Cat Names: Brooklyn edition

Irish place names:

  • Monasootha
  • Gurteen
  • Ryland
  • Tomgarrow
  • Borelia
  • Raheen
  • Poulfur
  • Carnivan
  • Tramore
  • Dungarvan
  • Learnlara
  • Conna
  • Bartlemy
  • Belgooly
  • Rennies
  • Lissarda
  • Rooska
  • Tahilla
  • Tulla
  • Ruan
  • Moyreen
  • Brickens
  • Boyle
  • Carnaree
  • Calry
  • Beltra
  • Garvary
  • Pomeroy
  • Ardmore
  • Cargan

Brooklyn area place names

  • Maspeth
  • Astoria
  • Elmhurst
  • Bedford
  • Howard
  • Canarsie
  • Bergen

Character names, etc.

  • Rose
  • Eilis
  • Georgina
  • Seamus
  • Murphy
  • George
  • Nancy
  • Patty
  • Sheila
  • Elisabetta

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Reading Review: May 20

1A Girl Is a Half-formed ThingMcBride, Eimear205 ppJun 17, 2013May 31, 2020
2The Broken BubbleDick, Philip K.246 pp1988May 30, 2020
3Rabbit Redux (Rabbit Angstrom #2)Updike, John440 pp1971Dec 28, 2017
4The Ashes of Worlds (The Saga of Seven Suns, #7)Anderson, Kevin J. *491 pp2008May 28, 2020
5Clans of the Alphane MoonDick, Philip K.256 pp1964May 26, 2020
6Gateway (Heechee Saga, #1)Pohl, Frederik278 pp1977May 26, 2020
7The Game-Players of TitanDick, Philip K.223 pp1963May 24, 2020
8Imperial EarthClarke, Arthur C.320 ppSep 18, 1975May 24, 2020
9The City and the StarsClarke, Arthur C.255 ppOct 1956May 23, 2020
10The Sands of MarsClarke, Arthur C.229 ppNov 01, 1951May 23, 2020
11The Divine InvasionDick, Philip K.238 ppJun 1981May 22, 2020
12Our Friends from Frolix 8Dick, Philip K.224 ppJun 1970May 20, 2020
13A Maze of DeathDick, Philip K.192 ppJul 1970May 16, 2020
14The Crack in SpaceDick, Philip K.188 pp1966May 15, 2020
15Vulcan’s HammerDick, Philip K.165 ppSep 1960May 14, 2020
16Martian Time-SlipDick, Philip K.262 ppApr 1964Sep 03, 2012
17OrlandoWoolf, Virginia272 ppOct 11, 1928Dec 28, 2017
18Lies, Inc.Dick, Philip K.202 ppJul 1983May 12, 2020
19Counter-Clock WorldDick, Philip K.218 ppFeb 1967May 11, 2020
20The Man in the High CastleDick, Philip K.259 ppOct 1962Nov 12, 2018
21The Penultimate TruthDick, Philip K.191 ppSep 1964May 10, 2020
22The SimulacraDick, Philip K.214 pp1964May 09, 2020
23The Three Stigmata of Palmer EldritchDick, Philip K.231 ppJan 1965May 08, 2020
24Flow My Tears, the Policeman SaidDick, Philip K.204 ppFeb 1974May 07, 2020
25Distrust That Particular FlavorGibson, William255 ppJan 03, 2012May 07, 2020
26The Transmigration of Timothy ArcherDick, Philip K.255 ppMay 1982May 07, 2020

In May I finished 17 novels by Philip K. Dick, and 9 additional books. I reread The Man in the High Castle as one of these books, hoping it would be more enjoyable in the context of so many other books by the same author. I finished a total of 4 books off the 100 Books You Must Read Before You Die list- The Man in the High Castle, Orlando, Rabbit Redux, and A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing. Only one book I finished in May was nonfiction- Distrust That Particular Flavor, a collection of essays.

My favorite 4 books from this list:

A Maze of Death

Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said

Lies, Inc.

The Game-Players of Titan

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Oh Good Grief, a new verse for 2020

So far this year we’ve had a pretty interesting sequence of events that have caused some of us to learn or refresh our understanding of epidemiology and cell biology. Sure, Covid19 may kill many of us by 2021, but in the meantime I am fascinated by all the science involved in trying to understand, treat and prevent this interesting and deadly disease. I understand better now how immune systems work, what a cytokine storm is, and how vitamin D works. Super cool.

But of course a song whose verses and chorus are all just repeating the same phrases gets dull. So a few months of science about Covid19 have given way this week to more race relations drama in the news, a coda that breaks the monotony of death rates and social distancing. A Caucasian man in a police uniform murdered a Black man by kneeling on the man’s neck till he died, it took a week for the murderer to be arrested, and in the meantime cities throughout the US have given up social distancing for a more familiar drama, rioting in the streets, where masks are once again for anonymity, not preventing transmission of a deadly virus.

“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”
― Andy Warhol

So many people were on edge leading into this news story that I am sure it was pretty easy to push already stressed, frustrated people into riot-mode. And maybe to some extent the riots had a positive effect, in that the murderer does seem to have finally been arrested. However, most of the victims in a riot are not the person or people the rioters abstractly are targeting. The business owners, vehicle owners, etc. whose property gets destroyed in a riot don’t get very satisfactory justice from the whole mess, and people get hurt who have nothing to do with the race-motivated murder that in fact occurred in a particular place and time far removed from most of the rioters. I am on the fence about the political effectiveness of riots, still, clearly. But people did get to let off some steam, and hopefully not too many of them will contract Covid19 from each other because of all these ‘high-spirits’ and thrown bricks.

If, in fact, the higher mortality rates for people with darker skin from Covid19 stem from vitamin D deficiencies that are due to the different rates of vitamin D production in people with higher amounts of melatonin in their skin, so that racism is not THE cause of those seemingly racist stats, I wonder how many people will simply reject science and rational thought as suspect in order to retain riot-worthy grudges. Ok, yeah, I’ve spent way to many hours this month on Philip K. Dick novels that play with race relations, religion, sex roles, and all our other social conventions, and when real life starts mimicking one of those novels, maybe I am not quite fit for polite conversation. But still, I have to wonder. Sure, racism exists and is pretty bad still in many places, as is sexism and other prejudiced hostilities.I am not so sure, though, about the usual approaches to dealing with it, in particular protests and riots, graphic social media solidarity posts, and a tendency to focus entirely on a single news story to the exclusion of all other concurrent newsworthy events.

“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”
― Albert Einstein

Somehow, it all seems like a rather destructive, juvenile approach to problem solving, that ends up smashing all sorts of resources while not really solving the real problems. I keep seeing tweets from people whose neighborhoods are looking more like war zones, not because of cops and other authority figures, but because of the rioters. Shops that have already been suffering from Covid quarantines now have their windows smashed, their merchandise destroyed or stolen. Neighborhoods are now without grocery stores entirely until the damage to their looted stores can be repaired, making more food deserts reliant on charity food distributions. People who were lucky to have jobs and paychecks during the quarantine may lose them if some of these looted businesses can’t bounce back from this additional burden. But, yay, the cop who murdered the Black man is arrested, so it’s all good. Surely there are more constructive ways to deal with cops who commit murder while in uniform (and on camera- this guy looked pretty pleased with himself, too, definitely a creep who deserves no mercy. The cop is by no means a good guy, and I hope his life is painfully ruined by all this, so he can suffer for a long time for all the suffering he has caused directly and indirectly by his crime.)

Oh, well. At least if nothing ever changes much, maybe there will be some new excellent novels coming out of 2020 and its events, for generations of future readers to discuss on social media and in literature classes.

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”
― Lao Tzu

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The Bloggiest Ravenmount yet!

After years away from regular blogging due to not having internet at home, I am back!  Not much has fundamentally changed in the interim. I spent over a year helping with a local cat rescue that has since closed, and added a lot to my kitten rescue skills. almost 50 kittens grew up as my fosters before finding their forever-humans, so that has been a serious accomplishment. I also have a couple extra cats now, and a couple kittens who were still with me once the Covid19 stay-at-home order happened.

I added food pantry volunteer work to my lifestyle, so I help with at least 2 food distributions per month now. My neighborhood is a food desert, with no actual grocery stores within reasonable walking distance, so these not only mean I get more fresh food, but they also significantly help a lot of people in my community.

And of course I still read a lot and enjoy good music. So, you can expect these to be a strong element of my blog. I crochet a lot, and I am working on developing my fiction writing skills (cosy fantasy series about a kitten rescuer, with recipes and crochet patterns? not sure that works yet). Oh, and when there are livestreamed deep-sea dives, I still like to watch them and take screenshots.

So much of my lifestyle as a structurally unemployed person already resembles that of a comfortable Covid-isolated person that I must admit I am not forced to change much of how I live so far, aside from not being able to go to the library. Before my friend gave me internet for my birthday (a truly amazing gift) I was awfully isolated and grumpy, of course, but now that I can be online 24/7, life is good. Knowing that most of my friends and acquaintances are struggling to adapt to a stay-at-home quarantine lifestyle, though, I figured now might be a great time to resume blogging. I’ve been ‘training’ for this for years, after all. 🙂

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Books, Cats and Yarn

Hi faithful readers!

Not having internet at home has been awful, keeping me from watching deep-sea footage, monitoring volcanic eruptions, and updating my blog and social media sites. But, the weather is getting nicer again, and at least my blog can be done at the library during the day. So, hopefully this month will see some updates on Ravenmount, not just as a books and music site, but as a blog covering a bit of crochet and updates about my foster kittens and the outdoor cats I look out for. I still HATE living in Pueblo, and am still itching to move back north to the Boulder area, but with no money and with my 2 cats moving to Boulder is still a daunting challenge for now.

So, in the meantime I am in Pueblo, reading (or trying to read) 365 books this year, and taking care of needy kittens till they are ready to be fixed and adopted. Right now I am still working with a small rescue/shelter called Steel City Alley Cats, doing a couple days of in-shelter volunteering most weeks, and anxiously awaiting the shelter’s annual inspection. After all the chaos of the failed attempt at doing no-kill city-wide in Pueblo, a lot of folks here are pretty frustrated and discouraged, and I am hardly immune. I love fostering kittens, and it is so much easier to help kittens when one has a shelter or rescue to provide medications, supplies, and a system for getting them fixed and adopted. I’d love to be more of an independent ‘Kitten Lady’ sort of rescuer, eventually, but setting oneself up to legally rescue kittens as an individual can be tedious, apparently.

Steel City Alley Cats is up for their PACFA inspection very soon, and this is a VERY stressful time for just about any shelter, since failing these inspections can shut down a shelter or result in hefty fines. The local inspector is very professional and seems interested in helping make animal rescue better, so most likely she is not ‘out to get’ the shelters she inspects, but PACFA leaves a lot of the inspection standards up to the discretion of the inspector, so it is often hard to know what the standards are ahead of inspections. This issue was brought up in a ‘sunset review’ of the PACFA program a few years ago, and no doubt efforts have been made to make PACFA standards less arbitrary and mysterious. Still, everyone connected to small shelters like Steel City is probably a bit nervous about how inspection will go each year. If things go very badly, maybe I’ll be looking into what it takes to be an independent kitten rescuer sooner than I’d hoped.

I did discover over this past year that I am actually pretty good as a kitten foster mom for weaned kittens. So, whatever happens, expect that this blog will include kittens. My mom cares for a cat colony with a few as-yet-unspayed cats, so even without working with a shelter I may be tapped into socializing some feral kittens this season and getting them set up somehow or another as adoptable housekitties. So- fair warning- as the year progresses I’ll be making it easier for me to accept donations (money, kitten-care stuff) to support my efforts in this area. I know a bunch of people who like to be able to help kittens even though they can’t foster them or adopt them, after all, and even when working with a small shelter/rescue, my kitten rescue work is fueled entirely by donations in one form or another.

Books

I am trying once again to read 365 books this year. Last year I took on far too many long books that made it hard to get past 300. I did finish over 300 books in 2018, but nowhere near 365.  I already took on a few long books this year, too, but not quite so many so far, so I am still close to being on track. I plan to post my finished books in groups of 10, till I catch up to what I am currently reading, and then post once a week about what I have been reading.  I can’t do anything online from home, but I can get to the library at least once a week to post a weekly update. I am still working on reading all of the books on the various editions of the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die lists, and I am checking out several library books each week, which along with my own book collection make for some very diverse book lists.

Crochet

The other hobby that takes center stage in my current lifestyle is crochet. I run the facebook page for a group I help host on Sundays, the Knit and Crochet Table Gang. I also attend a couple other groups at libraries around town, and might try out a few non-library groups as well this year. I am participating in the 2019 Stash Busting CAL this year, from the Unraveled Mitten site, and will probably also be starting soon on the Spring Garden Afghan CAL via Joann and Crochet Crowd. I am also making mandala-type throw-sized blankets to sell as fundraisers for kitten rescue using acrylic yarn scraps, and I make hats for the homeless out of non-acrylic scraps. (Yes, I am always happy to accept yarn donations towards these charity oriented projects. I never refuse gift yarn of any sort, really. If I can’t use it I can always regift it to people I know ‘need’ it.)

I may draw up a few original crochet patterns this year, and I’ll certainly try to blog more about what I am making.

I would love to get back into music blogging on here too, at least a few music posts per month, so that may happen. Pueblo is not as safe for a woman wandering around alone at night, compared to Boulder or Fort Collins, so I have not felt safe doing live music blogging the way I did it in Fort Collins, so far, but despite appearances to the contrary there is a lot of music in Pueblo. It just needs more visibility, the sort independent blogs can provide.

So, for now, keep your fingers crossed that the shelter my foster kittens should be coming from this year will pass its inspection and stay in business, and if anyone comes across the perfect solution to allow me to return to Boulder, please let me know. And stay tuned for posts about books, cats, crochet, and music throughout the rest of this year.

-Jamie

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The First 250 Books

I am working on making my own ‘1001 Books’ list, reading all the books on the various editions of Boxall’s 1001 Books lists, and on the Guardian’s 1001 Books list, and reading lots of additional books, and putting the ‘deserving’ ones together into a grand list of books I personally can attest to be worth reading.

That will of course take a few more years. In the meantime, I made a short list of 250 books that will probably be on the final list. Here they are, with some explanations.

Established Classics

Classics provide us with a common cultural language, since so many people read them, across all generations. They may not be the best of their respective genres, but they are the ones our parents and maybe even their parents read, and that our kids and their kids will probably also read or at least know about. Such connections help to keep us as a society from fracturing along generational lines when politics, economics, and other divisive forces pop up.

Science Fiction

I included several science fiction genre books, because we live in a world where many of the tech ideas from classic science fiction are no longer futuristic, but simply oddball variations on what we take for granted as everyday technology. The point of sci-fi as a genre is to imagine possible futures and possible alternatives to the world we live in, and reading books in this genre helps us imagine the future, and prepare for it.

My List vs. Boxall’s

The 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die lists edited by Dr. Peter Boxall are excellent for what they are. Thousands of readers refer to these lists for reading suggestions, and some of us ‘super-readers’ actually focus of reading all the books on these lists, checking them off as we complete them. But they tend to focus on canonical ‘classics’ of Western traditional education, and as a result these lists are heavily male, heterosexual, and conservative. I see no reason to avoid these lists, by any means; in fact, for the reasons I gave above for reading established classics, it is vital that many of us in all generations read and discuss the books on Boxall’s lists. But there are many modern and recent authors left off these lists and many topics and perspectives that are very relevant now, but hardly acknowledged by the books on Boxall’s lists. I started with a combined list of all the editions to date of Boxall’s lists, weeded out all the ones I haven’t read yet, and removed all the ones I have read and would not have included in such a list. Then I added in a few books that are particularly deserving of inclusion in a 1001 Books list. I marked the books I added with an asterisk, for this post. I have particular reasons for including each of those titles.

This is only a list of 250 books, so it cannot include all the good books in any genre or on any topic, but I do think these books merit reading, for anyone and everyone. This particular list is still heavily skewed towards male authors, with only 23% of these titles written by women, but it also includes many well established classics, which tend to be almost exclusively male-authored. For the next 3 segments of my 1001 books list I will be paying close attention to the diversity of those list segments, and as I read more great books, some of the books on this first list will probably be bumped to make way for even better/more relevant/more inclusive/??? books.

  1. One Thousand and One Nights – This is why the golden number for super-long booklists is 1001. The number taps into this aesthetic of neverending storytelling, and turns each book in the list into one of Scheherazade’s stories.
  2. Animal Farm
  3. 1984
  4. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
  5. Through the Looking Glass
  6. Wuthering Heights
  7. Jane Eyre
  8. Emma
  9. Little Women
  10. Sense and Sensibility
  11. Pride and Prejudice
  12. Persuasion
  13. Middlemarch
  14. The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum
  15. The Awakening
  16. The Scarlet Letter
  17. Rebecca
  18. Anna Karenina
  19. Madame Bovary
  20. Tess of the D’Urbervilles
  21. Moll Flanders
  22. Therese Raquin
  23. The Great Gatsby
  24. Great Expectations
  25. Lady Chatterly’s Lover
  26. One Hundred Years of Solitude
  27. To Kill a Mockingbird
  28. The Color Purple
  29. I know Why the Caged Bird Sings
  30. Their Eyes Were Watching God
  31. The Hobbit
  32. Lord of the Rings (trilogy)
  33. Lord of the Flies
  34. Of Mice and Men
  35. A Christmas Carol
  36. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
  37. Frankenstein
  38. Brave New World
  39. The Little Prince
  40. The Old Man and the Sea
  41. The Time Machine
  42. The Fall of the House of Usher
  43. Dracula
  44. The Call of the Wild
  45. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde
  46. Aesop’s Fables
  47. The Grapes of Wrath
  48. Robinson Crusoe
  49. Catch-22
  50. Treasure Island
  51. Heart of Darkness
  52. Slaughterhouse Five
  53. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
  54. A Tale of Two Cities
  55. The Hunchback of Notre Dame
  56. Gulliver’s Travels
  57. The Invisible Man
  58. Crime and Punishment
  59. A Clockwork Orange
  60. The Trial
  61. Around the World in 80 Days
  62. The War of the World
  63. Oliver Twist
  64. David Copperfield
  65. The Three Musketeers
  66. Uncle Tom’s Cabin
  67. Don Quixote
  68. Journey to the Center of the Earth
  69. The Island of Dr. Moreau
  70. The Count of Monte Cristo
  71. Ivanhoe
  72. Silas Marner
  73. Tarzan of the Apes
  74. On the Road
  75. The Once and Future King
  76. Cannery Row
  77. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
  78. Tender is the Night
  79. The Plague
  80. Things Fall Apart
  81. War and Peace
  82. Steppenwolf
  83. Walden
  84. Les Miserables
  85. Le Pere Goriot
  86. Doctor Zhivago
  87. The Jungle
  88. Babbitt
  89. A Town Like Alice
  90. Germinal
  91. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
  92. The Alchemist*
  93. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime
  94. The Stand*
  95. The Giver*
  96. The Five People You Meet in Heaven*
  97. Beloved
  98. The Godfather
  99. A Prayer for Owen Meany
  100. American Gods*
  101. Good Omens*
  102. The Unbearable Lightness of Being
  103. Something Wicked This Way Comes*
  104. Firestarter*
  105. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep
  106. I, Robot
  107. Neverwhere*
  108. The Poisonwood Bible
  109. A Confederacy of Dunces
  110. Like Water for Chocolate
  111. The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
  112. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
  113. Franny and Zooey
  114. Stranger in a Strange Land
  115. Foundation
  116. 2001: A Space Odyssey
  117. The Shipping News
  118. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
  119. The Thirty-Nine Steps
  120. Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency
  121. We Need to Talk About Kevin*
  122. A Pocket Full of Rye*
  123. The Bluest Eye
  124. The Maltese Falcon
  125. For Whom the Bell Tolls
  126. Beowolf, by Caitlin R. Kiernan* – This retelling is excellent, true to the classic story but better.
  127. Veronika Decides to Die
  128. The Sense of an Ending
  129. Night Watch, by Terry Pratchett*
  130. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius*
  131. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil*
  132. The Bridge of San Luis Rey*
  133. Mila 18*
  134. Smilla’s Sense of Snow
  135. Hawaii*
  136. Murder Must Advertise
  137. The Namesake
  138. A Canticle for Liebowitz*
  139. Brighton Rock
  140. Jingo, by Terry Pratchett*
  141. Contact
  142. Song of Solomon
  143. The Satanic Verses
  144. Cancer Ward
  145. Pamela
  146. The Girls of Slender Means
  147. Truckers, by Terry Pratchett*
  148. Main Street
  149. Gaudy Night*
  150. The Shepherd’s Crown*
  151. The Museum of Extraordinary Things*
  152. Americanah*
  153. The End of the Affair
  154. Fingersmith
  155. The Fox
  156. 1Q84
  157. The Rainbow
  158. The Way of All Flesh
  159. The Quiet American
  160. The Heart of the Matter
  161. The Razor’s Edge
  162. Silence
  163. The Nine Tailors
  164. The Pilgrim’s Progress
  165. The Devils
  166. The Woman in the Dunes*
  167. Jazz
  168. Billy Budd
  169. Bless Me Ultima*
  170. Invisible
  171. A Million Little Pieces*
  172. The Moon is Down*
  173. Nectar in a Sieve*
  174. A Map of the World*
  175. The Winter of Our Discontent*
  176. The Painted Bird
  177. Zorba the Greek
  178. White Noise
  179. The Thin Man
  180. A Long Fatal Love Chase*
  181. The Life and Times of Michael K
  182. The Scapegoat*
  183. Tom Jones
  184. The Power and the Glory
  185. Momento Mori
  186. Dandelion Wine*
  187. The Trouble With Goats and Sheep*
  188. The Translation of Love*
  189. Bimbos of the Death Sun*
  190. Green Mansions*
  191. Wool*
  192. The Fourth Protocol*
  193. The Glass Bead Game
  194. Solaris
  195. The Joke
  196. Rickshaw Boy
  197. The Music of Chance
  198. London Fields
  199. The Known World*
  200. Pirate Latitudes*
  201. Empire of the Sun
  202. The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love*
  203. Eugenie Grandet
  204. The Manor
  205. There’s No Place Like Here*
  206. Shikasta
  207. Deep River
  208. City Primeval
  209. The Unconsoled
  210. Kokoro
  211. Alaska*
  212. So Long a Letter
  213. Mornings in Jenin*
  214. The Night Watch, by Sarah Waters*
  215. The Panopticon*
  216. The Beautiful Mrs. Seidenman
  217. The Hangman’s Daughter*
  218. Lincoln’s Dreams*
  219. What Came Before He Shot Her*
  220. The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born*
  221. Simple Prayers*
  222. The Bridge of Beyond*
  223. Embers
  224. I Thought of Daisy
  225. Train to Pakistan*
  226. The Heike Story*
  227. One Night in Winter*
  228. The Buried Giant*
  229. The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax*
  230. Thirsty*
  231. Tortuga*
  232. Hell’s Gate*
  233. Unnatural Acts*
  234. Seed*
  235. Of Things Gone Astray*
  236. The Farming of Bones*
  237. Snow Hunters*
  238. The Stone Raft*
  239. Marshlands*
  240. Mexico*
  241. The Six*
  242. The Corporation Wars: Dissidence*
  243. The Book of Lies*
  244. Flawed*
  245. Beggars in Spain*
  246. Brain Jack*
  247. Casting Off*
  248. Clockwork Angels*
  249. The Enchantress of Florence*
  250. Anathem*
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My Bookbag: 3 Good Nonfiction Audiobooks

Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion, by Sam Harris –

This is a sort of memoir and exploration of spirituality as a concept divorced from religion. The audiobook is read by the author, and is easy to listen to. The text is probably more likely to appeal to non-religious people, but I suspect most open-minded religious folks can also benefit from this one.

“There is now little question that how one uses one’s attention, moment to moment, largely determines what kind of person one becomes. Our minds—and lives—are largely shaped by how we use them.”
― Sam HarrisWaking Up: A Guide to Spirituality without Religion

The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well, by Meik Wiking-

This short book offers a nice introduction to hygge, a currently trendy idea in many countries. Wiking offers a definition for the term, and walks readers through what hygge looks like, and how it works- essentially … candles, slow food, blankets, good company.  As a recipe for happiness this aesthetic may not work all the time for everyone, but especially in winter hygge may be a welcome concept for many people. The reader for this audiobook is also the book’s author, and I especially liked this book as an audiobook, because the author knows how to pronounce the Danish words in his book.

“Happiness consists more in small conveniences or pleasures that occur every day, than in great pieces of good fortune that happen but seldom.”
― Meik WikingThe Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well

 

The Hoarder in You, by Dr. Robin Zasio-

This is one of the disorders common within my family, so I picked a book on hoarding for this month’s audiobooks. Even without personal connections, this is a fascinating disorder, and the more you learn about hoarding, the more easy it is to imagine how it develops out of normal behavior. Given the right trauma and the right time, and a lot of ‘normal’ people could wind up with hoarding or cluttering tendencies bad enough to require help. I thought this book was quite good, sensitive to the experiences and concerns of people with hoarding issues and informative for everyone, hoarder or not. The author also recognized the fact that most hoarders never seek out treatment, and many cannot afford meaningful therapy. Her book is geared towards offering guidance for those who may not have access to therapy, not just those who after reading her book could go out and find a therapist.

“To the extent that clutter gets in the way of living in the kind of environment we’d like to be living in and leaves us feeling stressed or remiss, we can all improve our relationships to our possessions.”
― Robin ZasioThe Hoarder in You

 

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Graham Greene- novels and short stories

Several of Greene’s books are on the 1001 Books You Should Read Before You Die lists, though I started reading his books before I started focusing on those lists.

The first book I read by this author was The End of the Affair. I am currently reading The Heart of the Matter.

My top 3 so far from this author: The End of the Affair, Brighton Rock, Travels With My Aunt

Short Stories: Collections

  • Twenty-One Stories (1954) (originally The Basement Room [1935] with 8 stories; then Nineteen Stories [1947] adding 11 new stories; then Twenty-One Stories [1954] adding 4 new stories and removing 2 previous)
  • A Sense of Reality (1963)
  • May We Borrow Your Husband? (1967)
  • The Last Word and Other Stories (1990)
  • Collected Stories (1973) (including May We Borrow Your Husband?A Sense of Reality, and Twenty-One Stories)
  • The Complete Short Stories (2005) (adding or reinstating 4 stories to Collected Stories)

Stories

  • “The End of the Party” (1929)
  • “The Second Death” (1929)
  • “Proof Positive” (1930)
  • “I Spy” (1930)
  • “A Day Saved” (1935)
  • “Jubilee” (1936)
  • “Brother” (1936)
  • “A Chance For Mr Lever” (1936)
  • “The Basement Room” (1936)
  • “The Innocent” (1937)
  • “A Drive in the Country” (1937)
  • “Across the Bridge” (1938)
  • “A Little Place Off the Edgware Road” (1939)
  • “The Case for the Defence” (1939)
  • “Alas, Poor Maling” (1940)
  • “Men at Work” (1940)
  • “When Greek Meets Greek” (1941)
  • “The Hint of an Explanation” (1948)
  • “The Blue Film” (1954)
  • “Special Duties” (1954)
  • “The Destructors” (1954)
  • “Under the Garden”
  • “A Visit to Morin” (1960)
  • “Dream of a Strange Land”
  • “A Discovery in the Woods”
  • “May We Borrow Your Husband?” (1967)
  • “Beauty”
  • “Chagrin in Three Parts”
  • “The Over-night Bag”
  • “Mortmain”
  • “Cheap in August”
  • “A Shocking Accident”
  • “The Invisible Japanese Gentlemen”
  • “Awful When You Think of It”
  • “Doctor Crombie”
  • “The Root of All Evil”
  • “Two Gentle People”
  • “How Father Quixote Became a Monsignor” (1980)
  • “The Last Word”
  • “The News in English”
  • “The Moment of Truth”
  • “The Man Who Stole the Eiffel Tower”
  • “The Lieutenant Died Last”
  • “A Branch of the Service”
  • “An Old Man’s Memory”
  • “The Lottery Ticket”
  • “The New House”
  • “Work Not in Progress”
  • “Murder for the Wrong Reason”
  • “An Appointment With the General”
  • “The New House” (1989)
  • “The Blessing” (1966)
  • “Church Militant” (1956)
  • “Dear Dr Falkenheim” (1963)
  • “The Other Side of the Border” (1936)

 

Sources: lists- wikipedia

 

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Review: Pok Pok: The Drinking Food of Thailand

33911026I received my copy of this book free from the publisher in exchange for a fair review.

Pok Pok: The Drinking Food of Thailand, by Andy Ricker

I don’t normally read cookbooks, but I love experimenting with non-Western ingredients and cooking techniques, and this book looked pretty readable. In fact this book was clearly intended to be read, not just used for its recipes. The recipes all use a small set of ingredients, so readers who want to try cooking the dishes in this book only need to find sources for a few unusual items to be able to try most of the book, in some form or another. And, while it may be awkward for modern apartment-dwellers to deep-fry anything at home, the instructions provided do seem to make even deep-frying seem less of a daunting task for a small, limited apartment kitchen like mine. And, whether I make any of the specific dishes in this book, I did come away with a decent shopping list of spices and other ingredients to keep an eye out for, to recreate a Northern Thai flavor, at least to augment Ramen noodles. In fact, there is a dish in this book that is essentially fancy Ramen noodles.
The only gripe I had really with this book is that it is not at all vegetarian-friendly. I could imagine while I was reading how I could adapt some of the recipes to use less meat or no meat, but not knowing what the ‘authentic’ foods taste like, it may take a lot of experimentation to work out how to use substitutes like tofu or particular vegetables without making the flavors no longer at all ‘Northern Thai’. I am sure poor households in Thailand have developed low-meat or meatless versions of classic dishes, including drinking-food dishes, out of necessity, and I would have appreciated at least brief notes as to how such adaptations might best be worked.
Still, for what it is, this is a fun book for anyone who likes reading about food or experimenting with world cuisine.

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Immersive Reading as a Lifestyle

I love how ‘immersive reading’ adds to your awareness of details afterwards. Probably a lot of what makes my friends think I am an absolute genius is down to immersive reading (and the rest is due to my being an absolute genius, of course).

But, what is immersive reading, you ask?

Well…

When you read a book, how actively engaged are you in that book? If all you do when reading is read, then all you get out of the book is whatever is in its text, augmented by whatever background knowledge you bring with you to your reading. But, if you take the book as a central thread around which to explore, not only do you stand likely to get more out of the book itself, but you might find that you learn a bit about the real world that you retain long after you forget much of the original book. This approach to reading is occasionally mentioned in advice to college students, but it works just as well for everyone.

Take, for an example, a novel I am currently reading, The Enchantress of Florence, by Salman Rushdie. This book, which reads like a fantasy, is equally reasonably shelved as historical fiction. It is set during the High Renaissance, when bits of science were becoming well established, but only among the learned elite, so that a conjurer could still do ‘magic’ by use of science. The borders and people that form the fabric of this novel are otherworldly enough that for modern readers it certainly feels like high fantasy, and I am sure some readers are content to enjoy this book just as a genre-bending fantasy/historical fiction work.

But, a book like this lends itself nicely to a more active, ‘immersion reading’ approach. My reading of this novel will incorporate Youtube videos on the history and archaeology of places mentioned in the novel, videos on the High Renaissance in general, music from that era, and whatever else I come across that ties into this thread. I will be browsing Pinterest for images of people, places, and objects mentioned in the novel, making a pinboard for the book as I read. I might also add a few other books to my TBR that relate in some way to this book, so that in the near future I can revisit some of the subject matter from other angles. I also occasionally use my Tumblr blog to post about topics related to what I am reading, an ongoing reading journal that I ought to use more, I suppose.

All of these activities increase my understanding of what I read in Rushdie’s novel, but it also builds a web of knowledge and context that lasts in my brain after I finish reading. I may not consciously focus on it again for a while, but when I encounter future novels or anything else that connects to this web of information, it triggers my memory to bring up the whole web. Instead of just remembering vague information from Rushdie’s novel, I can access a decent mass of background context that I can use anywhere it seems useful. I need not memorize names and dates and fine detail, since I am not studying for an exam, but if I needed to take and pass an exam related to the High Renaissance, my background from immersively reading Rushdie’s novel gives me a context to fit names, dates, and fine details into.

For any subject having a context web already in your brain makes learning testable facts easier, because we remember stories a lot better than we remember isolated facts. If you are a student you can use this technique to make school easier. If you are in a class you struggle with, you can try immersively reading your textbook, one chapter at a time, finding videos, novels, and other materials on the stories and people mentioned in the text. It might not make memorizing trigonometry or calculus formulas, or those awful mechanisms in organic chemistry, but even in these subjects there are human stories behind every factoid in your textbook that can add context and make their subjects easier to relate to and remember. And, once you graduate and are back in the real world, this same reading approach can keep your brain active and add many layers of meaning and complexity to the world around you, whatever job you pay your bills by.

 

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