2021 reading journal ⤴
reading goal: 25 books - at least 5 non-fiction books - no more than 5 re-reads.
how it turned out: 15 books read - 4 non-fiction / 11 fiction - no re-reads.
if a single book spans more than one month of reading, it is catagorized in the month I finished it.
Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures by Merlin Sheldrake
a carryover from 2020. thanks to a particular fungiform dome, I got rather interested in fungi last fall. then I happened to come across this book and its gorgeous cover. (plants, and mushrooms especially, were my favourite subjects when I was learning to sketch.)
since I hardly ever read non-fiction, I thought I'd give this a try. the language on a purely aesthetic level is gorgeous. as for the content, it was surprisingly compelling. then again, perhaps it isn't so surprising—I am fascinated by community, connection, and communication, which are all ideas central to the world of fungi.
Vi by Kim Thúy translated by Sheila Fischman
a short book I chose because it is this year's One eRead Canada pick. definitely not something I would have picked up on my own and gosh I'm glad I found my way to it. this is a book about Vietnam, about being an immigrant, about family, about growing up.
it's broken up into vignettes, some as short as a page, which I vibed with—my brain can focus for long periods of time, but it's easier to do so if I have an off-ramp every five minutes. I don't know why I'm like this, but these bite-sized "chapters" were perfect. I devoured this thing.
here's a metaphor: there's this fancy crepe place downtown. my favourite thing to get is a simple, sweet crepe with strawberries and banana. the ingredients are fresh, the crepe is warm, and they serve it to you elegantly wrapped in a napkin. that was this book. warm and sweet and precious. brief, but utterly lovely.
Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Amelia Nagoski and Emily Nagoski
a friend was reading this and thought it might appeal. certainly there's a lot of "yes, I know," but just as soon as I feel like I can walk down the street without looking, I bang into a lamp post. oof. that's how the revelations hit, like walking into a post and having two kind strangers rush up to help.
I think the "compassionate older sister" vibe the authors were going for comes through in the book. it's a handy guidebook, sprinkled with stories and science. the first couple chapters felt the most revelatory—but then, I've been writing about cycles for the past ten years. they come up again and again in my fiction, characters feeling stuck in some cycle...and the solution is not, perhaps, to break out of that cycle, but to complete it. hmm.
A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett
back into the world of Tiffany Aching and witches and the Wee Free Men. the philosophy of Pratchett's witches is something to be admired. each witch comes at her craft in a different way, and we recognize all of them: there are the ones in it for the aesthetic, with their sparkling cloaks and sky-scraping hats; there are practical witches, who do their best to teach sense and help out; and then there are great witches who don't let truth get in the way of a good story—because people find it easier to believe in goblins and wee mike-row-skop-ick beasties who live in the water and make you ill.
a proper page-turner this. not for an particularly tense cliff-hangers, but simply because I cared, and I liked the story, and I wanted to know what happened next. Terry, I think I will owe you a thousand thank yous before I finish even ten of your books.
Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett
sometimes, in stories, things happen to the main character. external pressures change their life. Bilbo leaves Frodo a ring, which turns out to be The Ring, and well...
but this is a book about consequences. Tiffany makes a mistake, and spends the rest of the book trying to sort it out. this is a book about responsibility. what it means to be a witch and the duty you have to others.
on the face of it, Pratchett's Discworld universe is a bit mad. I mean, any universe that has Feegles in it has got to be a bit mad. but though this is a world with tiny blue men and a Goddess of Things That Get Stuck in Drawers and witches who attend their own funerals, it is a world in which I think you'd be able to work out your place and make sense of it. whether you are witch or prince or god or shepherd, you have certain responsibilities and the world needs you to keep on turning.
In Five Years by Rebecca Searle (audiobook narrated by Megan Hilty)
for an audiobook I picked up on a whim, expecting a run-of-the-mill romance, this book surprised me. it subverted the usual romance novel tropes to create an unexpectedly pleasing story about love, friendship, expectations, and desire. nicely done. after growing up on Sarah Dessen novels, this was a welcome read.
I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett
it's been a such a joy to watch this young witch grow up and learn to navigate the world.
Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill
as a whole, this book didn't quite satisfy, but the prose! from my twitter:
"I bought a warmer coat with many ingenious pockets. You put your hands in all of them." - Jenny Offill, The Department of Speculation #nowreading
I am so in love with the prose in this book. "many ingenious pockets" - get out of my soul! this is too intimate!!
The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green
a book of essays is a good fit for my brain at the moment. I can read for long periods of time, but it is made easier by short chapters. it is unlikely I will every be able to tell John how much it means to me to read this book in this moment: it means I get to feel like a reader again and reclaim that piece of my identity; it means being moved by a work of personal reflection, a kind of writing I value highly; and it means being transported and guided through a series of unique connections that only he could make.
A Soldier in Time: The Nicholas Courteny Memoirs by Nicholas Courtney
what a wonderful way to spend an afternoon. one of the great delights of watching classic Doctor Who stories was being introduced to the Brigadier, a character I've come to love. Nicholas Courteny had a long career as a working actor. I much enjoyed hearing him speak about his life, which feels as though it look place in an era so far removed from my own.
Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
it's apt that I'm encountering Just Listen as an audiobook. summer just feels like the right time for Sarah Dessen books, doesn't it? today (July 2) as I write this, I'm about a third of the way through, and our leading man Owen has already managed to majorly irk me. his music snobbery threw up a flag for me—I dislike people who assert themselves as morally superior for not liking popular media, especially pop music. you have more broad or unusual taste than the average person? super cool, tell me about it! but don't call pop music corporate garbage and belittle those who enjoy it.
ahh teenage life. few of us are our best selves as teenagers. one of my struggles as a writer is allowing my characters to be flawed, be different from me, and behave in ways I might personally find aggravating or hard to understand.
in addition to his obsession with music, Owen's other defining characteristic is that he always tells the truth. this raises suspicions for me too. like our main character, Annabel, I am non-confrontational and will sometimes keep my truth to myself in favour of keeping the peace. but it's clear that a bit of radical honesty would be good for Annabel. she needs someone like that. her personal life at the moment includes a sullen sister struggling through recovery from an eating disorder, a mother who seems fragile and constantly worried, and an ex-best friend who seems to be spreading rumours about her. meeting someone who will be totally honest about his thoughts and feelings, when asked, is a relief.
Paingod and Other Delusions by Harlan Ellison
a stretch read for me; outside my usual genres. never read any Harlan Ellison before (except maybe "I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream"? can't remember) and not sure I will again. "'Repent, Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman" was excellent. perhaps it appealed to me as a chronic procrastinator. reading experience in general has been at least educational when not entertaining. a nice grip on dialects. bold style choices.
this was definitely more reading-for-learning than reading-for-fun. but sometimes it was fun too.
Tell the Machine Goodnight by Katie Williams
whatever I expected from this book, what it delivered was...not that. it's speculative fiction, with a happiness machine at the heart of it. there's a small cast of characters telling their stories, but I didn't particularly connect with any of them. I chose not to bail on this book, and was rewarded with short bursts of compelling narrative, like the last twenty seconds of popcorn popping in the microwave, when the excitement has slowed but not quite stopped..
Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
I'd seen this cover around but was not aware of just how much hype surrounds this book. don't over-hype yourself, but this was a one-day read to kick off my vacation, and it was such a joy to lose myself in a book. the retrospective style appeals to my sensibilities, the multiple voices were well-defined, and given my penchant for showbiz memoirs, it was a perfect easy read. bookmarking this one as a good example of the craft.
The Dying Days by Lance Parkin
this is the last of the Virgin New Adventures, the only one to feature the Eighth Doctor, and the first Doctor Who book I have ever read. I came to it after hearing "Benny's Story" in The Company of Friends and loving her chemistry with the Doctor. this novel precedes that adventure. I've heard just a couple Benny audios with the Seventh Doctor, so I had some idea of her character. As a stand-alone story, I thought this was an engaging novel. the more you know about Who, the more you'll get out of it of course, but it's a dang good piece of sci-fi.
interested in the VNAs? someone on reddit has gone to the trouble of creating this guide to the series.