Category Archives: Book notes

Rivers of Oregon

On my trip to the library last week I picked up a beautiful new book called Rivers of Oregon, by photographer/conservationist Tim Palmer, and published by Oregon State University Press.  “Rivers are the essence of Oregon,” stated the author, and this book is full of beautiful photographs and interesting essays about these hundreds of waterways.

“Healthy rivers are not only essential to the abundance of life and a historically robust economy in both sport and commercial fishing, but to all we do. The livability of whole towns and regions would wither if i weren’t for rivers and the water they deliver.

Oregon’s rivers are likewise embedded in our history and culture, from the route of Lewis and Clark across the Northwest to urban greenways that brighten Portland, Pendleton, Eugene, Corvallis, Salem, Grants Pass, Bend, and other towns large and small. Whether in our backyards or in our most cherished wilderness, the rivers give us a refuge from the stress and clutter of our busy lives. At the stream’s edge, we can adjust our expectations in synchrony with the natural world.”

This book is filled with absolutely gorgeous photographs of an amazing number of rivers in Oregon with information about each one. Besides being a talented photographer, Tim Palmer is an excellent writer so this is a very readable book as well as a lovely photography book.

I highly recommend it to anyone interested in Oregon, the natural world, and in conserving the beauty of nature and our rivers in this challenging time in our nation when decisions are being made that put many rivers in peril.

 

March Reflections

March has been another busy month. Despite the many obligations and activities that kept me busy, I managed to finish reading the above five books and am in the middle of three others!

Early in the month, I joined The Classics Club, which was something I had thought about doing for years and so finally decided to just jump in. I put together a list of 50 books to read in 5 years, and filled my list with books I already own and really want to read, so there are some very nice choices ready for me. In March I read three books from that list and am almost finished with The Moorland Cottage, by Elizabeth Gaskell, which was the book on my list that was chosen as the “Spin” book for March/April. I’ve always loved reading the classics, for both adults and children, and so this is a challenge/group that fits me well.

Some of the other things that kept me very busy in March were my knitting and my walking. Because March was such a rainy month (record-setting, flood level rains!), I was indoors a lot and managed to finish two knitting projects — a scarf for me and a baby blanket for a soon-to-arrive grand nephew! (I love being a great aunt! My nephew calls us “Graunt” and “Gruncle”. )

I’ve also become a serious walker in the last year thanks to my 82-year-old walking partner, Gloria. She is a runner, and I’m a fast walker, so we’re the perfect match at our ages/stages of life! We walk/run a 5k distance twice a week, and meet in exercise class 3 days a week. In March, we both participated in the Shamrock Run in downtown Portland. Gloria finished 1st in her age division, and I came in 24th in my division. A very successful race for both of us!

March definitely came in like a lion, with an incredible number of storms and an amazing amount of rain. It’s going out today like a lamb, with mostly sunny skies and no rain. In between the lion and the lamb, came a lot of enjoyable reading and other activities.

February Reflections

February was a good reading month for me!  It was not a month of “escape,” however. I took on some very powerful reading experiences with The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood; and March, Book 2, by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell. I thought that In the Wet would be a wonderful old romance by Nevil Shute, but it was much more than that. It turned out to be a story of political intrigue in an England of the “future.” The book was published in 1953, the story takes place in 1983.

I finished The Two Towers, by J.R.R. Tolkien, which I read slowly and enjoyed very much. Being so familiar with the story, I was able to notice and focus more on the writing itself. That was a real pleasure. Founding Gardeners, by Andrea Wulf was an interesting view of the founding fathers as gentlemen farmers. And Death Without Company, by Craig Johnson, was another enjoyable Walt Longmire mystery. I do love a good mystery!

All in all, a good reading month for me, and I’m looking forward to my March reads.

 

Little Women

 

img_2517Thanks to Adam @roofbeamreader, I reread Little Women in January for his Classic Book-a-Month challenge 2017. I loved this book when I first read it as a young girl. I am the only girl in my family, with three terrific brothers, but I longed to have sisters. The four March sisters became my surrogate sisters.

A few years ago, I read Louisa May Alcott‘s first book, Flower Fables. I liked it, and loved her writing, but was put off by the heavy moralizing and “teaching of lessons.” I understood that that style of writing was very common in those days and made complete sense in lieu of her background, as well. But she was a young developing author in that first book and by the time she wrote Little Women, she had much more life experience as well as writing experience. Although there was still the “teaching of moral lessons” inbedded in the storytelling, she did not come across as being nearly as didactic as she had in the Flower Fables. Indeed, I was struck this time by her compassion and understanding of human nature. She is a supreme writer and a wonderful storyteller, in my estimation. Her story of the March sisters is timeless despite being set in a specific period of time.

I chuckled and I cried, again, as I read this lovely book. I ruminated on how much it had impacted my life, how much of Jo I identified with and absorbed at a young age, because it was Jo who captured my heart and imagination even though I loved the other sisters, too.

I’m so glad I reread this classic novel this month! (Thank you, Adam!) It would be a lovely project to read all her books — all the ones I didn’t read when I was growing up and rereading all the ones I did!

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Madame Alexander’s Little Women dolls…which I always wanted when I was growing up!

Victoria

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Hubby and I are enjoying watching  the new Masterpiece Theater series, Victoria. I gave my mother the book for Christmas, and she liked it a lot. After watching the first episode of the series, I decided I needed to read the book, also. Daisy Goodwin‘s story of the young Queen Victoria is a lot of fun. Definitely recommended! If you are enjoying the series, you will also find this book to be a very enjoyable read!

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In the Great Green Room

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In the Great Green Room, by Amy Gary, is the life story of beloved author Margaret Wise Brown. Her children’s book, Goodnight Moon, is a classic and lives forever in the hearts of my family. The book is dearly loved by both our children and our grandson. But as much as we love this little book, I really didn’t know anything about the woman who wrote it.

So when this book was released last week, I was very interested in reading it. I bought it immediately and read it in two days. I wish I could say that I loved it, but I didn’t. The book gave me an interesting look into the publishing world of the time and into the creation of her very special books, but I found Brown’s life to be sad and tragically short, and I’ve been haunted by it in the last few days.

Her childhood was difficult with the constant dissonance between her parents and her struggle to find her own identity and worth in a world that seemed to undervalue her. She acted out as a teenager and young woman, and was considered rather “wild.” But she had a tremendous talent for writing, and especially writing for children, and that gave her a little more stability and her livelihood.

She had a strength that I admired — she survived life with very difficult parents and without much guidance overall. And she found her voice as an artist in her writing, although because her books were all for children, she was not esteemed as highly at that time as she should have been. She was instrumental in the building up of the children’s book publishing world. She was in many ways a strong woman.

But she made very poor choices for herself, especially in relationships, and I found myself feeling very sad about her life. She died young, and that, too, was a sad loss for all of us.

It was an interesting read. I do recommend it, especially if you love her work. But…I found it sad and haunting, and I’m afraid I’ll look at Goodnight Moon now with a tinge of sadness that was not there before.

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Fractured Reading

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Do you ever feel as if your reading life is fractured?  I always have at least three books going at the same time…an audiobook to listen to while driving or knitting, a Kindle book, and a library book. Perhaps because of the bitter cold, dreary, and confining weather we are having, plus the dismal state of the union at the moment, I find that my reading life is definitely fractured!  I am reading 7 different, very diverse, books at the same time ! And I’m enjoying them all!

Currently reading

  • Kindle Books: I am in the middle of The Two Towers, by J.R.R. Tolkien, my re-read of his Lord of the Rings trilogy. I am also reading Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott, for Roof Beam Reader’s Classics Book-a-Month Club. I started Wild Seed, by Octavia Butler, last month then set it aside to start Little Women…but I keep going back to it. And then I pre-ordered the book The Meaning of Michelle, by Veronica Chambers, and it came in last week, so I started it, too!

Definitely fractured reading, and It’s a little like a reading frenzy, too. Does this ever happen to you, or am I completely losing it in the middle of the very January January??

My November Reads

Simply put, my November reading reflected my need to retreat, for the most part, into kinder and gentler places. I am loving my immersion into the Fairacre series by Miss Read, and am enjoying reading anything that Victoria Connelly has written. But I also loved listening to the audiobook version of Trevor Noah’s book about growing up under apartheit in South Africa–a book which the New York Times called, in their November review, “a love letter to the author’s remarkable mother.”  I plan to continue my reading retreat into more uplifting books for the time being since the days here in the Pacific Northwest are growing colder and darker, and because the world out there seems particularly brutal and chaotic right now.