[I've been 
reading]

The Stranger in the Woods The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit   book icon  
by Michael Finkel (2017)

read: 16 January 2017
rating: [+]
category: non-fiction

This was a book I received an ARC of from Netgalley. I read a lot about this story when it was in the papers. In fact I read every story I could find. The “North Pond Hermit” as Christopher Knight was known, was a solitary man who was living alone in the woods for decades. He had a little camp set up that was totally invisible to the outside world and he sustained himself by stealing from nearby seasonal cabins in northern Maine. Big news when he was finally found, captured and brought to justice. But what happened next?

Finkel tells the story and does a good job giving you details of Knight’s life both in the woods and out of the woods, without pretending like he had more access to Knight than he really did. They exchanged some letters and had a few face to face visits, but Knight was an extremely private person and did not really encourage or seem to enjoy these visits. Finkel winds up in the awkward journalistic situation of trying to create a relationship with a person who doesn’t want one. I appreciated that Finkel didn’t embellish, didn’t make it seem like they were friends, and didn’t try to tie this all up with a bow at the end. Along the way there are a lot of good anecdotes about hermits but not enough to make you tired out by all the not-the-main-story stories.

Devil in a Blue Dress   book icon  
by Walter Mosley (1991)

read: 15 January 2017
rating: [+]
category: fiction

This was the most-recommended series written by a person of color when I asked about this on my mailing list. I read and enjoyed the first book and will be reading more of them. This is a book written in the 90s about California in the 40s. There’s a lot of grit and casual (and not-so-casual) racism so some of it is tough to read but the plotlines are interesting and I was engrossed all the way through.

The Accidental Time Machine   book icon  
by Joe Haldeman (2008)

read: 11 January 2017
rating: [+]
category: fiction

I love time machine stories! And this one started off pretty good. Guy at MIT finds an accidental time machine, tries to figure out how it works as he deals with a bunch of other things in his life. But then things get weird. He goes so far into the future that things are weird. And then SO far into the future that things are unrecognizable. And there’s this naive gal the protagonist meets along the way who you’re worried he’s going to have an inappropriate relationship with (this is scifi after all). It wraps up neatly but I didn’t like the second half of the book as much as I enjoyed the first half.

Underground Airlines   book icon  
by Ben Winters (2016)

read: 6 January 2017
rating: [+]
category: fiction

Really enjoyed this alternate “What if Lincoln hadn’t wound up getting elected?” history book where slavery is still legal in the Hard Four states down South and even the North is a mess of racism and complex rule and class systems to keep everyone in line. The story itself is told by a “bounty hunter” of sorts an escaped slave who is now beholden to the government to trap other escaped slaves. Fascinating stuff. Winters does a good job explaining the details without getting bogged down in them and outlining the racist situation without the book actually falling into a lot of racist cliches.

Every Stamp Tells a Story   book icon  
by Cheryl Ganz (2014)

read: 6 January 2017
rating: [+]
category: non-fiction

This book is a well-illustrated slightly dry book about the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum written by the former Curator of Philately of the museum. It presumes an interest in the subject matter so that looking at the photos and reading about the plans to build the museum, and choices they made to create and enhance the collection will be of interest. It worked for me and I greatly enjoyed this book.

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