Darwin’s immediate book meme! vol. ???

Just the other day, I was thinking Mrs. Darwin needed to do an immediate book meme, and lo: It came to pass!

Here’s my current reading situation:

1. What book are you reading now?

Green Dolphin Street by Elizabeth Goudge

This book is a delight. A delight! My first book by this author, and it pulls you in instantly, with fully rounded characters, beautifully crafted sentences, and an incredibly vivid sense of place. It does have a little publisher’s note in the beginning, which would have annoyed me at one point, but which I now think is useful and balanced:

PUBLISHER’S NOTE (2015) Elizabeth Goudge’s novels present us with many rich fictional worlds. The way in which these stories are told gives us insight into Elizabeth Goudge’s own life and the culture in which she wrote. Green Dolphin Street includes many passages that display oppressive attitudes in matters of race relations and the exercise of colonial power. We believe that offering this book to readers as Elizabeth Goudge wrote it allows us to see English literary culture in 1944 in a way that would be obscured were we to alter the text. Justice must be built on truth. We are sensitive to the fact that English colonial history is a subject more difficult to approach for some than for others, and trust that readers will appreciate the chance to encounter both the fictional world of Green Dolphin Street and the voice of the novel in its original form.

I could have figured this out on my own by reading the book, but it’s helpful context if you’re going to read the book with, say, high school students who are still forming their idea of the world. Anyway, if the choice is between adding a note like this and not publishing the book at all, or worse, sanitizing it like they did with Roald Dahl, I can live with a note. Anyway, tremendous book, and I’m looking forward to reading more by Goudge. 

Mort by Terry Pratchett

I think I’ve read this before, but I can’t remember if I finished it or not. It’s a Discworld book about a hapless young man, Mort, who is taken on as an apprentice by Death. Death is a wonderful, sympathetic character. Classic Pratchett: Cleverly written and conceived, likable characters, slightly insane plot, very funny with a splash of melancholy, thoughtful but not cynical. This is the fourth book in the Discworld series, but you don’t have to have read others to follow the plot. 

The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk

Dude. I don’t know what I thought this book was going to be (probably influenced by the pop culturalization of psychology, making me halfway afraid it was gonna be some kind of “you go grrrrl, it’s not you, it’s your polyvagal nerve, so live laugh love!! Stanley cup of a book), but I’m finding it thorough, thoughtful, and captivating. Again, I only just started it, but it’s fascinating, and told vividly but with a respect for the subjects that reminds me of Oliver Sacks. 

Philip Neri: The Fire of Joy by Paul Türks 

This is my current Adoration read. The book was a gift from an Oratorian priest who visited last summer (or two summers ago?), who confirmed that I Prefer Heaven is a very nice movie indeed, but doesn’t actually have much in common with the actual life of Philip Neri. It’s maybe a tiny bit drier than something I would read on my own (I spoil myself with a steady diet of novels), but it moves along and is full of fascinating details not only about Neri himself, but 16th century Italy. 

Did Ye Hear Mammy Died? by Séamas O’Reilly

Bought this book solely on the strength of a string of tweets by author, recounting how he got his schedule confused and ended up alone in a room with his boss and the President of Ireland while he was on ketamine. This memoir is (so far) a wonderful read that starts with the death of his mother when he was five, which left his father to raise him and his ten siblings in rural Ireland in the 90’s. Sweet, affectionate, very funny, and a little bit harrowing, as you can imagine. 

1a. What is your current readaloud?

Five Children and It by E. Nesbit

Corrie (age almost 9) requested that I read this to her, but she keeps scampering away and doing other things, so I don’t know how far we’ll get. We just don’t real aloud like we used to! E. Nesbit is the author who inspired Edward Eager, the author of Half Magic (and I think I remember the characters in Half Magic speaking admiringly of E. Nesbit). It’s old fashioned enough to be interesting, but the kids are very recognizable characters, and it is a weird and satisfying story. 

The Genesis of Gender by Abigail Favale

I started reading this out loud to the teenagers quite some time ago, and we keep getting overtaken by events, but I’m holding out hope that we’ll pick it up again. If people are going to cotton to popular ideas about gender fluidity, they should at least know the history of how we got here as a society. I read this myself first, and learned a lot, and enjoyed Favale’s voice. I found the final few chapters to be a tiny bit weaker than the rest, unfortunately. I think the author allowed herself a little too much sarcasm, which the rest of the book is free from. Still extremely lucid and thought-provoking overall, a reasonable read for smart high schoolers.

King Solomon’s Mines by H. Rider Haggard

Damien and I started reading this aloud to each other (taking turns with chapters) last night. It is hilarious, and insane. If any book qualifies for a publisher’s note like Green Dolphin Street got, it’s King Solomon’s Mines (the first chapter contains the word “n*gg*r,” although it’s in the context of the narrator saying he’s not going to use that word anymore). But if you can deal with some indelicacy, this is an incredibly entertaining adventure story that wastes zero time. Includes several maps depicting two mountains called “Sheba’s Breasts,” and has directions about what to do when you get to the nipple. What indeed? 

2. What book did you just finish?

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

I don’t even know why I re-read this (probably just because it had all its pages, which is not a given in this disrespectful house). The characters are all so frustrating. It was gratifying to see how thoroughly Emma Bovary’s actions are repaid in the final chapters — enough to almost make me feel sorry for her, almost. I guess if you’re looking for a “classic”to read that you can zip through pretty quickly, this is a good one. The writing is great. It’s just rough when, by the end, you feel a very grudging pity for the main perpetrator, and a guilty disgust for the main victim.

3. What do you plan to read next?

Maybe something by Stephen King. I haven’t read anything by him since I was a teenager. Damien is reading Salem’s Lot and enjoying it, so I’m interested to see how it hits me now. 

4. What book do you keep meaning to finish?

Kristin Lavransdatter

I know I know I know.

5. What book do you keep meaning to start?

Come as You Are by Emily Nagoski

You’d think this book would be [clears throat, straightens tie, checks the room] right up my alley, but I just haven’t started it yet. 

6. What is your current reading trend?

Taking other people’s recommendations, I guess! If you have the right kind of friends, this is a solid plan. 

Now your turn! Tell me what your book situation looks like. Yes, audiobooks count. Thanks to Mrs. Darwin for keeping this going. 

Also, to answer your question: Graphic design is still my passion, yes. 

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9 thoughts on “Darwin’s immediate book meme! vol. ???”

  1. Elizabeth Goudge!!! I am so excited for you. The Rosemary Tree is my favorite. Tell me how many times you tear up. And laugh. So much wisdom.

  2. I’m rereading the Murderbot diaries. I don’t even like Sci-fi much, but I got drawn in. It’s my new comfort read. I did recently try “The Paradox Hotel” mystery/time travel sort of theme which was good if a little long. So many books seem to be about 50-100 pages too long anymore. I will try some of your suggestions.
    And I have a book about the Catholic faith in the colonial times in America sitting on my dresser – it’s been there for 4 months. I will read it – maybe in the spring I’ll be up for it.

  3. A “Chicken Soup for the Soul” book for parents with kids on the spectrum that kept making me feel annoyed and a book on caring for dementia patients that feels like it was written by Stuart Smalley.

    I need to find a good novel.

  4. I thought The Body Keeps the Score was such an interesting book! I’d love to hear your thoughts on it when you’re done. It explained so much of me to myself, things that I either thought were normal or just part of who I am, that were really the result of pain or trauma that I hadn’t processed. Practicing yoga and seeing a chiropractor regularly (along with therapy for about 18 months) have helped me release some habits and pain that had lodged in my body.

  5. I don’t read too many new books, but I did just read Breaking Free From Broke by George Kamel and I listened to Money is Not A Math Problem by Jade Warshaw. Either one could be read in a day or two. I very much enjoyed them. My husband and I are five years away from retirement (God willing and the creeks don’t rise) and so I have finally gotten very intentional with our finances.

    I know I know. Dave Ramsey is a big fat poopy head jerk. But let me say that this Ramsey stuff actually works. No, I haven’t cut up our credit cards and we still use them for online purchases BUT I am convinced that an elevated lifestyle based on debt comes right from the devil. And credit card rewards that used to make me feel so happy and like I was gaming the system now make me feel like I’m taking rent money from a single mother.

    Long story short. I wish I would’ve done this Ramsey stuff years ago. Our finances have been comfortable for decades but we were just muddling through. If we’d have been intentional sooner, our mortgage would have been long paid off and we’d be retiring next year instead of five years from now.

  6. I just finished re-reading The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I’ve loved the book for over 60 years and I read it every winter during cold spells to remind myself that it could be worse. Instead of worrying about the gas bill I could be worrying that if they can’t get the trains through the whole town will starve and freeze to death.

    1. The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie, and These Happy Golden Years are my comfort reads. Whenever life is really beating me up, I read one or all of them.

      1. Currently reading:
        Romney: A Reckoning (McKay Coppins)
        It’s good so far, though I’m only a few chapters in. (I’d better keep a good pace, though, because it’s a library copy and I keep thinking someone’s going to put it on hold before the auto-renewal date.)

        Also (not trying to do a politics theme, but) My Beloved World (Sonia Sotomayor), which I took out basically because of this time years ago when I resolved to read a biography of every Supreme Court justice but never really got anywhere. So far it’s good! I work for a community college, and I feel like many of our students could relate to Sotomayor’s account of her early life. Maybe this is also my “keep meaning to finish,” since I’ve had it a little while but keep reading other things on the side.

        Just finished On Getting Out of Bed (Alan Noble), which I found very compelling and well worth the read.

        I keep wanting to start Sourdough (Robin Sloan) because I liked his Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore when I read it a while back.

        Hooray for books!

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