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« December, 2021 »

USA Stars and Lights   book icon  
by David Zapatka (2020)

read: 30 December 2021
rating: [+]
category: non-fiction

I got a review copy of this from the publisher. It’s got great lighthouses-against-stars photography, laid out a little clunkily but whatever. Even greater are all the “How I got that shot” stories at the end which involve a lot of travel, permissions, boats, external lighting, Macgyvering, and just a little trespassing. Zapatka is a cameraman for CNN who lives in Rhode Island and some of these are local to him and others involved extensive travel. He clearly has great respect for and interest in his subject and I loved reading about all his journeys to get these shots

Tongue of a Crow   book icon  
by Peter Coyote (2021)

read: 29 December 2021
rating: [+]
category: poetry

A collection of poetry by my uncle, inscribed to me, with stories about, among other things, my family. This book was interesting to read since I knew the facts of many of the poems--some stories about old partners or wives, stories about his parents, my grandparents--but not his impressions and they gave me a richer understanding. He’s got a way with words and a gentle way of telling which reflects his spirit.

The Dog Stars   book icon  
by Peter Heller (2012)

read: 29 December 2021
rating: [+]
category: fiction

A 2012 book about a worldwide plague which kills nearly everyone, told from the perspective of a survivor, who has a Cessna. He has a little life carved out for himself, and his dog, and another random guy who lives near him. It’s a very “day in the life,” except occasionally when the marauders come. And then one day he goes traveling, and comes back. A surprisingly gentle story, well told.

People We Meet on Vacation   book icon  
by Emily Henry (2021)

read: 24 December 2021
rating: [+]
category: fiction

My librarian misled me somewhat that this wasn’t going to be a slow burn romance will-they-or-won’t-they novel. It kind of was. I’m not sure if this was the book she felt I needed, or if she didn’t understand my usual allergy to this genre. I liked it decently, more that I expected. It’s funny, and even though the conclusion is pretty pre-ordained you like hanging out with the characters as they figure their lives out.

In Short   book icon  
by Judith Kitchen, ed. (1996)

read: 22 December 2021
rating: [+]
categories: collection, non-fiction

A long book of super-short essays, all under five pages. I put this book down for a long time and just picked it up again and really enjoyed it (possibly b/c of my new shorter attention span). Some authors you’ve heard of--Sherman Alexie, Barry Lopez, Michael Ondaatje--some you probably haven’t. Good biographical blurbs in the back and a truly terrible index.

Comfort Me With Apples   book icon  
by Catherynne M. Valente (2021)

read: 20 December 2021
rating: [0]
category: fiction

I should have paid closer attention to the fact that this book was classified as horror since that’s a genre I don’t usually like and this book, though inspired in parts, was no exception. It’s an allegory, hard to explain without spoiling the best part of it (the gradual reveal as you figure out what is going on) but has an unsatisfactory ending and just was weirdly short which I guess was okay for a book I didn’t like much. The author is clearly super talented, this was just the wrong book for me.

Harlem Shuffle   book icon  
by Colson Whitehead (2021)

read: 19 December 2021
rating: [+]
category: fiction

I read this book the same week I saw the documentary Summer of Soul which takes place at almost the same time and in the same location and they were a great pairing. I love Whitehead’s writing so much but the last book of his that I read, the zombie novel, was not as up my street as this one. Carney is a guy who had a crook for a dad and grew up kind of in that life, but went straight, sort of, married “up” and runs a furniture store. But he keeps getting roped into illegal schemes and this book is three vignettes which talk about how he manages the overlap between the way he was raised and the way he sees himself now. So good.

It Didn’t Start With You   book icon  
by Mark Wolynn (2016)

read: 16 December 2021
rating: [+]
category: non-fiction

This is a self-help book about the idea of “inherited family trauma” which both made sense but also seemed a bit like woo as I read through this book. The idea is sort of like you could have a grandfather who drowned before you were born and somehow you are hydrophobic. Which makes sense a little--i.e. the people in your family would have some knowledge of that trauma which they could pass down even if they didn’t talk about it--but sometimes there was the implication that there were genetic ways this could affect people and I was not on board with that.That said, a lot of the concepts and framing and ideas were useful even if I was skeptical of some of the quick solutions some of these discoveries of family trauma seemed to bring on.

There Is No Antimemetics Division   book icon  
by qntm (2021)

read: 14 December 2021
rating: [+]
category: fiction

A weird, complex novel with the premise “what if memes could affect reality and there were such a thing as anti-memes?” all about a quasi-government organization that tracks, contains, and fights these anti-memes. I did not know that this book was sort of crowdsourced written by a group of people who share a weird wiki together? And I still don’t know much about that part of it but it can explain how uneven some of this is, how it picks up and drops off themes without as much continuity as you might be expecting. I enjoyed it but I’d be careful who I recommended it to. Strange and compelling.

Fuzz   book icon  
by Mary Roach (2021)

read: 14 December 2021
rating: [+]
category: fiction

Mary Roach is sometimes a little too jokey for me, but in this book that talks about how humans and wildlife manage to interact with each other when wildlife are bothering the humans, I actually liked it just fine. The chapters range from looking at how we try to keep bears out of our dumpsters, to how we keep mice out of our houses to how they try to keep monkeys out of basically everything in parts of India. I enjoyed her approach and learned a lot about robot birds and other odd techniques to try to manage wildlife and our incursions into their spaces.

Leviathan Falls   book icon  
by James S. A. Corey (2021)

read: 10 December 2021
rating: [+]
category: fiction

Eagerly awaited and not disappointing. I wanted slightly more of the OG crew than I got in this final installment of The Expanse series, but enjoyed the story they wound up telling. I had no idea how they were going to pull off “satisfying ending” with this epic series, but I feel like that’s more or less what I got.

This Weightless World   book icon  
by Adam Soto (2021)

read: 3 December 2021
rating: [+]
category: fiction

This was a moody book about (sort of) first contact, and Calvino, and cellists, and toxic Bay Area startup culture. There was a lot going on and it was sometimes tough to figure out who to root for. I liked all the parts, I felt they cohered a little unevenly. This was Soto’s first novel and I’ll pick up his next book and see if it’s more my jam. His writing is good and felt strongest when he was talking about characters and less good when he was talking about conflict.

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