion, and propose an outline of new legislation based on their extensive discussions with interested parties. Law is not usually my field of interest, as it always seems so dry, but this book was interesting and it was really helpful to see how the legal situation was being analysed and proposals for future law being made. 4/5.

127Helenliz
març 27, 5:47pm

>126 Jackie_K: Excellent news on the second dose and his first. Hope that progress continues and normality approaches soon.
I'm slightly dismayed at how many people think that I should have had my first dose already, I'm not yet 50, do they all think I am?!

128Jackie_K
març 27, 5:50pm

>127 Helenliz: I wouldn't worry, all the cool kids are over 50 (that's what I keep telling myself anyway!). Grey is the new black.

I'm amused that despite being older than my husband, he got his vaccine due to his age but I didn't (healthcare worker). It's not often I can make age-related jokes at his expense!

129spiralsheep
març 27, 6:07pm

>126 Jackie_K: Congratulations on your completed vaccination!

I remember seeing images of many many Irish people flying home to vote. It seems longer ago than a couple of years.

130Jackie_K
març 27, 6:16pm

>129 spiralsheep: Thank you! I remember that too - it was 2018 (but then, last year doesn't count, so shall we just say 2 years ago? ;) ).

131Jackie_K
març 28, 5:03pm

Category: Religious



The Merciful Humility of God by Jane Williams is the book I've been reading for Lent this year. It is laid out in 5 chapters, which consist of an exposition of a relevant Biblical passage, an account of a saint or other holy person (eg St Francis of Assisi, St Teresa of Avila) whose life embodies the subject of the chapter, and some questions for discussion/contemplation. I think this would work better as a group read rather than an individual one - I'm probably a bit shallow, but I think I really prefer a more structured, day by day Lent read, and I'll try to go back to that structure for my Lent book next year. 3.5/5.

Category: Nature writing
March Non-Fiction Challenge: Comfort reading




Diane Ackerman's Cultivating Delight: A Natural History of my Garden is a lovely book detailing a year in her clearly very extensive garden in New York state. She is an avid gardener, and describes the seasons and lives in the garden beautifully. Occasionally I felt a bit cynical, I'm sure if I had access to that sort of huge garden I could rhapsodise that much too, but I got over myself, because cynicism is just antithetical to such a delightful book. Lots of memorable accounts, although I think my favourite was the short chapter about the hospice garden she volunteers at, and the birdhouse competition they came up with to raise funds. Definitely recommended. 4.5/5.

132Tess_W
març 29, 11:47pm

>131 Jackie_K: the gardening book has been on my WL for sometime. Hopefully it will be one of "the chosen" when my Thingaversary comes around.

133dudes22
març 30, 7:49am

>131 Jackie_K: - This has been on my TBR for way too long. I should really get to it.

134Jackie_K
març 30, 9:21am

>132 Tess_W: >133 dudes22: It's a really lovely book, I'm sure you'll both enjoy it!

135Jackie_K
abr. 8, 5:02pm

Category: Nature Writing



I'm very much appreciating our library service's expansion of the digital book catalogue over the past year of the pandemic! Florence Williams' The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative is my most recent library book and I really enjoyed it. She's a journalist by background, and this translates to a very readable and non-stuffy book. She looks at all the various research going on around the world into nature's effect on our mental health and wellbeing, and visits a number of fascinating projects, in the US, Japan, Korea, Finland, Scotland and Singapore, amongst others. I found her writing style just the right blend of curiosity, critique, chattiness, openness, and snark. I'll probably get myself a copy of this to keep, as I'm sure I'd dip back into it. 4/5.

136Jackie_K
abr. 11, 2:07pm

Category: Biography/autobiography/memoir/true event



Frank Kusy is an indie author who has produced a series of 6 travel memoirs, all of which I've picked up over the years on Bookbub deals. This book, Life Before Frank: From Cradle to Kibbutz is the prequel memoir to that series, detailing his life before embarking on those travels. I must say he has some cracking anecdotes (including being puked on by Keith Richards, working for a while with Russell Grant the astrologer, and having his hair ruffled by Ronnie Kray when he was a boy, as well as his Polish dad having a connection to Wojciech the bear in WW2), and he's a good writer too. There are a lot of larger than life characters here - cruel Jesuit teachers, his friend Tristan who was into the occult, his Hungarian mother who is desperate for him to be a good Christian, his dim stepbrother, the cruel work manager at the kibbutz he ends up in towards the end of the book. I did feel sorry for his first girlfriend Addie (who he leaves at the end of the book despite her having supported him for years as he got sacked from job after job), but am interested enough to want to read the other books at some point. 3.5/5.

137charl08
abr. 11, 2:29pm

>135 Jackie_K: Sounds good, I'll see if I can find a copy here too. I've come across a few community gardening projects for mental health which I think sound wonderful. Even when things don't quite grow the way I want them to (or at all!!), having access to a garden is a gift.

138Jackie_K
abr. 11, 4:45pm

>137 charl08: yes, it really is. I'm currently trying to write a book about spending last year in my garden - it is tiny (just a few square metres) but became a haven from covid and politics and, well, 2020.